Monday, February 21, 2011

With our help, the brain-injured can thrive - by Judge Jim Gray

One of the true embarrassments of our times is that there is no facility in the western United States where brain-injured adults can live, receive appropriate medical care, engage in meaningful employment, and thrive up to the limits of their abilities. There are some facilities for mentally disabled people, but their needs are almost always quite different than the brain-injured. This situation is not known by many of us, but it is drastically known by people who have brain-injured family members and friends.

A local nonprofit called Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network (B.R.A.I.N.) is working to create a campus like this for brain-injured adults. To be successful, it will need to range from five to 10 acres in size, have both male and female sleeping quarters, and facilities for food service, recreation, medical services and relaxation. It will also need to have places where these wonderful but often fragile people can engage in productive employment.

B.R.A.I.N. was founded by Sue and Jerry Rueb and their daughter Jana. The Ruebs have a daughter/sister who sustained a brain injury during a forceps birth delivery more than 30 years ago. So over the years they have tried to find a caring facility that would meet the medical needs of their loved one, and simply concluded with much pain that there were none available.

But creating such a facility is a daunting task. So the Ruebs have organized what they call "Think Tank 2011," which will be a symposium to provide awareness and information to families and caregivers of brain-injured adults, as well as to the community at large.

The symposium will be held from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. March 27 at The Grand in Long Beach.

There will be presentations by Dr. Todd Clements, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Clements Clinic in Plano, Texas, on identifying and treating brain injuries; Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist from UC Davis, on the long-term effects of repeated impacts to the head in American athletics; Debbie Edwards, an experienced family caregiver, on practical care for the brain-injured at home; Dr. Earl Henslin, a psychologist, on brain injuries and relationship health; and Angela Mandas, a speech pathologist, on how computers can help to train our brains at home.

If you would like to attend, please contact B.R.A.I.N. at (714) 625-7225, or visit its website at This will be a truly worthwhile learning experience.

Every 21 seconds, someone in the United States sustains a brain injury. Of the 1.5 million people affected yearly, 50,000 die, but more than a million are treated and released from a hospital. Back in society, they often appear normal on the outside, but on the inside they are living with a whole host of devastating issues. Why? Because when your brain isn't working right, things mostly do not turn out favorably.

So generally how do brain-injured adults live? Not very well. In fact, many of them are living in places where you would not even want to house your pet. Furthermore, lots of these people are merely existing because there is no purposeful work available within their individual competency level.

And, as I have seen throughout my years on the bench, many brain-injured adults also end up in the criminal justice system, either by "losing it" and acting out due to the frustrations of the moment, or by "self-medicating" with illicit drugs. Either way, and as I hope you know, both the Los Angeles and Orange County Jails have become some of the largest "mental health" facilities in the nation. And, unfortunately, in addition to being the most expensive option for the taxpayers to address these situations, being in jail often inflicts untold damage upon these mentally and physically fragile people.

A brain injury can happen to any of us. Recent examples that have received lots of public attention are Bob Woodruff of ABC News, who sustained a brain injury from a bomb explosion while on assignment in Iraq, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Tucson, Ariz., who was shot in the head at a political gathering. Fortunately, these wonderful people are blessed in having sufficient resources to take care of themselves. But most people are not so blessed, and they need our help.

If you have a family member or friend with a brain injury, please treat the good folks at B.R.A.I.N. as a partner and a resource. And if you are one of those motivated individuals who want to help others who are simply not able to help themselves, please be a resource for B.R.A.I.N.

Our society needs a place where brain-injured adults can be secure and can thrive. There are many people among us who have been brain-injured in their daily lives, and also many of our military veterans who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries sustained during their tours of combat. So in addition to affected families, we are also approaching institutions that understand the realities of brain injuries, such as the National Football League, the National Hockey League, college athletics organizations, and medical care facilities to partner with us in this huge project. If you know or have influence with these or any similar organizations, please let us know.

Brain-injured adults will be able to thrive within their limitations if we can provide a facility that will address their needs. And they should have one — not because we have to, but because we want to. So please come help us, and be a part of something truly challenging, gratifying and wonderful!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court who is affiliated with B.R.A.I.N., the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day — past and present - by Judge Jim Gray

Have you ever wondered where the Valentine's Day celebration came from? I did, and so I did a little research, and no, unlike Mother's Day, Valentine's Day is not rumored to have been created by Hallmark Cards.

St. Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, is celebrated throughout the world, but it has its roots in Christian and ancient Roman traditions. As best as can be determined, there was a pagan fertility celebration in Roman times called Lupercalia, in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf of Rome, and Faunas, the Roman god of fertility.

On Feb. 14, which was considered to be the first day of spring, two boys would slaughter a goat for fertility and a dog for purity. Then they would dress in animal skins, and gently slap women they would encounter on the streets with strips of the animals' hides dipped in sacrificial blood. All of this was intended to promote fertility.

It is hard to trace the derivation of the actual beginnings of Valentine's Day because in Catholic lore there are actually three St. Valentines, and each one was martyred. One of them lived and died in Africa, and his story is unclear.

The legend of the second says that he was a popular bishop in Rome who was captured by the emperor and imprisoned simply for being a Christian. Many people requested that he be released, but the emperor saw him as a threat because it was rumored that he had cured his jailor's daughter of blindness. Therefore the emperor had him brutally executed on Feb. 14. But on the day of his execution, he sent a note to the daughter professing his love for her, and simply signed it "from your Valentine."

The last legend took place during the time of Roman Emperor Claudius II, when he decided that his soldiers who did not have wives and families were less affected by prolonged periods of absence from home than those who were married. So Claudius decided to forbid any young men from getting married. But Valentine, a Catholic priest in what is now the Italian town of Terni, thinking this to be unjust, defied Claudius and secretly continued to marry these young lovers. When Claudius discovered what was happening, he had the priest executed. He was buried, as a hero to love, on Feb. 14, 270 A.D.

On that date, probably in the year 496 A.D., Pope Galasius, seeing Lupercalia as being both pagan and immoral, did away with it as a day of celebration, but replaced it with St. Valentine's Day, featuring it as a day for lovers. Over time this celebration spread over all of the Roman Empire, where it took root most firmly in England and France, but it was officially deleted from the Catholic Church's calendar by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

During the Middle Ages, it became the custom for English maidens to put a slip of paper with their names upon them into an urn on Feb. 14. Eligible bachelors would pick out a name, and then that selected girl and he would be a pair for the upcoming year. Many marriages resulted from this tradition.

Probably the first so-called Valentine cards were written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture in battle. Many of these poems or rhymed love letters are now on display in the British Museum.

The whole idea of writing similar handwritten notes became quite popular in England in the 17th Century, and by the mid-18th century it was common for friends and lovers to exchange these as well as little gifts. But by the end of the 18th century, both with the advent of the postal service and with changing cultural mores, it was deemed socially inappropriate to communicate personal feelings of affection to those of the opposite sex. Thus printed cards began to replace the handwritten ones.

Unfortunately with the large-scale use of the public mails, large numbers of obscene Valentine's Day cards began to be mailed anonymously to many people who were often and naturally offended by the receipt. This became so prevalent that in late 19th century Chicago, the postal service simply refused to deliver 25,000 Valentine's Day cards because they were deemed "unfit to be carried in the public mail."

Today it is estimated that about 180 million red roses are delivered each year in honor of Valentine's Day, as well as 36 million boxes of candy. In addition, an estimated 1 billion Valentine's Day cards are also delivered, of which an estimated 85% are sent by women. (This makes Valentine's Day the second highest day of the year for cards of celebration, with Christmas being the first with an estimated 2.6 billion cards.) Of course, all of this also makes Valentine's Day an estimated $14 billion per year business.

Although it is wonderful to purchase cards for the occasion, let's also try on this and every Valentine's Day to make the occasion personally special. As an example, on a Valentine's Day quite a few years ago, an elementary school teacher assigned her class to write a Valentine's Day card to each of their other class members, specifying two things that they most admired about the recipients. Some children were so gratified in hearing the positive things that their classmates felt about them that they kept those cards for years with their most cherished possessions. Some even kept them in their wallets.

So this Valentine's Day, let's each in our own way try to add to the gratification of the people in our lives. That will truly make the day special. In that spirit, my Valentine's Day gift to you is a poem by Zora Neale Hurston, who says: "Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place."

May your life be filled with that kind of love. Happy Valentine's Day!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Save the date for this year's music festival - by Judge Jim Gray

On May 22, there will be a music festival from noon to 7 p.m. at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. Not only will there be bluegrass, folk and Americana music, there will also be a great barbecue and a number of fun and meaningful family activities.

So put that date on your calendar, and make plans to attend. You will be glad you did!

Several years ago, I mentioned to my wife, Grace, that I would like some time to go to Kentucky or Tennessee to see a bluegrass festival. But once I became acquainted with the Heritage Museum of Orange County, I thought that it would be even more fun to have the bluegrass music come to us.

So that is what is going to happen. There will be three outstanding bluegrass and folk bands, and one big band. The first is comprised of Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin, Colorado musicians who are magicians on the fiddle, guitar and mandolin. They will perform a children's concert at 1:15 p.m. and then one for us older types at 3:25 p.m. You can hear them as a warm-up to the festival at

The second will be the big band "A Wing and a Prayer" that will perform at 2:20 p.m. It is comprised of about 20 talented musicians who gather and perform for the sheer gratification of it. They will play some of your longtime big band favorites, such that when I heard them play I thought to myself on literally four different occasions: "Yes! That one is so good it will be their closing number!" They are amazing, and you will want to come to the festival if only to hear them!

The third scheduled group will be a five-piece, the Dennis Roger Reed Band, which uses a fiddle, guitar, mandolin, "other assorted stringed things," and "exactly the right amount of percussion," to get it highly touted and reviewed throughout the bluegrass world. Hear them at

Our closing band, "Folding Mr. Lincoln will perform at 5:45 p.m. This five-piece, led by a husband and wife, has been playing since 1973, and it shows. One reviewer told people to come and "experience the pure joy of musicians feeding off each other and the audience" as they perform their "sweet jingly pop, fiddle-driven folk music." You can listen to a sampling of their music at

Tim DeCinces' Beach Pit BBQ is scheduled to provide their famous tri-tip steaks and other wonderful barbequed fare. Picnic tables will be available, and there will also be a roped-off microbrewery and wine garden area, a traditional popcorn cart, and soft drinks, waters, juices and other food and drink for purchase.

And then there are the family activities. The Heritage Music Festival is planning to have wandering minstrel singers, live demonstrations at the museum's blacksmith shop and in adobe brick-making, pony rides, drawing lessons for "young Rembrandts," an area for storytellers, docent tours of the Kellogg House built in 1898, an exhibit about Orange County's Native American tribes, and photographers who will take pictures of guests in early 1900s apparel. The Santa Ana Police Department has been kind enough to furnish two officers on horseback.

And one more thing! From 1 to 3 p.m. May 21, the day before the music festival, there will be a master's class at Orange Coast College. This class will give an opportunity for some of our most talented high school and collegiate musicians, who will have won a county school district competition, to receive tips from Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin. Tickets will be available for the general public, but free admission will be awarded to all students who enter the competition.

So what better thing to do on a nice Saturday and Sunday afternoon in May? Parents, bring your children, and grandparents, bring your grandchildren, and everybody bring your friends! Tickets will be available through the Heritage Museum website,

Admission for children 10 and younger will be free, and suggested donations will be $10 for students and $20 for adults. (But the overall suggested donation for any family will be capped at $50, and no one will be turned away.)

There will also be VIP tickets with prime seating for the music performances, including a lunch with two drinks served at your private table for a $100 donation.

Or if you have a company that would like to sponsor a "family day" for its employees or clients, contact the museum.

But at the moment, just save the date on your calendar. The Heritage Museum of Orange County has about 12 acres at 3101 West Harvard St., Santa Ana, between the Mitchell Elementary School, where there is lots of free parking, and Godinez High School.

The museum plans to have this event every year, so plan to make it an annual family tradition!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibility of Judging in Today's Courts" (Square One Publishers, 2010), Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, A Voter's Handbook, Effective Solutions To America's Problems and can be reached at or Judge Jim Gray is also currently offering his 25 years of experience on the bench to ADR Services in Orange County for Arbitration and Mediation services.