Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Universal Laws

There are some things (like sports) that I know nothing about. But I am wise in the ways that patterns and themes are woven into the tapestry of life. Even as a child I paid close attention to the causes and effects of life choices and events. There is still more to learn and I am propelled to keep going. In the meantime, here is my take on the Universal Laws which govern us all. When I run my life on these principles things go a lot smoother.

1. No one has a crystal ball. Well, maybe someone does but it doesn’t work. So we never know what life will bring. The only guarantee is change.

2. Even though you don’t know what will happen (man plans and God laughs) it’s a really good idea to prepare for the next phase of life now.

3. A man’s character seals his fate.

4. My greatest strength is my greatest weakness. And, so is yours.

5. The worst thing that happens is often the best thing. But, most of us cannot see it in the moment.

6. Stay away from crazies and people who are pushed to the edge. They are usually living in survival mode. And, someone in survival mode cannot be trusted to act rationally.

7. Seek to serve the greater good – within reason.

8. Nurture your tribe. Human beings are tribal. Ultimately your tribe is the most important thing you have.

9. Life is an unfolding. Everything is temporary. The good, the bad, it’s all temporary. So enjoy the good while you have it and know that the bad will pass soon enough.

10. Human beings soothe in pairs so its important to have a primary relationship. But, it’s better to have no partner than the wrong partner because you are still free to seek out the comfort of another.

11. Nothing changes. Everything changes. An elm tree will never be an oak tree. But, depending on the nourishment it receives, an elm tree will either grow and evolve or wither and die. Every year it looks different, but it’s still an elm tree. People are the same way.

12. There is no emotion attached to an intuitive message. Listen to your intuition. No one ever says I trusted my inner knowing and it was wrong. But, they do say I didn’t trust my intuition and I could kick myself now.

13. Men and women are different animals. Culturally, physically, and psychologically we are different. Learn all you can about connecting to the other species; we have to share the planet together.

14. Under every human conflict someone feels dismissed, discounted, disenfranchised, or disrespected. When you are embroiled in conflict, figure out what you did to give someone else the impression that you have devalued them. And, then try to explain your perspective.

15. Secret deals don’t work. Deals that live in your head, instead of being voiced and agreed upon, only set you up for disappointment.

16. There is a strong connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Pay attention to all three. Your body is the temple for your soul. And, your home is the temple for your body. Treat them accordingly.

17. Life stretches ahead of us – and we meander along the path. And then, one day, we wake up and realize there is much more behind us than there is in front of us. And, that sucks. But, again, that is the way IT is.

18. Honor yourself. You are all you have. If you don’t like the way something is going, change it. That means you make a plan and take the necessary actions.

19. Timing is everything. But, I have no way to make sure you (or I) get it right. Ask for guidance through prayer or otherwise, then shut up and listen.

20. Money means very little. Just live like there is enough money for what you want and need and there will be.

21. Sometimes just say goodbye. Sometimes stay and work it out. When emotion gets involved it’s often difficult to know which is which. Pray, then shut-up and listen.

22. Some things are simply unknown. For instance, no one really knows what happens when we die. That’s OK because we really don’t need to know everything. There are mysteries. That’s just the way IT is. (On the other hand, if you feel that you need to have an answer because the unknown causes you anxiety that’s OK too. You can choose any of the myths that are out there in the current pool.)

23. Every path can lead you to the answer and every path can take you away from the answer.

24. Things I can do and see for others, I often cannot do and see for myself. And, others can see and do things for and about me that I cannot do on my own. So, it’s wise to surround oneself with wise people; they bring clarity and a reality test. But, everyone – even those who are not so wise - has something to teach me. And, no one can have too many friends.

25. Life is full of give and take. My world revolves around me. Your world revolves around you. So, if I want something from you, I better figure out what’s in it for you. Altruism is rare, if it exists at all. Want something? Figure out what can you give in trade. But, good living is not about a balance sheet. It requires giving as an investment that may or may not pay dividends latter on.

This list is a work in progress. Like me.

God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

Happy trails, Elinor

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Lesson Learned From Brooke, Cat, Rabbit, and Fox.

My friend and colleague Brooke Deratany Goldfarb sent me this wonderful story.  It was part of a short play in her daughter's theater class.  But, Brooke saw the tale as a wonderful illustration of the potential fall out from a litigated divorce, with the loss of the cheese signifying the loss of dignity as well as personal possessions.  You can read the whole story at http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/a-lesson-learned-from-brooke-cat-rabbit-and-fox/  Brooke has a law degree from Harvard but rather than use her degree in the traditional sense she has chosen to practice as a family mediator and collaborative lawyer in Indialantic, FL. Brooke is currently running for Judge in Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit.  You can learn more at http://brookeforjudge.com/

Thank you Brooke!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

10 Tips For Getting Along With Your Family This Holiday Season

Millions of families won't be together this holiday season because of fights, feuds and old resentments. However, family estrangements, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations don't have to destroy the bonds that connect you to the ones you love. Here are my 10 tips for getting along with your relatives over the holidays.

1. Be a good guest. Respect your host's property and possessions. Clean up after yourself and your kids. Don't bring your pets unless they are specifically requested. Don't expect your host to monitor your children. Visiting your relatives should not signal a vacation from being a parent. Instead, watch your kids and make sure that they also respect property and possessions.

2. If you are the host whose property and possessions are not respected, ask for what you need. Its almost impossible to be both babysitter and chief cook and bottle washer at the same time. But, unless you ask for help and then allow others to provide it, the burden will fall on you and your resentment will grow. If you ask for help and it's not forthcoming let your guests know that this year the holidays were too much for you and next year you will be coming to them instead.

3. Avoid excessive drinking. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and can leave your family open to a fiasco. When the others hit the bottle a little too hard that should be your signal to go home or go catch a movie.

4. If you really don't want to go - don't. However, do not wait until the last minute to cancel. Give your relatives time to make alternative plans.

5. Discuss the gift situation in advance and make plans so that everyone understands your position. Simplify gift giving by using cash or gift cards. Some families do only the kids, others pick one name from a hat, or maybe you will all buy your own gifts and do show and tell.

6. Under most family conflicts someone feels dismissed, discounted, disrespected, or disenfranchised. Avoid any action which will trigger these emotions. Make sure that you include everyone in the planning, preparation, and festivities. Try to be equal in your gift giving to avoid slighting anyone. If for some reason this is not appropriate or possible, do your giving at a time when you and the receiver will have complete privacy.

7. If you are carrying around a resentment, from the past, address it - in private - with the other person. If you are going to hold a difficult conversation with a family member remember to

* Prepare.

* Set the stage. Pick the right time for your difficult conversation, when you are both clear headed.

* Call a truce, this means coming to the table and staying there until there is some resolution.

* Speak from the heart. Do not point fingers of blame. Instead focus on finding a solution that works for both of you. This is collaboration. And, keep in mind that before the person on the other side can respond from the heart s/he will have to trust that there will be no negative judgements or attacks. Do whatever you can to make that clear.

* Listen, listen, listen. Listen as if you are an outside observer with no prior knowledge of the situation.

* Give yourselves time to think, process the information, and cool down.

* Define the emotions. Under almost every human conflict, someone feels dismissed, discounted, disenfranchised, or disrespected. These are the emotions that fuel the feud. Sometimes, just defining that emotion and realizing that both of us feel the same way is enough to resolve our dispute.

* Be willing to apologize. The closer the relationship the more likely you are to have stepped on each others' toes. If you cannot bring yourself to apologize for anything specific at least apologize for the distress that the other side has been living with and anything s/he believes you did to contribute to it.

* Don't leave conflicts unresolved. An agreement to disagree is resolution. Leaving the conflict open sets you up for future fights.

8. Assign a family mediator and even if s/he is a natural get him/her some additional dispute management training.

9. Lower your expectations - for everything - from expecting feelings of happiness and joy to cooking the perfect meal. Do not expect others to get it perfectly right either. Don't take it personally if someone fails to send you a card or gift this year.

10. Consult with a professional mediator if you feel you need an expert opinion or more personal assistance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Holiday Traditions

This post is a version of an email that I received from my friend Deb Heller who received it from Paul Rotmil. We do not know who the original author is but this is my rewritten version.

Happy Holidays!

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods. But, this year can be different. This year Americans can give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. It's time to think outside the box. Here are 12 great American gift ideas. What else can you think of?

1. Hair cut. Everyone - yes EVERYONE - gets their hair cut. So give gift certificates to your local hair salon or barber.

2. Gym membership or personal training sessions. This is an appropriate gift for everyone who talks about improving their health.

3. Car detailing. Car detail shops and car washes love to sell gift certificates.

4. Home repairs. The local handyman can sell you his time. Or perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his/her lawn mowed or driveway sealed, plowed, or shoveled.

5. Golf green fees or tickets to sporting events, a play, movie, concert, or the ballet at your hometown theater. Want to make this a really special gift? Join the gift recipient.

6. Gift certificates to local restaurants. If the recipient isn't into fancy eateries, consider breakfast or coffee at the local diner or breakfast joint. Think about side-stepping the big national chains and showing support for your home town restauranteur whose financial life is on the line.

7. Oil change for the car, truck or motorcycle. Remember the shop run by your working neighbor.

8. Cleaning lady or home organizer for the day. I could really use this.

9. Computer tune-up. Or give your over-50 gift recipients a lesson on their computer or smart phone.

10. Local artists and crafts people knit, crochet, make jewelry, spin pottery, and create art in all forms. Shop local art fairs and take a look at Etsy.com.

11. Your time - which is your most valuable resource. Share your time with a friend or relative. You can spend your time together serving the community in a soup kitchen, or by visiting a children's hospital or nursing home.

12. Craigslist and neighborhood garage sale items. It is better to recycle the stuff that is in our garages than it is to put it into landfills.

This year, plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants that showcase local bands. And leave your server a nice big tip. And, speaking of tips - if you give the mailman, trash guy, or babysitter a cash gift also make a request that they spend that money in the local economy and not on goods made in a foreign country.

We are ready for a revolution of caring about each other. Christmas should no longer be about buying more crap from China. You already have enough junk in your garage. Instead, this year, focus on caring about your neighbor and encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away. When we care about our neighbors and our communities the benefits come back to us in magical ways. THIS should be the new American Christmas tradition.

Please feel free to copy this post, mail it to everyone on your mailing list, post it to a discussion group or on Craigslist, or send it to the editor of your local newspaper, radio station, and TV news department.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I was not dog crazy until I met my Stella

Six years ago, as David and I were on our way to stock-up at Costco, I felt a pull. Something was directing me to pass the store and keep going. “Let’s go to the humane society, I’ve got a funny feeling” I said. “OK” David responded, humoring me. We already had two elderly cats and they provided some real barriers to bringing any other animals home. Clearly he assumed we would be lookers, not takers.

At the shelter, we walked up and down the rows of cages, visiting with the inmates sitting in their sad death row cells. One of the wardens approached us. I told her about our cats. She was quiet for a few seconds and then she ushered us past the rows of cages and into the cat room. There, clearly out of place, amongst all the caged kittens, was a spunky black and white puppy in a big cage. The attendant opened the cage. The puppy dashed out, much more interested in her new freedom than in us. She ran around in circles – clearly delighted to have sprung the coop. I took her “cat room” confines as an omen. “We’ll take her" I said. David stood there, too shocked to speak.

A few days later, when the paperwork was complete, we left the shelter with our Stella. The attendant beamed and my eyes welled up with tears as she looked at us and said “see, sometimes life starts out tough and then it all works out really well.” I knew Stella was one lucky puppy and we would give her a good life.

During the last six years, both David and I have both built strong bonds with Stella who is a master communicator. Her boarder collie genes prepared her to communicate with the sheep herder and primed her to use emotion, hers and ours, instead of words. She is able to read us and to get her message across with amazing accuracy. Stella often acts as my sounding board, listening as I work things out. And, she teaches us about life and ourselves by mirroring those hidden traits we are not comfortable exposing.

Here are the three things Stella wants you to know.

1. Shelter dogs are the best dogs. Do not buy a dog from a pet store as most of them were bred in puppy mills. If you must, find a reputable breeder but that should be your second choice – for a variety of reasons.

2. Communities that don’t allow animal companions are missing out. A loyal dog or cat can change an elderly person’s outlook on life. And, by opening up to pets you expand the pool of potential buyers for property resale and so increase property values. Do not live in a community that doesn’t allow pets, something is wrong with people who don’t want animals around.

3. Life is full of delicious surprises. So get out there, smell around, and find them. And, then share the news – there is always something to bark about.

Five years ago we expanded our family and adopted another dog, so Stella would have a playmate. Our beloved Roscoe is not as brilliant a communicator as Stella but he is gentle and loving and a valued addition to our family.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Best Way To Get Over A Break-up

Q. What's the best way to get over a break-up?

I have Action and Attitude Strategies. Here they are:

Action Strategies

1. Create a concrete plan of action. List your personal resources and how you will use those resources during the next month, six months, and year ahead.

2. The key to healing from a break-up is having a strong support system. Create your support system by inviting quality people to join in your inner circle. This support system should include family members, old friends, and new friends. Find other singles that share a common interest - even if you have to organize an event or special project yourself. Connect with your neighbors and members of your community. Start or join a support group or meet-up. Make time for sharing breakfast, a movie, or a potluck meal. Some time to yourself is fine but it is critical that you avoid isolation and feeling alone.

3. Become an activist. Make a difference. Get involved with a cause that is bigger than your personal problems.

4. Meditate and breathe. When we are anxious we tend to hold our breath. Using a breathing meditation allows us to take in more oxygen. And, more oxygen allows us to think more clearly.

5. Explore local resources. Act like a tourist, but the goal is to become an expert on what your city has to offer. Find free or inexpensive activities in your community. Take a walk. Visit the park, beach, museum, and public library.

6. If finances are tight, find more creative ways to access the goods and services you need. Barter. Recycle. Negotiate. Create.

7. Clean-out the clutter and get rid of unnecessary reminders of your Ex. When your physical space is disorganized it produces a negative reflection. When you clean up your house you are honoring your home - the temple of your soul. Getting rid of "stuff" is one way to make room for the new person.

8. Live within your means and clean-up your credit. Enlist professional assistance or the aid of a friend who knows how to create a budget.

9. Adopt. Rescue a pet from a shelter and receive unconditional love and companionship in return.

Attitude Strategies

1. Start the morning with a positive affirmation.

2. Make a gratitude list and focus on the ways that the glass of your life is half (or more) full. Concentrate on the good - the things that give you joy in life.

3. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Create new celebratory rituals to enjoy this year and in the years to come.

4. Avoid comparing your insides to someone else's outsides. When you think of yourself as the victim you further feed the negative emotions. Each life has high and low points. Almost everyone experiences a rejection, break-up, or divorce in his/her adult life and for most its a low point. So when you look around and everyone else seems happy remember that you are not the only one who has had to live through this experience.

5. See your break-up as an opportunity to shift gears. Don't dwell on your losses; mourn them, and let them go.

6. Accept those around you as they are. Focus instead on what can be changed in you and your attitudes.

7. When you are down, remind yourself that next year will be different, next year YOU will be different, and everything is temporary.

8. Use this time of transition as a time of assessment. Figure out what mistakes you made in the relationship and how you will avoid these mistakes in the future. A therapist or support group can help in this endeavor.

9. Call a truce with your Ex. Especially if you have children, let him/her know that you want to find solutions that work for both of you. It's hard to argue with someone who says "I want to find solutions that work for you and for me."

10. Give yourself time. Don't rush into the next relationship because you are lonely or feel rejected. The longer you wait the better your chances of success. It's OK to look (be a shopper) but don't buy too fast.

After A Break-up - With No Kids Involved - Is It OK To Stay In Touch With Your Ex's Family?

Q: After a break up - with no children involved - is it OK to stay in touch with your Ex's family?

The short answer is - it depends. Read the rest of my answer at http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/after-a-break-up-with-no-kids-involved-is-it-ok-to-stay-in-touch-with-your-exs-family/

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Aging: The Last Frontier: My Notes On Being An Elder In A Changing World

Last week David and I attended a magical weekend gathering - The Mankind Project's USA Gathering of Elders in Indianola, Iowa. Most of MKP's events are "men only" so this was a rare opportunity to share the energy of this powerful community and the coming together of elder women and men. Robert Moore was the key note speaker. Bill Kauth and Zoe Alowan gave a thought provoking presentation. And, I participated in a women-only retreat entitled Aging-to-Saging led by Rosemary Cox based on the work of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Here are my take-away points:

1. As a people and a planet, we are shifting into a new consciousness. This ordeal, which includes an unprecedented economic and spiritual crisis, is going to continue into the next decade. The good news is that never before in history have there been so many resources.

2. Elders can help others deal with the new reality. But, we'll need the energy and courage to act. Amidst the bearers of despair we need to be the bearers of hope. We need to ask "how are we going to create, build, and occupy our new world?"

3. We have been colonized by the military, financial, medical, agricultural, religious, and industrial complexes. This colonization is about empire building. (The young people protesting in the middle-east (and Occupy for that matter) could have chosen to be terrorists. Instead, they chose to take a stand against Empire.)

4. Robert Moore's name for the Universal Energy Force is "The Great It." He says "It" cannot be named. But "It" is in you and you are "It." All we need to do is let the energy of "It" shine through us. (BTW, "It" doesn't like empire building.)

5. The science we hope for is already here. Take a look at the Human Energy Systems Alliance.

6. Elder versus elderly. Aging is the process of becoming the final product of creation. 55-75 is the liberation phase, 67-90 is the summing up phase. Do we see the aging population as a resource or as a problem?

7. Every generation becomes flavored with the essence of its time. And, the brain rewires itself to fulfill the role we play in society.

8. We live too short and we die too long.

9. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. In addition to exercise, learning something new, mental stimulation, and new experiences are good for the brain. Visit Lumosity for computer games for the brain.

10. Forgiveness is a part of the elder's process of life review and life repair. Ultimately, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves - whether we are forgiving ourselves or someone else. The goal of forgiveness is to free ourselves to live more freely and to become more inwardly vibrant. Without forgiveness we perpetuate grief, stay fixated on the past, and remain connected to the "offender." Just by saying "I want to forgive ___" we change the pathways in the brain. The feeling can then catch up to the choice. The path to forgiveness can be a long journey. Honor the feelings - don't deny them or you bury them alive. "I forgive myself. I was just young."

11. I was disappointed there was no mention of Susan Jacoby's book Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing Of The New Old Age. Maybe at next years USAGE or MKP's World Elder Gathering 2013 in Australia.

All manner of good things will come to you now. Blessings, Elinor

Thirty Five Years of Mediation: Why Haven't We Come Farther?

With Co-author/Guest blogger Professor Susan F. Dubow

The history:

Using mediation to resolve disputes can be traced, across a variety of cultures, to biblical and ancient times. In this country, the founding fathers recognized the process but mediation did not have a valid place in American policy until 1946 when the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was formed to resolve labor disputes. During the 1960s the seeds for paradigm shifts and social change were planted and cultivated. The civil rights, feminist, environmental, and peace movements were born. There was dissatisfaction with governmental and other institutions and the courts were backlogged. A push for a better way to resolve disputes ensued.

In 1976 Chief Justice Warren Burger held a conference and ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of legal scholar Roscoe Pound’s presentation The Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice to the American Bar Association. Pound’s paper of 1906 changed the direction of the American courts. At the Pound Conference of 1976 legal scholars met to brainstorm possible improvements to the American legal system. The potential of the mediation process was acknowledged and Chief Justice Berger “blessed” the start of the ADR movement. That was 35 years ago. Today, the average person and the average legislator still don't really understand or appreciate the concept or how mediation can be best utilized.

Together, Susan and I have spent more than a half century in the mediation industry. We created a mediation training business www.MediationTrainingGroup.com and during the last eleven years we’ve trained more than 10,000 professionals in the mediation process. We believe tremendous brain power and effort has been devoted to the process and profession. But, ultimately when we compare mediation to other things that have been around since the mid-1970s we are disappointed. We ask ourselves “what went wrong?” “Why haven't we come further?” “Why hasn’t mediation made it into the “cultural mind?” We spend a lot of time asking ourselves and other mediators these questions.

As we see it, there are nine things wrong with the mediation picture.

1. When the human animal (like other animals) feels threatened the initial response is fight, flight or freeze. People in conflict want blood, vengeance, and validation. Asking someone in conflict to collaborate is contrary to biology. Mediators have not found a way around the physiology.

2. Most mediators are not able to create and maintain an environment safe enough for true collaboration. Mediation horror stories abound. People often emerge from the process feeling railroaded and coerced.

3. Even after thirty five years there is still reluctance on the part of the legal industry to accept the mediation process as a stand-alone method of dispute resolution. Instead mediation is often viewed as a component of the litigation process. (Is mediation still perceived as McJustice or is there a fear that mediation will cut into the finances and power the status quo affords?)

4. Advocacy is much sexier than peacemaking. Remember, super-heros don’t sit down and work-it-out with the bad guys.

5. There is no American Mediation Association. Without a national organization no one is there to give us a unified voice, protect our legislative interests, or promote good mediation PR.

6. Mediators work in a wide range of niche markets, facing different issues and interests. (For instance, mediators in the financial services arena operate in a different world and with a different world view than those who provide Victim-Offender Mediation.)

7. Baseball, Middle-East, and other highly visible mediation processes often bring no resolution.

8. The results of the mediation process are typically narrow. Until we can broaden the effect and actually provide transformation the participants and the public have nothing to talk about. And, without that buzz we are going nowhere.

9. While many mediators are persuasive magicians, capable of amazingly altering perceptions, ultimately we mediators suffer from a unique form of low self-esteem. Many of us refuse to even embrace the title “Mediator.” Instead we identify ourselves and each other as Attorney-Mediator, Therapist-Mediator, Non-Lawyer Mediator, etc. Do we see ourselves as bit players along the Conflict Management Continuum? Is it conflict phobia that fuels the burning desire to eradicate conflict? Or is there another reason that so many of us are willing to work as volunteers, more invested in the outcome than the clients we serve?

Just consider this:

A Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. A 2007 study by the U.S. government found that nearly 9.4% of U.S. adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 months, up from 7.6% (more than 15 million people) in 2002. Why has meditation done so much better at going mainstream than mediation?

Steve Jobs founded Apple Computers in 1976. If he had been at the Pound Conference instead of in his garage working on his computer where do you think the mediation process would be today? Who among us has the Jobs-like vision that will be necessary to take us to the next level?

Clearly, current shifts in almost every aspect of our society – economic, familial, political, and environmental – point to the need for a new problem-solving mechanism and mediation just might be an idea whose time has come. So stay tuned. Our next article will focus on what each of us can do so that we are not having the same discussion ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?

Susan F. Dubow, a pioneer in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution, served as the Director of the Court Mediation and Arbitration Program, the ADR Division of the 17th Judicial Circuit, Broward County, for over 22 years. She is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and Primary Mediation Trainer and a member of the Florida Supreme Court's Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee. Susan is an Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University's Shepard Broad Law Center, President and CEO of Mediation Training Group, and a Past-president of both The Association of South Florida Mediators and Arbitrators (ASFMA) and The Florida Academy of Professional Mediators (FAPM.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Egos and Emotions: The Three Things You Need To Know About Conflict and Conflict Management

What do The Beatles, Joe Robbie Stadium, and Friendster have in common? They were all destroyed by conflict. Our conflicts, which are the inevitable and natural outgrowth of working and living together, can be very productive or very destructive. And, of all the competencies necessary for success in life, the ability to manage interpersonal conflict is one of the most critical. My 22 years of working with people in conflict provided the foundation of my philosophy of conflict. Here are the three essentials components of my conflict philosophy that you need to know:

1. Under every human conflict someone feels dismissed, discounted, disenfranchised, or disrespected - basically devalued. And, while there is no consensus on the definition of conflict I find conflict is best defined as “a result of differences in perception regarding what is and what could or should be.” So, when faced with conflict my first step is to look at the perceptions and the emotions involved.

2. Effective conflict managers use conflict to promote positive growth, solve problems, engage in brainstorming, improve relationships, lessen tension, and eliminate long-standing problems. On the other hand, when conflict is not managed properly it can destroy you, your family, or your organization. In my own life, when my commitment to a relationship is high I am willing to walk through the ugly tunnel of conflict to clear the air and get a positive result.

3. I believe, practice, and teach nine critical conflict management strategies. Everyone should know how to use these strategies - The inner circle; The safe space; Shared vision/values and complementary skills/traits; 5 Negotiation styles; UVP: What's in it for me; External, internal and purpose driven motivation; Difficult conversations; The power of the apology; and Delegate this task.

Having a conflict management framework in place will provide you with a guide for addressing conflict when stress is high and allow you to act as a mediator for the fights and feuds of those around you. Stay tuned. There's more to follow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Open Letter To Kim Kardashian

Dear Kim,

Marriage is difficult and every marriage presents challenges. Read on.  Here is what you need to know as you enter into the tunnel of divorce.

http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/an-open-letter-to-kim-kardashian/

Call me if you need a mediator. And, remember I can do a sisters-in-conflict case too.

Best regards, Elinor

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do I Need A Lawyer To Get A Divorce?

The question I am asked the most: Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

NO!! Hiring an attorney is one way to get to divorce court. But, there are actually three ways to get through the legal process of divorce. Another option is to fill-out and file your paperwork on your own. Or, you and your spouse can hire a mediator who can help you reach an agreement and prepare your paperwork. There is no one-size-fits-all process. Each option should bring you the same result – a divorce. But, each option has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Here is what you need to know about each option so you can pick the process that is best for you.

Option #1 – Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce. DIY Divorce is a good option for couples who have few or no assets, low incomes, and no minor children. So if your situation is uncomplicated you may want to fill-out and file the forms you need for your divorce on your own. In Florida all the forms you need are available on-line, for free, at www.flcourts.org. Alternatively, you can buy a form packet at your local courthouse. And, if you still have questions basic assistance is available at the courthouse for a low fee. Finally, if you and your spouse end up with an unresolved issue the Judge will send you to court-annexed mediation so that a mediator can help you reach an agreement.

Option #2a – The Traditional Attorney-driven Divorce. Hiring an attorney is your best option if you need protection from your spouse or if your spouse has already retained a lawyer. If you are unaware of what the marital assets are or how much your spouse earns a divorce attorney can investigate all of these details. Additionally, if you feel intimidated because of domestic violence or coercion, negotiating without a divorce lawyer is a bad idea. You can find a lawyer through your local and state Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service. Or ask friends and relatives for referrals. It is wise to choose a lawyer whose practice is focused on divorce related matters. Ultimately, when the lawyers are done with their investigation/discovery and confident they have sufficient knowledge to effectively negotiate, you, your spouse, and your lawyers will go to mediation. Chances are that at the end of a marathon mediation session (up to twelve hours) you and your spouse will have a signed settlement agreement. If however mediation is unsuccessful and no agreement is reached you will go to trial and a Judge will decide what happens to your money and your kids post-divorce.

Option #2b – The Collaborative Attorney-driven Divorce. Another slant on the Attorney-driven Divorce is Collaborative Divorce. Here each spouse hires an individual Collaborative lawyer and agrees up-front to share other experts, such as an accountant, business valuator, or child psychologist. The parties and their attorneys are committed to negotiating, using shared information and the feedback of the chosen experts. The Attorneys may also choose to use Divorce Coaches and/or Mediators. But, if the negotiations are unsuccessful the Collaborative Attorneys will not go to trial. Instead, the couple will have to select new attorneys and start the process over from the beginning. This process works well when all the people involved work well together. On the other hand if one of the parties really doesn’t want to move forward s/he can side-track the process and hold the other spouse – who may not be financially or emotionally able to start the process over with new lawyers – hostage.

Option #3 – ProSe/Pre-suit Mediation. (Pro-se means self-represented or unrepresented – in essence without lawyers and Pre-suit means before a law suit has been filed.) This option involves hiring a mediator, instead of two attorneys before, any documents are filed. Couples that want to save time/money and side-step the negative nature of an attorney-driven divorce but still believe that they need the assistance of a knowledgeable professional often find this option attractive. Mediators that offer Pro-se/Pre-suit mediation are trained to guide divorcing couples towards agreement, an uncontested divorce, and a friendlier future. The mediator can also prepare the necessary court documents and forms. And, before or during the mediation process, which typically happens in two or three sessions over the course of a few weeks, either party can consult with (but not retain) an attorney, CPA, or other expert if s/he feels the need for advice. Alternatively, either party can decide to stop the process and retain an attorney instead. At A Friendly Divorce we provide ProSe/PreSuit Divorce Mediation. And at Friendly Divorce Training we teach other professionals to do the same.

Conclusion

The DIY Divorce can get you where you want to go, just like public transportation (the bus) can get you from one place to another. But the process may be slow and crowded so it works best if you don’t have too much baggage. Hiring a lawyer for a Traditional Attorney-driven divorce is like hiring a taxi or limo to get you where you want to go. You will get there but someone else will be choosing the route. That’s OK if you feel you need or want an individual "guide." It will not be good if you disagree with your “driver’s” plan or you believe that the driver is running up the meter. Hiring a lawyer for a Collaborative divorce is like renting a 15-person van: everyone is in there together, taking turns behind the wheel. Because everyone is riding together a lot of scheduling may be necessary. But if you have the right team, which includes you and your soon-to-be Ex, everyone is heading in the same direction. Choosing ProSe/PreSuit Mediation is like renting a car – you are given a vehicle that you and your spouse navigate and drive. Along the way you must agree on what route to take and how fast to go. If you get lost you can stop and ask for additional (or individual) directions or you can ditch the car and call separate cabs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

7 Tips For Creating A Successful Second Marriage

It should come as no surprise that second marriages fail at an alarmingly high rate.  Second marriages are generally loaded with conflict triggers. Kids, in-laws, joint and individual finances, and inner-circle loyalties shoot arrows from all directions at the re-married couple. And, once you've been divorced - and survived the upheaval - its easier to accept a second break-up. So, what can you do to create a successful second (or third) marriages? Read my top 7 tips at   http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/7-tips-for-creating-a-successful-second-marriage/

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thirty Five Years of Mediation: Why Haven't We Come Farther?

Using mediation to resolve disputes can be traced, across a variety of cultures, to biblical and ancient times. In this country, the founding fathers recognized the process but mediation did not have a valid place in American policy until 1946 when the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was formed to resolve labor disputes.

The 1960s brought the civil rights, feminist, environmental, and peace movements along with dissatisfaction with governmental and other institutions. These cultural trends planted the seeds for paradigm shifts and social change. The courts were backlogged and so a push for a better way to resolve disputes ensued.

In 1976 Chief Justice Warren Burger held a conference and ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Pound’s Paper of 1906 in St Paul, Minnesota. At the Roscoe Pound Conference of 1976 legal scholars met to brainstorm possible improvements to the American legal system. The potential of the mediation process was acknowledged and Chief Justice Berger gave his “blessing” to the start of the ADR movement as we know it. That was 35 years ago. Today, the average person and the average legislator still doesn't understand the concept and how the mediation can be best utilized. What went wrong? Why haven't we come further? What can we do so that we are not having the same discussion ten, twenty, or thirty years from now?

PS. A Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. A 2007 study by the U.S. government found that nearly 9.4% of U.S. adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 months, up from 7.6% (more than 15 million people) in 2002. Why has meditation done so much better than mediation?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Post Divorce Conflict

Are you still fighting with your Ex?  First, stop calling him/her your Ex.  S/he just got renamed as your Co-Parent.  Now read what I have to say about using therapy as a mechanism to end the on-going conflict that many co-parents experience post divorce at http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/7-tips-for-creating-a-successful-second-marriage/ 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Expectation Management and Divorce.

Many people going through the transition of divorce have no idea what to expect.  And, not knowing what to expect typically escalates divorce-related stress and anxiety.  During a recent divorce mediation training program a multi-disciplinary group of professionals (Stacy Beaulieu, Mark Bilawsky, Tonya Cromartie, Mari Cullen, Susan Daniel, Ed Dieguez, Elizabeth Ermel, Adam Farber, Ruth Gordon, Susan Jacobson, Mike Kesselman, Ray Leon, Elizabeth Mackenzie, Anne Mazer, Goldye Meyer, Nicole Paulino, Lee Rubin, Dawn Saddik, Jennifer Schettewi, Donna Greenspan Solomon, Mark Solomon, Stella Suarez-Rita, Evelyn Tarud, Rick Yabor and me - Elinor Robin) provided some expectation management for those going through the divorce transition.  Read what they had to say at  http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/expectation-management-and-divorce-2/

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marriage Pacts

I was recently asked some thought provoking questions about Pre-Marital Education and Pre-Marriage Contracts - which I call Marriage Pacts.  Here are my answers.

1.  Should premarital education be mandatory?  (Something similar to the children of divorce workshop that divorcing parents must attend.)

Even though the hormones might prevent the participants from hearing anything said, yes. We may not be able to get people to listen but at least the seed would be planted.  And, they would know where to go to look for information when they needed it later on.

And, the mechanism already exists. There is something called Prepare/Enrich. Its an "survey" and training program that can actually predict marital success and pinpoints areas of potential trouble. Some religious denominations require copules to undergo the Prepare/Enrich process before they can get married in their church.
          
2.  Should marriage become a transaction that requires signing a detailed contract to enter, just as we do when applying for and receiving a mortgage to buy a home, a business loan, etc.?

Yes. In order to get a marriage license you should need a signed contract. And, there should be a mandatory "addendum" that needs to be signed before people are allowed to take their child home.  (Just like the car-seat requirement.)  This would get people to legally commit while the bonding (to the child) hormones are high and the children would win.  (However, ultimately, no one should have a child - man or woman - unless s/he is prepared to raise that child him/herself.)

3.  Would such a requirement induce more thought of behalf of those desiring to get married? Would marriage be taken more seriously by many, be seen for what it is and should be, even if the idea is a romance buzzkill?  Would it prove, in the long run, more helpful to people? Or is this whole idea foolishness?
  
It's a great idea. If you cannot sit down with your beloved and hold a difficult conversation (while you are in the window of hormone induced connection) about where you are, where you want to go, and how you plan on getting there then you will not be able to hold a difficult conversation later, once the hormone rush is gone and the dulldrum of daily life has set in.

4.  Should there be mandatory on-going educational or counseling requirements within marriages, sort of like a continuing ed for professionals?

No. However, as part of the Marriage Pact couples should agree to a yearly review and tune-up. Most of the couples I see went into auto pilot, got busy with the tasks of life, and ignored their bond. They didn't notice this until the bond had deteriorated.

Right now the move is away from marriage. The rate of babies being born to unmarried parents is very high and growing. So, couples know marriage doesn't work. They just don't know what else to do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Morning Congress Conflict Commentary

The on-line mediator discussion groups are buzzing about how mediation could help congress with the current budget mess. There's talk of bringing Bill Clinton in to act as mediator.

I have a somewhat different perspective.  As I see it, now is the time to enlist, position, and anoint a mediator as our national conflict expert so the American people (not congress) can start learning about mediation and the role the process can play when its time for an ugly conversation. 

Because congress is too pig-headed to actually allow a mediator to help what we (mediators) should be doing is getting on TV to show the American people what could be done. Mediation is just assisted negotiation.  Clearly congress needs assistance with their negotiations. But, they don't want assistance. The American people need to be using their "persuasive techniques." We mediators just need to educate the people about how that works.

This is also a great time to promote the idea of electing mediators to public office. The bottom line is this mess was - to a large extent - created by the special interests who are running the show.  And, its going to be a difficult battle ahead.  However, if we had some mediators in congress we would be in much better shape. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tsuris

The Yiddish word Tsuris (tso͝oris) is translated as troubles or problems. But, the feeling (and the punch) of the word is lost in translation. The word tsuris goes beyond problems. The connotation is insurmountable difficulties or woes of the worst kind. Interestingly, the word tsuris is almost always used as a plural - this must be because problems that are judged as tsuris always travel in packs.

Recently a friend was complaining about her "situation."  I felt little sympathy but wasn't sure why. (I am not usually so heartless.)  And then I realized that she had knowingly created the mess AND she had the power (but it would take some unpleasantness) to clean it up.

There are two kinds of problems: the ones we create and the ones that fall into our laps. After an honest assessment regarding one's level of responsibility, these two types of problems can be viewed with different lenses. And then, after the brief analysis of problem creation, its time to move onto problem solution. Problems have two possible outcomes. Some I have the power to solve. And, some are outside of my sphere of influence - I cannot really do anything about them.  When faced with a problem that I have the power to solve I have to get to it. When faced with a problem that I cannot solve, all I can do is let go and be patient as the resolution unfolds.

If you are faced with problem/s. Take a good look.  How much did you bring on yourself? How much is truly uninvited? (This might be the universe giving you a wake-up call.)  While it might mean an unpleasant undertaking, is it within your power to solve your problem? Or is what happens next beyond your control?

May your have no tsuris.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Friendly Divorce Trend Discussed in WSJ

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303544604576430341393583056.html

This article - from Saturday's Wall Street Journal - provides an excellent explanation of one of the key cultural factors that is fueling the trend away from attorney-driven divorce and towards the more humane and family-friendly approach.

North Central Florida Mediators

We (the host committee Linda Chapman, Martha Johnston, Kevin Lunsford, and me - Elinor Robin) are holding the kick-off meeting of the Association of North Central Florida Mediators today at noon at the Northwest Grille, which is located at 5115 NW 39th Ave, Gainesville.  Please join us.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony Thoughts


What do you think motivates those people who seem obsessed with seeing Casey Anthony fry?  Why do these over reactors wait for hours to get into the courthouse?  Yes, this is a very sad case but it seems to me that the Nancy Grace clones are more about being judgmental than just.   

Jeff Ashton did not prove Casey guilty of murder.  But, he did prove himself a jerk - for example - during the closing when Jose Baez was speaking and he was laughing. Baez got angry and called him "laughing man." What was Ashton thinking? Someone is on trial - facing death - and he is laughing. Surely, this cost him with the jury. In my mind this was a manslaughter case that he tried to turn into a lifetime achievement.  The whole thing was a huge waste of limited resources.

As to Casey, as we speak, she is probably working on the book, her contract with Playboy, and her new dancing act.  But, don't worry.  She may walk this time but this damaged human being is a walking time bomb.  Clearly, she is not going to go forward and have a nice, normal life.  

Finally, and most important, what about the millions of children who are abused, abandoned, and neglected each year?  Who is outraged about them?  If one really cares about children it would be much more productive to focus some attention and anger to a bigger cause, and help the next Caylee Anthony.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We all give a little

Donny Deutch this morning on MSNBC talking about possible tax increases:  "Forget for a minute that you are a Republican.  Doesn't it make sense that we all give a little - especially the richest?"  Talk about common sense.  Why doesn't congress see that? 

Why doesn't Donny Deutch have a Face Book page?  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Advice For The Novice and Wanna-be Mediator

Recently, in an on-line mediator forum someone posted the following question.  "I'm a lawyer with twenty-one years of experience in a variety of types of law.  I'm thinking of shifting gears and mediation might be a great next step for me. Does anyone have any tips? How did you decide to become a mediator? What courses or training materials helped you? Did you have anything particular in your background that you found especially helpful? Any guidance appreciated."

A long dialogue between mediators ensued.  I contributed four times to the discussion.  Here's what I had to say:

Post #1.  In my opinion, before you make any decisions there are some significant pieces of information you will need. First, does your state certify mediators? If so you will want to go to a training program approved by your local courts. Basically mediators fall into two categories - family/divorce and commercial/civil. While you may decide to be trained in both areas it is important - for marketing and other purposes - that you are clear on who you are (your brand) and what you are "selling." When you say "shift gears" I am assuming that you are talking about giving up the practice of law and become a full-time mediator. In order to make that happen you will need both mediation competence and good connections. Talk to some lawyers who have successfully made the transition and see what they say. I also suggest you read Tammy Lenski's book - "Making Mediation Your Day Job." Finally, if you decide that you will be a family/divorce mediator you will also want to decide if your target market is represented parties or pro-se couples. If you decide that you want to build a practice in the growing field of pro-se/pre-suit divorce mediation please consider attending my upcoming training - Friendly Divorce Mediation Training: Make Money, Make a Difference - www.FriendlyDivorceTraining.com.  I wish you all the best in your new endeavor. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions that I can answer for you.

Post #2.  In the current economy it is wise to pursue multiple streams of income. Mediation can provide a steady income stream if you are committed to investing the time and effort necessary for building a business that provides a quality product. Mediators can use (a) court annexed programs to build connections and gain experience and (b) administrative agency cases to supplement a private practice. However, the mainstay of a mediation practice should be client elected cases in a niche market. Like all service businesses the mediator must actively market him/herself and offer clients real value.

Post #3.  It just so happens that we are in the right place at the right time. The legal services industry is undergoing a huge shift and as mediators we can strategically position ourselves to benefit from the shift. Take a look at this article from the recent edition of the ABA Journal. http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/paradigm_shift Law Job Stagnation May Have Started Before the Recession—And It May Be a Sign of Lasting Change

Post #4.  I agree with Sam about the challenges we face as a profession.  Yes, we should have followed the social work model when training standards were created thirty years ago.  And, we still have no national voice, lobbyist, or PR spokesperson.  Oh well.  We are a profession in its infancy.  Twenty years from now this profession will look very different.  (Just notice how many universities are now offering programs in mediation and conflict management.)  Often people who take my 40-hour training do not get certified, never mediate a case, and still tell me that the training changed their lives because it changed the way they look at and handle conflict.  Yes, Sam is correct; there are many mediocre mediators out there.  (But, there are many mediocre lawyers, doctors, and waiters too.)  The market has a way of sorting out the good from the bad.  I do not like the 40-hour training concept.  However, I know that the first 40-hours are just an intro.  Those who want to really learn the craft need to keep current with continuing ed.  But, on the flip side, since mediation is so much more of an art than a science, without some natural talent all the training in the world cannot make certain personality types masterful mediators. And, while competence is important, it’s not enough.  I believe that building a mediation practice is all about marketing -  which I define as the ability to convey a vision of how one's product/service can give the client/customer value. If you can do that you can succeed as a mediator or anything else.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Emotion and the Dance of Connection

Recent research in Emotionally Focused Therapy: The best predictor of marital success is the female partner's faith in the male partner's caring. The best predictor of the female partner having an affair is her lack of faith in her partner's caring.
I recently attended a seminar on Emotionally Focused Therapy.  Michael Barnett was the speaker.  I was really impressed with his wisdom.  According to Michael:
1.  93% of communication is non-verbal and emotional.  So, what is emotion?  "Emotion is information, not something to purge, cathart, or work through. Research has shown that emotional information precedes linguistic information.  It is the fundamental meaning system that has neurological primacy. We feel before we think."  
2.  We can regulate intense distress through connection.  And, couples can regulate each others physiology and immune responses.  
3.  Adult attachment is reciprocal.  A partner makes "a bid" for connection.  The couples that accept each others bids make it.  The couples who turn away or reject each others bids fail.   
4.  When humans get angry they don't feel hurt, rejected, lonely, abandoned.  So, anger is often used to regulate these other, more painful, emotions.
5.  How would you define emotional maturity?  (Google it.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why do we marry?

Well, with all this talk of gay marriage/gay divorce I have been asked the question - from someone who chose not to marry - Why do we marry?  Here is my answer.

There are many, many reasons - financial, social, etc - some of which go back to the caveman (caveperson) days but still play out in our biology and brain chemistry. I believe that good marriages have a purpose. And, when that purpose is accomplished its important that a couple find/create another purpose or the marriage gets stale. (Stale to me means the bond/the connection rots out and dies.) Of course many marriages start out with the purpose of creating or raising a family. I was at a seminar recently and the presenter said "mammels soothe in pairs." That remark really made sense to me. Life is tough. In my mind, when a marriage provides a place to be soothed the marriage is a success. The human need for connection is met in marriage. HOWEVER, marriage is difficult and being married to the wrong person (who is unsafe versus soothing) is torture. Whats the difference? In the animal kingdom when an animal feels under threat it will fight, flight, freeze, or submit. If someone is engaging in those behaviors in their marriage its a red flag. When animals feel safe/soothed they play, eat, relax, mate. So why do we marry? To create an envirnment where we will be able to play, eat, relax, and mate. And, whats the payout - support, synergy (1+1>2), sex and soothing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Building My Practice

Dear Elinor,

As you know I am a PhD level therapist currently working for a non-profit. I'm Certified in Play Therapy. I want to leave the agency and start a private practice. I have several options for office space. I'd like to do some mediation and parent coordination also but I don't feel comfortable doing that alone. I'd much prefer to co-mediate or co-parenting coordinate. Is that possible? What do u suggest?

Tara
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tara,

First and foremost focus on building the therapy practice. Get a niche and make yourself an expert in that niche. A hot issue - for years to come - will be families with autistic children. If you want to expand into PC, talk to Allyson Tomchin. She is a coach and a parenting co-ordinator. See if she will coach you in building a PC practice. Focus on the mediation practice last as it will be the most difficult to build. Sadly, lawyers will probably not choose you as a mediator. But, unrepresented parties will. If you want to build a mediation practice focused on unrepresented couples take my Friendly Divorce Training

When it comes to private practice the bottom line is marketing. Are you willing to go out there and sell? If not, keep your job. If you are, then do research and start building before you go. You may not be able to get on insurance panels and even if you can you will soon find that the managed care system is abusive to the therapist and the client.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. What are your greatest gifts (or greatest strengths)? What do you see as your greatest challenges in building and maintaining your private practice? How are the answers to these two questions related?
2. Beyond Therapy. Imagine that the words therapy, therapist, psychologist, psychology, counselor, and social worker do not exist. So when you are asked “what do you do?” what do you answer?
3. It’s your lucky day. I can lend you my magic wand. The wand will allow you to magically create a steady stream of perfect clients. With the wave of the wand, people in your target demographic audience will be incredibly receptive to your ideas and offers of help. But, there is a catch. You must be able to describe your perfect client with at least seven very specific characteristics. Only then will members of that group be located and brought to you. So give me seven real specifics of the people in your target demographic group. Be specific so that they stand out; otherwise you get burnt out talking to the wrong people.
4. Problem ID. Now that you know who is in your target market. Identify the top 10 problems people in your target market face daily or regularly.

Elinor

Alimoney Question

Is it true that after 10 years a husband will have to pay more alimony?  Read my answer at http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/alimony-question/

Association of Norh Central Florida Mediators

My friends Linda Chapman, Martha Johnston, and I are contemplating starting a monthly luncheon group - loosely modeled after the Association of South Florida Mediators and Arbitrators - for local mediators in and around Gainesville. We'd call it the Association of North Central Florida Mediators (or something like that). Our kick-off meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 12 at noon at the Northwest Grille in Gainesville. Can you make it?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How I got here. Where I'm going. And more stories.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1989, I received a gift that changed my life. I was allowed to participate in a mediation training program that was offered by Leslie Ratliff, who was then the Director of Palm Beach County's Court Mediation Program. (Thank you Leslie.) At the time, I was in my mid 30s, a single parent who had recently returned to college to get a degree and figure out what my next (career) step should be. Except for me, all of the trainees were already doing some mediation as volunteers in the Palm Beach County small claims court program. All of the other 29 trainees were at least twenty years older then I was. Twenty eight of them were men - old white guys I like to call them - retired lawyers and businessmen - who needed something to do besides play golf. One was a woman - I'll call her Elaine. (She asked that I not include her real name here.)

Elaine has children who are about as old as I am and so we've always been at different phases of life. But, we live in the same city, share a strong commitment to the process and practice of mediation, and our paths have crossed many times. Clearly, we are members of each others professional circles. Elaine is old enough to be my mother but you would never know that by looking at her. And, I am not just talking about her physical features. She is the epitome of well-grooming; possessing the energy and style of a much younger woman.

Recently I sent out one of my "quarterly" newsletters. In the Random Thoughts section I wrote:

The reality of aging. Sadly, a Betty White old age may not be an option for most of us. What can we do now to better prepare for the future?

Here is what Elaine wrote me in response:

In a message dated 6/10/2011 3:41:39 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, NotReallyElaine@gmail.com writes:

Dear Elinor

Up until now I have not had any reason to respond to your informative Emails, but you hit me right where I should be, AGING. Believe it or not I am joining the Octogenarian membership and as you know, as active as I have been, I am truly in the Betty White category.

For your members and info, nothing gets you there except you. Doing what you can to help become you is totally up to the YOU.

For the past 20 plus years, I never cared how old I was or going to be. I just did what was necessary to be a successful part of society and added to my life work, in my case mediation, new and more educational programs. When one finds reasons to do whatever it takes to help others, truly their life has much more meaning. I feel I am rambling on but that comes with age and aging.

Until now, whenever someone questioned my age, I never let it out, I hear OH you look wonderful etc. But my purpose in writing this is to tell you, my friend how good I feel about what I have done and continue doing not how I look. Life has much to offer those who take advantage of it and I am there.

Keep in touch as I know you will.

Luv Elaine

Here is my response to her:

Yes, you are in the Betty White category. Well, you look better than she does. But, you have her energy and spirit. For the rest of us, a Betty White future is probably not in the cards. Look around at your friends. How many other women in your age range look/act like you? None. While your girlfriends were otherwise preoccupied (shopping?) you were the only woman in the old white guys mediator fraternity. So in more ways then one you are the exception to the rule.

Should we (the generation after yours) make believe we will all be 80 and running around like you? I dont know if this denial is a good thing. Would it be better, instead, to stop making believe, start planning, and face the fact that we will be decrepit for an extended period? Well, until I figure this out I am going to do what you said, shut-up and keep working.

Happy Trails, Love, Elinor

Friday, June 10, 2011

Intro Redux

I am a mediator and mediation trainer based in Florida. As part of Mediation Training Group I teach Florida Supreme Court Certified Civil and Family mediation training programs and Continuing Mediator Education. My own mediation practice is focused on ProSe/PreSuit divorce. (Cases where the divorcing couple goes through the process without retaining attorneys. They may consult with attorneys but they do not hire attorneys.) I am now teaching other mediators our unique marketing and practice methods. If you want to launch or expand your own divorce mediation practice within this emerging market niche take a look at www.FriendlyDivorceTraining.com.  This training program is available in streaming video format at  Mediate.com.  Let me know if you have any questions. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Email Communique

Greetings!

Sometimes it seems to me that the world is changing so fast it's impossible to keep up with the pace. Ten years ago there was no social media. Today, technology allows each of us to create a global network. But, for those of us who are immigrants in the digital world, it's often a stretch to stay current. The following was my most recent attempt at staying connected with the 5000 people - most of them former mediation students - that are on my email list.

The Evolution of Divorce

I believe the family law arena is ripe for a revolution. Ten years from now lawyer-driven divorces will be the exception not the rule. Financial shifts and technological advances have sped up the evolutionary process. There is a need for professionals who are able to usher couples through the divorce process using a more humane approach. So, in addition to my work with Susan and Mediation Training Group, I have put together a new training program for professionals who want to launch their practices into the ProSe/PreSuit market and serve couples who want to divorce without retaining attorneys.

Friendly Divorce Mediation Training

If you (or someone you know) is ready to take your career in a different direction and interested in offering a unique service to families in transition then visit Friendly Divorce Training We are offering 16-hour training programs in

Boca Raton on July 8-10, 2011
Las Vegas on Sept 2-4, 2011 and,
Atlanta on Dec 2-4, 2011

This is a rare opportunity for professionals who want to launch ProSe/PreSuit divorce mediation practices. David and I will share everything we have learned about this emerging market and give you the foundation you need to build your own business. The program is approved for 15.50 hours of CLER by the Florida Bar and will also provide 16 hours of CME for Mediators.

Random Thoughts

I am interested in any feedback you have on this blog. And, I am especially curious about your thoughts on these three topics:

The reality of aging. Sadly, a Betty White old age may not be an option for most of us. What can we do now to better prepare for the future?

The state of the union. During one of my recent rants, a friend of mine - a historian - commented that "the more things change, the more they stay the same - after all, the early settlers were a mix of gluttonous pillagers and exploited religious extremists." What can each of us do today to be part of the force that moves the country in a better direction?

The immigration debate. No matter what your opinion on the immigration debate I think we can all agree that we need some form of immigration reform. I believe that the mediation process just might be a key component to finding a plan that works for all of us. What do you think?

Reigniting

Holy Moley. Its exactly one year - to the day, since I last blogged on this site. Life is hectic and moves fast. I know that a lot has changed since last year but I cannot list those changes off the top of my head - they just whirl by. Today David told me he's noticed that I spend a lot of time responding to emails. He is correct. And, with time moving so fast and so much to do it seems a waste to spend that kind of time without reaching the largest audience. So this blog is being reignited and will be used for recording writings that would otherwise be lost. Here goes. Find a conversation I had with a local lawyer about the differences between Collaborative Law and our Friendly Divorce process at http://www.afriendlydivorce.com/uncategorized/one-size-fits-all-divorce/