Friday, September 25, 2020

Notes on De-Cluttering: Cut The Crap

Think of a time when you had no crap.   Has there ever been such a time?

Can we all agree that crap is not a good thing?  

But, wait!!  There might be some good stuff buried in the crap.  Clearly, for me, the task is to sift through the crap and pull out the good stuff.  So why haven't I done it?

You have no idea how much crap you have until you have to pack it into one truck.

On the other hand, do I really have to deal with this crap?  I could just wait until I die.  But, then (a) someone else will have to clean up my crap and (b) I never get a chance to enjoy a crap-free life.  

You can give your crap to someone who wants it.  (These people may be hard to find.  Seeking them out will add on a lot of time to the cut-the-crap process.)  

You can donate your crap to a charity.  (If they want it.)

You can sell it.  This can be time consuming - a full-time job for minimal pay.  Certain high dollar items are worth selling on ebay, etsy, craigslist, etc.  (Oh well, I have no high dollar items.)  At best my crap might work in a garage sale.  (Also known as "a lot of work for a little money.")

You can store your stuff.  Ouch.  Those monthly storage costs can add up.  And, it takes time to pack it up.  And, once its in storage - then what?  

Hire help.  Better yet, trade de-cluttering help with a friend.  Your helper will see your crap in a more realistic light.  

If you hold onto something for later use you may be cheating yourself out of getting the latest and greatest.  Look around stores.  Do you want to be able to get a nice new one or use your crummy old one?  (Especially true of bedding, kitchen stuff, etc.)

Tell me about something you love?  If it was lost you would run out and buy another one.   


COVID Divorce - 5 Reasons Why the Pandemic is a Marriage Killer

Ouch.  As if living through a pandemic were not enough, many of you will also be hit with a divorce this year.  In fact the current situation might be considered a divorce stimulant.  Here's why:

  • The virus and the lock-down have forced many people to face themselves and their relationships without the normal day-to-day distractions.  For many, this dose of reality shed light into some dark nooks and crannies.  And, now its difficult to go back to make-believe.  Instead its time to clean up, once and for all.   
  • Many of us, who knew divorce was inevitable, were just too busy to do anything about it.  Now, suddenly, we have the time to deal with the paperwork and the logistics.  Some people are spending the lock-down cleaning out closets and learning a foreign language.  Others are finally getting on with their divorce.     
  • For many, the pandemic amplified the inequality of a couple's contributions.  If you were already operating with an imbalance, the current situation may be enough to push the more contributory - and resentful - spouse over the edge.  
  • When one spouse fears for his/her health (or the health of the children) and the other spouse comes across as cavalier, the frightened spouse feels devalued and betrayed.  The key to a successful marriage is providing each partner with a sense of safety and the impression that s/he is appreciated and valued.  When the relationship no longer provides this, things start to crumble.  This dynamic is epitomized by spouses who act-out their differences regarding COVID safety.     
  • Sudden or significant losses or lifestyle-changes can become marriage-killers.  For example - the death of a child, on-going care for a special-needs child, a major work shift, and unemployment all increase the likelihood of divorce.  For many, the pandemic has triggered a sense of loss, actual losses, and significant life-style changes.  
Can you think of another reason who this pandemic is a marriage killer?  I am very interested in your feedback.           

Thursday, September 17, 2020

My Notes on Retirement Coaching

This week I attended a conference put on by the Retirement Coaches Association.  They did a great job on with the virtual networking and the technology.  And, there were some fantastic (and not so fantastic) speakers.  Often when I go to conferences I hear nothing new.  But, this was an exception.  

Here are my notes:

In the past, people didn't age.  They died.  Today we live longer than ever before and many of us can expect long "retirements."  What should those retirements look like?  

Typically, there is no rite of passage into the Third Age.  (ThirdAger)

For many, a flex retirement - that allows one to glide in and out of a workspace is an attractive idea.

Retirees have time affluence.

What do you want in the way of peak experiences?  (Previously called a bucket list.)

Think about your two resumes - a career resume and a human being resume.

During the Second Age we accumulate, during the Third Age we release.

In adolescence we go from child to adult.  In middlescence we move from adult to elder.  

The Modern Elder is as curious as s/he is wise.  

Many old people.  Few Elders.  An Elder is someone who knows s/he is going to die. 

The denial of death and the worship of youth. 

Ken Dychtwald -

Seven interconnected life priorities:  health, home, leisure, family, work, finances, purpose/contribution.

Seth Godin - Toward a Zoom Agreement.



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Estranged Families: The Silent Scourge

Family estrangement is a silent scourge.  Estrangements between parents and adult children, or between adult siblings, are common.  Some estrangements are multi-generational, involving grandparents who have a double heartbreak, losing both a child and a grandchild.  And, in a society that promotes family-first the shame of estrangement amplifies the sense of loss.  

A recent British study defined family estrangement as "the breakdown of a supportive relationship between family members."  So estrangement, be it temporary or permanent,  means those who are supposed to support you, don't.  The end result is often an emotional wounds that ooze feelings of hurt, anger, abandonment, envy, and aloneness.  

As a family mediator the topic of family estrangement has been an area of special interest for many years. Here are my five key points on the topic: 

  1. When the estrangement is between a parent and an adult child the parent must take responsibility and be willing to apologize for perceived or real hurts.
  2. When a family member chooses estrangement they are giving a loud message that something is not right. This is their way of communicating that they feel dismissed, discounted, disrespected, or devalued.  
  3. A cooling-off period is often critical before any dialogue can begin.
  4. Even if the person on the other side wont talk you can still keep the lines of communication open by sending periodic messages of support. Keep the message simple - "I will always love you and I will be there whenever you are ready."
  5. Apologies have magical and cleansing properties. Think the apology through before you start or you may end in the wrong place.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fellow Mediators, My Gift to You.... Free CMEs


Of course I would love to have you attend one of the virtual CME (Continuing Mediator Education) Programs I offer via Zoom with  However, if that is not in the cards, here is a list of no-cost CME offerings.

This list is a work in progress.  If you have an addition, OR find the link to a presentation is no longer working, please let me know.


Interpersonal Violence


October 2019 Domestic Violence Case Law Update, The Honorable Thomas R. Eineman, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

January 2019 Domestic Violence Case Law Update, The Honorable Thomas R. Eineman, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

Elder Abuse, The Honorable Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV

Adjudicating DV Cases – Training for Judges National Center for State Courts.  Three hours of IPV:  two hours of IPV education for Modules 1-3 and one hour of IPV for Module 5.

Domestic Violence Screening, Michigan GTLA Bar Association.  One hour of IPV.

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Tutorial for Legal Professionals.  Four and a half hours of IPV.  Select the Tutorial for Legal Professionals.  When you have completed all five modules, print/save your Certificate of Completion and report 4.5 hours completed by self-study method on your CME Reporting Form.


Mediator Ethics


Mediator Ethics: We Are Headed to a Disciplinary Hearing, Florida Dispute Resolution Center. One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Timothy Hedeen-Ensuring Self-Determination Mediation: Ethical, Effective Practices.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Ethics in Mediation and The Process of Making Ethical Decisions, Anna Robertson, Canada.  One-half-hour of Mediator Ethics.

Ethical Limits on Deceit in Negotiation and Mediation, Webinar, Missouri.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Mediation Confidentiality 101.  Susan Marvin and Kim Kosch, The Florida Supreme Court's Dispute Resolution Center.  One hour of Mediator Ethics.

Diversity/Bias Elimination/Inclusion

Eliminating Cultural Basis in the Courtroom, The Honorable Rosa Figarola, Circuit Judge, Eleventh Judicial Circuit.  One hour of Cultural Diversity.


Elder Mediation

Virtual Mediation Lab Online Mediation Simulation - Sharing Dad's Funeral Expenses, Association for Conflict Resolution, Hawaii Chapter.  One hour of CME.

Elder Abuse, The Honorable Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit.  One hour of IPV.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Professionalism, Elder Abuse Investigations.  One hour of IPV for taking all modules and passing the quiz.  REQUIRES ADOBE FLASH to view.


General Mediation

Will Work For Food.  Natalie Armstrong-Motin is a Marketing Coach whose specialty is helping/promoting Mediators and other ADR Practitioners.  In addition she has amassed an extensive library of free CME webinars.  (She asks that in exchange for viewing you donate to your local food bank.) Take a look at past offerings at  Or sign up for a future webinar at

Legal Fuel:  The Practice Resource Center of the Florida Bar has an extensive list of Free CLE Programs.  Many programs are relevant to mediation, some are not.  Do not use any CLE program that is clearly focused on the practice of law.

Navigating ADR Online, Maryland Program for Mediator Excellence.  Recorded Webinar.  One hour and 48 minutes (1.8 hours).

Mediation in a Time of Social Distancing - A Mediator’s Response to Covid-19, The National Judicial College, Nancy Yeend.  One and a half hours.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service offers a variety of free webinars.

Staying with Conflict: The Challenge of Engagement in the Face of Enduring Disputes.  Bernard Mayer.  Video and materials.

Reflective Practice: In Their Voices.  Video Conversation Project - Interview with Howard Herman.

Professor John Lande lists collections of dispute resolution videos and podcasts at's Top 101 Videos.  These videos were selected by's editorial staff as representative of innovative thinking from leaders in the field of mediation, and of's development, over the last 25 years.


Family/Divorce Mediation


Family Mediation Workshop, John Jay College.  Two hours of CME.

Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce, FSU.  Three modules plus a pre-training on Trauma and Resilience.  Four Hours of CME.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Divorce, Divorce, Divorce

Recently, I was asked these divorce related questions.  Want to learn more about divorce?  Listen to my podcast "The Divorce Deport" on Spotify and most other podcast platforms.  

I've said it before, but I will say it again.  Divorce is the only event in your adult life that impacts your identity as well as the physical, financial, psychological, social, legal, and logistical aspects of your life.  No wonder divorce often involves a wild emotional roller-coaster ride.   

What are reasons to hold off on getting a divorce?
  • If one spouse if getting health insurance from the other spouse's employer.  Leaving a spouse without group health insurance can turn into a health disaster.   
  • Older people, who have spent a lifetime together, and are past wanting to remarry, can often avoid a lot of hassle by staying married.  But, only if they are on good terms.  In these cases it is important to have good estate planning, including naming a health care surrogate.
The bottom line - if a couple is not going to be together, but for some reason they do not want to get divorced, they should sit down with a mediator and write an agreement that will guide their future interactions.

How does a prenuptial agreement affect a relationship?

How your future spouse negotiates a prenuptial agreement will tell you a lot about how s/he will negotiate all the other (millions of) issues you will have to negotiate during your marriage.  Sadly, some people view the term "pre-nup" as a negative.  It would be better if we called these agreements Pre-Marriage Plans. It's easy to see why it's somewhat foolish to enter into something as big as marriage - which affects us physically, financially, socially, and psychologically - without a plan.  One BIG problem with pre-nups is that they are written by lawyers.  Beyond their own marriages, most lawyers know little about the workings of a successful marriage.  And, typically, pre-nups are written as pre-divorce agreements. While it is important to have an exit strategy when you are entering into something as all encompassing as a marriage, the exit strategy is just a small part of what the Pre-Marriage Plan should cover.  Without a viable Pre-Marriage Plan many couples go into marriage (still in the honeymoon/hormone wash stage) only to wake up one day and find themselves ill equipped to negotiate their futures.  

The bottom line.....  If you do end up getting divorced, the person you are divorcing will not be the same person you married.  So, having a divorce plan in place, before either of you becomes someone else, is a step in the right direction.  

Does a prenuptial really prevent divorce problems? Do people still go to court and fight?

Sometimes a pre-nup can prevent a divorce battle.  (If it was clearly written, nothing significant has changed, and everyone still agrees to follow it.)  Sometimes the pre-nup creates yet another layer of divorce issues.  If there are ambiguities people may first fight to validate/invalidate the pre-nup.  If the pre-nup is not valid (which can happen for a variety of reasons) now the real fight begins, but the parties have already bloodied themselves in the pre-nup battle.  

Can you win if you signed a prenup? If so, under what conditions?

What does win mean?  If you mean can you get the pre-nup invalidated the answer is sometimes.  A lawyer should answer the question as to what conditions in your state will invalidate a pre-nup.  In many states fraud or duress can invalidate a pre-nup and proving/dis-proving fraud or duress is where the battle happens.  

Can more people work out marital problems than try? Are we too quick to file divorce and move on?

Some couples are too quick to file for divorce and some wait way too long.  Once one spouse has emotionally detached it's difficult to get them to re-attach.  I believe if a female partner wants the relationship to work it may still be salvageable.  But, if she (or shes in some cases) has emotionally moved-on attempting to put things back together is usually futile.      

What costs does one need to keep in mind when getting a divorce?

Legal costs, moving costs, utility deposits, costs involved in purchasing all the things you left behind - tools, linen, furniture, kitchen stuff, etc.  Divorce is expensive, you are breaking up one household into two.  Many things need to be duplicated.   

What is the average cost of divorce?  

You can get divorced for the cost of a filing fee (varies by state between $50 and $600).  And this cost may be waived if you can prove you are indigent.  On the other hand, you could spend four-million dollars on attorneys, accountants, and experts. So there is no average. With that said, my guess is the average person spends between $4,000 and $15,000 on their divorce - for a combined total of $8,000-$30,000.  But, that's just a guess.
How much is a DIY divorce?  

In most states, you can get no-cost help for a DIY divorce in the courthouse, at a law school, or from legal aid.        

Why should you have an attorney for your divorce rather than work together with a mediator?  

Most people (IMO) will be better served using a mediator.  Often hiring attorneys plays out like a circular firing squad.  If you hire an attorney, so will your spouse.  And, now you are off and running.  

When is a mediator not the best choice?
  • When there is domestic violence and the victim has lost his/her bargaining ability.  
  • When one spouse is ignorant with regard to the couple's finances, financial resources, income, assets, debts, and/or expenses.
What tips do you have for keeping one's sanity when getting a divorce?

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.  Develop a strong support system. Create your support system by inviting quality people into 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 your healing process will be accelerated if 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. Find creative ways to access the goods and services you need. Especially if finances are tight - 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 a 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.

10. Start the morning with a positive affirmation.

11. 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.

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

13. Avoid comparing your insides to someone else's outsides. When you think of yourself as a victim you further feed the negative emotions. Each life has high and low points. Half of the adult population will be divorced and for most it's 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 a failed marriage.

14. See crisis as an opportunity to shift gears. Don't dwell on your losses; mourn them, and let them go.

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

16. Remind yourself that next year will be different, next year YOU will be different, and everything is temporary.

17. Use the transition of divorce 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.

18. 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."

19. 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.

20.  Manage your expectations:  
  • Expect change.  Your social network and your standard of living are going to change.
  • Expect that dislike for your soon-to-be-ex will be difficult to conceal.  However, while it may not be easy, it is important that you avoid sharing this dislike with your children (even adult children).
  • Expect a sense of failure (as to the failed relationship and the “wasted” years) and loss (of clarity, identity, connection, and self-control) as well as a roller coaster of emotions – fear (psychological, physical, and financial), anger, sadness, depression, joy, relief, anxiety.  Pay attention to the duration and intensity of these emotions.
  • Expect – but do not give into – the impetus for a knee-jerk-reaction that puts your children in the middle – where they are used as weapons.
  • Expect more of the same.  If you have children, and an on-going connection to your ex, divorce may not put an end to the negativity and “issues” that were present in your marriage.
  • Expect that your children will be impacted by your divorce.  (Divorce impacts children of all ages.)  Keep in mind that the impact your divorce has on your children will be related to the degree and duration of conflict and negativity – before, during, and after the divorce.
  • Expect your ex to have a different experience.  There is a big difference in the experience of the “dumper” and the “dumpee.”  The initiator has often had time to plan and/or gather information.  The other spouse is often caught off guard and needs time to catch his/her breathe after the initial shock.
  • Expect that divorce will take you out of your comfort zone.  And, as you wade in unchartered water you will need extra support.
  • Expect to regress into a second adolescence where dating will be different, difficult, dangerous, and overwhelming.
  • Expect parenting alone to feel overwhelming.
  • Expect that you will make mistakes.  Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes.  Instead, learn from your mistakes so that you emerge from this divorce better, stronger, and more aware.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Moving Through The Crisis - Redux.


Unprecedented.  That's the word.  We are living in unprecedented times; the pandemic, rioting in the streets, and the mad man in the WH have us living on edge and in a never-ending news-cycle.   

Something drew me back to this blog.  It's been almost 18 months since I have posted anything here.  So much has changed during the past 18 months  - globally as well as in my little world.    

I have been back and forth to Israel to visit my grandchildren five times in the last few years.  But, right now I fear I may never get on a plane again. 

Susan passed away in March 2019 leaving a void in my life - personally and professionally.  (If you don't remember who Susan is take a look at my first blog post from Nov 16, 2007.)  

Last year I started another mediation training company - Mediation Training Network (MTN) - I wanted to fill the gap Susan's passing left in Florida's mediation community.  It is very difficult in Florida to meet the requirements for becoming a Primary Mediation Trainer. My focus with MTN began with gathering a team of eight experienced mediators who were prepared to jump through the necessary hoops.  Ultimately, they will be Primary Trainers and I will feel that I've left a legacy.  In the meantime, we've moved from a live-format to Zoom and we're training professionals who will be the next generation of mediation super-stars. 

David and I have been in Gainesville (full-time) for almost four years.  There is no doubt that this is where we belong.  Last year, after some extensive renovations, we moved into our (hopefully) forever home.  It's our intention to stay here until we are really decrepit and ready for the next phase.

As I read through past blog posts I came across the following post from May 8, 2009.  The message is as important today as when I wrote it eleven years ago.    

FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2009

Moving Through The Crisis

At a recent meeting of The Mental Health Professionals of Boca Raton, a group of local therapists brainstormed ideas on how we can best guide our clients through the current crisis. There was a lot of wisdom at that meeting and this is what we came up with.

We are currently living through financial, real estate, and health crises. The stock market and banks are in upheaval, the real estate market is a disaster, unemployment is at an all time high, and in addition to the health care mess we are facing a possible pandemic. This is enough to push almost anyone over the edge.

Ann Toback Bair, LCSW, calls our current situation a “crisis of trust.” Sadly, there have been serious breaches of trust and many of us have lost faith in our leaders, our institutions, each other and, for some, our selves.

The financial crisis has triggered a lot of shame. Those who have lost their homes, their jobs, and their available credit often feel driven to point the finger of blame at their spouses, family members, and friends. Loss brings back childhood insecurities, leaving us with a diminished capacity and a tendency to act out negatively.

However, there are things you can do to avoid falling victim to the negativity. Strategies for getting though the current crisis fall into two categories - action strategies and attitude strategies.

Action Strategies

1. Create a concrete plan of action. List your personal resources and then conceptualize the strategies that you will utilize during the next month, 6 months and year ahead.

2. Become an activist. Get involved with something that is going to make a difference.

3. Commune. Connect with your neighbors and members of your community. Avoid isolation. Start or join a support group or a meet-up. Have a Bar-b-q – serve hot dogs, not steak. Make time for sharing breakfast. It’s critical to remember that you are not alone.

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. Stay busy. Find free activities. Take a walk. Visit the park or the beach.

6. Find more creative ways for finding the goods and services you need. Barter. Recycle. Negotiate. Create.

Attitude Strategies

1. Start the morning with a positive affirmation.

2. Focus on the ways that the glass of your life is half (or more) full.

3. Avoid comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. For example, you know your 401K is in the toilet. Don’t assume that the same is not true for your neighbor or brother-in-law. When you think of yourself as the only victim you further feed the negative emotions.

4. See crisis as an opportunity to shift gears.

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

6. Don’t dwell on your losses, mourn them and let them go.

A special thank you to the meeting participants: Ann Toback Bair, LCSW. Barbara Jacob, LMHC,. Mark Levinsky, LMHC. Susan Ames, CLU, ChFC. Erica Goodstone, PhD, LMHC. Lisheyna Hurvitz, LMHC. Lillian Alper, LCSW.  Susan Lander, MSW. Irv Nadler, PhD. Robin Goldstein, EdD. Beth Cutler, LMHC, CAP. and Julie Shuman, PsyD.
Wash Your Hands, Don' Touch Your Face, Stay Safe!!