Monday, April 28, 2014
It has been a couple of exciting weeks here in the Trenches, not much of which has been spent in the office. First, Mom came up to visit, bringing with her my brother-in-everything-but-the-law and her dog. Then, I helped lead the annual Collaborative Divorce Training sponsored by the State Administrative Office of the Courts. I'm back here this week (and swamped with work, obviously), only to head off to Tampa next week to watch Daughter graduate from college (Has it really been four year?). In between, we're here in the Trenches. Of course, all of this is why the blog posts have been sparse.
Right now, I'm worried about my puppy girl. If you recall, she's not actually a puppy, but a 14.5 year old dog. She's my rock. Puppy girl always lets me know how long a walk she wants, and that's how far we go. No, I'm not kidding. She knows exactly how long is each of our normal routes, and she decides which one to take on any given day. Woe to us if we try to take her a different way - she just won't go. Every night, she gets her medicines and supplements at 8:00pm, not 7:00pm, not 8:15pm. She tells me when it's 8:00pm. It's uncanny; even when the time changes, she's never wrong. Puppy girl is also my stoic. She never complains unless the dog bowl is empty or you're late with her treats. That's good and bad.
Lucky for us, we have puppy boy. He goes absolutely nuts when his girl is ill. He's so good at diagnosis that the vet takes him quite seriously. He has never been wrong and has even detected serious illness days before the medical tests. Puppy boy is going crazy. I'm afraid he's going to hyperventilate. Obviously there is something wrong with his girl and he wants to make sure we all know about it. The vet will get a call tomorrow, and given our girl's age, every illness scares me to death. Our girl? She's the calm in the middle of puppy boy's whirlwind. You'd never even know her crazy boy is obsessing over her.
Here in the Trenches, I can't tell you the number of clients who come in absolutely blindsided by their spouse's announcement that they want a divorce. They thought everything was just fine. They and their spouses went along with their normal lives and that was fine with them. Not with their spouse. Things were obviously quite wrong with their marriage. Does that mean that they were simply oblivious to what should have been obvious? Sometimes, yes, but often the answer is no. Like with my puppy girl, sometimes what is wrong is not obvious to the naked eye (or even sophisticated medical tests). Sometimes even the person who wants to end the marriage doesn't realize anything is wrong until it's very wrong and unfixable.
On the other hand, sometimes the client knew the marriage was in trouble. They saw things weren't right. They asked their spouse what was wrong. They asked if everything was alright. Their spouse said nothing was wrong, that everything was fine. Were they lying? Sometimes, again, the answer is yes. Many times, the answer is not so clear cut. Many times their spouse didn't realize anything was really wrong until it was brought to their attention. Sometimes, they just had a niggling feeling but couldn't put their finger on what was wrong. Other times, nothing was wrong until their spouse began asking them incessantly what was wrong (unlike puppy boy, humans can be needy without a medical condition). The bottom line is that any time one partner or the other is inordinately nervous, any time one or the other of them suspects something is wrong, it's time for both to pay attention. Why let something small become something serious because you're afraid of what you'll discover? Why not trust your gut? That's why the vet is getting a call tomorrow. If the marriage counselor or the clergyman does too, or if two partners just sit down and talk, there'd be a lot fewer folks here in the Trenches. That would be a good thing in my book - here in the Trenches.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
......Literally. I have been having trouble with my hearing. At first, it was just a bit, and gradually, it got to where I couldn't follow conversations in causal company. Then, at a mock trial demonstration, I had to ask the judge to repeat himself, not once, but twice. Ouch. It was time to bite the bullet and get my hearing checked. Just as I feared, I need two hearing aids. I talked with the audiologist who did the testing, and she measured my ear and recommended a few levels of hearing aids. There was some discussion of the different bells and whistles of the hearing aids, but she pretty much made the recommendation of the brands with which she had the best experience. I liked her very much and thought she knew what she was talking about, but I felt a bit adrift with not enough information.
Then, as I was complaining about getting old and the need for hearing aids, one of my favorite people (you know who you are) recommended I call the University of Maryland Hearing Clinic for an appointment. She just happened to have an "in" that netted me an appointment. I went there yesterday. Spoiler alert: the hearing aid that I ended up selecting was the same one the other audiologist recommended. Why my hearing aid adventure is part of this blog is because of the experience at the clinic. I arrived and was met by the audiologist and her graduate student. They had ready and waiting for me a selection of hearing aids tuned to my particular hearing loss. I tried them on. Oh, and did I mention that we were joined by the audiologist who is their expert on assisted hearing devices and her undergraduate student? I was there for two and a half hours, trying on different aids and ear receivers, talking and listening. I asked all of my questions and they answered them, even dragging in the manufacturer's representative at one point. As I said before, I then ended up picking the same hearing aid the first audiologist recommended. (By the way, the University audiologist had trained the first audiologist and thought she was quite good, which she is.) I decided to go with the University instead of the private audiologist. I liked having as much information as I could handle, being able to test drive the aids in a controlled setting, and having a team to help me problem solve to find the right device for me. In fact, we had a discussion how the business of hearing device selection has evolved from being one where the audiologist chooses for you, to more of a collaboration between patient and doctor.
I am sure that the first audiologist has a lot of patients, and in fact, my experience when I was at her office bore that out. I know as well that the University is brimming with patients. So, why did I pick one over theother? They were both knowledgable, certainly. It was the fit between their style of communicating and processing and mine. I need a lot of information. I need someone to play "what if" with me. I need someone who will answer question after question, and ask a lot themselves. I need to feel like I am part of a team to solve my problem. Not everyone feels that way. Some people get overloaded with too much information. Some people just trust that their doctor will make the right decision. Some people want to be told what they should do. For them, the University would have been the wrong choice, but not for me.
This is exactly what I've been talking about here in the Trenches when I talk about choosing the right attorney. Not only is personality important, but so is processing style. Not everyone wants to know everything that goes on in their case. Some people would rather the attorney handle everything but the most important decisions without their input. Some people would rather have the attorney tell them what to do than lay out a lot of choices. Some attorneys can change their processing style to match that of the client and some cannot. The attorney will never know their processing style is not a match for the client unless the client tells them. I love it when clients tell me what kind and how much involvement they want in their case. It lets me tailor my representation so that it best serves them. I know, it's another decision the client has to make at a time when they are already overwhelmed, but it is a decision that will help ease their anxiety. How do you process information and make decisions? Something to thinkk about. Here in the Trenches.
Monday, April 14, 2014
I had house guests coming on Sunday. They are staying for 5 days. My house is a disaster. We are replacing all of the old fixtures in the master bath. Both the old and the new pieces are in various places in the house while the tile is being pulled up and new tile laid. All of the stuff from under the sink and in the bathroom are in other rooms, one of them the guest room. Certainly, I've done the best I can to make the house presentable, but it still doesn't look great. My guests are coming anyway. If I had my druthers, would the house look better? Of course. Will it look fantastic when it's done? Need you ask? Right now, however, we'll make do. What I've done is acceptable. One day, it will be fantastic.
Life in the Trenches is a lot like my house. Our clients' lives are in the process of renovation. The structure of their old lives is being changed, whether they like it or not. In many cases, their lives are stripped down to the bare structure, with all the pieces scattered everywhere. The essential pieces they need to rebuild are not where they're supposed to be, and where they are don't seem particularly organized, nor appear very attractive. Maybe they don't have all the pieces they need yet. Their lives feel like a mess. It's uncomfortable. They are not at a point where their new lives have structure. To them, it all feels like my house. What most of them don't see is that piece by piece, they are making sense of their new reality. Changes are solidifying and taking form. Progress is slow, but steady. Everyone moves at their own pace. One day, however, they'll look up and see all of the pieces have come together in a form that makes sense. Their lives have structure and form. It's different but nice.
They can't imagine that they were worried about their future. We help our clients set the foundation for their new lives. Now, if my bathroom would only be done.....Here in the Trenches.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I can just complain; it's not in my nature. I treasure people who view life in the Trenches as a series of problems to be solved. I would welcome more colleagues who support each other and work together to help our clients. I value clients who understand the limits of what the law and a lawyer can do. I adore people who take responsibility for their part in any conflict. I worship those intrepid people who make my life in the Trenches go more smoothly and the office and cases run like they should. Here in the Trenches.
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Two years ago today, we lost our Office Testosterone. There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of him. We miss his Magic Hugs when things were tough. We miss his good humor. We miss his level head and good cheer. We miss his enthusiasm for everything. We miss his work ethic. We miss the Teletubbie dance. We miss his smile. We miss 5 Guys, because you can't have a hamburger without bacon; and you can't have 5 Guys without Office T. We miss his chocolate pizza at Riccuitti's, even if he did hate strawberries. What it comes down to is that we miss our friend - a lot.
When I got a new to me car, I thought how much he'd like it. When my tablet died and I got an iPad, I could hear him say "I told you so." He made my life richer for having been in it, even for so short a while. Because of him, friends came into my life, and stayed. Today, those friends are joining at his grave to remember a terrific young man. It will be the first time I've been there, because he's really not - he's inside all of us who loved him. Here in the Trenches.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Some people have favorite colors. Others have favorite songs. I have a favorite word. The word? "Acceptable." I don't care about "fair" or "equitable." I certainly don't love "reasonable." All of those words are subject to individual definition. What's fair or equitable to me may not be to you. We could argue all day about what's fair. Using the word "reasonable" almost guarantees I'll see you in my office again. When we talk about "fair" or "equitable" or "reasonable," our definition of the word must agree with the other side's interpretation of the same word and set of circumstances. They arouse feelings deep inside us that influence our definition, The emotions are why we can say we want what is fair, equitable or reasonable and never reach agreement.
"Acceptable?" Ah, that's a beautiful word. That word doesn't depend on anyone else's definition but your own. Everyone can know what is acceptable to them. What is acceptable doesn't depend on feelings of fairness. In fact, the word "acceptable" takes the emotion out of the equation. I can determine whether I can live with a deal. So can you. It may not feel fair, equitable or reasonable, but it is "acceptable." Such a dispassionate word. I feel more logical and analytical already. Don't you? It makes it so much easier to review a deal. Here in the Trenches.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
I wrote the following in an email to the lawyers for tthe parents of two children whose best interest the court appointed me to represent:
"My reason for a primary home during the school year is that there is enough stress on the children to perform in school. Having to move between houses, remember their things and school work, plus doing their after school activities and homework is too much stress for them. Their needs, and not their parents’ ideas of what is fair to the parents, should be paramount. "
Funny enough, shortly affter I sent this, I was speaking with one of the world's great experts on children of divorce - my daughter. She spent 10 years moving back and forth between my house and her father's. As I usually do when I contemplate issues relaated to custody, I discussed with Daughter her experiences growing up. Her response to the above email? "Exactly!" She told me how incredibly stressful it was for her to go back and forth. She said the only saving grace was that her father and I lived only a block apart. The proximity did not take away the stress of having to move back and forth, but she wasn't sure she could have done it had we lived farther apart. Come to think of it, when we started living farther apart is when more issues arose. But I digress.
Daughter and I talked about what would have made her feel less like a nomad. She had never heard of 'nesting," where the children stay in the home and the parents rotate in and out on a schedule. She thought it was fascinating and intriguing. I think I caught a huge note of relief, and dare I say wistfulness, in her voice. How interesting to have the ones who didn''t want to stay together leave, and the ones they both love stay in one place.
What did I take away from today's conversation with Daughter? All too often, when parents divorce, they say they want what is best for the children. I think they really believe it. The problem is that they don't listen, really listen to their children. Most children don't want to pack up and move every week, or two or three times a week. Some don't mind. Unless the parents talk to and really listen to what their children want, with an open mind, they can't gather all the information necessary to decide what is best for their children. Divorcing adults want so badly to be away from each other and to have as little to do with each other in the future, that many of them reject out of hand any option that forces them to have continuing, intimate contact with the other until the children grow up. The pity is that by doing so, they cut off the possibility of arrangements that may actually be what is best for their children. So, the question remains whether most parents really put their children's best interests first. What do you think? Here in the Trenches.