Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Let's talk a little bit more about Puppy Girl. What I didn't tell you in my last post was that as my Dad's health started to go downhill, he began to lose his taste for all the things he used to love to eat.  First, he stopped being interested in things that required a lot of chewing.  Then, it progressed to things for which he loved the taste.  Then, everything had to be pureed.  Finally, he couldn't swallow.  So, when Puppy Girl started to become a finicky eater, I had flashbacks to my Dad.  It was like reliving his decline all over again.  I was a wreck (hence the lack of posts), and had a hard time keeping myself together.  Luckily, instinct took over, finally, and I started to problem solve.  My panic subsided, and here I am.  Therapists would say I was having a little post traumatic stress moment.

Here in the Trenches, we deal with post traumatic stress a lot.  It happens most often in the early stages of a separation and divorce, when emotions are raw, and everything is reminiscent of the painful portions of the marriage.  Going to trial, with its emphasis on reliving the past, only re-traumatizes and forces clients to revisit painful events.  When the trial is over or the separation agreement is signed, most clients breathe a huge sigh of relief because the trauma is over.  Well, maybe.  At some point, somewhere down the line, there will be a smell, a look, an event, and all of a sudden they're transported back to that more painful time.  It's terrifying.  It's also normal.  Usually, so long as they keep perspective, the moment will pass and life will go on.  If it doesn't, then it's a sign that professional help is called for.  It's all about grieving and healing.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, August 25, 2014

One of These Things is Not Like the Other....

Puppy Girl is getting older.  About two months ago, she stopped eating her regular dog food.  Why?  Was there something wrong with her that made her not want to eat?  All of her other behavior was perfectly normal. I tried soft dog food.  She ate it.  One cause down.  Was there something wrong with her teeth that made eating dry dog food hurt?  A trip to the dentist and lots of money later, we found nothing wrong with her teeth.  Yes, she had a cyst in her mouth, which they removed.  Problem solved?  A week later, she stopped eating the soft dog food.  I started making my homemade dog food again.  She ate and is eating it.  For now.  Maybe, it's just that as she's gotten older, her taste has changed and also her jaw isn't up to the dry food challenge.  Only time will tell.

What I'm doing with Puppy Girl isn't at all unusual.  Parents do it with small children all the time.  They keep asking questions.  The baby's crying?  Is it wet?  Nope.  Poopy?  Nope.  Hungry? No.  Gassy?  No.  Tired?  Yes! It's time for a nap.  Most of us have endless patience with our pets and our children. We keep asking questions until we find the cause and the solution.  Why don't we do it with adults?   I don't know.  All I know is that if we kept asking questions, there might be fewer folks here in the Trenches.

What do I mean?  I can't even count the number of people who come into my office wanting a divorce because their spouse stopped communicating.  Of course, I always ask what they mean.  They tell me their spouse stopped talking to them. They stopped answering their questions.  I ask what they've tried. Most folks look at me a bit blankly.  Well, they asked to go to counseling, but mostly, they did nothing. By nothing, I mean they did nothing different.  They kept asking questions for which they didn't really want the answers.  They seethed.  They assumed. They catastrophized.  What they didn't do was try to approach the problem differently.  They didn't break the new behavior down into components.  They didn't investigate further.  Is it only on Thursdays?  Is it every day?  Only on weekends?  Do they seem angry? Sad? They filled in their spouses blanks for them.  They figured adults, unlike small children and pets, would tell us what was bothering them.  If the death of Robin WIlliams teaches us anything, it's that adults don't always tell us what's wrong and how to solve it.  Yet, client after client assumes they would.  Had Puppy Girl had been their dog, she'd have starved to death.   Here in the Trenches.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When You Put It All Together, It Spells "M-O-T-H-E-R"

Daughter has been after me for quite a while to add a sustained weight lifting regimen to my fitness plan.  As you all know, in the middle of June, she created my first comprehensive workout.  I have been diligent in following her instructions (no, I don't say that only because she reads the blog - it's the truth).  Just recently, my per mile running time has dropped by half a minute.  Coincidence?  I think not.    Way back when I was a teenager, I recall the tennis world being turned on its ear by the revelation that Martina Navratilova regularly made weight lifting part of her workouts.  Before that, everyone thought that weight training and working the muscles outside of one's sport made for more bulk and less speed.  Now, everyone, including me, is cross training.  We all see how cross training makes a better, well rounded athlete.  I even work on breath retention when I swim to increase my aerobic capacity when I run.  Weights help me both swim and run (and avoid the muscle mass loss that comes with age - ouch!). Weightlifters do cardio.  Runners, tennis players, basketball players,... lift weights.  We've learned that just doing your sport and doing drills directly related to your sport, isn't enough.  Pushing your muscles to create lactic acid creates endurance and strength, which translate to speed (relatively speaking, in my case) and power.  Having a well rounded exercise regimen is the only way to see sustained improvement, because everything in your body is interrelated.

Here in the Trenches, we understand interrelationship.  Although I usually settle custody before child and spousal support, I never settle support without settling property.  I never settle just one piece of property without settling it all.  Why is that?  They are all interrelated.  If a spouse keeps the house but doesn't have enough income or support to retain it, what good is that?  If a spouse keeps the majority of retirement but has no cash to buy their own home, is that a good result?  Maybe, but maybe not.  What if they keep the house and waive retirement, and they outlive the house proceeds?  Ouch!  We try to explain to clients that piecemeal settlement is almost never in their best interest because all the pieces have to fit together for an acceptable outcome.  When you either take a piece off the table, or fix it in place, you have removed some maneuverability and made our job here in the Trenches that much harder.  All the pieces need to be in play to create a life outside of the Trenches that is acceptable to all. We aren't trying to make life more difficult for the client, who just wants each individual piece settled so they are that much closer to the end.  By refusing to settle piecemeal, we are actually making it easier to fashion an acceptable life after the Trenches.  It makes for a better product, kind of like weight lifting helps create a faster running time. Here in the Trenches.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Show Me the Love

My bathroom remodel is humming along.  OK, not humming, but moving forward.  At any rate, the slabs of marble for the wall were delivered this week and installed.  That's them in the picture above.  It's hard to tell, but those are 3 separate pieces of marble, only two of which were from the same slab.  The stonecutter did a masterful job matching them and making them look like they belong together - this picture doesn't do his work justice.  Sure, we paid him for his work.  We also called him and told him what a fantastic job he did.  It made his day to have someone really appreciate his work.
This week I got an "Atta Girl" from a client.  They are surprisingly rare.  It's not that I don't do a good job for my clients.  The vast majority of them are very happy with my services.  They're satisfied.    Yet, they almost never say "Atta Girl," or "That was a stupendous argument."  They don't think I need it.  They show their satisfaction by paying my bill.  Don't get me wrong, I love being paid.  I like that clients put the same value on my services as do I.  Still, there's nothing that beats an "Atta Girl."  I was floating all day on that one.  It energized and inspired me.  Two little words.  So much power.  Here in the Trenches.