Monday, December 31, 2012

NYE Past & our Resolutions for the Future

New Years Eve, here we are again.  The last four decades, I've enjoyed this holiday in many wonderful places, including Barcelona, NYC's Times Square, Boston, DC, and Miami.  Some have been very low key get-togethers, others have been very lavish parties, but I have to admit my favorite ones have always been the more low-key ones with close friends and family.  As many may later sit and look with a twinge of jealousy at a ton of wild pictures on FB or elsewhere that capture the various festivities through the night, let me clue you in to a little secret-- there is no lonlier place on Earth than being in a room full of strangers that are judging you based on superficial crap.  Meanwhile, to be in a comfortable home surrounded by a select few that actually get you and love you just the way you are-- now that is a rare gift.  This NYE, I will bask in the glory of that amazing gift, and I wish the same for all my friends, both new and old, that have helped make 2012 such a wonderful year.   

For those still trying to come up with some NYE resolutions, here are a few of my favorite ones that may come in handy in 2013:

(1) Don't sweat the little stuff.  In order to stay sane, you really need to pick your battles and remember that things happen for a reason.

(2) Find your own fun, and remember that we are responsible for our own happiness.  Many wise people have said that joy comes from connecting to 1) a greater cause; 2) a significant other and 3) yourself.  Make time for these three things.

(3) Be mindful-- we cannot control what others do, but we can control our responses.  Life is about choices, and I choose not to let others drag me down.

(4) Seek balance-- work is not everything in life. 

(5) Stay positive-- life is full of challenges, and there will be both ups and downs, but don't dwell on the negative.  Positive thinking is what spurs positive energy.

(6) Embrace change-- it is a fact of life, and to survive you need to be able to adapt.  As Ben Franklin said, "when you are finished changing, you are finished."

(7) Face your fears-- we all have them, it's okay, but the reality is the only true limits are those we impose upon ourselves.

(8) Choose love-- this one is my favorite.  It seems easy, but to truly let someone in and make yourself vulnerable is a scary proposition.  Many give up, they withdraw, or they build huge barriers all in the interest of protecting themselves-- but these are self-defeating acts.  Only when you find the courage to truly be open will you discover love.

Whatever you decide to do tonight, and whatever your resolutions may be for 2013, I wish you all the best. Happy New Years Eve!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What is a life coach?

Here is the link to my interview with Lorie Falk, an amazing life coach in the DC Area:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Interview with Rob Scuka re relationship skills

Here is the link to last week's show on what makes for a good partnership:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Happens When You Veer Off-Course?

The people I see every day are typically between the ages of 35-55, and often times as a result of some major event, such as an unexpected divorce, they find themselves a bit lost in their journey-- they've deviated from the path they had in mind, and they are not sure how to proceed going forward. This can also happen to people that suffer a near-death experience, the death of a family member, a change in their employment status, etc. Whatever the catalyst, many of us will at some point find that life has thrown us a twist, and how we face this challenge can be a defining moment in our lives.

Personally, it was never my intention to run my own law firm, and yet, in order to maintain a good work-life balance that allows me to enjoy a significant role in my son's early years, I have had to leave firm life behind me. The risk of failure is great-- especially as a divorced, single mother-- but the potential for a happier, more fulfilling life drives my desire to try and implement some of my ideas, as unpopular as they may be with some of my older colleagues, who fail to understand why a divorce lawyer would try to promote healthier family relationships. Suffice to say that I've grown tired of watching the detrimental impact litigation can cause during a divorce, and I've learned in the past few years that I am far from being alone. The tide is turning, and many skeptics are now beginning to appreciate alternative methods that can provide for a gentler way to divorce.

Changing gears is never easy, and meanwhile flying blind is incredibly scary. When that moment comes that you find yourself a bit lost, unable to see a clear path, just know that it is a normal part of the adventure, and it is okay to ask for help. There are some great guides out there that can help light a path for you. Life coaches, are a wonderful resource that many more are turning to these days. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing one for my tv show. Lorie Falk did an excellent job of explaining her role as a life coach and the process to finding greater clarity.

Ultimately, I think we all have an internal compass that will guide us in the right direction. Unfortunately, sometimes external factors tend to cloud our thinking, we lose our vision, and perhaps we allow fear to paralyze us. Don't allow fear to get the best of you-- form whatever team you need to help you get un-stuck, find your focus and go kick some butt!

Monday, December 24, 2012

How Much Can Change in Just 365 days?

Holidays are a great time for people to reflect on the changes that have occurred within a year, and what I love most is being able to look at how much has been accomplished and then look towards what needs to be tackled in the new year. Sometime, however, the holidays can bring some melancoly as you think about loved ones lost, or personal goals that have not yet been met. This is totally normal, and what I really want to emphasize is the importance of not denying your feelings. Sometimes it is precisely that disappointment that will spark a change in our behavior. And just because things may look grim at one moment, does not mean they will always stay that way. Life has a funny way of surprising us, and evening things out in my opinion. So today, let me just share a bit of my own Christmas story to help illustrate this point:

Two years ago, I was not speaking to my mother, and I had not yet reconnected with my father. December 2010, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my family situation. This led me to go in search of my dad and make a Herculian effort to reconnect the family I lost as a result of an erroneous court order issued in the '70s. 365 days later, I was flying down to Miami to spend my first Christmas ever with not just my dad, but my 2 brothers, cousins, my beloved aunt and uncle, and more extended family than I could ever fully comprehend. To be surrounded by a huge family for Christmas was my Christmas dream come true.

My Christmas wish for 2011 was that in the new year Santa would bring me a little more calmness, and thanks to an act of God (hurricane Sandy) I wound up reaching out to my mother and reconciling with her-- something many had written off as a possibility. So here again another 365 days later on Christmas Eve, I sit here chuckling over the surprising twists and turns that life can bring us in just one year.

I don't write much about the sad events in my life-- not because they don't exist, but because I choose not to dwell on them, and yet to be perfectly candid it is from our greatest failures that we often find opportunities to make the greatest changes in our lives. My first failed marriage is the best case in point. I carry than pain with me every day, and yet it is what drives me to do things differently going forward.

I have no idea what lies ahead for 2013, but it is clear that a lot can change in just one year, so if you are not exactly where you want to be this holiday season, it is ok-- things can be different next year. It's all about choices, and never ever allowing yourself to lose hope.

Merry Xmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Birds & The Bees Talk

When I left the hospital nine years ago with my little bundle of joy, he didn't come with a manual. Parenting through trial and error is an ongoing work in progress, which I pretty much expected to be the case, but the insight I've gleaned into my own self was an unexpected twist. With each new milestone that my son hits, I think back to myself at that age, and of course, the beautiful thing is that I can choose to replicate the things I appreciated and change the things that I did not appreciate from my own childhood.

Today, I'm sharing an example of where I've chosen to do things differently: I never got the birds & the bees talk. I learned all about sex from my peers and sex education at school. At home, all I was told was "don't do it." Of course that didn't work-- especially when I went off to boarding school as a teenager! As time wore on, I never felt I could talk about boys or my relationships at home, and this disconnect became quite profound. Now, if there is one thing I know with absolute certainty, it is that I do not wish to have this happen with my child. I want him to be comfortable discussing anything and everything with me-- whether he chooses to or not is a whole other story, but I don't ever want him to feel that there are taboo topics with me. I am pretty sure that he already knows this, but last night we covered all new ground.

Last night, after reading "Where Did I Come From," which is a very no nonsense explanation of the facts of life with cartoon illustrations, here is what my son had to say: (1) "That is disgusting," to which I replied you may think so now, but you will change your mind in 10 years; and (2) "Is that what you do with someone you like?" We both laughed, and after honestly answering his question, I hugged him knowing full well that I'd accomplished my mission. So long as I'm around, I am here to keep it real and teach this child the facts of life-- all aspects of life-- and there is nothing off limits between us. So there you have it-- my birds and the bees story with an explanation of my logic so it may give others some food for thought. Good luck to the rest of you that have yet to savor that moment!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

All You Need Is Love--If Only It Was That Easy!

This week on Making It Last, we will air a segment with Robert Scuka, who is the Executive Director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. It was truly a pleasure to interview Rob, who candidly shared his thoughts on why so many couples wind up having major issues with their relationship. We both have observed over time that love clearly does not conquer all, and that many seem to lack key relationship skills that will help them stay together. Many of his tips seem pretty basic, yet people struggle with the implementation in real life. Maintaining open and honest communications, treating each other with respect, and continuing to make time for one another are all essential points we can probably all agree on-- but there was one point I wasn't expecting him to make, and it really has stuck with me over the last few days. When I asked him what the number one problem is that seems to challenge all couples he said that unfortunately our American culture is antithetical to the institution of marriage. It took me a second to process this one while on air, but he is totally right-- America was founded by people who left their countries and their families to start a new life. Our country's very Constitution promotes the individual right to pursue happiness. This is a very egocentric society, generations in the making, and unfortunately there is a severe downside to this thinking. This "me" mentality not only creates weak family ties and a poor sense of community, but it is literally threatening our bond with our partners. Scuka explains that for a marriage to truly succeed you have to give up the "me" thinking and embrace the "we." You have to stop viewing each disagreement as a win-lose situation, where one will get his/her way and the other will have to concede. By the end of our discussion, he made it quite clear that if you don't learn to collaborate with one another sooner rather than later, your love has ZERO chance of survival.

I hope people will tune in and listen to the entire interview, especially after it becomes available online next week at, and in the meantime, more info on his non-profit can be found at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beware of the Baby News Mania

This month, UK residents were thrilled to learn that their beloved Dutchess of Cambridge is expecting a child, just as the US now gets to rejoice in the news that our former little White House princess, Jenna Bush Hager, is also pregnant. No doubt the media will be bombarding us with weekly updates as we now countdown to their delivery dates, and I'm sure the paparazzi will not let us down with all the glorious photos as these lovely ladies blossom through motherhood. But here I am, of course, seeking to keep it real for the rest of the world. These two women have an incredible amount of financial resources that most of us do not have, and as a result, some of the stress that the rest of us have to bear, will not be part of their reality. They will have other stresses, for sure, such as constantly being in the public eye, and many of us will thankfully never know the pain of what it is like to have our setbacks and failures up for discussion and sometimes mockery all over the worldwide press. For the average person, however, the main problem with all this hype, the glam shots and the happy stories is that they set us up for unrealistic expectations. Many women's jobs will be jeapordized when they announce that they are pregnant, and most families will suffer severe financial strains with medical costs, setting up a nursery, paying for formula, diapers, etc. Furthermore, everyone is going to be sleep deprived for quite some time, and while all of this is going on a woman has to deal with severe changes to her weight, hormones, emotions and overall identity. The joy of having a child comes with great responsibility, and it will require immense sacrifice. Family dynamics will completely shift after a baby arrives, and many couples will crumble under this strain-- the latest case in point being Sarah Palin's son, who just filed for divorce after 16 months of marriage with a 19 month old in the mix. Obviously I am a firm believer that the good outweighs the bad when it comes to my personal choice to being a parent, but it is a personal choice that I don't think is right for everyone. If you can't deal with messiness in your life, with having your best laid plans go to hell at the last minute, with putting someone else's needs before your own, then don't do it. Hollywood glorifies beauty, and there is indeed so much beauty to having a baby-- but let's keep it real. Tasked with an 18 year commitment of getting a child ready for college and/or the real world is not for the faint of heart. For those struggling with parenthood, know that you are not alone. No one is honest enough to tell you how hard this job will be before you have the baby, but then again no one could have ever done justice to explain the joy that parenthood brings to your life. So, congrats to both Jenna and Kate, and to the rest of you in the real world just remember that by trying to be the best we can be will make us awesome in at least our own child's world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Divorce Anniversaries

This week marks my 7th divorce anniversary, which now means I've been divorced just as long as I was married. There were definitely some pros to being single the last seven years, but I'm fully aware of the pros I left behind when I ended my partnership with my ex. Of course, that insight came with time, but looking back, I'm so glad I didn't do anything stupid like destroy all the wedding pictures or throw some lavish "divorce party." Truth be told, after my hearing, I went home and cried. A part of my life had just died in my opinion, and it was not something to rejoice about.

My husband was my best friend-- I'd met him while I was still in college. He saw me go through law school, start my career, and become a mother. This man believed in me before I ever was really anything, and the fact is no one will ever replicate that in my life. Aside from being one of the smartest people I've ever met, he was patient beyond belief, kind, and loyal to me. Despite all that, we unfortunately failed to keep it together when too much hit us at once.

This year, on tv and radio I got to comment extensively on many celebs who have now join our ranks, including Kenny G (after 20 years of marriage), Stevie Wonder (after 11 years), Heidi Klum and Seal (after 7), Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (after 5) to name just a few. Unfortunately, these guys are not able to have their divorces fly under the radar like I did, and so it is with all the more reason that I caution these guys not to let their emotions get the best of them.

Time does wonders to help heal wounds, and as the years pass, you will hopefully look at your divorce anniversary as a date that marks the end of one life and the beginning of another. The feeling for me is bitter sweet-- one part of me died in order to allow the new part to begin. Would I have delved into the past and searched for my dad if it was not for my divorce? I doubt it. Would I be who I am today? No way. Will I ever doubt my strength again? Never. So, for all these discoveries (which came at a hefty price) I am indeed grateful to acknowledge my divorce anniversary this week, even if I still shed a few tears for the tremendous love that was lost.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Can You Boost Social IQ?

Sadly, in my professional life, I've seen a lot of brilliant people make very poor personal choices. Over the past decade, it's become clear to me that a person's IQ has NO direct correlation to his/her social IQ-- and some are just beyond hope after a certain age.

Luckily, there is hope for our kids! Cathi Cohen, who wrote "Raise Your Child's Social IQ" was a great guest on Making It Last, and she was gracious enough to share some great tips for parents that may be struggling with kids that just weren't born with that gene that makes some of us naturally inclined to make friends, read social cues, etc. A lot has to do with setting appropriate goals, and checking in regularly with your kids. Something she said really resonated, and that is for parents to try to praise the effort, not necessarily the results.

For some kids that are shy, it simply isn't easy to join in with a group or start up a conversation with a complete stranger. These things can take time. What our kids need more than anything from us is to be loved and accepted, so it really is important to keep up the encouraging words. While we are not trying to force an introvert to become an extrovert, it is our job as parents to teach our kids sufficient social skills to thrive in life. Cathi's book is a great step-by-step guide on how to do this, and there are various group therapy programs that can help parents and children develop a strong social IQ.

Here is the link to the show:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Silver Lining to the Fiscal Cliff

The last couple of years have been tough on everyone-- believe me, I see everyone from all walks of life coming through my door with really bad stories-- some are just better at hiding the pain than others. People have lost so much in terms of their home values, retirements, job security, etc. The instability around us looms like a dark cloud over everyone, and I know it is hard to find the silver lining here-- but there is one: people are not discarding their vows as easily as they once did, and when they do choose to divorce, they are increasingly opting for out-of-court settlements. Many people now come to me for a consult to understand what the dark side of divorce can look like, but more and more I see people thinking long and hard before actually pulling that trigger. While I am not in favor of having people stay in a loveless marriage to preserve a comfy existence, I do believe in putting forth your best efforts to making marriage work. Keeping a marriage together in the 21st century is full of challenges, but trust me that the grass is not greener on the other side. Rallying together to confront a crisis can be a tremendous bonding experience. If despite your best efforts, you can't resolve your differences, then at least look to minimize the damages by trying to reach a settlement with the assistance of a non-adversarial attorney or opting for mediation or a Collaborative Divorce. It may sound crazy, but most actually do work things out respectfully. I am convinced that the Great Recession is a major driving force in the dramatic rise in the number of people adopting my conciliatory approach in order to avoid wasting limited funds on a nasty court battle is encouraging-- so at least for that I am grateful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Adoption Process- a great episode on Making It Last

Here is the link to our segment with Jennifer Fairfax on adoptions, where I shared a bit about finding my dad after 38 years:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tips to those 30 and younger

This week, I will have the honor once again to guest lecture at Georgetown Law Center. It's always a thrill to connect with these bright young minds, but now more than ever I feel the need to warn them about some of the challenges that will lie ahead in the upcoming years. Among the many things I'd wish someone would have explained to me, here are a few:

(1) You probably won't "get" the 75% that never finished college, and they won't necessarily "get" you. It's ok, as long as you don't pass judgment on one another's life choices.

(2) Keep an open mind. Through law school, life came with a clear cut plan-- after you get that degree, many of your plans may well get thrown out the window. You may not get married when you want to, or you may get divorced when you least expect to; you may not get the job you imagined having; your friends may all scatter. The more you can adapt to life's twists and turns, and not try to control everything, the better off you will be.

(3) Not all efforts get rewarded. Some clients are impossible to make happy; some bosses will be terrible about positive affirmation; companies can lose funding and may have to let good people go. So, find ways to validate and reward yourself.

(4) Work is not everything--don't let it consume your whole life. Strive to find a balance between work and a life outside. Don't take significant relationships in your life for granted, if you do, you may wind up very alone.

(5) Be aware that depression and anxiety are common problems among professionals. Many don't cope well with stress and develop bad habits. Find positive ways to decompress and recharge, and remember it is ok to ask for help.

(6) Stay positive and remember you alone are responsible for your happiness. Happiness is not a permanent state of being, it is a feeling that you need to keep finding for yourself through a variety of experiences. Learn what your needs are and develop healthy ways of communicating those with others.

(7) Don't avoid conflict, address it. By that, I don't mean launch World War III and go nuclear. Not all situations have to be adversarial-- in fact, most are not. Try to shut off the litigator mentality outside the courtroom, those around you will appreciate it immensely.

(8) Be kind to yourself. Constantly striving for excellence is exhausting and impossible to achieve. Realizing that 90% is still pretty darn good can be quite liberating-- and it becomes essential once you enter parenthood.

These are just a few of the many tips I'm hoping to share during my lecture on family law. It's funny how obvious they seem, and yet so many struggle to implement them in their daily lives. I imagine that those that at least make a concerted effort to follow these are the ones staying together; the ones that aren't are the ones I see every day in the divorce world...