Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lean In-- or Out-- At Least Now It's A Personal Choice

On this week's tv show, we'll be talking about Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" and the relevancy of the Women's Bar Association.  As many know, I've been very active throughout the years in DC's WBA, and my guest, Heather, has been very involved in the Maryland WBA.  Both of us are GenXers, who were brought up as Title IX babies and graduated at the same rate as men in our law schools-- so you can imagine our surprise as we both went out into the real world, and then got a glimpse at some very stark disparities in the number of men vs. women in leadership roles within our field.

There is about a 40% dropout rate of attorneys in the private sector world, and only 15% of women will ever make equity partner-- the chances are less than 4% if they are minorities.  It is no wonder that over 1/3 of female attorneys will suffer from depression at some point in their careers-- the numbers themselves are so devastating.    (All of these stats come straight from recent studies done by the ABA and NAWL). 

Needless to say, I was completely unaware of  all these stats when I picked my field of study-- but to be honest, I'm not sure it would have made a difference.  Ever since I was 12 years old I wanted to be a lawyer, and I don't regret my choice at all-- what is regretable is simply the inability law firms seem to have becoming more accomodating to those of us that want more of a work-life balance.  We all understand that there is high overhead and the rent needs to get paid-- but what firms fail to fully acknowledge is that they are suffering a huge brain drain as people burnout and leave when the demands and pressure simply get to be too much. 

Fortunately, throughout the years, I've always had amazing male mentors at Andover, Georgetown, and in all my years of legal practice-- and they taught me well.  Unlike a lot of my female peers, I don't have a problem being assertive and promoting my skills like a guy.  I make no apologies when I disagree with someone, and I unabashedly voice my opinions-- even in a board room filled with nothing but men.  I don't dwell on rejection, and I certainly will not back down just because someone with seniority thinks he knows better.  Sadly, these traits do not come naturally to a lot of women, and the only way the next generation is going to ever get the courage to do these things is if some of us are not just gutsy enough to tell them that it is going to be okay-- we have to show them it will be okay, so the proof has to be in the pudding.

Organizations like the WBA are an amazing resource for young female lawyers precisely because they emphasize the importance of mentoring and networking, something that seems to be lost these days for those joining the bigger law firms, which focus mainly on billable hours.  Of course, it is also only over the course of the last 15 years that I have truly come to appreciate those friendships that withstood the test of time, as we have encouraged each other to negotiate for flexible schedules or reduced hours, all while insisting on making partner and being recognized for our contributions and accomplishments in the legal world.  These female connections have played an amazing role in my life, and now it is a great honor that those of us in leadership roles get to pay it forward helping the next generation.

To lean in is a personal choice, and no doubt a difficult one when you are juggling motherhood, but not all of us have a choice to lean out.  As a divorced single mom, I truly did not have the option to stay home the last 8 years, but I'll be honest that I never would have made the choice even in an intact marriage, for several reasons, including the fact that I would NEVER want to become so vulnerable that if something happened to my husband- death, divorce or disability, I could not take care of myself and my son.

Every day as a divorce lawyer, I have to deal with horrible situations, and if only you could see what I see, you would understand why I care so much about women staying in the workforce.  Do you know how many women are left at a huge economic disadvantage when suddenly their spouse is either laid off, becomes ill, or decides to leave the marriage?  The lucky ones are the ones who   fortuitously kept their foot in the door and did not sacrifice their careers for their families.  They are not just able to survive, but often they wind up thriving post-divorce, and for them there is no desperate need to remarry.  They will, if the right guy comes along, but for the most part, they can hold their own, and so having to settle is not an option.

In the end, we are so fortunate today to even have the choice to either lean in, or lean out.  However, I want to echo what Sandberg emphasizes in her book:  (1) women in leadership roles really need to step up and help other women; and (2) women that lean out need to think very carefully about the vulnerable position they are creating-- not just for themselves, but their entire families should there be a crisis situation.

Lean in or not, it's a truly personal choice-- I just hope people will choose wisely!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are You Fighting Like Cats & Dogs?

Very few of my friends have both cats and dogs.  Usually, you are either a cat or dog person, but not both.  I'll be honest upfront, I am definitely not a cat person-- in fact, I'm allergic to them.  So it is of no surprise that when I first referred to one of my friends as a cat recently he took great offense-- until I clarified what I meant by this comment, then he realized the magnitude of the compliment, not just for what it says about him but what it says about our friendship.  Hoping that this might be helpful to others, let me explain my theory about those that fight like cats & dogs...

I have always loved dogs-- they are incredibly loyal pack animals.  When you come home, they eagerly greet you at the door while wagging their tails, and they love going for walks with you, having you play with them, and even just cuddling up watching a movie together.  Hmm, this is almost exactly what I do with a partner, and as I my ex-husband lovingly pointed out very much like a dog, I have a very loud bark when I feel threatened, but deep down inside all I really want is a belly rub.  He is dead right, and this insight has served him well the last 20 years that he has been in my life.

Then we have those that are more like cats-- very independant, rather solitary and elusive creatures.  They may on occassion grace you with their presence, but for the most part, they hunt on their own and enjoy their alone time.  Do you see how this may be at odds with a dog person???  The attraction is easy to explain-- I've encountered a couple of cats in the past few years, and NOT the domestic kind, think more like a black panther-- they are beautiful and strong, clever and consistent enough that they don't fall off my radar, but in order for us to get along, even just as friends, I've had to come to accept the true nature of these incredible beasts.     

If you find yourself fighting like cats & dogs with someone in your life, just take a step back for a minute and try to think of all their positive attributes.  Often what you will find is that those same traits that attract you can also infuriate you because you are not the same way.  It's easy to understand why opposites attract, but if you want it to last, you have to accept that person's true nature in all its glory.  If you can respect that you have different strengths, and not try to change each other, that is what I think is the key to survival in these relationships.

I for one am working on my immunity to cats because those select few panthers that have been part of my life these past few years have taught me so much.  I know it is not easy for them to put up with some of my dog traits, but they enjoy the loyalty and playful side I show them, while I dig having a wild cat my life much more than I can truly admit in a blog. 

Here's hoping you find your own peace with the cats and dogs in your own life!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Back Story to Gina the Gymnast

Ten years ago, I was waddling down the streets of DC-- 9 months pregnant and ready to pop!  I had no idea what the next decade would have in store for me, and let me be honest it turned out nothing like what I had imagined.

Joking with the anesthesiologist at Sibley as we sat and watched the World Series, my only real concern back then was whether my son would be delivered without any complications, and thankfully everything turned out just fine after just 8 hours of labor.  Everyone kept commenting on how I pulled through like a champ, and there was already talk about the next time, and all I could think was OMG people, let's not skip ahead-- I just want to enjoy this moment.

As I laid in the recovery room with my newborn, there was such an amazing sense of joy coupled with an overwhelming sense of responsiblity.  Life as I knew it was about to drastically change-- it was no longer just about my own needs and desires, now there was a little one that would be relying on me for his survival.  I knew I could deal with the daily tasks, but I had a far greater concern that is best explained in a wonderful passage that is often quoted from the Prophet, which basically states that a child is like the arrow and the parent is the bow.  If you want that arrow to fly straight and hit the mark, you have to keep the bow steady.  The truth is that deep down, I had no idea if I could keep the bow steady.

I did not have a "normal" childhood.  Let's face it, I have not had a typical life at all.  I grew up poor with an immigrant single mom, and the odds were not in my favor at an early age.  Yet somehow I learned to speak English quickly, and I moved up in the academic rankings, as well as in the world of competitve gymnastics, such that by age 14 I won a scholarship to Andover.  From that point on, I followed the cookie-cutter path designed for us prep school kids-- up until the birth of my son.  Then, everything changed.  I left law firm life to open my own practice, and yet while my career blossomed, my personal life unraveled.  Sadly, it is only as a result of my own divorce that I finally went in search of all the answers to my questions about my family's past, and along the way I managed to resurrect my creative talents, which now have found their outlet in my various forms of writing and the weekly tv shows. 

It was not my idea to write a children's story-- it was my son's wish that I share our story with young kids.  I am eternally grateful that he inspired me to do this, even though looking back 10 years ago I had intended to write an entirely different love story for him.  The irony of how much gain came from so much pain is not lost on me, and yet I give thanks every day for all those that helped me survive all the great challenges that I had to overcome-- truly, it is a miracle that I did not implode, and I credit all the angels  I met along my path for carrying me during some of my darkest hours.

One day, I do hope to write the full back story to Gina the Gymnast, but in the meantime here is the link to the show that just aired about the book, which is a true story about a little girl that overcomes some major challenges to pursue her dreams against all odds, and in the end finds her dad and discovers that the best reward of all is the love of her family. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExGQwUjTRLw

Also, if you are interested in buying a copy of the book, which will donate 10% of the net proceeds to the Oliver Scholars Program in NYC, here is the link on Amazon.com:

The last 10 years have been an amazing journey, and let me confess, it has not been easy to keep that bow steady.  In fact, sometimes I think that it is my son that is the bow, and I am his arrow.  But this is now, and we all know that in another 10 years he will be off pursuing his own dreams and adventures that will become part of his own story.
Here's hoping all chlidren will feel free to follow their passions without feeling any limitations based on their race or socio-economic backgrounds!  And to my son, who wanted to share that message with his peers, happy birthday little one-- you made all my dreams come true, now here's hoping all of yours do too.    

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are Your Expectations re Privacy Realistic?

Back in the days when I was an intern in the Manhattan DA's office-- even before the internet explosion-- I learned exactly how little is actually private.  This lesson was later re-affirmed in the divorce world, where for the last 15 years I've been able to use the discovery process to get all the information I need with respect to a party's income, assets and liabilities-- plus all emails, hard-drives, calendars and monthly credit card statements dating all the way back to the date of the marriage if I really want to go for scourched earth.  Biggest take-away I can share from all these years is if you don't want someone to know how you spend your money, pay cash.

Now in a post 9/11 world, where it's not so clear who our enemies are, I get it, the government may need more leeway with respect to invading our privacy in the interest of protecting the greater good.  Most of us have come to accept that if the government has good reason to spy on you, it can and will, but if you have nothing to hide, then most of us will continue to do our thing without any real concern.  But what increasingly does worry me, and I hope others also find this bothersome is this: what's going on in the corporate world?

Corporate America is increasingly tracking our purchases and spending habits, with very little government regulation at this time.  If you are an employee for a company- you should know your emails are not private.  Google also screens the contents of those with gmail accounts to then send them targeted ads.  Credit agencies are now tracking your friend connections on Facebook, which can affect your credit.  Meanwhile Linkedin is amassing tons of information about your resume and contacts.  Banks track your spending habits-- and yes, they are paying attention to how much booze you buy.  Grocery stores are also keeping tabs on your purchases, and retailers in general are amassing huge data banks full of our information, all presumably to try and better serve us.  But doesn't this beg the question-- what is the private sector doing to keep our personal information safe?

This was the subject of a great interview with a consultant for Homeland Security.  Here is the link:


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Time to Go Fish--in a New Pond

Have you recycled someone from the past, only to find that the same issues come up?  Or do you keep dating the same kind of person, hitting the same dead end road after a few months?  Don't beat yourself up, we've all done it.  Why?  Because it is safe, familiar, and comfortable.  But when you get tired of this same thing happening over and over again, be honest with yourself-- it is not that the world is full of only this one type of person, it is YOU that are responsible for attracting the same kind of person.  So if you want to change things up, you are the one that has to alter a few things:

1. What are your must-haves and can't stand?  Perhaps the things you thought mattered a lot really aren't as important?  Maybe looks aren't as important as IQ points.  Maybe you can broaden your horizons with respect to age, religion, or acceptable occupations.  Maybe a 10 mile radius can be expanded to 20? 

2. How are you meeting your matches?  Instead of sticking to just one dating site, or relying solely on Divine Intervention to meet a mate, try mixing things up a bit.  There are tons of websites, activity-based groups, Meetups, alumni events, charity fundraisers-- you just never know where you will meet someone, so try a variety of options.

3.  What image or vibe are you giving off?  People can smell desperation a mile away-- and we run from it like the plague.  Sexy is having your sh*t together, and being okay exactly where you are in life.  There is no faking this fact, so if you have to work out some issues for yourself first, then do it.  Confidence makes you shine-- just don't go to the extreme of being cocky, that's not hot.

A while back when I was in one of my moods, complaining about the dearth of good men, one of my male friends that enjoys hunting and fishing asked me this: when you have actually gone fishing, do you always expect to catch a fish?  I said, "no of course not, it's always just a pleasant surprise."  He smiled then and said, "exactly.  We hunt and fish for the pure joy of the experience- the actual capture is just icing on the cake."  This my friends is excellent advice. 

Ultimately, dating is an on-going process of trial and error, so be patient and keep an open mind.   You will not always go fishing and catch a fish, but enjoy the journey.  However, if you find that the pond you're fishing in is polluted-- don't try to cleanse the pond, go review questions 1-3 above and find yourself a new pond!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Point of No Return

We've all had this experience-- when you cross over from caring immensely about someone (whether it is a male or female friend) to having complete apathy.  What does this look like?  Well, when you don't even care to ask that person how their day went, truly because you just don't care.  That my friends is the point of no return.

It is sad that this happens, but it is a normal part of life.  As the saying goes, some people come into your life for a specific reason, or maybe just a season, but very few are life long friends.  And because we are not all knowing, it is okay to sometimes miscategorize someone-- everyone does it, but what sets so many people apart is how they recover from this situation-- do they learn from their mistakes and move forward or do they wallow in self pity and harbor grudges?  Do they spread rumors like venom or take the high road?  I know it is not always easy, especially when someone has acted particularly cold and inhumanely, but try as much as you can to plow ahead with your dignity and grace intact.

People always wonder why I have such a good relationship with several of my exs, including my ex-husband, and honestly the best answer I can give you is that with every single one of these people I never crossed over into complete apathy.  I actually do still care about these individuals and enjoy catching up with them.  I do wish them well, and I'm geninuely happy to hear when they enjoy some new success or milestone in their lives.  Just because we weren't right for each other doesn't mean we can't remain connected as friends, and that is quite normal I think-- especially if you once held each other in such high regard that you decided to get married and start a family together.

I did not get to write my son the love story I intended to write for him, but maybe the one that unfolded is actually better-- this child understands that relationships are complicated, and that although his parents were once very much in love, they simply could not live together.  He knows we both love him and that he can count on both of us.  He appreciates our different strengths and has definitely learned from both of our examples that it is better to live alone than in poor company. 

In tonight's show, I get to discuss the behind the scenes story behind my children's book, Gina the Gymnast, which was my son's idea, and it is dedicated to him.  The best part was his reaction to the book, which he now deems as proof that he is my sensei.  Indeed, he has taught me so much this past decade, and it is a great honor that he considers me his samurai.

Ironically, these days most see me more as a sensei than a samurai, and I'm totally okay with that.  In that vein, let me just end with this-- life is full of love and loss, the two go hand in hand, and as much as we would all like to avoid severing ties, sometimes the most humane thing to do is to recognize that you have gone beyond the point of no return.  When you get there, be gentle yet swift in your exit causing the least amount of collateral damage possible-- especially when little eyes are watching. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

5 Tips of What's Hot, and What's Not

A few months ago, the Atlantic had a piece about our "hookup culture," and it summed things up so beautifully: Compatability isn't even all that important.  Amusement, affection, affirming attention, sexual fulfilllment, the ever-elusive "fun"- that's what we're after. 

Those that are immersed in this culture are not dating on a mission to get married or settle down-- the only mission is to have a good time, so whether you share the same values or vision for the future is irrelevant.  In the pursuit of hedonism, it's all about enjoying yourself in the present.

Personally, I think many go through phases-- there may be times where you are interested in being in a committed relationship, and then you will screen differently for the right long-term partner, whereas other times, you may not want anything serious, and you just want someone with all the right parts and a great attitude.

In the hookup mindframe, for most guys, if you are at the right place at the right time and look good, that's good enough for them.  For women-- especially those of us with a profession that are completely self sufficient (except for one key body part that guys have), you need a little bit more than that.  Here's a clue into what most of my peers think is hot, and what's not:

1. Humor- Do you appreciate irony?  If you can make me laugh while showing off your wit, that's awesome.  Being slap stick silly, not so much.

2. Accomplished- What have you done with your life?  I dig those that have really made the most out of their years here on Earth.  Those that can convey their success in an understated manner are rare-- and yet that is super hot.  Meanwhile those that flaunt their junk, not so much.

3. Good Conversation- It is so intoxicating when you can go deep with someone in intense subjects, and if you can take a different point of view yet hold your own, that is super cool.  If you just want to keep it light and fluffy, you are so going to lose my interest-- fast.

4. Going Out on a Limb- Everyone likes to play it safe, act cool-- I get it.  But if you want the girl, you are going to have to do more than the bare minimum.  The stupid "hey" text isn't winning you any points.  Putting yourself out there, now that's how you truly get on my radar.

5.Compliments- We all need positive words of affirmation, some more than others.  If this doesn't come naturally to you, try to work on it.  A little effort will go a long way-- and for the love of God, don't be shallow and say something stupid like, "I love your smile."  WTF?  For it to count, you have to make it real-- otherwise spare me the need to refrain from rolling my eyes.

I think these 5 basic pointers should come easily to guys playing the game, but then again one of my dear guy friends recently did refer to me as a rubik's cube, and when I asked what he meant by that he said, "just when you think you've got one side figured out, you find out there's 5 other sides with complicated moving parts."  Well, what can I say?  Quality things don't come cheap or easily, and same is true for people.  :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Not All Lawyers Are Out for Blood

This week began with me having to put on evidence and then leave everything for a judge to decide what to do in the case, and thankfully the odds were in my favor that day.  The week then ended with me acting as the mediator in a court-appointed case, where my role was to facilitate a discussion between the parties and hopefully help them reach an agreement on their own, without the need for the court's intervention.  These roles could not be more opposite, and yet I have to admit, I love them both.

Court should be an option of last resort, and actually the stats prove that about 95% of family law cases do settle before a trial.  The research also indicates that about 1/3 of divorces are amicable, 1/3 are civil, and 1/3 are hostile.  Sadly it is this latter category that we hear about the most, and let me be honest, a lot will depend on the attorneys the parties hire.  Some just love to litigate, and they enjoy going for scorched earth.  They thrive on sending nasty grams and playing games-- for them, going to court is like going to Atlantic City on someone else's dime.  What thrill seeker wouldn't love that?  This is exactly what clients are doing when they go hire "sharks" to inflict pain on their soon to be ex-spouse-- of course failing to realize that going down this path of destruction sucks many other loved ones around them into a world of misery, darkness and destruction.

It takes a seasoned attorney with integrity to learn not to sink to the low depths some clients want you go on their behalf, and it takes guts to say to your client that you are not just some hired gun.  I've had to refuse to do a lot of things, even at the cost of terminating the attorney-client relationship, because some things are just not worth doing.  At the end of the day, you have to preserve your integrity-- not just for your own sake, but to protect your reputation in the community.  One case will be over in 1-2 years, but I've got the rest of my life to practice law in front of all those judges that know me, and I am not about to risk losing the respect of the bench or bar for any client.  No one is worth that, and thankfully there are many decent colleagues who share this view, however there are a number of them out there that have yet to see the light.

The fact is that clients tend to gravitate towards attorneys that they can relate to, and luckily at this point most of my views are pretty well known, especially thanks to the press and social media over the last several years.  So, it really has become a self-selective process, where my divorce clients come to me because they want to keep things calm, civil, and private.  Going back to the stats, that means 66% of those divorcing will appreciate my methodology, which uses a cooperative/ intergrative law approach and only 33% are hiring me to be their gladiator-- only because the other side refuses to sit and talk.  I can definitely live with those ratios because let's face it, not everyone is going to get along and play nice, and when all else fails, it is still fun for me to go kick butt in court-- as long as I know we tried our best to be reasonable before taking the gloves off.
Despite what some may think, my approach is not all that new or revolutionary-- for hundreds of years attorneys were seen as counselors, peace keepers, leaders, and social activists, and court was only used as the final option when all else failed.  Our ability to resolve cases has certainly improved tremendously with all the psychology research that has been brought into the legal world, and integrative lawyers are well trained to creatively solve problems outside of court--either in mediation, cooperative cases or using the Collaborative approach.  This growing trend is receiving a lot more attention these days, especially within the ABA, and I am relieved to see that I am in good company among a growing number of colleagues that wish to restore dignity to our profession while helping create a less litigious society.

This fall, I once again have the privilege of speaking to young students at both Georgetown Law and GW University, and then I will be presenting for the ABA on Children and the Law.  I'm planning to highlight how the integrative law approach can help promote the best interest of children, who are after all our legacy and our future.  'It is with their interest in mind that I learned to put down the sword and not always go all out for blood.  So glad I am not alone in this mission, and here's hoping more will choose an attorney that will help them minimize the pain and damage while respectfully dissolving the parties' partnership!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Company Do You Keep?

Most of my friends are now in their 40s, some are even in their 50's, and not a single one complains about his/her age.  Why?  Because they all love what they do, they enjoy their family and friends, and they maintain a positive attitude.  Does this mean that life is perfect?  Of course not, but we all have a common mantra-- don't let the setbacks or challenges of life drag you down.

A pyschologist friend of mine recently told me that a true friend is one that can celebrate with you when you succeed-- putting aside any feelings of jealousy or envy.  Her theory is that anyone can step in to help you in a time of need, it might even serve as an ego boost for them to see that someone might have it worse than them.  I'd never thought about it this way, but she is so right!

Over the last 40 years, I have painstakingly picked friends that are brilliant go-getters and problem-solvers.  We feed off each other's energy- but not in a negative sort of way.  And I've also looked up to a variety of female Hollywood stars that have not let their age at all detract from their sex appeal.  Why?  Because they are proving that you can still rock it in your 40's, and so I owe a tremendous thanks to these amazing women for providing inspiration for the rest of us:

(1) Heidi Klum, age 40;
(2) Gwenyth Paltrow, age 41;
(3) Camreron Diaz, age 41;
(4) Sofia Vergara, age 41;
(5) Naomi Campbell, age 43;
(6) Jennifer Aniston, age 44;
(7) Catherine Zeta Jones, age 44;
(8) J.Lo, age 44;
(9) Julia Roberts, age 45;
(10) Sandra Bullocks, age 46;
(11) Halle Berry age 47;
(12) Selma Hyatt age 47;
(13)  Brooke Shields, age 48; and
(14) Courtney Cox, age 49.

Most of these women are moms and still have kick ass bodies-- regardless of whatever work they may have had done, they still have to  exercise and eat right to keep themselves looking good, and juggle their own work-life balance issues under intense public scrutiny.  I for one give them tremendous credit for keeping it all together while looking so fabulous, and I think they prove a great point for all of us:  It can be done-- you just have to want it.

I'm looking forward to a great decade ahead surrounded by the amazing company that I keep.  Through thick and thin, those that have withstood the test of time with me are all worth their weight in gold.  Here's hoping the rest of you feel the same about the company you keep! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Who's Your Competition?

There is a lot of overlap between the business world and the dating world-- a tremendous amount depends on (1) the packaging, (2) how you market yourself, (3) the price point, and (4) where you position yourself.  Do not underestimate the importance of all these things, however, in the end, there is one key thing that you will never know in the dating world:  who is your competition?

Knowing what your competitors are offering is a key piece of data that we all rely on in the business world, but you will probably never obtain that in the dating world, where  what may be a selling point for one person may be a dealbreaker for another.  You just never know, so let it go.

When I first returned to the dating world after my divorce, I went in with a ton of assumptions, and yet slowly but surely they've all been torn down.  At first I wondered why would guys would want to date a woman with a young child versus one that has a completely free calendar?  Well, it turns out some guys really dig that caring, nurturing side that comes out when you become a mom.  Then I worried that my profession might intimidate some guys, but I soon learned that most guys really dig a girl that can hunt for herself.  As the years have gone by, I wondered if perhaps my age might start to count against me, and yet much to my surprise, lots of younger guys love the fact that I'm in no rush to get married, and that I have zero interest in having more children.  To them, the pressure is off when they date "older" women, and this let's them just have fun-- and let me just say, wow, these guys are truly just yummy.

This summer, while researching various life philosophies, a friend recommended Miguel Angel Ruiz's book, "The Four Agreements."  What he proposes as 4 simple rules to live by, I would propose everyone should apply in the dating world, and they are as follows:

1. Make no assumptions. 
2. Avoid passing judgment.
3. Just be honest and do your best.
4. Do not take things personally.

So simple, right?  Well, it takes a lot of practice to implement into your daily routine, but I truly believe this is the best way to remain sane and successfully navigate the dating world, where you really have no idea who you are competing against.  As it turns out, I think the best thing I learned from the dating world is that the one person you really have to compete against is yourself. 

Tap into that competitive side of yourself, figure out what you need to conquer, and then go-- get out there and have a blast!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Change Your Pad, Change Your Life

This past week, my friend Phillip, who owns Burning Tree Builders in Bethesda agreed to share some tips for couples about to embark on a home renovation project.  Among the most important things he recommends for surviving the demolition of your home are the following:

1. Set a Realistic Budget- Be honest with your architect and builder about your cap for your project.  It is their goal to make you happy, and they don't want to sell you on something you can't afford-- that won't do anyone any good.

2. Do Your Homework- Interview a few builders, research them, and make your selection not just based on the cheapest bid.  Remember, you get what you pay for.  Check references and make sure they are licensed, bonded and insured.

3. Be Flexible- Unexpected delays do happen, so don't think the completion date is set in stone, think of it more as a target date.  Also sometimes materials are out of stock or no longer available, so be ready to make some changes. 

4. Communication is Key- Check in regularly with your builder about how the project is progressing and if you don't like something, speak up sooner rather than later.  Remember, these people are trying to help you obtain an end product that you will be happy with for quite some time.  Pick one person to the spokesperson that will discuss updates with the builder.

5. Have a Solid Foundation- Living through the demolition of your house can truly test your relationship.  Everything is a bit out of whack-- daily schedules get altered, you may not have access to certain areas on your house, private space is rare, kitchens may be out of use for some time, dust will get everywhere, and living with all this can test your patience-- and your relationship.  You need to be able to calm each other down and work together on major decisions that the project will require you to make.  So make sure you are on solid ground before you start tearing down the walls in your own home!

Not everyone can live through a renovation project, which is why some people only buy new homes or recently renovated ones.  Those of us that actually like renovations see it as a labor of love, and we have the ability to adapt and bear through some rough times by keeping the end product in mind.  Be honest with yourself about how much you can take on both personally and as a couple.

In the end, my friend's motto is "change your pad, change your life."  He is so right-- remodeling your home can be a complete game changer, just make sure everyone involved is fully on board with the work and costs involved to get to that better place. :)

Here is the link to the full segment:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

With Kids, 15 Ways to Lead By Example

As a kid, I always hated that saying, "do as I say, not as I do."  It didn't make any sense back then, and it still makes no sense to me now.  The easiest way for kids to learn something is through observation, which means we really have to be careful as parents and role models, and we need to lead by example. 

The last couple of years, after I got done teaching my son the basics, I put a lot of thought into life lessons I wanted to teach him, and of course that meant I'd have to try to live this way myself.  Many of these pearls of wisdom come from my clients and elders, who looking back expressed deep regret for not having learned and passed on to the next generation these facts of life:

1. Say I'm Sorry- It is okay to admit when you were wrong; it's not going to kill anyone.  No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes, but you need to show remorse. A little humility goes a long way in making amends.

2. Be Forgiving-   People will constantly disappoint you in life, but for your own sanity, don't hold a grudge.  Depending on the transgression, some of which may be truly inhumane and inexcusable, you don't have to accept someone's apology, but you also don't have to harbor resentment or let delusions of revenge eat away at you.  Let them deal with their own guilt while you just let the past go and move on.

3. Relationships are Complicated- All of us need to think of relationship development as an ongoing work in progress.  Not all relationships will work out, but you just need to give it your best shot.  We learn something from every experience, so no mater how short lived an encounter may be, try to focus on what you got out of it. 

4. You Can't Control Everything- As much as we may want to control our world, the fact is we can only control our own actions and reactions to the chaos around us.  There are a lot of control freaks out there, and their lack of control causes them severe anxiety.  Stay away from those that try to control you.

5. Pursue Your Own Passion- Once you are done with your studies, work is something you will have to do for the rest of your life, so find something you are passionate about that will make you happy to go to work each day.  In that vein, define success for yourself and don't worry about how others define success.

6. Live Within Your Means- The simpler your life, the happier you will be by avoiding debt and not over-extending yourself.  Those that live beyond their means not only have tremendous pressures and stress in their lives, but they often are then forced to make difficult choices and compromises.

7. Express Gratitude- Try to show gratitude every day by being thankful for what you have.  As long as you have a safe home, food, clothing and some purpose in life, the rest is just gravy.  You can live without the gravy, meanwhile many in this world don't even have the basics. 

8. Appreciate Others Strengths- We all have different gifts, and that is what makes life so interesting.  Embrace the beauty of having a world filled with variety and be open to different perspectives. 

9. Follow Your Gut- There is true evil out there, and you can't ignore the signs.  We are all energy sources, and there are some incredibly negative ones out there that will want to suck the life out of you like a vampire.  When you sense danger or believe a situation is unhealthy, get out.  Intuition is a key part of our survival.

10.  Beware of Attachments- It's very easy to get attached to things, but things come and go.  Nothing lasts forever, even life itself.  The sooner you can accept the fragility of life and the temporal nature of everything, the sooner you can just enjoy the moment and stay focused on the things that really matter.

11. For Every Problem, There is a Solution- Problems surface every day in life, and the key to staying upbeat is to just see it as a challenge and stay in a problem-solving mindframe.  The solution may not be necessarily the one you want, but things will always work out in the end as they should, sometimes you just need to give it time to be able to appreciate this perspective.

12. Be Generous- The more you give of yourself, the more you will get back.  We do reap what we sow.  If you can't pay back what you were given, then pay it forward.  Get involved with your community and engage in activities for good causes.

13. Pick Your Battles- A great warrior knows when to put down his/her sword.  Not everything is worth fighting over, so pick your battles wisely.

14. Find Your Own Fun- There are so many incredible opportunities in this world.  Go see the sites, read all the classics and enjoy the movies.  Learn to entertain yourself-- exercise, write, paint, plan an outing, attend sporting events.  It is okay to be alone, just keep your own mind stimulated.  The options are only limited my your own imagination.

15. Love- We have to accept that with love comes loss, because as stated previously we will all die and nothing lasts forever.  No matter what, never lose hope, which is what leads people to utter despair.  It truly is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all-- we simply can't live without love, that would not be a life worth living.  That said, each person will have his/her own capacity for love, and this does vary greatly.  No matter what, don't settle for anything less than what you think you deserve. 

I suppose I could write a whole book about all these things, and maybe one day I will, but for now Im just trying to provide some food for thought because I've seen way too many parents focus on providing for their children financially at the expense of not spending enough time with their kids and teaching them so of these key life lessons.  There is so much that we can do, but one thing that we will NEVER be able to do is turn back time. 

Step off the treadmill and spend some precious moments with your kids while you can.  They grow up fast.  If you want them to do well in the outside world and come back to the nest every now and then after the age of majority, you can't just focus on feeding them, you have to nurture their souls.  You can always make more money later, but you'll never get back those golden years. 

Go make those truly golden while you can!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Use All Six Senses When Out on the Prowl

I know we are supposed to be this wonderfully evolved species, but at the end of the day let's not forget where we came from and ignore our natural instincts.  When you are out there hunting, you need to tap into all six senses, and the more you do, I promise the more fun you will have out on the prowl.  Let me explain a little more clearly...

1. Sight- Do not minimize the importance of visual appeal, it is a  normal part of how we become attracted to someone.  Pay attention to details-- are they well groomed, well dressed, well mannered?  These things all say a lot about a person, and they do matter.

2.  Sound- When you hear this person's voice, do you find yourself melting or does it sound like nails on a chalk board?  When they laugh, does it make you want to giggle or cringe?  Their sounds should soothe you, not annoy you. 

3. Smell- We all have our own individual smell, and what attracts one may repel another.  If you think their scent is offensive before they get all hot and sweaty, it will only get worse in bed.  Meanwhile, a scent that lures you will seriously bring out the animal inside when you are in the sack.

4. Touch- Some people will surprise you-- they may seem cold and reserved, but then they are incredibly affectionate in private.  Behind closed doors, there are those who are incredibly gentle, while others are a bit rougher, so the reality is there is a huge range here in terms of what people like, but all you need to concern yourself with is whether their touch is pleasing to you.  This is a critical part of intimacy that cannot be ignored.

5. Taste-  How do they taste?  If they smell good, chances are they'll taste good too, and if they don't that is not a good thing. 

6. Gut- This is what I call your 6th sense.  What does your gut tell you when you are with this person?  Every time I've ignored my gut I've regretted it.  We all have certain instincts for a reason, trust them.  They are part of our survival mechanism.  No other animal out there sits and trys to convince him/herself that a situation is safe or debates whether it is worth giving something more time-- when they sense danger, they run.  You need to do the same.

I'm all for having fun while out on the prowl, but it is a jungle out there, and it is filled with danger.  To survive, tap into your animal instincts-- all six wonderful senses.    With this in mind, enjoy this wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Size Really Does Matter

Get your mind out of the gutter-- I'm not talking about any body parts here.  But when you are sizing up whether someone makes a good partner, there are some things that really do matter:

1. What's in your wallet?  Sad but true, most of us in a post-recession mindset don't want to get involved with a financial basketcase.  Being fiscally responsible is a very attractive feature for both men and women, and neither side wants to be with a gold digger.  So if you want to date well, clean up your balance sheet.

2. What's you dress/pant size?  Really, let's be honest, physical appearance counts for a lot.  If you are going to be out on the market, you need to look good.  Eating healthy and exercising are not just good for your overall health, these habits will make a huge difference in your sex life.  HUGE.

3. What's your IQ?  I'm keeping it real here-- no one wants to date or marry down, especially when it comes to brain power.  Truly, your ability to understand and connect with each other is going to depend a tremendous amount on how you communicate and relate to one another.  Let's face it, if I was the nerdy chick at the front of the class in 4th grade asking for extra credit work, meanwhile you were the trouble maker at the back of the class getting all Cs and Ds, what on Earth will we have in common now?  Nada so sionara.

4.  How big is your heart?  What I want to know here is how generous are you?  Charitable contributions are great, but maybe you only do that once a year for tax purposes, so let's not base it on that.  I mean on a daily basis, how often do you take time out of your own schedule to help someone in need?  Are you volunteering for any local organizations? How do you give back to your community? Do you exhibit kindness as part of your everyday routine? This is an important trait.

5.   How many tools are in your emotional toolbox?  This one is a biggie-- a lot of people have very few tools in their emotional toolbox-- like maybe 2: a screwdriver and hammer.  That's a real problem.  For a relationship to really work, you need a much, much bigger emotional toolbox to assist with conflict resolution, repair work, coping in a healthy way with setbacks and dissapointment.  Not many people work on identifying the missing tools they need and doing the work to find them.  The size of your toolbox matters immensely, in fact more than any of the other 4 things mentioned above.

By now it should be clear that I joke around a lot, but underlying all my humor are painful truths that I'm trying to shed some light on for everyone else out there.  We all struggle with our personal relationships-- all of us.  Because we are human, we will all make mistakes.  About 40% of us will have to go through a very painful recovery process after failing in our own marriages, and yet thankfully most of us will eventually pick up the pieces and move forward.

I believe very strongly in moving on-- rip that bandaid off fast, apply some antibacterial cream, and then get back out there, but just remember- Size Does Matter!!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

10 Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship

Physical abuse is easy to identify-- but what about emotional abuse?  These perpetrators don't show their true colors in the beginning.  They are incredibly charming, and they will often stay on their best behavior until they feel they've captured you.  That's when you'll see the lovely Dr. Jekyll turn into the evil Mr. Hyde.  Here are the top 10 signs this is who you are with:

1. Does this person seem to constantly put you down?
2. Are you afraid to express a dissenting opinion?
3. Does this person act in an irrationally jealous and/or possessive manner?
4. Does this person try to control every aspect of your life?
5. Is this person isolating you from your family and friends?
6. Are you being blamed for everything that goes wrong?
7. Has this person destroyed or threatened to destroy or take away your things?
8. Are you often left wondering how arguments escalated to such a hostile level?
9. Have you been threatened with legal action that will "ruin" you and/or result in a loss of custody?
10. Does this person use sex as a weapon-- either forces it on you, or withholds it as punishment?

If you have answered yes to any one of these questions, please stop kidding yourself as to what is really going on here-- this is no way to live.  A person that truly loves you will not treat you this way-- ever.  You deserve far better.  Don't let anyone suggest otherwise.

Nearly one in three women in the U.S. will experience an abusive relationship at some point in their life. (Many of my male clients have also reported incidents of abuse, but they are far less likely to want to bring this up in any legal proceedings).  So, if you see someone-- man or woman-- in distress, try to reach out and offer assistance in whatever way you can.  The only way we will end domestic abuse is if we as an entire society reduce our tolerance for this behavior.  In that vein, I hope you'll share this blog with others, and if you find yourself faced with a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type in your life, develop an escape plan and RUN, dont' walk, to the nearest exit.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Indecent Proposals- More Common That You Think

Years ago, I remember watching incredulously as the events unfolded in the 1993 movie Indecent Proposal with Robert Redford, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, and then it happened to me.  While in Vegas a few years back, a man actually came up to my date and asked him what it would take for him to walk away with a girl like me.  I remember laughing at the moment, but honestly I don't think that guy was joking.  I chalked it up to being in Sin City, but let me tell you the indecent proposals have not stopped since then, and I guess what I've learned is that guys are really not shy about just putting it all out there, and it is up to the female receiving the request to hit the brakes if a situation is not going in a direction she is comfortable with. 

We all have different thresholds for what we can tolerate, and I'm not here to pass any judgment.  I just want to make sure you think through the offers presented-- and it is far easier if you have thought these through ahead of time so you can nip things in the bud.  Here are 5 common scenarios I run into & avoid like the plague:

1. Married Guys- We hear this ALL the time, they can't leave because of the kids, but it is a loveless situation, blah, blah, blah.  Seriously?  Walk away fast.  This is NOT a situation worth getting into-- this is messy and the drama isn't worth it-- there are plenty of other guys out there with the same package and far less heartache.

2. Recently Single- These guys are not into anything serious, can't deal with making commitments, etc. because of course, they are in the mending process.  Totally get it, in fact I've been there myself many times, but once I'm in a better place, I really don't need to be someone's crutch.  Find a friends with benefit situation or sex surrogate to get you through your tough times, and call me when you are ready to be real.

3.  Inappropriate Age- I get it, people think I'm in my 30's with the brain of someone in her 50's so I get guys in their early 30s into those in their early 60's asking me out, and let me be honest-- that is way too big of a range.  I don't want to date someone old enough to be my dad, and I really don't want to be a craddle-robber either.  I am sticking to a 10 year age range- late 30's to late 40's works for me (unless you happen to be 34 and look like Jason Stathom-- we can always make an exception there.)  Whatever floats your boat, set your own parameters and stick to them.

4. Geographically Undesirable- So let me get this straight, you live in Boston, Cali or in some farm 2 hours outside the DC Area, but you honestly think we should get it on?  Really? Unless you are Donald Trump giving me access to your private helicopter, I'm just not willing to go outside a reasonable radius for some P.O.A. 

5. Mama's Boys- These are the ones who are looking for someone to take care of them.  They are usually seeking a divorced mom, who clearly exhibits the care-taking traits that attract them.  Well here is a news flash-- I did not put myself through law school to take care of anyone, except my son.  I don't expect anyone to take care of me, and why on God's green Earth would I want to be tasked with taking care of someone else's sorry butt??? 

I actually have filtered a lot in this blog, but I can't emphasize enough how common indecent proposals are, so I'd recommend practicing the art of letting someone down gently.   I've been working hard on this one over the last 8 years, and what I found works best is to just blame myself for lacking the ability to meet their request.  It's like that Seinfeld episode where they emphasize, "it's not you, it's me."

In the end, I've been highly entertained the last few years, together with  many of my married friends who have lived vicariously through my stories, which are hysterical.  And actually, that is the best piece of advice I can share here-- no matter what the indecent proposal is, you just need to laugh. 

People are funny.