aMy family is going through Olympic withdrawal.  Well, O.K., not really.  But we watched the events we were interested in and rooted for Team U.S.A.  Of course, Michael Phelps stole the show, and Ryan Lochte stole the…well, let’s not go there.  At any rate, it was interesting. What continues to stick with me, though, is the catchy phrase in one of the commercials (I don’t remember which commercial) but it’s from Maya Angelou’s “Human Family” poem. As in the commercial, the poem ends with, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  This phrase is repeated twice in both the poem and the commercial.  The rhythm is undeniable, and the words unforgettable.  The truth is…we are.  This made me think back to one of my sociology classes in college, and those human traits that are universal, regardless of the country, village, or tribe in which a person lives: a smile represents happiness; crying signals sadness; and we all need food, water, sunlight, and air to survive.  As the poem goes, “In minor ways we differ; in major, we’re the same.”  Certainly, in our families we are, to some extent, the same.  So, when the “leaders” of a family decide to part ways, their differences should be relatively minor, right?  Sadly, depending on the divorce process the couple uses, those minor differences could blow up and out of control.  It doesn’t have to be that way. In the Collaborative divorce process, the goal is to find common ground and focus on the items the divorcing couple agrees on (the “alike” part). “Keep the children out of the middle.”  Check.  “Let the children attend the same school.”  Check.  “Make sure everyone’s needs are met.”  Check.  We focus on similarities, needs, and “alikeness”, and therefore interests, rather than differences and positions.  We aren’t that different.  At least we aren’t that different in major ways.  Unique, we are.  So, let’s not invent imaginary differences, which can create major conflict.  That takes so much negative energy.  Using a process that focuses on the positive, the “alikeness” of the two people ending the marriage is certainly more, well, human.
Getty file 523102420 PrinceA will is the cornerstone of your estate plan. It allows for an organized distribution of your assets after you pass. Not only does it make sure that your assets end up with your chosen loved ones, it also reduces the legal and financial obstacles that your family and friends will face after your death. A will does the following:
  • Outlines how you want your property distributed
  • Names an executor to ensure that your creditors are paid and that your property is distributed as you wish
  • Nominates a guardian to care for young children (in situations where needed)
Other documents that are regularly part of an estate plan include:
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Directive
  • Trust – in some cases
A Power of Attorney gives the person that you designate the authority to act for you on financial matters, if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Unlike a will, a Power of Attorney form is “in force” when you are still living.  If you become incapacitated in some manner, then the person you designated (the attorney-in-fact) has the power to handle your financial affairs for you. Despite the name, the person you designate does not have to be a lawyer, only someone you trust to handle your financial affairs. Instead of financial matters, in a Healthcare Directive, the person you name is authorized to make decisions about your healthcare when you are unable to do so.  A healthcare directive usually includes directions to your healthcare provider regarding the extent to which you want life-sustaining measures taken in an end-of-life situation. Don’t procrastinate!! Complete your estate plan now.
Like many things in life, people tend to divorce at certain times of the year.  My professional experience corresponds with a recent study out of University of Washington.  The study looked at the time of year that divorces are most often filed. Research over 14 years shows that divorce files peak in March and August. As our children head back to school this time of year, it is often a time that parents consider divorce as an option.  It is much less common to initiate a divorce in the summer or over the holidays.  Those are the times that families choose to remain peaceful and accepting of challenges.  But come spring or fall, when we get back into our daily routines of life, it is often a time to initiate a change of life, such as divorce. It is interesting that people avoid the conflict of divorce for the sake of the children over the holidays or summer, I assume, because they want to minimize conflict.  They want to enjoy the holidays or relax in the summer, yet marital conflict often inhibits that joy.  If couples could choose to divorce collaboratively, in a respectful and non-adversarial way, they may realize that it doesn’t matter what time of year it occurs, divorce can be done well.

Many clients feel relief and peace once divorce or separation occurs. A collaborative divorce can help maintain that peace throughout the process.  Building better outcomes and preserving what is very best about the family can make the time of year not matter. 

cookingYou may find cooking a daunting enough task as it is, but cooking for just one can be downright grueling, and can often lead to unhealthy eating. If you find yourself undereating, forgetting to eat, going through the drive thru, or just grabbing something quick because you don’t have the energy to cook for just yourself, you are not alone. These quick bites are often unhealthy or what should have been a snack size portion of {insert your guilty pleasure here} has suddenly became a 2,000 calorie “dinner.” Even if it’s not just you for dinner, but you and young kids with small appetites, sometimes it still feels too cumbersome to make a “real meal.” We encourage you to be the healthiest you that you can be, so here are our best tips for cooking for one.
  1. Don’t shy away from buying in bulk. Your freezer is your friend, so whether you are buying in 1 pound packages or 10, freeze in manageable portions. Learn what manageable means to you – do you want leftovers to take to work for lunch the next day, or do you only want to eat that meal once?
  2. Speaking of buying in bulk, those bulk bins at the grocery store can save you money by only purchasing what you actually will use. Walk the bulk isle and learn what your store has to offer there.
  3. Prep before you freeze. Make fajitas for tonight, but prep enough to freeze in portions for later. Do so by cutting and seasoning your meats and veggies, so that all you need to do later is defrost and throw in a skillet.
  4. Love lasagna? Probably not enough to eat it for a week strait. Lasagna and casseroles can be cooked and then frozen into individual portions. Convenient and much healthier than store bought frozen dinners, which are full of preservatives.
  5. Make meals that turn into something else – no magic wand required! Pork roast in the crock pot for Sunday night can easily become Monday’s pulled pork sandwich, and Tuesday’s shredded pork tacos, without any extra prep or much thought.
  6. The deli and meat counters allow you the freedom to purchase in as small of quantities as you need. Purchase fresh deli meat when it’s on sale, have them portion out in quarter pound packages right there, freeze, and then you can pull out only what you need to last you a day or two.
  7. Learn what freezes well. For instance, eggs can be frozen individually in ice cube trays and then once frozen dump into a freezer bag or container. While some produce freezes beautifully, some not so much.
  8. If you don’t like to turn on your oven for “just one person” consider purchasing a toaster oven, which can do all the work of a oven and a toaster, and can often still be stored away, in a cabinet.
Hopefully these tips help you to make healthy eating a priority even when you are just cooking for yourself. A little prep work goes a long way, and can help save you from getting lost in a carton of ice cream come dinner time! If you have a good tip for cooking for one, please let us know in the comments below!
vortexVortex: 1) a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it towards its center; or 2) a place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that it surrounds, and hence, being inescapable or destructible Sound familiar? In Minnesota, it’s tornado season, so many of us in the Midwest think of a tornado when we think of a vortex.  Regardless of where you live, if you are going through a divorce, this definition might sound like something you experience rather than something you see, and so, the term Divortex seems appropriate. Unfortunately, too many people have the vortex experience when they divorce. It is all too true:  the whirling mass of chaos, negativity, and craziness suck everything into its center.  The tornado analogy continues with “destroying everything in its path…leaving nothing but…rubble.”  Not a pretty picture.  You don’t have to be part of this, however. Divorce is devastating. No one plans to get divorced.  Marriages end for various reasons.  There is undoubtedly anger and sadness.  The clouds roll in, the thunder begins, and it rains.  For a long time.  But, the divorce process shouldn’t make your relationship worse.  Unfortunately, the legal process often turns the rainstorm into not only a flash flood, but a tornado.  The legal process contributes to the mess, and thus, the divortex forms, sucking everything into its center: your time, money, emotions, plans, life, EVERYTHING.  You have absolutely no control over what it does or where it goes.  You are helpless and at its mercy.  All you can do is go to the lowest level (which happens inadvertently in litigation) in your home.  Stay away from windows.  And if you are a person of faith…pray.  If you aren’t a person of faith, well, it’s never too late to start.  With all due respect to the judges who hear and decide family cases, especially the difficult ones, court IS a whirlwind.  You just never know what will happen. Fortunately, you can choose a process where, believe it or not, there is at least a faint glimmer of a rainbow at the end. (Probably not a pot of gold, but a rainbow, nonetheless.)  Selecting Collaboration is the first step.  You and your spouse decide what the outcome will look like (not a judge).  You and your spouse have a voice and participate in the meetings and the decision making.  Using a team of trained professionals, you will create your own rainbow.  If you want all the colors of the spectrum, perfect!  If, however, you’d rather have the cooler colors of green, blue, and indigo, you got it!  No one is judging.  Really.  Sound too good to be true?  Nope.  (And no worries, I’m not going to bring unicorns into this story.)  Next time, I will discuss HOW Collaboration can help you avoid the Divortex.  Stay tuned.
iStock_000077646311_TIdy UpAlthough happiness can sometimes seem elusive, keeping in mind the 5 Simple Rules for Happiness below will help:
  1. Free your mind from hatred
  2. Free your mind from worries
  3. Live simply
  4. Give more
  5. Expect Less
It struck me one day that The Five Simple Rules for Happiness are at the core of virtually every major religion’s doctrine for living – be happy by being good. It is a manifesto for living an exemplary life condensed down to 16 words. While they may be simple to list, we all know they are far from easy to abide by.   So, while they may be called Rules, I suggest looking at them as Goals toward which to aspire. The first step to embracing the Five Simple Rules should be to step back and take a hard look at the habits, attitudes and expectations you have that create roadblocks to happiness. It is easier to create new habits if you fully appreciate the negative consequences of your old habits.   Trying to be a little bit better at all the Rules is a first step. However, embracing #5, Expect Less, may give you the most happiness bang for the buck. Stop expecting that if you buy new stuff it will change your life. Stop expecting that people will consider how their actions will affect you. Stop expecting that one day your life will be perfect. By learning how your subconscious expectations influence your entire life, it makes the rest of the rules more achievable.   There seems to be nothing “simple” about the Five Simple Rules For Happiness. Yet, if we would all try daily to apply them to a small degree, then we would find that the happiness we truly desire will come to us all the easier.
flowerAs many know, because Minnesota is a no fault divorce state, one spouse not being ready does not need to stop the process from moving forward. The ready spouse can file for divorce and the process moves on in court with little control of the reluctant spouse. A potential client recently came in for a consult and, as often is the case, her husband was struggling to move forward in the process. They were at very different points on the divorce readiness scale – she was ready, he was not. This is quite typical. The other spouse is sometimes called “reluctant” or “in denial.” When one spouse is looking for a non-adversarial, out-of-court alternative (like mediation or collaborative divorce), there is more of a need to bring that other spouse along. The reluctant spouse really can delay the process and interfere with the non-reluctant spouse’s desire to divorce. This potential client said something very interesting to me. She said, “I know I am committed to collaborative divorce, but I am learning that this does not have to be a collaborative decision.” This realization was profound. She realized that she could control the process (with her husband’s agreement), even if her husband never agrees with the decision to divorce. It is common during the divorce process to have spouses be at different comfort levels with the decision to divorce. These levels of readiness can change throughout the process and even vary greatly from one meeting to another. The challenge often lies with helping the reluctant spouse commit to a collaborative process, while acknowledging his or her disagreement with the process. A good collaborative attorney can strategize ways to bring the reluctant spouse into the process and help move things forward. Ways to teach him or her about the divorce options and lay out the pros and cons of different processes for divorce.  To learn more, contact Kimberly Miller.