Sep 2011 12

Project Vic:  This is the next in an ongoing series of videos where I blog about my own efforts to walk my talk as a mediator and mend my relationship with my dad. It’s one thing to be a terrific mediator when you’re with strangers dealing with a problem you’re not living with, and quite another to apply those skills when you get home to your family.

 I’m going to update Project Vic, for better or worse, about once a week.  I went to see my dad January 27-30, 2011 and  he even agreed to be a guest blogger!

So stay tuned, and wish me luck!

Not sure why my hand is shaking…except that I’m talking to my 83 year old dad after 6 months of family war. I even had to hire an attorney because he threatened to sue me. Fantastic.  So this is the first time we’re seeing each other after all of that trauma and drama, and I think we’re both relieved that the worst seems to be behind us.

Mediating your own dispute is HARD! What I finally realized, however, is that what he was worried about with my mom’s trust was probably the opposite of what my brother and I were worried about with my mom’s trust.  It wasn’t easy, but I sat down at the kitchen table in his house and I asked him, “What’s your worst fear with all of this?”  And he told me he was afraid he’d need to get at some of the trust money and that he’d need to ask me every single time, like I was giving him permission to get at his own money.

My suspicion was right.  I was not worried at all that he’d over spend or go crazy.  My dad is about as tight as it gets. My brother and I were worried about being disinherited (seriously–it had gotten that bad).  So all of the fighting wasn’t really necessary since we were concerned about 2 different things. Opposite things, in fact.

All it took was a serious conversation. A frank conversation. An honest conversation.  And a difficult conversation, of course.  We’d been going through lawyers for a couple of months and hadn’t managed to talk, so I’m not trying to diminish how hard it was to sit down and talk with him one on one about this. He might be 83 but he can be a pretty intimidating guy and heaven knows he’s stubborn. Must be where I got it….LOL.

Like so many of the 8 Keys to Resolving Conflict it was something which was simple, but not easy.  Like so many things in life. 

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

 

 

Sep 2011 05

My mom died January 1, 2010. Within about 6 weeks my dad was engaged to be married….to one of her best friends.  Needless to say, this sent a shock wave through our family. If you’ve been following Project Vic on this blog, you’ve seen how difficult it has been for my brother and me to navigate all of this…the loss of our mother, the rocky relationship with our father, and now the question of how the heck someone can get engaged in 6 weeks after being married 55 years.

The good news is that Bea, my father’s fiancee, is lovely.  We’ve started calling her Mom 2.0 and I think she’s embraced our now-blended family pretty well.

She came to the book signing party for Making Divorce Work in Indianapolis in 2011 and was just a delight. The video shares her thoughts about the experience and the party. 

My brother and I would rather have our mom back, but Bea is a great second choice.

Now we just wonder how long it will take her to realize that our dad, Vic, is actually a “project” and to realize exactly what she’s in for if they actually get married.  Hmmmmm….

The truth and reality of life is that families are what you make of them.  We could let all of this ruin our lives, or we can choose to move on.

And move on we have.  My brother is newly married at 53 with a baby on the way. His youngest child just graduated from college. My husband is Jewish and I was raised Presbyterian. Bea’s son is disabled.  Yet we all come together as a family. Sometimes more successfully than others, but we’re still family.

And that’s the mesage I try to convey to our mediation clients.  Parents with a 2 year old hear, “You’ve got to figure this out, because you are going to be co-grandparents.” And I’m not just saying that to convince them to settle or to mediate their differences–it’s true.  It’s a little hard to hear when you have a toddler, I suppose, but once you’ve chosen to marry and have children, you’re just adding additional squares to the patchwork quilt that’s already your family.

 
Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

May 2011 24

Project Vic: This is yet another in an ongoing series of videos where I blog about my attempts to rebuild my relationship with my 82 year old father.  As a mediator, isn’t it important that I walk my talk?  It’s one thing to be a calm, rational mediator when you’re with clients trying to resolve  a problem that doesn’t involved you, and quite another to apply those skills at home with your own family.

I’m going to update Project Vic as long as the videos last. This one is from early December 2010,  right after the big Thanksgiving blow up, and before I saw my dad January 27-30, 2011 for his wedding and my book signing.  Stay tuned, as he was a guest blogger!  AND, things got a lot more interesting!  I’ll post his take on the situation soon.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

So stay tuned, and wish me luck!

I really love being a lawyer now that I don’t practice traditional law anymore (just mediation).  I love my work as a mediator, and I love our clients. They work so hard to do the right thing.

This is contrasted by the efforts of my colleagues  (other lawyers).  I spend a LOT of my time protecting my clients from my colleagues.  And my dad is no exception.

So I find out his beloved estate planning lawyer has made yet another mistake on his trust.  I am not an estate planning lawyer, so I did some research and found the answers his attorney missed.

Arrrrg!

But my dad loves this attorney. There is nothing I can say that will influence the lawyer’s Svengali-like hold on my dad.  And I just end up looking like the greedy kid trying to get in the way.

Any ideas? Has anybody out there been able to handle a situation like this in a productive way?  I send my dad the information, he doesn’t read it.  His lawyer works part time, so nobody can ever get ahold of the lawyer. Time is of the essence–this wedding is supposed to happen in 6 weeks! But the lawyer isn’t returning calls and doesn’t seem to know how to use e-mail.  Impossible!

So frustrating.  But there’s nothing like a little Dinah’s Fried Chicken coffee shop food and a serving of their $3.95 a glass wine. If that won’t get you through a rough day, nothing will. I swear I am going to start dotting the “i” in my name with a chicken leg, just like in the Dinah’s logo.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation  on our video blog and read Diana’s divorce blogs on the Huffington Post

Mar 2011 21

Project Vic isn’t going well. My own efforts to walk my talk as a mediator and mend my relationship with my dad have taken a rocky turn on Thanksgiving.

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Mar 2011 17

Attorney Kelley Finan explains how collaborative divorce works

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