Sep 2011 29

It’s much harder to mediate your personal situation and family problems than it is to help someone else with theirs!  That is the ultimate test of your skills as a professional–do you YOUR skills translate to home?

I was concerned that mine did not, or at least not enough to warrant dishing out advice on the 8 Keys to Resolving Conflict in my latest book. I’ve always felt strongly about walking my talk as an attorney. I made it my business to be honest and not to get involved in a bunch of lawsuits.

But doing so as a mediator was much, much harder.

My relationship with my 2nd husband is the easy part. Steve is a very easygoing guy and I’m definitely the higher maintenance of the two of us.   I truly appreciate him.  We’ve been married almost 13 years and have more fun together all the time.  I even have a good relationship with my 1st husband, Bill, and his family.  I am friends, or at least Facebook Friends, with many of my high school classmates, including the ones I “hated” at the time.

But my family….not so easy.  Without going into too much detail, my parents’ marriage had rocky parts, and there were individual problems for them as well. My brother sometimes struggled in school and I was a mischief maker.  Like any family, pretty much.  

My dad pointed out once that his brother’s family, which I basically see as the ideal family, also had problems. He rattled off a few of the “bad” things that had happened to them and between them, and I said, “But that’s exactly what makes them such a great family. They aren’t perfect, but they support each other and they work through things and in the end come together as a family!”

I could see from the look on his face that he didn’t get it.  If it wasn’t a Beaver Cleaver family, it wasn’t good enough.

Anyway, so the seeds of my rocky relationship with my dad run deep. Let’s just leave it at that.

So imagine my surprise when my dad reflected on of the 8 keys to resolving conflict back to me, unprompted!  “This is a tough problem, but we’re smart people. We can figure out a solution.” 

I almost fainted!  I am getting through! And it’s working!

By way of the back story about why I’m even bothering and putting myself out there with my father…..

So I figured the ultimate challenge for myself on this blog was to attempt to mediate and repair my relationship with my father.  After all, how could I tell others to choose their battles or use “I” statements if I wasn’t going to do it myself?

And you know what? It changed my life.  Profoundly.  My relationship with my dad is still pretty rocky, but it’s better. But bringing those 8 keys to resolving conflict into my everyday life has been nothing short of a game-changer. My capacity for empathy has expanded and I’m better able to relate to clients and friends by aligning with my true commitment to help resolve things, be honest, approach problems with integrity, and live my life as a mediator and peacemaker.

Pretty exciting stuff.

 
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 26

My dad is 83. We’ve had a rocky relationship since I’ve been 10 years old. I suspect I’m not alone, hence starting Project Vic, a video series which chronicles my attempts to mediate and repair my relationship with my dad.

Vic has agreed to be a guest blogger today.  He doesn’t do a lot of media appearances anymore. Back in the day, as the Director of the Dental Division at the Indiana State Board of Health, he’d go on TV and tell kids not to eat frosted Pop Tarts and Count Chocula cereal (and then bring that stuff home to us). But it’s been a long time since he was on camera.

So I try to be patient.

I remember my mother getting impatient with old people in the grocery line, fumbling for their coupons or check book.

I try to remember not to be so impatient, now that she’s gone.  As her cancer progressed, one of her favorite things to do was to go to the Kroger grocery store by the house and go grocery shopping.  When Kroger had a big party in the parking lot, she wanted to go every day. I happened to be visiting and so I went with her every day, too. I tried to get her to try the Jaegermeister the rep was sampling on tap, but she knew me too well and took a pass.

She could barely walk, and leaned on the grocery cart for support. She wasn’t very fast. She didn’t have her coupons or money ready.  And it didn’t matter. She was having fun, and that’s what counted. It wasn’t my definition of fun, but if I could take care of her in this little tiny way by helping her through the grocery store, then that was what we’d do.

The day she died, my dad and I sat in stunned silence for awhile, and then helped the funeral home remove her body from the house.  We sat in the dark for awhile, and then finally decided we should go to the MCL cafeteria for dinner.  We’ve eaten at MCL as a family ever since I can remember. In the 60’s there was a cute woman with blonde flip hair. I must’ve been about 5 and I said loudly, “When I grow up I want my hair to look exactly like that lady’s!”  Hey, at least I was saying something nice!

So as we sat at the MCL I looked at all the old people. MCL is a pretty forgiving place, so there are lots of people with babies and old folks.  I realized that other people got to have their old people with them at MCL, but that my family didn’t get to anymore.

 
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 19

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.

Not that I live “at home,” or at least not with my dad, anyway.   It’s been quite awhile. But it always amazes me that parents of adult children can forget that they’re still the PARENT and no matter how old the child is, the child is still the CHILD. I’ve got bad news for those of you enjoying your empty nest as the kids go to college and start their own lives….you’re still the mom or the dad.

I still want my dad to be proud of me (my mother passed on in 2010). I don’t care if I’m 47 years old. The sad fact is that he’s never acted like he was proud of me, at least not to my face.  Let me take that back.  Once, when I gave a talk at the Indiana University Law School circa 2007, both he and my mom seemed proud of me. They didn’t exactly say anything to that effect, but they sort of acted like that. Sort of.  Enough for me to connect the dots, anyway.

So Making Divorce Work is my second book. My first book, Your Divorce Advisor, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2001.  When I went to my dad’s house back in January, I looked for a copy of Your Divorce Advisor. I’d given him a copy. It appears that he threw it away, because it certainly wasn’t in the house. 

Interesting, huh?

And when I asked him the 3 word title to  my new book, Making Divorce Work, he said, “Uh, I think it has the word ‘divorce’ in it….” right after he’d attended the book signing party.

My parents (like Howard Stern’s parents!) took great pride in the fact that they didn’t carry photos of their kids in their wallets and that they didn’t trot photos out every time they ran into their friends.

Excuse me?

Maybe it’s a function of not having children myself, but I LOVE to see photos of people’s kids and to hear how they’re doing, particularly when the news is good.

Am I in the minority here?

Would you please weigh in as to whether I’m out of my mind for thinking this way (I know I’m out of my mind, of course, but is this attitude why?) in the Comments below?

Parents are always parents, right? And children are always children, right?

 
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 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

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