We have three different blog series for you to find inspiration and encouragement as you go on this journey:
- Doing Divorce, A thoughtful discussion about divorce: Angela Dunne provides practical advice based on real examples of what she and her clients have faced through the transition of divorce.
- Divorce Made Simple: Our attorneys breakdown the divorce process in a way that is easy to understand.
- NEXT: An Empowerment Series: Attorney and life coach Susan Koenig guides, supports, and inspires you on the journey of creating a life you love.
I offered to go to Afghanistan, planned to go to Albania, and went to South Africa.
For decades a small global call whispered.
Following plights of the suffering has consumed countless hours of my life, refugees being a common Sunday morning coffee read. In 2009, when Syrian innocents were forced to flee Assaad’s terror, I could have told you the number of refugees worldwide was 20 million. War correspondents fall among my favorite heroes.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in the ‘90s, girls could not go to school, women were forbidden to work, and neither could leave their homes without a male to ensure their compliance. With arrogant audacity, I handed my card to a woman working there, offering help. I never followed up. And Albania? Before I finished reading a book about the then dangerous country that I knew little about, the opportunity was canceled.
When a chance in South Africa arose, I leapt to go with the delegation of lawyers. We educated on child support enforcement and domestic violence protections. Still, a low-grade shame traveled with me as we stayed in lovely hotels, sipping wine with dinner, all the while staying protected from the poverty-stricken slums of Soweto.
Today I still want to know what is happening to the million Uyghurs that China continues to detain in 85 camps, and Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine rarely go more than a day without my notice. Still, I’m neither an advocate across the ocean nor a global humanitarian. I remain three blocks down the hill from the grade school I attended. Most days I move no more than a mile radius from where I wake up. I am deeply rooted.
If I get a case of the CouldaWouldaShouldas—lethal for a life coach—thinking that there is someplace else for me to be to relieve the great suffering of any of the billions, I have that choice. I am free to go anywhere for a next chapter. My children are grown, my law firm thriving, and my life partner is one I can count on to say, “Do what you need to do.”
I think I’ll heed the words of my love. Do what I need to do. I need to remember that we are all one. That our connection is continuous. That there is suffering in both Omaha and Odesa.
Spring has arrived. This season I’ll bloom where I’m planted.
Do you ever feel a call to do something greater?
Do you ever worry that what you do is too small?
Can you see your life purpose right in front of you?
He was unemployed. Fired in fact. He acted as though he could be successful in a field where he had zero experience and it was said he wasn’t smart. Got himself arrested, too.
This week Chris Smalls made history. Under his leadership, nearly 6000 workers voted to unionize at the very Amazon warehouses where he’d been terminated two years prior after staging a walkout over safety concerns at the start of the pandemic. Amazon later had him arrested for being in the parking lot organizing. Smalls spent two years trying everything from TikTok to taking tacos to the workers while talking to them about unionizing.
For the last 20 years the local postal workers union has been my neighbor. But my heart for unions began as a kindergartener. My father’s wooden gavel impressed me. It was his for the duration of his tenure as president of the union at the soap factory where he worked to support our family of ten. (My sister reportedly embellished, claiming to her friends he was president of Purex Corporation.)
As a young feminist, I studied the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911— another historic moment in labor that took place in New York. 146 garment workers—most of them young immigrant women and girls—were killed. 62 people jumped to their deaths in a futile effort to escape the sweatshop where the stairwells and exits were locked. The horror led to workers organizing and the five words stamped in blue on the labels of the clothes I wore growing up and the vintage blouses in my closet—International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
Mr. Smalls did something that the big unions had been unable to do anywhere at Amazon, despite their millions of dollars, established offices, and decades of experience. Smalls had one coworker friend still working on the inside with whom he partnered. He had a GoFundMe account to fight Goliath.
His achievement is enough to garner admiration. His courage, tenacity, and commitment all inspire. But what struck me the deepest was that none of my usual excuses for not pursuing my passions or keeping my grit seemed to be absent for Chris Smalls.
Not enough time
Not enough money
Not enough talent, credibility, experience et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Surely Smalls must have had these thoughts. No doubt other areas of his life went by the wayside as he spent week after week dedicated to his mission. But when it came to his calling there was no excuse that stopped him. He’s now a global hero getting calls from organizers around the world and he’s a personal hero to me.
Have you ever taken on a battle with a giant?
Do thoughts of not having “enough” ever stop you from starting?
Who is your hero when it comes to taking on big challenges or staying your course?
“This day is mine,” I heard myself say aloud. No errands to run. No parties to attend. No plays to see. Even the kitchen floor and the rugs were generously silent. No one to listen to, attend to, or do for. The absence of responsibility brought a lightness to my limbs and a slight smile to my lips as I looked in the mirror and repeated, “All mine.”
I did a few Sunday morning usuals. Meditate. Dance for my workout. Take in an inspirational podcast. I didn’t rush as I read two newspapers while sipping a pot of tea.
An unabashed extrovert making my life in my hometown, most of my days are deliciously full of people. I hear from grade school classmates, law school friends of forty years, and lots of family. Incoming asks are inevitable. Could I talk with someone starting their career? Make a referral? Give some advice? Have a cup of coffee?
But This day was mine. No one to show up for. No one to perform for. No one to disappoint. I relaxed in the sauna, napped, and made a veggie pizza. I listened to music my sweetheart gave me and by sunset felt restored and loved through and through.
But my lie exposed itself in the midst of my day of leisure. If this day was mine, to whom did I claim the other days of my life belonged to?
Whether a faceless person on the phone or a cherished BFF, I enjoy continuous connection to a community that almost always leaves me uplifted with feelings of both belonging and meaning. Untruthful with myself, I’d allowed the illusion that my typical days somehow belonged to someone other than me.
I’d failed to be honest and admit that all of my days and indeed all of my moments are mine. Mine to say yes. Mine to say no. Mine to say maybe. And that one day a week I can choose to let the connection be with myself.
The next morning I was delighted to see the faces of my incredible coworkers, to check my messages, to see meetings on my schedule. Monday was all mine, and it was time to tell the truth that I love a Monday as much as I love a Sunday.
It’s all mine.
Do you ever feel as though your life doesn’t belong to you?
Is it time to reclaim some of your days?
Is there a choice for you to make for connection or reflections?
It was nearly noon and the sky still gray. I’d barely a hint of hunger despite my breakfast being one small pot of tea and two small cups of coffee. The stories of four women stuck in my gut.
-One a young mother of two whose husband lay hospitalized with diagnoses of Covid and chronic alcoholism.
-One on her fourth day of waiting for a judge to decide whether her life warranted a protection order her from her spouse who blackened her eye and broke more than bones.
-One whose soon to be ex flaunted a presumably new love interest the very week he’d demanded even more money if she wanted to move on with her life.
-One just a month away from her trial date, disabled and on social security, and panicked about the spreadsheet her spouse put forth as purported truth of their financial picture.
I was lawyer to none of them, but in a matter of hours either they or someone who cared about them reached out to me over text, phone, email, or a cup of java. Each faced some of their darkest hours in the final days of winter. Though I’ve not actively practiced divorce law for a good while, on this day I was in the world of dissolving marriages, mounting desperation, and disappearing dreams.
I managed (mostly) to resist telling them my stories. How I’d known some part of each of their worlds—living with an alcoholic, judicial injustice, betrayal by a beloved, the world of the overwhelming unknown. I wondered if my words of compassion were petty in the face of their pain.
As I sat in my privileged place of peace with my past being my past, I did remind them of their strength, their intelligence, their courage. My bitterest cold days being farther behind me than theirs, I longed to reassure them that one day their new life was certain to appear out of all that in the moment is dead, dirty, and rotten.
It’s a week later now. The spring equinox has passed on the calendar. Rains have gently soaked the earth for days and today the sun has come out. The first crocus is at the brink of opening, and I am reminded of the words of Dag Hammarskjold:
For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes!
My heart hopes that each of the four trust that the arrival of spring will come for them, too, in time.
“First, are you really lonely?” He challenged me in the chat box, “You seem to have many friends with various roles in your life. A few of your relationships seem deeply satisfying.” He was right. “He,” is a friend as far back as middle school now reconnected on social media along with a whole community of others. He pushed further, “Does being an introvert make you lonely? The way you talk about your hobbies in general indicate to me they give you great joy.”
He was right – about all of it. In just that week alone, I had had a heart-to-heart with Susan, coffee with Allison, a deep conversation with Todd, received a sweet message from Matt, attended a show with Lindsay and Angela, was inspired to support my veteran friend Ed in a fundraiser, planned a fall excursion with my best friends Genelle and Traci, exchanged light-hearted bantering with Greg, and went off on vacation with my daughters to also spend quality time with my parents. This doesn’t even take into consideration the dozens of interactions in the week with co-workers I adore and my clients whom I endeavor to support.
How, despite having rich connections and joy-filled hobbies, do I experience loneliness? I suppose it is the same way I can experience jealousy when my girls have a brand-new experience at their dad’s house. Or I can feel fear when getting ready for bed while home alone after having watched a serial killer documentary. Our feelings aren’t always rationally related to truths.
Many facts can be true while simultaneously tangling up our heartstrings. I see it all the time in our work with spouses going through divorce. The fear of an unknown future forces rash decisions about parenting plan provisions or hurt from a disloyal spouse causes pettiness when dividing up personal belongings. “He is a jerk” but “he is the father of our children.” “She lied to me” and “She was committed to me in marriage for 17 years.” These can be facts while simultaneously evoking very different emotions. I can have fulfilling relationships and be lonely.
Herein lies the beauty of our humanness. We are complex and emotional. We can navigate with both logic and love. I see that it isn’t wrong or right. It just is. We closed out our chat boxes after sharing our feelings with appreciation and a new understanding of each other. In this act of meaningful engagement, neither of us felt lonely and I could feel with contentment that the dots had been connected.
He was the self-proclaimed Mayor of 13th Street, an immigrant, and a teacher. Sam came to the United States via Texas or Paris—one could never be sure.
Sam was a storyteller whose tales of his escapades and escapes mesmerized toddlers and hooked the most sophisticated listener. He charmed women with such enthusiastic flattery one could almost believe he spoke the truth. It’s said that he once proposed marriage to two women in our law office on the same day.
A high school Spanish teacher, Sam had a passion for “junking” along with the gift of bricolage—making something out of nothing. A cheap picture frame painted silver soon became a “specially price just for you” item in his Why Not “antique” store.
Sam kept his shop as a space for his cronies to gather as much as for keeping the thousands of thrift store treasures available for sale to anyone who wandered unaware of their source. Whether there or at the end of the bar with his buddies, Sam loved to be in any company where there was conversation.
Sam bought buildings, held them for decades while they deteriorated, and eventually sold them for a fine profit. One was the century-old brick that became home to my law firm and me.
Sam was many things. And there were many things he was not.
He was notorious for ignoring his doctor’s advice and being a good patient. He wasn’t a parent who came home by supper time or sat at soccer games. He wasn’t a husband who was able to sustain his two marriages. As was said, “He wasn’t much of a family man.”
Sam was at times irresponsible, inappropriate, and downright incorrigible.
I saw many sides of Sam. I saw him as a dad when his children attended the same Montessori as mine, a businessperson, and as my neighbor down the street.
Sam died at 83. His final season was spent living with assistance and dementia. At his memorial service—which included sharing shots of Chivas per Sam’s request–few shied away from sharing his humanness. His drinking, his sometimes-slovenly appearance, his occasionally questionable business deals. Yet even people he’d deeply hurt celebrated his life, each with their own story of why Sam mattered to them.
A curious comfort came over me after the funeral. Thoughts of Sam returned to me like an engaging teacher with a story from Dr. Suess.
I am Sam
Sam I am
I have hurt people I loved. I have allowed valuable possessions to fall into ruin. I have collected too much junk and ignored sound advice. Sam’s life affirms for me that even with our multitude of failures and flaws, we can still be loved.
Sam surely was, and he mattered to me.
The concern in his voice struck me right after I answered the second ring with “Hello?” “What is with this lonely stuff? You are good right?” He asked likely already knowing that his big sister was fine. “I am fine,” I replied trying to keep the exasperation undetectable in my response. I wasn’t lying or pacifying or placating. “Well, let’s get lunch soon,” he said lovingly fulfilling his brotherly duty to me and offering his solution to what he perceived as my problem.
While knowing that connection is the antidote to loneliness, by the time my brother called, it was several weeks after I felt lonely in the woods. [Telling the Truth] I no longer craved connection. My loneliness is not of the chronic kind, rather it comes in fits and starts – all in the fleeting variety. What intrigued me to start writing about it was why I felt weak admitting it. Then even further, why did I feel shamed by people commenting on it? [Surrendering to Shame]
In this interaction with my brother, and in a similar comment shared by someone telling me about their loneliness, I saw how our loved ones may simultaneously be the cure and the curse. My friend relayed “I don’t like telling my family when I feel lonely, because then they say, ‘But aren’t we enough?’” I recalled then how I didn’t even want to tell my mom that I had written about feeling lonely because I did not want her to unnecessarily worry.
Our loved ones – meaning spouses, family members, friends, coworkers, etc. all want to “fix” loneliness when they hear it. This “fix it” mindset may contribute to the very reason people conceal their loneliness, feel weak in acknowledging it, and sense shame for having a “problem.”
“Lonely” as defined by Merriam-Webster is being without company; cut off from others. We feel lonely for all sorts of reasons – we retire or quit and miss colleagues. We never had children or our children have moved into adulthood leaving our houses strangely quieted. We miss our parents who may still be alive and estranged or who may have passed away. We miss having a spouse because we are widowed or divorced. There are numerous nuances to a lonely experience.
Just as the reasons are varied for the cause of loneliness, so too are the solutions. Because I felt lonely and wanted a hand to hold on my walk in the woods, this did not mean I needed to book up my social calendar. It did not mean that I was looking for a long-term relationship. It did not mean I was going to exhaust myself by ignoring the joy I find in solitude and hobbies. It just meant I was lonely. I didn’t need to be fixed. I see now I needed to be heard and understood. To get what I needed I had to break the catch-22 and let someone in to share how I felt and then feel the relief from that connection.
Next I will share all the many ways I found I was heard and understood through connections of all kinds.
I clicked on “send” before my brain could stop me. “Shit.” I sighed and closed my laptop. It was out there now. I had confessed a deep dark feeling and there was nothing I could do now but wait. I had sent my longtime editor, coach, business partner, mentor, neighbor, hero, and dearest friend, Susan, the draft of my blog, Telling the Truth, to read and review. I hadn’t told anyone in my life I was feeling lonely as of late and admitting it in writing had left me reeling.
Per usual, Susan’s encouragement came in like clockwork. She answered my questions about the blog topic, offered comments on the scope, and suggested one edit for clarification purposes. Then she wrote this: “And on a personal note…I wondered.” My face immediately heated red and I recoiled in regret for having written the dumb blog in the first place.
It must be obvious. Is it obvious? I must appear pathetic. Am I pathetic? Am I a lonely old lady with only cats and crafts to keep me company? I am a loser. Am I a loser? This is so embarrassing. And down the shame spiral I went like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Suddenly everything small felt big and everything big, small. My feelings were magnified out of proportion and my perspective shrank into miniature.
Of course she wondered! In the 23 years she has known me, 12 of those years I was coupled and 11 of those I have been single. We lost our husbands in the same month – hers to cancer, mine to a divorce decree. She watches me living what she calls my “big life” every day. She knows up close and personal my fierce independence AND my tender-hearted need for deep connection with people. So why was I so shamed by this statement?
Why was I spinning out in shame? Why does being lonely feel embarrassing or weak? Why don’t we talk about loneliness? I am a million percent positive that every person who reads this has experienced loneliness and yet in our “good vibes only” society we are reluctant to reveal when we feel these normal feelings. It has become taboo to grieve, regret, feel sadness, or experience jealousy. Yet we all do.
I was called brave for giving voice to a feeling – a normal, not uncommon feeling. I even felt like I was jumping off the high dive when this admission was pushed out publicly. A co-worker of mine said because she had read my blog, she had been given enough courage to talk to her family for the first time ever about her loneliness. For this I am grateful, but I remain sad that the conversation isn’t more commonplace.
Next week I will write about what I think gets in the way for people. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sending me messages – it encourages, inspires, and reminds me that I may sometimes be lonely, but I am not alone.
The 15-year-old figure skater saw her Olympic dreams crushed into the cold ice before millions. After years of grueling practice and the sacrificing of a childhood to become perhaps the world’s best, she had failed. Not once, not twice, but multiple times during her final performance for the gold.
What greeted her upon completion was not a compassionate hug or a word of consolation, but a demand.
“Explain it to me, why?” the coach demanded.
In five words the coach seemed to ask:
Why couldn’t you just ignore the pressure?
Why weren’t you perfect?
Why did you have to be a human?
Even without the sound, we might have recognized the tone as familiar. For many of us it was first heard in a vulnerable childhood moment.
Quit your crying.
It’s your own fault.
What’s wrong with you?
You should be ashamed.
It is a voice that many of us continue to hear, not from the outside but rather from inside our own head. Self-compassion is often offered up as the antidote for that inner critic we live with. Yet while
compassion for kindergarteners in Ukraine where Putin’s bombs bombard classrooms may come easily, calling forth that same quality for ourselves can feel like we need to channel Mother Theresa. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t done that lately.
For those of us prone to being petty and critical and full of judgment, self-compassion feels like just too big of a leap when complaining about pains in our body, poor results on a project, or an imperfect performance of anything.
Self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff reminds us that failures and shortcomings are inevitable. Logically we know this, yet the cultures in which we grew up and in which we live can make us believe we ought to be perfect, and anything less should be a source of shame.
So what to do when self-compassion seems reserved for those meditating on monastery cushions or sitting on mountaintops? Like anything we want to get better at, we start where we are and we start small. We can start with kindness. Self-kindness.
Kindness is not cruel. We stop calling ourselves names (“failure,” “jerk”, and “idiot: come to mind) or declaring ourselves to be solely selfish, lazy, or ungrateful.
Kindness does not ignore. We don’t tell ourselves to “get over” my feelings and “move on”. We allow the experience of the feeling be it betrayal, being a disappointment, or abandonment.
Kindness recognizes that the suffering of others does not diminish our own.
Kindness is shown. We don’t disregard or discount the need for rest, comfort, or a good cry. We ask for and allow care.
If we open our hearts to remembering that in our lowest moments there is a child inside longing for a bit of kindness, we might be able to take one small step away from cruelty and one step closer to self-compassion.
How does your inner critic talk to you?
Do you treat yourself like a loving friend would?
How might you treat yourself with kindness today?
The path winds and twists ahead. I breathe in the musky pine air and feel the soft moss-covered ground support my steps. The birds beckon me with their trills and tweets. I pause to sit on a sturdy wood carved bench forcing myself into my meditation to-do. Instead, the tears gather at the corners of my eyes afraid to budge. In the shallow first second, I want to laugh believing that the welling wetness in my eyes is born from the ever-present frustration I carry of not being able to quiet my mind. (Ever). But as I sit with my senses acutely awake, I feel it first, and then my brain concedes. I am lonely.
This concession feels like weakness wrapping me in a too-tight cocoon and I want to resist it with the determined resoluteness that drives me through most of my days. I am reminded of a friend who just a week before confessed his own struggle with singlehood after an unexpected health scare. In his vulnerability I admired his strength. I ducked out from under the double standard I had applied to myself and let my heart soften and tears fall.
By nature, my ten-out-of-ten on the introverted scale sends me regularly into solitude. I hand-stitch, read Jane Eyre, piece together puzzles, and dance with no one watching – literally. I restore my batteries and burst into being the boss, parenting my teens, and litigating the law. Luxuriating in these forms of loneliness trick me into believing I am immune from intimacy. Rarely do I look at, let alone acknowledge, my own deep-seeded needs.
My need for a hand to hold was lightheartedly put on my 2022 goal list when I was filling out a goal book and my over-achieving type-A cells didn’t want to leave a line blank – so “hold someone’s hand on a walk” was identified in the romance goal slot. My dear friend’s eyebrows lifted in surprise when we shared our sheets. “I was going for realistic – too much?” We laughed.
Here, now, seated on this bench, I think how nice it might be for someone to help shield the sting of heartbreak this season is bringing me with my oldest daughter soon graduating from high school, and my youngest struggling in the tempest throws of being 15. I know well how I could likewise support a partner being always the cheerleading optimist and loyal lover. And while this feels nothing like the loneliness I endured in my failed marriage, my heart hurts with the longing for shared affection.
There is something in being a truth-teller to myself. And while it is true that lonely is as fleeting a feeling as happiness or fear or elation, that should not serve as my excuse to avoid my needs. In reckoning with this truth, I feel compassion come to meet me in this space. I sigh as I stand and smile as I continue my walk without a hand to hold.
In the next weeks, I will continue my exploration of loneliness. I hope you will join me on my path.
Would you like to be Queen for a Day?!” the show host called out to the audience of women. It was the start of reality TV in America. Each day our small black and white television was tuned in to see which of the four contestants had the most compelling story of hardship. She who garnered the greatest applause won. She was crowned, wrapped in a fur trimmed robe, and handed a bouquet of roses.
Mom, along with millions, was a regular viewer of Queen for a Day. With an eighth-grade education, eight children, and an often-unemployed alcoholic husband, she might have been a contender herself. She’d have been delighted to receive a replacement for her wringer washing machine or any one of the latest 1960s appliances given as prizes.
I was a queen for a day once in the 5th grade. My St. Francis Cabrini classmates voted me May Queen purportedly for my Mary-like qualities. Another time I was a finalist for Queen of Groundhog Prom. But so far, despite having been known to wear a tiara and receive roses, I’ve not been bestowed any powers of a monarchy greater than the hopeful homemakers who were grateful for a new refrigerator.
When I get on my soapbox complaining about all that is wrong with the world, talking as though I have all the answers, I’m occasionally able to stop myself and say, “Well, when “I’m queen…” and chuckle at my arrogance. While I don’t have real regal powers, I realize I’ve enjoyed powers that the women of my mother’s generation never had. Unlike them, I’ve had the power to seek legal protection in situations involving housing, employment, credit, and domestic violence. Living under this privilege of protection each day, I’m freer to live like a queen most every day.
Hoping to hold a benevolent reign, I remind myself to use my powers and that privilege for good.
Do you ever wish you had greater power?
Do you ever forget the power you hold right now?
How might you use your power for greater good in your world?
When Jayden lost her Grandma “B”—her trailblazing beloved role model for everything from community contribution to hiking in Croatia in your 80s—it hit hard. When Jayden and her fiancé get married this spring, they’ll be missing two other grandmothers, too. Both of Blake’s grandmas recently passed in a span of a few weeks.
Being age eligible for admission into this tribe of elders, I see the power of grandparenting regularly. Friends fill texts with adorable pictures of toddlers with saucer eyes and irresistible smiles. Pride appears in posts of kindergarten graduations, art exhibitions, and athletic competitions. The joy their children’s children bring them is palpable even on an iPhone screen.
I watch my sister Diane, after raising two children and two grandsons, now helps raise her great grandchildren. I saw Shirley be a committed grandmother from the day her first, Anna, was born and now watch her watch Anna prepare to head to college.
My grandmothers Anna Koester Koenig and Sophia Velder Sandman each sit with folded hands framed in silver on my altar. One January day in fourth grade I was told I’d stay home from school. I was to watch my three younger siblings for the day. My parents traveled to a small Nebraska town a few hours away for the funeral of the last of my living grandparents.
Not all grandparents are loving, of course, and each relationship is unique. But all grandmothers have an impact.
Today the sight of my grandmothers’ stoic faces and simple dresses inspires reflection on what it took for the sheer survival of their lives that included the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and 17 children between them.
If you are lucky enough to have grandmothers living, give them some love while you can. If you never knew them or no longer have them, allow yourself some imagination and appreciation, nonetheless. You can be sure that inside of each of their hearts—here or in the heavens—lives forever an image of you being your most adorable self and a big dose of unconditional love for you as the perfect, precious child you are.
That’s the gift of grandmothers here and gone.
Do you have a grandmother to connect with?
What would you grandmother see if she looked at your life?
How do you experience the role of a grandmother from others?
Moonbeam and her sister Daisy Mae were born halfway through the second year of the pandemic. Darling fawn-colored kittens, they came from a cage with their sibs to a two-story home in which to race, romp, and rest.
They spend their days enjoying the back yard bird show from their respective chairs in the sunroom and in watchful waiting for one of us to walk through the door with the promise of supper. Evenings invariably involve one or both of them helping to complete the daily crossword puzzle while perched on legs outstretched on the recliner.
Sometime between lights out and morning light, I feel the gentle pressure of tiny paws atop the winter comforter making their way across my body. When on my back, my belly becomes the cat bed. When on my side, there’s a stealth slide to the space in between the two sleepers on the bed where one or both of the sisters will burrow into the wedge of warmth. Despite having a dozen rooms at their disposal, their preferred place is near others.
When a quiet purr warms my lap and my heart, I am reminded that among our deepest human longings are to be loved and to belong. Loved by a pet, a partner, a neighbor, or a child. Belong to a family, a friend group, a workplace, or a community.
When we can’t go out because of COVID or the cold, it calls for love and belonging by being close to whoever is near.
Has your circle of love or belonging expanded or contracted?
Are you getting close to others in a way that warms your heart?
Where do you find your place of comfort?
It’s time. Time to get off that sofa bearing your imprint from those holiday hours with the remote. Time to put away the holly mugs, follow up on that FedX gift that never arrived, and lose your peppermint and peanut brittle poundage.
My silent admonition to get crackin’ runs a vague jingle of anxious energy through my body. I spot the stack of glittered cards with pop up penguins and heartwarming photos of friends with puppies and grandchildren in color coordinated outfits and feel the weight of unfulfilled intentions from the year gone by.
Some of us are wired to move slowly. Some to rush. I lean toward the latter. I typically get eager to put my annual goals in writing and get going on the action plan. But despite my thoughts urging me to stop being a slacker, friends with viruses and the freezing temperatures cause my start to be as slow as molasses in January (to quote my mom).
What has rushing got me?
Rush when pulling out of a parking stall at Trader Joe’s and you can hit a car driven by a young father with his son in a car seat. (Hurry to the DMV class to restore points lost to speeding tickets.)
Rush while eating and you can consume thousands of calories a week that you can’t remember eating let alone enjoying.
Rush when among friends and you can blurt a thoughtless comment about one of them. See the table fall silent and feel your face redden with shame.
Clearly one thing I’ve been able to be slow about is learning the price of speed. Moving fast has cost me dishes broken on my tiled kitchen floor, tearful apologies to those who deserved better, and the savoring of the scent of nutmeg in first bites of a plate of fettucine I wolfed down.
Racing through life has cost me more than the price of a traffic ticket. The chance to hear what was in someone’s heart when I was quick to plunk my own two cents worth into the conversation. The chance to sit for ten more minutes with my mother because I thought I had anything more important to do. The chance to watch the evening sky go from baby blue to pink to indigo.
Dr. Kotecha, an ayurvedic physician, once topped his list of prescriptive recommendations for me with three words: Do not rush.
I instantly objected with a nervous laugh, “But there’s so much to do! I can’t just stop!” `
He clarified: Do not rush, while not stopping doing anything.
Everyone is trying to stay healthy. I will, too. I’ll strive to follow doctor’s orders. I’ll move some of my January To Do’s until March as I practice an occasional pause and apply lessons that wintertime teaches.
I’ll surrender to this season. Time to slow. Time to move forward.
Are you moving forward at a pace that serves you?
Is it time to speed up or to slow down in some area of your life?
How can you be intentional about the balance of both pausing and progressing?
Sparkling bright lights shine in neighborhoods across the city. Happy hearts beat in anticipation as bows are peeled from packages. Loved ones reaffirm their booster status before big hugs of reunion.
So much joy. And for many, so much sadness.
Silent sorrows, surprise spikes of grief, or deep depression can befall us even as the universe implores us to deck the halls and be jolly.
Lonely moments can strike in the middle of the office party or simply sitting with our siblings. As we look back on the year, we might question whether or not we have really made a difference, done enough, or even mattered. It’s no wonder that the move It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday classic.
Jimmy Stewart plays the suicidal man who is shown how the world would have been different if he had not been born. Unlike the movie star, my friend Lorraine’s husband, Thom, didn’t get to hear Clarence the angel tell him how his life impacted countless others. She wrote in his recent obituary:
Thom never considered himself a big success., always regretting that he didn’t land that
high-paying job somewhere.
I hope Thom was listening when his high school buddy got up to speak at his memorial service. He hadn’t kept close touch with Thom over the years, but he had three remembrances.
–Thom introduced him a girl with whom he would enjoy decades of happiness.
–When he was unemployed, Thom helped him to get a job selling shoes. It led to his
–Thom shared his love of jazz, which became a lifelong passion for his friend.
Each of these small acts from some 60 years before the story was told. I couldn’t help but think back on the countless others who made a world of difference to me through actions I suspect they thought insignificant.
Margaret Weber, who baked birthday cakes to protect my sibs and me from the sting of poverty. Sister Leodegaard. who once gave me candy from the top shelf in the back of my second-grade classroom. Mybearded midwestern sociology professor Peter Conrad who was the first person I knew who meditated every day and told me “You should go to the coast for law school.”
I still like to pack a candle in my purse if a birthday is near to ensure people are celebrated. I will always remember how kindness can be salve for shame. I will never underestimate the power of a single sentence to change the trajectory of a life.
I hope Thom can see that he had a wonderful life. I hope you see that you’ve had a wonderful year. Thank you for helping make mine so.
Is there someone you want to let know that they made a difference in your life?
What small acts by others have influenced your life?
How will you remember that what you say and do matters?
Not being much of a worrier, I’d been more eager about his arrival home for the holidays than anxious about his winter drive from L.A. to Omaha. It’s a good thing I didn’t waste my worry. I’d be needing it soon enough.
The other driver crossed over the interstate median and hit his car head on. Benjamin opened his eyes to see the stars in the December sky and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. His car was destroyed around his slender body now crushed on either side. Hours later, after the life flight to the trauma center and the shock worn off, he screamed in pain as they prepared his limbs for the surgeries to follow.
The holiday season became the hospital season.
Ever since he was a teenager, Benjamin has led a life of learning about healing. Years of meditation, his travels to India, his stint at a yoga ashram, his qui gong and kung fu. His disciplined practices had strengthened body and spirit for years. Both were now tested to their limits.
Help and hope were in high demand. Help from family and friends flew in from throughout the country. Hope was here, too, because Ben knew what he needed and what he did not.
Ben sought out the Chinese medicine practitioner to perform acupuncture and prescribe herbs. The massage therapist to turn trauma in his cells and losses in his life to be released with heartbreaking sobs. His dear doctor friends back in New York. The counsel of his junior high buddy, now physical therapist, who understands both Ben and the body.
Ben also rejected what he knew would not serve him. Too many opioids. The tasteless tray of unhealthy hospital food. Attachment to his plans for the year ahead.
He was relentless in his intention to heal. His days started with meditation and chanting followed by a regimen of tonics and whole foods, grueling exercises, and endless appointments for physical therapy and physician assessments. He perpetually pushed himself to his limit and then always just a bit beyond.
Twelve months later, he’s not only able to walk but to declare kung fu as a practice anew.
Throughout his journey, Benjamin continued yet another path—one he’d been on for the preceding four years. Propped up with pillows, he zoomed from his bed and worked on his laptop in his program at the Radical Aliveness Institute, where practitioners are trained to “understand, feel, heal, and transform on all levels of their being.”
He’ll graduate next week. This mom could not be prouder.
Happy Graduation, Healer.
How does your past experience help you to know what you need?
Do you trust yourself to know what you do and don’t need?
Who inspires you to keep on your path toward healing or a heartfelt goal?
Which is your favorite? We deny it’s possible. The parent of her children. The movie fan of films. The bibliophile of books. A clear preference demands comparison, and how do you compare a crème brulee to a chocolate pavlova? (Can you bring an extra plate so we can share, please?)
Hopefully the other 11 months won’t take it personally if I pick one to top my list. Surely they know I love them all. There’s Joyful January when I’m ridiculously enthusiastic about grand goals. Or Fabulous February when my romantic heart overflows and we celebrate five family birthdays. Oh, and May (!), when the red bud trees are in full bloom above the dozens of smiling daffodils in the garden.
Still, I’ve decided on December.
On the 1st I’ll take my delicate December china teacup from the cupboard, light a candle, and toast the memory of my late brother Tim on World AIDS Day.
On the 9th I’ll celebrate the blessing of being born.
On the 13th I’ll be deep in gratitude for that my son Benjamin was not killed one year ago that date when his car was hit head on as he drove home for the holidays.
On the 25th I’ll cherish twinkling lights and quiet family moments. I’ll reflect, too, on the death of my father on Christmas day decades ago.
On the 28th, whether snow’s fallen or is forecast, I’ll remember my mother who quietly left the earth on this date when the city was covered in white.
Even as December delivers the darkest days, the solstice in the third week promises that, for months to come, each day will bring more hours of sunlight until the arrival of the summer solstices, with an absolute guarantee that crocuses will come up from the cold earth in between.
With my December declaration, I will appreciate my November more (You were already lovely, November, with your smells of sage and cinnamon in my kitchen.) All month there will be mistletoe, and when the magical month comes to a close, I’ll bid both it and the year a final farewell with a midnight kiss while welcoming in that Joyful January.
I trust the other eleven forgive my favoritism. We all need something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. When December arrives, it’s especially true for me.
Do you have favorites?
How do you celebrate each month?
Can you hold joy and sadness in the same season?
Back in Beantown to visit, a blue-sky morning invited me on a walk to see the fall foliage New England is famous for. I walked for miles.
I admired the muted purple hydrangeas. I bent over to sniff a lone white rose in front of the three story with gingerbread trim. I scanned each street in search of the yellows, oranges, and reds I’d remembered.
I applauded the small ivy-covered patches that passed for yards. I paused a pocket garden that I mused I could replicate. It was autumn. But instead of the vibrant shades of favorite season, more flowers flourished than leaves fell.
The climate crisis was cleverly disguised.
Returning to Nebraska, the global news focused on Glasgow where world leaders debated and negotiated why some country other than their own should do more to put the brakes on the speedway to continued tragedy. Meanwhile, millions more of the poor and vulnerable die or are devasted by fires, floods, and droughts—-with no end in sight.
I pondered my part.
I pat myself on the back for buying second hand dresses. I applaud my occasional abstention from chocolate, knowing its Ivory Coast source means massive deforestation (oh, and child slavery). I go down a rabbit hole researching bamboo toilet paper only to discover it’s shipped from China.
I am reasonably well informed. What I’m doing is better than nothing. But I’m less sure I’m doing the best I can for my very own community which has yet to even start an action plan for averting the escalating crisis.
Seasons change. Eventually one ends and another begins. Always.
With the day of giving thanks soon arriving, I’ll appreciate the one that bought me an October rose. I’ll savor the stunning red sumac and burning bush. I’ll surrender to the season of being an imperfect global citizen. And I’ll vow to not be among those whose promises to do better are broken.
Change is inevitable.
It’s past my time to be it.
Do you see yourself as a citizen of your community? Your country? The world?
Do you connect the season of your life with the seasons of the earth?
What change is inevitable for you?
If you or your spouse is a service member at Offutt Air Force Base and you are considering filing for divorce, the first question you must answer is where do I file?
Every state has different divorce filing requirements, but all states require at least one spouse to be a “legal resident” of the state in which he or she wishes to file. Legal residency (also known as “domicile”) is defined as the state in which a person resides while also intending that state to remain his or her permanent home. This intent requirement becomes more complicated with military divorces, as spouses in a military marriage often move among many different states.
Although service members are presumed Nebraska legal residents after being stationed in Nebraska for one consecutive year, those seeking to file for divorce must still meet the intent-to-remain requirement. To determine whether a spouse intends to remain permanently in Nebraska, courts often look at that spouse’s:
– current residence
– voter registration
– voting practices
– real property
– personal property
– financial accounts
– personal and professional memberships
– religious practices
– employment or education
– owned businesses
– driver’s license
– preparation of a will
– automobile registration
– tax payments
For service members, however, courts look to the service member’s state of legal residence as declared to the United States Department of Defense. This is always the state to which the service member pays state income taxes and is often the state in which the service member entered service. Some service members execute a State of Legal Residence Certificate (DD Form 2058) to change their state of legal residence.
Our legal team at Koenig|Dunne has represented many service members and spouses through the complexities of a military divorce, and we are here to help you navigate these difficult issues with experience and wholehearted support.
The 93-year-old former physicist didn’t make the trip. He was now living in Germany with his third wife, having outlived two. The former mayor of Durham did, however, as did the Harvard psychologist. Ann was tired from working on an immigration matter late into the evening before but coaxing from her classmate convinced her to overcome her shyness and join the celebration.
I’d booked my flight from Omaha to Boston; booked before I had gotten my booster, but I knew we’d all be vaccinated. This was a group that had been thinking about others for decades.
Since before the pandemic, Don Green had been investigating our whereabouts and wrangling us to get together. Previously a Boston cop, he’d managed to uncover who was dead, who was vaccinated, and who would be willing to make it to the South End for the 40-year reunion of the Northeastern University Law School class of ‘81.
Don is one of those wonderfully relentless connectors who doesn’t give up on gathering people who think themselves too busy or too tired to try. Instead, they take the thought “We should get together some time” and magically make it happen for the rest of us.
A public interest law school, Northeastern attracted those eager to do good. Many were launching a second career. It was 1978 when we arrived to a class that had more women than men. Our freshman year we took over the dean’s office to demand greater diversity in the school’s hiring practices. (I’m the one wearing the hat in the photo above.) There was no class ranking, but here was a requirement to have 12 months of full-time legal experience to graduate.
In between the lobster roll and the chocolate mousse, triumphs and heartbreaks were met with congratulations and condolences. John, who joked he was working at a dump (a recycling center) when he started law school, went on to negotiate millions for those whose lives had been stolen by wrongful convictions. Barbara, who’d lost her sweet son to suicide at twenty-two shared, “You’ve got to talk about it.”
Some became judges. Others advocated endlessly for the homeless. Many like me found other meaningful paths after the practice of law. Each inspired me to be more like Don and exercise a bit more grit to surround myself with those who fill me with enthusiasm of a first-year law student just wanting to do good.
Thank you, Class, of ‘81.
Who have you been thinking about connecting with?
Do you remember a time of your life when you were filled with extreme enthusiasm?
How do the people around you inspire you?
This blog is made available to the reader by Koenig|Dunne for educational purposes only, to provide general information and understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this blog, no attorney-client relationship is developed between the law firm and the reader. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. The content of this blog is not an advertisement for legal services.