Welcome to the Koenig|Dunne blog. 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.
Generally, tax returns, paystubs, and traditional wages are the easiest way to determine one’s income for purposes of child support and/or alimony. However, not all spouses earn income this traditional way. Non-traditional earnings, including dividends from income investments, passive income, retained earnings in a closely-held corporation (if excessive or inappropriate), Social Security benefits, as well as more-complex income streams may be taken into account when determining child support and/or alimony obligations.
If a spouse earns non-traditional income, your divorce attorney may recommend you seek the assistance of an expert to support in determining a complete picture of the income available for child support and/or alimony purposes. Financial documents, including tax returns, bank account statements, investment portfolios, profit/loss statements, and so forth, will be analyzed by your attorney and supporting expert(s) in your case.
Experts are often certified public accountants. CPAs with certifications in forensic accounting can be especially valuable expert witnesses. Upon conducting a forensic analysis of a spouse’s income and financial documentation, an expert will provide an opinion as to what that spouse’s true income is. That amount will then be used in calculating child support and an appropriate alimony award, if applicable.
If you or your spouse earn non-traditional income, contact our office to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your options and what you can expect in your divorce action.
“You use gratitude like cocaine,” she said. Her observation was as calm as if she were saying “The sky is blue today.”
My mentor often shared wisdom I eagerly embraced. But the suggestion that I had been sticking the numbing needle of thanksgiving in my veins silenced me.
Gratitude has long been my great go to. I had just shared what was going well in my life. My busy law firm. My healthy children. My meaningful coaching career.
But my mentor could see beyond my rosy report. While my kids were okay, my sister was intermittently suicidal. My husband’s latest test results were encouraging, but the prognosis remained terminal. Reciting what might have been a good gratitude journal entry did not change the truth that I was sad, overwhelmed, and exhausted to the bone.
I get my emphasis on appreciation from my mom. Mom grew up in the Great Depression. She had 8 years of schooling when she married my alcoholic father and 8 children after. She never learned to drive. Years of climbing up into city buses with children in tow left her with so much appreciation for a simple car ride that she never once complained about my typical tardiness to take her somewhere.
A go-to method of mine for giving thanks has been comparison. Years of parochial school where I proudly put my pennies in the little church-shaped cardboard box during Lent taught me about the poor and hungry children in Guatemala. At least I wasn’t one of them.
When my first spouse screamed at me, I was grateful I wasn’t being hit like some of my clients were. When I lamented the slow pace at which I ran a 5k I was grateful I wasn’t bedridden with MS like my friend Jean. It could always be worse, right?
Yes…and. When I connect my gratitude to the misery of others, I’m feeding that part of my brain that is in incessant comparison already. Rather than seeing what is right before me, I search for the state of others to determine whether I’m willing to give thanks.
Going forward, I want to focus on noticing and appreciating what is. I want to be grateful for it all. For my excellent health and for that crown that fell out into my bowl of rice last week. For our bustling law business and the challenges of a pandemic. For the wisdom when it feels good and when it stings.
And as for the suffering of myself and others? Well, that is for my compassion. And I am willing to use that like cocaine until there is no longer a need to ease the pain.
Do you compare yourself to others before choosing to be grateful?
Do you keep a gratitude practice, such as a journal?
What can you appreciate that is in your life today?
Alternative forms of compensation, such as employee stock options are complex and present challenges in a divorce.
An employee stock option is the right of an employee to buy a specific number of shares of stock in the employer-corporation at a specific price (strike price, grant price, or exercise price) at a specified time in the future. Usually, there are restrictions and conditions on the employee’s right to exercise options, such as maintaining employment with the company for a required number of years. The employer may also allow various portions of options to vest at different stages.
When the required conditions are met, the option may be exercised (i.e. the employee may buy the stock).
There are two types of employee stock options (qualified and nonqualified). Whether stock options are qualified or unqualified relate to the tax treatment of the options to the employee.
The biggest question regarding employee stock options is determining how the options factor into the division of property in a divorce. The answer to this question is complex depending on a variety of factors.
When stock options are present in a divorce:
- Your divorce lawyer will obtain specific information regarding the stock options, including, but not limited to, complete plan documents, grant award statements, etc.
- You’ll need to value the option(s) to determine the martial portion and non-marital portion of each.
- It’s important to be cognizant of the tax implications for an award of stock options in a divorce. The value of the options can’t be realized without incurring income taxes. This is especially true if you are the option-holder, as the tax burden is on the option holder and can’t be transferred to the nonemployee spouse.
- A determination must be made about how the nonemployee spouse will receive the value of the stock options, since they are generally not assignable. The nonemployee spouse could receive an offset of other equivalent assets, if available, or adopt a “deferred distribution approach” which requires the spouses to divide the martial portion of the option in the future if and when they are exercised.
- Consideration must be given as to whether employee stock options are considered income or property for purposes of divorce.
Legal knowledge, the right experts, and experience matter when dividing stock options in a divorce. Contact our office to schedule a consultation to discover how our legal team at Koenig │Dunne can protect your financial estate and your future.
I stride past the multitude of campaign signs, the one red, white and blue one that says “Polling Place Here.” A handful of men pace away the cold with hands in their jackets as they wait for the doors to open.
I immediately spot the inspector. A short woman in a red polo, she appears in no mood to chat. I make my introduction brief. I assume she’s happy not to hear I’ll be observing. She knows I report counts of voters, wait times, and “incidents.”
Outside poll workers measure out the 200 feet of string to mark the boundary for electioneering. Inside I strike up a conversation with a woman neatly wrapping an orange cord around a vacuum. I assume she’s finishing a night shift with the community center’s cleaning crew.
I look out the windows at the growing line, eager for the process to begin. At 8:02 first voter walks through the door. The line outside stretches a block long where it would remain for the next hour.
A smiling young black man approaches me.
“Can I get a sticker?”
“Sure!” I reply.
“Even if I don’t vote?”
“Sorry, no. You have to vote and then you get a sticker.”
“See I wanna vote but I can’t.”
“Cuz I’m a felon.” (Which I’d assumed.)
“I’m sorry. I understand. I know a lot of…” I pause, searching for the phrase “previously incarcerated people.”
“But can’t I get a sticker?”
“I have some connections. I’ll see what I can do.”
He heads to the weight room. I retrieve a sticker. I don’t see him again.
Voting is slow and steady. I find myself playing a guessing game of “Which party do they belong to?”
Two women with head coverings do not appear to have their names on the voting books, although both are at the right polling place. I toss in a couple more assumptions.
About noon, a young couple enters—one with a satchel, the other with a tripod. He is tall and thin with caramel skin, curly black hair and glasses. She is pale with neon shade fuchsia hair and wearing bright Bohemian pants. The young woman mentioned that her partner couldn’t vote. Not a felon, he was a permanent resident,
The hours went quickly. By afternoon the inspector is looking more relaxed. I congratulate her on a good day of voting so far. Soon we discover we graduated from the same high school and a warm conversation of “Did you know” follows.
The cleaner turns out to be on the administrative staff at the rec center who just liked to do a little extra cleaning of the space at the start of her day. She’s a couple of years away from retiring with her “good” city pension. Divorced, she is proud of keeping her 19-year-old son on her health insurance. “It doesn’t cost that much,” she said.
Before I know it my replacement arrives. I leave him with a few lessons on provisional ballots and the polling process. My observations on assumptions I take with me as my own. I head out into the autumn air, now warmed.
Have you ever made assumptions about someone based upon a single experience?
Do you ever form conclusions before having all the facts?
Are you willing to get to know someone beyond their exterior?
I lay on my couch too listless to pick up the book I want to read or even to pick up the remote to watch a new murder docuseries I had saved. Maybe I will turn on music – but my phone is on the dining room table. I remember I need to take the garbage to the curb – eh, it can wait another week. I am numb. I am scared, worried, and uncertain about my future. I feel this now thinking about the country I love. I felt this in 2011 when I was in the midst of my divorce.
It feels like the country is getting divorced. No longer are we reconciling our differences. No longer are we looking for our delightful similarities. No longer are we invested, kind, or co-existing in peace. We have become apathetic to each other’s views and only find fleeting strength when we engage in disagreements and get in line to vote.
We have become indifferent. We are shutting down. We take our sadness behind closed doors. We rail against the other side with our new version of trusted friends – our Facebook groups and feeds. We seek out and find all evidence that we are right and they are wrong
Dr. John Gottman uses the principle of Negative Sentiment Override (NSO). Negative sentiment override happens when over time arguing and conflict builds up and one person can no longer give the other the benefit of the doubt. Every interaction under NSO is viewed through a negative lens. We assume hurtful, mean, and cruel intentions behind every interaction. It seemingly takes 100 consistent positive interactions to defeat just one negative. I see NSO with my clients and I know immediately the marriage has no hope of recovery
Our citizenry is facing NSO over politics and world views – just as divorcing spouses suffer from it over parenting decisions and financial philosophies. Our nation is in collective need of intense therapy and support. We need to change, because unlike spouses, we cannot divorce. We have a duty and an obligation to each other to keep our country strong, healthy, and united.
It is incumbent upon us to start the hard work of repairing our relationship. We do not need to walk up the aisle with “the other side” but we do need to reach across it. We need to shift our focus from fear and judgment and endeavor to see and hear those with opposite views. We need to search until we find common ground – no matter how seemingly insignificant. We need to start creating our 100 positive interactions.
I have seen the possibility of healing come to life with as many clients as I have seen succumb to NSO. It shows up post-divorce when parents need to continue to co-parent, when a former in-law takes ill and bygones must truly be forgotten, and when the heart has healed and the bitter is released into forgiveness.
If we want to remain the United States, we have no viable option but to start defeating our collective NSO. We need to extend kindness, replace judgment with curiosity about our differences, and focus with all the grit we have on the greatest unifier we have – the love of our country.
Her words would not leave me. Intended as a compliment, they felt strangely disturbing.
“You’ve got it all together.”
I replayed the words in my head for a week.
Was I a source of comparison, envy, or inspiration? My friend, 20 plus years my junior, sees my life in the present and from the outside.
My past is outside her range of vision. While now with few financial fears, I can still feel the tension in my hunched shoulders from when newly divorced I obsessively checked the next due date of my credit card bills. Today she sees me a petite 5’ 2”. She can’t envision me with 25 more pounds and afraid to walk through the doors of a gym. She doesn’t know about the stack of little red spiral notebooks tracking the numbers on the scale through nine years of its daily travels, forever hoping to one day arrive at its destination.
She sees my life from the outside, not the inside where my beautiful century old home holds the piles of unfulfilled intentions on my dining room table—cards never sent and gifts never mailed. On my bookshelf, next to the book that says “by Susan Ann Koenig” sits the knowing that I’ve yet to fulfill my bold claim that I had three books in me alongside my fear I won’t.
What is not visible is what happens on my insides. A lifetime of lessons, old stories of abandonment, judgment, and exclusion still give rise to false thoughts of embarrassment and shame. In those moments, I don’t have anything together. I’ve got everything falling apart.
Unseen are my thoughts. When my password doesn’t work: “I’m not capable.” When I say something stupid in a group chat: “I don’t belong.” When I don’t hear a certain three words: “I am not loved.” Lies all, of course, but irrelevant to their arrival in my amygdala.
I have it no more together than anyone, obviously. I just have a couple more decades than my friend at practice at life, and a little more experience at cleverly hiding being human.
What do you experience when comparing yourself to others?
Do you judge yourself based on the outside appearance of the life of others?
Can you have compassion for yourself when you fear you aren’t capable, don’t belong, ore aren’t loved?
I was sitting in my sadness wishing away the state of the world. Halloween isn’t going to be the same this year. My Thanksgiving table will not host my parents or my children. My December traditions will resemble, at best, hollowed out holidays. These sorrows seem petty next to the messages from my friends tearing further at my heart: a mother-in-law in the hospital likely due to COVID most surely facing her final days, an infant granddaughter rushed to the hospital for breathing difficulties, a suicide attempt, depression, anxiety, and distinct despair.
It is too much. I am too emotionally exhausted to shed tears. I feel the resignation coming over me like my worn weighted blanket. I want to hibernate this out. Or move to Ireland. Or throw my coffee mug across the room aiming to shatter it.
I glance down and the universe is actually talking to me. My coffee cup displays a not-so-subtle reminder of what has worked in the past. What if I sat with this for a moment? I feel the tension held tight in my shoulders weaken with the release of a deep sigh.
Cup of Thanks.
Then the tears come. A tear shed for each shame-induced reminder:
~ I see my mom and dad every other day on our iPads and phone screens
~ I laugh with my best friends near daily through funny texts and memes
~ I have never spent more time with my daughters than in these pandemic days
I have been prepped for this pandemic through my years as a divorcee. I have had many holidays without my daughters. I have had to recreate and reimagine my traditions for 9 years running. I know that time is what we make it.
I am not alone in this perpetual feeling of frustration, resignation, and depression. I know this time requires intentionality and pausing to reflect on that which we have and how we want to use it.
I get out a fresh sheet of paper.
What do I want to focus on between now and December 31, 2020?
What will be different and why? What are the alternatives to get what I most need or want?
What is the pace I want to set?
What is the feeling I want to create?
What are the expectations I need to manage?
My sadness subsides a bit. I have felt my feelings, I shifted to gratitude and carried it forward into an action plan for the weeks ahead. It dawns on me that this is my well-used ritual and with putting it to work once again I feel the comfort of control come over me. And for this I raise my cup of thanks.
Decades before ThredUp, Poshmark, or even EBay were where millions shopped second hand, I was a thrifter. As a student on work study or a waitress saving for a trip to Barcelona, my fashion fix fit within my Goodwill budget.
Unlike a quick click on my laptop to indulge in an instant Amazon acquisition, thrifting meant extended hours of enjoyment in the hunt. (Those neuropathways from our hunting and gathering ancestors run deep.) Even on the rare occasions when I walked out of the Salvation Army empty handed, I always had affordable amusement. It was like going to an art museum with free admission.
Eventually buying a dress off the mannequin was no more a burden to my bank account. I rationalized the $100 spent on a new hat since I’d just saved $200 buying that perfectly fitted gray wool suit for ten bucks. Consignment shops were always on my itinerary while on vacation. Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, and New York yielded phenomenal finds.
Clothing coming into the U.S. tripled in my lifetime, and fast fashion bolstered my justification for my joyful habit. Non-biodegradable materials manufactured with precious water while polluting with oil and coal. Cotton requiring pesticides. Garments made in global sweatshops where an estimated 150 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work. Buying that already worn red dress felt downright righteous.
A couple years ago I committed to cutting down on my amassing both new and used. Last Black Friday I was feeling proud, I didn’t get sucked into the then annual hype… until I was lured into Thrift World by the words Everything Half Price and walked out with a living room rug and a navy blue dress with its original price tag.
The coronavirus has helped me keep my commitment this year. My new shop is located in my own home as I peruse the long unworn skirts and sweaters asking:
- What do I really want to have more of?
- Where would I find what I need if I weren’t looking outward?
- What might I discover if I look inside?
My closets and drawers aren’t the only place where I’d benefit from asking these questions. With less time spent accumulating and more time spent meditating, I can search for what’s hidden that I would love to possess. Surely a treasure or two will be found in my seeking. The cost is merely my focus and the value perhaps priceless. This could fit my budget for a lifetime.
We argued about the garlic in the guacamole. He stormed outside. I stood at the bathroom mirror focusing my shaking hand on my mascara. I heard the front door open and his footsteps coming up the stairs. He opened the bathroom door, punched me in the stomach, and calmly said, “Now you can tell your friends I’m abusive.”
I was young but I was strong, confident, and independent. On the outside. In my home I justified the purchase of a two-dollar tube of lipstick. I defended why I wanted to see a movie with a girlfriend. I stayed with a man who threw the bowl of freshly made across the kitchen as I set the table, cracked the windshield with his bare fist as I drove, and smashed
the glass vase of flowers from our garden against the mantle as I wept.
I knew that domestic violence is the misuse of power and control. I was a divorce lawyer after all. Yet I couldn’t see it clearly when I was in its midst. I compared myself to those I considered “real” victims—those with blackened eyes and broken bones and battered
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Despite decades of public education and the fact that one of every four American women reports being physically abused by a spouse or partner at some point, many people still don’t understand domestic violence. Whether you are a welder or an accountant, rich or poor, a Gen Xer or a boomer—you are not immune to domestic violence.
I had to tell the truth to myself. What helped was others gently asking about what I failed to see. “Is this the first time he hit you?” “Do you think that’s normal?” The concerns of others—shared without judgment—helped me to see the seriousness of my situation. “I just called to see if you were safe. I’m worried about you.”
I was lucky. I had enough income, a number of options, and lots of support. The thousands of victims who die each year from intimate partner abuse weren’t as lucky.
The anxiety, isolation and limited options during the pandemic increase the risk of danger. If you or someone you know is experiencing the warning signs of intimate partner abuse, support is essential right now.
Call the 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (800)799-SAFE (7233). Develop a safety plan. Call an attorney knowledgeable about protection orders. Don’t wait.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s the time to be aware of risks, rights, and the next small step forward toward a safe future. As for me, the only regret I ever had about my first small steps was that I didn’t make them sooner.
Sales of sweatpants up. Sales of suits down. Standards are shifting. Selections from drawers and closets are simply not the same in our virtual and remote worlds.
Expectations are different, too. Tardiness to a training, once taken as a sign of disrespect, now simply means Alex had to let their dog out to pee at the last minute.
Logically we know that in the context of the coronavirus our ideas of how we must perform cannot remain the same. But it isn’t easy. We still want what we want when we want it and when we said Friday was the deadline, we meant Friday.
We know we need a new perspective. We need to see our measures of merit differently because life is simply not the same. The lens of understanding is required when your friend just checked their bank balance and is afraid they can’t make Wednesday’s rent. When the father of three misses the meeting because the day care closed for COVID. And when loneliness lies beneath the cheerful smile on your 8 a.m. Zoom.
Before this year, we judged others and felt justified. We made plans and executed accordingly. We knew our standards for ourselves and for others. Now we question whether our two weeks of piled up laundry means we are lazy, depressed, or merely disgusting.
We might be able to call forth our compassion and forgiveness for others—”Others have it much worse”—but when our own standards start to slide south…
I can’t believe I forgot to attach the key document—twice! I’m such a f— up.
I’ve fed my family take out and leftovers for four days—am failing so bad in every way.
I’m not going to my niece’s indoor wedding reception. I know I’m being selfish.
My challenge is that the bills still need to be paid if I want my Netflix fix, that work project is not going away, and I do need an occasional shower.
What standards will we hold ourselves to in this new world? I like to think the standards don’t change whether we are in a pandemic or paradise. Be kind. Be loving. Be forgiving. And there’s no rule against extending the same generosity of spirit we show to others to ourselves. We all could use a little mercy now.
Might there be a benefit to adapting any of your performance standards during this time?
What do you extend to others that you don’t extend to yourself?
What values do you want to hold on to regardless of the conditions?
Each week at 7:55 a.m. I hit “Send”. My weekly ritual is intended help to my coworkers living in these times. My Teeny Tiny Tuesday Tips range from how to do 4 x 4 deep breathing to how to make mini-habits.
By Thursday it had already been a challenging week. I’d just returned from seeing a friend with early onset dementia. That afternoon while on Zoom (preparing to facilitate a panel on ethics in a pandemic), one person had to hop off—they had COVID. Just minutes before, I’d learned of yet another friend newly diagnosed.
By evening I decided to follow my own advice given just two days prior. I gave myself permission to set my phone aside for 20 minutes and relax in the warm waters of my antique claw foot tub. I drew my bath, dispensing with the scented salts, and slowly settled in as though at a spa where the slightly too hot temperature took a little getting used to.
My body sinks down. I lose track of time. My eyes close. I hear my phone ring across the room. I ignore it. It rings a second time. Hmmm. This could be important. I resist the urge to rush as I sit up and run through the list of possible callers. Sometimes my disabled younger sister calls twice in a row—once to tell me she’s going to leave a shopping list and then a second time to record “detergent, toilet tissue, hand soap….” Or maybe it was a call to say my client with late stage brain cancer could not make our morning call.
Or maybe someone died.
I hop up, wrap myself in the large brown bath towel, put on my glasses, and hurry to my phone. It was my sister. Not my younger one but the one who is 10 years my senior. The one who carried me around like a doll when I was a baby. The one who recently recovered from pneumonia. The one who that very afternoon had been attending to the affairs of the elderly man she’d taken care of three days a week for 15 years.
She was in the emergency room with a blood clot. And shortness of breath. They were worried about her lungs. I was worried about COVID. We speak briefly until she heads off for a CT scan. I check the rules for visitors at the hospital. No more news that night.
Our morning group text includes my brother, her son, and the two grandsons Diane raised. In the midst of our messaging is news on the diagnosis of Donald and Melania Trump. I lie on my bed. A calm centeredness washes over me. Risk of death scenarios feel familiar.
I’ve used the word “pandemic” for months now as millions around the world live with the realities of this virus each day. Some of us are merely inconvenienced. In this moment, the pandemic has never felt more personal.
Self-care matters; so does caring for others. I intend to continue to have an occasional soak in the tub. But for the foreseeable future, I’ll keep my phone nearby.
How are you caring for yourself during these times?
Is there someone who needs your loving care?
How will you balance caring for your self while caring for others
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn into the United States Supreme Court August 10, 1993. That same month, I moved out of my parents’ home and into my first college dormitory. That month, my dad made sure I had opened my first credit card to account for any emergencies. I walked into college with my future and possibilities ahead of me to work toward any career path that tempted me and with a full expectation of being equally treated alongside my male classmates.
Little did I know at the time, that Justice Ginsburg, during the decade I was born, was working tirelessly as an ACLU litigator to pave the path for women to be treated equally under the law. Because of her work, I could have that credit card, I could pursue job opportunities, and it never had to occur to me that I would not receive the same full benefits as my male counterparts. I largely took for granted all the benefits of equality I now enjoyed because of her legal work.
I did not know or realize how important Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to me until much later. In 1995, when this photo of me was taken in front of the United States Supreme Court, I had decided I would pursue law school as an extension of the work I was doing in the local domestic violence shelter. By this time there were two women serving on the highest court and in my speech class for our after-dinner speech assignment, Justice Dunne accepted her nomination to the high court.
It was only after law school and well into my legal career when I started to understand and deeply appreciate the relatively few women role models who were available. I identified with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s causes, admired her steady, well-reasoned and tempered approach. To this day I wish I could be more like her and better control my emotions when feeling impassioned.
Politics aside, when I learned of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, I felt a sadness in my heart I had not yet experienced. She is the first hero for whom I grieve. Her death signifies a closing chapter of women’s work done and not to be forgotten. Will her legacy be lost? Will the generations of women who come next remember Ruth? Will the lady lawyers of the future continue to be inspired by her? Will they honor her with their legal work going forward?
May It Please the Court is the traditional opening for attorneys to address the court prior to presenting their oral argument. As I continue reflecting on the passing of this powerful woman and one of the greatest legal minds I have studied, I see I want my life’s work as a lawyer to be well thought out, steady, full of bravery in my advocacy, and ever mindful of the women and lawyers who would come after me. I want to live a legal life inspired by her and a new whispered mantra may now be “May it please you Ruth.”
“I’m surprised by the depth of my sadness,” I say, tears falling from eyes still swollen from the news of the day before. “She meant a lot to a lot of people who fought for justice, especially for the oppressed,” my sweetheart comforts.
Yes. A lot. From little girls to longtime lawyers.
One gift of the many past deaths of those I cherished is that loss of a life—no matter how extraordinary— can be seen with some measure of perspective. A week later, my eyes clearer, I see how Ruth paved my personal path for decades.
In the 1970s while she argued landmark cases on women’s rights, I was a budding feminist. I read Ms. Magazine monthly. I marched in protest to sexist policies. I applied to law school.
The announcement of RBG’s 1993 appointment was unforgettable. I sat glued to the television watching a woman of 5 foot 2 like me bringing hope for our country’s good.
She taught at Columbia Law School and co-authored the first textbook on sex discrimination.
Her writings and rulings from the Supreme Court were my curriculum for nearly a decade when, a law school adjunct, I taught Women and the Law. I became a columnist for the Women’s Law Journal, 30 years after RBG co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.
Hearing her speak at a Harvard Law School graduation on warm day in May was thrilling. My joy was only surpassed by seeing my child in his cap and gown.
Her victories and her strategies plant in me the knowing that, for each of us, there is a time when we are called to that which is ours to do. When Ginsburg was at the ACLU, she oversaw hundreds of cases of discrimination. One summer day I phoned the ACLU. It was time for our state to pursue the right for same sex couples to marry. It was our law firm’s time to further ACLU’s mission of our state motto—equality before the law—.
Her dissent in the face of a disappointment—the overturning by the Supreme Court of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act—catapulted her into fame. Shy by nature, she became a cultural icon in the final decade of her life, showing up everywhere from an Oscar winning documentary to the tiny tree ornaments I gave to my law partners for Christmas. She inspired generations despite never seeking the spotlight. For this she will be my teacher all of my days.
Last month RBG was to come to our city to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. We were beyond excited. Instead, a month later I was glued to a screen watching her memorial service with the same fervent attention as the day she was sworn in. My heart—once swelling with hope—now a horrible ache.
I hope my days will be even longer than hers. Yes, I do my pushups.
Is it possible to take such a momentous loss and turn it into hope? To possibility? To good? Again, the words and wisdom of Ruth show the way.
I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” —Ruth Bader Ginsburg
We may not be able to fulfill her “most fervent wish” that she not be replaced until we have a new president. But we can honor the Notorious RBG by asking What would Ruth do?
Our grief is palpable.
May our grit be greater.
And it’s our turn.
“What did you wear?” she asked enthusiastically. It was a sweet acknowledgment that the talk I’d given that day was of some import.
“Wait. Let me guess. You wore black.”
I chuckled at the teasing of my friend knowing my closet is full of black dresses, black shirts, and black skirts. In my immediate defense I describe the delicate ivory blouse that peaked out from under my black jacket and the vintage necklace hung alongside it.
Most mornings after meditation, tea, and vitamin D – I make my way my dresser where strands of white, gold, black, silver, and red hang on a stand that spins for the right selection. A glass plate holds a handful of sparkling gems. More than one box keeps the earing collection. A lacquered bowl holds bracelets.
Marie Kondo would love to get her pretty little hands on this display.
Like my former cupboard of Tupperware, this assortment evolved without great intention. The most precious arrived as gifts. Therese, Kaitlyn, and Bev all knew that antiques from their mothers or grandmothers would never be worn by them but would warm my heart through and through. Gretchen claimed I once saved her life driving her red Volvo stick shift through red lights to a hospital emergency room. Her gratitude was shown in long string of tiny garnets kept safe in a green felt bag.
Remote working in 2020 has freed countless people from the need to do daily hair, makeup, and wardrobe like they did for days in the office. Time, money, and energy saved. But for me, this moment in front of the mirror matters.
I don’t “have to” do it. I “get to” do it.
Adornment by humans is ancient. From the treasures worn by Egyptian pharaohs to the crowns of kings, it tells the world who we are or lets them know the power we hold. Just as our clothing communicates, our accessories are a language. What am I trying to say?
Nearly every day, I follow the news. Of the world, of my community, of my many friends. Much of it isn’t pretty. I could that extra minute or two of my day in prayer or pranayama or child’s pose. I choose instead a moment of embellishment to remind me to bring a bit of beauty into my day and into the world.
And I like the way it looks with all that black.
Do you have daily rituals that lift your spirit?
When your mood is lifted, how does it impact others?
What place does beauty have in your life?
Patrick and Shirley Dunne are my parents. Pat and Shirley celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on September 19, 2020. They married with little fanfare but great love in a tiny church in Portland, Oregon. After the ceremony, they did not go to a wedding reception. There wasn’t one. Instead, they went to the hospital to share the day with my mom’s father who was healing from a heart attack.
Little did they know that in these first decisions they made as a couple they were setting the priority for their fifty-year path.
They met at the University of Oregon – senior year and not a minute too late. My dad came to my mom having lost both of his parents in separate tragedies in childhood and nothing to his name to speak of but perseverance, determination, and a strong intellect. My mom met my dad having grown up in an upper middle-class family filled with sisters and spirit – until they lost the youngest sister to the ocean at age 5. At age 17, my mom became the strength for her family and she would bring this gift forward to my dad along with her matter-of-fact way, her sharp sense of humor, and her wit-filled wisdom.
My parents traveled, toting three kids, wherever my dad’s military career took us – including Texas, Germany, California and Nebraska – until they retired to Oregon and half-time in Nebraska to ensure quality time spent with their four grandchildren. Their marriage included long periods of time living apart due to military life and– like every marriage – was not free of very difficult times.
Today I wonder how after fifty years, a couple can end up in bed at night in matching pajamas, holding hands for their nightly talk when a husband can say to his wife “I wish we could die just like this so neither of us has to be without the other.”
I have watched my parents for 45 of their 50 years together – for the last 20 years as someone professionally engaged in observing marriages as they come apart. I watched first-hand all the ways they navigated the different challenges and seasons a marriage brings. I see the differences.
The success of my parents’ marriage had some to do with luck, some to do with being married in the 70’s, and some to do with sheer determination. But it has mostly to do with the magic that unfolds when people come together with the singular goal of wanting someone to love them. This is it. This is all that mattered. It sounds simple – but it is far from.
If all you want from your marriage is to be loved, you then show up to be loveable. You show up vulnerable, authentic, and real to your spouse. My parents had no notion of who or what the other was supposed to be. They never tried to form and mold their spouse into their own ideas of who their spouse should be. They both honored the other’s true authenticity. They were independent enough in their own selves to just let the other be who they were and to offer up love to them every day for 18,250 days in a row.
I offer this reflection of a love well-lived on my divorce blog in honor of this marriage that made it. This marriage has been a gift to me and so many others who have felt the warm glow of my parent’s contentment with each other over these years. Let’s raise our proverbial glass to Pat and Shirley this week in cheers to the fifty-year marriage.
Your daughter, Angela
Undoubtedly, a big life change, such as a divorce can cause emotional distress. Unfortunately, a stigma regarding mental health support still exists. Many parents worry that seeking professional help may make them appear unstable or be used against them in a custody proceeding.
However, if you are seeing a therapist, acknowledge yourself for getting the professional help and support you need. Your well-being is important to your ability to be the best parent you can be. But make sure you do disclose to your attorney if you are seeing a therapist; your mental health records can be subpoenaed by the other parent’s lawyer. For this reason, it is important to discuss with your attorney an action plan for responding to this possible request. It is also important to let your therapist or counselor know how to respond to a request for your mental health records.
Also, if your mental health professional has prescribed medication to treat depression or anxiety, make sure to disclose that to your attorney as well. Taking prescribed medications and following through with recommendations from a mental health professional is important.
Feelings of depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping are common during big life changes, so seeking help from professionals is in your best interest and the interest of your children.
The September the sky was still dark as we arrived at the airport. The few parked cars scattered across the giant lots looked lonely. We entered the terminal and an eerie silence surrounded the attentive airline agents waiting at their stations.
Travelers were noticeably on edge.
This was not September in a global pandemic. Rather, it was the September when, just two weeks prior, four terrorist attacks on the morning of 9/11 killed thousands. Like the autumn day in 1963 when Sister Leodegar stood somberly at the front of the classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot, the indelible memory of place of hearing the news is etched in my memory.
This September wildfires are raging in 10 states across the western U.S., displacing countless people including close friends. This week over 10,000 vulnerable souls living in the squalor of a Greek refugee camp streamed into the streets and into hopelessness when a fire swept through the camp.
This September our quiet airport reflects a response not to fear following deaths in a single day. Instead, it reflects a response to a growing daily death toll from a virus that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans so far.
Emptiness. Terror. Death. Devastation. The scenes repeat, both near and far. Even when our personal lives are protected by some miraculous mixture of privilege and fate, we are not immune to feeling the loss. We grieve for those we love and for those we’ve never known.
What do we do when the world seems an endless sea of suffering? How much of it can I bear to bear witness to? As we cope with our own worries about the balance in our bank account, fears of attending a funeral, and loneliness from lack of seeing loved ones, how do we keep hope?
Within 72 hours of that September flight nineteen years ago, I heard the phrase “life coaching” for the first time. Intuitively though not intellectually I knew it would become my life’s work. It did. Nearly two decades later, remembering this moment gives me hope.
If I’m able to stay present to today’s hope, I can hope that in the next 72 hours more hope will arrive to carry me through any news near or far.
I wish the same for you.
How does a memory of a past loss affect your feelings today?
How do you cope with the overwhelm of suffering you see?
How can you hold on to hope today?
9/8 Dad’s birthday. He would have turned 101 but he died at 64, the age I am now
9/11 A shared memory of tragedy for our entire county
9/14 Death of my husband John
9/20 Birth of my first child
September is always big for me, from being sworn in as a member of the bar to becoming a certified life coach.
September also brings my favorite season. It’s a reminder of back to school, the place of positive childhood attention. The fields of the Midwestern countryside and the turning leaves on the oaks wear the warm tones of golds and browns I look best in. Even the little things feel bigger, as each rose picked becomes more precious knowing the end of their days looms.
With this month comes FWOF–the First Weekend of Fall—a treasured tradition of women toting vegan salads, choices of chili, red wine and red Twizzlers. We gather at my friend Gretchen’s lovely lake home. We start with hours of catching up on each other’s lives as we sit under umbrellas watching the sun sparkling on the water.
When the stars come out, we head for the circle of chairs on the beach. We stare intently at the fire as we reveal our heartbreaks and hopes, our most painful betrayals, our most deeply held beliefs. Generous pauses of thoughtful listening enfold us.
The following morning we wrap ourselves in blankets and head to the porch, our cups of coffee steaming. A quiet knowing of our shared humanness fills the air.
Births, deaths, weddings, divorces, children, grandchildren, promotions, demotions, creations, depressions. This September just started, and already one friend welcomed a new grandchild while another buried her mother.
This year there will be no FWOF with an overnight at the lake. But I will remember that we all have our Septembers. Some bitter. Some sweet.
I intend to savor each day of this one.
Are there seasons that particularly touch your heart?
Is there something for you to grieve or celebrate right now?
What will you savor in the month ahead?
“Like mother, like daughter” she said in response to my daughter reporting I took her to a doctor to inspect a dime-sized black spot on her thigh that after a week was not resolving. When my distressed daughter relayed this to me, I asked for the context. “I don’t know mom! Why does she ever talk about you?” Without context to guide my reaction, I was left flailing to understand.
“Like mother, like daughter” are the words I want to hear about my daughters in relation to me. I still beam with pride when someone says it in reference to my mom and me.
Instead it felt like it was wielded against my youngest like a weapon.
Truthfully, I don’t know what the comment meant. I tried to guess. Does she think I take my daughter to the doctor a lot? Does she think I go to the doctor a lot? Wait. This wasn’t about me. The damage to my daughter had been done. That invisible line between households had once again been highlighted and underscored.
I was not the first mom to face the ridicule of a stepmom. I would be lying if I said she was never the subject of mine. The relationships between the OGs (short for originals in teen slang) and stepparents is usually one defined by the tight rope each parent walks on. Both the mother and the stepmother (or father and stepfather) are trying to co-parent without any real knowledge of the other. We do not know how each other were raised, what our parenting preferences are, or even what is happening in each other’s lives. How do we allow grace and the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any relationship?
I sent a text to their dad stating that he should remind his wife that she should keep her opinions of and about me private. My daughter received an apology from her stepmom and my phone remained silent.
I wish I were big enough to have been satisfied by that. But I am imperfectly human. What I wanted was an acknowledgment by their dad and his wife that they understand how damaging it is when our children feel like they have to pick sides between our houses, and when they feel that their step-mom doesn’t like their mother who they love. I have had to hold my tongue many a time and force the reminder on myself. I know it is tempting. I know it is hard.
When I have faced disappointments in the past about my co-parenting relationship I have reached for perspective. I remind myself that everyone (me included) has bad moments and has words escape from their mouths before they can catch them. I remind myself in the big picture of parenting – this is nothing. This is nothing compared to COVID, remote learning, not seeing their grandparents. There are so many bigger things I need to parent my daughters through right now and I know the beauty of children and teenagers is that this might even be a blip in their world of fast-paced social media snaps. It would be forgotten as fast as the words were uttered.
Having perspective and grace takes a lot of practice and really good best friends who share your shock of the statement and then help you move on. Having perspective and grace is what I want my daughters to learn – to learn from me – so that people can then say about them “like mother, like daughter.”
We know there is stress and confusion regarding the start of school this year for families in Nebraska. What may be adding stress to some divorced parents is the decision to send their children to public school or whether to enroll them in private school depending upon each schools’ coronavirus precaution and procedures.
The Nebraska Supreme Court Child Support Guidelines have no specific provisions regarding the expense of private education. However, both parents can agree in a divorce decree that they want their children to attend private school and agree upon how the education expense will be paid. Previously, the obligation to pay private school expenses was generally only enforceable if the parents agreed to this provision in their Decree.
However, with many parents exploring the option of enrolling their children in private school, it’s important to talk with your attorney to determine your rights and options regarding payment for this expense.
The Nebraska Child Support Guidelines provide that parents must share all reasonable and necessary expenses for their children’s education. Given the facts of your case, what may be considered reasonable and necessary may have shifted during this health pandemic. If you have questions about private school education expenses during or after your divorce, talk with an experienced family law attorney at Koenig|Dunne to determine what options you have regarding your children’s education.
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.