Archive for the ‘Family Happiness’ Category

Grieving The Dream

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

This past week at Ali Brown’s Shine event, I had a big awareness during Anne McKevitt’s talk on branding.  Besides the fact that I found Anne to be totally off point for most of the women in the room, it suddenly hit me that I’ve let go of a big dream I’ve carried with me for a few years.    And I’m grieving it.

Anne was talking about building a worldwide brand.  Her message reminded me of what I once wanted to do.  And woke me up to the reality that I’ve let the dream slip away.

It’s funny how I didn’t realize it until that moment.  There was no point at which I said “that’s it, I can’t do it anymore.  I’m giving up on this dream.”  But, now looking back over the past year,  I notice this is the first real attention I’ve given it in several  months; it’s not something that will move itself forward on it’s own; and I want to spend more time with my kids now so I don’t see myself pushing it forward.  In fact, I’ve let go of a lot of things that require push.

I think I first started to let go of the dream when I was on the phone with one of my business/blogging/mommy role models, Penelope Trunk.  She must have been right in the middle of raising money for her company and unable to pay herself.   We had a brief conversation about two things I was working on: a reality show and writing the business plan to make this dream a reality.  She said I was crazy for wanting to raise money and develop a software program (a major component of the dream).  That I should do the reality show instead.

I wonder if she’d still say the same thing now that her company is at least partially funded.

Regardless, she was only reflecting back to me what I was already feeling.  I had spent two years on this big dream and I was tired. Exhausted really.  Feeling defeated.

I had just invested $15,000 and several months in a business plan that was not clearly capturing my vision and then I lost $10,000 to a couple of scam artists.  At the same time, the economic news was building to a frenzy and I realized I had an amazing business that was making a big difference for a lot of lawyers as it was and I needed to invest my energy in building the business I had rather than continuing to focus on the bigger vision.

I dreamed of making affordable access to a lifetime relationship with a lawyer™ readily available in every neighborhood of the US and Canada.  Think H&R Block or State Farm Insurance or Remax or TLC Laser Eye Care Centers.  But, for lawyers.

Every other profession - from accounting to insurance to medical to dental - has a centralized system the professional can plug into that is automated from soup to nuts so the professional can do what she does best and the managers can run everything from marketing to service fulfillment to membership management.

There is nothing like it for lawyers.  And, I was gonna be the one to build it.

The Personal Family Lawyer business I have built is a beautiful precursor.  Lawyers implementing my business model for attracting, engaging, servicing and retaining clients lawyers are transforming their practices.  They are moving beyond the failing, broken model and becoming trusted advisors to their clients. They are busier than ever, even in this shifting economy and making a real difference in their clients lives.

Just yesterday, I heard from a lawyer who joined our program to transition from a litigation practice that was turning him into someone he didn’t like into an estate planning lawyer who is making a positive impact in the world.  In his first month of seeing clients as a Personal Family Lawyer he has already engaged one client and has another 5 appointments on the books.  Unless you are a lawyer, you probably have no idea how amazing this is.

My systems work.  Sure, they’re not built on a centralized model like H&R Block, State Farm or Remax, and I’ve come to realize they may never be, but they are changing the world for the individual lawyers who are embracing a new way of being with their clients and grateful to have a proven business model for doing it.

I’ve gained new awareness about myself.  I’m an amazing coach, visionary, and communicator.  It turns out, I’m not so good at managing teams, hiring, negotiating, financials,  and all the other little detail things necessary to build a really big business.  I can do those things.  But, they drain my energy.  And they make me less good at what I’m really good at.   Plus, bottom line, they take time away from my kids and my writing and the self care that I need to be happy.

So, I’m grieving the dream.

At the same time, for perhaps the first time in my life as a business woman, I’m celebrating what I’ve built and discovering what it’s like to appreciate what I have without this intense, burning desire for more, more, more.

My business is built.  It brings in more than a million dollars a year and supports my family plus 6 of the most supportive, fantastic team members a girl could have.  I get to work from home, homeschool my kids and have started a secondary business coaching business owners who want what I’ve built with my honey.  We are making a huge impact in the lives of these lawyers and their clients as well as the business owners we coach.

I get to coach, write, and innovate.  It’s what I’ve dreamed about for so long and it’s all happening. My main job now is to continue to support the forward-thinking lawyers who have stepped out of their own comfort zones to adopt a new model of practice, keep innovating new campaigns to get the message out about what they are doing in the world and attract more lawyers who are ready for something better in their lives and their businesses and don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel to have it.

Really, what more could a girl ask for?

Sure, I’d love a ten (hundred) million dollar business.  And I’d love to be known as the woman who radically transformed the legal industry on a massive scale. And I believe I have the specialized knowledge to really do it right, but I simply will not do it at the expense of my family and my well-being.

My ego is pissed off that I’ve let go of the dream.  It wants to be seen as more than just a girl with a great business and a blog and a couple of kids.  But, that’s just further confirmation for me that letting go is the right thing for me to do.  I refuse to let some idea of what I should do an what I should be run my life anymore.

And even with all that, I’m still grieving the dream.

Unleash Your Inner Safety Goddess

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Doesn’t it just sound euphoric to think about unleashing your inner goddess? How about unleashing your inner Safety Goddess? Ok, well maybe not as euphoric, but still a pretty enticing idea, right?

Today, you are going to find out 5 things you can do to tap into your inner Safety Goddess. The good news is that she is inside every one of us, if we choose to tap into her. The trick is knowing how…

When a mother takes home her first baby from the hospital, she is sent home with some diapers, a blanket and usually a bag of goodies with such things as a sample of baby shampoo, a tube of diaper rash ointment and coupons for diapers.

Unfortunately, there is no instruction book that comes home with our new baby because every baby is different. If you are lucky, you may have a very hands-on grandmother to help you manage your little one. However, the reality is that no matter how much mother’s intuition you are blessed with and no matter how wonderful a caregiver you can possibly be, safety knowledge is not something we are born with. It is learned. So, educating yourself about child safety now is essential.

With the #1 cause of death in children being preventable injuries, it is our job as loving parents to educate ourselves about potential hazards, safety precautions and preferred actions to take in an emergency, if we want to keep our little bambinos safe!

Here are 5 steps you can take right now to tap into safety bliss:

Safety Goddesses, unleash!

1. Take annual CPR and First Aid courses through theAmerican Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

2. Childproof your child and your home. Make sure that your windows have guards and locks, safety gates are installed at stairways, electrical outlets are covered, chemicals and cosmetics are out of reach and all other hazards are corrected. Communicate with your child about things that are dangerous and use protective gear and helmets when participating in wheeled activities.

3. Install, test and utilize your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home.

4. Supervise your children with the 5/10 rule: Never let a child under 5 out of your site for longer than 5 seconds and never let a child be more than 10 feet away from you. Expand the time to 10/20 for children between 5 and 9 years old. Supervision is essential for children of all ages!

5. Read child safety books, watch safety videos and regularly educate yourself with the latest recall information and safety news.

Speaking from experience, once I started reading about child safety, I got addicted. There is simply no end to the information you can find that will help you be a prepared and informed caregiver. Safety is a topic that you can never know too much about because the world is always changing, which means safety is too!

Now that you have let your inner Safety Goddess out to play, tap into safety at least once a month. Sign up for my Safety Pop newsletter, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission Recall list, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and sign up for those CPR classes.

Then, keep the ball rolling on safety. Start with you and move on to your community. One great way to promote safety is to pass it along as a gift. For under $20, you can purchase a copy of Secrets of the Safety Goddess: A Modern Safety Guide for Busy Parents or Care for Kids: The Essential Guide to Preparing Caregivers on Amazon.com and give a meaningful gift to a parent, teacher or nanny. If we can spread the message about the Safety Goddess to all of our fellow parents and caregivers, our children will be safer at playdates, school and in life. Now that sounds euphoric!

To find out more about child safety, go to http://SafetyGoddess.com and http://ResponsibleFamily.com

Tying the Financial Knot. What to Know Before You Get Married.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

The day my ex-husband and I combined our finances was far more significant to me than the day we got married.  Marriage was a big party and a piece of paper signed by the County Recorder.  Combining our bank accounts was a much bigger deal.

On the day we combined our bank accounts, I knew we were making a financial commitment to each other that would be difficult to unravel if things didn’t work out.
And they were.

Here’s a few things I wish I had known before we combined our finances:

1. Taxes

If you are married on the last day of the year, you will file a joint tax return for that whole year.  Even if you get married on December 31, you still file jointly for the whole year.  Yes, you can file as married people filing separately, but that’s not the same as filing two separate tax returns.  You are still taxed as a married couple.

This could save you money or it could cost you money.  Generally speaking, if you earn similar amounts of money, filing jointly will probably cost you more money.  If one of you earns substantially more than the other, it could save you money.

If you are getting married near the end of the year, run out the scenarios with your CPA or using an online tax calculator and consider whether you should postpone the official marriage date until after the 1st of the year.  I know that sounds weird, but if it could save you a lot on your taxes, go ahead and have the wedding, but wait to file the paperwork and make it official.

2. Combining Finances

It’s not always a great idea to combine your finances right away when you get married.  If you are both earning about the same amount of money and you don’t have any children on the way right away, keep your own separate accounts and agree to both contribute to a joint account, which you will pay family bills from.  Get used to this for a while before totally merging all of your accounts.

If one of you earns substantially less, you can adjust the contributions to the joint account pro rata.  If one of you plans to quit his or her job to stay home with the kids or otherwise take care of the family obligations, make sure you’ve discussed ahead of time how the non-breadwinner partner will have control over some of the family money for his or her personal expenses.

No matter what, make sure you each maintain at least one account that is your own account with your own money in it that is not under the control of the other partner.  Each partner needs to have their own financial autonomy even if one partner is the breadwinner and the other is not.  And, each partner should have their own individual credit cards in their names.

3. Community v. Separate Property

If you live in a community property state, all of the income you earn from your labor after you are married is considered community property, which means it belongs to both of you even if it is in a bank account with just the breadwinner’s name on it.  Any of the property you bring into the marriage with you remains your separate property, but only so long as you maintain it as separate property and don’t contribute it to the community.

If you put separate property into an account in both of your names, it becomes community property.  If you earn income on your separate property and that separate property has not been gifted to the community, the income is separate.

If you inherit money while you are married, that stays separate property, but only if you keep it in its own separate account and don’t mix it in with your family accounts.  Once you do, it’s community property.

4. Debt

Any debt you incur during your marriage, is very likely going to be debt owed by both of you, even if only one of you incurred it.  Yep, it’s sucky.  But, true.

So, before you get married and/or combine finances, each of you should show your entire hand. Create your personal net worth statements.  List out your assets and your liabilities.  Then swap the information.

Keep financial records of all assets owned during the month of marriage indicating current value of all assets and amount due on all debts.  This will come in handy if you end up getting divorced down the road and can save you tens of thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees.

5. Estate Planning

Once you get married or even merely tie the financial knot, you need to get your estate plan in place.  Especially if you don’t have children yet, the law may not provide a default estate plan you’d be happy with.  In California, half of your assets could go to your spouse and half to your parents.  And, if you aren’t married, your whole estate could be left to your parents, leaving your life partner out in the cold.  Take the time to find out what would happen if you were incapacitated or died so you can make sure things would be as easy as possible for the one you love if anything happened to you.

Making the commitment to share a financial life with someone is a big step.  Before you tie the financial knot, make sure you are on the same page about what you want out of life and how you plan to grow, preserve and spend your family wealth.

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I’m looking forward to spending the entire day tomorrow up at the kids’ school for Halloween.    

They have a cute Halloween parade and then we’ll bring the kids over to Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro to bring some Halloween cheer to the men and women there who love to see the kids all dressed up.

Kaia’s going as Little Bo Peep this year and unfortunately we couldn’t get Noah to go as a sheep - of course, he wants to be a swamp reaper - so perhaps, I’ll be the sheep.

I’ll send pictures, if so.

Check out my personal blog for a scary update re toxic Halloween Candy and make sure to check out the music video Kaia appeared in, which has landed her and her fellow choir members on the Ellen show! That’ll air on election day, Nov 4.

Getting Divorced? Critical Estate Planning Info.

If you are going through a divorce, you’ve got to call your lawyer (or at least read this week’s article). You don’t want your ex getting everything, do you?

If You Really Can’t Decide Who to Name As Guardians, Here’s What to Do

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

There are a lot of parents out there who have not named       
guardians for their kids because they really can’t decide.

You might be one of them.

But, here’s the thing. If you don’t decide and something happens to you, the decision gets made by a Judge.

You don’t want that, do you?

Here’s a few things that may help you decide:

1.  Think through on a practical, realistic and non-emotional (to the extent you can) level who would come forward to raise your kids if you were in an accident.

2.  Is that who you would want to raise your kids?

3.  If not, who would be better than that person or those people?

4.  If more than one person would come forward, who         
would a Judge pick if the Judge had to decide between all
the people who would come forward?

Bottom line? 

If you don’t decide, a Judge will. Even your worst choice would be better than that, right?

The free KidsProtectionPlan.com website will walk you through the entire process of choosing the right guardians for your kids and then legally document your decisions.

If not knowing who you want to name has been holding you back, don’t let it hold you back a second longer.

Do it now. It’s Free. It’s Easy. No Excuses.

It’s All Happening

Friday, September 12th, 2008

My baby started Kindergarten this week. Now,
I’ve got two kids in school full-time and at the same place, what a relief!

Not to mention all the amazing things that are starting to happen.  Right before I left for Burning Man, I got a call from producers at CNBC that they wanted me to appear on the show “On the Money” with Carmen Wong Ulrich.
 
I was so excited. The only problem was that I was going to be in Burning Man, so I had to turn it down. They said they were willing to wait for me.
 
I appeared last week and they’ve already asked me back for another show and invited me to NYC for a development meeting.  I don’t know exactly what that means, but whatever it means, I’m psyched!

Plus, I’m pitching a reality show and can’t believe how fast everything is moving with that.  It’s Hollywood though, so it may be another few years before anything really happens.

But, it’s all happenning!

With Love,

How to Find Freedom in the Midst of Any Family Feud

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Family Feuds can happen in the best of families.  When they do, they have the power to plunge you into a nightmare of bitterness and anger or they can be the door that opens to your greatest dreams.

The strategies I share here apply whether you are going through a divorce, a property dispute or any other legal drama between family members.

5 years ago, I was unhappily married and had  a vision of getting divorced and, at the same time, maintaining a family relationship with my ex-husband.  When I finally got the courage to tell my husband I wanted a divorce, it didn’t go well.

It got so bad at times that each of us threatened to call the police on each other more than once.  It was hard to imagine we’d ever be a family again.

I felt guilt and shame.  I had caused this to happen, and now, I was getting my comeuppance is what he told me and what I believed.  This was my punishment for leaving my marriage.  It was my fault.  Our kids would suffer for it, and I would just have to deal with it.

That hurt.  A lot.

Through it all, I held on to the vision of us as a family.  Sometimes, it was incredibly difficult to keep that vision in mind.  Sometimes, I wished he would just disappear.  I know he felt the same.

Despite all of that, I knew that there was nothing more important than somehow moving beyond all of it and becoming a family again in some way shape or form.

Boy, am I glad I held that vision.  Today, unbelievably, we are a family again.

We don’t live in the same house anymore, but we are on the same team.  Just the other night, he had a sleepover at my house with our son.  I feel love in my heart for him that surpasses what I felt in the later years of our marriage.  Our children are the beneficiaries.

It was a long, hard journey but one I am ever grateful for because through it, I learned powerful lessons that have helped me in every area of my life.

These lessons hold the keys to your joy.

1.  Stay Calm and Breathe.

I held my breath a lot when I was married.  Going through my divorce, I learned to breathe and remain centered.  If you haven’t tried yoga before, it can be a great way to learn how to do this in a non-emotionally stressful context even when your body is being extremely challenged.  You can take that experience into the emotional challenges that arise during any family fight.

When things escalate, if you can stay calm and breathe, you can remain in control of the situation.

2.  Choose Your Reaction.

In every moment, you have a choice.  Sometimes, it might not feel that way.  Especially when you are being screamed at or harassed.  You may feel as if you don’t have control, you are powerless, a victim.  You are falling apart.

In these moments, remember that you are not a victim.  You are always in control of your own reaction in every moment.  While you cannot control the person you are in relationship with, you can control yourself and the way you respond.

When you make the choice to respond from love, even when what is coming at you feels like the anti-thesis of love, you are standing in your own power.  This is where you will find your freedom.

Your practice in these moments when you feel victimized our out of control is to stay calm, breathe and respond from love.

If you cannot respond from love, take a time out.  Walk away.  Disengage and come back to the situation when you are centered.

3.  Remember Who You Are.

When it is most difficult to respond from love, it’s generally because you have forgotten the truth of your own nature.  You have forgotten that you are love.  You are freedom.  You are generosity.  No one can take that away from you.

The pain you are feeling is related to the disconnection from your own truth.  The good news is that if you’ve gotten away from the truth of who you are, it’s never too late to return to it.  When you do, a lightness will replace the pain, darkness and heaviness that is keeping you embroiled in your conflict.

I’m fortunate in that I have a very dear friend who reminds me about the truth of who I am when I forget it.  She reminds me that I am love, I am generosity and I am freedom.

4.  Block Out People Who Bring You Down.

If you are like most people, your friends don’t help you stay in contact with your highest self.  Instead, they remind you about how you’ve been wronged, victimized and taken advantage of.  When you hear those words, it’s a red flag that you need to thank the person you are talking with and walk away.  Then, come back and read this.

You are love.  You are freedom.  You are generosity.  Slowly, breathe that in and let it saturate your lungs, make its way into your heart and radiate through your body out to your fingers and toes.  As you breathe out, repeat the following 4 simple phrases until you once again remember the truth of who you are and then let me know what happens for you when you do.

“I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You, I Love You”

Getting Ready for Burning Man!

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

In less than two weeks, we’ll be hopping in our rented RV and motoring up the 395 for a week in the desert with 48,000+ other nuts who are ready for massive self-expression.

It’s called Burning Man, and I’ve been wanting to go for years, but my kids weren’t old enough.  They are now, and it’s our big summer vacation.

Read my personal blog If you are wondering how bringing my kids to Burning Man is all about passing on my family values.

Are You in the Midst of a Family Feud?

Family feuds can be painful.  Or, they can be amazing opportunities for growth.  My article below will help you make your next (or current) family feud the pathway to your freedom.

How Do I Choose the Right Guardian for My Children?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Choosing a person or family to care for your children is difficult. In fact, for many families, it’s the hardest part of planning their estate. It’s not easy to think of anyone else, no matter how loving, raising your child. Yet, you can make a tremendous difference in your child’s life by planning ahead. And you have nothing to lose except a few moments thinking about what you value most in life, and in childrearing.

You can ensure you have chosen the right guardian, by following three straight forward steps:

Step One: Make a List of People

Make the longest list you can stand of everyone you know who might possibly be a good guardian. When considering whether someone should be on the list, ask yourself, “would they provide a better home for my children than the foster care system?” If the answer is yes, include them.

Step Two: Decide What Matters Most

Choose a few factors that are most important to you and rank their order of priority. Here are some to consider:

* maturity and patience
* parenting style
* integrity and stability
* presence of children in the home already
* religion or spirituality
* relationship with your children
* marital or family status
* willingness to serve
* physical well-being
* social and moral habits and values
* availability of “free” time to raise children

Obviously, the perfect choice would score highly on every measure. But, because we are all imperfect, you will likely have more success in choosing the few characteristics that are most important to you. As you make your choice, consider that some factors can be influenced by you and others cannot. Integrity is something you cannot change. But if having an at-home parent is important to you, your prospective guardian might be willing to come home to raise your child if you make it possible through a well-structured and funded plan. Do not focus very much on financial resources as a factor - it is your responsibility as the parent to provide enough financial resources, either through insurance or savings, to provide for your children financially if you are not available.

Step Three: Match People to Priorities

Use the factors you chose in step two to narrow your list of candidates to a handful.

Listen to your body and feelings as you consider each person or couple as guardian.

You’ll need to rank in order this short-list into the people you would want first, second, and so on. If you select an attorney experienced in helping parents of minor children, be prepared to answer the following question whenever you have named a couple: if the couple divorces or, because of death or incapacity, only one can serve, would you like either one to be guardian, or would you prefer to move to the next name on the list? Guardian nominations can be simple or as complex as you choose.

Regardless of which spouse’s family or friends appear more frequently on your final list, it’s important to keep both families involved. One way to do that is to name members of one family as guardians to care for the children, and members of the other family as trustees, to manage the assets for the children. If there is a likelihood of conflict between these family members, be sure to share this with your attorney so that your guardianship can be customized to encourage them to keep the lines of communication open.

If you are still having difficulty, the very best thing you can do is find a neutral and objective third party to work you through this process. A friend who is totally not emotionally connected to the issue or a trusted advisor, like a Personal Family Lawyer, would be a good choice.

Trustee Checks and Balances

Friday, May 9th, 2008

In last week’s article “How to Choose the Right Trustee,” I mentioned that there are no trust police out there making sure that your Trustee is following the instructions set out in your Trust. That can be scary when you are entrusting your whole life savings and your kids’ financial well-being to this person.

But, there are some checks and balances you can put in place to ease your mind.

1. Name Different People to Be in Charge of Your Money and Your Kids

Many times, people I’m meeting with want to name the same person or people to serve as guardians to take care of their children and Trustees to take care of the money left behind.

They think if they would trust someone to raise their kids, they should trust that person to take care of the money too.

This is not necessarily the case.

The qualities you are looking for in a guardian are not necessarily the same as what you are looking for in a Trustee AND if you name separate people, then they can watch out for each other.

Your children’s guardian would be entitled to regular accountings of Trust assets by the Trustee and could monitor to make sure everything seemed right. And, on the flip side, the Trustee would be in regular communication with the guardian to ensure your kids were getting proper care.

2. Name a Bank or Trust Company to Serve as Co-Trustee

If you don’t have two separate people to serve as guardian and Trustee, you may want to consider naming a Bank or Trust Company to serve as an administrative trustee, responsible for all of the tax-filings, investments, and other compliance issues.

You could give distribution power to the guardian or other family member plus give that person to the right to remove and replace the Bank or Trust Company serving as administrative trustee so long as they were replaced with another independent entity.

3. Begin a Relationship With a Personal Family Lawyer When You are Young and Healthy

When you work with a Personal Family Lawyer to establish your planning while you are young, that is a relationship with will last you a lifetime. And, ideally, your Personal Family Lawyer will continue to guide your Trustee after you are gone so that you can have the peace of mind of knowing your Personal Family Lawyer know will ensure your wishes are carried out.

If you use one or more of these checks and balances, you’ll have very little to worry about when it comes to the care and feeding of your financial wealth after you are gone.