Silver Lining

I broke four vertebrae in my back in a waverunner explosion when I was fifteen.  Ever the realist, my mom rolled over from her hospital cot on day two of my (our) six-day hospital stay and said, “You have two choices.  You can be a victim, or your can be a survivor.  You’ve got every right to be mad that this happened to you, but you can also learn a whole lot from this experience.”  At fifteen (Heck, who am I kidding? At birth) I was already a ridiculously optimistic, gregarious, confident, competitive young lady, and her epiphany didn’t take long to take effect in my soul.

I decided – on June 27, 1993- to be a survivor.  To choose happy.  To choose to learn.  To be stronger.  To rock out this new chapter.

It’s not all that hard.  It’s just about a change of perspective.  So, while I spent most of that summer flat on my back in my bed, I chose to focus on the fact that my amazingly trusting doctor let me go home to recover and that I had such amazing friends that brought the fun to me.  And pain was horrible, but the good news was that the medicine also made me tired, and when I slept, I didn’t really feel the pain.  And even though I couldn’t stand up for the whole cookie baking experience for a few years after my accident, that meant my parents had to do my dishes!  The silver lining kept appearing, and after a while, I didn’t have to look for it.

Deliberate happiness.  It’s not an accident.  It’s a choice.  And it grows on you.  And with you.  The silver lining takes root and grows into a fire.  A fire to inspire others, to support people in hard times, to evolve, and to effect change.

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So, when my husband was holding our four-minute-old infant in our OR on July 4, 2010, and the doctor said, “I think he has the facial characteristics of a child with Down syndrome,” my natural instinct was to say, “Let me see… I agree.  Okay, what do we do next?”  Bypassing victim status, I sailed right into the survivor mode I’d been honing since 1993 and knew I’d rock that sweet baby out of the park.  What complete, indescribable joy our Jackman has brought us!DSC_0219

And when my husband’s doctor ordered an MRI with contrast, suspecting a mass, and delivered the news of a malignant tumor a few days later, I immediately asked for a CD of the image and started networking to find the best doc around.  What pride we have in the Cleveland Clinic, our doctor, and our friends that led us there!  And can you imagine how wonderful we feel every year when the doctor says he’s still cancer free?

Daddy and Jack

I interact professionally with a lot of people that are facing difficult, stressful situations.  Believe me – I know life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  That’s not the point.

While it feels a lot better to put on my survivor hat and to go on rainbow hunts, the worry and angst still find their way to my heart.  When they come a knocking, I listen, cry, scream, walk miles and miles, and pray.  And you know what? Eventually, I find that all of that hurt yields even more joy, because somehow when you know how badly something can hurt, you find a way to celebrate minor details.  And I’ve found that my clients and friends that lean into the joy find it, too.

The point is to take life experiences – the happy, the challenging, the downright unfair, the motivating – to gather them all up in a huge mixing bowl (if you need to buy one, I suggest yellow), mush them together, taking the time you need to fully incorporate all of your new ingredients, and to gain your own perspective from each of them.  And then, if you want extra credit, to remember that every other person out there has his or her own experiences that yield their own perspectives.

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The next time life gives you a dose of Anything Can Happen, consider that survivor hat (or earphones as the case may be).  It’s pretty comfortable.


Custody and Parenting Time

Do you think you have or want 50/50 custody or sole custody?  What does that mean to you?  Many people mistake custody and parenting time, and the difference is very important.  Custody, very simply, involves decision-making; while parenting time (also sometimes still called visitation) involves the time a parent spends with his or her children.


Kentucky’s Supreme Court took a close look at the language we use in describing decision making and parenting in 2008 when it considered a case called Pennington v. Marcum.  The case primarily dealt with a parent that wanted to relocate, but the Court spent a lot of time describing the evolution of custody and parenting time in Kentucky.


The Court relied on a legal dictionary to define custody as the “care, control, and maintenance” of the children and described that while joint decision-making/ joint custody is not preferred by courts, it is certainly the most prevalent custodial arrangement in Kentucky.  Under this model the parents are both involved with and responsible for the children at all times, and they must consult with one another in jointly making decisions for the children.

On the other hand, when a parent has sole custody, he or she can make decisions for and about the children without consulting with the other parent.  He or she can act unilaterally.


Of course, as families change and parenting roles change, the courts have become more flexible, as well.  Therefore, there are many custodial arrangements that blend joint decision-making and sole decision-making.  For example, the parents may agree or the order may read that the mother can decide where the child goes to school, the father can make all medical decision, and the parties must agree on all other decisions.  Often parties will make a few custodial choices in advance.  That is, they may agree on a school system, a pediatrician, or a religion; and they may agree on guidelines for making decisions regarding which extracurricular activities the children may do or what expenses will be reasonable for the children.  The Pennington Court calls this custody “shared custody,” although that term has not been prevalent in my own practice.


By contrast, parenting time, describes the time parents spend with their children.  Because families all have different interests, schedules, and dynamics, parenting time schedules vary greatly from family to family.  A family that has joint custody does not have to equally divide the children’s time between parents, and likewise a family with a sole custody arrangement does not have to have the parenting time schedule of the 1980s in which the children visit with their non-custodial parent on Wednesdays and every other weekend.  Rather, families and courts alike tend to structure the time the children spend with their parents based on each particular family’s needs.  For example, parents with non-traditional or changing work schedules (police officers, nurses, union workers, retail employees) may have rules about scheduling parenting time around their schedules rather than set days.  Children with special needs or sensitivities may need extra time to transition to a new living arrangments, so a slower transition may be scheduled.

Practical Tip: Use your Phone’s Camera for Record-Keeping

My grandma was one of the coolest ladies ever. She was practical, witty, efficient, charming, and yet still somehow so warm and inviting.  I’m certain I don’t emulate her characteristics with as much grace as she had, but she, my mom, and my aunts are my standard.  It’s therefore no surprise that I preach practicality and efficiency daily in my office.

As I counsel my clients, I keep mental lists of their practical questions.  Where do I keep my living will?  Should I tell my children that I have a final power of attorney or just keep it in case of emergency?  How do people store all of this paperwork?  Sometimes practicality strikes, and I have a unique and decent idea… in this case, use your phone.

I have no idea how to operate half of the apps that came on my phone, and I have very little interest in adding new apps, but I sure know how to use the camera, and that camera can be very useful for practical document storage. How many times have you been pulled over and haven’t had your proof of insurance in your glovebox? What if you’ve left your wallet in your diaperbag for a routine doctor’s appointment? Make use of your phone’s camera to store the following information in your camera roll for convenience:

1. Proof of car insurance: You get new cards year after year, and it’s hard to keep up with them. The police always want to see them when they pull you over. If you can’t find the original card, a picture substitute is better than nothing!

Car ins

2. Driver’s license: Having a photo of your license is helpful in circumstances other than just traffic stops. You sometimes need your driver’s license number on applications, you may need to know the expiration date, and the picture may help identify you in case of an emergency.

3. License plate: How many times have you parked at a public building, walked all the way in to the building to apply for the parking pass, and had to walk all the way back for your license plate number?! Taking a picture will save you a lot of trips! Plus, if you have multiple cars, you may need the numbers on a car that is at home.plate

4. Living Wills, Health Care Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Authorizations: These documents are only good if you can tender them to someone. If you are in an accident, and your health care delegate or attorney in fact arrives at the hospital with no paperwork, that person will not have access to you or your care until he or she can supply the documentation. If it is on your phone, there’s a lesser chance of delay. As an aside, you can also file the paperwork at the hospital in advance. Simply go to your local hospital’s registration desk and ask them to scan your estate planning documents into your file.

5. Health insurance cards: If you have a photo of the front and back of your card, you’ll be sure to always have this information handy.

6. Your medicine bottles: Every doctor you see needs an updated list of prescriptions you take at every visit. Rather than carrying that list in your wallet (or in addition to doing that), snap a picture of each box and bottle so that you know the dosage, the date the last prescription was filled, the pharmacy’s contact information, and the like.

7. Business cards for your doctors, investment advisers, accountants, attorneys, and other professionals: Snapping a picture is way less work that entering them into your contacts, and it’s lighter than carrying the business cards in your wallet.

8.  Your Child’s Growth Chart Information: When I leave the pediatrician’s office, I always snap a photo of the print out that contains my children’s current height and weight.  That way I always know it when asked by other doctors and pharmacists.

Do you have a picture of anything in your phone for future reference?