Episode 147 - Planning for the Holidays
Planning for the holidays is a challenge when you are married. When you are in the middle of a divorce or are just coming out of a divorce, it can be a nightmare, especially when there are kids involved. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep joy in your holidays even though you are going through a tough time. There are certain D.A.I.L.Y. things you can remember and take action on. Join Leh and Todd as they talk about what the mnemonic D.A.I.L.Y. means and how it can help you create positive memories for your children during this tough season of your life.
Leh Meriwether: Todd, are you ready?
Todd Orston: No.
Leh Meriwether: You're not ready for the holidays?
Todd Orston: Well, now that you're being more clear, I am so far from ready for the holidays, so no. The answer is no.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, okay.
Todd Orston: Are you ready?
Leh Meriwether: I am, actually. No, I'm just kidding.
Todd Orston: Of course you are. Did you already put the million and a half lights up on your house and-
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, already.
Todd Orston: All right, all right.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether. With me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you are listening to The Meriwether & Tharp show. Here you learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to learn more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well, it's that time of the year again.
Todd Orston: Spring? Spring? I'm going through my mind, spring cleaning, taxes. No. What time of the year would that be?
Leh Meriwether: No, when we talk every year about this time, we talk about how to plan for the holidays, especially if you're going through a divorce or something along those lines, particularly if you're going through a divorce, because we notice that, if you just recently filed for divorce or perhaps you just finished your divorce, the holidays can be really tough when there's children in the middle of it.
Todd Orston: Yeah. So many of the problems that we see occur during the holidays, meaning major, major blow-ups usually relating to custody and parenting time, things like that. Nonetheless, tensions rise. People become a little bit more short-fused. A lot of times, they're issues that, if you don't figure out a better way to resolve the issue, you end up in court, and a lot of times, it was avoidable.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. That's what we're going to talk about, how to-
Todd Orston: Wow, what a coincidence.
Leh Meriwether: Isn't that amazing? We try to do this every year because it seems, no matter how many times we talk about it, it seems to happen, every year, that we inevitably wind up in court for a temporary hearing or something along those lines fighting about where the children are going to be for Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays and that sort of thing. Like you said, it can be avoided, and that's what we're going to talk about, the things you can do to set yourself up for success so that your children have positive memories about this time, even though they're going through a divorce, rather than nightmares.
Todd Orston: Yeah. There is a reason that we do this show every year. Like you were saying, it's a message that we can't make enough to existing clients, to prospective clients. Everyone needs to go into the holidays... guys, it sounds like a Hallmark card in my mind, but it's like-
Leh Meriwether: Oh, boy. Here it comes.
Todd Orston: ... not just an open mind but an open heart kind of thing. By the way, I'm trademarking that. No, but you need to go into the holidays with that open mind. That's why we do this show every single year, because we want you to avoid the problem.
Todd Orston: Yes, we represent clients, we go into court, we deal with the issues when they come up, but we do everything we can, as attorneys, to try and reduce the tension, reduce the emotion, deal with the issues in a way that can avoid court. Like you were saying, every year, it seems the issues come up. All we want to do is repeat and introduce some new thoughts, some new things that you could try to work to avoid those problems because, otherwise, you're going to end up having to call us, and nobody really wants to talk to us, so... or at least you, Leh. I mean that's-
Leh Meriwether: Well, and speaking of new, I've come up with a new mnemonic.
Todd Orston: Oh, no. I thought I told you you were cut off.
Leh Meriwether: No, but this one's good.
Todd Orston: I doubt it.
Leh Meriwether: Here's the thing that you need to remember: daily. That's it.
Todd Orston: I remember things daily. I do.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, but that's the mnemonic, daily.
Todd Orston: Daily?
Leh Meriwether: Daily. When you can implement these daily activities-
Todd Orston: Daily.
Leh Meriwether: ... daily, you'll be able to... Hopefully, it'll improve your chances of getting through the holidays and creating some positive memories.
Todd Orston: You're going to sound like Rain Man like, "This is daily, definitely daily."
Leh Meriwether: Daily, of course, stands for something. We're going to break down what all of them are, but it stands for days matter, attitude, I, I, I, it's not all about you, live in the moment, and why do you feel like you have to yell? So-
Todd Orston: Well, because you keep coming up with these things. That's why I have to yell.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I'm trying to come up-
Todd Orston: That's my why.
Leh Meriwether: I'm trying to come up with something that people will remember.
Todd Orston: Okay.
Leh Meriwether: Maybe, if it's just that bad, people will remember it.
Todd Orston: On the list of things you've come up with, I'm not throwing big stones. I mean it's not bad. It's not bad. I think I can memorize that one, so-
Leh Meriwether: Okay.
Todd Orston: Yeah. All right.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Let's start with days matter because they do.
Todd Orston: Well, let's start.
Leh Meriwether: That's a-
Todd Orston: Why, Leh, do days matter?
Leh Meriwether: Well, what happens is, too often, and I'm including myself in this, we don't plan properly, and so we let the day and the week happen to us rather than us taking charge and planning out everything.
Todd Orston: Everything. I mean we push this on our clients all the time, proactive versus reactive behavior. This is just another example of being proactive. Take control of your schedule. Take control of the events that you know are coming. By doing so and bringing that level of organization to your life, a lot of times, you can avoid problems.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Even this morning driving the kids to school, I was getting irritated at this person that was going 15 miles under the speed limit. I'm like, "The kids are going to be late," but truthfully, if I had left a little bit earlier, it wouldn't have mattered because-
Todd Orston: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think you can still get a little annoyed. I mean there's a social contract.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. No, right.
Todd Orston: 15 miles under the speed limit during rush hour?
Leh Meriwether: Well, yeah, yeah.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I...
Leh Meriwether: Well, it was raining, but still.
Todd Orston: Okay. All right.
Leh Meriwether: Still, you start getting worked up because you're like, "The kids are going to be late. The kids are going to be late," and if you just left a little bit earlier, it wouldn't have been an issue.
Todd Orston: Absolutely. I can get on board with that.
Leh Meriwether: All right.
Todd Orston: I mean there's always something you can do differently to try and avoid those kinds of problems. People who are habitually late, I mean oftentimes it's because they're allowing their schedules to get away from them.
Leh Meriwether: Right, so let's talk about... Let's get practical. First off, this weekend, pull out a calendar. If you don't have a paper calendar, go buy a desk calendar. Go online. You can go online to any... You could go to Outlook or Google Calendars or any of those things and print out a calendar and start writing everything, in pencil, down. When I say everything, I'm talking about school events, if there's plays coming up that your children are involved in, your holiday, your company holiday party, any family get-togethers if there's some sort of... if you all have plans every Thanksgiving to get together. Pull them all out. Write them down in pencil on the calendar.
Leh Meriwether: Then, once you've completed that calendar... I'm saying, if you're not sure, don't say, "Well, I'm not sure what, when, if they're going to do the kids'..." Well, this year, there's trick-or-treating type stuff. Well, that's already passed, but the point is you don't know when they might be having a Christmas party at your school or a holiday party, whatever they call it. Reach out to the teachers. Email the teachers, "Hey, do you have any plans for any particular special events between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year?" Have them email them to you and let you know, because sometimes it's on the calendar. A lot of times, it's not.
Leh Meriwether: Put it on the calendar. That way, you can be there, and this is the important part too is that you reach out to your spouse or soon-to-be ex-spouse and say, "Hey, can we meet for coffee one morning? I'd like to go over calendars to make sure we're on the same page about all the upcoming events for the kids, for us, to make sure that we create this great environment for our children."
Todd Orston: Yeah. The reason calendaring is so important to us, as attorneys, is because we have to maintain airtight, perfect calendars because we have court appearances, we have other legal events that we need to be there. If you don't show up, if we don't put something on a calendar, we don't show up at the appropriate time, we can be sanctioned by the court. We can get in trouble with our clients and with the court, and so calendaring is something that's incredibly important to us. Like I was saying, if we, as attorneys, don't calendar, we can get ourselves into trouble. We've seen that happen to attorneys. "Oh, I forgot. I didn't realize that we had court." Well, you were given notice. I mean-
Leh Meriwether: That's your job.
Todd Orston: Yeah, exactly. I don't know what to tell you. Judges will take a really hard stance when somebody misses court. Well, the alternative... or not the alternative but the flip side of this, looking at non-attorneys, the problem may not be trouble with a judge, but it is emotional trouble. It is all the drama that you'll have to deal with because you didn't put the other party on notice, you didn't know something was coming up. You're talking to them at the last minute. That-
Leh Meriwether: Or the kids, or you miss an event of the kids-
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: ... because you didn't plan it, and something else come up, and so not only are they... They're in the middle of going through this divorce, but you're not there at an event that they had planned for or prepared for at their school.
Todd Orston: If you didn't calendar, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Sometimes you'll want to put the blame on the other party, "Well, you didn't tell me." Well, maybe they did. You just didn't remember.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Up next, we're going to talk about, once you put that calendar together, what you should do next.
Leh Meriwether: Todd, one of the things that I really love is when our listeners go and post a review and they give comments and feedback like this one from [mollypeyton01 00:11:08]. She said, "I've listened to almost every episode in the past few months. I'm not even in Georgia, but they present such valuable information and present it in an entertaining manner. Good audio too. Many are very dry with bad audio. Thanks, guys. I've learned so much." Thank you, Molly, for that feedback. We would love it you'd go out and post a similar review. What it does is it allows this show to climb in the rankings in iTunes and Stitcher, wherever it goes out, so that more people can get access to this information.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether. With me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to The Meriwether & Tharp Show. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well, today we're doing our annual show about planning for the holidays. We do do it every year about this time because, well, people seem to still forget to plan for the holidays. They can wind up spending a lot of money in attorney's fees having their lawyers negotiate time with the kids during this period or rush to court to get a judge to make a ruling about this when, a lot of times, it can be headed off in advance to avoid the problem.
Todd Orston: Yeah. For instance, Leh, I want you to put on your calendar for-
Leh Meriwether: Uh-oh.
Todd Orston: No, no. For December 15th, you're going to give me a nice gift.
Leh Meriwether: Okay.
Todd Orston: I don't want you to forget.
Leh Meriwether: Okay.
Todd Orston: Make sure that's on your calendar. See?
Leh Meriwether: All right.
Todd Orston: See? We are practicing what we preach. Now you are stuck getting me a gift.
Leh Meriwether: It's on my calendar.
Todd Orston: I'm sorry. I think it's a legal contract.
Leh Meriwether: There was no acceptance on that.
Todd Orston: Yeah, there was, and consideration. I'm being incredibly considerate here.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, wait til we get-
Todd Orston: Oh, that lawyer humor.
Leh Meriwether: Wait til we get to the part about I where it's not all about Todd.
Todd Orston: Yeah. All right. I may have to leave the studio.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Well, we were talking about calendaring, pulling out a calendar. Write everything down in pencil. Meet with your spouse or soon-to-be ex-spouse or ex-spouse. The reason you put it down in pencil is because, when you do meet with them and they see that physical calendar, it looks like, "Hey, I've written this stuff down in pencil. Is there something else that's going I need to add? What are we doing here?" It looks like you haven't come in there to... It's actually a mental-visual thing. You're not coming at, "This is set in stone. This is what we're doing." You're meeting to talk about the calendars to see if you all can get on the same page. When you see it in pencil, they're like, "Oh, okay. This is something that we can adjust." You try to come with a good plan.
Leh Meriwether: Now, if you have problems with that, or let's say you and your spouse aren't getting along, that doesn't mean that you just abandon it. You still go ahead and try to have the conversation. If that fails, take that calendar, send it to your lawyer, ask your lawyer to convert it to what's called a temporary agreement if the case is active. If you've already settled your divorce, then there's other parts of the daily routine that we'll address what to do in those situations, but if the divorce is still active, have your lawyer convert that to what's called a temporary order so that both of you can abide by that. It'll help avoid arguments in front of the kids about where they're going to be when.
Todd Orston: What you also need to think about is courts don't want to see you, meaning the judge doesn't want to have to deal with emergencies, doesn't want to have to deal with temporary hearings. They want to do everything they can, which means they want you to do everything you can to negotiate things and stay out of court.
Todd Orston: A secondary benefit of maintaining a good calendar is you can bring that into court at the appropriate time. Let's say all your efforts at being a good co-parent fail, and you believe it's not due to your actions but the other party's. That very same calendar can become evidence that you can use in the case where you can show the court, "Judge, I sat down with him or her on this date or that date, and we talked about these things, and I've maintained this calendar. And oh, by the way, he missed or she missed this parenting time and that parenting time or interfered with something on this day or that day, and I communicated all of this to that other party." That becomes great evidence of good co-parenting.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. If you're in the middle of a custody battle, and the person's wanting to be primary but then they didn't show up to a bunch of events or they're saying, "Well, you never told me about these events," then you could say, "Hey, I walked in. We had this meeting. We met at Starbucks Saturday morning at 9:00, and I gave them a copy of it, so they knew what was coming up. Everything was on the calendar." I mean, obviously, you're using it to avoid court, but the wonderful thing is, even if you're saying, "Well, my spouse doesn't work with me at all," well then, okay, then that's your evidence.
Leh Meriwether: All right, so last thing on the calendar, and we're going to go into the next one, is once you set your calendar, it's okay to say no to something, especially if either you're in the middle of a divorce or you've just gotten out of a divorce. There's a lot of emotional healing and emotional trauma going on. There's going to be emotional healing going on. Adding too much to your calendar can create additional stressors. It's okay to say no. If you've already locked out and you already said, "This is what I'm doing between November 1st and December 31st," or January 1st the following year, say no, but be nice about it. Say, "I've been through a lot. I really appreciate it, and I hope you think of me next year. It's just, this year, I'm dealing with a lot."
Todd Orston: Yeah. I want to be very clear we are not saying we're proposing that, once you have locked something in, you should say no to additions. What we are saying is you have that right. If it's too much of an imposition, then don't do it. I'm going to go back to courts want to see you co-parenting well. Co-parenting does not mean locking into a schedule and being-
Leh Meriwether: Inflexible, yeah.
Todd Orston: ... absolutely inflexible and refusing to try and work things out on the fly as things come up. Try to be helpful. Try to be accommodating. We've seen situations where, week after week after week after week, there are these audibles that are being called. At some point, you have the right to say no, but there are also strategic thoughts. I mean it depends. If you are traditionally the non-custodial parent, and the other parent keeps deferring parenting time to you, I can tell you right now, strategically, I wouldn't be saying, "Well, you have a calendar. Stick to the calendar." I'd be telling my client, "You take as much parenting time as you can get."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Maybe I should be a little clearer, so I'm glad you brought that point, because when I say saying no-
Todd Orston: You're welcome.
Leh Meriwether: When I say no to someone, I'm talking about things that are outside between you and your spouse. Maybe friends invite you to something that would create, "Hey, why don't you go to dinner with us tonight?" but you know you've got an event that next morning with the kids at school, and that could cause you to be up late, cause you to run late the next morning. That's what I was focusing on.
Todd Orston: Got it.
Leh Meriwether: It's okay to say no to other folks, but you definitely want to cooperate with the other parent. All right. Let's talk about the A in daily, which is attitude.
Todd Orston: You have a terrible one. I think we're done talking about it.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, my.
Todd Orston: That's not the attitude we're talking about?
Leh Meriwether: No, that's not the attitude.
Todd Orston: All right. All right.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. Shawn Achor wrote this book called Happiness Advantage, and it was very data-driven, but he had this great quote in it, it's because it says, "In the midst of a crisis, we can get so stuck in the misery of the status quo that we forget another path is available."
Leh Meriwether: Divorce, for most people, is miserable. It is horrible, but we can tell folks that you will get through it. We've seen people get through it. You just have to latch onto something positive. I'm not saying it's easy. I am definitely not saying that. In fact, we had an author on, Bill Butterworth, who wrote the book New Life After Divorce. That was Episode 102 if you want to go back and listen to it. He talked about that very first Christmas, how it was incredibly hard to get through, but he got through it. He said that he wished that... If I remember correctly, he wished people had come around him and surrounded him and said, "Hey, look. You don't have to live like this this first Christmas." I have to go back and read the book. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I thought that's what he said, but-
Todd Orston: Yeah. Negativity begets negativity.
Leh Meriwether: Exactly.
Todd Orston: If you are negative and you're going into every interaction with the other spouse, the other parent, then you are guaranteeing yourself a lot more stress, a lot more unhappiness than you need or than you deserve. It's a two-way road, right? At some point, you need to step back and go, "What do I need to do to calm things down? How can I disarm? How can I sort of cut out that negativity?"
Todd Orston: Sometimes it's hard because it... I wish there was a button and both parties would just put the, not real, but those weapons down and just be like, "You know what? Hold on. Reset. Let's try and work on things and be calm," but it doesn't always happen that way. What ends up happening, sometimes that I see, is you have one person, both parties, let's say, are very negative and they're very adversarial. Then one party will try and say, "Okay, let's calm things down," but the other party's not there yet. Then when it's like, "Well, the other party's not doing it," you jump right back into the negative behavior.
Leh Meriwether: It's a cycle.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: Psychologists actually talk about the negative attitude becomes predictive in coding, meaning that, when you're in a negative mindset, everything else is in a negative mindset. You are actually looking for everything negative.
Todd Orston: Glass half empty.
Leh Meriwether: Right, and you miss all those great opportunities. Here's a great example. If you have a negative mindset and you suddenly realize that one of your family traditions is no longer possible because of the divorce, you could cycle out of control. You could get very angry at the other side and stir up a lot of emotions that could lead you in court. If you have a positive mindset, you can say, "You know what? This is an opportunity to start a new family tradition." When we come back, we're going to talk about other tips, how to focus on the happy times.
Todd Orston: Hey, everyone. You're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five-star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Todd, it's time for you to turn that negative attitude into a positive one.
Todd Orston: All right, Leh.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd on The Meriwether & Tharp Show. Today, we're talking about the daily activities that you should be doing to set plan around the holiday madness so-
Todd Orston: I'm sorry. I just exhibited a bad attitude.
Leh Meriwether: You have. It threw me off.
Todd Orston: You sort of pushed me. All right, I-
Leh Meriwether: We've been talking about daily as a mnemonic to help you remember things so that you can better plan around the holiday craziness to create positive memories for your children rather than negative ones, especially if you're going through a divorce or just coming out of a divorce. Daily talks about that days matter, so spend the time to map out the next two months and put everything on the calendar that might be coming up around the corner so nothing's a surprise.
Leh Meriwether: Now we're talking about attitude, so just how a negative mindset can cause you to see everything that's wrong and then cause you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse to cycle into some, I mean, bickering that could really negatively impact the children. We were talking about how a positive mindset can allow you to see opportunities, for example, to create a new family tradition, one that... You had to end an old one because of the divorce, but you start a new one and try to create something that kids will remember. "Hey, mom. Remember that time when we started doing this? Wow, that was so much fun." You create a positive experience for them.
Leh Meriwether: In the middle of divorce, it can be so hard to do that. One of the tips that I've read in many books that are very data-driven is to take time to write down things you're thankful for. It could be something really small at first because when you're stuck in that negative mindset, it's really hard. "What am I to be thankful for?" Well, do you have a roof over your head? Because there's a lot of folks out there that don't even have a roof over their head.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I love the thought because what ends up happening, I see, is that you end up prioritizing, in your mind, all the negatives, and you take for granted some of those, if not all of those positives. Writing them down brings them to the forefront. It makes you not only think about it but makes you, hopefully, reprioritize and put things in perspective so that you could be like, "You know what? I am healthy. My kids are healthy. I have a roof over my head, a job that pays me money. You know what? I'm annoyed about some things, but you know what? I'm not going to let that define me, and I'm not going to let it have such a negative effect on me that maybe it affects my health or the health of my kids."
Leh Meriwether: Well, yeah, and here's another simple example. I'm driving down here. It's raining today. I'm driving to the studio and-
Todd Orston: Today was not a good driving day for you.
Leh Meriwether: It was not a good driving day for me. I'm driving to the studio, and the windows start to fog up. I'm like, "I am so thankful my defroster works and..." because I remember, in high school, I had this car that it didn't have AC. It was 20 years old when I bought it. When it rained, the windows fogged up. It was so hard to see. I mean something as small as that can set you in a more positive mindset.
Leh Meriwether: Another thing that I understand that can actually create a positive mindset is random acts of kindness. Maybe you're driving through a toll both and you just throw in a couple... an extra buck for the person behind you and pay for theirs and... or I've seen, in drive-thrus, where I've gone in, and the person in front of me actually paid for my meal, so I paid for the meal for the person behind me.
Todd Orston: How about these types of things? Hold the door open for somebody.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Let somebody get in front of you if you're driving and they're trying to pull out of a parking lot or something. Let them go in front of you. It's little things like that that... You're being nice to that person, but whether you realize it or not, you're also emotionally helping yourself because you feel good about the fact that you just did something nice for a total stranger. Hopefully, it can help put you in a better mindset.
Leh Meriwether: Another thing you do is listen to motivational podcasts. Now, some people go, "Well, motivation, it's nothing that lasts," but I think, as Zig Ziglar used to say, "Bathing doesn't keep you from smelling bad all the time. That's why we recommend it daily." Motivation daily.
Todd Orston: Yeah, there you go. I keep telling you about bathing, but whatever. This is a small studio, Leh. That's all I'm saying.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, my goodness gracious. All right, so that's enough of the positive wagon. Thanks, Todd, for all the negativity. It's a good thing I held the door for you earlier because-
Todd Orston: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Leh Meriwether: ... I might be throwing something at you. All right.
Todd Orston: As a matter of fact, can you crack the door open? All right, all right. Let's get back to it. I-
Leh Meriwether: It's funny. Part of the reason we do the humor in this show even though we... We take family law very seriously, but we do humor in the show because we know that folks that are listening to it, because we've heard the feed back from the listeners, is they're going through a hard time, and they appreciate the humor.
Todd Orston: You know what? There's always something to smile about. There's always something to be happy about. You need to get back to a glass-half-full rather than glass-half-empty kind of mentality. It's shows like this that we enjoy doing so much because we want people to get back to a glass-half-full mentality if for no reason other than it will bring you happiness.
Todd Orston: I can also tell you, for people who are clients or who have an attorney or who may have to hire or go through this kind of a divorce or other process, legal process, it also allows you to deal with the stresses that are going to be coming in that case so much better than otherwise. If you went into it and have a negative attitude, then everything that's happening around you, you feel like it's happening to you, you have no control, and you're just going to get angrier and angrier.
Leh Meriwether: Exactly. That leads us to I.
Todd Orston: It's all about you. Let's go.
Leh Meriwether: I was waiting for you to say that. All right, so it's all about me today. No, just kidding. When you're in the middle of a divorce, there's that tendency to feel like you've got to win, "I've got to win. I've got to win. It's not fair. I deserve better." It's, "He's treating me poorly," or, "She's done this to me." That's when you've got to put that aside and remember it's not all about you, particularly if there's kids involved.
Todd Orston: I have been in court numerous times where a party was testifying, let's say we had a temporary hearing or even a final trial, and the testimony was all, "I this," and, "He or she that," and, "I that," and, "I this." I've seen judges, at the tail end, say, "You know what? What's really interesting? I didn't hear one thing abour your kids. Everything was you. Everything was your anger. Everything was about the other party and their behavior, but not once did I hear anything about what your plan is for the children who are caught up in this maelstrom." We're telling you, A, for your own emotional health, you got to get out of that me-me-me kind of mentality and start thinking in a much more broader... have a much more broader view.
Leh Meriwether: I think one of the biggest impacts is in the holiday season. People get all worked up and go, "You know, I don't want the first... I want the kids to be at my house this Christmas or this Thanksgiving," and so they'll get into a battle. I mean I've seen people spend thousands of dollars arguing over Thanksgiving and the Christmas break, winter break, whatever we're calling it now. I've seen people spend thousands of dollars fighting over that when if they would just remember that there's going to be more holidays... It's not just this holiday or the next holiday. It's not just the holidays with your children. It's also the holidays with your grandchildren because if your children remember their holiday as being miserable with you, when they have children, they may not want to bring them to your house. A lot of people lose sight of that. They get so focused on the I, "I deserve to have the kids here this year. I deserve this," and they forget that the holidays come every year.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I also want to take a step back and just say what we are not saying is that you have to take on an, "I have to do everything the other party is asking me to do." That's not what we're saying. It is all about being reasonable. It's all about compromise. We're not saying, every time the other party says, "I want that holiday," "Well, it's mine." "I don't care. I want it." "Well, okay, I'm going to give you what you want again and again and again." That's not what we're saying.
Todd Orston: We're saying be willing to compromise, but again, it's a two-way street. If you quickly get a sense that the other party is unwilling to compromise and you're the only one doing the compromising, obviously, going back to your original point of sometimes it's okay to say no, all right, but again, go into it with a positive attitude. Hopefully, you'll be able to avoid litigation and all the costs, emotional and otherwise, that come along with it.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. It comes back to if you have that compromising co-parenting attitude, it's going to come out in court. If you have the person on the other side of it is just... they are not cooperating, that's when the whole temporary agreement comes into play. You say, "No. You know what? We're just going to have to follow the agreement." There's a level of cooperation, but then there's a level where, okay, the kids do need to see their mom or their dad too. Yeah, it's striking that balance so that you can create a conflict-free zone for the sake of your children and you. Up next, we're going to talk about how to live in the moment.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that, if you ever wanted to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 a.m. on Monday mornings on WSB. You can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess right? That's a-
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show, and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I am Leh Meriwether. With me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you are listening to The Meriwether & Tharp Show. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Leh Meriwether: Today, we are talking about planning for the holidays, something that people seem to forget every year. So often, I hear people go, "Oh, my gosh. It's Thanksgiving already?" Yeah, it comes the same time every year. I've done that too before. We just let things get away from us and then, instead of us taking control of the day, we allow the day to control us. We're talking about what to do, especially if you're in the middle of a divorce, to help create an environment, a conflict-free environment for the sake of your kids.
Todd Orston: All right. We've already talked about several of these. We've talked about...
Leh Meriwether: Days matter.
Todd Orston: Days matter, attitude. We've talked all about you, no, I. Now we're going to talk about living in the moment. Leh, you're driving here, so talk to me.
Leh Meriwether: Often, we'll see, around this time, there's this, sometimes, a drive to, "Well, the kids are going through a tough time, so I need to buy this big, huge present for them." Then the other one says, "Well, you're not going to outspend me on presents." There's almost a gift-giving war in the middle of this case, and the kids are caught in the middle. That's usually not the best decision to make if you're in the middle of a divorce. Your expenses are going up because now you have two separate households. You don't need to be spending $5,000 at Christmas on gifts. That's just going to put you into debt.
Todd Orston: Well, let's not get crazy, because that gift you owe on December 15th... I just want to tell you Bob, one of our other partners, has said he's getting me something crazy. I'm not turning this into a competition, but you... I'm just telling what my expectations are.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, okay. Oh, geez.
Todd Orston: No, we see that all the time. I mean we have seen some holidays where the gifts that kids get, I can honestly say I was envious. I mean we're talking motorcycles and, I mean you name it, big-screen TV. I'm like, "Really? The child is six months old. I don't understand."
Leh Meriwether: They can't even hold the Xbox controller. There's actually a great book out there called The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. It was written by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. They're two brothers who did a ton of research and found how we remember moments, experiences over things every single time. They talked about at this at length, how you should focus on creating moments for your children rather than buying them fancy gifts. Like I said earlier, come up with a new tradition, family tradition over the holidays. Don't make your divorce case turn it into a gift-giving competition. Focus on the moments.
Todd Orston: It's a really good point. I remember one gift that I got when I was young, and it really was more about the experience rather than the toy, because I got other toys, but it was such a great morning. I woke up. My dad had spend so much time. It was a train set, and it was on a big piece of plywood with fake grass and all that kind of stuff. Basically, coming into the room and seeing that set up, yeah, it was a great toy, but I got other great toys, even, I would say, better toys, but I remember that experience. I agree with you. I mean the things that we recall usually are based more on the experience than on anything material that you got.
Leh Meriwether: I really don't remember any particular present, growing up, that I got that... I remember just spending time with my friends playing with the toys, but I don't even know what those toys were, but it was... or going to grandma's house after opening presents that morning or whatever it was. I don't remember the gifts. Focus on that.
Leh Meriwether: Here's the other great thing. This is actually a good opportunity to sort of extend the proverbial olive branch. Instead of trying to focus on buying a gift for your son or daughter, what if you said, "You know what? Let's go shopping for a gift for mom or dad." You go shopping and help them pick out a present for the other parent. I mean that's a positive experience.
Todd Orston: It's an olive branch, absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: It's an olive branch.
Todd Orston: Yep.
Leh Meriwether: It's telling them that their other parent is important and, even though you're getting a divorce, the positive psychological impact on that experience for your children is huge.
Todd Orston: Understand it may not be reciprocated. Also understand we are not talking about gag gifts. All right? Fake dog poop is not what we're talking about.
Leh Meriwether: Yes, it needs to be a good present.
Todd Orston: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: A thoughtful present, and not thoughtful like, well, like you said, dog poop or a dirty diaper or something.
Todd Orston: All right. You just took it... That's horrible. That's... All right. Okay.
Leh Meriwether: On a separate gift note, we see a lot of people go through a lot of financial stress through the divorce process because lawyers, we're not cheap, and you're also splitting up your household, so now you have two households to pay for, so it's okay sometimes to not go out and buy fancy presents for all your friends and family.
Leh Meriwether: Maybe, if you're going to spend money, buy some stationery. I know this may sound a little anti-cultural, I don't know, because it's... with the number of ads you see on TV about buy, buy, buy. Go out and buy some stationery and write some heartfelt letters to people, just how much you appreciate them being in your life. Just tell them all the things that you're grateful for about them, because I could tell you that, again, going back to even being an owner at Meriwether & Tharp, just the handwritten notes I've gotten, I remember those more than any of the gifts. No offense to anybody that may be in the office that's listening to me. It's not that your gifts weren't nice. It's just I remember the handwritten notes more than I remember any of the gifts.
Todd Orston: All right. You get me the expensive gift. I'm going to write you the best note ever. I don't want to turn it into a competition, but the nicer gift you get me, the better the note. All right? All right. Let's move on to why. I'm sure you're questioning why I'm here, why I'm in the room with you.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Why did I even let you on the show today?
Todd Orston: That's not the why you're talking about so-
Leh Meriwether: No. It's like why do you feel like you have to yell? I ended on this because, if you didn't practice the first four, the D or the A or the I or the L, you could find yourself wanting to yell.
Leh Meriwether: You get a text from your spouse saying, "Hey, are you going to be there? The play is starting. Where are you?" You might want to say, "Oh, I can't believe they're saying I'm not a great parent." You want to jump to this conclusion they're trying to say something because you're in the middle of a contested divorce. They could just be going, "Where are you?" Maybe you didn't plan things out in advance. You didn't plan out your calendar. You didn't leave early enough. It could be any number of things. Before you lash back out at your spouse or ex-spouse, think about why is it you feel like you want to yell? Just ask yourself that question before you respond.
Leh Meriwether: The other important thing is remembering the difference between reacting and responding. The biggest difference between those two is what's the amount of time between the stimulus and the response?
Todd Orston: Yeah. A famous philosopher once said, and I'm paraphrasing here...
Leh Meriwether: Oh, boy.
Todd Orston: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt me. All right? All right, it's not a philosopher. I think it's some second-grader, but the point is it's true.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: We have clients, all the time, come to us, and they're like, "Oh, you will not believe what he or she said about me." Okay, what? All right. Is it true? No? Then who cares? I'm not saying it's right. I'm not justifying it. I'm not excusing it, but get yourself past that. Okay? You can't allow that to derail other things that you've got going on in your life, and that includes your emotional well-being and the emotional well-being of your kids, so...
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, so just take a moment and get something... It's funny that I've heard another version of that. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words can break my heart, so a different version of that, but-
Todd Orston: I like mine better. Anyway...
Leh Meriwether: Going back to-
Todd Orston: Mine comes from a Greek philosopher, so I mean I don't know who came up with that one.
Leh Meriwether: The point being that, like that client, that the words got to them and because it may have been breaking their heart about something. Look, put some distance, and when I say distance, time, between the stimulus, that email that you got, that text message you got, and your response.
Todd Orston: Yelling is the reaction. All right? If you calmly come up with a response, and your response could be, "I don't think now is the time for you and I to talk. I hear what you just said, and maybe we should just put this conversation off to another time." That's the response. Yelling back did nothing productive other than emotionally, you think, maybe make you feel a little bit better, but really all you did was create more strife for you, and it really didn't help.
Leh Meriwether: I'll leave everyone with this because we're about out of time. Just remember to halt. Don't make a decision or respond when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Those four things can cause you to say something that you really shouldn't that can make the holidays really miserable and could be used against you in court. Just remember that. Until next time, thanks so much for listening.