Getting Better Sleep

Sleep is absolutely crucial to the body. If you don’t get enough of it, your body and mind won’t function properly.  However, there’s a difference between getting “enough” sleep and “quality” sleep.

The aim is for “quality” sleep. How you get there is your own journey. I’ve worked hard at this issue, as I’ve been a chronic snorer for most of my life. Snoring stops you from reaching that quality level of sleep the body needs to rejuvenate itself.

It also stops Mrs. S, one of the lightest sleepers in the world, from quality sleep. When she’s continually tired because of my snoring, something must be done.

The first step was a device called the “snore stopper.” Originally meant as a gag gift for Christmas, the damned thing was essentially a shock collar strapped to your wrist at night. When the device registered sound, it would send a “gentle electric pulse” to nerves in your wrist that prompted you to switch positions.

Two issues prevented the snore stopper from working well. The first was a sound machine present in our room at the time I first started using it. This meant I was getting shocked all night long, snoring or otherwise. The second issue was tolerance.

Apparently a person can get used to being continually shocked overnight to the point where they will become non-responsive to the device’s “gentle electric pulse.” That plus the device’s continued need for batteries and replacement “conduction pads” (gel strips allowing for a greater shock) meant the snore stopper stopped being effective pretty damned quickly.

Currently I’m getting the best sleep I’ve had in ages due to a suggestion from a store clerk at Walgreens. Mrs. S. begged I get some Breathe Right nasal strips one evening just to see if they would work. Someone who worked at the store pointed me in the direction of “Air” snore sleep inserts. They are silicone bands you place in your nostrils before retiring for the evening with a lavender coating.

The idea is to open your nasal passages so anything restricting your airflow is minimized. Plus there’s a sort of lavender coating on the band, so you’re smelling lavender as you fall asleep. Apparently lavender is a scent designed to promote relaxation and sleep. I’m not one to care much for the homeopathic bullshit that gets tossed around, but it’s a nice smell.

I’ve used the inserts for about two weeks now and the difference in the quality of my sleep is dramatic. For the first few days I woke up foggy, but not brain dead coffee zombie mode. Today I woke up at four thirty in the morning, wide awake, and without a stitch of coffee in me. I was ready to kill the day before my son woke. I got both kids breakfast, ready, and off to school in record time without waking Mrs. S. once.

If you’re a snorer, give these a try. It may help you reach your optimal self.

POSTSCRIPT: There are some of you reading this that see anything about “snoring,” freak out, and immediately insist the person who snores schedule a sleep study and fitting for a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea is a terrible condition, and I lost an uncle to it. Not every person who snores suffers from sleep apnea, though, and automatically getting a CPAP machine when something simple will suffice.

Expectation Management and Mediation

“Expectation Management” is key for any party entering mediation. Lawyers representing litigants in mediation must help their clients with this valuable component, or they lose the client’s trust. Failure to adequately provide clients with realistic expectations of the process is another component of why mediation is dead.

Expectation management is as simple as it sounds. Clients entering mediation must understand the mediator is not going to massage their fragile egos, give them a tummy rub, and hand the case in full to them. As previously discussed, most mediators don’t follow their training and engage in “evaluative case analysis.” Lawyers love this, because they are used to the trenches and what jurists will rule. Mediators take the easy way out and appease the lawyers, because that’s how they get paid.

The client, or party entering mediation, doesn’t have the same view as the mediator or their counsel. Their view is that all will be resolved amicably during the mediation session, that the mediator is interested in hearing what they have to say, and will work to give them everything they want and desire outside of court.

The client’s expected scenario never happens, and they almost always end up dissatisfied with the outcome of mediation. Some lock into a “get it done” mindset, and then end up with “buyer’s remorse” after the reached agreement is a binding court order. Others will simply resent their lawyer for not getting them everything they wanted. Some might even take the unnecessary step of accusing the lawyer of malpractice.

Combat unrealistic expectations. 

If you are the litigant, know when you go to mediation you will not get everything you want. Understand you will be forced into a position where you will be told this is the best possible way to settle your case. Understand you will be under pressure from all sides to “settle” if necessary, including the so-called “mutual cheerleader,” your mediator. If you don’t like the deal, walk. Tell your lawyer you don’t like the deal, and that you want to walk. He or she might try to talk you out of it, but the final, signed mediation agreement is binding on all parties. You are only comfortable with a deal if you find it fair.

If you are a lawyer, prepare your clients for mediation. Let them know the results they want are not what they’re going to get. Start asking them about a Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and its counterpart, the Worst (WATNA). Set a game plan for the mediation. Let the client know they might be there all day, so if there’s child care or other arrangements that must be considered those need to be dealt with before the mediation ever starts.

Unrealistic expectations and failure to manage client expectations lead to impasse. They are both reasons Mediation is Dead.

The Phone Call and Expectation Management

It’s late afternoon when the phone rings in my office. I don’t recognize the number, but I answer.

“May I please speak with Mr. Seaton?”

I identify myself.

“Hi I’m (name omitted). You probably remember me. We went to school together way back when, I wanted to see if you were available for legal services.”

I pause here to let the reader know this line is one every single fucking attorney hears on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s a case of mistaken identity. Sometimes people just lie. Regardless, the line is an attempt to establish familiarity with the attorney, and worm into the lawyer’s good graces.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Well I…” This is the point where the prospective client then begins a long-winded spiraling tale about his or her woes, usually at a rapid fire pace in an attempt to get free legal advice on their issue. Phone calls like this happen all the time. Newer lawyers will stay on the phone with the prospective client and eagerly share their hard-earned knowledge. I have shit to do.

“Wait a minute,” I respond. “I want to make the best use of your time, so let me ask you a few questions.”

“Okay.”

I ask the questions I need to determine whether I take the case or not. I tell the caller my policy on consultations, discuss the fee for the consult, and ask when they’d like to schedule.

“Well, I have to talk with my spouse, and it’s almost Christmas, and…”

Again, I pause to let the reader know the Christmas line is just that. A line to signal the quoted price for my time is too high, and an appeal to emotion wrapped in a nice little phone blurb. Again, I cut the caller off. I give the caller three available dates and times, and let the caller know when they speak with their partner and decide a time I’m eager to help.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”

I’ll most likely never hear from this person again.

The caller meant well. They were conditioned through a series of advertisements from bigger law firms about how the consultation would be free, how their problems would be answered with one phone call. They have a false expectation in their minds about the delivery of legal services. It’s all supposed to be free, and the person who takes the case does so because they have a boatload of money and are just in this profession for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Except we are people who like to get paid for our work too. We have overhead, costs, and sometimes staff to pay. Once all that is paid, we have to put food on the table for our families and pay for our home expenses. Those who can’t or don’t get paid end up finding another line of work. It’s as simple as that.

My time is valuable. So is the person who calls. That’s why I developed a system over the years of learning how to cut through the weeds, get to the point, and let the caller know I’m available when they’re ready to pay. Absent that, there’s no point in staying on the phone when others who have paid, who earned my time and attention, need my help.

When you call, be prepared for a short call. It’s not that I don’t want to hear your problems. It’s there’s only so many hours in the day, and so much work to do.

Shuttle Diplomacy: Garbage Mediation

Ask someone who’s been through a mediation what the process was like and they’ll probably describe it as follows:

“It was a long day.  We started off in the same room, the mediator said some stuff, our lawyers said some stuff, then we went into separate rooms.  The mediator came in and spoke with me, then said he’d go speak to my husband/wife. Then I waited until the mediator came back in with an offer.  This went on for several hours until we finally got an agreement in writing that I signed.  We left at separate times because we didn’t want to see each other.”

This is called “shuttle diplomacy,” and it is not mediation.  It is the bane of every sane mediator’s existence, and a practice that poisons what is left of mediation as a whole.  It’s lazy, it lacks the art of attention management real mediation requires, and leaves both sides with a bad taste in their mouths with regards to the process as a whole.  Most people who go through mediation training know this, and yet it still continues to exist as a widely practiced form of alternative dispute resolution.  This is the default to which many mediators gravitate because attorneys demand it, and one of the worst mistakes a mediator can make is marketing and tailoring a mediation practice to family law attorneys.

Shuttle diplomacy is lazy because you don’t have to work actively with conflict in one room.  Many mediators justify the practice because the “alternative” in their heads is having both parties continually focused on the anger they feel towards the other side, instead of on the issues requiring resolution.  These mediators more than likely don’t use any sort of attention management device like a whiteboard or flip chart to keep attention drawn to the issues.  It’s also safe to guess they’ve not learned how to control parties in high-conflict situations.  Finally, it’s a safe bet the mediator might be prone to capitulation when it comes to attorney demands.  All of these are problematic when it comes to ensuring a positive resolution of your dispute.

Attention management devices are key because they keep people from thinking ill of the other party and focused on the issues requiring a resolution.  No one likes staring across the table at a person that’s done them harm, physically or emotionally.  The easiest way to fix this is to have parties simply looking at something other than the other aggrieved party who they can’t stand for whatever reason, like a portable white board or flip chart.  Keeping the mediator in a position where both parties have their attention directed on the mediator and concentrated on the issues in play for resolution is a crucial way to command the room and defuse any sort of tension that might be present among the parties.

When you were in school, attention focused on the teacher, did you spend your time thinking about someone who you had issues with, or were you focused on the teacher at the front of the room and the blackboard on which he or she wrote?  If you were interested in learning the material you paid attention to the teacher and not to the guy you wanted to fight after school ended for the day.  The same holds true for mediations.  If you want to resolve your dispute with another person and “get it done,” you’re more likely to focus on the issues at hand requiring a settlement than how much you hate the other person if your attention is directed away from looking at that party.  If the mediation is taking place at the mediator’s office, some of the more high-end mediators will even use large computer monitors and case management software.  The technology adds a certain “wow” factor parties don’t normally expect and defuses tensions even more than just the white board or flip chart.

De-escalation of high conflict scenarios requires a high emotional intelligence level, an ability to read people, learn when tensions are ready to engage the irrational centers of the brain, and how to deflect or defuse those moments.  These are all art forms not readily taught in the short amount of training required to become a mediator in most states.  Becoming an exceptional mediator requires active engagement in these areas and continued commitment to learning more high-functioning levels of your craft.

If you start in “caucus,” or in separate rooms with your counsel, from the beginning then there’s a good chance your mediator is capitulating to attorney demands that parties stay in separate rooms.  If you start in the same room and caucus sessions break out immediately after opening statements, it’s a good sign the lawyers have more control over the mediation session than the mediator, or you.  This is a problem.  Allowing the mediation to break into caucus and remain there gives the lawyers more control of the mediation than you have.  If you’re a party involved in a mediation, that isn’t in your best interest.  The lawyers don’t have an issue with getting more power in the sessions, because it gives them more control and it’s another means of them justifying outlandish demands in the interest of zealous representation.

It’s not about the lawyer, though.  It’s your case and your mediation session.  You as the party can and should be the person in charge, and remain the person with the most at stake.  The best thing is for you to remain at the table with the other party in conflict, work with your mediator and the attorneys in the room, and head towards closure of your dispute.

About a year ago attorneys at a Continuing Legal Education seminar on “next level” mediation techniques admitted keeping both parties at the table was “harder,” but acknowledged the agreements reached tended to maintain a level of stability “shuttle diplomacy” agreements didn’t have.  That’s because mediation, practiced in its purest form, is extremely hard.  It’s not something you can achieve at a high level of competence with just basic training or even cursory experience.  When you do, however, and you remain committed to avoiding the “shuttle diplomacy” approach, you gain lasting results.

Shuttle diplomacy is easy, but practicing it is another reason Mediation is Dead.

Mediation Tip: Leave Your Support At Home

If you are involved in a mediation, you may be tempted to bring someone with you for “emotional support.”  This is most common in family law cases, where feelings are at an all time high and conflict is at a maximum.  When the day and time comes for your mediation, leave that person at home.  The only “support person” you need in the room is your attorney, because your “emotional support” will cost you time and money, and have you leaving with no settlement and a trial date.

“Emotional support” is a good thing when you’re going through a divorce.  You’re in a vulnerable position, and you need a good network of friends and family to make sure you get through one of the most stressful life experiences a person can undergo.  A mediation isn’t time for therapy.  It’s time for resolution of your case and an attempt to reach an agreement between you and the other party.  Bringing an “emotional support” person into the mix will tank the entire session because they’ll never think you’re getting the best deal possible and always push for you to make the other side pay for some egregious sin of the past.  You, in your raw, vulnerable state, will be highly prone to suggestion and feed off the anger your “support” person is expressing.  This will lead to the rejection of an offer, and make everyone’s life more difficult as a whole.

The best support personnel you can have is a good attorney who understands the true nature of the alternative dispute resolution process, prepares you for the mediation by discussing the best and worst alternatives to a negotiated agreement, and guides you through the mediation session with tact and a strategic approach.  By the time you are finished with the session, and an agreement reached, you will be signing an agreement that will become a binding court order.  It’s crucial you have a lawyer actually look it over and advise you if any portion of the document won’t fly before the court.

If you’re a mediator reading this and allow parties to come as “emotional support,” and those people are allowed in your lobby, or worse yet inside the mediation rooms, cease the practice immediately.  An even better practice is to discourage parties seeking your services from bringing anyone other than an attorney in writing.  Place language into your Agreement to Mediate that has the parties expressly agreeing to not bring others into the mediation rooms.  If you’re actually practicing mediation and attempting in good faith to keep both parties at the same table, instead of breaking the parties and their lawyers into caucus for a game of “shuttle diplomacy” then keeping “emotional support” parties away from the mediation is going to stop the session from devolving into a shouting match.  If you can’t be bothered to conduct the session at one table, removing the “support” personnel will still help tremendously because while you’re working with parties in one room the other side won’t have someone continually in their ear rumbling angry thoughts about how “that bitch/bastard has it coming to him/her” and “make them pay.  That’s not good enough.  You deserve better.”

Divorce is a hard process.  It’s one where people experience very real pain and grief, so it’s good they have a network of support on which they can rely in the days, weeks, and months to come following the dissolution of their marriage.  The day(s) on which mediation takes place is not a time to have those parties available to tank the resolution of a dispute.  The availability of “emotional support” persons during the mediation, and mediator permissiveness in allowing these parties in to potentially shift the power dynamics of a mediation, is one more reason why I hang my head at the current state of mediation.

Mediation is Dead.

DCS Rules of Engagement.

I’ve gotten a couple of calls requesting help from residents in the Volunteer State with issues regarding the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) or Child Protective Services (CPS) ever since my article on the “Vulnerable Persons Registry” went live at Fault Lines.  While I appreciate all the requests, I can’t help everybody.  My time and energy is limited, but there are a number of tips I can provide people experiencing issues with either DCS or CPS.

A couple of housekeeping notes before we begin.

  1. None of this is legal advice.  That you pay for.  This is free.
  2. Your mileage may vary depending on your state with these tips.  I’m dealing specifically with Tennessee here.
  3. If you’re not in Tennessee, you might have different acronyms (i.e. DCF in some states as opposed to DCS).  I’m using Tennessee’s for clarity and my own ease.

If DCS shows at your door, lock the door, tell them to get a warrant, and start recording the conversation.  

The first type of interaction most people have with a DCS or CPS worker is via a request to look around the residence and talk to your kids “to make sure they’re okay.”  This is a patently false statement on their part, as DCS workers showing at your door means someone called in a report of child abuse or neglect against you and a caseworker at your local office found the claims worthy of at least an in-house review.

Andrews v. Hickman County, Tennessee, a 2012 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case held DCS workers are subject to the same restrictions when entering private property as police officers.  If they’re asking to come into your residence and “look around,” that’s the equivalent of asking to search your home, and you’re allowed to refuse that search and ask DCS to get a warrant.  If they continue to persist in their efforts to come in and search your home, simply wish them a good day and tell the caseworker they’re not allowed in your residence until they produce a warrant.

The Department and its caseworkers don’t like this holding.  When the decision was originally announced in December of 2012, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services head brass in Nashville announced no caseworker would remove a child from a residence before a three day probable cause hearing occurred. This position wasn’t overturned in Nashville until a number of Juvenile Court judges and magistrates spoke out openly against the policy, opining the Department’s failure to act could put some children in danger.

Record the conversations with any and all interactions you have with DCS or CPS workers.  They’re aware how much you care about your kids, and they will attempt to scare you with any number of outlandish statements.  The tone changes drastically if they’re being recorded.  It changes even further if you show them you’re recording their every statement.  I’ve had great fun sticking a voice recorder on the table at every single DCS meeting I attend and seeing the nature of the conversations change.  Regardless, the material you gather in every recorded interaction may be of use to you and your counsel later.

Get an attorney the moment DCS shows up.  Don’t answer any DCS questions or sign any documents DCS provides without having an attorney look them over first.

If DCS contacts you to “come in” and talk about a “crisis situation” in your household, your next call should be to a family law professional in your area.  Make sure DCS knows you won’t be attending the meeting absent counsel.  They will tell you that you don’t need an attorney, and they may get adversarial and hostile to you if you let them know you want counsel present.  That should give you an understanding of just how badly they want you to incriminate yourself.

Another great aspect of having an attorney present, even if it’s just for the first meeting, is the unspoken signal to DCS that you’re a headache they don’t want.  DCS workers love their jobs when it’s easy and compliant parents just sign the forms, complete all the steps in a permanency plan, and go on to another phase in life.  If you show up with an attorney present who plans on fighting all the issues DCS claims are present in your residence, then you’re potentially more trouble than they care to deal with.  This especially helps before a Juvenile Court Magistrate gets a Department Petition To Adjudicate Dependency and Neglect or Delinquency Petition on their desk.

One important note regarding “Delinquency” petitions.  I’ve seen cases where parents are carted before a Youth Services Officer (YSO) after kids act out at school or in another place and told if they don’t sign a Delinquency petition on their child the kid will be removed.  This is a half-truth, and a dangerous one.  It is true that a Juvenile Magistrate or Judge might find your child’s circumstances worthy of a Delinquency adjudication.  That doesn’t mean you have to sign off on a Delinquency petition on your own child at risk of having that child removed from their home.  Furthermore, if you sign a Delinquency petition on your kids, you run the risk of having a Petition to Adjudicate Dependent and Neglected (D&N) filed against you.

Ask about your status on the Indication (Vulnerable Persons) Registry.  Demand to see the indication letter if one exists.  Exhaust all remedies.
Finally, we get to the indication registry.  If you’ve had a D&N petition filed against you in Juvenile Court, you’re probably “indicated” as a person who “potentially” committed child abuse or neglect.  If a DCS Caseworker comes to your door and talks with you, there’s a good chance you’ve been “indicated” as well.  Ask about your status on the Indication registry or Vulnerable Persons Registry.  If the DCS worker acts clueless, demand to speak to someone who knows what they’re talking about.  This is a live registry that as of February 2015 went live and actively reports “indications” for people suspected of child abuse or neglect.  This list is used to deny people homes, jobs, and access to places where kids might be present.  You could potentially find yourself on the list and not know it until someone with a web browser and internet connection decides to snoop on you!

There is a letter that is to be sent to all “indicated” parties.  It informs them of their status on the registry, the allegations that gave rise to an “indication,” and outlines steps to challenge the indication.

It is imperative you challenge the indication letter. If you do not, you will be stuck on a list of people who actually abused children and the elderly and were found guilty of those offenses in a court of law.  There will be no distinction, and if you don’t timely challenge the letter within the dates proscribed you won’t get a second chance.  You will remain on the registry until a court overturns your status on the registry or the bureaucrats in Nashville get a clue.

Keep these tips in mind and leave with one parting thought.  DCS and CPS workers have badges, ranks and official titles.  They also have the state-sanctioned ability to deprive you of your rights and liberties.  These are things we grant police officers, and yet we treat DCS and CPS workers differently because they’re ostensibly not looking  for criminals.  They’re doing a “thankless job” for “the good of the children.”  Don’t fall for that line of bullshit.  Treat every interaction with DCS or CPS, no matter how minor, like it’s an interaction with cops, and you’ll come out better for it.

Thoughts On The Liberal Redneck

Many of you have seen the Liberal Redneck, Trae Crowder, on video either through Facebook or other means funded by the New York Daily News.  He’s now their “Redneck in Chief,” and managed to get himself to a national platform where he can spread a message and get paid doing what he loves.  I’m happy for Trae, but just remember he’s spreading the message of those he’s paid to speak for.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  He’s a comedian.  Part of a stand-up comic’s success is reaching a national audience.  Trae managed to find that when it came to politics through his “Liberal Redneck” videos. He’s done well with them; many go viral and he’s gotten a position with the New York Daily News.  I don’t think all his videos represent the whole Trae Crowder, but that’s cool too. You can be an ad man and not represent the whole truth of being you.

When you see the “Liberal Redneck,” just remember he’s being paid to support a certain narrative that works for him.  That’s all.  He’s funny, and he deserves to be paid, but if he was the “Conservative Redneck” he wouldn’t get a day’s worth of air play because of his positions.  If he came out more nuanced than an extreme Liberal’s position to do nothing less than “shatter” Southern stereotypes he’d not have the attention he does now.

Trae, I’m honestly happy for your success if you’re reading this.  You deserve it.  You busted your ass with Drew Morgan, Corey Forrester, and D.J. Lewis, and you came out on top.  Bravo to you.  There’s nothing wrong with taking orders from the NY Daily News and supporting that if it feeds your family and you get national attention.

However, it does behoove your national audience to know that you’re not a NY Daily News slave.  Your political views are more than what you’re paid to say.  You have a better mind for politics, the world, and life in general than what the NY Daily News allows you to vent as their “redneck in chief” and if you really aired some of your views then they’d fire you in a heartbeat.  I won’t discuss that, because you need the money and you deserve the fame you’re getting.

But let’s be honest.  The News is telling you to say certain things, and you do it because it gives you a great paycheck.  That’s fine.  Just admit that you have more nuanced stances than what the NY Daily News tells you to say and we’re good.  We’re good right now, as I write this.  I just want the world to know the “Liberal Redneck” is a bit more grounded in reality than the views he puts out on the world’s stage.

Let’s not forget the accent either.  Your videos are filled with the southern drawl most people expect of the barefoot hillbilly type.  Yet when you do club shows it’s completely different.  You actually sound like you’re a decent human being.  Why do you let the NY Daily News make you their token “hillbilly” from the South?  I would imagine the money, but I’m often wrong.

In any case, Trae Crowder, the “Liberal Redneck,” is a credit to the Scruffy City regardless of his political leanings. If you’re a comedy club owner you’re a fool to not book him.  If you want him to speak you’re a fool to not contact him.  Just remember when you do it’s all about the message Trae Crowder’s been told to spread so he can keep making money.

And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

Rant in D Minor.

This will have no substantive value.  It is a rant for your own pleasure and entertainment.  Right now I’m getting this shit off my chest, and I’ll use my platform to deal with it.  I call it “Adventures in Parenting With Unrepentant Fuckwits,” or “What Happens When You Make Me Go Full Gorilla At 6 PM For Stupid Shit.”

As an homage to Bill Hicks, let’s shorten it to “Rant in D Minor.”*

One reason I relish being a solo practitioner and my own boss is because I love my kids and want to be there for them when a crisis situation occurs. About 10:15 this morning one of those crises moments happened.  My wife rings my cell phone.  It’s her vet tech, and she puts me on speaker.

“Your son is running a 101.9 degree fever.  You need to go get him.”

Cursing like crazy at this point, I hop in the car and dash off to the day care.  They’ve got rules there, rules I can’t complain about for protection of children against contagious diseases, and one of them is if your kid has a fever running over 100 degrees then they have to be without fever for 24 hours, pain medication and fever reducer free.  I’m just glad it’s the son though, and not both the kids, because if it’s both then I’m getting nothing done besides telling my daughter it’s not okay to lick the television.

We get back to the house and I give my son some Motrin.  His fever goes down immediately, and I get a strong suspicion he’s teething again.  Every single time he’s cut a tooth he gets a fever, and this was no different in my head.  He ate well, took a good nap, and I got some work done until he got up (Including three, yes three posts at Fault Lines you’ll be able to read tomorrow).

When my son awakens he’s not in the best of moods, but it’s to be expected.  Temperature’s still low, though.  By dinner he’s lethargic, not willing to eat, his fever’s gone back up, and I’m starting to get worried.  My wife, who is home by this point, confirms our son is teething.  It’s not just any teething, it’s a molar, which means it’s painful as all hell for him.  Fortunately, there’s a remedy for such things, but I have to go get it from a place called “Bohemian Baby.”  It’s an all natural teething oil called “Punkin’ Butt,” and the stuff works wonders.  My wife says she can either go or I can go get it.  I opt for the latter decision because of a couple reasons.

The first is that when it gets to a certain time of night and my kids are tired, they turn into the pint sized equivalents of drunks at the bar on last call.  My daughter is the one white girl who doesn’t want to leave and is protesting loudly because she’s just downed her twelfth shot of Jager and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”  My son is the bro who’s ready to fight anyone over anything, and protesting loudly because he just lost his last game of Beer Pong or Flip Cup.  Reason two is that “Bohemian Baby” is about two miles away,  I just ordered Chinese food, and I figure I can get the oil, be back in time for the kids to go to bed, and nothing go wrong.

I make it to “Bohemian Baby” and there’s a sign on the door that they’ve moved locations.  However there’s people inside this store, and it looks stocked.  A lady opens the door and asks what’s going on.  I ask if I can purchase a container of “Punkin Butt.”  The lady, who is lit brighter than a Christmas tree and smells as though she’s just stepped out of a Colorado dispensary, says “We have that, but like, we can’t sell it to you here.”

“Why?”

“Because this is like our online distribution store now, you know?  You want to buy it in town, you have to go to the West Town Mall location.  That’s our…what do you call it…um…yeah man…”physical location.”

I politely explain my situation and ask if I can make an “online purchase” somehow at this store.  She declines, and tells me the place to go is “Next to Sears, so you don’t have to worry about going in the whole mall, man.  I mean that’s a good thing, right?  At least I wouldn’t go near one of those mass commercialism centers.”

I thank the young lady, and turn to leave.  She says “Wait.  You’re going to want to go to the…wait…is it the first Sears entrance or the second Sears entrance?  I’m….wait….I think it’s the first Sears entrance.”  None of this exchange meant a damn thing.  There’s no telling what this stoner meant by “first” or “second” entrance, and there’s no telling even if she knows what planet she’s on.  I thank her and drive to Sears.

When I get to the entrance of Sears that leads into the mall proper, “Bohemian Baby” is nowhere to be found.  I ask at least three store owners if they’ve heard of “Bohemian Baby” and where the location is.  None of them know where this store is, if it’s open, or what it’s about.  If you know me, by this point you know it’s an exercise in restraint for me to continue keeping my cool.

One store owner, the guy running a place called “Wireless Toyz,” points to a mall cop and says “Hey man!  The Mall Dick will know where the place is!”  Thankful for finally sensing a useful function of a Paul Blart, I ask the guy where Bohemian Baby is located and if he can point me in their direction.

They’re on the other side of the fucking mall, and closing in twenty minutes.

I used to train Parkour regularly.  I do cardio regularly as a morning routine, if it’s walks, runs, cycling, or otherwise.  I can tell you with absolute certainty the next few moments consisted of me running for Bohemian Baby faster and more nimbly than David Belle’s iconic chase scene from District B-13.

I make it to the store as they’re slamming their gates shut.  My foot lands in the door of the store.

“I’m sorry sir, we’re closing.”

“No, you’re making one more sale tonight.”

I’ve been told in moments of sheer anger I’ve developed a certain penchant for a “thousand yard stare.”  It worked tonight, as the young lady planning on shutting down her shop asked what I desired most.

“One container Punkin’ Butt, please.”

“Will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a member of our rewar…”

“No.”

“Do you…”

“No.”

I hand her my card, sign off on the dotted line, and leave.  My kids are in bed asleep now, and we got our Chinese Food this evening and wine.

If I ever see that fuckwit from the “online distribution center” again, even if it’s in my office on an emergency matter, right now I’ll refer her happy ass out the door to someone else.

These are the things you do when you’re a dad.  You deal with the fuckwits of the world, and you do your best to protect your kids from them.  Soon I’ll write a post about the three kinds of Dads I’ve encountered in family law.  I just hope I do my father justice by setting an example for my kids.

*D is for Dad, in case you were still puzzled.

Life Lesson: Keep Your Cool

I’m in the middle of an excellent read by H. Graham Swafford, Jr. called “Go to the Pound and Get a Dog…Then Learn to Fly an Airplane.”  It contains numerous “Life lessons” from Swafford, a family and criminal defense lawyer in Jasper, Tennessee.  Bearing that in mind, I want to take a short moment and offer my readers a “Life Lesson” played out in the Family Law trenches, time and time again.

On Losing Your Cool With Your Ex: Don’t Do It. 

There will be times when you’re tempted to yell at your significant other during your divorce case.  It’s understandable; divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences people can go through.  The worst thing you can do during the divorce is allow yourself to show anger towards the other litigant.  It means they have the “victim card” to play, and they’ll play it to the hilt if it gains them an advantage in the courts.

That advantage, played out time and time again, usually goes to the wife.  The longer the couple is married, the more each spouse learns the foibles of the other and how to exploit them.  Usually the wife is the one who will learn just how to piss her husband off enough until he loses his cool and flies into a rage.  Then Bambi’s got enough leverage to go to her attorney, play up a sob story, ask why Bubba decided to yell at her like that, and the attorney gets to play Bubba up as someone with “anger issues” in court.

Worse still, if Bubba and Bambi have kids, those “anger issues” will play out terribly for Bubba.  More than likely Bambi will delve into Bubba’s history (real or imagined) as a drunk and drug addict, and then beg the judge for extra support, including alimony.  If you’re dealing with a small town judge, this is almost a certain victory for Bambi.

People in your life, especially those closest to you, will know the real “trigger points” that play you like a fiddle.  In a high pressure, high stress scenario like divorce those people, especially your soon to be ex, will more than likely pull those trigger points and play your response to their levels.  Know what your trigger points are, know they’ll likely be used against you, and when you see the gamesmanship occur, step back!

If you feel the need to respond to the other party’s jabs, learn to do so in a fashion that won’t sink your chances should you find yourself in court. Learn techniques like the “Jerry Intervention” or “Insult by Proxy” to deal with those moments when you need a cathartic release.  Other good mechanisms include Wim Hof breathing and self-hypnosis for relaxation.  If you’re focusing on your breathing or have the ability to trigger a relaxed state by saying “Relax” three times then people won’t get to your rage points.

Keep it cool, calm, and collected, and you’ll walk out the better for it.

  1. Some people will tell me that with my level of practice in the law I should not be giving a “life lesson,” nor do I know what the hell I am talking about.  I can state with absolute certainty this applies to every single family law case I’ve tried and other family law practitioners would affirm my point.

A short DCS rant on medicine

One of my kids might be sick, and I’m fucking pissed that I can’t talk about it more than where I do here or even discuss the nature of the illness because the most corrupt organization in Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services, could take my son if they wanted to based on him being sick with a virus that’s only treatable with Motrin and Tylenol.

Mrs. S. and I both put our kids in preschool following my son’s first year birthday.  The biggest rationale was when my daughter went to “daycare” at three months some fuckwad of a parent sent their child to the daycare with RSV.  It’s a common virus, and every kid gets it at some point.  When you get it earlier in life, though, it makes things difficult.  In my daughter’s case, it meant two trips to the ER with an IV stuck in her tiny hand wondering if she’d make it past the day.

We waited a year for my son to get past that point where RSV would affect him in such a manner.  That was easy enough, and when our in home caregiver couldn’t provide services anymore then we were able to get them into preschool, and a good one, which is apparently important these days. Then the bad stuff started happening.  I got notes on the door three kids had been confirmed with “Hand foot and mouth disease,” in my son’s room.  He’d been irritable a couple of days, but seemed fine.

Today after his nap, he woke up irritable and couldn’t be placated with food, beverage, or anything else.  He was grumpy all afternoon, didn’t eat dinner, and went to bed early.  It’s now 10:30 as I write this and I’m on vigil to make sure my daughter doesn’t decide to bang on the door of her room to wake my son up.

Tomorrow we will take my son to the doctor.  We will make sure he has a confirmed diagnosis, because that’s what day cares (and families visiting in town) want.  We will have to reschedule our weeks for the illness if he’s suffering from hand, foot, and mouth disease, and there’s a chance I could get it.  But my wife will keep working, because despite her clinic being broken into by a tweaker scumbag she’s a soldier and will keep on working to make low income families have healthy pets.

I’m lucky to write where I’m able.  I’m lucky to be able to do work when I can.  What infuriates me about this matter is that I’ve seen families separated because the kids had “hand, foot, and mouth disease” on removal by DCS, which is inane. Social workers thought their knowledge better than a doctor’s, and because the kids were in “pain,” the parents lost their kids.

The moral is simple.  Never trust DCS, CPS, or any other agency claiming the good of your children is their goal.  Lock the doors, record the conversations, and make them get a warrant.  Then call a lawyer.  You will be better off in the long run.