Author Archives: Carolyn Miller Parr

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About Carolyn Miller Parr

Judge Carolyn Miller Parr is a Mediator & Arbitrator, and partner at Beyond Dispute Associates in Washington, D.C.
EMAIL: carolynparr@toughconversations.net
BIO: About Carolyn
PHONE: 202-544-5675

The Virtue of Vulnerability
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, MEDIATION, on .

On September 29, 2016, I sat riveted as Judge Michael Aloi of West Virginia encouraged mediators to become more vulnerable. The message, the messenger, and the audience’s response were stunning. The message was surprising because mediators are usually encouraged to be neutral. Judge Aloi reminded us that most of our clients are experiencing deep pain. Our visible empathy and deep listening can help them feel safer—show them they’ve been heard. Judge Aloi said our vulnerability shows we connect with them. It telegraphs, “You are important to me. You matter.”

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Make Up 3 Stories
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Authored by , re: MEDIATION, Miscellaneous, on .
Make Up 3 Stories by Carolyn Parr

Like Paris, Washington, DC is a city of outdoor cafes. One of my favorite things to do while sipping a margarita at Guapo’s is to make up stories about the people passing by. It’s fun to do with a friend. Recently, for instance, a clean-shaven, neatly dressed brown-skinned man with straight hair walked by. He wore a blue dress shirt, open at the neck, with his sleeves rolled up. He looked 30-ish, serious, focused as he entered Starbucks next door.

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Relinquishment: Letting Go
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Relinquishment: Letting Go | Carolyn Parr

There’s no sugarcoating it: losses hurt. Whether it’s “aging out” of favorite activities, loss of meaningful work, or even the death of a person you loved, slogging through the pain and grief and anger of loss is hard! But there’s another way. Acceptance may come slowly and feel forced. We greet it with tight lips and a closed fist. We resonate with Ann Lamott’s, “Everything I ever let go of had claw marks on it.” Our fist is being pried open. We feel like victims.

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Death Terms and Euphemisms
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
Death Terms and Euphemisms | Carolyn Parr

From time to time, Tough Conversations will present articles by guest bloggers on topics of interest to our readers. M. Jane Markley, an expert on advance care planning, wonders why it’s so hard to talk about death:

Have you ever noticed just how difficult it is for people to say the word “death” or “died”? You mostly hear the terms when something horrific has happened like an earthquake or a bombing but in day to day life it is rare. This is part of our culture of death avoidance. Just take a look at the obituaries. If we don’t say it, perhaps it won’t or didn’t happen. If you listen carefully you will hear many other phrases or words used but rarely “death”.

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Redeeming the Pain (A Book Review)
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Redeeming the Pain (A Book Review) | Carolyn Parr

Some books are better the second time around.  Even better the third, after life has delivered its lessons. Living Through Personal Crisis by Ann Kaiser Stearns is such a book. Its subject is grief over life’s losses, big and small. A painful divorce propelled the author, a clinical psychologist, chaplain, and professor, to write it. She had two purposes: to help others and to heal herself. In a video on her website, and in the Preface to her revised version, Dr. Stearns says resilience comes when we learn from our pain. When we find meaning in it.  We redeem our own suffering by using it to help someone else. And that makes us stronger.

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Mediation a la Downton Abbey
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Mediation a la Downton Abbey | Carolyn Parr

Downton Abbey launched its Final season January 3, 2016, 7.6 Million people were watching.  If you were one of them (as I was) you saw a superb example of the miracle of mediation. As Season Five ended, Mr. Carson, the butler, had finally proposed to head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, and she’d said yes.  But Season Six finds her having second thoughts.  She’s not ready to set the date, and can’t bring herself to tell him why. In a hilarious dance around the word “sex,” she confides to the cook, Mrs. Patmore. She loves Mr. Carson and wants to marry him, but she needs to know what he expects in the way of wifely duties.

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Right and Righteous? Give It Up!
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Right and Righteous? Give It Up! | Carolyn Parr

Picture this: An extended family is gathered for a Thanksgiving feast. A granddaughter announces she’s moving in with her boyfriend. A son has brought his same-sex partner to meet the family. You learn your favorite cousin had an abortion. The family vegetarian ostentatiously declines the turkey and anything it touched. Your Mom’s friend who helped make dinner is a guy 10 years younger than she and you suspect he’s more than a “friend.” A Marine in uniform and a peace activist complete the scene. (I’m only partially making this up. I’ve seen each of these situations – but, I confess, never all at once!)

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Talking to Grief – Part 2
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Talking to Grief – Part 2 | Carolyn Parr

"What can we do to help?” friends asked me as my husband lay dying and soon after he passed. At first I didn’t know how to answer. I was still feeling my way through early-stage grief, from the inside out. At first I didn’t know what I needed, but others sometimes recognized a need and offered specific help. Or just showed up with it. Sometimes my head was clear enough to ask. Sometimes not.

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Talking to Grief
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Talking to Grief | Carolyn Parr

What can you say to the parent of a 17-year-old son who dove into a wave this summer and came up paraplegic? Or your 53-year-old family member who suddenly discovers he is riddled with cancer? Or “Sarah,” a church friend, who will soon celebrate her 56th wedding anniversary, holding her husband’s hand and watching his slow but unstoppable surrender to dementia and death? Recently I have felt surrounded by grief. It knocks at my own door and I see it everywhere. I can smell it, touch it. Anyone who watched the Pope’s visit on TV saw plenty of it. He waded into it: immigrants, homeless people, prisoners, babies attached to oxygen. Francis knows how to speak to pain.

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Parents Before Kids: Getting Our Priorities Straight
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Parents Before Kids: Getting Our Priorities Straight | Carolyn Parr

The deepest pain many elderly parents feel cannot be fixed by doctors or lawyers. It’s created by their own children.   The most common causes are:

  • Parents’ fierce desire to cling to their independence and autonomy
  • Sibling rivalry that shows up as parents need more help and role reversal kicks in
  • Greed
Parents who love their children can be blindsided by kids who seem to be trying to take over their lives as they get older:

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Caregiving in the Littoral Zone
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Caregiving in the Littoral Zone | Carolyn Parr

Nearly every day, even when she has to wear snowshoes, my friend Ann walks the beach near her home in Maine, where she shares her life with the man she loves. He has early Alzheimer’s. “My favorite place to walk is the littoral zone,” she says.  “It reminds me of my life.” The littoral* zone, she tells me, is the area of the shore where the tide comes in and out. The upper part is dry and solid at low tide; at high tide, it’s all either underwater or soft and squishy from the lapping waves.

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Transparency
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Transparency | Carolyn Parr

“What you see is what you get,” your daughter warned. You liked the transparency. Her boyfriend’s tattoos and nose ring? Not so much. At least you knew what you were getting – sort of. What’s really tough is when you think you’re getting Harvard Law and you get a secret drug addiction. Some secrets start with the best intentions. Mom puts on a happy face until her hair falls out from the chemo – and the kids learn about the cancer for the first time. The youngest has to move back in to nurse Mom.

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How to Say I’m Sorry Without Words
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How to Say I’m Sorry Without Words | Carolyn Parr

I’ve written before about fake apologies that don’t cut it, such as “I’m sorry if anyone was offended…” when the perpetrator knows very well she did or said something offensive. But there’s a flip side. Is it possible to apologize without saying, “I’m sorry?” I think it is. In fact, sometimes the most sincere apology comes without words but by making amends. Say a neighbor backs into your car. She knocks on the door and says, “I just hit your car. I wasn’t paying attention. Of course I want to pay for the damage. I’m calling my insurance company right now.” That’s a perfectly good apology in my book. She’s taking responsibility and trying to make amends.

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A Checklist for Long-Distance Caregivers
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A Checklist for Long-Distance Caregivers | Carolyn Parr

A few years ago I found myself flying to Florida a lot – but not for fun. I was the long-distance caregiver for two parents in their late 80s. Every few months I had to drop everything to fly south when a new emergency struck. - See more at: The worst was when Dad fell carrying an armload of lumber and had to be carried off in an ambulance. Until a sympathetic neighbor saw what was happening and helped out, Mama, with dementia, was alone, wondering what was happening.

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A Big Favor?
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, Family, KNOWLEDGE NUGGETS, on .
A Big Favor | Carolyn Parr

“You know, Mom, I’m doing you a big favor here,” said Amy. Though she hid it, Catherine’s first reaction was surprise. Hurt followed right behind. The big favor was to care for Catherine’s son (Amy’s brother) – who has deepening, unidentified memory loss. Catherine desperately needed a respite and asked for three days off to visit an out of town friend. The big favor was to care for Catherine’s son (Amy’s brother) – who has deepening, unidentified memory loss.

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Sibling Rivalry: A Coat of Many Colors
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Sibling Rivalry: A Coat of Many Colors | Carolyn Parr

{3:45 minutes to read} “I’m a walking work of art!” Joseph sings as he twirls in his lovely coat, delighted with his gift from Jacob, his Dad. Last weekend my husband and I took our granddaughter to see Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a lighthearted retelling of a serious Biblical story. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. Joseph’s bragging and sense of entitlement made his 11 brothers hate him. They sold him into slavery and claimed a wild animal devoured him.

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How to Move from Fear to Courage
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, Family, KNOWLEDGE NUGGETS, PERSONAL ARTICLES, on .
How to Move from Fear to Courage | Carolyn Parr

“How would your life change if you could reduce your fear level by just 25%?” My pastor, Gordon Cosby, challenged me with this question years ago. I realized I had many unacknowledged fears. I had a powerful job and feared doing anything that might look controversial, so I was afraid to participate in peaceful demonstrations for causes I believed in. I wanted to volunteer at an AIDS hospice, but was afraid my colleagues might ostracize me. I wrote songs, but was afraid to sing them to others.

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10 Resolutions to Improve Your Life and Relationships in 2015
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10 Resolutions to Improve Your Life and Relationships in 2015  | Carolyn Parr

10 Tough Resolutions for 2015

  1. I vow always to withhold judgment on whatever I hear or read until I’ve checked other versions of the same narrative.
  2. As much as possible, I will dwell in the present moment with patience and a grateful heart. In spite of the circumstances, each morning I will write down five things for which I am grateful.

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Liar!!! Liar??? Who’s Telling the Truth?
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
Liar!!! Liar??? Who’s Telling the Truth? | Carolyn Parr

“Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” Chico’s famous line in the Marx Brothers film, Duck Soup (1933) may no longer be a joke. According to The Washington Lawyer, since 1989 DNA evidence has exonerated 506 innocent people convicted of serious felonies based on eyewitness testimony. The witnesses believed their memories were accurate. They were wrong.

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Family debate: Autonomy vs. Safety?
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Family debate: Autonomy vs. Safety? | Carolyn Parr

The goal is not a good death. The goal is having a life worth living all the way to the end.” Dr. Atul Gawande being interviewed on NPR’s “Science Friday” about his book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Dr. Gawande writes for other physicians, but his words apply to families during difficult times of decision-making, as well. He’s not talking just about physical safety or even comfort; he’s talking about meaning.

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How To Stop Blaming Others
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
How To Stop Blaming Others | Carolyn Parr

When a situation turns sour – at work, at home, or even in a faith community – we often look for somebody to blame. As voices rise and fingers point, we need to breathe deeply – and call a time out.

Why shouldn’t we pile on blame when somebody is obviously at fault? Can’t we shame the perpetrator into better behavior? Won’t we feel so much better when we “clear the air”?

Consider these 3 reasons why blaming is not the path to positive change:

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Is An Imperfect Relationship Perfect For You?
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
Is An Imperfect Relationship Perfect For You? | Carolyn Parr

Sometimes an imperfect relationship is good enough. In Loving Someone Who Has Dementia, Dr. Pauline Boss describes an alternative to ending a relationship because it’s not everything we wish for. By that she means we can choose to retain the relationship and find peace by consciously deciding that a relationship is worth preserving, even though parts of it are painful.

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What Do You Really Want?
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What Do You Really Want? | Carolyn Parr

A character in the movie, How Do You Know? declares that what he’s learned in 20 years boils down to this: “Life is about finding out what you want and how to ask for it.” That about sums up what most people learn in mediation. They are trying to discover what they [really] want and how to ask for it [so they can get it and move on].

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The Power of Paradox
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Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
The Power of Paradox | Carolyn Parr

A paradox is a contradiction: holding as true two ideas that appear inconsistent or logically impossible. Let’s say, for example, Mom and her children agree she can no longer stay in her home. The wealthiest child insists Mom moves to an upscale assisted living residence. But the other siblings think it’s more important that Mom’s money lasts as long as she does. Mom wants both.

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Pope Francis: Mediator Extraordinaire
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Authored by , re: LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Miscellaneous, PERSONAL ARTICLES, on .
Pope Francis: Mediator Extraordinaire | Carolyn Parr

Pope Francis’ recent three-day trip to the Holy Land left me breathless. Out-of-the-box reframing, powerful symbols, and total attention that feels like love. The Pope wants to make peace between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. As many know, they’ve been at odds since 1054 when a formal split occurred. Orthodox Christians control the site of the Holy Sepulcher (where Jesus was allegedly buried). An ecumenical worship service? Impossible. The Orthodox would never allow a Roman Catholic mass to be celebrated there.

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Tell Me About the Skeletons in the Closet
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Tell Me About the Skeletons in the Closet | Carolyn Parr

That’s a question Bryan Bishop eventually gets around to asking every prospective client who comes in for a will or estate plan. As the client is recovering from the shock, Bryan reassures them, “Every family has them.

Think about your skeletons. What are they? The loving son who can’t manage money. The brilliant, strong aging parent you suspect has undiagnosed dementia. The kind daughter who can’t say no. The addicted grandson. A second wife you love, but whose son you consider immoral. An in-law you dislike or distrust. Mental illness, secret HIV, a hidden mistress for whom you’d like to provide. Maybe even an unacknowledged child of your own. The IRS lien on the family farm. The list goes on and on. - See more at: http://toughconversations.net/tell-me-about-the-skeletons-in-the-closet/#sthash.3n5MKFOL.dpuf

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“Freeloading” or Caregiving?
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“Freeloading” or Caregiving? | Carolyn Parr

Sibling fights are often rooted in untested mind-reading. Here’s an example of how to work your way to peace through a minefield of negative assumptions. Case Study:

Janet suspects her brother Marshall may be taking advantage of their mom, whom Marshall lives with. Janet lives in another state. Janet requests a full disclosure of Mom’s bank account and other assets. Shouldn’t Marshall be paying rent? she wonders. Is he buying his own groceries or eating Mom’s? Is he using Mom’s credit to his advantage?

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Note To Chris Christie: Why Your Apology Failed
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Note To Chris Christie: Why Your Apology Failed | Carolyn Parr

On January 9, 2014, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey publicly apologized for a massive traffic nightmare that several of his political allies allegedly caused four months earlier. Why the delay?

From emails disclosed in January, we learned that in September 2013, these individuals plotted to close two of three lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J. to the George Washington Bridge. The reason? Apparently, to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. Once the incident began to garner news headlines, dubbed as the “Bridgegate Scandal,” Gov. Christie claimed he knew nothing of the traffic tie-up until he learned it from the media. - See more at: http://toughconversations.net/note-to-chris-christie-why-your-apology-failed/#sthash.6s3Keutt.dpuf

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