Two sisters in a family of five girls and four boys, we grew up in Ames, Iowa. In a nine-kid household, we learned the art of negotiation at a young age; how else could we get what we wanted with so many others clamoring for their own piece of the pie?
Our dad was an Iowa State University Agronomy professor and our mom an Iowa State University Home Economics graduate. Organized, productive, and energetic, they loved life, each other, and their kids. We lived near campus and to keep us busy they bought old houses to renovate into student apartments. The nine of us spent summers learning how to wield a paintbrush and a hammer, remove old wallpaper, tear down walls, and pour concrete. Working together eight hours a day gives you plenty of chances to experience conflict and to learn to work out your differences over how to get the job done.
In addition to his career at Iowa State University, which he loved, Dad applied his boundless energy to all kinds of projects. A do-it-yourselfer and fix-it-up kind of guy, he liked every task, no matter what it was. When we were young, he told us over and over that when we grew up, we, too, should find jobs “you love so much, you wonder why they’re paying you.”
Smart, intuitive, calm, and gentle, our mom led by example. She never once raised her voice. She loved each of us as individuals and nurtured our unique personalities and gifts. Mom taught us to be self-reliant; it was up to each of us to remember to return field trip permission slips or turn in school papers on their due dates. She was fun loving and open to new ideas, and everyone was interested in what she had to say.
Our parents’ attitudes were contagious. Their enthusiasm for life spilled over into everything they did. They thought we were smart, talented, and capable of great things; we took them at their word, and, certain we would change the world, set off to find our fortunes.
A few decades in the “grownup” world revealed, of course, that we weren’t smarter or more talented than the next person. But we discovered we had picked up effective ways of getting along with others. We created MEDIATOR IN A BOX™ because we still believe we can change the world, one conflict at a time.
Two Sisters, Two Countries
SIMPLE HELP IN A BOX USA
A graduate of the University of Colorado School of Law, I practiced family law and mediation prior to developing MEDIATOR IN A BOX™. I also worked as a mediator for the Office of Dispute Resolution for the state of Colorado. A perennial student, I’ve tried many things. In earlier years, I worked as a registered nurse and then as an elementary teacher, initially as a 6th grade teacher and later as a resource teacher in talented and gifted education.
Like a lot of people, I hate conflict, but I like resolving disagreements, so mediation is a perfect fit for me. As a child, I preferred negotiating at length with siblings and friends to resolve disputes instead of allowing adults to settle things with a quick, and in my view, completely arbitrary, decision. I wanted to come up with my own solutions.
In my practice, I saw the mediation process stand up to all kinds of disputes. People walked through the doors with a wild assortment of disagreements, and numerous times I observed those who truly wanted to engage in the process, emerge victorious, with a solution they had crafted themselves.
It is inspiring to watch a successful mediation session unfold; when people feel heard and understood, distress and resignation give way to hopefulness and relief. Individuals, who, prior to the mediation session barely looked at each other, begin to converse, and then work together to come up with a solution tailored to their specific situation.
When my sister approached me with an idea to create a product that would put the mediation process into a box so anyone could use it, I jumped at the challenge. Always an idealist, I was drawn to the MEDIATOR IN A BOX™ project due to an ever-present belief that human beings “can do better;” the idea of creating something simple and useful that would help people resolve everyday conflicts fascinated me.
I like biking, mornings, mountains, Moab, SmartWool® socks, healthy food, and learning new things. Long married and a mother of three, I have had ample opportunities to practice the art and science of conflict resolution. My greatest gifts in life are my wonderful husband, with whom I have shared many fascinating years and with whom I have yet much to discover, and our remarkable and beautiful children, who know how to get along with others.
SIMPLE HELP IN A BOX CANADA
My interest in conflict resolution was cemented on a particular night when I saw my husband, a lawyer by profession, apply the new training he’d received in mediation to our 14-year-old son’s request to attend a very questionable overnight party. As I listened to the conversation, becoming increasingly anxious over what appeared to be impending permission (over my dead body!), I was completely shocked when my husband said “no,” and our son walked upstairs to his bedroom, whistling! What was it that my husband had done? I was hooked.
I began to study conflict resolution in earnest. As my husband’s law practice evolved to deal exclusively with dispute resolution training and mediation, I worked with him, and other community groups, as a mediation coach. But I was more interested in conflict on the ground—the kind of everyday conflict that doesn’t require a professional, but still saps our energy and steals our happiness. Trained as a registered nurse, but now a full-time mother of four, I found plenty of opportunities at home to practice these new skills and plenty of reasons to keep learning.
When our youngest was ten, I opened a specialty toy store called West of the Moon on Saltspring Island, off the west coast of Canada. I traveled extensively to do the buying and discovered that I loved simple, effective design and products that worked! The store was fun and a great success, but when we moved to Victoria, I sold the store and pondered what to do next.
Over the years, I had learned firsthand how effective the mediation process was and what a difference it made in people’s lives. I saw how satisfying it was for people to come up with their own solutions and how unique those solutions could be. If only there were some way to put a Mediator in a Box and have it on the shelf, ready to use when you needed it. It would be useful for resolving everyday disputes and would help people learn the skills that can send a 14-year-old boy, whose request has just been denied, up the stairs, whistling.
I wanted to change how people approached everyday conflict and come up with a simple way to make the mediation process easily accessible. So I talked to my sister, Clare, who, aside from my husband, has the most natural ability I’ve ever seen to help others discover and resolve difficult feelings and disputes (her lucky children!), and MEDIATOR IN A BOX™ was begun. We share an appreciation for keeping things simple and worked hard to distill the mediation process into seven cards that have the power to keep a conversation on track and deliver a greater understanding of the other person.
The process in the box works. It doesn’t matter if it’s a recurring conflict, or a one-off. My husband of many years and I are trained in mediation, but still, when we sit down with MEDIATOR IN A BOX™, I am astonished at its power to reveal something about him, me, or our relationship that I didn’t know before. We come from different family systems, different cultures, and different countries. We understand each other better when we Box•It•Out™.
Other than my interest in anything that makes life better, I love writing poetry, painting, exploring the world, and learning. My husband and kids give me the motivation, purpose, and love for all of the above.