Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Have you ever noticed how, at this time of year, there are lists and lists circulating? You can find a list of the 20 best films of 2006, the 10 worst dressed people, the 50 most interesting books. In addition to spending some of your spare time reading through these lists, how about taking some personal time to create your own list – of your 10 most important assets? It may seem unusual for you, a member of the Sandwich Generation, to concentrate on yourself instead of on the needs of the family around you, but allow yourself to focus on and embrace your own development at this pivotal time.

Creating your asset inventory will give you a leg up on beginning 2007 from a position of power, but how do you begin? To help you, here's a short new list for the end of 2006, one to help you focus on your assets - not the financial ones but the personal strengths you own. Use this process to discover some of your hidden passions. Reflect on your answers or discuss them with a trusted friend as you create an expanded sense of yourself.

Writing your thoughts in a journal will help you clarify your thoughts and feelings as you look at all aspects of your life. As you begin to make an inventory of your assets, include what you have done and the value you have created in the past - as student, family member, career associate, community volunteer, friend.

Identify your strengths. What are some of your natural talents? What comes so easily you often don't notice it? How about the acquired skills you have used successfully? Think about what you consider to be your greatest personal strengths. These could encompass, among others, attributes as diverse as a love of learning, a sense of humor, loyalty, an appreciation of beauty, the ability to love and be loved.

Consider how others view you and your contributions. Who uses you as a role model and why? What in your life experience has led you to wisdom? Honor this insight and find ways to share what you already know well – mentor students learning to read, become a Big Sister, coach a basketball team at the youth center.

Engage in an active process of getting to know your true self and what you want to do. What nurtures your creative thinking? What stimulates your curiosity? What do you really value and care about? What are your dreams and passions? What do you imagine is your life purpose now?

How would you like to share your "assets" with others? Your expertise can be directed to giving back in a larger sense, to those in need, to the next generation, to the community, country, world. Begin to practice small acts of kindness – let the harried mother go ahead of you in the grocery line, give up the parking space to the elderly gentleman, smile at the sales clerk who looks like she’s having a bad day.

Just as you calculate liabilities as well as assets when determining your financial net worth, you can look at the areas which you would like to enhance in your personal life. This provides a focus for your actions toward self-improvement in 2007.

After you identify your strengths and the direction you want to take, develop and follow a concrete plan of action. As the writer George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Establish short-term objectives that will move you, step by step, toward the long-term goals you have set for yourself. Discover and create your personal vision for 2007 using your asset inventory.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In your holiday daydreams, do you envision universal goals like sustaining our planet's resources and gaining energy independence - or less stress? For many Baby Boomers, this time of year tends to be exhausting rather than inspiring.

Stress is the body's response to any stimulus, either external or internal, that is perceived as taxing personal resources. Is gift giving your source of stress, as you look for the perfect necktie or worry that a better blackberry will be released next week? Does food become your comfort and challenge while you're eating the cookie dough instead of baking it? Will you be focusing on the buffet table rather than chatting at the annual office party? You may be creating more stress by sticking to the old routine and operating on automatic pilot.

Of course you don't want to feel anxious and agitated, especially during this season. We know your goal is to keep your life in balance and still honor the complexity of Christmas/ Hanukah/ Kwanzaa. Figure out what about the holidays is most important to you. Think about what you want to do not what you have to do.

Begin to lay the groundwork for gradual change in your gift giving rituals. Use the following eight practical tips to help you keep your stress in check, as you focus on more joy and less stuff:

Give the gift of reconnection. Send a card and catch up with an old friend or a family member with whom you've lost contact.

Invest time instead of money. Take your elderly neighbor to her doctor's appointment or grocery shopping.

Give the gift of yourself. Arrange a regular lunch or museum date with your parents or take them to the movies.

Enjoy your friends by inviting them to a potluck dinner and cut down further on expenses by limiting your gift exchange.

Add a personal touch and express yourself creatively by making some of your own presents.

Put the focus on others – volunteer at a soup kitchen, take gifts to a homeless shelter, or donate to a center for battered women.

Give a gift to yourself. Go away with your spouse for the weekend or take your grandchildren to the zoo.

Enjoy peace of mind by paying off your debts instead of taking the family on an expensive outing. Look through the eyes of your children and decide together how to spend the day. Your family will understand and grow from the experience.

Let go of the idea of the perfect holiday. It may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but these small changes can represent the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Take heart as you embrace and celebrate the moment. Use it as a template for the future. And joy to you and yours as you journey toward greater connections.

Friday, December 08, 2006

How are the Holidays and the Internet alike? Both are filled with delectable treats but both can overwhelm you. When you are looking for information about midlife challenges and the Internet feels like a deep black hole, visit You will be nourished by the many stories of sandwich generation women in our Newsletter Library.

Lately we have connected with another boomer woman, Pat Jsikora, who blogs at She writes about experiences with her recently married son and her aging parents, and provides some very interesting and practical links. Especially at this joyful yet hectic time of year, you may relate to Pat's byline - sometimes I feel like a piece of bologna!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Now that December 1st is here, and the "Holiday Season" has been officially launched, this is a good time to give some thought to the gifts you can give yourself this year. Before you start rushing around, taking care of everyone else, consider what you can do to nourish yourself at this stressful time of year. You deserve it!

Let go of expectations of perfection - for yourself, your family, your gifts, your celebration. Your holiday will be what it is, not the ideal one you imagine.

Enjoy some time alone. Solitude can give you the chance to emotionally reconnect and feel rejuvenated. Put your feet up, listen to some beautiful music, practice relaxation imagery.

Spend time with friends, those that you haven't seen in a while as well as those you see regularly. This is a good time to reconnect, by email, phone, or holiday cards with friends across the miles.

Set aside some time for exercise that you enjoy – take a walk in the woods in the morning, join a yoga class in the afternoon or go dancing in the evening.

Fill your free time with laughter and fun to cut through the stress. Take pleasure in the holiday rituals you and your family have created through the years.

Plan a special treat for yourself. If you were planning the most special gift what would it be? How would you spend quality time with yourself?

Allow yourself time to reflect on your blessings and express your gratitude for them. Every night, before you go to bed, think about three pleasant things that happened during the day and enjoy them again in your thoughts.

Our gift to you in the Sandwich Generation this holiday season is to remind you to nourish yourself as you take care of and celebrate with your family. Enjoy!