Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

With families spread across the nation, many Sandwiched Boomers find that a summer family reunion provides an opportunity to reconnect with relatives in your extended family. You’ll have a completely different experience than when you see each other briefly at weddings, holidays or funerals. Getting everyone together in a vacation setting gives you the chance to catch up without time distractions. It takes advance planning but the rewards can be great for the whole family. You may rediscover your cousin's keen sense of humor, appreciate your great aunt's wisdom or delight in your young nephew. Perhaps your brother has grown up and will pitch in to help you, now that he sees how hard it is to take care of your parents.

Going on vacation for those in the Sandwich Generation is like investing in your emotional bank account. You generate vivid and positive memories that you can draw on when you need them. "Whenever I feel stressed out, I take a deep breath and remember how relaxed I was when we spent time at the beach," Beth related. "The kids were free to run around in the sand, play in the water and make as much noise as they wanted without me having to shush them. And my parents were so content, just sitting in the sun and being a part of the family fun. It makes me smile just to visualize that scene in my head."

If you haven't already done so, now may be the time to talk with your family about planning for your own special family time. It could be a few days camping, some weekend activities at a local lake or places in your community that you don’t usually have the time to visit. Enjoy the summer as you create memories to carry you and your family through the rest of the year.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yesterday we began the discussion about how to set aside time for a family vacation that will give you the opportunity to recharge yourself as you reconnect with your loved ones.

As a Sandwiched Boomer carrying a heavy load all year long, let you family know that you want to ease up, defuse the tension you live with daily, and enjoy a change of scenery. After juggling the responsibilities of caring for your aging parents and growing children, you deserve some down time. Brainstorm in order to come up with some options that will work for you and then discuss them with your family.

Remind yourself to be realistic about your expectations for the vacation and be willing to make compromises. Don't think that, all of a sudden, family togetherness will be a priority for everyone. You may find that each of you will enjoy spending some time alone, individually doing want ever you want. Just as your family celebrations and holidays often come with their own set of challenges, vacations will not magically solve long-standing problems in your close relationships. View your vacation as one step in a series and accept that it will have difficult moments as well as good times.

Look at your individual situation and decide what will work for you. If you need some time by yourself, fit that into your plans right from the beginning. If you want to reconnect with your teenagers, design outings that will appeal to both of you. If your parents are up to it, plan an intergenerational vacation. Your children will benefit from spending quality time with their grandparents and it will also give you the opportunity for some free time for yourself. Let your status as a member of the Sandwich Generation work for you for a change.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Now that April is drawing to a close, have you begun to think about planning a summer vacation? Even Sandwiched Boomers, dealing with aging parents and growing children, need to have a chance to have some fun and what better way to do it than on a special family vacation? There's just something about the warm sun, blue skies and late evenings that makes us want to ease up, have a change of scenery and leave our day-to-day work world behind.

This summer, even with the high price of gas, many Americans will be taking to the roads, hopping planes, and boarding trains for family vacations. As a member of the Sandwich Generation, you may feel crushed by your responsibilities all year round and see this as your best chance to rejuvenate. But how can you, when the demands on your time and energy are still there? This week, we’ll give you five tips to help you plan and enjoy your summer vacation, wherever it may take you.

You know yourself and your family best. Do you like to create and maintain family rituals? If so, you may want to return to the same vacation spot year after year, enjoying the familiar surroundings and activities. Or, if you prefer to explore different places and learn new skills, you can consider all kinds of innovative vacations together. Does your family enjoy 'chilling out' and relaxing or staying busy and active? What is most gratifying - the excitement of the city, the expansiveness of the beach, the majesty of the mountains or the serenity of your own backyard? Taking your family's particular preferences into account will make your time together even more meaningful for everyone.

Tune in again tomorrow and we’ll talk about some fresh ideas.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

There's an article this week in the business section of Time magazine that describes a "burgeoning field of employee emgagement, a movement that aims to quantify what, exactly, a company gets when it puts more money into bonding with the workers."

The final results aren't in yet. But apparently, once you're committed, you work harder and make the company more revenue. Businesses want their employees to be happy - that adds up to more productivity and bigger dividends. There are lots of ways to connect with your employees: tell them how they generate value and help the company, offer them free retraining, tuition reimbursement, skill enhancement, upward mobility.

But, as Sandwiched Boomers, don't you know all about teamwork? Whether your primary role is mother, daughter, mother-in-law or grandmother, aren't you already spending a good part of each and every day engaging with your family? You're aware of what happens when you go the extra mile. For those you love, your dedication creates a sense of security, positive self esteem, a desire to succeed. In other words, it pays off - big time!

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Listen up, Sandwiched Boomers. For the first time since the influenza epidemic of 1918, life expectancy is falling for 1 in 5 American women. The downward trend, more evident in rural and lower income areas, seems to be driven by an increase in deaths related to high blood pressure, smoking and weight. More than 30% of the U.S. population is obese and 60% is overweight - which is often asociated with diabetes and heart disease.

There is some speculation that stress also plays a part in these new statistics. And who would know that better than women of the Sandwich Generation, who are handling increasing responsibilities with parents growing older and children growing up. So notice your behaviors that can be modified, such as smoking, poor diet or lack of exercise. It may not be easy, but make a commitment to take better care of your health - for your own sake and the benefit of your family.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by 10 points in Pennsylvania last night - and the race goes on. She was gracious, her talk emotional and personal, speaking about her family and to the voters. She held herself out as a role model for women, sharing vignettes about a 90 year old woman who was born before women could vote and about parents reassuring their young daughter that she can be anything she wants.

Clinton, echoing the crowd's chant of "yes we will," declared that the tide is turning. She added that she would fight for the country everyday as President and she was ready to lead on day one.

The pundits had said a double digit victory was necessary, and Clinton pulled it off. Pay attention to the psychology, not the math, was Tim Russert's wise comment. And the Clinton camp are experts at that.

I think, by now, we all realize that Clinton is intent on keeping the race going, no matter what. As Sandwiched Boomers, you've got to know that tenacity is a trait that serves you well, especially when you're in a crunch. There are times when, despite how challenging it gets, there's just no way you're going to give up.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Does it matter that Hillary Clinton's track record includes her being a member of the Sandwich Generation? Campaigning last week in Pennsylvania, she stood between her 88 year old mother and 28 year old daughter. While renewing her efforts to engage women voters, she was also personalizing the issues for Sandwiched Boomers facing the demands of parents and children. Do you think her experiences increase the likelihood of her being more sensitive to your concerns?

Clinton's agenda does include efforts to ease the burdens on women who are struggling to balance the practical and financial demands of work and family. Her plan for caregivers includes a tax credit, stepped-up support for unpaid family caregivers, paid family leave by 2016, guaranteed access to sick days and increased support for child care.

Gloria Steinem, one of the founders of the feminist movement, thinks that a redefinition of work needs to take place. As caregiving is 30% of productive labor, a monetary value should be attributed to this work. Do you share her vision that women working together can impact society and make a difference? Why don't you share your thoughts with other readers.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

It has been six weeks since the last Democratic primary in Mississippi. As Sandwiched Boomers, you know what can happen when the stakes are high. Much like in arguments you may have with aging parents, growing children and partners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have gone on the offensive. And Clinton's attacks have had an effect. Obama has put aside his role as a reformer, focused on change, in order to get nasty too.

Emotions are high with the country on the edge of deciding whether Obama will be the next Democratic presidential candidate. Although the polls show that Clinton is up by 5%, if she doesn't win by double digits on Tuesday there will be pressure from the party for her to stop her campaign.

What is the present conflict you are dealing with in your family relationships: Is it time for your Dad to stop driving but he refuses to listen to your rationale? Do you want your boomerang daughter to commit to some house rules without wanting it all her way? Is the discussion with your husband about how to spend your tax return going nowhere?

Think about when you usually pull out all the stopppers in order to win an argument. Evaluate the skills and resources that are to your advantage at these times.

How does it feel to go against your nature so that you can come out on top? What most often works to win the hearts and minds of those who are most important to you? And do you always know when it's time to let it go?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today we welcome Irish writer, Orna Ross, who has recently published her first novel. "Lovers' Hollow." Her book is historical fiction but told through a contemporary lens, weaving backwards and forwards in time. Effortlessly interweaving past and present, and building towards a compelling and surprising conclusion, "Lovers' Hollow" ranges across three generations and two continents to deliver a page-turning exploration of love, revenge and the true nature of freedom.

Q: When did you start writing?

Orna: When I wrote the first words of my first novel, "Lovers' Hollow?" When I wrote my first nonfiction book? When I published my first article, the day somebody actually paid me for putting words together? When I took English lit at college and used to lie in my single bed, words chasing each other around my brain? When I wrote a poem in secondary school that my teacher read out to the rest of the class? When I read "What Katy Did" in primary school and copied out a few lines? I still love the way they sound good. It was something about limes I remember. I didn’t even know what limes were back then – but they sounded exotic and exotic was what I wanted and what reading gave me. When I first pulled my ABC together into meaning?

I am always amazed by writers who have a clear sense of beginnings and endings when it comes to their work. All of my work seems to overlap one into the other and I find it very difficult to say when something starts or stops. At the moment I am first drafting my third novel, editing my second and promoting my first.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a published writer? How did you go about it?

Orna: I had been working in freelance journalism for 15 years and my 40th birthday was looming. I always wanted to write a novel and knew the time had come -- I had to make a start. At first I thought I would be able to combine fiction writing with my journalism work, which I loved. I didn’t know then what I know now – that the writing makes demands of you.

It is such a big thing to want, it can’t just be fitted in on the sidelines. Not the kind of fiction I write anyway. So it soon became evident that I was going to have to stop my other writing activities, not to mention TV watching and other pursuits, if I wanted to make this happen.

Q: Who is your target audience? What motivated you to start writing for this audience?

Orna: My target audience is women, although I know men read my books too. Women who want their stories to reflect the complexities of life. Mine are not simple boy-meets-girl stories, although of course I write about love as well as murder and mystery and many other things. I write for such women because that is who I am -- I guess I write the kind of book I like to read. I’m not some somebody who’s with one-dimensional, easy answers. We get out on TV. Books are for deeper pleasures.

Q: How would you describe the writing you are doing?

Orna: I write historical fiction but the story is always told through a contemporary lens. I am interested in how the part plays itself out in our lives, our own past, and that of other people and the places we live in. My books are heavily layered and interconnected – getting that layering right takes me a lot of time.

Only the novel has the capacity to do this. Other forms – the short story, the drama, cannot move as a novel can in and out of different time periods, in and outside the mind, from the smallest thought of a single individual to the widest experience of whole societies, whole worlds. It seems to me that this capacity is what makes the novel uniquely valuable.

I enjoy novels that are a distillation of a single experience – but I think of them as long short stories really. The novelists I like best of those that write the biggies – Eliot over Austen, for example. Tolstoy over Turgenev.

Q: How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Orna: I grew up in Ireland where there is great focus on history but where the stories that are told about the past – our 800 years of oppression by the English, for example – never seemed satisfactory to me - too simplistic. "Lovers Hollow' grew out of my own family experience. My father’s uncle was shot in the Irish Civil War but nobody in the family ever talked about it. Our village was still divided still about this conflict, with families not speaking to each other, though it had happened 50 years before. The silence that swirled around the topic drew me to it. It’s the same with anything I have written since. Wherever there is silence, there is pain.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

Orna: Sometimes it’s something I know I want to go into a book – and I’ll go to great lengths to get it just the way I envisage it. For example, I knew I wanted Jo Devereux ("Lovers' Hollow") to live in San Francisco in order to connect her to the liberation movements there, so I had to visit the Bay area to research how the place felt (that was tough!). For "A Dance in Time," I had to read every single word written by WB Yeats, Ezra Pound, Francis Stuart, Maud Gonne and Iseult Gonne and almost everything written about them – between them, those guys generated a lot of words. Sometimes it arises out of other work I am doing – Nora’s experience in Enniscorthy Lunatic Asylum ("Lovers' Hollow") was based on a case study I came across in research I did for an MA thesis. More often, the ideas arise, as if from nowhere, when I’m lying in bed, telling myself I should get up, or when I’m jogging or walking, or in the bath. And I engage in two daily practices that keep them coming: free-writing and meditation. I never have a shortage of ideas - my challenge is to manage my time so that I can get them written up.

Q: What are your main concerns as a writer? How do you deal with those concerns?

Orna: My main concern is to try to capture the subjective, complicated response we bring to all that life throws at us. I deal with this concern by ensuring that I sit down every day with it and do what I can to give it the fullest possible expression.

Q: Do you write every day?

Orna: Yes. The session starts with free-writing then I pick up where I left off the day before. How it proceeds very much depends on what stage I am at. If I’m in the germination stage, it might just be note taking or working on the index cards I use to plan out the plot. If I’m drafting, I’ll just write as fast as possible, accepting any words that come, knowing I can fix it up later.

I try to leave each writing session longing to go on, itching to get going again tomorrow. Hemingway called it leaving some ink in the well. It gives you that sense of continuity you need when putting together a long novel.

Our thanks to you, Orna, for sharing your experiences as a writer with us. Sandwiched Boomers, now is your chance to ask questions of your own - so jump in!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Sandwiched Boomers have developed innovative means of connecting with their grandchildren, using talents they didn't even know they had. Let your own creative juices run wild as you reach out to them.

On a lark, Sara wrote a poem for her grandson on his first birthday. It reviewed the things she had done with him – watching his first smiles, seeing him sit up and eat in his high chair, having him crawl to her, holding his hand as he learned to walk. She found that she enjoyed the writing as it gave her an opportunity, during the process, to savor her pleasant memories. She began to write poems regularly, combining them on the page with pictures she had taken of them together. Her grandson looked forward to her new "grandma poems" and loved re-reading the old ones every time she came for a visit. His parents read the poems to him when Sara was back in her own home, keeping their attachment strong.

Making movies had been Alex's hobby ever since he was a teenager. He had taken pictures of his own children over the years but never really compiled them in any meaningful way. It was different when his twin grandsons were born. For their first birthday, he edited a video of the highlights of their growth that year, complete with music and clever titles. As they grew, they looked forward to getting their new videos and loved to watch them over an over again. Alex took great pleasure in making the videos, as he could watch his raw footage many times in order to pick the best shots and put them together. Creating the birthday videos was a win-win for both Alex and his grandsons.

Have you been taking digital pictures of your family? Could you make them into a book that your grandkids will enjoy looking at over and over again? Many sites on the Internet are available to help you create a lasting memento of your photographs.

Tomorrow, we welcome Irish author Orna Ross to our blog.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sandwiched Boomer grandmothers find many ways to create special memories with their grandchildren - baking chocolate chip cookies together has been a traditional favorite. Here are some others that may become just as popular with you.

Susan had enjoyed music all her life and had a soft, gentle voice. When her first grandchild was born, she picked a simple song and sung it sweetly to her whenever they were together. When they were apart, she sang it over the phone. Soon her little granddaughter began to recognize it as "Nana's song." The song became a way for both of them to keep each other close through the distance.

Carol loved books. She had worked in a bookstore and was familiar with all of the children's classics. When her grandson was born, she picked one of her favorites and began to read it to him whenever she visited. She held him close and repeated the passages in her lilting voice. This special cuddle time became one of the most rewarding parts of her visits. Every year, on her grandson's birthday, she gave him another classic children's book with her inscription telling him why she had especially chosen it for him. Books grew to represent a deep bond between them.

A chemist by trade, Marti knew how materials combined to produce new substances. She was intrigued by the way foods did the same thing, and she was an innovative cook. As soon as her young granddaughter was able to hold a spoon, she helped her put the fruit into her cereal. When she was old enough, she began to cook with her whenever he came to visit. She taught her to measure the ingredients when they made oatmeal raisin cookies and to mix the batter when they made blueberry muffins. The kitchen became their special playground and they had the added bonus of eating their tasty handiwork. As she grew, their creations became more complex and they both looked forward to sharing new recipes as they cooked together on her visits.

Travelinoma commented to yesterday's blog, telling us about the connections with her own grandchildren: "I read this post and immediately emailed the eleven grandkids that live far away from me, suggesting we all think of each other looking at the same moon, and smiling. What a great idea! I posted tonight about some of my Oma ideas. I'm glad you're doing this, and will be interested to read your upcoming blogs."

As Sandwiched Boomers, tell us about what works for you as you find new ways to connect with your grandchildren.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Baby Boomers have jumped into the grandparent role in the same way that they engaged in other phases of their lives – with enthusiasm and active commitment. They have redefined what it means to be grandparents. But how can you in the Sandwich Generation form and maintain a connection with your young grandchildren when they live thousands of miles away and you see them only sporadically? Use the same sense of creativity that you have mastered in other areas of your life to build a relationship that grows through the years. In this way you can give them the time and attention they deserve - without feeling like you have now become a Club Sandwich with another added layer.

Allan talked about his six-year old grandson, Jake, and the joy he felt whenever they spoke on the phone. "He called me the other day and said, 'Papa, I just saw the moon! It looked like a smile turned on its side.' I could visualize the big smile on his face and that brought an even bigger one to mine. When Jake was just three and we were visiting him, I had shown him the full moon early one winter night. I had explained to him that, even though we lived very far away, we saw the same moon in our home that he saw in his. We decided that the moon would be 'our friend,' and ever since then we have shared this special connection."

Even if you are living far from your grandchildren, you too can bond in a profound way. The legacy that you pass on to your grandchildren will be much more than money or possessions. It will be the priceless gift of yourself. Let them know who you are. You will enjoy the precious time you spend together and they will cherish the relationship with you for a lifetime.

This week we'll be looking at tips from other Sandwiched Boomer grandparents who found a way to develop meaningful connections with their grandkids. See what worked for them and let your imagination run free as you decide what works for you. And please share with all of us the special ways you have used to maintain closeness with your grandchildren.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Today, we're pleased to welcome Alison Bottke, author of "Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing."

In Allison's words, "You are helping to spread the word about a topic that desperately needs to be addressed. Our country is in a crisis of epidemic proportion concerning adult children whose lives are spinning out of control, leaving parents and grandparents broken-hearted and confused.

The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

What are some of the most common ways that parents enable their children?

ALLISON: Being the Bank of Mom and Dad, or the Bank of Grandma and Grandpa. Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices. Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies. Blaming ourselves for their problems. We have given too much and expected too little.

What are some things that parents can do to break the cycle of enabling?

ALLISON: Follow the six steps to S.A.N.I.T.Y.: Stop blaming yourself and stop the flow of money. Stop continually rescuing your adult children from one mess after another. Assemble a support group of other parents in the same situation. Nip excuses in the bud. Implement rules and boundaries. Trust your instincts. Yield everything to God, because you’re not in control. These six things can start a parent on the road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. in an insane situation that is spinning out of control. However, a key issue in breaking the cycle of enabling is to understand whose problem it really is.

What is the ultimate goal of Setting Boundaries?

ALLISON: While recognizing and identifying enabling issues must come before positive change can be made, it is the eventual peace and healing parents will feel as they gain power in their own lives that is the goal of this book. It’s a tough love book for coping with dysfunctional adult children, as well as getting our own lives back on track, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children empowers families by offering hope and healing through six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps. I walk parents through a six step program to regaining control in their home, and in their life.

Tell us about the S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network you founded. How can people get involved?

ALLISON: The “A” step in S.A.N.I.T.Y. is to ASSEMBLE a support group. This is a vital component in being able to look at our situations more objectively. We have developed a powerful Companion Study Guide that can be read individually or in a group setting. This Companion Study Guide contains all the information you need to conduct a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support group in your neighborhood or community. Visit our web site here to find out more:

The S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network is a powerful resource to help parents and grandparents who have challenging adult children gain S.A.N.I.T.Y. in a world spinning out of control. During the years I spent as an enabling parent there were no support groups available for me as a parent in pain. Although it’s a tremendously successful program, AA wasn’t quite right for me, and I attended a few Alanon meetings, but the kind of empowering strength I needed for my situation wasn’t available. I needed to hear from others who had walked in my shoes—I needed to hear what they were doing that worked. I needed people around me who would lovingly hold me accountable to my own choices as I experienced the journey of parenting and enabling a dysfunctional adult child. I needed an action plan to help me make changes in my life.

So many families suffer this pain and we appreciate Allison shedding light in such a personal way. Now readers, please ask your questions and share your thoughts by clicking on "comments."

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

With Mother's Day only four weeks away, in honor of motherhood and the nurturing women in your life, we are sponsoring a timely contest for Sandwiched Boomers. Tell us about the most significant lesson you have learned from a special, caring woman - your mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, daughter, a favorite teacher, mentor - the choice is up to you. You can submit as many stories of gratitude as you like. Simply email us at explaining why this woman had such a meaningful impact on you.

The winner will receive a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers and her tribute will be posted here on the blog and in our newsletter, Stepping Stones.

Those of you who subscribe to our free monthly newsletter heard about the contest earlier this week and several women have already sent in their stories. The cut off date is May 4, 2008, so get busy thinking about the important women in your life and how you can honor them. And if you want to receive your own copy of our newsletter next month, you can go to and sign up for it.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

As Sandwiched Boomers, you days are often filled with things you have to do for others. Now set aside some time to accomplish something for yourself - it will also enrich the lives of your loved ones. Patrika Vaughn has shared with us her tool for creating family histories - an audio-tape providing a step-by-step guide. On her tapes of "How to Write Your Own Life Story," she outlines some tips:

*Talk with your parents and record their memories on paper, audio cassette or video tape.

*Visit other relatives and get their recollections about life in days past.

*Take photos of living relatives, old homes where they lived, the cemeteries where ancestors are buried. Search old photo albums for snapshots of other relatives.

*Don't rely solely on your memory as your parents and relatives relate their stories of younger years. Write down or put on tape what they tell you.

*Go through any old letters you might have saved from your parents and relatives, as well as those you've written them. These will give you insight into common everyday events that most everyone has forgotten.

*Go to the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried and jot down the dates and names for your family tree."

Once you have completed your family's history, you can publish it to keep your memories alive:

"You may want to collect this history solely as a family record for yourself and your children. Or you might desire to have it printed in booklet form for family and any others who are interested in what your family has done. Nowadays, with desktop publishing programs, you even can publish the family history yourself, without having to take it to a printer.

Family histories are fascinating. Don't let yours be forgotten because someone neglected to write down the tales of yesteryear and record the family tree. If you don't do this now, some day you may say, 'I wish I'd written all that information down for my children and future generations.'"

Our thanks to PatrikaVaughn for bringing this resource to our attention. You can find her audiobook and others, plus online classes and consulting services, on her website:

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

After we blogged last month about improving communications with your loved ones, we received a special email from one of our readers, Patrika Vaughn. She has created a tool that can lead to new ways of Sandwiched Boomers talking with family members - an audio book giving you a step-by-step guide to writing your own family history. She has found that writing about past events with your loved ones can give a new perspective on events that may have hardened attitudes between family members. If you would like to learn more about her CDs and tapes of "How to Write Your Own Life Story," log on to

Here's what Patrika tells us in the Sandwiched Generation about writing your family history and keeping it alive:

"Digging into your family's past and writing about the people and events you discover can be a fascinating endeavor. A family history also helps give a sense of belonging to children and grandchildren, a feeling of continuity between the generations.

I've also found in my family genealogy interesting people who act as a springboard for novels and non-fiction books. What began as simple compilation of information for future generations, became the spark for stories to share with others.

My research and writing began when my mother, at 91, asked me to take on the project of writing her memoirs. I'd heard some of the stories of her younger life, but had forgotten many and never knew about others. I soon learned she had nearly a century of living to relate, and I discovered I was learning the history of a remarkable woman."

Patrika found that she began to understand her family better as she learned more and more about them.

"When you begin to search your family history, you'll get to know your parents and grandparents in a different way. You'll see them, through their recollections and the memories of others, as they were while growing up, struggling to provide a living for a young family, and contributing to their community to make a better life for others.

My great grandmother was one of these. I discovered that she, wife of a judge and mother of seven, living in war-torn Hungary, elected to follow her first-born son to the United States — bring with her the rest of her children, which included my grandmother.

Until then, my great grandmother was merely a picture in a photo album; now she has become for me a courageous intriguing woman, a woman who could inspire others if her story were told."

Tomorrow, we will look at how Patrika's audio book helps you get started as you begin your family history.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Remember those jokes you made in your youth about the old folks at Leisure Village? Now that you don't need such a big house anymore and are beginning to plan for retirement, you may have thought about moving yourself. But where to go? Most Sandwiched Boomers choose to stay near family members but downsize in a way that fits in with their active lifestyle.

A new trend is emerging for Baby Boomers who want to rekindle some of that communal spirit of the 60's when they move. In 2007 alone, about 40% of new housing for those in midlife is in what is known as 'age-restricted communities' and it is estimated that one-third of existing single-family home sales for this age group are in developments for the 55 and older set. Many Boomers are moving to these vibrant communities while they are young enough to enjoy the many recreational activities and create new friendships. They join with other seniors in neighborhood activities, take part in sports together and participate in educational courses. This is not the passive retirement of the past but an exciting new option for the 67 million of us now over 55.

In the next 4 years, it is expected that this age group will make up 40% of all households in America. Will you be a part of it? What would be your ideal living arrangement for the next stage of your life? What do you need to have in your housing choice? What are you willing to give up? What compromises would you make with your partner? Let us hear from you about your considerations for a midlife move.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

A reader who is a grandmother posted her comments yesterday about filling some of her post-retirement hours by helping her work-from-home son care for his children. An increasing number of Boomer grandparents are assuming greater care-giving and financial responsibilities for their grandchildren. Research indicates that more than 2.9 million are raising 4.5 million grandchildren. This is particularly true in homes where there is a single parent, chronic illness, or both parents work.

There has also been media attention lately highlighting just the opposite - that is, grandchildren caring for their grandparents. Smaller families, more women working and aging parents living longer all impact this paradigm shift. There is the need to call on the third generation to help out and provide companionship as well as do chores such as the shopping and cleaning.

According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study, 8% of informal caregivers are adult grandchildren. Some want to make the workload easier for their parents. Others like to reciprocate for the many ways in which their grandparents cared for them when they were younger. There are also hidden benefits - grandchildren find that they have skills they never knew about and they enjoy learning more about their grandparents' history as well as their own roots.

With the varied pressures on today's family, this reverse trend is likely to continue. Be a role model for your grandchildren and leave footprints that are worth following. See your relationship with them as an investment in the future. The opportunity to give suppport and comfort as you spend time together can be personally gratifying for everyone - now and later.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Are you a Sandwiched Boomer Mom whose husband or son is a stay at home Dad? There has been considerable growth in this phenomenon over the past few years. It seems that this generation of parents welcomes more flexibility in gender roles. On, statistics show that over 17% of preschool children with employed Moms are cared for by their Dads.

More than 1/4 of working women earn an income greater than their husbands. Often families today feel that one parent should stay home with the children - and men are responding by taking a detour off the career path. But no more "Mr. Mom." Dads are fending off stereoptypes and shedding the stigma of taking care of their children. Men are defining their own ways of masculinity - advocating for an overhall of family leave policies at work, taking over the household and joining support groups.

Whether the roles in your family are shifting for your husband or son, let us know what you think and how the circumstances are effecting you.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Gloria and Marilyn's article, in closing, suggests that you keep the channels of communication open. Dialoguing and sharing experiences requires listening, not necessarily agreeing. Each party needs to be heard and wants to be understood. The challenge lies in working it out in a way that is respectful to family members. The reality is that being gracious takes less psychic time and energy, and you may indeed grow to like, even love, your parent's new spouse or partner. Family harmony often means only relatively minor changes in long held perceptions or entirely new perspectives that genuinely reflect your own maturity.

Most of the Sandwiched Boomers who have made comments over the past few days tend to concur with these observations. Although some of them struggled with questions such as, Will this person take my place? What will happen to my mother's treasured possessions or my inheritance? Will I still be special and loved? Yet, despite initial ambivalence, they want their parent to be happy and are relieved that someone else will share the responsibility as their parent ages.

If your family has already made this sort of transition, share your experiences with others who are facing it now. And if you widowed parent is beginning to date, think about what you can do to take care of yourself and still understand your parent's position. How can you grow to know and accept your parent's new relationship - and still savor the memories of your parent who has died. By giving yourself permission to be open, it's a gift to both of your parents and yourself.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The comments from Sandwiched Boomers yesterday were thoughtful and, in some ways, similar. Readers felt uncomfortable initially when their widowed parent began dating - then more positive, seeing them involved and happy. What follows are some tips from Gloria and Marilyn on how you can make this transition a smoother one, for yourself as well as others in the family:

With a life of your own and different priorities than when you were younger, consider what’s really important and allow the small things to fall by the wayside. Establish weekend visits, holiday meals, occasional celebrations, perhaps vacations together in a new way. So what if your parent's choice is not ideal. Be appreciative that someone cares for your father. Consider these suggestions:Try to put yourself in your parent’s shoes and consider how difficult it might be for them, caught in an emotional tug-of-war between their new love and adult child.

Don’t put your parent in the position of having to choose between your love and that of their new mate when both are important to their sense of well-being.

Don’t discuss issues such as family inheritance, your late parent’s possessions, and your feelings of being pushed aside by their new love.

When you're angry, try to understand where your feelings are coming from so that you can calmly discuss your concerns with sensitivity and caring.

Keep reminding yourself that your parent is an adult and has the right, and smarts, to choose their new mate.

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