Family Relationships

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

Friday, June 27, 2008

If you think that the U.S. Supreme Court functions as the Founding Fathers might have envisioned it - an august body, removed from the input of ordinary Americans, part of the system of checks and balances, and impervious to the day-to-day winds of political climate change - think again.

This week, the Supreme Court has come down with two decisions that are certain to lead to lively discussions and debates. Yesterday, as they struck down the District of Columbia's right to regulate gun ownership and upheld the right of private citizens to own guns for self-defense, the close 5-4 decision was split along familiar lines of liberal vs conservative justices, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining to form the majority, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. In another decision, presented earlier this week, the court again ruled 5-4, with Justice Kennedy again joining the majority - only this time with the four judges on the other side of the ideological split, Justices Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens and Souter. That decision prohibited - as cruel and unusual punishment - the institution of the death penalty when the accused was found guilty of raping a child. Earlier in the month, Justice Kennedy again joined with the liberal bloc to form the majority opinion that the inmates at Guantanamo have the constitutional right to bring their case for release into federal courts. Clearly the Supreme Court has demonstrated its active role in addressing many of the issues important to the American public today.

Interestingly, both presumptive Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have come out in support of the Supreme Court decisions, although Congressmen and Senators have taken sides for and against. So what does all of this mean to you as Sandwiched Boomers? Issues of great importance to you and your families are likely to be brought before the Court in the next several years and with four of the Justices already over 70 - Justice Stevens is 88!- it is almost certain that at least one new Supreme Court Justice will be nominated by the new President and considered for confirmation by the Senate. So get informed and involved in the coming election. Learn about the candidates and their policies. Make choices about whom you want to represent you and your family for the next four or six years. Your votes could affect the make-up of the Supreme Court as well as that of Congress and the White House.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

As a Sandwiched Boomer, you are pushed and pulled by the generations on both sides, even as you try to juggle your career and your own needs with those of your family. What can you and your family learn from the role modeling that Tim Russert provided?
See this as a teachable moment. Character matters, as does your family.

There was a massive outpouring of emotion and much admiration for Tim Russert at a time when family values have taken a back seat to more immediate gratifications. The country responded to a man they didn't necessarily know but whom they saw as representing them, their struggles and possible solutions. People felt as if they could depend on him, just as your family does on you. You, too, represent hope for your family and the future of our country. So now is the time to meet this challenge head on, just as Tim Russert did every Sunday morning.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Sandwiched Boomer himself, Tim Russert cared deeply about his aging father, Big Russ, and was dedicated to his son, Luke, and wife while maintaining a high-powered career. What lessons can you take from the way he lived his life?

Tim Russert was a man of strong faith and felt confident about himself. Look at the many ways you can continue to build on your internal and external assets. Evaluate your basic character strengths and how they have benefited you in other circumstances. Are you fiercely curious and determined to find a solution, no matter what? Discover the resources, such as caregiver programs or support groups, that will help in your decision making process as you deal with the specifics of the family challenges you are facing.

He was a role model extraordinaire - so many in the media gave testimony to how he was their cheerleader and shaped their careers. Co-workers felt close to him, identified with him and his values. He was authentic, nurturing and encouraging. When you are facing what may be a difficult time for your own family, do you also recognize the importance of support? Discussions with friends and family can clarify your needs as you work through this process of change. Getting a second and objective opinion - from a family therapist, gerontologist or life coach - will provide you with further insight, direction and encouragement.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We continue today looking at what direction Sandwiched Boomers can take from the life of Tim Russert:

Tim Russert never forgot where he came from. He was proud of growing up in Buffalo, his blue-collar origins, delivering newspapers as a boy. You, too, can dig deep and find your roots. Listen to your inner voice. What does it have to say about who you are, what you want, how to care for your family relationships and still nurture yourself? Set some concrete and specific long-range goals about what you need for you and what you want to accomplish for your family. Identify short-term objectives as you work toward achieving them, step by step.

He did his homework - researching every subject he covered so that, when it came time to go on the air, he was very well prepared. It is often said that history is prologue. How can you prepare for what lies ahead? As you look back in review, how have you dealt with major changes in your family life? Think about what has worked in the past. Take the specific strategies that you learned from those experiences and, once again, apply the most effective ones to the challenges you are facing today. A positive attitude will motivate you to stay on track and ultimately reach your goals.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

There have been non-stop tributes to Tim Russert - from erudite political friends to strangers traveling long distances to pay their respects. He was the toughest interviewer in broadcast journalism and few had come even close to rattling him. He clearly understood how the media game is played. Because he knew an awful lot more, this week we'll be talking about what you and other Sandwiched Boomers can learn from his legacy and apply to your life.

He knew how to be a good son, father and husband. Tim Russert loved his family and told them so on a regular basis. Placing great value on parenting, he walked the walk. He made certain, above all, that his son was a priority. As knowledge is power, try to better understand the transitions that your own family in flux is going through now. Gather more information about how to manage change from the Internet’s search engines and the self-help section of your local bookstore. Talk to friends and family whose opinions you respect and who have gone through similar experiences. It's an opportunity to get realistic feedback and some concrete advice.

Tomorrow we'll look at additional messages Tim Russert communicated throughout his life.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

We enjoyed all the activity yesterday when Marika and Howard Stone of 2Young2Retire visited our blog for an exciting Virtual Book Tour. Their book, "Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life" has inspired many Boomer readers to do just that.

Several readers of our blog shared their experiences yesterday and Howard and Marika responded to them today. Jacqui talked about being frustrated because she didn't save enough money so that she could cut back or quit her job and explore other work she might really enjoy at this time in her life. Howard suggested she "take the long view and begin a financial plan to achieve freedom of choice over the next 6 to 36 months, with the help of a fee-based financial planner. You have more time and resouces than you think. Come from an abundance mindset and visit our website and book for more ideas.

Be grateful for what you have."

When another reader said she had been at loose ends since she retired a year ago and her golf game hasn't improved that much, she wondered how to find a group where she could explore her options. Howard responded that "golf can be fun as a side dish to your main course in life: service to others. Visit our website and get into a 2young2retire Group: 

Looking forward to talking further."

Sara commented about, at this stage of life, feeling free to try new things without worrying about whether or not they would succeed. Marika agreed, "Kudos to you, Sara, for letting your creativity loose. What better time? In fact, we like to think of these years as the 'what can they do to me' phase of life, and helping others to express what they hadn't dared to before is what makes our work joyful."

To another reader, Marika offered "Thanks for your 'second chance at a dream career,' comment. We're seeing many more stories like this one about the dentist every day. The Civic Ventures/MetLife research shows a large and growing group -- between 6 and 9.5 percent of those 44 to 70 years old -- doing much needed work of social significance."

How are you channeling your own passions as you move into the next stage of your life? There is still time to join in the conversation.

Marika and Howard will soon be starting a new on-line community,, where you can offer your thoughts and interact with others in the 50+ cohort about money, health, meaningful work, community service, life long learning -- all that matters in creating a fulfilling later life. Keep in touch and we will keep you informed about when they schedule the ribbon cutting.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

We are delighted to have Marika and Howard Stone with us today to discuss their book about how to rewire - 101 creative ways to put meaning into your life after retirement.

Nourishing Relationships: Howard and Marika, Too Young to Retire is both the title of your book and website. Tell us about how you came up with it?

Howard: It's a phrase usually applied to professional athletes, but it popped into my head in the course of a coaching session. I was in my early 60s and knew I wanted to stop traveling the world for my publishing job. Yet, there I was, not ready for the proverbial endless vacation, but preparing for a new career as a coach. I thought a lot of guys my age were also 'too young to retire,' and could use some coaching to help them figure out what comes next.

We both thought it was a good description of the 'down-aging' we were observing, in ourselves and our friends, as we got into our 50s. Before that, we were mentally preparing for a pretty conventional retirement. But when we came face to face with it, we both said 'whoa!' A major contribution to this epiphany was seeing what retirement looked like during our visits to our second home in the Palm Springs area. It didn't fit us. Shopping, decorating, early bird dinners, no way.

NR: Most Boomers today realize that the retirement of their parents won't be theirs. Many want and will need to work, yet not everyone is completely happy about that. What is your take?

Baby boomers are probably the hardest working generation we've seen, so it would be completely natural most want a break. Our book recommends a sabbatical, some time-out when you get to relax and replensh yourself. A year, maybe 18 months, if you can afford it. Most people who come into their late 50s in good health will be ready to do something more valuable with their time than 'rest and play.' And that's what we focus on. Helping them discover what that could be. We think work you enjoy is a great life extender.

NR: So, the second part of your title: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life speaks to that?

Marika: Exactly. One of the most fun things that happened after we launched our website,, in 1998, was that people started sending us their stories of reinvention and 'second acts.' We began to see that rather than life becoming smaller and more limited for people when they ended their primary careers, it could start to open up as they took some calculated risks and tried new things. Every one of the ideas we wrote about was drawn from a real story. And the truth is, there are way more than 101 ways to start the rest of your life.

Both your book and the website are very upbeat and positive. They profile people who have made it to the other side, like the attorneys who started a B&B, or the naval officer who created a nonprofit for homeless kids. What do you have to offer those who are not there yet?

Marika: Glad you brought that up. Actually, each chapter of Too Young to Retire has a 'Try This' section with suggested small steps to take. We know from our own experience that transition from the security of the known world of work, colleagues, familiar routine, to something you have to invent, is challenging. Yet, there is no other choice but to move forward, as we see it. It takes time, effort, support from others, even an investment in training. But in later life, we have experience, contacts, resources in abundance, sometimes hiding in plain sight. I was practicing yoga for several years while contemplating my next career, then one day it just hit me: Why not train to teach what I loved to others?

Howard: I think we offer a sense of hope and uplift about the next phase of their lives. So much of what is written about older people is patronizing. It assumes that all we're interest in is our entitlements and a life of ease. We think Boomers and beyond have way more going for them, and far more to offer to society. We are far from done. We are needed.

Who would you say is your ideal reader?

Howard: People who know that retirement, in the sense that it has been understood, is over, and that they need to think and plan differently now. They may not have clear ideas of where they are headed, but they must be willing to tackle their money issues, if any, get as healthy as they can be, and approach the future as if they were new graduates. Because in some sense they are.

Our thanks to the Stones for a lively conversation and food for thought. Now, readers, it's your turn. If you're trying to find purpose post-retirement, Marika and Howard are here to share their sage advice. Just click on "comments" below on the right, type in your thoughts and follow the easy directions.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

As we finish up our posts on Sandwiched Boomers caring for their grandchildren, here are some final tips:

Do whatever is necessary to maintain familiarity and continuity in the lives of your grandchildren. By nurturing them and stabilizing their environment, they'll begin to feel more secure. The structure in their lives and the support you give them will relieve their feelings of anxiety and stress. Children are resilient - as you model positive thinking and hope, they will thrive.

Whether their troubling behavior stems from a hunger inside that needs to be satisfied, a serious emotional problem or habitual drug use, encourage your children to examine their own lives. By keeping the home fires burning, you afford them the opportunity to focus on greater personal awareness and their own emotional growth.

Many of our young people seek their self worth through the approval of others and habitual substance abuse is a major problem in our society. Community resources are positioned to help out when our adult children - struggling with shared child custody issues - need conciliation court, random drug tests, or rehabilitation. Through all these difficulties, our grandchildren need representation and someone to speak on their behalf. They deserve role models with strong ethical standards, integrity and character. Our children need our support as they get healthy enough to come home and raise our grandchildren.

Log in tomorrow morning for a lively Virtual Book Tour with Marika and Howard Stone, authors of "Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of your Life." Come prepared to ask questions and share your thoughts.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

As a member of the Sandwich Generation, you may be used to setting aside your own needs so you can deal with the challenges of children growing up and parents growing older. Taking care of grandchildren because your children can't, for whatever reasons, adds another layer to a sandwich that may already be difficult to digest.

Maintain a bond with your child's partner and extended family, even if, for the time being, you put these relationships on the back burner. By keeping the lines of communication open, your grandchildren will transition easier if they move from one home and family to the other. And a grandchild can't have too many loving arms.

There will be a huge void to fill and you may be confused about your role now. Don't be afraid to seek out a parenting coach or a family therapist. Although you likely were a natural when your kids were young, this is a unique situation. Learning skills and techniques from experts can make a big difference the second time around and talking with someone outside of the family about your worries and frustrations can be a lifesaver.

Do whatever is necessary to maintain familiarity and continuity in the lives of your grandchildren. By nurturing them and stabilizing their environment, they will begin to feel more secure. The structure in their lives and the support you give them will relieve their feelings of anxiety and stress. Children are resilient - as you model positive thinking and hope, they will thrive.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

What do you think about celebrities and the media frenzy - especially the focus on B-list bad girls who put the best interests of their children at stake. If young parents act irresponsibly and are unable to care for their children, is it up to their own parents - often hard working, card carrying members of the Sandwich Generation - to step in?

An increasing number of boomer grandparents are assuming greater care-giving and financial responsibilities for their grandchildren. Recent statistics indicate that more than 2.9 million grandparents are raising 4.5 million grandchildren. This is particularly true in homes where the circumstances involve a single parent, a habitual substance abuse problem or chronic illness.

If you feel caught in the middle of a soap opera or a complex and painful crisis, stay tuned over the next few days - we'll be offering ideas to help you take better care of your grandchildren, your children and yourself:

It's important for you to grieve whatever it is you have lost – perhaps it's the freedom to retire or work less at this time of your life, the dreams you had for the future of your extended family, or your children as you once knew them.

Accept the changes in your family, whatever they are, even if you feel caught in the crossfire. Validate your child's feelings and withhold blame. While you can show support, try not to take a particular side or excuse bad behavior. Remember that your primary concern here is to attend to the immediate needs of your grandchildren.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

This year we have chosen two winners of our Father's Day contest. Although their entries were very different, we found each of them meaningful and are delighted to share them with you. Please join us in congratulating Lyn and Linda who will each receive a free coaching session from us. We thank all of our readers for their thoughtful contributions.

Lyn Godin writes about her father and how he made a difference in the lives of those around him.

"In the 50s, my father was a school principal of a small school - grades one to nine. Winters are long in northern New Brunswick and there wasn't much to do outside in the wintertime back then. So, my father decided to build an ice rink on the side of the school. He started a boys' hockey team and coached it and with the help of a few of the boys, he would flood the rink every night, and shovel and scrape. He built a little hut with a pot-bellied stove and benches where we could warm up and change our skates. Every fine night he would go to the school for a couple of hours and play music out of loudspeakers for everyone to skate to. It's where I learned to skate. I don't remember any other father giving up their time to go out and help him but that never stopped him. He made a difference. All the students looked up to him and he was my dad! This is one of my most cherished memories (of many, I have to admit) of my father."

Our second winner, Linda Burbidge, wrote a poem honoring her dad at the end of his life.

I knew it was your time to go.
You were tired, no appetite for a fight,
Even for your life.
As the blood pooled in your brain,
And we waited for the end,
I told them you were dreaming
Morphine dreams of your perfect last day
In the pale prairie sun.

In your last years
Fear shrank your world
Until all that would fit was pleasant and mild.
All edges rounded, no bittersweet or sour,
No risk or surprise, no harsh words admitted.
I scrutinized and judged your choices
But never aloud.

I never cried at your funeral
Even as I gave the eulogy and watched
The grief of others flow.
Even as I sorted the artifacts
Of your meticulous life, and imagined
A sweet earnest graduate student
Recording everything.

And only now do I weep
At a glimpsed silhouette,
An old man in a peaked cap
Shrunk behind the wheel
Of a too large car.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

As Sandwiched Boomers, it's easy to become weighed down by the duties and responsibilities of caring for an aging father. But as we join together to honor our dad's on Sunday, lets consider the positive results of this complex relationship as well.

See the present challenge as a teachable moment and make the most of learning whatever you can. Apply these lessons to other areas of your life. What insight have you gained about dealing with your own aging process? How can you talk to your children about your wishes when you become older?

Look for all of the positives in these tough times. Gloria was learning a lot about herself as she cared for her dad in the last months of his life. "I had never really been tested like this before. Sometimes caring for him seemed like more than I could endure, but I kept going. Now I know how strong I can be." In the end, think less about what you're losing and more about the chance you may be gaining. This could be the only time in your life that you have the opportunity to give back to your father emotionally what he has given to you

As you are discovering more about developing your own capacity for resiliency, you will find the way to nourish yourself. You may call on your faith, your spirituality, or your sense of humor. Rely on whatever sustains you during these most difficult moments. And we hope you enjoy a happy Father's Day.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

As more Baby Boomers become caretakers for their aging fathers, the stress of struggling with the issues this raises can become overwhelming. When you feel sandwiched between the demands of career and family, reach out for support.

Don't do it alone - secure help, even if it is over your parents' objections, and have support systems in place. Reach out, create a network, hire someone to assist them as often as you think is necessary. Betty was frantic about making arrangements for her dad after his stroke. "I was so relieved when I was introduced to the hospital discharge planner. Her expertise and kindness made the move to a rehabilitation center almost bearable." Make good use of community interventions, respite care, support groups and adult caregiver resources.

Be forthright with your family. Engage your siblings in the problems and the solutions. Ask for practical help and delegate responsibilities. Have them set aside personal agendas and work together toward collective goals.

Some nonprofit organizations nationwide offer free services or financial grants for respite care for family members who provide most of the care to their chronically ill elders. The federal government, through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, provided funds for respite care to over 190,000 families in 2004. To learn if there is a program in your local community, go online to and look for the Eldercare Locator, or call 1-800-677-1116.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

As Sandwiched Boomers, it's difficult to watch as your parents deteriorate. And they may complicate the situation by being in denial about their vulnerable condition. It's up to you to acknowledge the true state of affairs and be straightforward in dealing with your father's increasing fragility. A number of issues must be discussed, uncomfortable as that is - health care directives in an emergency, long-term care options, the designated power of attorney, distribution of income and assets.

After evaluating the practical issues that need to be managed, you will feel more in control as you gather detailed information and make arrangements for the most immediate concerns. Like Tricia, you can recall the good times and use some of the following tips to help you plan and implement your caregiving:

Embrace the changes in your parents and respect their integrity. Accept them at whatever stage they are, even as they become less strong physically and mentally. Willa reminisced about her father. "He has always been my hero. As a child, I felt safe with him because he was so powerful. Now I admire his courage and dignity, as he struggles with coming to terms with end of life issues."

If your aging father has become ill, spend time learning more about his illness. Educate yourself on what to expect and the resources available. Talk to friends who have gone through similar experiences in order to get realistic feedback and concrete advice.

Make sure that your parents are as involved in the decision-making process as they can be. Moving out of their own home may signify their loss of independence. This often creates anger, frustration, or feelings of depression. Understanding their pain and engaging a geriatric social worker or gerontologist at this time can be helpful for your father and everyone else in the family.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

With Father's Day approaching, later this week we'll be announcing the winner of our contest honoring fathers and the unique role they play in our lives. We will print selected entries here in the blog and in our free newsletter, Stepping Stones, available through our website,

Sandwiched Boomers have been sharing with us their childhood memories of their fathers - and how these men have shaped their grown daughters in important ways.

Tricia talked about how her recollections of the active role her father played in her life were so at odds with who he had become later in life. It was painful for Tricia, as her father declined in his 80's. "Dad and I shared such fun times together when I was young - he taught me how to ride a horse, shoot a BB gun, ice skate, stand on my head. He was always so active. Last year, I had to insist that he not drive anymore. Now, seeing him shuffle around just breaks my heart."

What are the memories you have of your Dad? What lessons have you learned from him?

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Friday, June 06, 2008

A dramatic chase scene in order to elude the press corps, followed by a secret meeting under the cover of darkness - that sure sounds mysterious. Yet makes sense in this complicated political campaign, full of inuendo and little closure.

But doesn't it actually parallel conflict resolution in real life? You have an argument with your partner over some issue that is important to both of you and then - after calming down and thinking it over - a productive discussion follows. But that's not the end of it, even though you both know what the final result should look like. You have to figure out who gives up what, who's really in charge and what do you get in return for compromising.

It's not that easy for Hillary Clinton right now. She is going through a normal letting go process while, at the same time, trying to hold on to her voters and concede the race. Even though she has a 30 million dollar debt, she has played an incredible role in womens' history. Whether or not she wants the vice presidency, she now has no choice but to make a gracious exit and help unite the party.

The dynamics have been turned upside down, with Barack Obama the victor and Clinton the vanquished. These kind of shifts can be tricky, as he gears up to be the democratic nominee. Hopefully their meeting was the first step in mending wounds and moving forward - that includes reaching out and bringing Clinton's supporters into the coalition.

Obama has stated clearly that his plan to choose a vice presidential candidate will consist of an involved process with detailed feedback from close advisors. In the end politics, like relationships, are very much about the people. And that decision is entirely up to him.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

The political pundits have been wondering, "What does Hillary want?" There'a a lot of speculation - a guarantee of universal health care, major input on the war and the economy, a place on the November ticket. John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said that "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." At least for now, that's not true for Senator Clinton - she brought 18 million voters to the table and she wants an assurance that their voices will be heard.

The bottom line is that change is difficult and involves a process that takes both time and patience. Perhaps Clinton is considereing her options in concert with her family, advisors and closest friends, or working up a strategic plan to help unite the Democratic party, or even taking a few days to reflect on the past 18 months and to savor the positive memories.

Like a kaleidoscope, looking through different lenses may change the experience. It seems that everyone has their own opinion of how, why and when - but there are likely only a few people who really know what Clinton is going through. And she did say last night that she will speak on Saturday. Don't you think she deserves the opportunity to end it her way?

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Barack Obama is now the presumptive Democratic candidate yet Hillary Clinton has not given up the fight. It feels like a marriage gone wrong. Any relationship therapist would agree that there are two sides to every story - and the reality is usually somewhere in the middle.

There have been inuendos and accusations - from the quality of character to what constitutes a lie - all in the spirit of being judged more worthy of staying in the race and coming out a winner. Initial counseling sessions often begin with "why are you here and what went wrong?" Hillary had the money, the man and the motivation. But she wasn't prepared for the challenge of someone like Obama who had the message people wanted to hear.

So is Hillary a fighter or a spoiler, having stayed at the party too long? It's never easy to leave the spotlight, pick up the pieces and move on with your life. But no matter what advice others give you or what support you still have, first you have to be ready to let go of dreams and hopes. And apparently she's not there yet.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

At the close of the primary season today, do you think the run for the Democratic presidential nomination will finally be over? It's not unlike situations in families where a certain result is expected and, due to complicating circumstances, the outcome changes. There are subsequent feelings of surprise and disappointment - or, on the other hand, excitement and hope.

Life and politics are unpredictable. You have to admire Hillary Clinton's optimism, her fortitude and tenacity. And you can't accuse her of not playing out her hand. But, at this juncture, it depends on the math not the psychology. It is expected that the magic number of 2118 super delegates will soon be guaranteed and Obama will have the nomination.

The buzz is that it's time to unify the party and prepare for the general election. Just like a family in crisis, there are issues that must be addressed - how to let go with grace, treat each other with respect, understand individual needs, assess strengths and resources, determine mutual goals and work together while moving toward achieving them.

Senator Clinton has given her heart and soul to this process and wants to be sure that the dream stays alive. Obama's mantra has been embrace change, even if it's coming from an imperfect messenger. Despite the strange political dynamic, he has declared that they will be working together in November. Obama plans to meet with Clinton when the dust settles, at a time and place of her choosing. Now that sounds like a good start.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

We think all you Sandwiched Boomers will enjoy this article by Roberta Benor - Food for the Sandwich Generation: the Meanings Behind the Bread You Choose - published in the Washington Post in 1992.

"When you are told by your secretary that a nurse is on the line, do you try to guess if it is the school or the nurse in the cardiac care unit? Are your conversations at dinner parties now centered equally around vignettes of both your youngest and oldest relatives? Do you find yourself sandwiched in the middle of caring for your children and your parents? Then you are definitely part of what has been labeled the Sandwich Generation.So how do you cope with these double demands on your time and energy? How do some people work out the intricacies of the life cycle web better than other people do?

The secret may lie in how you prepare your life's sandwich, how you choose to view the situation. Just as in a deli, when you are asked what kind of bread you would like for your sandwich, you also can make the symbolic choice of what kind of bread you want to define the way you are able to handle your responsibilities in the sandwich generation. What follows are some choices of bread and the meanings behind them:

1) White Bread—as in the traditional Wonder Bread. You try to be Wonder Woman or Wonder Man by doing everything for everyone. And as with some white bread, you may wind up lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals, exhausted at the prospect of doing it all yourself. The reality of the situation demands that you change the recipe of your sandwich a bit. Add a heaping tablespoon of independence on the younger generation slice of bread. Guide your children into helping their grandparents to the best of their age capabilities and geographic boundaries. Dissolve any guilt you may feel by knowing that when you let generation one and generation three cook together, they will meld into a unified family.

2) Whole Wheat Bread—better for you, because the kernel is left in. Symbolically, you have to maintain your kernel of existence. You have to decide to do things for yourself. You have to say, "I'm not available now." You have to make an effort to read that book, take that vacation, or relax on that porch when you want. The demands on your time always will be there, but you will become more successful at handling everything when you are more of a person for yourself.

3) Rye Bread—you need your wry sense of humor. It will be very helpful for you to step back from the situation and laugh. Yes, it is sad to see your ailing parent, but surely you can find something to laugh at. Maybe like the seeds in rye bread, your humorous episodes are few and far between, but they are there.

4) A Roll—this is what you need to "roll" with the punches. Perhaps you have to miss your daughter's school play to be with your hospitalized dad. She'll understand, because you are teaching her that life is filled with difficult choices. Maybe that's why video cameras were invented. You can be comforted at those times when you are pulled in two directions at once by realizing that in showing compassion for your aging parent, you are serving as a "role" model for your children.

5) Multi-Grained Bread—some advocates say this is the most healthful kind. Many grains go into it. Therefore, it follows that this is the healthiest way for the sandwich generation to cope. You need to make use of multi-services. Of all the people you know, who can cook meals for your parents? Who can drive them to an appointment? Who can help you with figuring out their bills? You do not have to do it all. Each city or county has its social service department. Skilled employees can give specific advice. In addition, voluntary assistance agencies abound. It also is a good idea to ask advice of a friend who has been in a sandwich before. You want to avoid the end of the children's song, "The Farmer in the Dell." You don't want people to say of you, "The cheese stands alone." You will be mentally healthier if you allow yourself to be part of a multi-grain team.

Just as on a different day, you may feel like having a different sandwich, so on any given day you may decide to try a different kind of bread. What kind of sandwich do you want to be today? One of multi-grain and rye might become your favorite combo—keeping your sense of humor as you take advantage of help offered by agencies, family, and friends. You don't have to be a Hero sandwich. It's probably too much for any one person to chew. If you find that you are overwhelmed or are not satisfied with how things are going, that your sandwich is getting stale, then change your bread. Take a slice from another kind of loaf.

Finally, don't forget why you like sandwiches anyway. They are cohesive units with your specific choice of bread hugging the filling, keeping it and you connected with satisfying love."

Roberta is the author of a parenting book and a senior housing book. You can learn more about her and her business, recording life stories, at

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