Family Relationships

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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Last night, Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech after becoming the first African-American major-party presidential nominee in the history of the United States. During his 50-minute address, the culmination of the Democratic Party's four-day national convention in Denver, Obama promised to repair "the broken politics of Washington."

He challenged John McCain on issues at home and abroad. More combative and sharply focused, Obama addressed doubts about his readiness to lead and answered critics who say his rhetoric is vacant.

Talking specifically about the changes that this country needs, he spoke to restoring moral standing and a sense of common purpose. He said, "this election isn't about me, it's about you," and called for individual and mutual responsibility. Obama's comment that "it's time for us to change America," symbolized his grass roots approach.

Some of the pundits called Obama's speech a masterpiece, others saw it as transformational. His moral outrage was palpable, his inner strength apparent. Personal and open, he tried to find the middle ground on tough issues like abortion and gay marriage. Showing that he has the fight in him, he seemed to be the Barack Obama the Democrats have been waiting for - as if he's growing into the possibility of being the next President of the United States.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Democratic convention seems to be heating up, as promised. Last night, Bill Clinton erased his harshest critique of Barack Obama - that he wasn't ready for the job - by comparing Obama's age and experience to himself as a candidate 16 years ago.

Clinton's shower of praise for Obama was carried forward by Senator Joe Biden, who proceeded to further establish the candidate's credentials. Talking about the American dream slipping away, he touched on several Sandwich Generation issues - should mom move in now that dad is gone? what are the consequences of cutting health care benefits at work? with no raise this year, how are we going to afford to send the kids to college?

In referencing John McCain, Biden said that what this country needs is a wise leader not a good soldier - and that McCain's ideas represent more of the same, not change. He stated that we cannot afford another four years of this abysmal failure. Biden ended his speech with a message of hope: in honor of our parents and for the future of our children and grandchildren, let's get back up together.

Obama made a surprise appearance at his own party. And the crowd went wild when he said how proud he is to have the Biden family - joining them on stage were Joe's mom, wife, children, grandchildren and other family members - with him to take America back. Surrounded by all those loved ones, I'd call that a Sandwiched Boomer moment.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Introduced by her daughter, Chelsea, Senator Hillary Clinton began with, “I’m a proud mother…………and a proud supporter of Barack Obama,” setting the tone for her convention speech. She went on to tell the crowd that, no matter who you voted for, we’re all on the same team and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines.

She addressed the key issues that she has embraced – child care, a universal health plan, balance of work and family, women’s rights. And she emphasized that, as a single party with a single purpose, the Democrats need leaders who can tap into American optimism and confidence.

Clinton challenged her supporters: were you in it for me or for the issues that are so significant to all of us? She said that she ran in order to stand up for those who have been invisible for the past 8 years - and it's time to show ourselves and the world that there are no limits to what is possible.

She tapped into the hearts of the delegates, reminding them to think of the needs of their family, honor the sacrifices of those who came before them and fill the lives of their children and grandchildren with possibility and hope.

Did Clinton fire up her fierce supporters enough to shift their loyalty? Was her speech a sock to the jaw of Democratic disunity? Let us know your thoughts.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The first night of the Democratic Convention was a parade of the past and the future. Senator Edward Kennedy, ailing in the twilight of his 46 year career, displayed bravery and determination as he expressed his support for Barack Obama.

The story Michelle Obama told was the story of the American dream. While in the context of letting us know more about her personal family experience, we saw the uniqueness and greatness of opportunity in this country - how the descendents of slaves can reach the pinnacle of success. She talked about a new tide of hope and fighting for a world as it should be. She referenced others like Senator Hillary Clinton, who put so many cracks in the glass ceiling so our sons and daughters can aim a little higher.

The question is whether or not Michelle's narrative can serve to bridge the divide. Will Michelle become a role model - or, at least, encourage some of the Clinton supporters to begin shifting their loyalty in order to truly unite the party?

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Denver, with its clutch of skyscrapers spiking out of the Colorado plains, has put on its best clothes for the convention. It's a hub of Democratic activity, with the fired-up delegates hoping to seal any cracks in party unity. Everyone is waiting for today and the show to kick off in earnest.

Barack Obama's personal story, the roller-coaster ride of the primary season and the nomination of Joe Biden as Vice-President have captured the attention of the country. Biden has been described as an outstanding public servant with deep experience and a fighting spirit. An acknowledged foreign policy sage, he is a welcome addition to the ticket for change. On a personal note he's an strong advocate for Sandwiched Boomers, having designed his own home to include space for his elderly parents.

The next few days promise to be emotion-filled. With a possible appearance by Senator Ted Kennedy, a heart-thumping roll call for Senator Hilary Clinton, the much-awaited Bill Clinton address to his party and the lovefest that the Democrats expect will follow, hold on - it's time to fasten your seatbelts.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Over 200 countries have participated in the Summer Olympic Games this year, most of them never expecting to win any medals. What draws them to this event? A sense of community, an appreciation of teamwork, an enthusiasm for excellence and a love of athletic competition. As the 2008 Games draw to a close in China, athletes from around the world have pursued their personal goals within these universal values.

The American Men's Basketball Team in Beijing personifies all of these Olympic ideals. Labeled the "Redeem Team," it is comprised of individual stars of the NBA, some MVP's, each making millions of in their day jobs during the regular season. On different teams in the U.S., they compete against each other, often "talking trash," and are used to being idolized in their home courts. Yet they agreed two years ago to practice together as a team with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K, legendary coach of the Duke Blue Devils, told the players he would allow them on the national team only if they agreed to comport themselves with dignity as they represented the U.S. in competition. They were to redeem the tarnished image of U.S. basketball teams that had behaved arrogantly in the past.

And they have done just that. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and other star NBA players have come to the different events to sit in the stands and cheer on other Olympic athletes. They stop to give autographs to the fans. On the court at the Olympics, they work together as a team, letting each of their teammates shine. No one hogs the ball and they choose to make the extra pass before a shot. Demonstrating respect for their opponents, they play a tough, swarming defense. Striving to win the gold in the final game, they have already won gold in the hearts of the fans and created a sparkling image for themselves and U.S. basketball.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Earlier in the week, we highlighted the 20 U.S. Olympiads in Beijing who are balancing their role as mother with that of athlete. Today we learn there are two new Olympic gold medal winners who want to join the ranks of motherhood. Well, not really "new" gold medalists - Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh also won the Olympic gold medal for beach volleyball in 2004 in Athens.

Now that they have accomplished their goal of back-to-back Olympic gold, they both have said that they would like to focus on their personal lives. Each is married to an athlete as well, making their lives revolve around demanding sports schedules. After the medal ceremony in China, Kerri said, "We both want to start a family. We need to slow down and breathe a little bit, focus on our families." Asked about playing more competitive beach volleyball in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London, Misty was thinking instead about spending time with her husband and future children. "I would like to come back and have my kids see me play. But I would like to start a new journey and see my husband too."

So if you have noticed that balancing motherhood and career is never easy, you are not alone. Even women in bikinis playing volleyball on the beach face that challenge!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The stories of two young female Olympic athletes, with very different backgrounds, can serve as role models for all of us women pursuing dreams of our own.

Natalie du Toit, a 24-year-old South African swimmer, is in China to participate in the marathon open swim race - the first time that event is a part of the Olympics. What is unusual about her? Seven years ago she had a terrible motorcycle accident and lost one leg. She had been a competitive swimmer before the accident, so returning to the water after the loss of her leg was freeing for her. Learning of the new Olympic sport, she was determined to vie for a place on the team and qualified this year. Because the event is held in open water, it does not require flip turns at the ends of a pool and upper body strength is more important. Although Natalie didn't win any medals in China, she epitomizes the Olympic ideals through her efforts and determination. As she herself said, "My message isn't just to disabled people. It's to everyone out there that you have to work hard. I've been through a lot of ups and downs…but I've seen a lot of good things along the way. I was able to use the negativism in a good light and say after my accident, 'I can still do it if I work hard.' You have to set dreams, set goals and never give up."

Shawn Johnson faced a different kind of challenge coming into the Beijing Olympics - high expectations. A world champion in gymnastics, she had been favored to take the gold in several events but had to "settle" for the silver medal in team, individual all-around, and floor exercise events. She handled those losses with dignity and grace well beyond her 16 years. In her final event, individual balance beam, she finally won her gold medal and celebrated her success, again with poise and elegance. "This gold means more than anything to me. Beam is my favorite event, and I've worked hardest on this for a long time. It's the perfect ending to my Olympic experience." Still, Shawn explained her reactions to coming in second, "I wouldn't turn in one of my silver medals for a gold. They all mean something special. I learned from them all." Personifying the best Olympic principles, Shawn has been gracious in victory and defeat.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More and more stories are coming out of the Beijing Olympics highlighting the courage and resolve of the women of the world.

Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania, a 38-year-old mother, was the triumphant gold medal winner of women's marathon in Beijing. Four years ago in Athens she had to relinquish her dreams of an Olympic medal at mile 20 due to heat exhaustion. But even then she did not completely quit. She walked for a mile, then started running again, coming in 20th in the 2004 competition. This time she was determined to win the race. She practiced and practiced in hot weather, firmly focused on avoiding another injury. So when you feel like giving up on your dreams, think of Constantina as a role model: learn from your failures, work hard to achieve your goals, don't surrender.

Another mother, 33-year-old Oksana Chusovitina, took the silver medal for Germany in individual women's vault. Older than most of the other gymnasts by ten years, Oksana had participated in four previous Olympics, winning a team gold. Her team at that time consisted of athletes from the former Soviet Union. What brought her to Germany at this stage of her career? Her 9-year-old son, Alisher, who has been treated in Germany for leukemia for the past 6 years. When Alisher was first diagnosed as a three-year-old, Oksana could not get treatment for him in her native Uzbekistan. Not one to be stopped by the challenges she faced, she and her husband moved to Germany to train while he was being treated there. Oksana demonstrates her commitment to family by competing for Germany today.

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams demonstrated another face of womanhood as they won the gold medal in women's tennis doubles. Their joy in playing together was evident as they breezed through their matches. While they generally play singles in their careers, the women said that they had looked forward to working with one another as a doubles team. For two very competitive women, it was a welcome opportunity to cooperate and celebrate family as well as their individuality. As Venus said, complimenting her sister, "I was literally born with a doubles partner. She never minds if I miss a shot or two." Serena echoed the same sentiments, "I don't know anyone who would get tired of playing with Venus Williams." So, sisters of the world, unite!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

The full range of athletes on the USA Olympic team in Beijing demonstrates that age and family responsibilities are not the barriers to participation that you might think. Four members of the team are over 50. After training for five decades, sailor John Dane III became an Olympiad for the first time as a 58 year-old. And at age 56, shooter Libby Callahan becomes the oldest female Olympic participant of all time.

Just as significant are the 20 mothers on the USA Olympic team, including past medalists - swimmer Dara Torres, basketball player Lisa Leslie, and softball player, Jennie Finch. Dara Torres stands out as a role model for any mothers wondering if it is too late to begin again. Now age 41, she began participating in the Olympics twenty-four years ago, swimming in the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000 Games. Retiring, getting married and wanting to start a family, she skipped the 2004 Games and had a child two years ago. Swimming for fitness after the birth of her daughter, Tessa, she thought she was done with competitive swimming but found that her times were better than ever.

Dara marched in the Beijing opening ceremonies 8 long years after her last Olympics with 9 medals to her credit, the most of any USA athlete coming into these Games. Swimming in individual and relay team competition, she won 3 silver medals this week, losing gold in the freestyle individual event by only one one-hundredth of a second. She now can boast of a record 12 Olympic medals in her career - so far! Asked "what will you tell your daughter, Tessa, about your record at this Olympics," Dara said, "You don't have to put an age limit on your dreams."

Like Dara and these other athletes, answer with a resounding, "I can do it!" when you question whether you are too old to reach for your goals. It's never too late to challenge yourself. Use your maturity and drive as tools to make you more efficient as you strive to achieve. As Dara herself said, "To me, if it helps anyone else out there who is in their middle-aged years, putting off something they couldn't do because they thought they were too old or maybe because they had a child, they thought they couldn't balance things as a parent - if it shows anyone you can do it, I'm absolutely thrilled."

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The first time ever, two U.S. women won gold and silver medals in the all-around individual gymnastics competition. For Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson - friends, competitors, teammates - it's been a long journey but their dream came true.

Valeri Liukin, Nastia's dad and coach, competed for the Soviet Union in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Nastia faced her dad's gold medal every day when she woke up, giving her extra motivation: "Just to be able to see it, having it there in my room and knowing that in a few months I could have one of my own."

Liukin entered these Olympics in the shadow of her roommate in the Athletes' Village. Johnson, the current U.S.champion, got most of the attention and was favored to win the all-around. The pair anchored the U.S. team that took silver behind China's gold on Wednesday.

Liukin said she was not disappointed. But she and Johnson wanted more. They made a calendar to hang over their beds in the village, counting the days until they got their next chance for gold. They wanted to go all out and have fun. And the two pals managed to do both.

"I couldn't be any prouder of Nastia," Johnson said. "She deserved that gold medal. She's one of my best friends and we just want the best for each other."

The silver seemed to whet Johnson's appetite. She wants to try again at the Olympics in London. "I probably would have told you a month ago that I was done but, after being here and experiencing the Olympics, I'd give anything to feel that again. If I can in 2012, I'll be there."

And their advice to other aspiring athletes? Follow your heart, love what you do, work hard and have fun. An excellent exercise for all of us - so stretch into that.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

It has been three months since the 7.8 earthquake that devastated the Sichuan province of China, killing 70,000 people, injuring 375,000 and leaving more than 5 million homeless. Over 7,000 classrooms were destroyed and close to 10,000 children died in the tragedy. With the one child rule in China, there was an outpouring of grief as many families lost their only child.

In the opening ceremony of the summer games, 9-year old Lin Hao, accompanying flag bearer Yao Ming, represented hope for the Chinese poeple. Lin Hao was a student at the Yuzixi Primary School in quake-epicenter, Wenchuan County. He not only survived the earthquake but, after getting out of his classroom, went back into the rubble to pull two classmates to safety. During his rescue he was hit by falling rubble and suffered a head injury. And while waiting for help, he encouraged his classmates to sing, to keep their spirits up. When he was asked why he risked his life, he said that he was the hall monitor and it was his job to look after his classmates.

One of our readers commented that the most important lesson the Bejing Olympics can teach us is to be a good sport, a gracious loser and a generous winner. Although Lin Hao is not an olympian - at least not yet - his heroism makes a grieving country proud and, while still mourning, allows all of China to enjoy the celebration.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Todd and Barbara Bachman, whose daughter Elisabeth "Wiz" McCutcheon was a member of the U.S. women's volleyball team in the Athens summer games, were quintessential supporters of the sport. The first day of the Beijing Olympics, Todd died of a stabbing and Barbara was seriously injured by an attacker who tried to rob them and then committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of the ancient Drum Tower.

Elizabeth, a 2004 volleyball gold medalist, is married to the U.S. men's volleyball coach, Hugh McCutcheon. His first thought, when hearing the news of his in-laws, was how to get to his wife. As a coach at the Olympics, as well as a son-in-law, there was no question about what to do in the face of such a tragedy. His response was what others expected of him: "volleyball is my job, my family is my life." He left to support and comfort his wife.

McCutcheon did not return to work and chase what could have been an even more meaningful gold medal. But he phoned his team before the first game. Hearing Hugh's voice and getting leadership from him meant a lot to the players. And the volleyball community that loved the Bachmans rallied. The men's team took the floor with the victims' initials written on the backs of their shoes and said a silent prayer in memory of Todd Bachman. In a match that was much tougher than it should have been, the U.S. men's volleyball team won what turned out to be a bitter-sweet victory.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Emotional support is a major theme for Sandwiched Boomers. And today we salute the parents who are at the Beijing Olympics, watching their emerging adult children spread their wings as they compete. With 3 gold medals and 3 world records under his belt already, everyone is talking about Michael Phelps. On the Today show, his mother and sisters discussed the roller coaster ride - the ups and downs, the pressure, the racing hearts, and then the ultimate excitement. His mother described the pool as Michael's office and knows that he's working to perform at his highest level.

The Phelps family epitomizes all families. What are your dreams and who are your heroes? How are you taking each race as it comes? What kind of support are you giving? And how are you pulling for your kids so that they're free to give the best performance that they can?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The anticipation of the Beijing Olympics has been palpable - and the spectacular opening ceremonies, at the impressive Bird's Nest, proved it was well worth the wait. The ideals of the summer games are represented by Lopez Lomong, elected by his teammates to be the the United States flag bearer. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan, he was not only rescued from a Kenyan refugee camp by a United Nations program, but also qualified for the U.S. team in the 1,500 meter race.

What a story - personified in the host country, China, which has been strongly criticized for its record on human rights. One of the key concerns has been the war torn Darfur region of Lomong's home, Sudan. Lomong joined Team Darfur, a group formed to raise awareness of perceived abuses, yet says he's an ambassador of the U.S., not the government. He's walking on eggshells and showing his character, sending a message as an athlete from Sudan: "I am worried about the kids who are dying in Darfur, kids who don't have the dream they could be good athletes or Olympians or doctors, because they will be running away from their villages separated from their families." His greatest hope is to inspire young kids around the world, like he was. And that, in large measure, is what these games are about.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

In "The Last Lecture," Randy Pausch collected his thoughts about living a full and meaningful life so that he could pass them on to his children - and to his students, colleagues, friends, and family. Anyone who reads his book or views his last lecture can take away a number of lessons for herself as well. They range from how to achieve your childhood dreams to how to enable the dreams of others, from how to ask for what you want to how to show gratitude for what you receive.

Randy explains how he encouraged students to use their imagination, take risks and set the bar high by giving a "First Penguin Award" at the end of every semester, complete with a penguin stuffed animal. This was for a "glorious failure" - given to the team of students who took the chance to try something new and different, even though they failed to reach their goal. If you saw the documentary "March of the Penguins" or the children's animated movie, "Happy Feet," you remember that one penguin always jumped into the icy water first, not knowing what dangers might be there.

By talking about the award he presented, Randy reminds us that in order to soar, we must first make that initial jerky flight. Are there goals you have wanted to achieve but are afraid to attempt? Do you feel that, as a Sandwiched Boomer, your attentions are devoted entirely to raising your growing children and caring for your aging parents - draining you of the energy to move beyond your safety net? Give yourself an opportunity to give that penguin a run for the money as you focus on initiating your first steps in pursuit of your dreams. And concentrate on the possibilities open to you as you hone in on your target. The prize you win will certainly be a growing sense of self-confidence and resiliency.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

In "The Last Lecture," Randy Pausch talks about the lessons he learned from his parents about showing appreciation and about generativity. Close to the end of his life, he still felt strongly about giving back when he could and "paying it forward" when he could not. Even though he knew he was dying, he emphasized simple things like writing thank you notes and more complicated ones like expressing gratitude graciously when someone had been helpful. Randy was proud of his parents. The way they lived their lives and with their charitable projects - like funding a school in rural Thailand - they were wonderful role models.

As a Sandwiched Boomer, what life lessons have your aging parents passed on to you? What do you see as your parents' strengths? What kind of role models have they been? As you consider these questions, perhaps you will also begin to think about what philosophy of life you are modeling for your growing children. How are you shaping the adults they will become? Take this opportunity to reflect on what kind of example you want to set. Then begin to behave in the way that best reflects your values and beliefs.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When Randy Pausch gave his "Last Lecture," he titled it "How to Really Achieve Your Childhood Dreams." But he revealed his "head fake" - that he was actually talking about how to live your life. Busy as you are with your own day-to-day existence as a Sandwiched Boomer, caring for growing children and aging parents, take time to consider some of Randy's thoughts about living life to the fullest.

Balancing hope and realism, yet the ultimate optimist, Randy describes himself as a "fun-lovingTigger" not a "sad-sack Eeyore," using A.A. Milne's characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh classic. Let's look at one of the ways his optimism plays out in Randy's life. Anticipating that things will turn out in a positive way allows Randy to take chances as he reaches out to those around him. He asks for things he wants - help with specifics, emotional support, connections - and usually gets them. He turns to counseling as a means of developing strength, for himself and his wife, through the process of living and dying. And he recognizes that connections go both ways, paying the premium for emotional insurance for his family in the future by putting in the time and effort with them now.

Are there things that you too want but have been reluctant to ask for? What if you actually thought you would receive them? Would that make it more likely for you to begin clarifying your requests? By asking for help, you have the opportunity to make things easier for you as well as give you family-in-flux and those around you the chance to participate by pitching in to support you. Give it a try!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Do you remember your childhood dreams? Randy Pausch had written his down when he was a boy. They are specific and range from typical male fantasies - playing in the NFL - to ones which later defined his career - being a Disney Imagineer. In his talk and book, "The Last Lecture," Randy reveals how he worked around the obstacles he faced in pursuit of these dreams, reaching some goals but not others. He viewed a brick wall as a challenge, there for a reason, rather than something that stopped him cold in his tracks.

Take some time now, even in the midst of caring for your family-in-flux, to think about your own childhood aspirations. What were your dreams? Do you still have the same passions or have they changed? How can you move toward achieving your goals now? Likely you will face barriers in reaching them - learn from those obstructions as you continue along your path.

As a Sandwiched Boomer, one of your stumbling blocks may be the lack of time and energy you have to focus on yourself. Caring for children growing up and parents growing older can drain you dry. Vow to replenish yourself so that you can devote some of your strength and enthusiasm to the pursuit of your dreams today.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

And, speaking of friends, the recent death of Randy Pausch touched people across the country who felt they knew him through his video and book,"The Last Lecture." Randy, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon,understood he was dying from pancreatic cancer and wanted to leave a legacy for his three young children. In the process, his words of wisdom gave all of us inspiration about how to conduct our own lives.

Perhaps from his background with numbers and formulae, Randy was able to boil down the complicated process of "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," the title of his talk, into understandable aphorisms. This week we will focus on several of them in an effort to see how they can help all of us, including Sandwiched Boomers, accomplish our goals and live meaningful lives.

Randy was fond of saying, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." Even if you are not a game player, his meaning was clear: take responsibility for making the important decisions to solve your problems even when you have not caused them. When you are in the midst of caring for children growing up and parents growing older, you face many challenges created by the situation itself. Yet it is your input in determining how you face those trials and tribulations that gives you some control over the process of caring for your family in flux.

Have you read Randy's book yet? Let us know how it affected you and how you applied it in your own circumstances as we discuss more of his last lecture this week.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

If you missed Elaine Williams' Virtual Book Tour yesterday, you owe it to yourself to read it. The questions women asked about loss and renewal were universal and Elaine's responses were poignant and thoughtful. If you click on "13 Comments" at the bottom of yesterday's post, you'll get an idea of who Elaine is. And by clicking on her name at the top of her answer, it'll take you to her blog.

The beginning of the week, the theme of our blog was friendship and we all have a new friend in Elaine Williams.

Friends are a source of support and comfort at painful times. You may be tempted to pull away in an effort to deal with difficulties on your own, but this is the time to stay bonded with those who understand you. So whether you're at the receiving or giving end, hug a friend today.

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