Family Relationships

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oscar Blues

We end our week at the Oscars considering the men nominated for their supporting actor roles. Their portrayals personify the complexities of vulnerability linked with the strength of truth.

The sad, sad story of Heath Leger's death from an overdose of prescription drugs overshadowed his posthumous Oscar win for his vivid, searing performance as The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight. It is ironic that Robert Downey Jr. shared the same Academy Awards category with Heath Leger. Downey spent years in the haze of drugs before he was able to free himself from his dysfunctional lifestyle and face the truth of his addictions. His role in Tropic Thunder, like others in this category, highlights the tension between falsehood and reality.

While you may be in doubt about whether the priest Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed is sexually drawn to young boys, there is no denying he personifies the multi-faceted layers of denial and truth competing within him.

Michael Stanton, the fragile mental patient on furlough in Revolutionary Road, exposes in raw emotion the bitter truth behind the facades of the 1950's. He finds an outlet for his anger in the young couple hiding from their own honest recognition in the lies they tell each other and themselves.

Josh Brolin, playing Dan White, the assassin of Harvey Milk, represents a chilling final outcome when emotional instability explodes. Depressed over his inability to regain his job, White's later 'Twinkie defense' stands as a false explanation of his behavior.

So what about you? Our website, provides some tips for you, Sandwiched Boomer or not, if you are faced with the difficulty of maintaining an upbeat outlook on life. Click on the title above to take you to our article, 6 Ways to Beat the Blues.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stress and the Oscars

Can you imagine the stresses facing the nominees on the night of the Oscars? Having to smile and look happy as someone else's name is called out - or having to compose yourself and give a "good" acceptance speech if it is yours? And all in very high heels and a dress that is too tight!

For those women chosen as nominees in the supporting actress category this year, coping with the Oscar jitters was a little easier since their film characters had been women under extreme stress themselves.

Academy Award winner Penelope Cruz portrays the emotionally and physically volatile Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. An artist in her own right, Maria Elena is not able to manage the stresses in her life alone or her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband. Although she is able to temporarily deal with her demons through her relationship with Cristina, when that ends she again reverts to her prior explosive behavior.

Amy Adams' and Viola Davis' characters are dealing with the heavy stresses created as a result of the relentless campaign by Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius in Doubt. Amy Adams' doubts and concerns that by accusing the priest wrongly she is abandoning her religious responsibilities hit her hard spiritually. Viola Davis is filled with pain and desperation as she tries to protect her homosexual son from societal intolerance and physical abuse by her husband. The strain she projects is palpable.

Playing the adoptive mother of Brad Pitt, Taraji P. Henson drew on some of her own motherly instincts, developed as she cares for her own son, Marcel. She has felt the stress of balancing mothering and her career and she brings this insight into her role in The Curious Care of Benjamin Button. Even with the heavy pressures of raising an aged infant, she exudes love and tries to protect him as he grows younger every day.

As a single mother making her living as a stripper and pole dancer in The Wrestler, Marissa Tomei has attempted to steer away from any romantic relationships. Once she begins to open up to the possibility of having one with Mickey Rourke and is turned down, the strains of her vulnerability and loneliness are exposed.

As a Sandwiched Boomer, you may not live in any of the dramatic situations above but when you are looking for balance and some self-nurturing while caring for growing children and aging parents, your stresses are just as great. For some tips on how to reduce the tesions in your life, click on the title above to take you to our website and our article, 7 Stops on the Less Stress Express.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Being Authentic

At the Academy Awards, the roles of the men chosen as nominees in the category of leading actor reveal examples that can also guide women, be they Sandwiched Boomers or not. Here are some ideals they embody.

Be proud of who you are. Portraying assassinated San Francisco supervisor, Harvey Milk, Oscar winner Sean Penn immerses himself in the vibrant personality of the first openly gay politician elected to public office. He reminds us to embrace ourselves, no matter what others think and whatever the consequences.

Keep on trying. In The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke personifies, in agonizing reality, the complexities of making a comeback, in love and in work. Throughout the missteps in his personal relationships and victories in the ring, his sense of decency doesn't waver. You root for both Randy 'The Ram' and Mickey himself, telling them, "hang in there, it's never too late."

Conduct yourself honorably. Playing disgraced President Richard Nixon, Frank Langella personifies the arrogance of power. The viewer feels no moral ambiguity as Nixon, after Frost's questioning, falls apart and declares, "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." Vow not to let yourself make that kind of ethical compromise in your behavior.

Be open to love. As Brad Pitt ages backwards, the two stable women in his life are his friend and true love, Daisy, and his adoptive mother, Queenie. Both women, and the relationships he shares with them, exemplify the timelessness of love. Rely on the support of dear friends and family to strengthen you though times "curious" and difficult.

Develop your friendships. In The Visitor, Richard Jenkins gradually lets others into his life and, in the process, expands his world. His new friends lead to his awakening - sensually, morally, musically, sexually - and free him from his cloistered existence. Enrich your own experiences through the gifts of friendship.

Click on the title above to follow the link to and our article Top Ten Self-fullness Tips for Sandwiched Women. There you will find tips to aid Sandwiched Boomers live an authentic life.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life Lessons in Unusual Places

Amidst the yards of fabric and glitter of jewels, we continue our search for role models at the Academy Awards. What life lessons can Sandwiched Boomers take from the Oscar extravaganza? Today we look at the leading actress category for some tips.

You don't have to be perfect. One of the changes in the presentations this year was to have past winners of the major acting awards single out each nominee and acknowledge her unique performance. After years of hearing, "it's just an honor to be nominated," the Academy finally got it right. You don't have to be the number one person to be pleased with your behavior and to consider yourself a success. You can feel good about your accomplishments even if you are not ultimately rewarded by being chosen the one and only best.

Don't be afraid to admit your shortcomings. Kate Winslet won the best actress award for portraying a woman whose behavior led to horrific consequences because she refused to disclose her illiteracy. Recognize that others will be more accepting of your imperfections than you think if you trust them. At the same time, as in The Reader, be aware that unintended outcomes may have the same effect as planed ones.

Trust yourself. The leading actress nominees portrayed strong women who continued to stand up for what they believed in, even when others did not. Angelina Jolie, faced with every mother's nightmare, tirelessly worked to find her son and then to bring to justice those responsible for his death and cover-up. Meryl Streep played a nun who, even with some doubts and changing times, pursued her plans for what she thought was right for the students in her school. Melissa Leo did what she could to protect her children, even though it meant taking chances with her own future. And Anne Hathaway's character fought to retain her newly growing strength as her family dynamics assaulted her fragile personality. So, hang in there as you too follow your own reality.

For a chance to consider athletes as role models, click on the title above to take you to our website and our article, Lessons the Olympics Can Teach Boomers.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Academy Awards and Sandwiched Boomers

The 81st Academy Awards presented last night might seem to be an unlikely place for Sandwiched Boomers to look for role models. After all, the red carpet doesn't exactly represent the clothes and shoes in our closets or the figures reflected back to us in our mirrors each morning. So what lessons can we take from the Oscars? Instead of focusing on the fashions, this week we'll take a look at the winners and the examples they provide.

Work around obstacles placed in your path. Well-known now is the saga of Slumdog Millionaire, which almost didn't make it to the wide screens. The determination of director Danny Boyle and others connected with the film to find funding and a distributor after they lost their original backing led to the Oscar for best picture rather than directly to a place at the bottom of your queue at Netflix.

Have a Plan B ready. What do you do when your original plans don't work out? Give up in despair or brainstorm other means of getting to your goal? When you resolve to apply your energy and skills to get what you want, you will find that often the path of your Plan B ends at the same target you had in your sights. So when things don't seem to be going your way, hang in there and give it another try. You may not become a millionaire, but you can become a winner in life.

Look at life as a series of opportunities. Even host Hugh Jackman can teach us something about taking risks and going all out for something we believe in. As he revealed to Barbara Walters in his interview, he chose to define his pre-Oscar feelings as excitement not nervousness.

To learn more about how you can move away from pessimism and instead build an optimistic outlook, click on the title above. It will take you to and our article entitled, How Boomers Can Sing Rock & Roll Instead of the Blues. And tune in tomorrow for more tips on how to develop your own strength and resiliency.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Care for a Parent with Alzheimer's

Here are some more suggestions for Sandwiched Boomers to improve the way you talk with your loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's. Keeping your communications direct will help them focus better.

Avoid asking questions when possible. If you need to, provide limited choices. Give your loved one the time to answer - don't interrupt them or fill in words.

Tell loved ones exactly what you want them to do. Don't tell them more than you need to. Don't try to reason with them. Provide answers and solutions.

Don't become argumentative. Don't threaten them. Don't correct them even when they say something in error.

Accept that they will repeat their questions and that you need to repeat your answers. Don't say, "I just told you that." If you feel yourself getting angry after the same question is repeated numerous times, take a deep breath, count to ten or remove yourself briefly if possible.

Try to focus on positive topics. Use music as an aid to reaching out to your loved one. Talk about good memories from the past - you both will enjoy it.

Schedule in respite care to refresh yourself. Just as the airline stewards remind us, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before taking care of others who depend upon you.

Clicking on the title above will take you to an article on with some ideas about how to treat your aging mom, not only on Mother's Day but every day, Nurturing Your Mom on Mother's Day with More Than Chocolates.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Talking With Your Loved One

As we age, we all begin to become somewhat forgetful. But when a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, talking with them becomes more and more difficult. For some ideas about how to cope with the stress of relating to a parent who has dementia, click on the title above. It will link you to our website and our article, The Sandwich Generation and Their Parents' Tarnished Golden Years. You will learn how to take care of yourself as you cope with your parent's Alzheimer's disease.

Today and tomorrow we will give you some of our tips for communicating with loved ones who are dealing with this slow death. These will help you continue to treat them with respect and preserve their dignity.

Set aside time to talk. Don't rush through the process. Use a quiet tone and stay calm. This will help your parent focus on you and what you are saying.

Look at your loved one. Pay attention to his or her body language. Touch him or her. Holding hands and giving hugs are ways to communicate without using any words. Think about the feelings behind their words and actions.

Use direct, simple, ordinary words. Break down a task into steps and present only one at a time. Demonstrate what you want them to do.

Tune in again tomorrow for some more help in dealing with parents who are slipping away.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Caring for the Caregiver

Yesterday, Susan Levin of talked about caring for loved ones as they approach death. Here are some of her tips about how to take care of yourself as well:

• Be conscious of caregiver burnout-- Get help from family members (even older children and siblings) and hired caregivers. Oftentimes, it takes more than one person to maneuver another person.

• Keep a visitor on the premises for no longer than 10 minutes (it’s easier on both the patient and the caregiver).

• Consider the dying process a family affair, one that can and should involve older children.

• Educate yourself to know what to expect ahead of time.

• Realize that some comatose patients have the power to hear and respond.

• Call in the clergy for final rituals.

• Rituals are calming.

• Understand that the senses, such as hearing, may become more pronounced near death.

• Grant each grieving person some private time to commune in their own way with the departed.

As Susan says, "Helping someone die with dignity is gut-wrenching. But less so when you participate in the process together."

Our thanks to Susan for her insights and helpful tips. You can visit her at for more information.

For some Nourishing Relationship tips for taking better care of yourself while you care for your aging parent, click on the title above. It will take you to and our article there, How to Shift from Daddy's Girl to Dad's Caregiver. The rest of this week, we will continue to give you Sandwiched Boomers some of our personal thoughts about communicating with your dying loved one in during the difficult process.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Process of Living and Dying

Yesterday Susan Levin talked learning from her hairstylist. Today she gives some tips about how to help an ill parent through the process of dying:

• Be clear about your parent’s death wishes.

• Give them information (enter key words and learn that the web, in general, and the Hospice of Santa Barbara ( and Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care ( sites, in particular, are packed with useful information).

• Let them make their own life decisions provided they have the mental faculties to do so.

• Get all affairs including finances in order.

• Discuss any unfinished business and unresolved feelings.

• Make them comfortable (take advantage of various comfort aids).

• Provide privacy (curtains can be hung in crowded quarters).

For some Her Mentor Center suggestions about how to help your aging parents create a legacy, click on the title above to take you to our article entitled, How the Sandwich Generation Can Help Their Parents Create a Legacy of Meaning.

Tomorrow Susan will give you some tips on how to take better care of yourself in the process.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Learning from Friends

We are happy to publish some thoughts from Susan Levin this week. Her website, is full of information for our 50-something cohort. Many of us are Sandwiched Boomers, caring for our aging parents as well as our children.

Here's how Susan begins her story:

"Some people go to their hair stylist to get their hair cut. I go for two reasons: one the obvious, to let Lynn Hudson work her magic on my unruly locks; and, two, to get a hearty dose of her common sense and compassion.

About a week ago, Lynn called me to reschedule my appointment and to let me know that her mother had died. Yiayia, at 98 years of age and ailing, had been anxious to be reunited with her husband and her mother in the afterlife.

I learned so much from Lynn, who helped oversee her mother’s last days in her home."

Come back to Nourishing Relationships tomorrow and Susan will share some of what she learned with you.

I, too, have long considered my hair stylist, Jeanne, to be one of the wisest women around. She and I have been comparing notes on husbands, child-rearing, politics, travel, and other women for about thirty-five years now. I look forward to our conversations and sharing our thoughts every few months when I get my hair cut. Do you have that kind of relationship with your stylist?

If you want to read more about women's friendships, click on the title above to take you to an article on our website, Boomer Women and Friendship: The Gift You Give Yourself.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sandwiched Boomers and Being Prepared

"The only level, smooth place sufficiently large to land an airliner was the river," Sullenberger said, recalling that the plane had no thrust and was "descending rapidly." A former Air Force fighter pilot who has flown commercial planes for nearly three decades, he knew he had to touch down with the wings level and the nose slightly up, and "at a descent rate that was survivable."

That was his only viable alternative. And he was confident that he could do it. It was an intense feeling of relief when he learned that all the passengers and crew were saved. He was asked how he felt about being seen as a hero. his reply was that he didn't feel comfortable embracing it but he didn't want to deny it - especially is that's what people needed. That's a hero.

As you look back, Sandwiched Boomers, how have you dealt with trauma in the past? And how has this changed you? Take the specific strategies that you learned and apply the most effective ones again and again. Look at the ways you can continue to build on your internal and external strengths. A double bird strike disabling two engines is a highly improbable set of circumstances. Yet there are many extraordinary situations we cannot predict. Hopefully you won't ever have to brace for a crash landing. But being prepared never hurt anyone.

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Captain Sullenberger and Gratitude

Captain Sullenberger landed the plane in the Hudson River near two ferry terminals. Rescue boats appeared within minutes to take the 150 passengers and five crew members to safety. When the pilot got official confirmation that everyone had survived, he felt like "the weight of the universe had been lifted off my heart."

Express your gratitude often. One airplane passenger, on a rescue raft in the frigid cold, went up to Sullenberger, grabbed his arm and said 'thank you on behalf of all of us.' Those are the moments in life that create a lasting impression. Try it yourself. Say thank you to a family member, a friend or a colleague. You'll see that others will feel more valued and you'll benefit from putting your appreciation into words. Studies show that gratitude helps you attain a better mood, increased self-esteem and a greater sense of connection to the world.

Several days ago the crew met some of the passengers and their relatives at a reunion in Charlotte, N.C., the destination of Flight 1549. "More than one woman came up to Sully and told him "Thank you for not making me a widow" or "Thank you for allowing my son to have a father."

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stress Reaction to Trauma

The first few nights after the emergency landing, Sullenberger couldn't sleep. He questioned his performance, even though all 155 people aboard survived. Initially he had trouble forgiving himself because he thought he could have done something different.

Sullenberger's emotional reaction is very common and normal. What follows are some tips that may be helpful if you or loved ones experience a traumatic event:

Develop stress relievers. If you have endured an extraordinary physical or emotional experience, take time out for yourself. By regular exercise, good nutrition and proper rest, you'll be taking better care of your body. Attend to your mind and your spirit as well. Practice techniques of deep breathing, relaxation or your own form of meditation. Set aside quiet time and do what it is that gives you personal pleasure. Relax and have fun as you bring more balance into your life. Look at it as investing in your emotional bank account. You'll generate positive memories that you can draw on when you need them.

Recognize an acute stress reaction. After an event where you could have died, it's natural to have a greater appreciation for life. Subsequent to a traumatic event, on the other hand, an immediate emotional reaction can turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is more likely to occur for those who have suffered a previous trauma, a weak support system, a history of addiction or depression. If your symptoms persist - sleep disturbance, sadness, fears, irritability, flashbacks or nightmares – don't hesitate to make an appointment with a mental health professional.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Captain Sully can Teach Sandwiched Boomers

As sandwiched boomers, the challenges you face and crises you endure may not be as dramatic as Captain Sullenberger's, who landed a plane in the Hudson River. But there are lessons we all can learn from the passengers and crew who stayed calm and pulled together on that Airbus A320 flight.

Sully described it as 'the worst sickening pit of the stomach falling through the floor feeling.' Yet his voice had no hint of panic when he told the air traffic controller he didn't have time to land at the airport. Log on the rest of the week for tips on how to keep your cool under pressure:

Be as prepared as possible ahead of time. Sullenberger was ready – he's a former air force fighter pilot, an expert in safety reliability methods and has 40 years of flying experience. Although you may not need training for an emergency landing, you can be equipped for what lies ahead. If you're making an important presentation at work, setting guidelines for your kidult who can't find a job and is moving back home or talking to your dad about giving up the car keys, learn as much as you can about the issues. Research the subject, write out talking points, get feedback from those whose opinions you value.

Realize that support is a valuable tool. Reaching out to others when you need encouragement helps you make it through what seems like an impossible situation. In an emergency, hold out your hand to a stranger. Confide in friends and family as you work through difficult circumstances. Getting a second and objective opinion from a family therapist or life coach will provide you with insight and direction. Join an ongoing group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns and gain new perspective. Or find a workshop through your local university extension or mental health center. Spending time with others will validate your emotions and make you feel better.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Captain Sullenberger and a Need for Heroes

Bravery and humility - often at the heart of fairy tales – are qualities that can inspire all of us to be the best that we can be. And, with the doom and gloom of the economic crisis, we were primed and about ready for a miracle. People want to feel hopeful again.

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III safely landed a US Airways flight 1549 with 155 passengers and crew onboard in the Hudson River when the plane encountered problems after takeoff. Everyone survived. A spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association says that Sullenberger acted 'very calm and cool, very relaxed, just very professional.' Apparently he was the last one off the plane, walking down the aisles two times to make sure no one was left on board. Now that's a hero.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Baby Boomers and a Call to Action

Reagarding the economic stimulus package, early in the week President Obama said, "No plan is perfect, and we should work to make it stronger. Let's show people all over our country who are looking for leadership in this difficult time that we are equal to the task."

The last couple of days, pushing hard to get a plan passed, he remarks, "The time for talk is over, the time for action is now." As Baby boomers in a tough economy, do these words apply to you? Are you doing all you can to make this challenging situation work for your family?

You may have to stay at your job longer than you expected if you are a Baby Boomer nearing retirement. Or perhaps you’ll upgrade skills that will enable you to keep your job. Research findings indicate that, if you enjoy your work, there is added value in the stimulation, engagement and camaraderie it provides.

Alter your expectations and focus on the long run as you put off present pleasures for future gains. Appreciate the changes you are making now for your future wellbeing. Let off steam and reduce stress - discover low cost fitness by gardening or scaling steps. Barter services by cooking a meal or building shelves in exchange for personal training. Fight the force of negativity and believe in yourself to awaken the strength within.

Chicken Little thought the sky was falling - but with all the anxiety and panic, avoid a knee jerk reaction. Instead of an automatic response, think about what’s driving your fear before reacting. It’s true that conspicuous consumption marked the rise and fall of empires. But you don’t have to go to the extreme of chopping wood and carrying water. Just be patient and tighten your belt - call an old friend, using free Sunday minutes, write a letter to the editor, play a game with your kids, thank your lucky stars.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sandwiched Boomers and Multi-generational Housing

The stimulus package is growing larger by the day in the Senate, where the addition of a new tax break for homebuyers sent the price tag well past $900 billion. "It is time to fix housing first" said the Republican Senator from Georgia Wednesday night as the Senate agreed without controversy to add the new tax break to the stimulus measure, at an estimated cost of nearly $19 billion.

The tax break was the most notable attempt to date to add help for the crippled housing industry. In the meantime, Multi-generational households are making a comeback for Sandwiched Boomers – especially with the rise in unemployment for new college graduates and the financial pinch felt by aging parents who are seeing their retirement income dwindle. Don’t be disappointed if you were dreaming about the empty nest. This new living arrangement can reduce stress, with more family members sharing household responsibilities, financial expenses and emotional support – as long as guidelines are clearly set and upheld.

Let us know if you're living with grown children, grandchildren or parents and how it's working out.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Boomers and Pay Caps

President Barack Obama plans to impose a pay cap on executives whose firms receive government financial rescue funds. It's shocking that some companies have given out bonuses while receiving government aid. As sandwiched boomers, you may be in the midst of making some critical decisions yourself. Here are some ideas that may help in the midst of this financial crisis.

Get to know the subconscious money script that you learned in childhood from your parents. If your family was extremely frugal, you may follow their example and have the same fiscal habits. Or, having felt deprived, maybe you go in the opposite direction and spend with abandon. Understanding the dynamics of how you spend and why will free you up to explore new money management options.

Turn calamity into catharsis. Pull back in order to reach your goals and see thrift as a virtue. Make it OK to put off buying a new car or a new dress now so that you can have a better life later. Begin to put some money, no matter how little, in personal savings every month. As you make sacrifices, keep track of your values - like restraint, accountability, self-reliance, working hard, determination.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Baby Boomer Stimulus Package

The $885 billion Senate economic plan faces assaults from both Democrats and Republicans during debate this week as lawmakers in both parties aim to jolt the economy right away.

The goal is to shape a package that is more targeted, that would be smaller in size and that would be truly focused on saving or creating jobs and turning the economy around. If you're a member of the sandwich generation and under pressure to scale back spending, check out these ideas:

Be realistic and face the facts. If you're not already, live a simpler life within your means. Focus your efforts, because living your convictions is harder than just making the decision to change. Be accountable for your financial goals and create a concrete spending plan. You don’t have to panic but you can begin to take small steps. Learn how to have fun without spending money – invite another couple over to play cards, check out a book from the public library, catch up with a friend on a walk, take your family on a hike in the hills.

Stay centered about what you plan to buy, what you can afford and what really matters to you. Ours is largely a culture of impulsive recreational shopping. To begin the transition to mindful shopping, make a list of the items you plan to purchase. Then decide how important each one is and, if it's not that necessary, let it go. Continue to differentiate between what you want and what you need.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Layoffs and Sandwiched Boomers

Consumer spending fell for a record sixth straight month in December as recession battered households worried about surging layoffs. As sandwiched boomers, you and your family may be personally effected by job loss.

In years of plenty, our society operated largely on the pleasure principal, embracing the notion of ‘I want what I want when I want it.’ Accustomed to instant gratification and a sense of entitlement, we were emotionally conditioned to have it all. The average American carried nine credit cards with a total $17,000 balance. We have been living large for so long that debt has become an integral part of our culture.

With individuals, families, the government and other countries leveraged now, it looks like the whole world is trying to adjust to a slow recovery. Credit card debt, amounting to 900 billion dollars in our country, makes putting off present pleasures for future gains sound like a very good idea. Getting back to basics may be just what society needs.

If you’re waiting for a rainbow after the huge storms we’ve been weathering, tune in all week as we discuss some ways to make it happen.

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