Family Relationships

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

How was your Thanksgiving?

High angle detail view of a Thanksgiving dinner
How was your Thanksgiving? For many Sandwiched Boomers, Thanksgiving was spent with family and friends gathered around the table. Most spent a few moments expressing their gratitude for the gifts of love and friendship they enjoy as well as for the many blessings bestowed on them. Saying thank you is one of the first phrases parents try to teach their children, but as adults - especially in this cruel economy - it is often difficult for us to express our gratitude.

We know that in 1621, the Pilgrims first spent a day of giving thanks for their abundance in the "new world." But it took over 100 years, not until 1777, when all of the 13 colonies joined together in a one-time thanksgiving celebration. And it was another 12 years later, in 1789, that President George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving. Why did it take so long - 168 years - to establish a holiday that now seems to be the favorite among Americans? Maybe it's harder than you think to say, "thank you." We'll look into that all this week.

Even with the harsh economic news - jobless rates way up and the stock market remaining somewhat down - we can still find a lot to be grateful about, especially during the holidays. Families and friends traditionally draw together for support in times of crisis and this year is no different. The gift of appreciation - a heartfelt thank you - can be a daily present this holiday season for those you love. And the cost won't cut into your tight budget at all.

If you want to make some changes in the way your family and friends celebrate the holidays this year, click on the post title above. You'll find some tips for creating new holiday rituals in our article, What the Sandwich Generation Brings to the Holiday Table.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Friday, November 27, 2009

Moroccan Souks as a Way of Life

The souks and markets are a way of life in Morocco and you usually won't have to go too far to find one. They are arguably the most exciting, colorful and enticing aspects of the culture. And one of the main aesthetic attractions is food, as indicated by this kiosk of olives.

Open air food stalls offer big bowls of snail soup and dried fruit sellers line the countless alleyways. At every turn fruit and vegetable merchants are haggling over the price of their produce. Herbal medicines that will cure anything from baldness to impotence are sold alongside century old carpets and rugs.

Leather and curio stalls vie for shoppers' attention. And craftsmen dye wool in huge boiling cauldrons while their neighbors measure out spices, stacked in the shape of pyramids, on old lead scales. It's truly a sight to see. (click on photos for larger image)

Earlier this week we were interviewed by generational coach, Barbara Friesner, and you can listen to our discussion on Just log on to, click on 'Barbara's radio show' and then click on 'healing the rifts of family relationships.' Email us if you have questions or concerns about our talk, care-giving or the sandwich generation.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Morocco, Thanksgiving and our Thanks to You

There are so many different ways that the Moroccan people creatively express themselves - through their carpets, jewelry, ceramics, wood carvings, leather goods. The winding alleyways of the souks are full of local artwork. The kiosks are colorful and the vendors thankful for your interest in what they do.

And on this important holiday we have a lot to be thankful for even in these hard times. As always, members of the sandwich generation, we're thankful to have you involved in the work we do. Our heartfelt wishes to you and your family for the best Thanksgiving!

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Architecture of Morocco

Morocco is shaded with a variety of colors yet cloaked with a blanket of mystery. The country proudly upholds its history, traditions and culture through its ancient monuments. And its charm is reflected in the distinctive and exotic mixture of Spanish, African and Islamic architecture.

Enchanting courtyards everywhere are adorned with sprawling gardens. Throughout the mosques, minarets and palaces, you'll find magnificent doors of engraved wood and bronze. Intricate geometrical patterns, crafted by hand from bright colored mosaics or inlaid mother of pearl, enhance the beauty of these settings.

Most of the buildings feature large, intimidating u-shaped archways and beautiful domes that complete them. And it is not uncommon to see the tops of these domes adorned with nests complete with an array of birds, as if direct from Hollywood's central casting.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Magical Markets of Morocco

In all the villages and towns that make up the beautiful country of Morocco, there are outdoor markets displaying some of the finest Moroccan crafts and threadworks. You can find a stand with spices, dried fruit or olives next to a dentist or a barber. And the vendors themselves are a large part of the charm, as you can see in these pictures. (click on photos for larger images)

When it comes to the souks in larger cities, an entire area is devoted to a particular product - lanterns, ceramics, accessories, jewelry, leather, carpets. The souks are cavernous and seem endless. The crowds are enormous but that's part of the charm - especially if you have to share the narrow passages with sheep for sale, wagons loaded with produce and burros with their saddle bags filled to the brim.

The huge square in Marrakesh, Jmaa el Fna - packed full of organ grinders, snake charmers, palm readers, storytellers and tourists - is at the entrance to the Grand Souk. Mind boggling characters, colours and choices lead you into a bewildering but fascinating world of haggling. If you're bargain hunting, it's best to head for the specialty markets deep inside the souk.
Bargaining is an accepted and almost obligatory Moroccan shopping custom. Everyone knows that what an item is marked is only a starting point. And vendors expect you to offer a lower price. The more time, discussion and patience you are willing to give to the process - perhaps over a cup of mint tea - the better the price will be.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Life in Morocco

I'm back from two weeks in Morocco and want to savor the experience, so I hope it's OK if I share some of my photos and impressions with you this week. Please feel free to click on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post and tell us your travel stories as well.

Morocco is the kind of country I love to visit, where the almost medieval-like hustle and bustle is a world away from my own life. The culture is so different from what I know and the sights, sounds, smells and tastes are like a wakeup call to the senses. Here's a photo of a grandfather treating his grandchild to an ice cream cone while he's babysitting.

This one is of three generations of the same family selling ceramic pots in the local market. As you can see, just like in our country, the Sandwich Generation is front and center.

Meet our guide, Jamal, and his wife, Fouzia. Hospitality is a part of the Moroccan culture and we spent an evening in their home in Marrakesh, talking with them and their three daughters. Traditionally men take to the streets and women are in charge of the home. Although Fouzia has a Ph.D. in languages, she sees her primary job as raising the girls. Jamel said that, especially since he travels so much, she holds the power in the family.

Despite the language barrier, women speak a universal body language. And it was apparent that, underneath the traditional clothes, she is much like you and me – working hard, concerned about her children and parents, loving her family.

We want you to know that on Tuesday, November 24 at 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern, Line Brunet will be interviewing us on her Family Focus radio show about the Sandwich Generation. If you want to listen and/or download it afterwards, please log on

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sally Shields Chats with Our Readers

Yesterday, we enjoyed hosting Sally Shields, author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules on our blog. Here are some of our readers' questions and Sally's responses.

When Anita asked Sally how her mother-in-law reacted to reading about herself in the book, Sally recalled how it affected their relationship:

"There are 3 parts to that... first when she found out I was writing the book she said, "I know I can be a B....tch, Sally! I'm a Leo. But we're a lot a like, you know. Now go write a best-seller, or I'll kick your butt!"

Then, she read the book. And well, I wasn't welcome at Christmas time...

Lastly, we had it out... and we didn't hold back. She told me what she thought of me. I told her what I thought of her. We screamed and laughed, and she finally said, "You know, I think this probably all happened for a reason." Now, we are close!"

Another reader asked about how her relationship with her MIL changed when Sally had children.

"Well, that was incredible. There is nothing that she wanted more in the world than to have grandchildren. Once I got that, and made sure that she always feels included in all the little steps and milestones, I have seen a tremendous change in our relationship. This is such a joy for me to facilitate!"

One of our readers, a MIL and grandmother herself who works on her relationship with her DIL, wondered what Sally meant by, "I don't mind telling people what to do or how they should do it." Sally explained:

"You sound like such a sweet MIL... it's a very, very complicated relationship, and I feel it is largely the DIL's responsibility to make sure that her husband's mother feels like she is wanted, appreciated and part of their lives. So, that is my vision, to teach brides and wives the art of making friends with their husband's mother, so that years of needless contention can be avoided! The DIL needs schooling and that is what I set out to do with the DIL Rules.

Something else I'd like to add to that... when I say I don't mind telling people what to do or how they should do it, I mean, that I think a DIL should make sure to make her MIL feel special and appreciated by doing all the little things she can like never forgetting a b-day, making sure she calls her MIL once a week to ask how she's feeling, complimenting her and letting her know what a great job she did in raising her son, etc. These might seem like the presumed obvious, but they are little things that can easily get overlooked in the course of daily life. Because the MIL DIL relationship is often fraught with tension, there are so many things a DIL can do to avert misunderstandings and hurtful miscommunications. So that is what I mean by telling someone what to do... schooling and reminding the DIL that it is her job to reach out and make friends with her MIL!"

A daughter-in-law wanted help in dealing with her MIL who had complained that she was distant because the DIL didn't want to go to her home for Sunday dinner. Sally weighed in with her advice:

"Yes, this is the kind of stuff that happens, very normal... this relationship is already poised for misunderstandings and hurtfulness... that is why, we as DIL's have to work so hard to not be defensive and air more on the side of compassionate. From her perspective, she doesn't understand all those reasons. Maybe you can start calling her once a week, just to have a little chat, ask how she's feeling, etc. Or start with once every 3 weeks, whatever you can do, but make sure your husband isn't home. Tell her how excited you are to come to Sunday dinner! Be glad that you don't have to cook. Then, go. But not always - just now and then. But strike a balance, because you have compassion and do it happily for your husband. These are part of the RULES for a happy marriage!
Consider it a blessing that you don't have to cook. Then, help her with the dishes, and watch the magic happen!"

And Janet, with an idea for a book herself, asked Sally about her marketing efforts. Sally shared her experience:

"I did everything I could to learn how to market a book, then wrote a home-study course called Publicity Secrets Revealed: What Every PR Firm Doesn't Want Your to Know! You can check it out here:

I also learned how to bring a book to the top of the Amazon charts, and got to #1 in Wedding showers, which opened up a LOT of doors, and I now teach authors how to do that as well. Please get in touch with me and I'd be happy to be your coach! Basically, I got on lots of radio and TV shows, did virtual book tours, article marketing, created sponsorship proposals (1-800-flowers created a full page ad in the back of the book) and things of this nature."

Our thanks again to Sally for her generosity in sharing with us. If you are a mother-in-law and want some more insight into how to get along better with your daughter-in-law, click on the post title above. It takes you to our website, and our article, From Baby Boomer to Mother-in-Law: How to Play Your New Role.

Labels: , , , , ,


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Daughter-in-Law Rules

Nourishing Relationships: We are so pleased to have Sally Shields, author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules join us today. We have so much to ask you, lets get right to it!
What is the concept behind the DIL Rules and how did you derive at that name?

Sally Shields: The Daughter-in-Law Rules is based on the 7th spiritual law of success, which is: the quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. By that I mean, be a loving, kind-hearted, sensitive person, and the world will reflect that back to you, even in the form of your mother-in-law! I loved that book The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. I patterned the Daughter-in-Law Rules on that book.

N R: When did you decide on writing as a career?

S S: Actually, the book took me less than a week to write! As the last thing I wrote was a paper in high school, I don't consider myself a writer per se. What I learned was that you only need 2 things to have a best selling book - a passion for your topic and a sincere desire to help people. To quote Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad: "I didn't want to be the best writing author - rather I want to be the best SELLING author!" It was the marketing of the book that really intrigued me, so I use the 90-10 rule - I spent 10% of my time writing the book, and the other 90% of my time and energy marketing it.

N R: What motivated you to write the DIL Rules?

S S: Like most women, I got married and got a mother-in-law. But after a couple of years, I was left scratching my head, thinking, where is the manual for this?!!! I wrote to the ladies that wrote the bestselling book The Rules, and told them that since they helped all these women meet and marry the men of their dreams, they then needed to provide some advice on how to get along with the other woman in their man's life—his mom! These two authors told me it was the best idea they'd ever heard. I honestly just wanted some advice on the topic! "You should write it," they said. At first I thought they were crazy since the last thing I'd written was a term paper in high school English class! But, the gears started turning in my mind. So I started to jot down all the troublesome incidents that would pop into my head in regards to my MIL, and came up with a rule and a solution to deal with each and every one. When I put a few of these rules into practice (and saw that they actually worked) I thought maybe I could help save other young wives years of needless contention!

N R: Have you published any other work that you've written?

S S: I have a music book called Modern Jazz Piano (Hal Leonard, 2004). I've also written The Collaborator Rules: 101 Surefire Ways to Manage (and Stay Friends with) Your Co-Author as well as a poetry book called "A Pond Beneath the Moon" but I've yet to publish them.

N R: What makes you unique when compared to other authors?

I am very focused on solving a problem in a very short period of time. I don't mind telling people what to do or how they should do it. Here's the Rule. Now do it. Sometimes people tell me that they don't want to do these rules because it seems like too much work. Then I give them the Dr. Phil answer which is, "Well, how's THAT workin' for ya?!!" These rules are problem-solution oriented so give them a try!

S S: What inspires your work?

I love being creative and just coming up with stuff that I think will help people, or bring humor to a situation, while at the same time solving my own life's problems! My vision is now to create more harmony among 20 million mothers and daughters in law around the world while at the same time raising money for breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation® is my non-profit partner and we are currently working with 1-800-flowers on a unique fundraising idea for the fall.

N R: Has your book been featured in any national publications or on television?

S S: Yes! I've been in Star Magazine, Girlfriendz, For the Bride, and Obvious Magazine. I've appeared twice on the nationally syndicated The Daily Buzz, Fox & Friends, and have a pending segment on the Morning Show with Mike and Juliette, as well as having appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and the DIL Rules was recommended as Book of the Week by Dr. Laura Schelssinger.

N R: Are you self-published or through a publishing house?

S S: I started off self-publishing with Outskirts Press, a print on demand company, but just garnered interest from a small independent publisher with national distribution. The DIL Rules will be re-released on September 1st with a new cover, subtitle, foreword, interior design and illustrations, and will be in stores everywhere!

N R: Who or what personally inspires you to push forth with your career?

S S: I've been a musician ever since I was a kid, and I just get a lot of energy from performing, speaking, being out there in the media and expressing my ideas in my unique way fuels and motivates me forward.

N R: Have your book sales been positively/negatively affected by the financial changes in the country and if so how you come up with ways to divert from it (if negative)?

S S: I notice that the more radio and TV appearances I do, I can keep the sales up. It seems to be more about continually letting people know about the book that makes more of a difference than the financial state of affairs. It would be fun to compare current sales to what it will be like when Obama whips this country back in shape eventually! :-)

N R: Do you have any events coming up that people should know about or book tours?

S S: As I have 2 small kids, I have been doing virtual book tours from home and doing national radio tours via telephone. I do some local book signings here in New York, and I speak at various events such as the ASJA, and the Catholic Marketing Network has asked me to speak at their event in a couple of months. I also do a weekly radio show called Blurb! that is a book contest for authors. For more information on how authors can apply to be on the show, check out

N R: What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs and authors?

S S: I would say keep it fun, because otherwise all those hours you put in wouldn't make any sense! And remember that there are only 2 elements that you need to succeed in any endeavor: a passion for your topic and a sincere desire to help people.

N R: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

S S: I see myself with my own reality show, as a Daughter-in-Law Rules seminar leader, a speaker at Bridal events, fundraiser and spokesperson for the National Breast Cancer Foundation,® and continuing to partner with corporations such as Macys, David's Bridal and Martha Stewart Weddings.

Never give up on your dreams. You don't have to know the how, but focus on the why. Don't set limits and reach for the sky. Do positive affirmations morning and evening, and you will see your thoughts transform into things. You can manifest your desires by focusing on the things that you want. Don't give up because it takes a while for the universe to prepare the meal that you've ordered, but know that it is in the oven back there so make sure you don't leave the restaurant!

N R: Thanks, Sally, for joining us today and for the great information. Readers, here's your chance to get some personal advice from Sally - about getting along with your daughter-in-law, marketing your own book, living your dream. Just click on the "comment" line below and let us hear from you.

Labels: , , ,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coping with Menopausal Symptoms

Senior woman using miniature ventilator, smiling with eyes shut, close-up

You've likely tried many techniques to deal with the annoying symptoms of perimenopause. Here are some that many Sandwiched Boomers find work for them. Try them, if you haven't already, and see if they work for you.

If hot flashes and night sweats plague you, join the gang. You can: dress in layers, have a personal fan handy to use whenever you need, sleep in a cool room at night, avoid alcohol, spicy foods and others that trigger a hot flash.

Many women in perimenopause just can't get a good night's sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep or getting back to sleep when your body awakens you, try to create a comfortable bedtime routine and save your bed for intimacy and sleep. It may also help to move your physical exercise to earlier in the day.

Do you find yourself gaining weight - and in all the wrong places? Here the tips are the same ones you've heard all your life: start an eating program that you can maintain, drink lots of water - especially a half-hour before your next meal - find healthful food substitutes. Begin to keep a food diary, noting what, when and where you eat and what you were thinking and feeling at the time. This will help you determine your negative triggers so you can plan to avoid them. Resist buying sweets - if you don't have them handy, you won't have the temptation to grab a quick fix.

Even if you've been the queen of multitasking before you may notice that now you just can't concentrate and focus as well. If so, you may want to simplify your environment and concentrate on only one thing at a time. Make a list of things you want to do and prioritize them. Schedule extra time to go over new information so that you can incorporate it. Identify your greatest stressors and work on techniques to reduce them. To keep your mind sharp, explore and learn about new things, play word games and do crossword puzzles.

When your libido seems to disappear, you and your partner can make some changes. If your sexual desire has decreased, examine your relationship with your significant other and look at life situations that may be affecting your sexuality. You and your partner can focus on creating other kinds of intimacy in your relationship as you rekindle your joint affection, closeness and romance. Explore and enjoy your sensuality - be patient and take small steps. Talk to your doctor about remedies for vaginal dryness.

If all the hormonal, physical and psychological changes you have been going through have led you to feel depressed and anxious, you need to address your emotions. Look for a support group in which to share your thoughts and feelings. Keep a journal to express your feelings and gain some insight. Make exercise a part of your daily routine and utilize stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, and meditation. Focus on the positives in your life and acknowledge what you are grateful for. It may help to give of yourself and do something for someone else. Certainly, if your emotional symptoms don't abate, consult a mental health professional.

Life is full of changes - menopause is just one of them. Look at other changes in you life. Just as you have coped before, you will be able to cope now. Recognize your strengths and build on them. Focus on what has worked for you in the past and trust that you will find options that will help you now. Be patient and recognize that working through menopause is an ongoing process that takes time. This is a new chapter in your life. You can write it the way you want!

If one of the changes you have made entails becoming a mother-in-law, be sure to tune in tomorrow when we host a virtual book tour with Sally Shields - author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules. And come with your questions for Sally. She'll be happy to answer them.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dealing with Menopause

Menopause The Musical Media Call

You may have trouble keeping track of all the changes menopause brings - especially when you are a Sandwiched Boomer overwhelmed by hot flashes. But there are some actions you can take to regain a sense of control over this major life transition. Here are some tips to help you move through this process.

Continue to gather information. There are websites, such and, which provide extensive explanations and material about treatment options. There are other resources such as books, journals, and lectures. It is important that the information is valid, the source is reliable, and that you do not become overwhelmed.

Work in partnership with your doctor. Your physician is your best resource for information about your individual medical history and needs. Communicate your concerns honestly to your M.D. Consider the possibility of getting a second opinion and consulting with specialists.

Look for support. Other women who are going through this process can be a comfort as you share thoughts and feelings. You're not the only one experiencing this! Women can guide you by providing resources that have been helpful and techniques that have been effective. Be aware, of course, that we are all different and what has worked for others may not always be the best solution for you.

Explore changing your lifestyle and patterns of self-care. Exercise becomes even more important now. Even though it might be difficult to find the time, the results will be worth the effort. Good nutrition contributes to weight management, health and quality of life. Relaxation techniques and deep breathing can reduce stress. Enjoy what life has to offer - take a walk, spend time with friends, explore a new hobby, watch a movie, read a good book, laugh more. Finding what works for you will help you maintain a healthful lifestyle.

This is a good time to look at attitude adjustment. Try to maintain a positive attitude. If you look at a situation from a different perspective, sometimes it doesn't seem so bad. To begin the process of acceptance, recognize that these changes are part of the natural course of life. Have patience. Answers may not be easy to find and outcomes may not be perfect. Trust yourself as you learn to live with the ambiguity of life.

Tomorrow we'll look at practical techniques to help you deal with some specific symptoms of menopause. In the meantime, click on the post title above to read an article on our website,, giving you Top Ten Self-fullness Tips for Sandwiched Women.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Monday, November 16, 2009

Menopause Brain?

Menopause The Musical Media Call

Last week we looked at ways to activate your brain and keep it young. But recent studies at UCLA indicate that women's brains may not function as well during the early stage of the menopause transition - women do not learn as well shortly before menopause as they do earlier or later. So if you are one of the 60% of women who notice that you have memory problems during your menopausal transition, take heart - your memory will come back once you are postmenopausal.

Menopause may bring many additional changes, emotional as well as physical. The meaning of "the change" may be different for each of you. For some, the aging process may signify the loss of physical beauty, even if you've not been overly concerned with looks before. Arleen loves the challenge of teaching and shares a close relationship with her husband and children. She participates as a volunteer in community activities. Even with her satisfaction with these roles, menopause is a reminder that she is getting older. "I hate looking in the mirror so I avoid it. I see things more magnified now with menopause – I look wrinkled, grayer, fatter and with a turkey neck. I hate it – looking old. I am constantly complaining about it."

It can bring the end of childbearing to the forefront even if you enjoy numerous other meaningful roles in your life. Sometimes the finality of the impossibility of pregnancy brings reductions in the amount of energy you want to invest in childrearing. Diane, who combines her career as a hairdresser with that of an involved parent, feels herself taking a step back from a daughter just entering her twenties. "I like not having a period. But it feels like the end of my motherhood thing. I feel that I’ve done a good job – she’s a good person and will turn out ok. So I am feeling some freedom."

You may also enjoy the freedom that comes from not being able to become pregnant again. Sue was frightened when she started missing her menstrual period. She thought that she might be pregnant with her fifth child. When she learned that her symptoms were the beginning of menopause, she remembers the moment. "I was relieved that’s all it was! Now I am more relaxed with intimacy because I am not worried about getting pregnant. I feel freer now to let myself experience my sexuality."

Menopause can also mark the beginning of thoughts about the finite nature of life, especially for Sandwiched Boomers. This can lead to fears about death or more motivation to accomplish goals. Janet is now thinking about changes she anticipates making in her life in the near future rather than the distant future. "Menopause pushes me to think about the future now and what I can look forward to. The years have passed too quickly. I realize if I want to accomplish things in life, I need to start now."

Has menopause changed your outlook on life? Karen, who has raised four children, has been able to cope with the issues of menopause because, "All of my life experience gives me a certain stability, understanding and strength in dealing with my aging. I don’t want to be a twenty-year old. I feel comfortable being fifty."

The realization that you have the freedom to 'wear purple' and be who you are without any need to please others can be invigorating. Carol, a teacher, is learning to trust herself and be who she is. "Now I have more authenticity – walking my walk, talking my talk – not needing to be so admired or wonderful at any price. There is some loss in coming off the pedestal but I can be selfish and a pain in the ass if I want."

What does menopause mean to you? What emotions are you feeling at the loss of your physical fertility? What does it feel like to know that some parts of your life are now over? What will you leave behind? How do these losses give you the freedom to move in new directions? How are your roles changing? What new opportunities are now opening for you? How will you pursue these? This would be a good time to reflect on your losses and on the new possibilities open to you.

Think about how you want to redefine your role. Click on the post title to take you to our website, where you can read one of our Stepping Stones newsletters. Let us hear from you. And tune in tomorrow when we'll give you some suggestions for coping with menopause.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Friday, November 13, 2009

Brain Exercises for Sandwiched Boomers

Medical Objects

Yesterday we highlighted a recent study that found conducting Internet searches enhances brain function. Today lets look at additional means of exercising your brain to keep it active and dynamic. Here are some tips to follow:

Exercise your brain with mental aerobics just as you do your body. The Seattle Longitudinal Study found that 66% of older Americans doing brain exercise activities had significant cognitive improvement. Learning new skills increases the number of neural connections in the brain and keeps them firing.

Explore new areas and interests. Have you wanted to learn to play the piano? Take Spanish or learn computer graphics? Check out your neighborhood center, school district or extension courses at a college or university near you. Traveling to new places? Surf the web for information about educational travel in America and throughout the world.

Play word or number games and do crossword or jigsaw puzzles to keep your mind sharp. Researchers believe that these kinds of mental challenges build new neural pathways that help buffer the brain against age-related losses. Injecting novelty into your everyday tasks can have a similar affect. AARP has compiled a list of suggested tasks - for example, you could use your non-dominant hand for brushing your teeth, rearrange the furniture in your rooms, or carry out activities blindfolded.

Dr. Gary Small of UCLA has developed a technique for improving memory - Look, Snap, Connect. First, actively observe what you want to learn; next, create mental snapshots of your memories; finally link your mental snapshots together. This technique can help you remember information ranging from the names of new people you meet to where you parked your car or left your keys.

Develop your creative talents. Scientists have found that, as you challenge yourself to look at things in a new way and try novel behaviors, you exercise important parts of your brain. Women in their middle years have taken up a wide range of creative activities such as painting, acting, writing poetry, photography, making jewelry.

And don't forget that physical activity helps keep your mental powers sharper too. Plan your schedule so that you can participate regularly. Choose an activity that you enjoy and find engaging -- walking with a friend, working out at the gym, biking with your partner. A daily brisk 20 to 30 minute walk will allow you to feel better emotionally and think more clearly.

Increase your physical activities to include aerobics, flexibility and strengthening exercises. Fast walking, jogging, dancing, biking or climbing stairs are all good. Studies indicate that aerobic exercise brings more blood and oxygen to your brain cells, encouraging the growth of new nerve cells and connections between them. Improve your mood, control your weight and protect yourself against cognitive loss all at the same time!

For some ideas about how to identify your strengths and talents, click on the post title above. You will be connected with our article, How to Inventory Your Assets, found on our website,

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adding Brain Power

Seniors Citizens Learn Computer Skills

If you found our blog by Googling or responding to a Google Alert about a subject that concerned you - aging parents, growing children, nourishing relationships, family conflicts, Sandwiched Boomers - or by surfing the Internet for topics of interest, or you are a regular reader, congratulations, you are increasing your brain power!

According to a study soon to be published by the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, a team of UCLA scientists have found that middle aged and older adults who search the Internet, using the web on a regular basis, activate brain centers necessary for complex reasoning and decision-making. Exercising the brain in this way - making decisions about what to click on to continue the search - can engage brain circuit connections and improve mental functioning.

The UCLA researchers, using MRI brain scans during an assigned Internet search, noted that study participants with experience in online searches sparked two times as much brain activity as those with little prior web experience. And, as compared with an MRI done during a book-reading task, more brain activity was engaged during the Internet search. When the less web-savvy volunteers completed 7 one-hour online searches at home, their MRI scans two weeks later indicated brain activation patterns similar to the more experienced volunteers. So, take heart - enjoy the Internet and let your brain light up!

Have you been thinking about additional ways to maintain your vitality? Use your creativity as you plan new ways to challenge your brain cells. Then click on the post title above to take you to You will find our articles there to help you get started in realizing your potential for change. You will find tips to move you in 8 Strategies to Turn Your New Year's Resolutions into Reality.And tune in tomorrow for more tips on keeping your brain young.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honoring Service on Veterans Day

Services Of Remembrance Are Held On Armistice Day In Afghanistan

On this day, November 11, we offer our tributes to the veterans who have served the country over the years and honor those who are serving today. These brave men and women in the Armed Forces put their lives on the line every day, and do so with dignity. We are especially aware of the challenges of service after the terrible shootings at Fort Hood.

As we respect their contributions, we can also reflect on what we can learn from those in the Armed Services. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." So said Charles Colton, nearly 200 years ago. If you are caring for your family in flux, maybe as a Sandwiched Boomer, here are some ways you can emulate them.

Draw upon your own strength. You will learn more about your capabilities when you are tested by hard times than when everything is going well for you. Resiliency is increased each time you get up and put one foot in front of the other. Bravery comes in many actions - facing an illness, providing for your family, starting a new career - not only on the battlefield.

Just as those in the foxholes feel the honest emotions of fear, anger, pain, guilt, anxiety and loneliness, allow yourself to experience these emotions when they are a part of your life. Sandwiched between caring for your offspring and your parents, you will feel stressed and anxious at times. Acknowledge these feelings, and then begin to deal with them.

If you remember the fragility and transience of life as you move through it, you will savor each good moment you have. To live your life to the fullest is a lasting mark of respect you can pay to your family and to the veterans who have sacrificed the innocence of their youth for you.

So after paying tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services on Veterans Day, make a commitment to employ some of these techniques to honor your own family. You will find that, as a part of the Sandwich Generation, it makes your time with each member more meaningful and relevant.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Familes Come Together

Salt Lake City Family Mourns Soldier Killed At Fort Hood

In times of turmoil and pain, families instinctively draw together. As investigators are trying to learn more about the shooter at Fort Hood, friends and family of the victims are turning their attention to one another for support and comfort. Grieving as one with the country, members of the Armed Forces sustain each another as family.

With Veterans Day coming tomorrow, we are again reminded of the Service men and women who leave their families to protect ours. As you reflect on the events of the past several days, you may find yourselves thinking about what you can learn from veterans about the importance of family. Here are some suggestions to consider.

Express the gratitude you feel for what they have given you – protection, opportunities, love, strength, enjoyment of life. You have doors open to you now because of them. This can begin with something as simple as a heartfelt "thank you," and develop into a more textured and thoughtful recognition of what you are thankful for.

Recognize the importance of revealing the love you have for each other. Those who have been in harm's way know the meaning of the words, "it's too late." Don't put off sharing your love; decide to make it a priority. Each day, acknowledge those you love, and who love you, as if it were your last.

Understand the value of friendship. Those in the service have trusted and leaned on each other as they've shared their experiences and relied on their camaraderie. Know that we are here to take care of our friends and family – close and extended – difficult though it may be at times.

Community support is there for the taking when you know where to look and how to ask for it. Be open to the reality that you might need to utilize the input and generosity of others. You are not diminished when you allow another to help you.

Are you a Sandwiched Boomer finding it hard to get started focusing on the strengths of your family in these trying times? Click on the post title above to take you to our website, You can read our article, 5 Steps to Gratitude Despite a Tough Economy for tips about how to focus on acknowledging and expressing what you are grateful for.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Monday, November 09, 2009

Fort Hood Massacre

Thirteen Dead In Mass Shooting At Fort Hood

Flags are flying at half-mast all across America in memory of the 13 soldiers who were massacred by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood. The soldiers were randomly shot while they waited for medical treatment on the base. In addition to the 13 who died, 30 more were injured, some severely. The incident has brought to the forefront, less than a week before Veterans Day, the risk that those brave men and women in the armed forces take, in service to the country.

Americans in the armed forces continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other theaters throughout the world. While most of those killed and injured at Fort Hood were young, the average age of men and women in the Armed Forces has risen. Many in the service now are a part of the Sandwich Generation, concerned about caring for family members at home as they continue their duty to the country. Their burden becomes especially apparent as we approach Veterans Day, a time for all of us to pay tribute to American veterans of all wars.

What lessons can Sandwiched Boomers take from veterans - those who have stood up for the rest of us and given their all to protect our way of life? As we respect their unique bravery, we can direct what we learn to our own family situation. Between now and Veterans Day, we will look at how to apply the same principles to those closest to us. For some ideas about paying tribute to Veterans and your own family from, click on the post title above.

Labels: , , , ,


Friday, November 06, 2009

Are Your Kids Hooked on TV?

Boy watching television

The latest Nielsen figures indicate that children are watching more television than ever - those aged 2 to 5 are watching more than 32 hours a week while for those 6 to 11, it drops slightly, probably due to school hours, to more than 28 hours a week. That's still, on the average, more than 4 hours a day. These numbers include VCR and game console usage but not time on the computer or playing hand-held video games.

Are you concerned about these numbers? Children's healthcare advocates certainly are. They have warned that this increased television watching may be linked to two childhood issues: obesity and delayed language skills.

For the past decade, parents had thought that Baby Einstein videos would help their infants develop language skills but actually studies have found that infants who watch these kind of videos actually learn fewer vocabulary words than those who don't. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only an hour or two of TV for children older than 2 years, none for those below that age.

What can you do, as a parent, to wean your children from excess hours spent on television, videos and video games? It's not a simple process, but you can start by talking with your kids about why you believe it is important to reduce their electronic screen time. Help them see that it is not a punishment, but rather an important part of their growth. Here are some suggestions to get you started as you craft a plan that works for your family.

If you are a Sandwiched Boomer, single parent, or working mother, you are likely already stressed by your responsibilities and tempted to use television as a baby sitter. Instead, encourage your children to help you while you are doing things around the house - bring them into the kitchen to help make dinner, let them fold their own laundry, make it a game to see who can straighten up faster. Talk with your kids while you are getting your own chores done and make them a part of the process.

Set aside time for them to play outside with their friends. Learn more about after school activities in which your kids can participate - at school, in your local community center, at the park.

Encourage your children to read instead of watching television. Think about how you can make reading more interactive and interesting for them. Have a good book of your own handy so that you can sit down with them and read together.

Be a good role model. Don't leave the TV on as a background. Watch only the shows you specifically choose.

Include your children in planning which shows they will watch and when. Remind them that they need to limit their screen time to only what they have chosen. Set the amount of time they can play video games, hand-held or on the TV. You may decide on specific days or times for this activity. Make up a chart so they can plan for the week and let them fill in the times they have watched.

Set family rules about what is and is not acceptable in terms of TV and video games usage. Let your kids know that you are consistent in enforcing them. You can even purchase and use a TV/video game time management tool. These allow you to implement the time limits you have set with your children.

You may find that, as in any dramatic change, it takes many baby steps to alter your kids' television viewing habits. When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of prying your children's eyes off the TV, you can find some tips to get started at our website, Click on the post title above to read an article giving you some suggestions about how to begin: Sandwiched Boomers: 7 Tips on Fighting Inertia.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Childhood Lies

It's been said that young children tend to lie at least once every two hours - sometimes to get something they want or to gain attention but usually to avoid getting in trouble and being punished. Often the lines between make-believe and reality become blurred. But when do youngsters' little 'white lies' become teenagers' big destructive whoppers? And how do those teens behave as young adults?

The Josephson Institute of Ethics releases studies of American high school students every two years and finds that the levels of lying, cheating and stealing have steadily increased. Results from their most recent study indicate that 12 to 17 year olds are five times more likely than those over 50 to believe it is necessary to lie and cheat in order to succeed. As they move out into the world at large, these same young adults are two to three times more likely to misrepresent themselves in a job interview, lie to a significant other, keep money mistakenly given to them.

Dejected Football Player
Photo (c) 2008 Jupiter Images. All rights reserved.

Why do our children resort to these kinds of misdeeds? Is it the poor role models found in the entertainment, political and sports worlds? Is it the pressure to succeed coming from parents and schools? Is it the normalization of certain illegal activities on the Internet - plagiarism of papers and reports, downloading pirated music and videos?

So what's a parent to do? As in other aspects of parenting, keeping lines of communication open is a good start. When your children are little, encourage and praise their honesty, let them know clearly what is unacceptable, talk with them about the real consequences of their behaviors.

As they mature, continue to help your teens focus on learning for it's own sake without obsessing about tests and grades. Let them know that they don't have to be perfect to be competitive. Monitor their Internet use. And talk with them about the inappropriate messages their "heroes" are sending.

Adult role models can be helpful in setting examples of the kind of behavior you want to encourage in your children. To read more about a family man who lived according to his own high standards, click on the title above. It will take you to our website article, What Sandwiched Boomers Can Learn from Tim Russert.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Feeling Stressed? So are the Kids

Girl (12-13) sitting on steps outdoors
Raising children has never been easy for Sandwiched Boomers, but do you think it's even harder today? Parents have always had to deal with providing for their offspring - food, clothing and shelter as well as a supportive and loving environment where the kids could grow into their full potential. Today, in addition, mom and dad are faced with handling the stresses of an unstable economy and volatile social situations. And the worries we feel are felt by our youngsters as well.

A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive and reported by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of American adults are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. And, for the first time including youth between the ages of 8 and 17 in the survey, APA found that these preteens and teenagers are worrying too - and in greater numbers than their parents estimate. The survey found that children are experiencing their greatest worries about school and about their family's finances.

So what can you do to help the situation for your kids? Don't try to hide your concerns from them. You can't. They pick up signals from you even when you think you are shielding them from your stresses. Instead, keep the lines of communication open. Talk with them about their worries and let them know how you are handling you own ones. The more you are able to discuss the strains affecting all of you, the better you can all begin to cope with them. As you shift the focus to what you can do to address the pressures, your children may be comforted by recognizing that they have an ally - you are working together as a family to decrease the tensions you face. You may not be able to eliminate the anxiety everyone is experiencing, but you can make a first pass at reducing it.

For some tips about coping with the stresses you may be feeling in our uncertain economy, click on the title above. You can read about weathering economic challenges together at oue article, Five Ways Sandwiched Boomers Can Think Positive in Tough Times.

Labels: , , , , ,


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Choose a Topic and Read Some Blog Posts

There won't be a blog post today as we're both traveling - Rosemary is flying from Philadelphia to Chicago and I'm off to to Morocco. But tune in tomorrow as we'll be back on schedule.
Plane landing on runway
In the meantime, why don't you look around the blog. Scroll to the upper left-hand corner of the blue banner at the top of this page and type in the subject that interests you in the white space - empty nest, sandwich generation, mother-in-law, aging parents, woman's conference? Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to some posts you may enjoy reading.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Raising Children

My daughter sent me this piece by columnist and author, Anna Quindlen. Reading it made me reflect and brought up tons of memories. Want some nostalgia?

"All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.Mother and babyEverything in all the parenting books is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon, and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages, dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, and finally what the women on the playground, and the well-meaning relations - well what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything.

One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.

To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago pouring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the "Remember-When-Mom-Did" Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language - mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1.

And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top.

And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me awhile to figure out who the experts were."

Labels: , , , , , , ,