Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baby Booomers and Post Traumatic Growth

The last day of our summer vacation with all the family came to a sad ending with my husband's accident. He's been more reflective as he recuperates from knee surgery that will keep him off his feet for the next few months. He's always been able to do it all, and now suddenly there are limitations - just like for the older baby boomers who are coming face to face with the realities of the aging process. But it's not as bad as it could be, especially when it comes with a certain amount of wisdom, the opportunity to enjoy our grandchildren and lots of great memories to savor. And there are lessons to be learned:
Focus on what you can accomplish, not what you can't. When your wellbeing is compromised, it's hard to feel at risk and dependent especially if you're someone who's used to doing everything for everybody. Give yourself an emotional break and recognize the treasures that are an integral part of you. Honor your body by exercising, eating and sleeping patterns that make you feel better. Minimize the situations that cause stress while increasing the ones that give you pleasure.

Find ways to lift your spirits. Call on your inner strength, wisdom and past experiences. Turn to your religious faith or spiritual practice that gives you comfort. Sit outside, enjoy the sun and get your daily dose of vitamin C. Take a nap or two and don't feel guilty about it. Connect often by having friends and family come over and visit. You can create rituals that give you peace of mind and help you relax - journaling, meditation, inward focus, deep breathing.

Build resilience. Although we can't prevent what happens to us, we can have some control over how we handle it. Work on changing your mindset. If you reframe your negative thoughts into neutral or positive ones, you can turn anxiety into energy. Release tension through laughter - watch a sitcom, tell jokes, see a funny movie - and you'll begin to bounce back. Look for the lessons in what you're going through because a good attitude can make a difference in how you navigate your present situation.

All of our thoughts are mental products although they don't necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, they do represent how we feel. And there's no way around how we feel about the challenges of coping with health issues. Be patient and hang in there. The very act of putting one foot in front of the other can lead to a new perspective. Gaining strength from adversity is called post traumatic growth. This crisis may even lead you to feeling more empathy for others and a greater appreciation of what you have.

Despite the strain you're going through, you will find hope. Relish your small feats and set goals for the future. Plan beyond the present and use my husband as a role model. He's making the most of what he calls house arrest and already mapping out our next vacation.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Care-giving 101: Boomers Beware

What an unfortunate end to a terrific week at the lake, with all our kids and grandsons, celebrating my husband's birthday. During one final swim, he slipped on the dock, had to have surgery on a fracture through the knee joint and is now only 10 days into an 8-12 week stint of no weight bearing. And yes, living in a 2nd floor walk-up, we're both counting the days!

When we're busy with our lives and moving along as usual we tend to feel bad for the injured and their caretakers but don’t really give much thought to the challenges they're facing. As with so many other circumstances, it's often through experience that we really know how it feels - and then can access a depth of compassion.

So what's it like for an active, strong willed risk taker to be rendered helpless and in the hands of the woman he's been married to for 45 years? Well, it's a new role for both of us and we're trying to learn as we go. You can't really be prepared for the unexpected but, as we age, we're all vulnerable. So here are some pointers about what we've been doing to make our way through this rough period:

The first days can be the hardest. We take so much for granted. When your partner is incapacitated, the physical and emotional challenges can't help but have a huge impact. And with a reversal of roles, while one may feel vulnerable and upset, the other's emotions can fluctuate from fear to frustration. Yet eventually both can experience a deep sense of support and renewed strength as you draw on the coping strengths that helped you manage difficult times in the past.

What you're feeling is normal. The emotions that surface can affect how you see yourselves, even on a temporary basis. Let the anger, exhaustion, resentment or guilt wash over you but don't give in to them. Try to be hopeful as you adjust to the new reality. You'll take better care of your emotional self if you don't dwell on the negatives and begin to accept that this too will pass.

Care for the care-giver. Look on the bright side of a difficult situation as you balance caring for your partner and taking care of your own needs. Make time for yourself - take a long walk or yoga class, go back to volunteer work or grandbaby sitting, enjoy lunch or a movie with a friend. Recognize what you can manage and that you don't have to do it all alone – and remember that it's OK to ask for help.

If your family has been through this, please share your ideas by clicking on 'Comments' below. And log on again Wednesday when we'll be STILL be talking about the cared for and the care-giver.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Maureen Hancock, The Medium Next Door

We want to welcome Maureen Hancock to our Virtual Book Tour today. She's here to talk about her book, The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer. Maureen has lots to tell us about her unusual vocation so let's not waste any time getting started:

NR: You have a new book out. What's the book about and where can readers get it?

MH: My new book, The Medium Next Door is about the adventures of a real life ghost whisperer. It's basically part memoir about my life as a medium. I'm just like your next door neighbor…only I hear and see dead people. I write about my work with the sick and dying, helping people pass, assisting detectives to help find missing children and adults and some profound readings that have changed families' lives each chapter has a reflection or suggestions to apply to your own life for healing and knowledge. You can get the book at Amazon or from my website,

NR: You are truly, “The Medium Next Door.” You’re a wife, mother of two young boys—a soccer mom with a twist. How do you explain what you do to your children and how do you balance family life with the demands of your work?

MH: My children are very open to spirit and the work I do. When they were younger, they couldn't understand why I left the house with amplifiers and microphones to do shows. When my younger son was six, his teacher asked each of the students what their mother did for a living. My son proudly explained, "My mother's a rock star." Now, we talk openly about spirits and their guardian angel in heaven - their cousin, Sean.

NR: How did you first realize you had the ability to communicate with the dearly departed?

MH: As a child, I had lead paint poisoning and was in a coma. I spent three years in and out of Boston's Children's Hospital. When I came home from the hospital at the age of five, I could see spirits roaming around my house. One of my sisters said they would take me back to the hospital if I kept talking about "the invisible people," so I shut it off. Cut to 1992, I fell asleep at the wheel and broke several bones in my face, including a fractured skull. After the accident, I didn't need any surgery and I believe my recently deceased grandmother was watching over me. I then started to hear voices from beyond while volunteering with cancer patients.

NR: You are a former stand-up comedienne (sometimes referred to as the "Comedian Medium") how do you incorporate humor with such a heavy subject matter?

MH: I think what differentiates me from many other spirit mediums is that I believe our loved ones in spirit enjoy coming through with a celebration of life and not reliving another wake. Being a former stand-up comic, I enjoyed making people smile and forget about their daily stress and heartache. When I bring through a spirit, often times the validations are so on point (names, dates, exact way of passing) the person loses it and starts to weep, sometimes uncontrollably. It is at this exact point of the reading that I jump in with humor and help the person left behind know that it's okay to continue living, laughing and celebrating these great memories. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

NR: You are co-founder of two charities. Tell us about them.

MH: "Seeds of Hope" is a foundation that provides support for those suffering with debilitating and terminal illnesses. We provide holistic healing support such as massage, Reiki hands on healing, reflexology and mediation. I help clients with their fears of death and help them pass with less pain and fear. We also support parents who have lost children through support groups and private sessions. This work is all offered free of charge.

My other non-profit is "Mission for the Missing." It was co-founded with a private detective two years ago. We offer help to families of children and adults who are missing and/or murdered. The detective is a ground-search coordinator and together we facilitate large-scale searches incorporating the efforts of many volunteer teams such as cadaver dogs, divers, horses, atv's, Fish and Game, State Police, ground searchers and more. We also offer training scholarships to dogs for continuing education, as well as equipment needed from all over the country for assistance.

NR: Obviously many people are skeptical about what you do. How do you handle the skeptics?

MH: I'm a former skeptic. I refused to go to psychics when my friends would try to get me to go to tarot cards or tea leave readings. It's not my job to convince anyone I can deliver the info and let them process it and decide for themselves. I've turned many skeptics into believers by giving very detailed information. My job is to deliver detailed information and hopefully, plant the seed of hope.

NR: Tell us about your upcoming television show. What do you hope to achieve by being on TV?

MH: I'm so excited about the TV show. I have an outstanding team of producers, Sander & Moses who executive produced the Ghost Whisperer, as well as some great producers from ABC Medial Productions and Disney. I'm traveling around the country, stopping in small towns offering my assistance with a variety of "matters" such as assisting detectives on missing person cases, helping a family who has lost a child, helping people to understand death and using my humor to deliver impromptu readings all over town.

NR: Thanks for joining us today, Maureen. Now the blog is open to our readers - ask your own questions about Maureen's book and TV show through the comment link below.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Friendships Over the Years

The end of summer, with its back-to-school activities, has me thinking about my own years in school and what these memories mean to me now. Last spring we had our 50th high school reunion and ever since, group emails have been flying back and forth every day. Reconnecting has been like uncovering an old scrapbook - even with whiffs of mildew, it's a real treasure trove of memories.

With all the chaotic financial news, it's nice to be able to reminisce about simpler, more innocent times. Have you noticed how the flavor of your own reunions changed over the years? While the early ones were mostly about individuality - your accomplishments and how thin you looked - the 50th was all about the group - our connections and shared memories.

All our reflective emails have been like tuning in to the oldies but goodies radio stations - a real blast. Although many of us hadn't spoken to each other in 50 years, it's been amazing how quickly old relationships have been renewed. Conversations spontaneously spring up and no one has missed a beat. The older we get, the more we enjoy looking back - way back. When we're not going over what happened in high school, we're backing up all the way to grade school.

What most of us recognize from our reunion aftermath has been the most significant life lesson of all - about importance of enduring friendships. Not only do they create nostalgia for simpler days when we were young, naive and carefree, but more important they bring meaning and sense of belonging to us.

We've made full lives for ourselves in the 50 years after high school but nothing can take away the warm feelings about the times we all spent together. The links that were forged then grew as we did, without us even being aware of the foundation they created. We could begin to define who we were then because we felt secure with and grounded by each other.

As one of my old friends put it in a recent email, Dear New/Old/Very Special Friends, The afterglow continues. It has been such joy to receive all these heartfelt messages. I have been mulling over all the information, the remembrances and stories, trying to understand why this reuniting of friends and classmates has such significance to many of us. I think we see ourselves as we were through the eyes of those we knew when we did not often know how to verbally define ourselves. We have all lived our lives apart but we are bringing forth the essence of ourselves as we knew each other in our formative years. It is so interesting, at this point, to tell our stories, stories we couldn't articulate when we were young as well as the stories that we have developed over the last 50 years.

We missed the sharing of so many truly world shaping events, socially and politically, and we are interested in knowing how the others viewed these events. We started out together, we parted, we want to review all those years in between. It is fascinating, it is fun, it is touching. We are now seeing who has developed or retained a nostalgic sensibility. Thank you, email, for making this reconnecting possible. Thank you, high school, for making us all learn to type so we can now use our previously unused secretarial skills to free associate with one another. All those enticing but unfinished conversations at the reunion shall continue!

How about you? Has your reunion letter or email come to reawaken your memories of distant days? If you've already had an important reunion, you can share your experiences with us here through "comments" below.

And for a glimpse into one woman's unusual story, please join us on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, when Maureen Hancock visits our blog for a Virtual Book Tour. Her memoir, The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer follows her experiences as she strives to balance raising her children and speaking with the deceased.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Decide Which Tour Group is Best for You

Most group tours today consist of Boomers and those 10 years younger. Since we are the generation of joggers, exercise bikers, and elliptical skippers, we are more active and fit than many of our parents. They were happy to sit on a bus and look out of the windows on their first trips overseas. How can a Boomer determine if a tour is too sedentary or too active for her level of fitness? Here are some tips from a fairly fit, though sometimes lazy Boomer traveler and tour operator:

Look at the photos of people in the travel brochure. Do they look like you? What kind of shoes are they wearing? Too dressed up, they are not doing 2 hour walking tours of Rome. Too sporty with hiking boots, they might be outpacing you on a climb to the top of a Turkish hill fort. Their hairstyles will also tell you if this is a casual group or one that ‘dresses for dinner’.

What is the pace of the itinerary? Too many included meals mean a lot of sitting around. More than a half-day bus tour per day means very limited activity. Choose a tour that has a mix of meals, bus tours, free time and some early arrival days at the hotel. Why early arrival? If you have eaten a 4 course French lunch with mousse, then you will want some time to exercise or to take a long walk. Most hotel gyms overseas will be small and, in a European hotel, very limited in scope.

Check the schedule of events for the trip. Factor in your personal tolerance for altitude, dryness, sea level humidity, heat, cold etc. An example is if you go to countries like Guatemala, Costa Rica or Mexico, check the altitude and let your body adjust before you climb the mountain to get the best view. Or if you live in a high city like Denver, you will probably want adjustment time before you do your early morning jog in humid Honduras. I was once on a trip to China with 3 women from the Virgin Islands. They were used to the tropics and to drinking lots of water. Beijing is very dry and it was a cool day. They did not realize how dehydrated they were until one of them turned a weird color and fainted!

Find out how large the group is. A small group moves faster than a group of 50 due to general loading of buses, check-in at airports, delivery of luggage etc.

See if the tour you choose includes a rating for physical exertion. And if not, just be sure you can handle everyday obstacles like cobbled stones in Sicily, broken stairs leading to a Thai temple, sandy walks in Ephesus, steep staircases in the Marinsky Opera House. I am a strong advocate for limited luggage. There will always be one time when you must handle your luggage, even if it is in your hotel room moving from one area to another.

Click on 'Comments' below and follow the prompts - you can even sign on as Anonymous, it's as easy as that! Then ask our guest blogger, Phyllis Stoller, your travel questions. And share your adventure stories with other readers as well.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Three Travel Destinations for Baby Boomers

This week our guest blogger is Phyllis Stoller and her focus is on travel. Her first travels were at the public library with Kipling, James Fenimore Cooper, and Rumer Godden, who grew up in India and wrote wonderful children's books. At age 14 Phyllis went to school in Switzerland, then spent a summer at the Universite de Poitiers in Tours, France. She lived in England for 10 years and has 2 London-born sons. Today Phyllis travels with The Women's Travel Club, a group she started in 1992 and now manages. She boasts she can have her roots dyed in any country but likes the L'Oreal products created for in Arab countries the most.

According to Phyllis, baby boomers are keenly interested in our world and where we as Americans stand in it. Her thoughts about these countries will certainly stimulate your travel appetite:

China, with over 40% of the world’s population, should be visited now. Internal inflation is causing rising prices and, when or if the currency floats, prices will jump threefold. Your first trip to China should, at minimum, include Beijing, Shanghai and Xian. Beijing is significant for its historical import and recent Chinese history plus its proximity to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. Shanghai is the financial capital of Asia, has an amazing new skyline and excellent museum. Kublai Khan’s capital, Xian, and site of the Terracotta Soldiers, is your third must see. Trips which include Guilin for its scenery usually end in Hong Kong and are pricier. If you can afford it, add a Yangtze Cruise. And if this is your second trip to China, add Yunnan Province in Western China, home of the Stone Forest, and an interesting example of minority dominated border regions.

India, a favorite of most Boomer women, is also a country of far flung and distinct regions. The traditional first trip is to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and sometimes further into Rajastani desert. This is an early winter trip and one to be done by car. You will experience both the congestion of India and the occasional amazing scene like a painted religious man, camel riding women in colorful saris and hillside forts. Going to China or India? Read Monsoon by Robert Kaplan, which explains the role of countries of the Indian Ocean Basin.

England and London, one of the most vibrant cities with the combination of great (and free!)museums, easy transportation, wonderful local food, and English is spoken. Here are some newer points of interest: South Bank from the Design Museum to Tate Modern with a stop for chow in Borough Market. Explore the area from the Wallace Gallery up Marylebone High Street. Make a day of the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, now behind a pedestrian walkway, with lunch in the latter. There are so many delightful regions in England. For those who want a taste of the country with some walking, Country Walks by Time Out Magazine. The book details excellently hikes along with information on how to find a group that fits your fitness level and season of travel.

Having spent time in these countries, I agree wholeheartedly with Phyllis' choices. With new concerns about the economy, for now, many of us will have to dream about travel and put our plans on hold. But if you're collecting information for the future, log on Wednesday for a post about baby boomer fitness for travel.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tools for Coping with Roller Coaster Market

Are you unnerved by the current stock market's dramatic volatility, with its wild swings down and up? If you're feeling anxious about how the national and global economic unrest will affect your personal and family finances, you're not alone. You may be rethinking how you will handle your planned retirement, your kids' college educations, supporting your needy parents, even your day-to-day expenses. While we here at Nourishing Relationships and Her Mentor Center are not financial experts, we do have some coping tips that can help you deal with the emotional overload you may be experiencing. In support of our readers - baby boomers, gen X'ers or others - we are now giving you a gift of our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success free of charge for a limited time.

When you download our free ebook, you'll find practical tips for reducing stress, getting some control over your expenses, understanding the role financial instability plays in your marriage, creating new ways of flexible family living within this turbulent economy and investing in your own physical and emotional well-being.

And if you're a part of the Sandwich Generation - caring for growing children and aging parents - we've found a website that sells some helpful tools. It's called and we'd like to share it with you.

You've often heard us talk here at Nourishing Relationships about the importance of creating a written contract when your family is dealing with difficult issues - a teenager's rights and responsibilities, a boomerang kid's privileges and duties, your sibling's roles vis-à-vis aging parents. It's important to clarify expectations on both sides and deal with boundary complexities so they don't sabotage your family relationships.

A Sane Approach offers agreements you can modify to fit the specifics of your family; there are two that may be particularly useful to you in the coming months. In response to the economic downturn, if you're expecting a boomerang kid, their downloadable contract for an adult child moving home can be used to organize the policies you've agreed to implement. Or if you're caring for an elderly parent, their document can help you and your siblings determine exactly how you will share obligations and decision-making.

We hope you'll get some help in keeping your balance in the midst of this financial turmoil and download our free ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success. Let us know how these tips work for you.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Is Another Financial Storm Brewing?

Now that credit rating firm Standard and Poor's has downgraded the United States' government debt from AAA to AA+ for the first time in history, a sense of uncertainty has again taken over the American psyche. After another historic plummet of the stock market last week in response to Congress' clumsy negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, the market again today has opened drastically lower. How will the week play out? No one knows for sure. But families all over the country are bracing for the effect of the national - and global - financial chaos on their own personal futures.

Many are concerned that the S&P downgrade of U.S. bonds - and now their additional downgrade of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - will raise interest rates for families, making it more difficult for them to pay off credit card debt or arrange for a loan to purchase a new car or home. And small business owners, already hampered in their abilities to function, are facing another setback in their growth from these S&P downgrades.

What can we do in these difficult days? Here at Nourishing Relationships and Her Mentor Center, we'd like to help you cope with the stresses of the economic turmoil that you may be facing. So for a limited time, we are now offering you our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success, completely free of charge. Comprised of eight white papers, our ebook can empower you and give you tools to manage the challenges and tensions you are experiencing. Simply click on the link to Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm and you can receive a complimentary download of the pdf file. Use the tips we provide to create solutions for your family distress in these tough times. And please let us know how you are doing through the "comment" button below.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Boomerang Kids Moving Back Home After College

Not since the Great Depression have so many fledgling adults moved into the empty nest with mom and dad. This cyclical trend has accelerated along with the economic crisis. So many of our kids are dealing with school loans or debts and can't find a job. It makes sense for them to head for home, where there's the hope of some emotional and financial support.

The statistics have changed markedly over the past few years. Monster's 2009 annual entry level job outlook reports that 40% of 2008 college graduates moved in with their parents and 42% of 2006 graduates were still living at home. A poll from Twentysomething, Inc. indicates that 85% of 2011 college seniors planned to move back in with their parents. This is attributed to a 15% unemployment rate in the 20-24 year old cohort as well as other economic factors that are postponing financial and residential independence. The numbers are even worse for students who attended for-profit college programs (and who may not have even left home in the first place).

The huge boom in boomerangs has generated its fair share of pop culture angst. This phenomenon really doesn't reflect failure on the part of parents or the laziness of kids today. Transition to adulthood just seems to be more fragmented and complicated. And who wouldn't take advantage of a warm, comfortable and familiar port in the storm?

But coddling can stunt development and over-managing isn't the best way to monitor the investment you've made in your kids. Here are some ideas that will eventually help you reap the dividends:

Have a serious conversation. Understand why your emerging adult is moving back and how you feel about it. It will be best for everyone if, early on, expectations are similar. Watch out for triangulation - that is, identifying any one of you as the problem and aligning one against the other. It's common for relationships to shift as you all work to accommodate these changes. You need to be prepared for less privacy and spontaneity as well as new patterns of interacting and parenting.

Establish accountability and boundaries. Negotiate household chores and financial obligations upfront. Having rules in place will ease the transition and smooth out the day-to-day interactions. As your kids have been on their own and independent, clarify issues around curfew, checking in and sleepovers. And set limits together, as adults.

Do you have a boomerang kid moving back in? Click on "Comments" below to share your concerns and solutions. Log on Wednesday for more practical ideas that can help your family make it work.

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