Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creating a Holiday Spirit Yourself

If you're newly alone this year, the holidays may remind you of the joys and sorrows of past gatherings. But try to stay focused in the present. Let go of your expectations and instead create celebrations that are meaningful to you now. You'll find your experience of these special days can create new memories to savor throughout the year.

Image: Stuart Miles /

Now that you've used Monday's tips to get started, here are some more for coping with the holidays on your own:

Consider your finances. You'll need to budget differently this year so consider what holiday expenses you can reduce. Perhaps you and your friends can agree to forgo your usual gift giving and instead exchange homemade treats or enjoy a potluck dinner together. With the continuing tough economy, it's likely they're also looking for ways to cut back on costs.

Create new rituals. Plan to do something different for the holidays this year. There's really not one perfect way to celebrate so change your usual routine and enjoy the excitement of new experiences. Perhaps arrange to get away from home - visit a friend, volunteer in your community, go for a hike, travel nearby. Next year, you can choose to continue with the ones that worked the best for you.

Include others who are alone. You're not the only one whose celebration may be bittersweet this year. Share your holiday by Inviting a single friend or relative into your home or volunteering at a community soup kitchen. When you're making your own holiday preparations, set aside some time for those outside your circle. You can donate toys and books to needy children, cookies to a homeless shelter, music to a nursing home.

As you map out your new strategy for the holidays this year, are you also thinking about other changes you want to make? If you're looking for practical tips that help you take the first steps toward a new goal - running a 5K, starting your own business, reconnecting with an old friend - download our complementary ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals. You'll find role models and suggestions there to help you prepare and execute your plans.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebrating the Holidays Without a Partner

Now that Thanksgiving is over, many have 'officially' moved into the holiday season. Are you alone and wondering how you'll be celebrating this year? Whether you're divorced or widowed, a single parent or the spouse of a deployed serviceperson, it may have seemed easier when you had a partner to share in the planning. Now that you'll be the one creating the holiday mood, you're likely to feel extra pressures, especially if you have children who are depending on you.

Image: Ambro /

You can take advantage of the freedom you have to develop customs that are just right for you and your family. Here are some tips to give you a head start, even before December begins:

Recognize that it won't be easy. You may be feeling vulnerable and out of sorts after everything that has happened. Accept your complex emotions and acknowledge that it may difficult for you to enjoy the holidays as much as before. You can relieve some of your inner stress when you don't expect too much of yourself.

Take the process one step at a time. Holidays are stressful and this year won't be any different so try not to get overwhelmed. Do what you can without putting extra pressure on yourself. Set aside some time to relax and enjoy what the season means to you.

Look for support. Friends can throw you a lifeline as you adjust to your new status. And your extended family will help fill in the gaps created by your missing partner. If you have children, the more adults providing loving support, the easier it will be for them.

Check back on Wednesday for more tips to help you manage on your own. And in the meantime, take advantage of our holiday gift to you - download our ebook, free of charge, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success. You'll find more tips for negotiating the tough economic climate, today and throughout the holiday season.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratitude: A Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe

These are hard times. And life is hectic for all of us - especially around Thanksgiving, when we remember how our families celebrated in years past. Holiday images in the media can be seductive and exaggerated. Before you know it, you're rushing around and trying to conform to unrealistic expectations.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Ratcliff, FreeDigital

Perhaps you're worried that old family dynamics will surface as soon as you all get together. Will the cousins wonder why your 35 year old son is moving back home? Or what if your mom's inquisitive nature scares off your daughter's new boyfriend?

Thanksgiving can be lots of fun. But it can also be about confronting old wounds, suffering through conversations with dysfunctional relatives or counting the minutes until it's over. And this can lead to emotional overload.

This year, just try to relax and refuse to focus on negative issues. As they say, 'The rocks come with the farm.' Learn to love those rocks - they make it more interesting. And consider that what you're feeling is pretty typical in all families. Sometimes it takes a holiday get-together to fully appreciate what you do have. When deciding what to bring to the Thanksgiving table, how about a hearty dish of gratitude? And invite your family and friends to join you. I'll get the ball rolling - here are a few things I'm grateful for:

My husband's support
The hug of a grandchild
Inner strength
The people I love
My good fortune
Second chances

Now it's your turn. Click on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post, follow the prompts and share your gratitude with our readers. Or email us at to let us know what you're thankful for. We'll post your comments here on Wednesday. And why not try this idea when your guests gather around the Thanksgiving table?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Virtual Book Tour: Dr. Jeffrey Rubin and "The Art of Flourishing"

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jeffrey Rubin to our Virtual Book Tour today. What follows is a crosspost of his interview with's Jesse Kornbuth - Take it away, Jesse:

Talk about conflicted! Jeffrey Rubin has been a friend for a decade. Long before he started writing his new book -- The Art of Flourishing: A New East-West Approach to Staying Sane and Finding Love in an Insane World -- I heard him talk through some of the ideas. I read his book in manuscript and, because I was born that way, I marked passages I loved and passages I loved a little less. A company I co-founded is helping him promote the book online. Yes, I'd call that conflicted.

I can't, in good conscience, review the book -- though I think I'm allowed to say it provoked some brain flares for me and nudged me toward what feels like a better path -- but I can, legitimately, tell you about its author. As a kid, Jeffrey was one of those annoying brainiacs who has, even more annoyingly, a killer jump shot. He burned through Princeton and graduate school, and then, fully credentialed, set out to heal the world.

A funny thing happened along the way. He discovered that Western psychoanalytic theory could get him -- and his patients -- only so far. But he was also a meditator and a seeker, and in Buddhist practice, he found tools that seemed extremely useful. He started to combine West and East and discovered he was on to something. Others agreed. Eventually one of his patients included a Zen master. [That relationship is chronicled in a fascinating article in The New York Times Magazine.] Jeffrey is still a brainiac -- I doubt Dr. Phil will be saying anything as simple and profound as this: In meditative psychotherapy, meditation and yogic breathing are used to quiet and focus the mind. Meanwhile, psychotherapeutic insights about unconscious motivations illuminate the meaning of what arises during one's spiritual practice. And the therapeutic relationship -- conceived of in a freer and more empathic way -- is the arena in which new ways of living are explored and actualized.

You need not be a patient of Dr. Rubin's to get the benefit of his work. There's his book, written by a smart grown-up for smart grown-ups, which can, he says, help you "flourish." What's that? I asked that question, and some follow-ups, on your behalf.

Jesse Kornbluth: So, Doctor Rubin, what is "flourishing?"

Jeffrey Rubin:
Here's the short answer: Flourishing is cultivating better relationships by enriching one's self-care and self-awareness.

Now I'll give you the longer version. For me, flourishing begins with resisting the frenetic pace and the bombardment of information and expanding inner space. Meditation and yoga, reading and music help me access inner space. You might get there by walking in nature, writing in a journal or cooking a meal.

I thrive when I appreciate beauty, so I try to remain alert to three areas -- physical beauty, the virtuosity of artists, athletes, and performers and admirable deeds and virtuous character.

We are what we care about. Another important aspect of flourishing for me is living my highest values. And when there is a gap between my ideals and my behavior -- which there sometimes is -- I try to lessen it. These gaps signal what I need to work on.

Balancing my physical needs with my intellectual ones, staying healthy even though I sit a lot in my work, is another aspect of flourishing. My goal is to work towards peak physical health. I happen to be addicted to playing basketball, so staying in shape makes it possible to remain in the game.

Flourishing also involves responding to the challenges I confront. Flourishing is not the same as happiness -- it doesn't always feel good. Sometimes flourishing is knowing I did the best I could.

Living authentically is also a crucial aspect of flourishing. I try to make my life my own, not a stale copy of someone else's style, or a replica of what society encourages me do, but what I, Jeffrey, believe is sane and wise.

The last stage of self-care and the final aspect of flourishing is maintaining and deepening my relationships; being a better partner, a better friend, working through conflict where possible, giving time to the needs of the people I love and care deeply about.

JK: As I read your book, it seems like you're saying we may flourish more in hard times than in boom years. True? Why?

Yes. When all is going well, personally, and culturally, we feel good. And we continue to do what works. But success is a barrier to creativity. We often coast during those times. And as a result, we don't learn anything new, and we don't grow.

Crisis, which is often scary, and does not feel good, can lead to opportunity as well as challenge. Crisis forces us to wake up, to leave the comfort of coasting, to take the wheel and steer -- or crash.

JK: In the book, you write that cultivating beauty is a "cornerstone of a life well lived." Agreed. So let's explore your greatest hits list. Most beautiful music?

JR: Mozart (Symphony 40 in G Minor and Eine kleine Nachtmusik), Beethoven's 5th, Chopin's waltz op. 64, No. 2, Tchaikovsky (especially Swan Lake & Nutcracker), Charlie Parker (Laura), John Coltrane (Crescent), and Motown. Some of my fondest memories as a teenager were playing basketball outside during the summer with friends with Motown as our soundtrack. You would have thought us New Yorkers were living in Detroit.

JK: Most beautiful book?

I'd break out in hives if I had to select one. Greek and Shakespearean tragedy; Great Expectations & Anna Karenina, which got me through an especially tough time; Aristotle's Ethics; And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran; and Centering: Poetry, Pottery and the Person by M. C. Richards. If you ask me this in a week or a month I might have a wholly different list...

JK: Favorite artist?

JR: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Ivan Aivozovsky's The Ninth Wave, 1850, which is a staggering painting of a small raft at sea. Monet and Renoir, Thomas Cole of the Hudson River school, and Richard Diebenkorn.

JK: I happen to know you like action movies, especially if they star Steven Seagall. Dare you to put one on your list of most beautiful movies.

JR: I love Bruce Lee more than Seagall. Steven might have his hands full with the Little Dragon. Films like The Visitor, The Straight Story, Smoke, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Winter's Bone are on my must-see-again list. And two childhood favorites again: To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride of the Yankees... I couldn't stop laughing during Best in Show.

JK: You tell a great story about winning a high school basketball game with a last-second shot that took place outside of time. Have you had that "Rubin! At the buzzer!" feeling since?

Yes. Playing hoops at night by myself in a gym in East Meadow, NY in 1983. The hoop seemed as big as the ocean and the ball felt attached to my hand like a yo-yo. Time felt like it expanded and I was in a zone of joy and flow. The game felt so easy it was unfair, causing me to laugh out loud while I was playing. I've also had wondrous experiences meditating.

JK: All these people I see multi-tasking -- being in a conversation while texting or Tweeting -- strike me as missing the point completely. Or are they, in their own way, flourishing?

JR: I think it's tricky to measure other peoples' states of mind from the outside. That's the psychoanalyst in me. The Buddhist would say I'm not going to flourish by judging others. That said, what I've personally discovered, and what many of us have been reading about in the recent past, is that multitasking seems to insure that we attend less well to each task and that we feel more scattered, hyper-stimulated, and un-centered, all at once. And this state does tend to get in the way of focusing on doing what is authentically good for us and starves the people around us who need and deserve our complete attention.

JK: I've got 10 minutes. What can I do to enrich my life? What won't work?

One of the deepest lessons I've learned from the yoga tradition is that we become whatever we are connected to. Assuming you're at home, engage in a conversation or activity that you find stimulating or meaningful. Listen to your favorite music, read an engrossing book, or look at a beautiful work of art that moves you. If you're in the doctor's office, take 12 relaxed and gentle breaths, paying attention to any places of restfulness in your body, and savor it. Try to avoid running ahead of yourself, assuming you have a bad diagnosis.

What won't work is worrying about all you have to do, judging yourself, comparing yourself to other people, surfing the web, eating out of boredom, buying something you do not need, denying what you're feeling in favor of assuming a positive attitude, willing yourself into a better mood.

JK: Reassure us that you still have miles to go. To make your life flourish more, what's the next challenge for you?

JR: We are all works-in-progress. Human growth hormone, the body's repair elixir, is produced 24 hours a day in children. You know when it's produced in adults? When we sleep. I wonder if dreams are human psychological growth hormones, our way of repairing ourselves emotionally. My next big challenge: putting into practice what I've written about in the book. One of my Buddhist teachers used to say, "Begin again, and again and again and again," because human beings slip and fall and fail. The trick is to face our humanness with patience and compassion and get up and begin again.

Thought provoking, Jeffrey and Jesse - thanks for sharing your inteview with all of us. Heres how you can learn more about Dr. Jeffrey Rubin and Jesse Kornbluth.

Now readers, it's your turn. Want to make comments or ask Jeffrey questions? Just click on 'Comments' at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts. You can even sign in as anonymous, it's as easy as that.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Honoring Veterans Every Day

Just in time for Veterans Day, in an overwhelming display of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate passed a bill providing tax credits to employers who hire unemployed veterans. In addition, Congress will be shepherding through the legislative process a "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" in expectation of early passage. President Obama also announced several administrative programs to help veterans find work and train for new careers. These jobs initiatives are particularly important since, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans have an overall unemployment rate of 12.1 %, several points higher than for non-veterans.

On Friday, we honored the brave men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces, leaving their families to protect ours. But don't veterans deserve our respect every day of the year, not just on November 11th? If you want to express your gratitude, but don't have the ability to hire a veteran, there are numerous organizations providing important services to veterans as well as comfort and assistance to their families.

A government website can help you search for volunteer opportunities to help military families in your community.

Joining Forces is a national initiative that provides members of the Armed Services and their families opportunities and support.

The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.

The mission of The Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded soldiers with a variety of programs to strengthen Mind, Body, Economic Empowerment and Engagement, including PTSD evaluation.

Fisher House gives families the chance to be close to their military loved ones who are hospitalized and provides scholarships to support programs improving the quality of life for military families.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides comfort to those who have lost a loved one in service to America.

Let's work to help these programs and services make it easier for our brave veterans to transition to civilian jobs and life at home with dignity. They deserve our appreciation and recognition every day.

Visit our blog again on Wednesday for a Virtual Book Tour with Dr. Jeffrey Rubin. He'll be answering questions about his new book, The Art of Flourishing.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ways to Lose Weight - A Baker’s Dozen

We welcome our guest blogger, Sandi Thompson, a nutritional therapy practitioner and certified wellness coach who is here today sharing her tips about how to lose weight:

There was an article in the Los Angeles Times about the grim data on U.S. obesity. There's only one state with an obesity rate under 20% - Colorado squeaked in at 19.8. Compare that to Mississippi with a rate of 34.4%. That means over a third of their population is not just overweight but downright FAT.

What can you to do? Here are 13 simple tips to take the bathroom scale in the other direction:

Slow down and chew your food. Quit inhaling it. Give your stomach time to signal your brain that you are full. This takes about 20 minutes. Have you lost the pleasure of dining and exchanged it for gulping?

Put your fork down between bites. This really slows down your eating, allowing you to savor your food.

Eat fruit between meals instead of grabbing a latte and a cookie. Your mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger can be healthy - some nuts, a piece of fruit, maybe some crunchy carrots and a piece of cheese. A stroll at this time of day helps get your blood circulation going and that’s good if you have a desk job.

Stop drinking anything about 20 minutes before a meal. This creates a better environment in your stomach for digestion. If you have to drink with your meal, take small sips. Better digestion means more nutrients are absorbed. You may experience fewer cravings.

Go for a walk after dinner. This doesn’t have to be a race. A 20 minutes family walk after loading the dishwasher can take pounds of the scale and inches off your waist. It’s okay to stop and smell your neighbor’s flowers, but keep going.

Step up your exercise gradually. Start by parking further away at the grocery store or the office. Go for the parking place that allows you to stretch your legs a bit, not the one right beside the door. Over time, this little change pays off.

Leave temptation on the shelf at the store. If you want a treat make it healthy like a piece of fruit. Keep the ice cream, cookies, candies, cake, chips and crackers out of your home and you will have a better chance of losing weight.

Open your mind to new ways to celebrate success. Instead of a big night out and a huge meal to congratulate yourself, how about tickets to a concert, a play, an overnight trip, a sports event or something else that doesn’t center on food. How about a new pair of shoes? That makes me happy!

Scan the buffet line BEFORE filling your plate. It is easier to make better choices that way.

Aim for feeling full instead of stuffed when you get up from the table. One way to do this is concentrate on eating greens like salad or cooked vegetables along with protein and pass on the starches like potatoes, rice and bread.

Keep yourself hydrated. We often mistake thirst for being hungry. Try this for a week: instead of grabbing coffee in the morning when you get up have 8-16 ounces of water. Sip water throughout the day and aim for 8 glasses. Dehydration can sometimes be diagnosed as dementia in the elderly.

Read labels and make good choices. Keep the grams of sugar in packaged foods to 7 grams or less per serving. It’s often the sugar in our food that keeps us fat, not just high fat foods. Sugar seems to fuel our appetite for even more sweet foods. Wean yourself off sweets and you’ll see the pounds disappear.

Lose the soda. There is nothing good about soda. It’s loaded with calories if it’s regular soda and loaded with artificial sweeteners if it’s diet soda. Either way, it’s loaded with chemicals and it doesn’t hydrate you the way water does. Plus, diet soda can actually make you crave more calories and sugary foods.

Thanks for your wise and practical advice, Sandi. And if you want to learn more about Sandi and what she does, log on to her website, Facebook page or YouTube channel.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Kim Kardashian Could Use a Friend about Now

We all know from reality TV that fame can be fleeting - but what about Kim Kardashian and her 72 day marriage? Whether the Kardashians and the E! network deceived their fans or Kim is a victim of society's moral lethargy, she likely could use a good friend right about now.

Findings from the MacArthur Foundation indicate that, during hard times, women friends provide emotional security and support. According to a UCLA study by Drs. Shelley Taylor and Laura Klein, brain chemicals released when we're stressed cause us to seek out other women. And this may explain why social ties reduce our risk of disease and help us live longer. Friends also help us live better. Research about coping after loss of a partner found that women with a close confidante often are able to avoid a permanent loss of vitality. Here are some reasons why friends can be vital to a satisfying life:

They give positive advice. You may be facing a divorce, changing jobs, dealing with a boomerang kid or caring for an ailing parent. But in times of need you don't have to cope alone. Friends who've already been in your shoes want to share their experiences and can help as you explore your options.

They help with stress relief. Whether it's an exercise workout or a comedy show with lots of laughs, being with other women provides a source of strength and nourishment. No matter what - exchange emails daily, meet for coffee once a month or spend an annual weekend away - make a concerted effort to spend time together.

They provide social support. Knowing that you can count on others who really understand and have your best interests at heart? can be an antidote to the toxins of daily hassles. In addition to buffering the effects of distress, friends can provide meaning when you're feeling upset.

They're great companions. As busy as you are, try to pencil in a regular get-together regardless of what it takes to rearrange your schedule. Whether it's a quiet dinner to talk and catch up or an engaging activity like a hike in the mountains or a stimulating lecture, think of it as a chance to reconnect and re-center.

They accept you for who you are. Even after you disclose your darkest secrets, good friends provide unflinching and fierce loyalty. They accept your flaws and remind you of your attributes and talents. You can feel secure knowing that, with the support of someone totally on your side, anything is possible.

Kim came home from Australia early to have the support of the Kardashian family, who are famous for being famous. There's speculation about whether the wedding presents will be kept, given back or donated to charity. Let's hope that Kim grows into the closeness, understanding and trust at the heart of women's friendships - it's actually the best gift she can give herself.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Stock Market Roller Coaster and Domestic Violence

Across the United States, in Greece, Europe and all around the world, the effects of the financial crisis continue to spread – stock markets are erratic, foreclosures are still widespread, banks are being taken over, credit is frozen and bankruptcies are increasing. No one can predict with certainty the long-term effects on the economy, but most pundits agree that this collapse will not right itself in the near future.

How is all this affecting you and your loved ones? Are you all anxious and angry - on the verge of taking out your frustration over the financial news on each other? Although Domestic Violence Awareness Month is just over, this remains a good time for your family to look inward and reflect on your actions. Only by becoming aware of the potential for abuse can you honestly assess behavior.

While a number of factors have been recognized as causes of domestic violence – mental illness, substance abuse, certain innate personality traits, low self-esteem, poor impulse control and a history of being battered - social stressors have been identified as having a particularly strong impact on abusers. Poverty, lack of control and feelings of powerlessness can lead to the perpetrator's perceived need to dominate family members. And this is linked to increased levels of mistreatment. During the current plummet of world markets, those who abuse are more likely to express their feelings of frustration in more belligerent ways.

Many people who are normally calm are stressed by the financial meltdown and concerned that they are spiraling out of control. If this sounds familiar, you could be at risk emotionally and physically. If you are worried about a hostile attitude and aggressive behavior, begin by following these suggestions:

1. Insist your partner participate in individual therapy as well as relationship counseling. The therapy should focus on anger management, cognitive behavioral change, insight, skill building, communication, stress reduction and control strategies.

2. Get help from friends and family. Talk about your concerns, educating them about domestic violence. Let them know what you need from them and how to recognize if you are in immediate danger. Devise code words to alert them if you need help.

3. Prepare to take care of yourself - emotionally, financially and physically. Find a therapist who will help you develop self-confidence and the life skills you may need to go solo. Take charge of your personal finances, open your own bank account, find a job if you are not already employed.

4. Have an exit strategy and plan what to do if and when you leave the relationship. Investigate the national domestic violence hotline, available community resources and learn about shelters in your area. Have copies of documents you may need as well as extra clothes and cash; leave them with a friend or neighbor so you can retrieve them later.

5. Immediately let someone in authority know about the abuse, if it occurs. Have the phone number of the local police station available - and you can always call 911. If the violence is directed to your children or the elderly, know how to contact the agencies dealing with child welfare and elder abuse.

As we move through these difficult financial times, the stresses we face are great. Emotions are likely to be close to the surface as uncertainty about the state of our economy continues. Be aware of any potential for domestic abuse in your family and learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from the painful trauma caused by violence.

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