Family Relationships

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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Providing Respect and Comfort on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day we respectfully remember those who have fallen in service to our country, those who have served and returned, and those who are currently in harm's way in our defense. Please join as we express our gratitude to these brave young men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms over the years.

Many Americans will visit a veteran's cemetery this Memorial Day, including the Los Angeles National Cemetery. With thousands of identical tombstones stretching, row by row, as far as the eye can see, only Arlington is a larger veterans' burial site in America. Every year Boy Scouts place a flag by each grave, acknowledging the individual importance of each person who served the country. As I found when I visited last year, it is a place of meaning and reflection, whether you visit on Memorial Day or any other day of the year.

If you wish to honor the men and women who assume duty, there are several organizations that provide important services for our military personnel and their families. Perhaps you would like to support some of them in their important work:

Joining Forces is a national initiative that provides members of the Armed Services and their families opportunities and support. A government website can help you search for volunteer opportunities to help military families in your community.

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 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.

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

Aimed specifically toward family members, Our Military Kids sponsors sports, arts and tutoring programs for kids of National Guard and Reserve members and Operation Showergives baby showers for military family moms-to-be.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Virtual Book Tour with Dr. Erica Goodstone

We want to welcome Dr. Erica Goodstone to our Virtual Book Tour today - we know you'll enjoy our discussion about her book, Love Me, Touch Me, Heal Me: The Path to Physical, Emotional, Sexual and Spiritual Reawakening. So let's not waste any time getting started:

Nourishing Relationships: Why does Part I and your first book, Love Me…Please, focus so heavily on the power of love? Aren’t there really some good people, some good love partners, and some that are destructive and hurtful? Shouldn’t we just get rid of the “bad” partners and seek the “good” ones?

Erica Goodstone: The theory or premise behind my beliefs about the power of love developed from the writings and teachings of many different researchers and seminar leaders. First, my doctoral dissertation focused on the mother-infant bonding research of psychologist, Dr. Margaret Mahler. She observed mothers and infants during the first 3 years of life. When bonding was less than adequate, the child would develop separation anxiety, intense ambivalence and anxiety about merging or becoming close. These early anxieties would set the stage for lifelong relationship patterns unless recognized and consciously changed later in life. Next, was the wonderful writing of Ken Keyes, Jr. about letting go of resistance and learning how to begin “living love.” And I can still recall the comforting words of author, Leo Buscaglia, that we can live life without love but it is empty and dull and not full of adventure and surprises and delight.

Most of us tend to choose our most intimate partners because of an unconscious need to overcome our less than adequate childhood bonding with our earliest careteakers. We recognize signs in the eyes, tone of voice and body language of potential partners, signaling that this person could help us to relive and perhaps overcome our past anxieties and insecurities. Often we sense this without consciously realizing what it all means. We just feel an intense attraction. But then, if we continue into a long term committed relationship, those initial good feelings often give way to the opposite. We feel as if we are losing our sense of self and it looks as if it is the other person’s fault. This is the point where counseling and couples therapy can help each person and the couple to heal and finally become able to create true love and passion and joy together.

NR: In Part II and your second book, Touch Me … Please, why do you say “Your Body Believes You?” Our brain is our consciousness. Our body is just our body.

E G: Our brain contains neurons but the signals coming from the brain spread throughout our body. We have nerve endings almost everywhere. True, our body does not have a mind of its own. It responds to the commands we give it. Therefore, if we say that someone we know is a “pain in the neck.” Our neck hears that message and guess what? We may soon find we have a pain in that body part and we don’t know how that occurred.

Our emotions affect the tension in our muscles, the strength and flexibility of our tendons and ligaments, and even the overall posturing of our body. When we feel proud and confident, we stand with our head up, our shoulders back and our chest open. When we feel depressed or ashamed, our shoulders may slump and we drop our head or let our eyes glance downward. Be careful what you tell yourself because your body will respond.

NR: Why do you talk so much about touching and what is the benefit of all these different types of body therapies? Isn’t touch just a natural part of life and shouldn’t it be reserved only for our most intimate partners?

E G: Touch is powerful. Touch can soothe and nurture and heal. Touch can also hurt and harm and destroy. Our sense of self-worth, our ability to love, and our sexual desire and passion often hinges upon the way we touch and respond to touch. Loving touch assists us to release painful memories and to open our heart to others. Of course, it is wonderful when we can easily and regularly share loving, nurturing touch with those closest to us: our parents, our children, and our most intimate partner. But many of us have grown up in homes where touch was either sparse, absent or only used to cause punishment and pain. Without touch, our bodies often remain stuck in habitual tension patterns that affect our emotional states and the ways that we interact with others. When we receive some form of body therapy, from a skilled practitioner, the cells and tissues, muscles and nerves respond. Emotional memories may be released. We can more easily relax, alone or in the presence of others. Physical touch can literally touch our inner being, our spirit or our soul.

NR: In Part III and your third book, Heal Me … Please, you talk about your own healing experiences and ask the reader about theirs. Isn’t healing just a matter of luck or genetics?

E G: The true stories, with names and events altered to protect my clients’ privacy and anonymity, reveal the incredible healing potential of somatic or body-oriented psychotherapy. Combining gentle touch with body awareness, talk, visualization and memory, helps to shift habitual body tension patterns and reframe life events and prior circumstances. As you increase awareness and allow your mind to create new visions for your relationships and your life, it become easier to handle challenges and problems as they arise. As you learn to listen to your own body messages, you are more able to tell the truth to yourself. Gradually, it becomes safe to let go of old, familiar patterns that no longer serve you. As you allow yourself to be more authentic and vulnerable with friends and family and your most intimate partner, you also offer the other person permission to let down and be vulnerable with you. Love builds on that mutual open communication. And some of your chronic health conditions may begin to lessen and disappear as you build a stronger and more lasting mind-body connection.

NR: In Part IV and your fourth book, Sexual and Spiritual Reawakening, you ask the reader to review their own personal history as far back as when they were in their mother’s womb. What does that have to do with a current sexual problem between two people in a long term relationship now, 20, 30, maybe 50 years later?

E G: Age has nothing to do with it. Our childhood memories remain for a lifetime. Our bodies and our brains recall those happy, spirited, free flowing times as well as those moments of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, defeat and even abuse. Many of us develop a way of posturing, a body armoring, to keep us strong so that we do not have to think about the early painful times. But that armoring keeps us at a distance, not only from others, but also from our own inner knowing. As we explore our own earliest memories, conscious and even pre-verbal, we can begin to make sense of our current circumstances. We begin to understand why we have chosen a particular life partner and even why we may have chosen to remain single. We recall those times when our body and our mind felt free and exuberant and this gives us the impetus to find ways to return to that state. As we unravel our own past and focus on our own patterns within our relationships, we can much more easily forgive the transgressions of our friends and most intimate partner. Once we acknowledge our own part in creating any relationship, we are ready to build a new foundation of trust and love and authentic relating.

NR: How does spirituality affect relationships?

E G: Someone can appear “spiritual.” They can talk the talk but not actually be living according to what they say. A spiritual perspective implies an open-minded, forgiving and accepting outlook on life and relationships. There is a strong willingness to overlook flaws and past hurts, to face the present moment with strength, courage and integrity, and to believe in the power of love for oneself and for everyone else. Without a strong spiritual foundation, many relationships flounder and are torn apart by the vicissitudes of changing worldly conditions.There is a sense of overwhelming relief when we realize that this situation, this relationship, the healing of our body, and the creation of happiness and emotional well-being, is beyond our immediate control. When we can truly allow ourselves to “let go and let God,” we can endure and overcome life’s trials and tribulations with grace, confidence and peace of mind.

Thanks, Erica for sharing your theories, thoughts and wisdom. Learn more about Erica by logging on to her blog. You can contact her directly at her website and check out her new venture.

Now, readers, it's your turn to ask 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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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stand By Your Man or Hire a Divorce Lawyer

Arnold Schwarzenegger has joined the ranks of political leaders who are known to have cheated on their spouses. When a husband is unfaithful, most women immediately feel outrage, disappointment and betrayal. Yet some wives stand by their man. Others re-evaluate their lives.

There are many possible factors that motivate the humiliated wife to stay. Initially she could be in shock and using the defense of denial to avoid reality. Perhaps she's protecting her husband's political career. Or she's concerned about the children and putting them first. Because of her low self esteem or dependency, she could feel she has no option. It may even be love - plain and simple, a long history together or a desire to keep the family together. Whatever the reasoning behind trying to save the marriage, it can take as much courage to stay as to leave. And the road to healing is long and hard.

When Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger announced their separation, it was revealed that she had moved out of the family home and into a hotel. A Kennedy woman, many of whom have been accused of turning the other way, she has suffered several transitions. Shriver gave up her own successful journalism career when Schwarzenegger became governor of California. And amid allegations of affairs that threatened to derail his political career, she had his back and stood by him. Over the past 2 years, she has lost both her parents, followed by the disclosure of her husband's infidelity and deceit. Since their separation, perhaps she's questioning the value of her life and how she wants to live it now.

Over the years, from Roosevelt to Kennedy to Clinton to Edwards, many have wondered, why do their wives take it? Finally, Jenny Stanford broke the mold when she divorced the Governor of South Carolina. Her reaction to her husband's infidelity did not follow the posture of other political wives. She was independent and true to herself, an example for hurt spouses of philandering politicians.

By ignoring the potential consequences of his acts and the people he would hurt, Schwarzenegger raised huge questions about his character as well as his moral development. Maria's statement says a lot: "This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal." It seems as if Maria Shrive gets it. Having hired a high profile divorce attorney, she's moving on, for her family and herself.

Please log on here tomorrow when Erica Goodstone, Ph.D. joins us for a Virtual Book Tour. Her book, Love Me, Touch Me, Heal Me: The Path to Physical, Emotional, Sexual and Spiritual Reawakening, leads readers on a path toward loving … truly loving, from the center of their being.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Powerful Men Who Cheat on their Wives

The media spotlight this past week has been on Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of California, who fathered a son with a long time member of his household staff. He has a reputation for behaving badly and, in the past, there have been allegations of him groping and harassing women. And this time there are two betrayals, infidelity and deception. Married to Maria Shriver for 25 years, with 4 kids, Arnold has created a heartbreaking tragedy for his family.

Personal pain on display for all to see has played out time and time again in the political arena. It's been said repeatedly that high profile men have a predisposition for risk-taking, love a challenge, thrill or conquest and can be reckless. Whether these characteristics are a part of their DNA or the result of early learning, power is accompanied by opportunity and confidence. A study to be published in 'Psychological Science' reports that the higher men were in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery. Just like narcissists, as many of them very well may be, these men believe that ordinary rules don't apply to them.

Haven't you heard the disclaimers by men in power who live in their own world of privilege and entitlement? Or mea culpas such as, 'I failed to live up to the standards I set for myself.' Power seems to erode the social restraints for some men. Whether or not their admiring follower and office staff are chasing after them, these men think they're above the law. Theirs is an abuse of power and betrayal of trust. Whatever happened to family values?

Our ethical standards become engrained by the role models who influence our lives. In a democracy, we elect politicians to represent us and our values. It's a privilege to serve and those in leadership positions should be held to a higher standard. Henry Kissinger, an acknowledged statesman of our times, once said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." This may be true. And, if so, what does that say about the integrity and morality of our leaders?

Click on 'Comments' below and let us know your thoughts about men in power abusing their trusted positions. And log on tomorrow when we'll discuss whether the betrayed wife should stand by her man or, like Maria Shriver, hire a divorce lawyer.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Looking for a unique family vacation this summer? With gasoline over $4.00 a gallon, many Sandwiched Boomers are opting to travel close to home. If home for you is the Midwest, we've got more jewels for you today. Since this year marks the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois is an especially meaningful choice for a day- or a weekend trip.

The Presidential Museum is filled with entertaining and educational exhibits appealing to both adults and children. Making use of 21st century technology, Disney magic and historical accuracy, the museum vividly transports you back to Abraham Lincoln's world. Many are inspiring, all are informative and well worth the trip as you step back in time.

While you're in Springfield, be sure to save time to see Lincoln's family home, his law office, his final resting place and the Old State Capitol where he gave his famous speech before the start of the Civil War, cautioning that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Being immersed in all the artifacts in Springfield really brings history to life.

Looking for more off the beaten path treasures for your family daytrips during your staycation this summer? Just being on historic Route 66 and Highway 40 brings back to life the excitement of discovery and travel during the simpler times of childhood for most Baby Boomers. You never know what you will discover when you wander onto the back roads.

Just north of Lafayette, Indiana, we came across a sign for the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum. We stopped because we knew that it involved the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler - but nothing more. Once inside we spent several hours there learning about the battle and terrible forced march and dislocation of the vanquished Native Americans. Our history isn't always what we wish, but it's up to us to know about it.

As they say, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been." And where I've been is to my 50th high school reunion! In addition to seeing old friends, I got the chance to revisit the iconic Gateway Arch, the beautiful design by Eero Saarinen, honoring St. Louis as the gateway to the West. If you're in the Midwest, plan to visit it and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in which it sits, along the mighty Mississippi River. While the levee in St. Louis is holding up well, our hearts and prayers go out to those families who are suffering from flooding downstream along the Mississippi.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Secret Midwest Staycation Jewel

In this season of graduations, I just enjoyed a wonderful high school reunion weekend in the Midwest. Even with fears of flooding from the Big Muddy, the people here are optimistic, enthusiastic and friendly. They invite you to come and spend time here. So this week, we've got some interesting, off the beaten path, Midwest sites to show you just in time for your family summer vacation planning.

Within a few hours drive from Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis and other Midwest cities lies an interesting town, Columbus, Indiana, full of significant modern architecture. If you're planning a staycation close to home, you may want to include this as a family day- or weekend trip.

One of our friends discovered it on a trip back from visiting their daughter at Indiana University in Bloomington. A city of less than 40,000 residents, it boasts a collection of beautiful public architecture - a library designed by I.M. Pei, a bank by Eero Saarinen (who also designed the St. Louis Arch,) Richard Meier, among many others. In the 1950's the townspeople had made a decision to live in attractive environment so they contracted with famous as well as up-and-coming architects to create an atmosphere of beauty. They even placed a stunning Rodin sculpture in front of the library.

Finding that their new schools, churches, corporate offices and other buildings would be enhanced by elegant landscaping, they also created lovely gardens and green areas around them. We were struck by the commitment of the townspeople to actively pursue a serene yet rewarding atmosphere for their daily lives.

If you take the kids with you and want to give them a real treat, you can stop for a sundae in a restored early 20th century ice cream parlor, filled with one hundred year old counters, syrup and ice cream machinery, and musical instruments. The vanilla malted milk was delicious!

As we drove out of town, over an impressive, architectural bridge, we thought about how we too could work to add beauty and grace to our daily lives. It may be a slow process but we can build on a strong foundation from the ground up and leave a legacy with our families to make everyone proud.

If you've discovered other secret vacation spots, perfect for family staycations, give us a shout out and share them here. With limited budgets and gasoline at over $4.00 a gallon, we need all the help we can get planning special times for our families this summer.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Answering Kids' Questions about Good and Evil

Differences of opinion surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden are rampant. And your kids may still be asking questions that are hard to answer. On Monday we shared tips that may be helpful in explaining the situation. What follows are a few more:

Talk about good and evil.
The death of Osama bin Laden is complicated. Your kids may wonder why he was killed and not put in jail. Tell them these were extremely unusual circumstances. The idea of celebrating his death is another contradictory message. Point out that it was at odds with the solemnity of the moment. Speak from your heart about patriotism. Help them understand that a lot of people were celebrating the possibility of peace and feeling safer.

Teach them to appreciate ethnic, religious and cultural differences.
Be a good role model, tolerant and open-minded. Radical terrorists don't represent or speak for Islam. Help your children understand and respect others who are different than them. Give examples they can relate to, like, isn’t it interesting when someone at school dresses differently, speaks English with an accent or likes really different foods than you?

Work toward a more equitable world.
It's our job as a nation not to pursue revenge but to seek justice. On a personal level, it's about how we see our responsibilities. You may want to frame bin Laden's death as an opportunity for furthering peace and in terms of justice for the victims of 9/11. That it's a relief that evil had been overcome. Model positive moral development for your children. You can have a primal reaction to a threat and still behave in a more evolved manner. Compassion is a complicated concept to understand.

What people are really celebrating is relief from fears that undermine their feeling in control. Hopefully bin Laden's death will lead to the further dismantling of a terror network that causes suffering worldwide. This is about restoring hope for progress against a frightening force. If Osama bin Laden's death makes kids feel safer, that's a good thing.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

How to Answer Kids' Questions about the Death of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, was an evil man who masterminded the attacks that cost the lives of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. For almost 10 years, Americans have been waiting for him to be caught and punished. On May 1, 2011, he was killed in Pakistan by Navy Seals in the US armed forces. After President Obama's somber announcement about it, people cheered around the world.

It can be upseting for children to see Osama bin Laden's death celebrated when they have been taught that killing is wrong. Many kids, as well as parents, are confused and wondering what to think or feel and how to react. Here are some practical tips about how you can help your kids or grandkids understand this very complicated issue:

Answer their hard questions in simple, straight forward terms.
Then take your cues from them. See what they know and what they want to know. Be specific as you give them the least amount of information that will satisfy their curiosity. Try to shield them from TV programs, photos and others who may be talking about the situation. You want to be available for follow-up.

Make it clear to them that hatred can result in terrible acts.
This conversation may lead to other difficult questions: Will Al Qaeda followers seek revenge? Should I be afraid of what will happen next? How can we protect ourselves? If children suggest killing more people like bin Laden, remind them that we try very hard not to kill. We want to put bad people in jail where they can never hurt or kill again.

Model reasonable and appropriate attitudes.
Use this as a reminder of the 9/11 national tragedy and the hope for a safer future for all of us. Reassure your kids that you're there for them and will keep them safe. Let them know you'll protect them the best you can because you love them.

Explain that this is a part of history. Put it in context. Once again, stick to the facts and take into consideration the children's age and maturity. They will also learn about it in school and from classmates. Frame your reaction as a patriotic response to uphold American values about freedom and the rule of law.

If you're having conversations with your kids or grandkids, let us know their concerns and what you're saying to reassure them. And log on here Wednesday for more tips about how to answer kids' tough questions.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Your Relationships with Mom May be Complicated this Mother's Day

Are your plans for Mother's Day affected by your complex feelings for your aging mother? Your relationship with your mom is likely to be full of twists and turns, evolving over the years as you change. One Sandwiched Boomer ruminates about how she transformed her connections with her mother:

When Carol was a teenager, she felt that her strong mother was trying to control her. She looked forward to getting out from under her thumb and moved far away when she married and raised her own family. As her children matured, so did Carol. Soon she recognized that she admired and respected many of her mother’s characteristics - her sense of responsibility, her independence, her humor, her common sense. She forgave her mother and began to reach out to her: After she had a stroke, I moved her into our home. We all became closer and I began to understand her better. I wouldn't trade that year for anything.

On Monday, we shared some tips with you for making Mother's Day especially meaningful this year. Here are 4 more to consider as you plan for this Sunday - and the rest of the years you have together:

The old fashioned art of letter writing can help you develop a closer bond. Write her a letter about how grateful you feel to have her as your mother. Sharing these feelings increases good memories about the past and leads to greater personal satisfaction for both of you.

If you have some old issues to work out with your mother, you may be able to move forward in addressing them by writing her an apology letter or a letter offering forgiveness. When you apologize, you free yourself from shame or guilt and your mother from dwelling on anger or resentment.

When you forgive your mother for some past transgression, it doesn't necessarily excuse the action, but does free you from ruminating about it. Forgiveness releases you from the past; it is a gift that you give to yourself.

On some of your visits after Mother's Day do a chore to ease her burden - go grocery shopping together, accompany her to the next doctor's appointment, cook a delicious meal with enough left over for the next day.

Enjoy your mother on Sunday and savor these moments. Reflect on the positive feelings you have from the past and cultivate rich memories now to sustain you in the future. And have a happy Mother's Day yourself.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Nurturing Your Mom on Mother's Day with More Than Chocolates

With Mother's Day less than a week from now, are you still searching for that perfect gift? Sending flowers, candy and greeting cards are de rigueur for Mom but, as members of the Baby Boomer generation, we recognize that what your aging mother really wants on her special day is to feel nurtured.

Sharon's mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, no longer recognized her. Sharon felt very sad but resigned. "Mom is so sweet, even if she doesn't know who I am most of the time. It's now like I’m her mom and I feel good being able to help her when I can. I just want to get her the best care possible." Sharon’s attitude helps her understand the changes in her mother and plan what to do now.

Sandwiched Boomers recognize that aging is a natural progression and a normal part of the life cycle. But just as it is difficult to accept your own aging, when you witness your mother regressing, the facts of life provide scant comfort. Acknowledging your mother's decline in well-being, becomes the first step in your plans for realistic long-term care for her. This week, as you're planning for Mother's Day, we've got some tips to help your Mom know you care about her more than just during those 24 hours:

The gift of time is one of the most precious presents that you can give your aging mother. Spend some quality time with her talking and reminiscing. Look through old family photographs and ask her to tell you stories about when she was a young girl. The time you spend with her now will sustain you both.

Make your mom feel more valued by concentrating just on her - plan another date with her for lunch or shopping. When you pay attention to the details, you'll find you enjoy her company even more. Talk about what you are doing, appreciating and enjoying. Linger awhile in order to make it last.

Research shows that money, title, or good health has less effect on life satisfaction than strong personal relationships. So this Mother's Day, make a commitment to do what you can to improve your relationship and give your mom and yourself positive memories.

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