Family Relationships

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More about Teens and Substance Abuse

Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina is left to face the world without her mother’s guidance. Apparently she has also struggled with substance abuse and family close to her are worried about her. If you're having a hard time coping, find the tools that can make a difference in your life. And trust yourself as you look inside for understanding and answers to your problems.

Honor your body.
Notice what makes you feel better. Pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Reduce the situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel healthier and more alive. Spend time relaxing and rejuvenating as you counteract burnout. Attend to your mind and your spirit - set aside quiet time to practice your own form of meditation.

Implement what you know about resiliency. Recognize how your character strengths support what you do. Integrate your values and ideals into how you view the world. Knowledge is power, so use it to your advantage. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling - explore Internet search engines or the self-help section of bookstores. Release tension through laughter and watch yourself begin to bounce back.

Find perspective. Whether you're hit in the face with a crisis, adjusting to changes in your identity or making a slow transition into the next chapter of your life, expect a cascade of feelings - anxiety, the desire to hold on, resentment, sadness, fear, eventually a sense of freedom. The emotional roller coaster ride is normal. If you have the fortitude to step back, take a deep breath and face the situation squarely, you can't help but grow from the challenges.

Although addictive tendencies can be inherited, there’s good news. Research indicates that teens with close family ties are less likely to be vulnerable. It turns out that ‘hugs not drugs’ may have a basis in reality. Let’s hope Bobbi Kristina uses the emotional pain as a chance to grow. And that her family continues to give her the support she needs during this painful time.

We've been nominated as best blog for Senior Living and would love your vote of confidence. Please click here for details.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teaching Our Teens about Celebrity Substance Abuse

At the 84th annual Academy Awards last night, Whitney Houston, the female lead in 'The Bodyguard,' was one of Hollywood's beloved who was memorialized.

Whitney Houston was a celebrity with a unique singing style, but for years battled addiction. She died an early death at 48, struggling with self esteem issues and worrying she wasn’t pretty or good enough.

Some of those around Whitney condoned her erratic behavior and basked in her limelight. Maybe they didn't look out for her well being, or just weren't able to save her. Her story reminds us of other celebrities our young people emulate, like Michael Jackson, who experienced the psychological turmoil that can accompany fame.

As a member of the sandwich generation, you may have teens struggling with peer pressure and experimenting with drugs or alcohol. These are challenging times, but there are lots of supportive resources for them to choose from - so talk to your kids. And encourage them to get help, to rely on family and friends who have their back, to develop an exercise program or a spiritual path. And choose from the ideas below as you help them find their way:

Direct them to the help they need now. If their actions involve excessive acting out, frequent conflicts, avoidance or depression, they may be using drugs or alcohol. Encourage them to work with a mental health professional or substance abuse counselor. It's important that they develop positive self-regard, confidence and life skills. The treatment should focus on areas like anger management and stress reduction.

Try to shield them from the negative impact and consequences. Their behavior may stem from an emotional conflict, social problems or a hunger deep inside. Focus on your relationship and build trust so they will feel more accepted, nurtured and confident to take a step on their own behalf. Give them support as they begin to talk about what's going on.

Give yourself an emotional break. As a parent, you may be feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed. Take a deep breath and try to focus. You can change how you feel by reframing pessimistic ideas into neutral ones. Learn about constructive responses to difficult situations and you'll have access to more choices about how to react.

Practice open and honest communication. When you continue to get worried and upset, you're giving your kids the message that you don't trust them. Talk out conflicts and misunderstandings. Use the same conversational etiquette you would with anyone else you care about and respect. Teach them active listening skills and sending I-messages. It is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Log on here Wednesday for more practical tips about helping your kids withstand the inevitable pressures that accompany the teen years.

Want to be the lucky winner of our photo contest? CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. Email a picture of your family to Include a few sentences about why the photo means a lot to you, the emotions it evokes and why. You'll be hearing from us, one way or another!

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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Best Senior Living Blogs

We're pleased to share exciting news with you. Our blog, Family Relationships , has been nominated by to the Best of the Web 2012 in the Best Senior Living Blogs by Individuals category. The Best of the Web 2012 contest highlights senior living and caregiving websites, blogs, and resources on the web for consumers and senior living professionals.

If you've enjoyed our posts on caring for aging parents, please visit our nominee page. Follow the instructions at the top of that page and vote for us to become a finalist. You can even cast a ballot twice in this contest on our nominee page, once by liking us on Facebook and once by recommending us as +1 on Google. Voting ends on March 2 - please give us your support!

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

Have you ever thought about dropping out and having a midlife adventure? If so, you've come to the right blog, as we welcome author Mark Saunders to our Virtual Book Tour. Facing the prospect of job loss in their late 50s, Mark and his wife chose to drop out, sell everything and move to the central highlands of Mexico, where they didn't know a soul and couldn't speak the language. Mark's here to answer questions about his hilarious novel, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak:

Nourishing Relationships: Why did you decide to write about your experience as a first-time expat living in the middle of Mexico?

Mark Saunders: My wife and I were the last persons we ever thought would drop out and move to Mexico, especially when we did. We were in our late 50s at the time, did not have much money to back us up, and did not consider ourselves the adventurous types. We were both working in high-tech, for different companies, and coincidently our jobs were going away around the same time. At our age, we felt boxed in—or out. So we sold our condo in downtown Portland, Oregon, with the spectacular view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens and lived in Mexico off the proceeds of the sale. Put another way, we gave ourselves a self-funded, open-ended sabbatical. Funny things happened to us almost immediately and I thought I should start writing about what was going on, and do so mostly from the point of view of someone who was totally ill-equipped and ill-prepared to be an expat.

NR: What’s the number one question people ask you about living in Mexico?

MS: It’s a toss-up between “Is it safe?” and “What do you do for medical care?” The drug war is insane, of course. But it’s pretty much limited to the border towns and drug cartels or federales shooting at each other over turf. San Miguel is a ten-hour drive from the Texas border. I felt safer walking in my first Mexican neighborhood at night than my old Portland neighborhood. I feel just as safe in my new San Miguel neighborhood, which is closer to the center of town. Medical care is an interesting question. The first time we lived here we subscribed to a global health insurance policy for catastrophic medical needs. Everything else we paid for out of pocket. A doctor’s visit, for example, was about three hundred pesos or twenty-five dollars at the current exchange rate. In other words, it was close to what we would have spent as a co-pay in the States. Dental work is a lot cheaper here, too, and it’s high quality work. If you’re talking about brain surgery, you probably want to return to the US and get it done there. But if you need lab work or a basic physical or a leg cast or a thorough skin cancer checkup, you can get it done here and for a lot less than in the States. Plus, the doctors make house calls and the pharmacies deliver to your door. How cool is that? When all else fails, there are US-style major hospitals thirty to forty minutes away.

NR: What did you find most surprising about Mexico?

MS: So many aspects of life down here surprised me, pleasantly so, I’m not sure where to start. Of course, when you drive down you first notice the roads and the highway system in Mexico, especially the toll roads, which far exceeded my expectations. The scenery was, at times, spectacular. Watching a rising middle class has been fascinating. We have hi-speed Internet in our house, decent mobile phone coverage, and fresh, delicious produce and eggs every day. There’s even a burgeoning organic food movement in San Miguel. Perhaps the single greatest pleasure, even though I can’t call it a surprise, was how warm, gracious, and friendly our Mexican neighbors were and still are.

NR: What disappointed you most about living in San Miguel?

MS: My greatest disappointment and the bane of my existence down here is the level of noise. San Miguel is a party town and Mexicans love their fiestas. Their philosophy seems to be if it’s worth celebrating, it’s worth a lot of noise. I suppose if I were twenty again I’d feel different about it all but the noise is relentless. Perhaps my second greatest disappointment is that I can’t buy my jeans off-the-rack. I’m short and stocky and thought, finally, at last, a country where I’m closer to a normal size and I wouldn’t have to get my pants altered or wear them hiked up under my chin like some 80-year old guy playing Bocce Ball. I’m afraid I’ll also never figure out the door locks in Mexico. Some things are beyond my comprehension.

NR: How did you come up with your book’s title?

MS: I wanted a title that would combine Mexico and humor. One early title was (groan) “Two Years Before the Masa,” which wouldn’t work, I realized, since the Richard Dana book referred to disappeared from bookshelves a long time ago and only serious cooks knew that tortillas come from masa or corn dough. Eventually I settled on Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak for the title because it’s a chapter from the book and because it captures, in six words, my total confusion and incompetence as an expat. Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is, of course, a play on the old spiritual “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus” and, I think, it’s a title that says this is a light-hearted book about a non-Hispanic living in an Hispanic country. Plus, as bonus points, our car mechanic’s name was Jesus and he knew a lot about the troubles we had with our car.

NR: Has your Spanish improved?

MS: Yes, but not significantly. Sometimes clichés make the best or at least shortest explanations. In my case, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I regret not mastering a foreign language when I was much younger and had more brain cells on my team, with a better shot at winning. Now it’s almost impossible for me to get beyond the basic hello-how-are-you-see-you-later greetings. I try to speak Spanish whenever I can but it’s mostly individual words, broken up like ceramic tile and spackled together, supplemented with some vigorous hand signals and finger pointing. I’m not proud of my lack of proficiency in Spanish. I’d also like to be able to play the piano but I suspect at my age—here comes another cliché—that ship has sailed.

NR: Do you have plans for a sequel or second book about life in Mexico?

MS: Yes, sort of, maybe, I think so. I’m working on a book about our new Standard Poodle, Duke, a 75-pound apricot-colored male. He’s basically a snow dog who now finds himself living in the middle of a semi-arid climate. The working title is “The Duke of San Miguel.” He literally stops traffic whenever we take him out for his walks. And at least once a week someone asks if they can have their picture taken with him. We’re thinking of putting a sign around his neck and charging for the photos. I’m also working on two full-length plays, as well as adapting one of my screenplays to a novel.

If there are jokes in the book, I’m the butt of them, as well as the punch line to most setups. As it should be. The San Miguel Author’s Sala, since renamed the Literary Sala, published early drafts of two of the essays included in Nobody Knows.

NR: You often refer to old movies or rock lyrics. Was that a deliberate stylistic choice on your part?

MS: Indeed it was. Like a lot of people, I love movies and music and have been influenced heavily by both. Arlene likes to say I can’t remember to pay a bill on time but I can remember a piece of dialogue from a movie I watched twenty years ago. I also think dropping in bits of popular culture is another way of connecting to readers, especially in a humorous memoir targeted at readers around my own age. When I was in college, I knew a woman who would spice up her conversation with song lyrics, as if she were quoting Aristotle. By the way, I don’t quote Aristotle in the book, or Plato, for that matter. I do, however, cite Albert Brooks and Humphrey Bogart.

NR: Instead of selling everything and moving to Mexico, why didn’t you just take a six-month tourist visa and rent a place for awhile?

MS: We weren't interested in just another vacation, we wanted an adventure. We had worked our entire adult lives, with only an occasional week or two off, and felt it was time to try something new and we hoped interesting. Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful place to live but we didn’t see ourselves closing out our lives there. As difficult as it was to leave the comfort of familiar surroundings and dear friends, we craved a real change in our lives. Presto chango, we found ourselves in the middle of Mexico in a traditional neighborhood.

And don’t get me started about the topes or speed bumps. What we refer to as speed bumps in the States pale by comparison. It’s like that scene in the film Crocodile Dundee when the Australian guy is walking in New York City at night and is accosted by a desperate man waving a knife. The Australian laughs at the guy and says, “That’s not a knife, Mate.” Then he pulls out a huge knife that’s as big as a machete and tells the would-be thief, pointing it at him: “Now that’s a knife.” That’s pretty much how I feel about the difference between speed bumps in the States and in Mexico.

NR: I imagine it was difficult leaving friends and family behind but did they ever say or think you were crazy for moving to Mexico when you did?

MS: I’m sure plenty of our loved ones and acquaintances thought so. But they had the good manners to not tell us to our face we had flipped out.

NR: Had you ever lived in another country before or thought about it?

MS: When I was in the military I was stationed on Puerto Rico for nine months. However, I was stuck on the military base most of the time. Whenever I could, I’d take a bus into San Juan and spend a weekend, filling myself up with local food and culture. About ten years ago, Arlene was offered an engineering position in Dresden, Germany. She went back to Dresden to find us a place to live and called to ask me if I wanted to live in Old Town (Altstadt) or New Town (Neustadt). I told her it was Europe and I definitely wanted to live in the older part of town. She laughed and told me that Neustadt dated from something like the 1600s. Ultimately, she didn’t feel right about the job offer and turned them down. From that point on, though, we coveted the thought of living in another country, especially someplace in Europe. San Miguel is not Europe but it’s done a great job preserving a 17th century European look and feel. It’s a beautiful, historic setting and a favorite tourist spot for Mexicans.

NR: Did you ever regret dropping out and leaving the States?

Never. I think what we came to regret was leaving Mexico and returning to the States when we did, which was in late 2007, just in time to participate in or at least observe from the sidelines with great horror the tanking of the American economy. Returning to the States meant we were going to have to try and find work and the downturn in the economy, coupled with our ages, made that a Herculean task, to say the least. But we were homesick. What we probably should have done was returned to the States periodically for long stretches, a month or so at a time, and still keep a house in San Miguel. Hindsight doesn’t require reading glasses from Costco.
NR: This is your first book. What is your background as a writer?

MS: I did a lot of technical writing and then marketing writing over the years. In my spare time, I wrote and drew cartoons, weekly single-panels for newspapers and gag cartoons for magazines. I also did some editorial cartooning in college and after. I wrote gags for the comic strip “Frank & Ernest” as a freelancer and did quite well, since I love silly word play. I even tried stand-up comedy for a bit and didn’t do well at end. In fact, I bombed enormously at it and returned to writing, which was easier and more natural for me. I’ve never had to run into the bathroom just before starting to write and throw up. Eventually, I started writing short plays in my spare time. More than twenty of my plays have been either staged or read in theatres across the country, a few have won awards, and a couple have been published. Then, I started writing feature screenplays, all comedies. They’ve won awards but only one of my full-length scripts has been optioned. Two of my short scripts have been optioned as well and one was actually filmed. Please don’t ask about the film. The tipping point for me as a writer came in late 2001 when I applied for and won a fellowship. The award gave me six weeks in a cabin in the Southern Oregon woods to do nothing but write. My employer at the time was very generous and supportive and kept my job open for me while I took time off to write. However, from that point on, it was hard for me to work a regular job when I’d rather be spending my time writing. It was one of those “how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm” experiences, an epiphany that changed my life.

Thanks for being so candid and thorough in your responses, Mark. Now, readers, it's your turn to ask Mark questions about writing, midlife or Mexico. 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 and we would love to hear from you!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, February 20, 2012

Enter Our Photo Contest

Tired of winter? Warm up your heart by going through some of your family photos. You'll enjoy reliving happy times. Maybe you'll reminisce with your children about when everyone was young and carefree. Or remember just last month when you all gathered to celebrate the holidays together. You can savor the love all over again.

Photo (c) Andres Rodriguez/Fotolia

Then be a part of our special contest. Enter and you can win the right to download a series of unique pictures from They'll be the perfect fit for your blog, website or newsletter. You can even use them to spice up your Facebook page.

Photo (c) Ambiance/Fotolia hosts a wide selection of unique royalty free images and they have generously offered to share some of them with you as an introduction to their site. The winner of our contest will be able to download 1 photo a day, at no charge, for a 30-day period.

Photo (c) Tim Osborne/FotoliaHIp

How do you enter? Take some time and choose a photo of your family that means a lot to you. Email it to us at and include 2 or 3 sentences about the emotions this photo evokes for you and why that is.

We’ll be choosing a winner and announcing it on our blog Friday, March 9. And you'll see the winner's family photo and narrative on our post that day. So what are you waiting for? Join in and tell your friends about it.

Photo (c) Pavel Losevsky/Fotolia

Mail your submission to by Monday, March 5 and get ready for the chance to download 30 unique and FREE images.

And join us again on Wednesday for a chat with Mark Saunders about his hilarious novel, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak. Mark will be available to answer your questions about his mid-life adventure when he dropped out, sold everything and moved to Mexico.

Photo (c) John Keith/Fotolia

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Day After

…And they lived happily ever after.

That's what we're told at the end of fairy tales. And we want to believe it. But the truth is we really don't know what happens after the wedding. How does the couple resolve the inevitable conflicts? How do they support each other after a defeat? How do they incorporate romantic love into the reality of day-to-day ups and downs?

Today is Valentine's Day plus One. You may be feeling disappointed and resentful about yesterday or happy and cherished. Perhaps you want to savor the warm love you received or to rehash the letdown you experienced. Your focus may even be on what you gave to those you love rather than on what you received. In any case, your perceptions become reality and your reactions set the tone for what comes next.

Life is complicated. It's both good and bad, filled with successes and failures. Often your responses give meaning to what has occurred more than do the actual events themselves.

Take a good look at this picture. You may only see the dark clouds, portending an ominous future or instead notice the patches of color that indicate a potentially rosy outlook. The flag may suggest a sense of community and belonging or the separation from others who are not in the group. A focus on the airplane can remind you of adventures still ahead or fear of the unknown. Even the tankers in the background can raise feelings of optimism or pessimism about our environment.

It's not really concrete objects, events and people that define our lives but how we react to them. Our stories begin in earnest the day after. It's not easy but that's when we begin the real work of resilience and creation. How will you choose to tell your own story? With gratitude and forgiveness or bitterness and remorse? It's up to you.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brotherly Love and Sisterly Love

Philadelphia has been known as the city of brotherly love since William Penn first named it over 300 years ago and today one of the LOVE sculptures by Robert Indiana has a prominent place on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

With two sons, four grandsons and a brother of my own, I know a little about how brothers show their love. They're physical with each other - playing or sparring - and they compete in just about any way they can. Although they're fiercely protective of one another from any outsider, they seem to enjoy challenging each other with glee and abandon when it's just them. It's their way of showing respect and acceptance - that they are strong enough to take it. Brotherly love isn't often openly or verbally expressed in warm and fuzzy terms - either between actual brothers or between men friends - rather it's conveyed in doing things together.

What about sisterly love? Mostly it centers on connection and communication as a way of creating emotional intimacy. When sisters do compete and juggle for position, generally it's about relationships - who gets more of the love. That can cause jealousy - over who is cherished, more admired, with greater influence in drawing others closer. So women reach out beyond their siblings - their friendships are often as loving, committed and attached as those between actual sisters. The loyalty and devotion of long-term women friends binds them together and builds a sense of inner strength and personal security in each. We are both more grounded and more willing to take a chance flying because of shared links to our sisterhood.

What is your take on brotherly and sisterly love? Your close friendships? Will they be a part of your Valentine's Day experience tomorrow? Who is dear to you? Are your friendships closer than your actual sibling relationships? Share your feelings and start a discussion through the Comment link below.

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Love is More Than a Four Letter Word

With Valentine's Day less than a week away, we continue our focus on the many aspects of love. Filled with the deep pleasure of engagement, we often talk about loving a person, an idea, a place, an experience. The great sense of pure joy and energy springing from such love can keep you warm the rest of the season - a must, now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter.

digitalart /

Here are two more forms of love to consider this week:

Love what you do. Whatever it is you do each day - a job outside the home, a hobby, volunteer work, caring for your aging parents or growing children - you'll be more fulfilled if you're immersed in it. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow for the experience of focused involvement in an activity. In flow you have a greater sense of clarity and timelessness, with your passion becoming its own reward. Challenge yourself to live a meaningful life to its fullest by creating flow, knowing that you can accomplish your goals. And experience love by making a commitment to act on what you feel.

Love who you are. It's not always easy to love yourself, is it? Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, seeing our faults more clearly than our strengths. Other times we over estimate our strong points, seeing ourselves through rose-colored glasses. Two thousand years ago, Socrates entreated each of us to Know Thyself. Your challenge today is to recognize your authentic being. When you embrace your frailties and at the same time encourage your growth and the development of your abilities, you can begin to truly love yourself. Learn to feel comfortable in your own skin - accept and be true to who you are.

We hope you enjoy your day of love next week - whatever object of your affections you choose to celebrate. Want to tell us about your love? Click on the comment link below and tell us who or what brings happiness to your life.

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

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Month for Love

Long before it was a song, the saying was a part of our conversation - and it's especially appropriate during February, the month of love:

Love makes the world go 'round.

kratuanoiy /

With all this whirling, love can make you feel off balance and dizzy. Sometimes it's tricky to keep your personal world turning without having it spin completely out of control. With love encompassing so much of our consciousness, the focus on Valentine's Day is usually on romantic love. Yet there are many different kinds of love that can help keep you grounded. This week we'll look at some you can include in your life for the essence of love:

Love who you're with. When Stephen Stills sang, If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with, he was thinking about affection and passion with a sexual partner. But you can achieve another kind of oneness with others in your life too. Dear friends share emotional intimacy, commitment and trust as well as a sense of playfulness. Don’t you feel loyal and loving to old friends in a way that celebrates your closeness? And family, with its roots and continuity, can provide feelings of security that allow you to open up to love. When you express gratitude to your family for what they have given you and forgive them for what they have not, you feel more connected and altruistic.

Love where you are. Whether you live in the city or countryside, the hills or flatlands, inland or along the shore, there is beauty to be found around you. As you explore more of your environment, you may find yourself drawn to the serenity of your natural surroundings or to the energy of your community. When you engage and become involved, you'll experience the thrill and deep satisfaction that comes from a heartfelt connection. Nurturing your spirituality can also create feelings of awe and dedication that touch you emotionally.

Join us again on Wednesday when we'll look at some additional objects of affection. Meanwhile, please share some of your own favorite people and places - those that bring a smile to your face and a flutter to your heart. Click on the comment link below and tell us what kind of love makes your world go 'round.

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Valentine’s Day and Emotional Intimacy

This year we began early, focusing Monday's post on a more satisfying Valentine's Day. Now that February is officially here, what else can you do to set the tone for the day of love? We know how busy you are, but reading these two easy-to-use tips will only take a minute:

Teerapun /

Inject humor and laughter. Lightheartedness is often the first casualty of a hectic family life. Keep fun alive by joking around, sending silly texts or using pet names. Making time to be playful and engaging with each other can often lead to greater satisfaction and deeper intimacy.

Stay connected. A gentle touch or quick hug can release oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces blood pressure and stress levels. When you're feeling tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel closer, loved and even more relaxed.

By now you must know that you can't change your partner. But you can impact his reactions if you shift your own attitude, feelings and behavior. Then, as your union becomes stronger, he may decide to make some changes in himself - and that will benefit the relationship.

You see, positive emotions can open you both to new possibilities. Try to let your heart do the talking and commit to little changes that mean a lot. When you bring out the best in each other, you create a reservoir of goodwill. Look at is as an investment in your emotional bank account. And on Valentine’s Day, be ready to start cashing in the dividends.

Labels: , , , , , ,