Archives for June 2015

6 Signs You’re Stuck In The Middle!


Portrait by my son who beautifully captures the Mom “worried/weary” look!

It’s not easy being in the middle. Yet, this is precisely where many Boomers sit, part of the sandwich generation where raising children and caregiving for the elderly intersect. As older parents ourselves we’ve find we’ve landed on the corner of helping our parents who are living longer and teens and young adults who seem to need a lot more assistance than “back in the day.” These hurdles are not for the faint of heart and on any given day you may very well find yourself:

  1. Managing sobriety – Wondering if the quip your doctor made about your mother enjoying her drugs (true story but not mine, although my father once told me he saw a mirage in my den) is something you need to add to your “worry list” or should you just keep hoping your teenager hasn’t slipped beer into the basement yet.
  2. Serving as the “grand purveyor” of lost and found – You’re either chasing canes or searching for that “school form” – you know the one that was due yesterday. If you’ve ever searched for a cane in Costco or scooped up a water pill before the dog inhaled it you know what I mean.
  3. Embracing telemarketers – A ringing phone, yes we still own landlines, in the evening incites paralyzing fear. These are the times you embrace your alma mater’s 100th appeal, celebrate your plumber’s anniversary special or fall for “don’t hang up you’ve won a free timeshare.” You’re so relieved you’re not dealing with an accident you may consider that timeshare.
  4. Fighting losing battles – Your advice will be resisted on a daily basis – well one set can’t hear and the other tunes you out. While on a mission to teach my father about meal planning, apple pie is not dinner, I come home to a teen who gorges on snacks and leaves a meal, I didn’t want to make in the first place, untouched.
  5. Holding the keys – This is why your salon visits have doubled. Passing the keys to one set, while simultaneously trying to abscond with aging parents’ car keys are formidable tasks. This is where you sigh and thank the Gods for hair dye.
  6. Facing the unknown – Whether you are waiting for SAT scores, college decisions or the results of yet another medical test the unknown silently torments you.

Yet, we muster courage on a daily basis to guide teens or young adults and assist elderly parents. Sometimes being in the middle is a good thing, your wise self knows escaping high school was the best thing that ever happened to you while spending time with the older set allows you to evaluate the time you have now. So if you suddenly find yourself humming “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you…” – you realize maybe it’s not such a bad place.

The Search For Dad

photo-1On becoming what you need…

For as long as I can remember, my brother wandered. He never sat but paced back and forth, so it made sense that he followed his sense of wanderlust. Yet, I secretly knew he wasn’t just someone who loved to travel and see new places. He also didn’t possess the naiveté of a tourist, who shared photos of their journeys, and allowed yearly vacations to fill photo albums. No, he was moving, pacing, thinking and trying to outpace his desire to change his past – but he knew all too well there was no way back.

My brother’s father died when he was three. When you lose a parent that early you lose a piece of yourself as well. It’s not just the isolation of knowing that your friends have two parents but the knowledge that you will never share an ice cream cone with your Dad, have him teach you to ride a bike or have the chance to stare at his angered face when you dent his car. The years of adoration, rebellion and gift of loving acceptance were never an option for him. The senseless arbitrary unfairness of life ushered him to keep moving. This roving, sensitive brother of mine became my idol and in an ironic twist a second father. I saw the missing piece he yearned for, very early on, as he shared his love of books and reading and mocked my taste in music.

Ours was a little universe of broken pieces. After his father’s death, my mother married my father and my twin sister and I were born. Ten years our senior, he was a babysitter and antagonized us with endless tickling. Years later, he brought me on my only college tour and advocated for me to make a better college choice. He took my sister and me to museums and the beach and although he sometimes forgot to feed us he nourished us with the outside world. He somehow knew what we needed and threw pillows at my sister and let me browse through his books. When our family suffered the untimely death of my mother when he was 21 and we were 11, he left for graduate school in California. Postcards filled us in on his travels which led him to cities across the U.S. and ultimately Europe. He traveled forward and in the past, finding long lost relatives and becoming the keeper of memories and old family photographs.

An aunt once advised me that there was too much pain for him here and he felt the need to flee but I knew, at the ripe age of 11, standing in his room weeping at my concurrent losses, and gazing at his Don Quixote poster that he possessed what he was searching for. He had already gifted it to me and when he had his children the light went on again. As a new father, he balanced sensitivity with warding off worry. He was a kind and gentle father to his children when they were young but avoided hovering, knowing all too well the need to build resiliency. He lovingly continues to share his love of travel, photography, food and life. Fathers come in all shapes and sizes and though he was my brother, he was a beacon of light for me – precipitated by the light that went out for him too early in his own life.

Thanks For Rejecting My Kid!


This is for all the folks who have rejected my children, whether deserved or a biased assessment, I’d like to express my gratitude.   My kids accuse me of bragging about the hoops I jumped through during my childhood and though it was a different world theirs is far too easy sometimes. To truly develop skills to become an adult, rejection is a necessary evil. Starting as early as grade school through high school, here are some rejections I’m thankful for:

  • The Dreaded Cut – Thanks for allowing my child to see that sometimes you’re just not good enough or sometimes you should make the cut but for reasons beyond your control the spot was not yours for the taking. Picking up the pieces is what life is all about. Most kids are able to assess their performance honestly and this is a prime time to “talk.” I once heard one of my children say, “What can I do, sometimes life isn’t fair.” A great and necessary lesson to which I added, “One person does not define you.” There’s so much value in acknowledging you may have to work harder, accepting that the tides won’t always go your way or choosing another path.
  • The Friendship Dump –  I’ve found that friendships that last are often developed in middle or even high school. Hanging out with your friends’ children may work but beware kids often move on and develop their own friendships. Don’t be surprised if your child is dumped or your child does the dumping. I’ve witnessed this with both my children.  I worried but in the end I’d like to say thanks. When you lose friends, you become more empathetic and open-minded to others. This is also a prime time to teach sensitivity.
  • Losing & Failing – These are not textbook rejections, but still disappointments that make kids feel inferior. If your child is winning all the time, that’s a problem. My sister and I played cards often when we were growing up and she was always won. It was irritating but it was just not my thing. Losing allows you to learn about yourself, your capabilities and skills. Let’s talk about grades. First of all no child should have their self-esteem tied into their academic performance or any activity. Secondly, you don’t want them to fall into the trap of expecting perfection all the time. So what if your child always earns a 100? Praise them for their hard work and find appropriate challenges for them. Believe me this child won’t always achieve perfection and you don’t want their world to implode when it happens.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of rejection because the focus on performance in my suburban town is seismic. I’ve also been reading stories of college suicides. These are students blessed with outsized talent who feel stuck in a maze of high performance. These actions represent a small percentage but there’s a larger majority of teens, college students and young adults who face disabling anxiety because they are in a race to keep up with unrealistic standards.

Don’t swoop in to fix every taxing situation your child faces.  I say bring on the rejection, the nepotism, the losses, and failures – and once again thanks to those for those rejections!


Keeping Up With Caitlyn Won’t Be Easy

1586972480_0dc49d8d7d_nWhen Bruce Jenner’s photos started popping up everywhere my first thought was, “Ok, why does Caitlyn Jenner look so much better than me?” I texted several friends and posed that question. One friend said she looked better than all the Kardashians and another jested she wanted her plastic surgeon’s number. As the day went on another friend queried on Facebook, “How come Caitlyn looks better than we do and she’s only been at it a year or so?!?

Of course we know when you have her resources, Annie Leibovitz photographing you and the magic wands of Vanity Fair how could you not look fabulous. Like most of us, I’m happy for her and she does look great but it is just the essence of her veneer that is bothering me. The vast majority of comments have commended her on her outside shell and let’s be honest other than Hollywood most 65-year-olds do not remotely look like Jenner. Yet, it’s hard for me to get past the fact that if she truly wanted to be taken seriously beyond her exterior she wouldn’t have posed a la Marilyn Monroe. In essence she has created a new image and standard to live up to. I empathize that she’s in the public eye, a society that couldn’t believe Susan Boyle could sing like an angel. We judge and we judge hard and women are judged the harshest. Plus, we’re still fighting objectification and equal pay from Madison Avenue to board rooms across America.

As a middle-aged woman I don’t want to be judged by how I look on the outside. It is likely that Jenner is making up for lost time and with unlimited resources and time perhaps she will keep up the race with Father Time. Yet, I believe most us by the time we hit middle age are happy to settle for looking our best, making the most of our genetics and focusing on who we are beyond our shell. This has become my mantra as I age. Mother Nature has also provided some nice perks like worsening vision. The gift of motherhood has also humbled me in ways no other role I’ve ever held has. I’ve learned that perfection in any area of your life is typically doomed.

For me, middle age is a time of wisdom and light and for those seeking to enhance themselves that’s fine but I’m aging with the notion that I’m good enough. I don’t have a career predicated by how I look. Most days good enough is I’ve covered the grays, exercised, eaten well, limited sugar and treated myself kindly. Women have long struggled to be viewed and respected for who they are and not what they look like and aging in a society that worships youth and beauty is not for the faint of heart.

I’m not judging her and I always loved “it’s a never too late story” but her positioning is worrisome. I hope Jenner doesn’t become a slave to her outer shell, as it stands keeping up with Caitlyn won’t be easy…as most of us know.

photo credit: <a href=”″>rouge</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>


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