Where to read me this week

clothesLadies, if you’ve ever wondered if your wardrobe is aging you, don’t miss the May 11 issue of Michigan Prime featuring Cindy Papasian of Leon & Lulu. You’ll find my column on age-appropriate dressing in the magazine (in today’s Sunday Detroit News and Free Press) or in the online edition here.

On another topic: Do you feel drained after encountering folks who can’t stop talking about themselves? My guest column this week on Dr. Irene Levine’s Friendship Blog tackles this painful social dilemma with suggestions on how to be a better conversationalist. Please click here to read the column.

Becoming a mother-in-law

WeddingFrom the moment she posed for those first high school prom photos on our front porch 10 years ago, I knew Andrea was perfect for my only son, Nate.

Yet I felt a subtle shift in our relationship when the two exchanged wedding vows last fall.

Even in the happiest circumstances, after all, the family dynamic changes when adult children marry. Whether were debating where to spend the holidays or how often to phone the newlyweds, everyone has to adjust or compromise.

In other words, my new supporting role as “mother-in-law” is making me a little nervous.

Googling the term “mother-in-law” last week, I found dozens of websites listing crude mother-in-law jokes and personal blogs describing toxic in-laws from hell. From Joan Rivers, for instance: “I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said, ‘Get the hell off my property.”

Cast as the witch in American family mythology, the stereotypical mother-in-law is blamed for poisoning marriages and spoiling grandkids. No matter what she says or does, shes the proverbial scapegoat at the extended-family dinner table.

Of course, I want to avoid becoming this woman at all costs.

Comfort and counsel

Thankfully, I can revisit my own family tree for positive role models.

When I married 32 years ago, I felt awkward around my husbands mother, whose shy personality was so different from mine. At the time, my own wise mother was quick to remind me that a cozy relationship with ones in-laws rarely evolves overnight.

Early in her marriage, Mom was uncomfortable with my dads mother, Ruby, a dowdy Scottish immigrant and teetotaler. Ruby was the polar opposite of my mothers alcoholic parents, and her brogue was so thick that my mother wished she could hire a translator. Over time, however, Mom learned Rubys language of unconditional love and often turned to her in times of crisis. Serving comfort and counsel with bottomless pots of tea, Ruby provided the maternal stability my mother always lacked.

My new daughter-in-law, Andrea, hails from a happy family with solid Croatian roots, and isnt the sort wholl need Scottish-island wisdom or scone recipes.

Having watched her grow up with Nate through high school and college, Im proud of the capable young woman shes become.

Given such a blessing, who wouldnt strive to be the worlds best mother-in-law?

New family values

Nate reminds me that Im “over-thinking” this phase of parenthood — a habit I can blame on my former career as a family columnist. Even so, if hes lucky enough to be a father someday, hell find that letting go of ones children is the trickiest step to learn in the circle-dance of life.

All said and done, most of us have watched enough Dr. Phil to know we shouldnt meddle in the lives of our married children, and we know that our new extended family is likely to bring different customs to the table.

But I believe the rest is up to each of us: We decide how much love and effort to invest in our key relationships.

Meanwhile, I want my new daughter-in-law to know that Ill never compete for my sons attention; Ill do my best to respect her boundaries.  Yet I want to be at the top of her list of women she can count on. And as our familys future unfolds, I hope shell turn to me whether she needs a book recommendation or a babysitter — or someone who will listen with an open heart.

This column was first published last year in Michigan Prime.

On turning 60

You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.” — Ogden Nash

DSCN4978Holy smoke: 2014 is the year I turn 60! But I’ve still got a few months to start collecting candles for my birthday cake (make it a cheesecake, please). Meanwhile, I’m reflecting on what it means to mature — and watching my 60-year-old pals navigate their newly acquired seniority.

Is sixty the new old? Or are we just getting started? You can read my thoughts on this topic in the January issue of Michigan Prime, delivered with your Sunday Detroit Free Press this morning. Or, look for “Not Your Grandmother’s Sixties” on page three of the online edition.

Help for new caregivers

If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

IMG_2463Until my mother was officially diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2009, I wasn’t sure how to deal with her changing behavior. And I didn’t know where to turn, at first, to get the help we’d both need as her disease progressed. I was often frustrated and exhausted — and frightened.

Whether your elderly parent is showing signs of a memory loss disorder or other major health problems, you won’t want to miss Michigan Prime’s 2014 Resource Guide: Special Caregivers’ Issue.  My column in this issue recalls how I faced the early stages of my mother’s dementia. The issue also includes a feature and checklist on how to choose an assisted living residence. (You can read my piece on page 6 of the online edition.)

I wish I’d had a resource like Michigan Prime several years ago. And that’s why it’s so important to me to write about caregiving issues today. I hope that my experience — including a few blunders along the way — will serve as a guidepost for others who are starting this difficult journey with their own parents.

 

 

Gather your tribe

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” — John Leonard

DSCN1736True friends occupy the top of my gratitude list this Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine where I’d be without the dear ones who chatted past midnight in college, coached me through my pregnancy, or held my hand at my dad’s funeral. And most of all, I cherish the troopers who still show up for emergencies as well as holiday parties.

As we age, our friendships change. As Irene Levine, PhD points out, finding the time to maintain strong friendships — and knowing where to look for new ones — can be challenging in our middle years. That’s the topic of my November column in Prime, which includes some helpful tips on friendship from Dr. Levine, also known as “The Friendship Doctor.” If you subscribe to the Sunday Detroit News and Free Press, look for a print copy in your November 10 edition.  Click here and flip to page 12 to read it online.

Researching this topic for my column, I ran across lots of good material on friendship, in addition to Dr. Levine’s blog. Here are just a few articles you might enjoy:

On friends you should firehttp://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/11/17/3-kinds-of-false-friends-you-must-fire-from-your-life/

From Psychology Today: What makes a true friendhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201002/what-makes-true-friend

Why it’s hard to make friends after 30http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html?_r=1&

Must readOn friendship and paybacks in the Wall Street Journal