Baby Boomers: Are Your Millennial Children Worse Off Than You?

Parents typically want better lives for their children.

So, some baby boomers may be a bit dismayed by the latest study last week from the Federal Reserve data reporting that millennials actually make less money than we did at the same age.

ResearchThe research shows that our millennial children earn 20 percent less than we did at the same stage of life with a median household income of $40, 581, despite being better educated. In fact, the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

There’s more. When we baby boomers were young, we owned more homes and had amassed assets worth twice as much as young people today.

The report spawned many articles claiming these figures presented a dire picture for the 75 million millennials struggling for a piece of the American Dream. No wonder so many millennials still live with their baby boomer parents, they pointed out.

So what can we take away from all this? Should we be depressed and worried for our children by this doom and gloom report?

Not in my opinion.

Tackling Student Loan Debt

According to this study, a good part of the reason millennials are worse off than we were at their age is crippling student loan debt.

Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.

debtTo make matters worse, this debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. As an article from Time states so well: “If you’re struggling to pay credit card debt, car loans or even gambling debt, you can wipe the slate clean in bankruptcy. Struggling to pay your student loans? Sorry, you’ll just have to figure that one out on your own.”

This was not always the case. Older baby boomers will remember that before 1976, all education loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. Along with much lower college costs back in the day, this is one reason we boomers were better off financially when we were young adults than our children.

Nonetheless, not all is lost. If your millennial children are saddled with this heavy load, there’s some great information out there on how to pay off student loan debt faster. For example, there’s some good information in this article from BankRate you can check out.

In addition, I propose that in light of the times, perhaps it’s time we change our thinking about the value of an elite private institution. If we’re truly honest with ourselves, isn’t the motivation for attending expensive, elite schools often prestige? But is it worth it? The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have intensified questions about whether that fancy education is worth it. Are graduates more satisfied with their lives afterward or are they stressed out over the massive student debt they’ll carry for years?

If our children are thinking about taking out loans or co-signing student loans for their own children’s college education, these are questions they should consider. Parents need to make sure that this financial investment is indeed worthwhile and not made to the detriment of their own future well being.

An article from Wall Street Journal pointed out that “as student-loan default rates climb and college graduates fail to land jobs, an increasing number of students are betting they can get just as far with a degree from a less-expensive school as they can with a diploma from an elite school—without having to take on debt.”

Perhaps that’s why more students are choosing lower-cost public colleges, state schools, commuting to schools from home to save on housing expenses, as well as choosing a more practical career-oriented education.

Food for thought for our grandchildren as they approach college age.

Money Does Not Equal Happiness

So, maybe our children are earning less, haven’t purchased a home yet, and don’t have as much money as we did when we were their age.

MoneyDoes that mean they’re doomed to misery? Heck no!

As I wrote about in a previous blog, How the Recession Changed Our Viewpoint of Happiness, if this recession taught us anything, it’s that money, expensive houses, and things doesn’t equal happiness.

Maybe the American Dream has changed since we were young – and that’s not a bad thing.

Remember the 60’s, when many young people thought society had been corrupted by capitalism and the materialist atmosphere it created? They looked down on their parents, children of the Depression era who sought security in cookie-cutter houses in the suburbs, enjoying an economic boom after World War II ended. Their parents were “square” and “materialistic” in their youthful eyes, and had lost sight of the more meaningful experiences life had to offer.

Then they grew up.

Let’s get real. Many of those ideals were left behind. Ironically, many “hippies” became “yuppies.” Despite all the talk and protests, a lot of baby boomers began working around the clock at burgeoning careers, bought nice homes, enjoyed fancy vacations, chased success, and accumulated credit card debt. In the end, many boomers became much more materialistic than their parents.

Well, it seems the pendulum has swung once again. After the recession, many young people are feeling the same way we boomers did in the 60’s.

After all, many people bought extravagant homes they could not otherwise afford and lost them during the housing bubble burst. You know what? They learned life went on. Buying that home they always “dreamed of” turned into a nightmare and many discovered it wasn’t worth all the stress that resulted.

Turns out that dedicating yourself to a career and owning a fancy home wasn’t the answer to finding contentment, satisfaction, and joy after all. Many of our children took note.

In fact, home ownership rates are at their lowest since 1995. In the years since the housing bubble burst, many have come to the conclusion that home ownership isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and are now renting a less expensive apartment instead. Others opted for home ownership, but decided to downsize. This idea spawned the whole tiny house movement.

So, maybe our millennial children don’t own a home and are renting an apartment instead. Is that such a tragedy? Without a huge mortgage debt hanging over their heads, they’ll have more time to concentrate on spiritual matters, their family and friends, volunteer work, and their health and well-being. Maybe our children don’t have a demanding cooperate job earning big bucks. Perhaps they’ll have more freedom for new experiences, adventures, and seeing the world.

Whose to say they can’t be happier without all the materialistic entrapment that the so-called American Dream entails?

Multi-Generational Living

Do you have millennial children living with you? You’re not alone. Statistics show that 21 percent of millennials live with their parents.

However, that doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Multi generational livingShortly after my youngest son got married, he was forced to move back home. He was laid off during the recession and his wife was working at a dental facility that closed down. They lived with us for a few years until they got back on their feet and recently moved up north.

My oldest son doesn’t match the data from the Federal Reserve used for this latest study. He actually earns more than my husband and I. However, because of child support for his three children and substantial legal debt from from his recent divorce and custody battle, he is currently living in a casita on our property. This works well for us as well, since we share living expenses.

This is not an uncommon scenario in this recovering economy. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, three in 10 parents of adult children report that the economy forced their grown child to move back in with them in the past few years.

Because of this phenomena, the term “boomerang kids” has been coined. To be clear, I’m not talking about kids who move back home and take advantage of you. Adult children who are lackadaisical about finding work, view your house as a permanent vacation spot, and use their earnings as disposable income to be used for going out, expensive trips, or sports cars. That’s a totally different situation.

However, if your children are living at home to pay off some student loan debt, are saving to buy a house, temporally out of work, or recovering financially from a divorce like my son, moving back home doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Helping your children regroup so they can live an independent life once again, if handled correctly, can be a rewarding experience. The fact is, studies show that people who live in multi-generational homes actually like it. Check out my blog, When Adult Children Move Back Home, for tips on how to make multi-generational living work.

In conclusion, baby boomers, let’s not cry a bucket of tears for our millennial children. Yes, they face some challenging times. But I have faith that, all in all, they’ll find their way and do just fine.

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of jannoon028, renjith krishnan, Stuart Miles, and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Women Breaking Through Barriers

Lesly Federici suddenly lost her mother at the age of 40 while coping with the news that she had a genetic disorder that would result in blindness. Suzie Cheel was given three choices: life, death, or dialysis. Beverley Golden, only 89 pounds and suffering from a mysterious health problem, listened as a doctor told her there was little hope for recovery.

hurdlesThese are just three of 14 inspirational stories in the book, Women Breaking through Barriers, by Marquita A. Herald. The women describe how they conquered tremendous hurdles to move forward and live fulfilling and successful lives.

The book shares what helped them find the courage and inner strength to create a life they love with tips on how you can do so as well.

I was touched that the author of the book asked me to share my own story about how I pushed through my fears and self-limiting beliefs.

My own story is not as dramatic as some of the others in the book. I write about how I overcame my fears and doubts to pursue my dreams of becoming an author and writer. Oh, I put a lot of self-imposed barriers on myself. I was afraid that people would laugh at me because I didn’t have a college degree. That my submissions would sit in a huge pile and be ignored by literary agents and editors since I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. That friends and family would roll their eyeballs if I dared to express my dreams of becoming a writer out loud. That I would become so discouraged by the countless rejections sure to come my way, I would give up and watch my precious dreams slowly fade away. Doesn’t everyone want to be a writer, but how many actually make it?

dreaming-of-being-a-writerInstead of taking action, I was comfortable just dreaming about becoming an author one day. It was fun envisioning my novel on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and my first book signing. It was so easy to tell myself that I needed to learn more about the craft of writing before submitting my work.

Until a woman at a writer’s conference asked me a simple but profound question. What are you waiting for?

Oh, I had a million excuses why I wasn’t pursing my passion. But she forced me to ask myself some important questions. Did I want to go to my grave with regrets that I never followed my dreams? That I never even tried? Would I wonder what I could have accomplished if only I had mustered up enough courage to break through my self-imposed barriers?

With the woman’s words echoing in my head, I took the first step and began submitting my short story to magazines. Of course, I received the standard rejection letter which stung, but I continued on my journey, taking writing classes and submitting my work. The road wasn’t easy. Many of my fears came true during that time. I gathered enough rejection letters to wallpaper a room. Plenty of people gave me cynical looks when I dared to share my dreams of becoming a published writer. Many times, I became discouraged and swore off writing. But I tenaciously pressed forward. Six long years passed before my first short story was published. Am I happy that I persevered and finally faced down all those nagging self-doubts and fears?

You bet!

Yup, that’s me, looking happy I broke through my barriers to live out my dreams of seeing my book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble along with a book signing!

I’ve been writing professionally for over 25 years now. Over the years, I’ve been published in national magazines, authored three books (one of which was published by big time publisher McGraw Hill), landed an agent, won three journalism awards, and even had a book signing at Barnes and Noble.

What helped me accomplish my goals? How did the other 13 courageous women overcome their fears, persevere, and find the power to become the driver of their own lives and personal journeys?  You’ll have to check out the book to find out! Each tale will give you hope and encourage you to reflect on who you are and what matters most to you in life.

For a limited time, I’m offering a free copy of the book, Women Breaking Barriers, to all new subscribers of my blog. As a subscriber, every Thursday you’ll be the first to receive my latest blog on how to find your bliss. Please use the subscribe button on the upper right corner of this page. Rest assured, your privacy is important to me. Your email address will not be given away or sold at any time. If you decide you no longer wish to subscribe, you need only scroll to the bottom of any blog sent to you and click on the “unsubscribe” link.

When you are finished, click on the link below to receive your free copy of the book. If you are already one of my 5,000 subscribers, feel free to click on the link below and receive a copy of this inspiring book compliments of Baby Boomer Bliss.

Women Breaking Barriers eBook

Enjoy the book and in the meantime, remember that there is nothing magical that happens to people who choose to take responsibility for their own life. They choose to commit to taking a risk, doing the necessary work, and taking action. And most importantly, they choose to be true to themselves.

As John Quincy Adams eloquently said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

Images courtesy of Sira Anamwong and iconmac at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Surefire Ways to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

How can you make 2017 your best year yet?

Dump the silly tradition of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that make you feel like a failure at the end of the year when things don’t go according to plan. Instead of making an endless list of lofty ambitions, why not take some simple, realistic steps to improve your life in significant ways in 2017?

Are your ready? I certainly am! I’m ready to move forward and make the most of the next 361 days, 8,664 hours of precious time that I can never get back. quote-oprah-year-endI’m ready to continue on my spiritual path. I’m ready to set new goals and create attainable steps to achieve them. I’m ready for new adventures. I’m ready to make my body healthier and stronger.

Want to join me? Here are five simple but effective ways we can all make 2017 an incredible year:

Reflect and Learn

Before jumping into the New Year, take a moment to think about what worked and didn’t work for you last year. What were the highlights? The low points? What were your successes and failures? What made you feel happy and joyful? What made you downright miserable? What life lessons did you learn that you can take into 2017? What changes do you need to make this year even better?

Focus on the Present

Okay, now that you’ve looked over the past year, it’s time to move forward. Forgive and let go of any anger or resentment you’re still carrying over from last year. Resolve to learn from your mistakes and move on. Make the necessary changes to eliminate whatever was making you miserable. Take time to be grateful for all the good things that 2016 granted you. Then, focus on the present. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, what would bring me joy and make my day great? Then do your best to make sure it happens. At the end of the day, ask yourself, what could have made my day better? Then make the necessary adjustments. This daily practice will help you create the life you want to live. Another way to live in the present is to savor, appreciate, and revel in seemingly small, ordinary moments that make the day special. Did you feel the warmth of sunshine on your face or enjoy the refreshing smell after a rainstorm today?  Did you hear a bird singing its heart out or enjoy the sound of a child’s laughter? Did you receive a compliment at work or did a stranger say or do something kind? Did your loved one give you a big hug? Take notice and cherish each moment.

write-goalsWrite Down Attainable Goals

According to studies, about half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but less than 10 percent of people achieve them. I’m not a believer in New Year resolutions which tend to be overwhelming and unrealistic. However, I do think it helps to periodically write down a few specific and realistic goals throughout the year and review them regularly. Doing so will help you remember what you want out of life and set priorities. You can include spiritual goals, health goals, career goals, or personal goals. So you won’t feel overwhelmed, list no more than three at a time in order of importance. Make sure the objectives are attainable. Then write small steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Focus on one goal at a time and give yourself deadlines – as a writer I know this works. Celebrate milestones along the way. Don’t give up too easily and believe in yourself. Start right now. Think of one specific goal you would like to accomplish this year. Okay, now what’s one thing you can do today, right now, to work towards your goal? No excuses – just do it!

Make Your Body Stronger One Month at a Time

Weight loss and going to the gym are popular New Years resolutions that often fail by time February hits and the excitement wears off. So why not take a different tack? Instead of vowing to lose 20 pounds at the beginning of the year, make it a goal to do one simple thing each month of 2017 to make your body healthier. Need some ideas?  In January, find a workout buddy. In February, walk 100 more steps each day. In March, drink less alcohol and more water. In April, get more sleep. In May, eliminate sugar from your diet. In June, sit less and stand more.  In June, explore a new hiking trail. In July, touch your toes every day. In August, try out one new sport or workout. In September, download a free fitness app. In October, eat less meat and more vegetables. In November, try a new healthy recipe each week. In December, take a daily time out and practice deep breathing. You can use these goals or make up your own list. The idea is to practice each goal for one month to make lifestyle changes that will hopefully stick and become good habits.

try-something-newTry Something New 

While it’s good to break free of your comfortable but boring routine, New Year’s resolutions often include intimidating goals like learning a new language, running a marathon, or skydiving. Why not use the method above and promise yourself to try something new each month. You don’t have to choose something difficult, arduous, or life-threatening. Sign up for a class, visit a new city, try a new cuisine or restaurant, change your hairstyle, make a new friend, learn ten phrases in a different language, listen to a different type of music, write a poem or start a journal. Even the smallest change can inspire more adventure and joy.

There you go – five simple steps to make 2017 your best year yet. In addition to the suggestions above, resolve to take time to nurture your spiritual side, to spend time with your loved ones, to laugh and smile, to be generous and help others, and be kind to yourself. Do so and you’ll feel happier throughout the year.

Images in order of appearance courtesy of nuttakit and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

My Year End Thoughts

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” Oprah Winfrey.

new-year-2017I like that thought.

This time of year, who can resist looking back to see what we learned along the way?

I deemed 2016 my year of healing. As you can see from the blogs I wrote at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year, I was still trying to process the loss of my mother, who died from Lewy Body dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), the death of my mother-in-law who lost her battle to ovarian cancer a few months later, and my son’s awful divorce and custody battle.

As I related before, transferring dates into my new date book was a bit traumatic last year. These trials inspired articles like How to Find Yourself Again , Focusing on Myself,  and Three Simple Things You Should Do Everyday. If you’ve had a rough year, feel free to check these articles out to find out what helped me move forward and rediscover myself.

In the end, I am grateful for the past 12 months that allowed me to heal, nourish myself spiritually, appreciate all my blessings, and move forward. I enjoyed precious time with my husband, children, grandchildren, family and friends, new experiences that included a romantic trip to Chicago and an exhilarating concert extravaganza Desert Trip with Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones, along with some quiet, peaceful moments of introspection.

As I learned, adversity can be a catalyst for making changes. Setbacks and painful experiences can provide motivation to examine your life and ask yourself what will make you feel happy and fulfilled going forward. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn,” Helen Keller famously said.

So, I’ve made the turn and move into 2017 with a hopeful spirit, fresh goals, and curiosity as to what lies ahead.

sailing-scott-and-julie

Me and hubby “sailing” into 2017.

A big thank you to the 20,000 people who have visited my blog and taken this journey with me. I am extremely grateful to all of you who have left comments, which always makes my day, and the 5,000 subscribers who follow me on a regular basis. THANK YOU.

As I did last year, I will be taking the next couple of weeks off to spend time with my family and will see you all in 2017. In the meantime, i wish you all the very, very best.

See you next year!

Image courtesy of krishna arts at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 

 

 

 

 

Are Boomers a Bunch of Old Farts – Literally?

Let’s lighten up things a bit and talk gas. And not the kind you put in your car. Yes, I’m in an ornery mood this morning and isn’t it time for us all to have a good laugh? So, let’s just go there. 

The question of the hour is this: do we actually fart more as we get older? And is all that extra unwanted gas harder to control? Sure seems that way, but is it actually true? Oh, come on, you know you’re curious.

Maybe you’ve heard the joke:

doctorA little old lady goes to the doctor and says, “I have this problem with gas, but it really doesn’t bother me too much. The farts never smell and are always silent. As a matter of fact, I’ve farted at least 20 times since I’ve been here, and I bet you didn’t even notice!”

The doctor says, “I see. Take these pills and come back next week.” The next week the lady goes back. “Doctor,” she says, “I don’t know what the you gave me, but now my farts – although still silent – stink terribly.”

The doctor says, “Good! Now that we’ve cleared up your sinuses, let’s work on your hearing.”

If you read my blog, you must know by now I have a wicked sense of humor. Besides, it’s kind of fun to talk about normal stuff that makes people squirm a bit – like my blog on snot or having to pee all the time as we get older. It brings everyone back to earth and we can all feel united.

I first tackled the subject of unwanted gas in a humorous article, Blast This Bloatiness, written for Hot Flash Daily.

Because, as I pointed out in the article, along with all the other goodies that menopause blesses us with is a bloated stomach that makes us look pregnant – except we’re too old for that. As a result, instead of patting our tummies, people give us puzzled looks while they discreetly try to figure out our age and determine if pregnancy is even a remote possibility.

Just one of the indignities of menopause! But menopause isn’t the only cause for more gas. Simply getting older does the trick too.

Yes, it’s true and give me a break. Don’t get hoity toity on me. If you’re older, you know what I’m talking about.

embarrass-faceAs we age, we have insane gas that can’t be blamed on the dog. Our gas with newfound super human powers would make a trucker blush. In addition to our newly acquired breaking the wind skills, we’re also blessed with the awesome ability to burp like a frat boy.

Bend down to pick something up or tie your shoe and look out! Climb stairs and amazingly you have enough gas stored to poot on each individual step. Lie on the floor at the  gym and lift your legs to exercise in a room full of people and prepare to die of embarrassment.

Not that flatulence and burping is a bad thing. In fact, it’s a normal, natural part of life and a sign that we’re healthy.

The National Institutes of Health tell us that the “average person passes intestinal gas 14 times a day.” How big is a single fart? According to one study, (oh, what fun being on that research team) a fart can range from the size of a bottle of nail polish for the daintiest of poots to a can of coke – the volume of a really big stinker.

Oh yes, that means you too are capable of producing a fart the size of a soda can. In fact, if you’re older, you can probably do better than that.

After all, the term “old fart” is around for good reason. Remember Golden Pond, when Ethel, played by Kathryn Hepburn, constantly calls her cantankerous old husband, Norman, played by Henry Fonda, “You old poop.”

I rest my case.

In case you’re wondering, there’s a logical reason why us older folk have more gas. Like everything else that slows down in our body, our digestion slows down too. That gives our intestinal bacteria more time to turn dinner into delightfully stinky gases that must be expelled at some point. On top of that, prescription drugs – like blood pressure medications and pain relievers – can also cause gas.

Worse yet, farts do not behave as discreetly as they used to when we were younger. As a result, there is a much higher potential for humiliation. This isn’t just your imagination – it’s a fact. As a medical expert succinctly said: “As we age, gas tends to build up in the lower colon before making a sometimes rapid and noisy escape,” says Karen Hall, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan who specializes in geriatrics and gastroenterology. I kid you not, that is an actual quote.

Oh, isn’t getting old fun sometimes? Once again, referencing Golden Pond, Norman is asked, “How does it feel to turn 80?” “Twice as bad as it did turning forty,” he answered wryly.

So, it turns out that none of this extra farting is our fault. We can’t help it. Which brings me to my next gripe. Why do men get to let ‘em rip and burp with no embarrassment whatsoever? Have you ever noticed that burps and farts are offered up by the opposite sex with a sense of pride, joy, and blissful relief?

embarrassed-womanWe women, on the other hand, are expected to try and hold back what feels like the Hindenburg ready to explode. When we understandably and inevitably fail at the attempt, etiquette dictates that we shamefully leave the room turning five shades of red, hoping desperately and unrealistically that somehow, someway anyone who happened to be nearby didn’t hear the deafening detonation.

Despite popular belief, studies show that men do not have more farts than women, so that’s no excuse for men being more public about it while we women die trying to hold it in.

And did you know that constantly holding in gas can cause medical issues for your colon? Farting is actually good for you. But don’t count on a thumbs up for good health if you’re a woman and accidentally poot in an elevator. Sneeze and you get a polite “bless you,” but let a woman fart in public and oh my!

A man, however, just chuckles and all is forgiven. Worse yet, boys, and even grown men, brag about it. They ponder serious, thought-provoking, and deep questions like who is the best master blaster or who can create the deadliest Dutch oven. I’m a woman, but as a wife and mother of two sons and grandmother to one boy, I know this prank well. While lying in bed with someone, you pull the covers over his or her head while simultaneously letting a booty bomb explode, trapping the foul smell, so the other person suffers immensely. The stinkier and louder the better. The male species thinks this activity is endlessly entertaining.

Can you feel my eyeballs rolling? Men have it way too easy.

For example, they also seem to have a scratch-whatever-itches free card. Men shrug their shoulders and proudly snicker while contentedly relieving their itches. They remind me of animals at the zoo who obviously don’t worry about scratching questionably appropriate places in front of big crowds.

But society dictates that we women do not scratch certain things in public. The problem is they itch in public. And as we age, we feel even itchier. But we women have two choices. Either we try to discreetly sneak in a scratch when no one is looking – and prepare for looks of disgust if caught – or just grin and bear it.

Which isn’t fair, but fine. Whatever. I got off a bit on the subject.

Back to unwanted gas. Another super annoying thing is that men never think their own farts stink. “It’s not that bad,” they say as they efficiently clear the room. I guess we women don’t think our gas stinks either, but that’s besides the point.

Well, I have some good news for you. Turns out they have stylish fart filtering underwear to help with this smelly problem. Yes, I’m dead serious. These are the valuable things we can learn on the Internet. Look it up for yourself if you don’t believe me. The underwear doesn’t come with a muffler but they supposedly reduce the smell.

But come on people. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we all just accepted that women fart too and that we all have more flatulence as we age?

Why can’t we be more like some cultures that not only approve of letting them fly in public, but actually seem to enjoy it? The Yanomami tribe, one of the aboriginal people of Venezuela, fart as a greeting. In ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius, passed a law giving the people liberty to “vent” at a banquet table any “distension occasioned by flatulence” after hearing about a modest person restraining from breaking wind and almost dying. Honest, I’m not making this stuff up!

With that in mind, I’m going to rebel right now and eat a humongous burrito, drink a couple of beers, and blissfully and unashamedly pretend I’m a man. I’ve duly warned my hubby so he can leave the room if he so desires. (Chicken!) OR, even better, maybe I’ll get really wild and run into an elevator full of people to do the deed and make the excellent point that we women have a right to fart too!

Yes, let’s start a movement to quit chastising farters – especially us women and older folk who can’t help it. Let’s all just give in and join the symphony! Are you with me? Toot, toot!

Images courtesy of (in order of appearance) iosphere, Graphics Mouse, and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

A Spa Day at Home for Granddaughters

Since a lot of you will be spending extra time with your grandchildren over the holidays, why not create a special spa day with your granddaughters right at home?

We did this with a Barbie theme over the Thanksgiving week that the kids had off school. My granddaughters, ages 9 and 5,  along with my niece and their friend, both 10, loved it!

My two granddaughters, niece, and friend before the Barbie spa party began.

My two granddaughters, niece, and friend before the Barbie spa party began.

Another perk: This idea works well if you’re on a budget. Many of the party decorations we used were purchased at the dollar store.

I have to confess, their Daddy did most of the planning and shopping for the party. And yes, my son is an amazing father and a good sport!

He took the girls to the dollar store where they purchased $3 pink fluffy robes that were super soft and cozy, very pink paper plates, plastic silverware, and napkins, a table cloth, balloons, and some gift wrapping. We decorated the table with those items along with some pink roses and cookies my sister provided for the event and special cupcakes a mother of one of the guests kindly brought.

Most the decorations for the table came from the dollar store.

Most the decorations for the table came from the dollar store.

spa-party-cupcakes

Cookies and cupcakes my sister and a mother of one of the guests provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children and their father created a photo booth from a cardboard box. They decorated it with wrapping paper, pink napkins, and free online printables. We added a basket full of funny party glasses, feather boas, princess crowns, and plastic jewelry the kids already had in a costume drawer and viola! The girls were ready to start posing.

My niece posing in the Barbie photo booth.

My niece posing in the Barbie photo booth.

The fluffy pink robes purchased for only $3 at the dollar store.

The fluffy pink robes purchased for only $3 at the dollar store.

After taking their photos, the girls strutted down the runway in a fashion show.

Then it was off to the “spa” we created in the entryway with the pink robes, pink balloons tied with black ribbons, a foot spa machine, plenty of nail polish, a pink stool from the girl’s bedroom, and a couple of white fluffy towels.

We also put a Barbie styling head doll the girls already owned on a table so they could have fun putting makeup and styling Barbie’s hair while they waited for their turn. Daddy happens to be a great manicurist, so he did the honors.

 

The girls decked out in their pink robes.

The girls decked out in their pink robes.

spa-party-barbie-headspa-party-manicures

We played some fun upbeat music and let the beauty fest begin! I brought out some of my makeup and they had fun putting it on each other as well as styling each other’s hair.

They even did my makeup. Grandpa didn’t get a manicure, but he made the girls laugh with a 70’s style dance.

 

After the pampering, the girls ate pizza and then it was movie time.

We provided the girls with popcorn and pink lemonade with fancy straws and black ribbons tied around the glasses.

The popcorn holders were super simple to make. I bought a large white cardboard sheet and cut it into five pieces. Then I twisted each one and stapled them at the bottom. We used some more free printables for decoration and added the girls’ names. My granddaughters had fun helping me make them.

The girls watched (what else?) a Barbie movie. A good time was had by all. If you want to have a Barbie spa party, check out this site where I got some of my ideas. If you want, you could add facials, masks, shoulder massages with aromatherapy oils, or even learn about reflexology together and practice on your feet.

The best part is being able to spend some quality time with your granddaughters. So try it out. Create a luxurious spa day at home and enjoy!

spa-party-popcorn

Showing Gratitude Every Single Day

Today, in the U.S. and Canada, many people are celebrating Thanksgiving. Although it is considered a day designated for “giving thanks,” the focus seems to have shifted to eating copious amounts of turkey and stuffing, watching football games, Black Friday shopping, and enjoying time off work at large family gatherings.

What if we treated every day as an opportunity to give thanks?

What if we treated every day as an opportunity to give thanks?

Some are more serious about expressing thanks on this holiday, but, here’s the real question. Why is there only one day out of the year elected as time to be grateful and give thanks? What if we treated every day as an opportunity to give thanks?

I know a lot of us try to take time each day to be grateful. Nonetheless, it’s all too easy to get lost in our busy lives as the other 364 days of the year zip by in a blur. If we’re not careful, we’ll collapse into bed at the end of the day without a single utterance of thanks.

Why not strive to feel appreciative for at least one thing, one person, or one experience each and every day?

As I asked in a previous blog, Savor the Day, how many days do you only notice the negative, stressful events in your life? Why not start taking note of what went right during the day. Did your husband give you a loving kiss before he left for work? Did a friend give you a sincere compliment? Did you experience a small victory at work or a small gesture of support? Savor those moments, appreciate each one, and express your gratitude – yes, each and every day.

Be like Piglet in Winnie the Pooh, who A.A. Milne noted: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

Make it a goal to take a moment every single day to tell your spouse, children, and grandchildren how thankful you are to have them in your life. Mentally make a list of your blessings before praying and thank God each and every day. Call a friend and tell them how fortunate you are to have their support and love. Thank strangers for an act of kindness – not the automatic way we often do without thought, feeling, or real meaning – but with genuineness and sincerity.

For the next 364 days of the year, stop and notice the beauty in simple, ordinary moments that make a day special. Use all your senses to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, the laugh of a child, a hug from a friend, the sound of a bird singing, the smells after a rainstorm, or that first sip of coffee in the morning. Write down three things you are grateful for every day in a gratitude journal.

Imagine if we made every day a day of giving thanks. We will shift our perspective, draw closer to God, deepen our relationships, improve our lives, and make the world a better place to live.

As Zig Ziglar said, “Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life changing.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to Control Stress Eating

As I’ve shared with you before in my blog, the last few years were stressful ones for me. As a result, for the first time in my life, I got into the habit of stress eating.

junk-foodI’m referring to the routine of emotional, mindless eating and snacking. Stuffing myself with junk food, not to fill my stomach, but because I’m bored, stressed from everyday life, overwhelmed, or exhausted.

To make matters worse, sometimes I’m eating without paying attention to the food or really enjoying it. Suddenly, I crave chocolate or chips or pizza and nothing else sounds good. So, I woof it down while watching TV, reading a book, or playing on my iPad. The need to eat isn’t coming from my stomach but from inside my head. I don’t eat until I’m full but until I’m uncomfortable.

Sometimes I start off with good intentions and eat something healthy like veggies but I still can’t get those darn chips off my brain. Not satisfied, I eat a huge bowl of popcorn thinking that will do the trick. I’m full, but I can’t quit thinking about those nachos I wanted in the first place. So I end up eating the veggies, popcorn, AND the nachos. My stomach is so full and bloated, I end up feeling downright miserable. In my twisted mind, I convince myself I should just go for the nachos next time instead of all those extra calories I ate before eating what I really craved. So that’s what I do.

Briefly, I feel better, but then I feel disgusted with myself.

Sound familiar?

If you’re 50-plus like me, you’re particularly susceptible to emotional eating since during this time of life we’re often facing stressful events and changes in our lives. Empty nest syndrome, aging parents, death of a loved one, menopause, worrying about retirement, or declining health may be troubling us. Since weight gain is often related to aging and menopause, stress eating is the last thing we need!

As I’ve shared with you in a previous blog, I found a diet that works for me and lost seven out of the 10 pounds I needed to lose. But because of stress eating, I’ve already gained a few pounds back.

So what can we all do to stop stress eating and avoid the dreaded unwanted weight gain that usually results? Here are some simple tips I plan on using:

Identify Emotions and Triggers

junk-food-pizzaTake comfort, stress eating isn’t all your fault and actually has a logical reason behind it.

When you feel stressed out, your body produces high levels of the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases your appetite and triggers cravings for salty, high-carb, sweet, and high-fat foods. These foods give you a burst of energy and pleasure by increasing the brain’s feel-good dopamine response. Over time, your brain may start to rely on these comfort foods to calm down and feel better.

In addition, if you’re not sleeping at night because you’re anxious, that only makes the problem worse. And if your life feels unfulfilled and empty, food may fill a void.

So, the first step is to figure out what is making you reach for that bag of chips. Does your life feel out of control? Are you frustrated? Overwhelmed? Mad? Anxious?

Focus on the real issues at hand and you’ll be ready for the next step.

Learn to Accept Your Feelings

Often we eat to avoid feelings that make us uncomfortable. Food is a nice distraction sometimes.

If you’re stressed out about your job or financial pressures, worried about an upcoming event, or stewing over an argument you had with a loved one, it’s usually easier to focus on eating comfort foods instead of dealing with the painful situation.

The emotions won’t go away, however. If you stress eat, you’ll also add the burden of guilt for sabotaging your weight loss goals. This starts a whole cycle – and not a good one. Your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for ruining your diet , you gain weight, feel even more guilty, and then overeat again to try and make yourself feel better.

So, give yourself permission to feel angry, fearful, anxious, guilty, or exhausted. Invite those negative feelings in and accept them with kindness. Eventually, your body will come to understand that it no longer needs to comfort itself with food to protect you from your own emotions.

The truth is when you don’t try and suppress your feelings – even if they are painful – it will help you quit obsessing over your negative emotions. Your feelings will lose their power over you. You’ll learn to control your anxiety and deal with emotional problems in more constructive ways.

When you listen to and accept your feelings, you’ll discover what it is you truly need and then make necessary changes in your life.

Pause for a Moment

Take a moment to stop and reflect on why you want to eat. Tell yourself that you’ll put off eating for just five minutes. During that time, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to make a different choice than reaching for that bowl of ice cream.

Ask yourself how you’re feeling emotionally. Understand what is driving your need to eat and see if there is a better way to address your feelings. (See the section below for some ideas on positive ways to deal with negative emotions.)

However, if you still really, really want that bowl of ice cream, it may be better to indulge in moderation. As I learned from my experience as related in the beginning of this article, eating a bunch of veggies and rice cakes when you really want some chips or chocolate won’t work in the long run.

“Reach for something you don’t really want, and you’re likely to eat more of it because it isn’t satisfying,” explains Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. So, go ahead and indulge, but step away from that laptop, TV, or iPad, so you can focus fully on the treat you want to eat. Why? If you don’t take a moment to enjoy everything about it, “then the real reason you’re eating it won’t be served,” she says, and you’ll be more likely to give in to other high-calorie foods—not to mention more of them.

Even if you give into temptation and eat more than you should, you’ll understand better why you are turning to food and perhaps can respond differently the next time cravings hit.

Find Alternatives

junk-food-refuseOnce you understand the cycle of stress eating and some of your triggers, find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally.

If you’re stressed out, turn on some favorite music and dance around the house. Take a brisk walk. Write in a journal. Do something creative like painting or scrapbooking. Practice deep breathing until you feel calm. Get outside and enjoy nature.

If you’re feeling depressed or lonely, call a good friend or family member, pet your dog or cat, or look through an old photo album. If you’re angry, practice the healing art of forgiveness. If you’re bored, plan your next trip or start filling your calendar with exciting events. If you’re exhausted, treat yourself to a soothing cup of tea or a long bath with scented candles.

It also helps to take positive steps to tackle issues that may be bothering you. For example, if financial problems are weighing you down, start implementing constructive strategies toward paying down debt or saving for retirement.

Keep in mind, negative emotions don’t typically last forever. Just because you are unhappy today doesn’t mean you’ll be unhappy tomorrow. But in the meantime, find alternative healthy and positive ways to deal with your feelings.

Pay Attention to What You Eat

Stay away from mindless eating and really appreciate your food.

In the grocery store, keep in mind the nutritional value of the food you’re buying and how it can help your body. Try some new healthy recipes. On Facebook, I discovered Skinnytaste and have been admiring all the great looking videos this woman posts. I definitely plan on trying out some of her recipes.

When you’re cooking, use all your senses to appreciate the aroma, texture, color, and even different sounds of the food as you cook them.

And when it’s time to eat, take time to enjoy your food fully. Take small bites, chew slowly and thoroughly, and appreciate all the ingredients and seasonings. You’ll be surprised at all the flavors that are released when you do so.

Start Each Day Anew

Finally, be kind to yourself. If you have a setback and indulge in emotional eating, start fresh the next day. Learn from your experience and plan on how you can prevent it from happening again. Focus on the constructive changes you’re making in your eating habits that will lead to better health.

And go ahead and indulge every once in a while. Just take the time to truly savor it.

So, there you go. Next time, I get the urge to stress eat, I’m following the steps I’ve outlined above. I’ll let you know how it goes. Today, I’m cleaning out my refrigerator and going to the grocery store for some satisfying healthy foods as a first step.

How about you? Join me and we can combat stress eating together!

Images courtesy of (in order of appearance) stockimages, Witthaya Phonsawat, and iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Election Stress: Faith Soothes the Soul

As I write my blog this morning after the election results, many people are anxious, confused, in an uproar, fearful of the future, and more divided than ever. The stock market is jumping around, people are protesting and venting all over social media, and the non-stop coverage is overwhelming.

As the Washington Post pointed out, “By now it has been well documented that this presidential election cycle has had a particularly negative effect on Americans’ mental health.” Feelings of discontent are consistent regardless of political party affiliation or ideology, the article added. Heated arguments between family and friends continue as people debate, celebrate, or mourn the election results.

Which makes this the perfect time to embrace your spiritual side.

believeAll the turmoil from this election year makes me more grateful than ever for my faith. I am thankful that my hope and trust rests – not on politics or election results – but on God and his wonderful promises for the future.

While others are suffering from “election stress disorder,” I am at peace.

As I wrote in a previous blog, the vast majority of studies show that spiritual people report higher levels of happiness and mental well-being. Why is that the case?

Faith consoles and comforts, promises positive outcomes during difficult times, and makes sense of a troubled world. By believing in something greater than themselves, spiritual people can stay positive in times of stress and foster resilience.

While I realize that not all of my readers may be Christian, for those of you searching for some soothing words during what has been a dismal year in politics, I would like to share a couple of my favorite Scriptures with those of you so inclined on this beautiful November morning:

“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

If you are looking for answers along with comfort and hope, if you so choose, you can click here to view a brief video, Why Study the Bible? for food for thought.

In addition to embracing your spiritual side, meditating, and praying, take some time for yourself. Don’t let fears and uncertainties rule your life. Take a walk, spend time with loved ones, take a deep breath, focus on positive thoughts, do something kind for someone.

And, yes, have faith.

Image courtesy of BJWOK at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Ten Best and Worst States to Retire

My childhood friend was visiting me last month when she asked me, “Where do you want to retire?”

retirementWe both turn 56 this month, an age where boomers typically start dreaming about where they’d like to retire. Interestingly, we both reside in places known to be pretty popular for retirees.

My friend is from Asheville, North Carolina. She enjoys mountain biking in the scenic Great Smoky Mountains, the robust arts community – and since her late husband was a musician – she loves the live music scene that ranges from bluegrass to classical. Asheville consistently receives great rankings as a great place to retire for those reasons as well as its typically mild weather (with the exception of this year!) and unique art deco architecture. In fact, recently US News & World Report named Asheville one of “10 Best Places to Retire.”

My friend is currently retired and active in her volunteer work and she likes living in Asheville. However, she is considering whether that’s the spot she wants to settle in for good.

Me – I’m from the Palm Springs, California area, which has long been one of the most famous retirement communities. Snowbirds love this place with over 300 days of sunshine a year. Golfing, casinos, hiking, and cycling are popular activities. Places to shop and dine abound. In addition, a fairly strong economy and low unemployment rate make the Palm Springs area a popular destination for baby boomers and retirees.

But do I want to retire here? Not especially. Some people love the heat, but I’m not a fan of the long, hot summers with temperatures that exceed 115 degrees. However, I have time to consider my options. Like many boomers, retirement is nowhere in sight for me at the time being.

But of course, a girl can dream, right?

That’s why I found Bankrate.com’s survey interesting. It used six criteria to determine which states are the best and worst for retirees that included cost of living, taxes, health care, weather, crime, and residents’ overall well-being.

The results were surprising. Traditional retirement spots like Florida and California didn’t make the top 10 while other states, not usually considered as premier places to retire, like South Dakota and Wyoming, made the top five.

So, exactly what are the ten best and worst places to retire according to the survey and why?

The Ten Best States

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Wyoming: Low taxes, a low cost of living, and a low crime rate puts this state in the top ten. The sheer beauty of this state is appealing with seven national parks, including the famous Yellowstone National Park, and plenty of expansive land to roam. In fact, Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation. Maybe that’s why this state scores so high in the well-being of its residents and is considered a “happy” place to retire.

South Dakota: This state scores high for its low taxes, living costs, unemployment rates, and crime rates. South Dakota offers a rugged retirement destination to those looking for new adventures, affordable housing, and a sense of seclusion. Nonetheless, South Dakota scored low for the well-being of its residents. Perhaps that’s, in part, because of its typically brutal winters and hot summers.

Colorado: What’s not to love? Gorgeous scenery with low taxes and living costs. Compared to the two states above, Colorado has fairly mild weather with few rainy days that is conducive to lots of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and skiing. In fact, the latest U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Denver as the best place to live in the country. Colorado Springs ranked fifth.

Utah: This state made the list with its pleasant weather and abundance of natural attractions and activities for outdoor lovers. Housing costs, however, are higher in Utah than the national average as is the state’s overall tax rate. Utah has recently began  attracting retirees, mostly in the St. George and Park City areas.

Virginia: This state rated highest east of the Mississippi. A vibrant economy and plenty of historic destinations put it on Bankrate’s top five list. According to their study, Arlington is the best place to retire in the state and nearby Alexandria came in second.

These five states were followed by Montana for its temperate weather that ranks above the national average and residents reporting being happy with their gorgeous surroundings, 
Idaho
 for its affordable housing, low crime rate, and many natural treasures, Iowa for its quality health care system and low crime rates, Arizona for its great weather and high scores in well-being, and Nebraska with its relatively low cost of living and low crime rates.

It should be noted some of these states (South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah) made the top 10 Kiplinger list which also included the states of Florida, Washington, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia on its top ten list of places to retire.

The Ten Worst States

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York: Known for its high cost of living and high taxes, this state also had the lowest well-being scores in the nation, especially on feeling a sense of satisfaction with their lives and where they live, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

West Virginia: While the state offers a low cost of living, natural beauty, and lots of activities, for the 6th straight year, West Virginia received the worst scores in the country for personal well-being by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave West Virginia its 7th lowest rating in the country for its high rates of hospitalizations for conditions such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes, as well as potentially avoidable hospitalizations for acute conditions.

Oregon: The state’s high cost of living and high taxes along with its stormy weather put this state as one of the worst places to retire according to Bankrate.com. However, it’s interesting to note that Portland, Oregon often tops lists of great places to retire with its beauty, ocean access, great food and wine, and lack of sales tax.

Arkansas: Arkansas received below-average marks for crime, health care and overall well-being. Arkansas has the 9th highest violent crime rate in the nation and the 6th lowest score for health care quality. The state struggles with hospital admissions for hypertension and diabetes, among other issues. Arkansas also received the 7th lowest happiness score in the nation among seniors, with especially low overall scores for physical and social health.

Louisiana: Unfortunately, one of the major problems with Louisiana, which also made last year’s list, is crime. The state recorded the 5th highest violent crime rate in the country in 2015, according to the FBI, and had a murder rate double the national average in 2014. In addition, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave Louisiana the 2nd lowest score in the nation for health care quality.

Hawaii made number six. A lovely place to live except for the high cost of living. Honolulu is the 2nd most expensive place to live, ranking 2nd to New York City, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Residents of Hawaii pay an individual income tax rate of 11% — the 2nd highest in the U.S. If you can afford it, however, this state ranks high for happiness and personal well-being.

That state was followed by Oklahoma whose state’s health care system ranked as the worst in the country, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Add a high crime rate and a low rating on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index. Alaska made the list for it’s a high cost of living, frigid temperatures in much of the state, and high crime rate. Connecticut ranked number nine due to its state’s income tax rate and property tax rate which are both 2nd highest in the country. Maryland rounded out the 10 worst states for retirement for its high cost of living and lofty tax rate which makes it hard for retirees living on a fixed income.

Where Should You Retire?

Where to retire is a deeply personal decision and you may not agree with this list. There are many things to consider.

For most people, retirement means less income, but more time to do what they enjoy. That means typically they are looking for a place with lower housing and living costs, good weather, opportunities for outdoor physical activities, cultural offerings, and volunteer work.

But there are other factors to consider too, for example, nearly a quarter said in the survey that being close to family is the most important factor in deciding where to retire. Other interesting findings from the Bankrate survey:

  • Three in five Americans want to spend their golden years in another city or state, but the desire to move away from home fades with age.
  • Women value a cheap cost of living more highly than men (59% vs. 43%).
  • Four in 10 Americans say locales with access to mountains, rivers and other outdoor recreation would be most appealing, while 25% prefer living near a beach.

In the end, you’ll have to consider all those factors before you put down roots. As Bankrate.com research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn said: “Warm weather may be an initial draw, but all the sunny days in the world won’t make you happy if you’re constantly stretching your budget or don’t have access to quality health care.”

True, true. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about retiring somewhere near an ocean with our sailboat docked in a marina. Or maybe some exotic land or a Caribbean island which are dancing around in my head. Why not? Like I said before, a girl can dream, right? And who knows where I’ll land? Only time will tell!

Where would you love to retire? Please share your dreams in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, J Frasse, and Troy Faulder at FreeDigitalPhotos.net