Menopause and Bad Eggs

Time to lighten things up around here. So, this week’s blog comes courtesy of an article I wrote on menopause for Hot Flash Daily. If you’ve never checked out this site, be sure and take a visit.

Hope this article gives you menopausal women a few chuckles:

Menopause Bad EggWhat do you call a hen who can no longer lay eggs? Henopause.

Okay, that was bad, sorry.

I might be joking about it, but at the risk of sounding weird, this whole egg thing really bugs me.

Unlike men, who somehow continuously make sperm throughout most of their life, women are unable to make more eggs after the two million that they are born with are gone. Now, does that seem fair to you?

Just wait, there’s more. By the time a girl has her first period, she has an average of about 400,000 eggs. Only 400 to 500 mature fully to be released during the menstrual cycle. What happens to the rest? The crazy eggs die off, degenerate, and are reabsorbed into our bodies.

Am I the only one that thinks that sounds gross and a bit disturbing?

By the time we’re nearing menopause, we’re no longer producing enough of the hormones we need in order to release eggs, which doesn’t really matter, because we’re running out of eggs anyway. The eggs get really fragile and fall apart easily so any eggs that are left are unusable.

In other words, we have bad eggs.

Cut to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was an impressionable 11 years old when that film came out. Okay, picture Veruca’s final scene in the Golden Egg Room, where she wants her father to buy her one of Wonka’s golden egg-laying geese. After Wonka refuses, Veruca has a grand fit and breaks into the song, “I Want it Now,” trashing the room and disturbing the Oompa Loompas’ work. Although Veruca deserved it, I still cringe when she climbs onto an Eggdicator and is promptly dropped down the chute after being rejected as a “bad egg,” Her father is also classified as a bad egg and joins her when he attempts to rescue his daughter.

That’s what I think of when I think of bad eggs.

Or the quote by C.S. Lewis comes to mind: “No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet.”

At menopause we might have a few thousand or so of those bad eggs – stragglers like the people who hang out long after the party is over. What happens to them? Just like the other unused eggs, these bad eggs are absorbed into our bodies.

Yuck! That idea almost freaks me out as bad as the possibility of a shrinking hoo-hoo. To my horror, I discovered that during menopause, our vaginas can actually become shorter and narrower. We’re lucky that our lady bits don’t just up and disappear, my friends. What happens to our ovaries ain’t pretty either. Prepare yourself. Our ovaries shrink and atrophy – oh, how I hate that word that means waste away. How lovely. Or as Auntie Mame (one of my favorite funny movies) would say, “How vivid.”

All this just isn’t very flattering.

The good news?

Once our eggs are all gone, at least we don’t have to absorb bad eggs into our bodies anymore.

The more I think about it, the more I like that. After menopause, we’re done with those disgusting bad eggs. That just might be cause for a celebration. I feel better now. So to quote Auntie Mame again: “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! So, live! Live! LIVE!”

Eggs or no eggs, we can still do that! Heck, yeah.

If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out a new series I’m writing for Hot Flash Daily sharing what famous Hollywood stars have to say about menopause. First up, hot flash heroine, Whoopi Goldberg.

Image courtesy of mapichai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

When a Parent Dies

Saturday night, my Mom passed away.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Hospice had told us that Mom would probably die three to seven days after we started morphine treatments. On day six, Mom began pausing between breaths and our caregiver told me that my mother had a weak pulse.

After almost a week of agonizing waiting, the time had arrived.

I told my Dad and brother who were in the house that Mom’s end was near and asked my oldest son to call both my sisters to tell them that they should come over to say their last good-byes. My father came into the room briefly and said a few words and left in tears. My brother and I held our mother and told her not to worry and promised that we would all take care of each other. We both told her how much she meant to us and what a wonderful mother she had been.

I kissed her face and told her that she was a faithful servant of God and would be safe under his care and that I looked forward to seeing her again when she would not be in pain or sick anymore.

My youngest son and his wife came in to say their good-bye. I went outside to see how my father was doing and talk to the caregiver who was giving us our privacy. When I returned to Mom’s bedroom, the pauses between my her breaths were much longer. And then she took her last breath.

That moment will be forever in my memory. Although I am glad that Mom died peacefully at home with family by her side, I am still haunted by it.

Range of Emotions

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

My sisters both arrived and we all sat in the room crying together. When the hospice nurse came to care for her body, we went outside on the patio. We looked at the stars, and talked about some of our memories of Mom. Surprisingly, we were even able to laugh about some of humorous moments we had with her. However, when the mortuary came to take my mother away, we all burst into tears again.

It’s now been five days since I lost my mother and my best friend. The tears come and go.

As everyone knows, a wide variety of emotions are involved in the grieving process. The standard advice is to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel during this time.  In my case, anger is not part of the equation. However, there is a bit of guilt. I had been a caregiver for my Mom, who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for a few years. There is some remorse that I couldn’t be more patient at times. On the other hand, I also know that as an imperfect human being I did the best I could under the stressful circumstances. There is also some guilt over the fact that on some level I am relieved that my caregiving days have come to an end – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I will now have my freedom again. At the same time, I feel a little lost. Once again, I am older and wiser and know this is a natural way to feel. I can forgive myself.

I am grateful that I was able to keep my promise to Mom that I would never put her into a nursing home – one of her biggest fears. There is also tremendous relief that my Mom’s pain and suffering is finally over.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

The fact is that I’ve been losing my Mom bit by bit for years now. Although it was not a sudden, shocking death, it is still painful and I already miss her. Sadly, as my Mom and I had told each other, you only get one mother in life and no one can take her place.

For the past week, we’ve had relatives, friends, and members of our congregation coming over to say their good-byes and then paying their respects. We have had an outpouring of texts, emails, phone calls, and visits offering kind words, food, help, and comfort for which I am so grateful. My husband, my siblings, and my children have been together almost every day which brings me comfort since they share many of the same feelings and memories.

On Monday, I went to see Jurassic Park with some of my family which was a welcomed distraction and break from all the emotions we’ve been going through. Nothing like watching dinosaurs eat people to take your mind off everything, right?  My grandchildren who were here over the weekend have also been a breath of fresh air.

As I write this blog, I am grateful to be alone for the first time to process some of my thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, I got an awful case of the stomach flu and right now – besides being miserable – I am extremely fatigued.

Those who have lost a parent have assured me that it will get better and I know that is true. The aching will always be there but it will dim with time so that memories will bring me comfort instead of pain.

Hope

I couldn’t get through this without “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”

My mother and I share the same hope for the future. I look forward to the prospect of being reunited with my mother. God, who started mankind off in a lovely garden, has promised to restore Paradise on this earth under the rule of His heavenly Kingdom in the hands of the now glorified Jesus Christ. (Genesis 2:7-9; Matthew 6:10; Luke 23:42, 43) In that restored Paradise, the human family will have the prospect of enjoying life without end, free from all sickness and disease. (Revelation 21:1-4; compare Job 33:25; Isaiah 35:5-7.) Gone, too, will be all hatred, racial prejudice, ethnic violence, and economic oppression. It will be into such a cleansed earth that God through Jesus Christ will resurrect the dead. If you would like to learn more about this hope as well as for tips on dealing with your grief, you can download the free brochure, When Someone You Loves Dies.

This hope brings me enormous comfort.

A Tribute to Mom

Mom, I will never forget your boundless love and generosity, your complete dedication to your family, your kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

I am so grateful that you brought us all up according to Bible standards, that you gave my siblings and I such incredible childhoods, that you always made us feel secure and safe, that you so willingly listened and helped us through all our troubles, and that you were such a good friend to me. I am so thankful for all your unfailing loving support and wise advice throughout my life.

I am happy that you were adventurous and took us children with you on your travels around the world. And thank-you for being such a great grandmother to my children and grandchildren.

I know your passing will leave a huge gap in my life and I already miss you more than words can say. I so look forward to the day when we can be together once again.

Love you, Mom.

Losing a Parent

My Mom is dying.

I’ve known this for several days now, but this is the first time I’ve written down the devastating, heartbreaking words.

My Mom on her wedding day.

My Mom on her wedding day.

These past few weeks have been a nightmare.

As readers of this blog already know, my Mom, who suffers from Lewy Body dementia, recently broke her hip. She had a hallucination in the middle of the night and was trying to get out of her bedroom, forgot her walker, and fell.

After her surgery and a few days at the hospital, my Mom was sent to a rehabilitation center. Unbeknownst to us, she developed a bedsore which was not treated. Within days, the bedsore turned into a seven-inch long and an inch-and-a-half wide raw, gaping wound. We are not sure who to blame. Although we cannot be sure, we are suspicious that Mom may have had a staph infection as a result of her surgery at the hospital.

At any rate, the sore began to tunnel and quickly became infected. Antibiotics were not effective. We landed back in the hospital. However, the doctor did not recommend surgery since it would have been horrifically painful and Mom probably would not have survived it. If by some kind of miracle she did, my mother would have had a permanent colonoscopy bag. The doctor recommended that we bring Mom home and put her back into hospice care with the goal of making her as comfortable as possible.

The family agreed to take his advice after a long cry-fest.

I’ve been a caretaker for my Mom for a few years now and my job is not over yet. We are told that even though she sleeps most of the time that the hearing is the last to go. So we talk to her, watch home movies, and listen to music with her. My sister and daughter-in-law are sitting with her now so I can have this quiet moment.

Surprisingly, amidst all the pain, I still can feel grateful.

My Mom (in front) at her 50th anniversary party.

My Mom (in front) at her 50th anniversary party.

For 77 years, I’ve had the best relationship with my mother. She is my best friend and for that I am thankful.

Before we started the morphine treatment that would put Mom into a gentle sleep – we were all able to tell her how much we loved her. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to do that and for that reason I am grateful.

That same morning, when Mom saw all the extended family in her room, she said it felt like a party. She asked for a sip of wine which we gladly supplied. Mom wanted to wear her favorite red lipstick and her rings. She was more alert than she had been in weeks. Even though she was in and out of it that day, we felt it was a good morning for her. I am thankful for that.

Mom told us that she wanted us all to take a trip to Maui together and we assured her that we would. Right before my mother gave birth to me she lived in Hawaii for a short time and has the best memories.  I can hear Hawaiian music drifting out of Mom’s room now and know that she is smiling inside.

I am grateful that we are a large family and can support one another. I am thankful for all the friends and members of our congregation for their kind words, prayers, and offers to help. I am appreciative for the wonderful hospice workers and caregivers that are lovingly helping us. I am grateful that my mother will die at home surrounded by the family she loved and dedicated her life to knowing this was her desire. I am happy that she won’t be suffering any longer.

And I am grateful for my faith that has taught me to rely on God for strength beyond what is normal and given me a solid hope for the future. I know that I will see my Mom again. That is a tremendous blessing.

Still, my heart is breaking into a million pieces right now. Grief comes in tidal waves of despair.

A parade of relatives and friends are coming through the house to say their good-byes and trying to find some sort of closure. This has been exhausting but a blessing of sorts. All the people are a distraction and that is not completely unwelcome since I know that my emotions would be overwhelming otherwise.

Even though I am a writer by trade I do not have any words to describe the pain I am feeling right now. A part of me is dying and I know that I will never be the same again. As anyone who has lost a parent no doubt knows, this is another journey. There are no shortcuts to grieving or the healing process. Unless we die first, losing our parents is a road we must all travel.

As I wrote in my blog, This Too Shall Pass, time may heal all wounds, but while the open, gaping wounds close up, the scar remains. However, I am old enough to know that life will go on and take me with it. Our ability and infinite capacity to endure and bounce back is far greater than we think.

As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and author of On Death and Dying, said: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

In the meantime, I console myself with the scripture at John 5:28-29: “Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.

And my all-time favorite scripture at Isaiah 41:10: “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.’

Five Foods That Make You Happy

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own.  Amen sister!

Eating HappyWhen we feel low, it is natural to reach for food to comfort us. When life gets tough the tough get eating.

Can certain kinds of food really make us feel better? Yes, experts say.

“Foods are chemicals,” explains Gary Wenk, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Ohio State University and author of Your Brain on Food. “Because these chemicals resemble the ones found in our brains, they have a powerful impact on our mindset.”

What kinds of food make us happy? Before you reach for junk food like doughnuts or potato chips – hang on a minute. “Comfort” foods may make you feel better for the short term but later can make you feel downright cranky. According to research by the Public Health Nutrition, people who indulge in junk food often are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who rarely or never eat it.

So that got me to wondering which foods make us want to jump for joy. Here’s a list of five foods to get you munching down and singing zippity do da in no time:

Seeds and Nuts

Tryptophan helps produce serotonin, which makes us feel relaxed. Food that has tryptophan can help fight depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Most people know that milk, bananas, and avocados contain tryptophan, but so do protein-rich nuts such as cashews, pistachios, and almonds as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Coffee

Enjoy that cup of Joe. Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a 20% lower risk of depression in women, according to 2011 research in the Archives of Internal Medicine. That’s because caffeine activates serotonin and dopamine release in the brain.

Seafood

Want to be happy as a clam? Eat them. Even canned clams such as those used in clam chowder provide plenty of vitamin B12 which help produce feel-good dopamine and serotonin. In fact, a deficiency of this important vitamin can lead to depression. Other seafood, including trout and salmon, as well as beef, chicken, dairy products, and fortified cereals also contain a good dose B12.

Foods That Make You HappyFruits and Veggies

Eat three servings of fruits and vegetables a day for a bit of that Pollyanna attitude. According to a 2013 study in Psychosomatic Medicine, optimistic people had 13% higher carotenoid levels in their blood (an antioxidant particularly abundant in sweet potatoes and carrots) than those with a more negative outlook. Folate helps produce that good ol’ serotonin that regulates mood and can be found in spinach, brussels sprout, broccoli, avocado, asparagus, and kale. Fruits like blueberries and oranges contain high amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C which both help reduce stress.

Chocolate

I wrote a whole blog about how chocolate makes us happy. That’s because chocolate contains a variety of chemicals, some of which make us feel good by boosting our endorphins (the feel-good hormones).  Tryptophan is also found in chocolate which, as I mentioned earlier, is used by the brain to make serotonin and can help us feel relaxed and happy. Caffeine gives us an extra boost of energy.  Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego even suggested that chocolate contained substances that produce a cannabis-like effect on the brain. Who doesn’t want a bit of happy high?

So next time you’re feeling a little down in the dumps, go ahead and chomp on one of these five foods and you just might find yourself singing, “My oh my, what a wonderful day!”

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic and stock images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Aim for Fulfillment Not Happiness

If you read my blog, you know that now is not the perfect time in my life.

ThoughtfulFor the last few years, I’ve been caring for my Mom who has Lewy Body dementia with an extra dose of Parkinson’s. She recently broke her hip and was just released from a rehab center. My son is going through an awful divorce. My mother-in-law is fighting ovarian cancer and her numbers are up which means another debilitating round of chemo. We are a couple of weeks from the completion of building our new home which is a bright spot in my life but is also stressful. Budgets, getting a mortgage loan, and an upcoming move are all dancing around in my head.

So stay with me here. I’m not whining about my life. Believe me, I have many blessings to count and I have learned to savor the day and appreciate the small moments of joy that we all experience.

But are these the happiest days of my life? Let’s just say I’m not exactly doing cartwheels of joy or a happy dance right now.

And that’s my point. I want to be clear. Just because I write a blog about happiness doesn’t mean I believe that you should feel inadequate because you can’t maintain a certain level of glee at all times.

Happiness is not Sustainable

We live in a strange era where boundless happiness studies, books, and websites like mine rule. While they provide some useful information, all that hoopla about happiness could make us feel that if that fleeting feeling of joyfulness escapes us, we’ve somehow failed. Or that our lives are lacking in some fashion.

We baby boomers might be especially vulnerable to these feelings since we grew up in an age of entitlement where we were taught to go after whatever makes us happy. If we can’t achieve that elusive happy feeling at all times, we feel a bit insecure and disillusioned. Like something is wrong with us.

But here’s the thing. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, worried, or depressed sometimes. These are perfectly natural feelings. We don’t have to be happy 24-7. The simple truth is that a giddy feeling of happiness is not sustainable.

Target

Aim for Fulfillment

So instead of shooting for happiness, why not aim for fulfillment instead?

That’s what Michael Hedrick suggested in his article written for Psych Central, Why You Should Seek Fulfillment Instead of Happiness.

“Fulfillment is the idea or feeling that things are okay even if you’re going through a rough patch,” Hedrick wrote. “It’s the knowledge that you’ve got comfort and a stable foundation and that you’re working towards something bigger.”

As he points out in his article, fulfillment means different things to different people. Many seek fulfillment through spirituality. That’s certainly true in my case. No doubt, I’ve gained a sense of purpose, meaning in life, and personal satisfaction from studying the Bible and striving to live my life in a way that pleases God. Helping others and making a difference in people’s lives, developing your character and abilities, or achieving a goal can also feel fulfilling.

So make fulfillment your target.

As Albert Einstein said in one of my favorite happiness quotes, “I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves – such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine…The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.”

Well said!

So maybe Bobby McFerrin shouldn’t sing: “Don’t worry, be happy,” but instead say, “Don’t worry, be fulfilled.” I admit, not quite as catchy, but more realistic!

Images courtesy of marcolm and renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When Caregiving Becomes Complicated

Caregiving just got much more difficult for me.

Caregiver A couple of weeks ago, my Mom had an hallucination that scared her and got out of bed at midnight while we were sleeping. She forgot to use her walker and was carrying a pillow. Evidently, Mom was trying to bolt out of the room when she fell in the doorway.

As I’ve explained in past blogs, my Mom has Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) with Parkinsonism. The Parkinson part of her disease has taken a terrible toll on her body physically. Even though she uses a walker, falls are becoming more and more frequent. It seemed inevitable that she would eventually break something despite all our family’s efforts to watch her around the clock.

We took her to Urgent Care the next day. The X-ray came out negative and the doctor told us that in all likelihood she sprained her hip, so we took her home. After a few days, her hip was only getting worse. She could not walk at all and I had to have my husband or brother physically lift my Mom from a wheelchair to the toilet. As her primary caregiver, I felt totally overwhelmed at this point.

Surgery for LBD Patients

We took her back to the doctor and they ordered a CT scan for the next day. That scan showed that Mom had fractured her hip – substantially – and we landed in the ER. The fracture required a partial hip replacement surgery.

Hip ReplacementThis was one of my biggest fears. Almost three years ago before we knew Mom had LBD, she had a hip replacement in her other hip. After the surgery, she didn’t know where she was or who I was for six weeks. Her mind never came back completely. After her diagnosis, we became aware that this is not uncommon and general anesthesia can cause permanent damage in LBD patients.

This time around, we requested spinal anesthesia along with “twilight” anesthesia as is recommended for LBD patients. Fortunately, the surgeon was able to accommodate our wishes.

Right now, it’s hard to tell if there will be any long-term consequences or if the surgery will speed up symptoms as it did last time. LBD patients are extremely sensitive to pain medication and as a result my poor Mom has been hallucinating non-stop since the surgery. But we are hopeful that once they wean her off the drugs, she will become more lucid.

My heart breaks and we’ve all shed tears over the situation. My Mom is in rehab now and my siblings, children, and my father are all rotating to stay with her.

Caregiving Statistics

Just another part of this journey into an unknown world. From time to time, I like to share my experiences as a caregiver because I know that I’m not alone. Far from it. In fact, I fit right in with all the statistics.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 43.5 million of adult family caregivers care for someone 50+ years of age and 14.9 million care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Of those caring for someone aged 50+, the average age of caregivers is between 50-64. A Gallup Healthways Wellbeing study found 72% of caregivers cared for a parent, step-parent, mother-in-law, or father-in-law, and 67% of caregivers provided for someone age 75 or older.

In other words, if you are a baby boomer, chances are good that you are helping to care for mom and dad.

If you’re a woman, the statistics go up. An estimated 66% of caregivers are female. The majority of caregivers (55%) in one Gallup study reported they had been caregiving for three years or more.

The Home Alone study―a study of family caregivers who provide complex chronic care―found that nearly half of the caregivers surveyed performed medical and nursing tasks. More than 96% also helped their loved one with daily activities such as personal hygiene, dressing/undressing, getting in and out of bed, giving prescribed medications, shopping for groceries, and providing transportation.

Yup, check-check-check, that’s my life right now. And evidently, a lot of your lives out there as well.

Getting Help

Like most caregivers, I work part-time as a writer as well as caring for my mother full-time. I absolutely want to love and care for my Mom. This has been my choice; however, because of all the complications and some burnout I am experiencing, our family will be looking for a part-time caregiver to help us out. It’s definitely time.

Because here is a sobering fact: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the close relationship between the caregiver and care recipient is a shared relationship with involved emotions, experiences, and memories, which can place a caregiver at higher risk for psychological and physical illness.”

That’s the thing. We caregivers have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our loved ones. As I pointed out in a previous blog, several friends and family members who have gone through this experience have strongly advised me to care of my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs and recognize my limitations. 

So as I continue down this path, in a future blog, I’ll share my experiences with finding the right caregiver for my Mom to hopefully help those of you in the same boat.

In the meantime, if you are a caregiver like me, please feel free to share your experiences and any advice you have in the comments below.

Images courtesy of olovedog and patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Baby Boomers Blazing New Trail as Grandparents

Several years ago, I reunited with some of my old high school friends. The heartthrob and biggest flirt of our crowd was the first of us to become a grandparent. We middle-aged girls couldn’t quit giggling like teenagers when his grandchild called him Bopa! The whole thing was hysterical to us!

Flash forward and now almost all of us are grandparents – myself included.

Baby Boomer GrandparentsWe’re not only used to the idea by now, but true to our roots, we are determined to reinvent ourselves and be the grooviest, hippest, most involved, and greatest grandparents ever. We’re embracing our new role with the same excited enthusiasm we once had for macramé plant hangers and bell bottom jeans.

So exactly how are we baby boomers different than our grandparents and how are we finding blessed baby boomer bliss through our grandchildren?

We’re More Active

If you haven’t noticed, our generation of hula hoops and tie dye isn’t exactly taking old age lying down. Gray haired baby boomers can be seen pedaling bikes uphill, kayaking, lacing up sneakers and heading to the gym, zip lining, scuba diving, and shooting jump shots.

Camping and Staying Young with Our Granddaughter

Camping and Staying Young with Our Granddaughter

My grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4, are keeping me young and in shape and I’m loving every minute! I’m jumping on the backyard trampoline, playing volleyball, teaching them how to play tennis, and in general, my grandkids keep me running in circles.

Heck, they are better than having my own personal fitness trainer!

They not only keep me physically active, but mentally active too. Their silliness, creativity, and enthusiasm as they discover the world are contagious. And I know that’s good for me.

We Don’t Believe in a Generation Gap

Our relationship with our children was different than the previous generation. Haven’t we shared Facebook likes and Tweets with our kids?

Now our grandkids are introducing us to a whole new world filled with new ideas and possibilities.

K.C. Summers in an article, Grandparenting the Baby Boomer Way, published this month in the The Washington Post, put it well. She wrote: “Becoming a grandparent for the first time is like revisiting an exotic country that you loved long ago, only to find that everything’s changed — the layout, the customs, even the language. The experience is just as wonderful as ever, but it takes a while to get your bearings.”

As she pointed out in the article, we boomers are enthralled and embracing all the new gadgets like diapers with indicator strips that tell you if the baby’s peed or not, car seats that click into place, then morph into strollers with cup holders, and even the Snotsucker, a simple Swedish invention that takes infant nostril unclogging to a whole new level.

As they get older, our grandkids keep us up-to-date with all the new cartoons on Netflix, Disney movies, and the latest video games.

Aren’t we boomers accused of being self-centered? Of refusing to grow up? Maybe we connect with our adorable grandbabies and grandchildren on that level.

At any rate, we’re not about to be left behind. We’re not even sure what exactly “generation gap” means.

We are Gaga for our Grandchildren

My three adorable grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4.

My three adorable grandchildren, ages 7, 5, and 4.

As you can tell from my author’s Facebook page, where photos of my grandkids are proudly displayed on a regular basis, we boomers are blotto about our grandchildren.

Yes, our grandparents loved us, but they didn’t seem to be quite as obsessed as we boomers are today with our grandchildren.

I’m not sure why that is the case. Perhaps because many of us were working while we were raising our own kids in a world where we were trying to have it all. The freedom to spend quality time and be playful with our grandkids feels luxurious.

Or maybe with the staggering divorce rates today, the new Millennials, who think of their parents as best friends, need our help and we are more than happy to provide it.

At any rate, baby boomer grandparents are more engaged than their predecessors.

“The boomer generation is cresting, their kids are having kids, and they want to be involved,” says Ellen Breslau, editor in chief of the popular website Grandparents.com. “It’s a two-way street: The kids keep the grandparents young, and the grandparents can share their wisdom and learning. It’s a very symbiotic relationship between the two, in a way that’s very different from their relationship with their own kids.”

We are Conscious Grandparents

“Baby boomers were the first generation to approach parenting in a conscious way,” Barbara Graham a self-described “child of the 60s,” Grandma, and writer of a column for  Grandparents.com says. “Now we are trying to be conscious grandparents.”

Graham offers guidelines for grandparents that include letting go of all our expectations, abiding by the rules of new parents, and a warning to “seal your lips.” We are an outspoken bunch, but Graham took her cue from writer Anne Roiphe in an essay from Eye of My Heart, a collection of essays about the pleasures and perils of being a grandmother edited by Graham. Roiphe wrote: “Not speaking your mind is the number one commandment for would-be beloved grandparents. Silence on certain issues is not just golden; it’s essential.”

So we boomers try and shut up and respect our children wishes. Hopefully, that makes us less judgmental and less likely to ask annoying questions such as, “Have you started feeding the baby solid food yet?” Or to make a critical remark about our child’s decision to not circumcise their son.

Those are a few ways I think we boomers are paving new roads as grandparents. Agree? Disagree? How do you think boomers are different than previous generations of grandparents? I’d love to hear. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happiest Countries According to World Happiness Report 2015

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

According to the just released World Happiness Report, people in Switzerland clap the loudest as the happiest people, followed by Iceland and Denmark.

Canada, New Zealand and Australia also made the list of the top 10 most cheerful nations. The United States ranked 15th.

The least “happy” countries were noticeably ravaged by war and poverty and included Togo, Burundi, Syria, Benin, and Rwanda.

What is the World Happiness Report?

The World Happiness Report is an initiative of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, first published in 2012. This study focuses on people’s evaluations of their lives based on life expectancy, wealth, freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity, and government corruption.

This report is somewhat different than this year’s Gallup’s Positive Experience Index poll, which I wrote about in my blog, The Happiest Country in the World. In that study, Latin America countries dominated the top 10 list with Paraguay coming in as number one, Interestingly enough, the US also ranked 15th in that poll. Apparently, we’re happy, but not ecstatic.

Researchers for the Gallup poll questioned people from different countries and asked how happy they felt the day before. Had they experienced enjoyment, smiled, or laughed? Had they learned something new or did something interesting the previous day? Were they treated with respect?

The World Happiness Report is more geared toward using happiness research to come up with better government policies. Researchers asked questions such as: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life? Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?

Personally, I take the Gallup poll more seriously since it questioned participants specifically about their feelings. However, since the World Happiness Report reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations of how joyful people feel, we can definitely take a few lessons away.

So what is the Swiss secret to happiness? True, Switzerland is extraordinarily beautiful and the people seem relaxed. They have a high standard of living, great public transportation, excellent healthcare, and the best chocolate.

And it’s hard not to notice that the countries at the top of the list were some of the wealthiest countries. But is there something else useful we can decipher from this report?

What Can We Learn?

World Happiness Report 2“There is no single key to happiness,” US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who led the team behind the World Happiness Report, explained. “Being rich? That’s good, but it’s only a modest part of the story.”

He pointed out that according to this study, living in a society where people are generous and volunteering are also important for happiness. No surprise there.

As I pointed out in my blog, Be a Giver, “givers” report an improved sense of well-being, lower stress levels, better physical and emotional health, and yes, increased happiness. As seen from this latest study, it also helps if you are surrounded by other people who give generously. Obviously, it pays to choose your friends wisely.

Come On Get Happy!

The good news is that in general, the world is feeling happier. Over the past three years, 51 per cent of categories measured – which included people’s happiness with their work, health, material well-being, relationships, social support and local environment –had improved or showed no change.

Moreover, the proportion of people selecting the highest ratings for each aspect of personal well-being had increased significantly, with over a quarter (26.8 per cent) of people rating their life satisfaction at the highest levels, compared with only 5.6 per cent at the lowest.

So join the crowd and get happier. You don’t have to live in Switzerland to know you’re happy and clap your hands proudly!

Images courtesy of dan and Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Sweaty People Can Make You Happy Too

Want to feel happy?

Take a good long sniff of a happy person’s stinky armpits and you’ll be good to go – joyfully  skipping off into the sunset.

Happy SweatSeriously?

Sometimes during my research for this blog, I run into articles that tickle my funny bone. I mean, they really did a study on this? The answer is yes – it was a legit study published in the journal, Psychological Science.

Visualize serious scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, and Portugal sticking 12 men into a room and showing them clips of happy and scary movies to evoke feelings of joy and fright, and then playing weather forecasts to produce neutral feelings.

Then they collected sweat from those stinky, hairy armpits. Eeew!

Wait, it gets better. Then, 36 lucky female participants were asked to smell the sweat samples with their facial expressions traced by electrical impulses. Eeew again! Did they get paid or were they volunteers? Inquiring minds want to know.

And, by the way, that seems downright sexist to me. Why didn’t the men have to smell the women’s sweat? Isn’t it enough that we females have periods, give birth, and go through menopause?

Okay, NOT fair, but back to the subject at hand. So, according to the results from this fun study, they discovered human body odor contains chemicals known as “chemosignals” which carry information about emotional states.

In other words, they claim that BO controls emotions.

Supposedly, the women who smelled the “happy sweat” showed facial muscle activity associated with a genuine smile.

Really?

So, if you buy into the results of this study and want to boost your happiness levels, just find the happiest person in your vicinity and take a good, strong, whiff of their delightful sweaty armpit and VIOLA! Pure joy!

And if your armpits are so stinky that you make Right Guard turn left, Speed stick slow down, Secret tell all, and Sure confused, as the joke goes – don’t feel bad. In fact, if you’re a happy person, offer your armpits to the nearest depressed person and proudly share the joy.

Just not with me. I’m finding easier ways to boost my happiness levels, thank-you very much!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Problems Can Lead to Happiness

Problems Lead to HappinessProblems result in happiness?

Say what?

Sounds crazy, I know, but just hear me out for a second.

Think about it. If you were happy, content, and secure all the time, then you wouldn’t grow, learn, or change. You wouldn’t discover who you are and become a stronger person.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

A life well lived does not mean an easy life without any problems. Real happiness comes from loving and helping others, learning life lessons, personal growth, and a sense of achievement from reaching worthwhile goals. All those things come with problems, challenges, and obstacles that are meant to be overcome to help us become better persons and, yes, to help us find happiness.

Learning Life Lessons from Problems

Problems 2When you’re going through a challenging experience, why not ask yourself how the experience will make you a better person, stronger, or more loving? If you can adopt a more positive attitude about your problems and stresses and what you learn from them, you just might discover happiness along the way.

For example, as readers of my blog know, I am caring for my mother who has a form of dementia that is a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Without a doubt, this has proven to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done so far in my life. You can read about some of my struggles in my blog, Grieving for a Parent with Dementia.

What has this experience taught me and how is it making me grow as a person? Caring for my Mom has shown me how to depend on God more fully, to be more empathetic and patient, and helped me develop the important quality of endurance. To be sure, this is a journey and I am still learning all these things and there is plenty of room for improvement. But the fact remains, I’m learning some important life lessons along the way even though it is a tough and painful path.

Maybe you’re going through an agonizing divorce. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that divorce is a blessing in any way. As I’ve personally witnessed from my son’s divorce, it is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Divorce takes a devastating toll, ripping families apart, adversely impacting the lives of children, shredding self-esteem, and ruining finances. I also believe that all marriages except those involving repeated infidelity and abuse can be saved if both partners are motivated and willing – which admittedly in some cases may be lacking.

So, if you find yourself getting a divorce despite all your efforts to save a marriage, what can you learn from this painful experience? Plenty. While helping your children get through the divorce, maybe you become a better and more loving parent and come to value your time with them even more. Perhaps you’ll realize that you lost your own identity in your marriage and divorce allows you to find yourself again. When you find happiness again – and you will – you will be a stronger and more resilient person for surviving the experience.

If you’re unhappy or stressed by a situation, maybe those feelings are telling you that it’s time for a change. If a situation cannot be changed, allow navigating and overcoming problems to mold you.

Happiness Can Be Achieved Despite Problems

Problems 3

Remember that problems can’t hold your happiness hostage. It is your life and your choice. Your life can be great, no matter what problems you’re facing, because you opt to see it that way. As I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, happiness depends on your outlook, not on your current situation.

Even if things aren’t perfect right now and problems abound, you can still enjoy those small moments of joy everyone experiences in every day. As I suggested in my blog, Savor the Day, stop, take a deep breath, and take note of everything around you – the beauty, the people, the smells, the sounds. Take time to enjoy the beauty of a sunset, the laugh of a child, a hug from a friend, the sound of a bird singing, or the smells after a rainstorm. Savor simple things like the first spring day in your garden, the kindness of a stranger, or that first sip of coffee.

A good reason to smile is always one thought away. Think that thought. As a quote I saw says: “Sunshine is good for your teeth.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, patpitchaya, and Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net