Talking to Your Kids About Michael Brown

Written on August 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm , by

As it is for many moms, early mornings are my favorite time of day. It’s peaceful, and the only time I can think quietly without interruption. A few days ago, as the sun rose, I sat with a cup of tea and couldn’t stop thinking about Michael Brown’s mother. She would bury her son on this day. The same day I was getting my boys ready for their first day of school. As I stared at my tea all I could think of was how to talk to my boys about the funeral, how another unarmed young man of color was killed by a police officer, and about the photos of heavily armed police pointing automatic weapons at and using tear gas on protesters, and how a member of that police department boasted at a public speech about killing minorities.

As a white mother with teen sons, living in Boulder, Colorado, I am far away from Ferguson, Missouri, in many ways. Boulder is a lovely place to live. As in many towns like it, people here pride themselves on being “progressive” and would never see themselves as supporting racial discrimination. But there are very few people of color living in Boulder. Yet they are here and, not surprisingly, my children have reported the often ignorant, and sometimes malicious, racist commentstheir white classmates make about African Americans and Mexicans.

Last year one of my sons told me that there was a group of wealthy white boys at his school taunting Hispanic students, calling them “beaners.” I told him I wanted him to say something to those white kids. He didn’t want to. The next time it happened, I talked to him about the relative privilege he has at that school because he is an athlete. I also wanted him to realize, if it was hard for him to speak up, how much more difficult it may be for someone with less social power. My son is starting eighth grade. I have no doubt there will be many opportunities for him to practice speaking out, and I hope one day he does.

Teaching your children to speak out against bigotry is an ongoing process. We can’t just tell them from time to time, “Racism is wrong.” Or, “All people are equal regardless of the color of their skin.” It is about knowing that no community is immune from racism and bigotry—including mine and yours. It is knowing that it’s common that “nice” kids make racist jokes and comments. It is knowing that your own children can make hurtful comments about other people or stay silent when someone else does. We have a responsibility to teach our children to effectively and unflinchingly realize that they have an obligation to make the world a more just place for all, and then give them the skills to make it happen.

Boulder isn’t unique. My consistent experience working throughout the country is that self-identified progressive communities believe they are above the racism they see, read and hear about in the media. The vast majority of parents within these communities can’t imagine their children degrading their peers because of the color of their skin. They can’t imagine their child making a racist or sexist  joke. They’ve told their children that racism is wrong, so there’s nothing more to say.

But there’s a lot more to say. Many white parents I’ve talked to don’t want to bring up something so unpleasant and ugly with their kids. Here’s the deal: It is ugly. It is unjust. But race privilege means you have the choice to avoid it. African American, Hispanic and other minority parents don’t have that choice. It’s our responsibility to take care of one another. And that means taking the blinders off.

Being a parent means educating your children and having hard conversations with them about how messed up the world is. It’s about allowing them to get upset about it, angry about it and then challenging them to make it better. It’s about reading and watching with your child the reports coming out of Ferguson, going back to the reports about Trayvon Martin, printing out and reading what people are saying about these issues (Ta-Nehisi Coates has been my go-to writer this year).

We need our children to understand that the democracy they study in school is messy. It has an ugly history of how it has treated many minorities in this country and that legacy profoundly affects all of us to this day. If we don’t educate our kids, we sentence them to ignorance and not developing the skills and courage to stand by their peers for the collective and individual dignity of all. So sit down and watch Michael’s funeral service with your teens. Ask your child what it feels like to bear witness to this community’s anger and grief. Just be still for a moment and then vow to do something to make it better.


Diet Tell-All: “Eat-More-Weigh-Less Actually Works!”

Written on August 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm , by

By Danielle Hester, Family Circle web editor 

I love diets. In fact, dieting is one of my many hobbies—something I proudly have in common with Mindy Kaling. From Dr. Ian’s 4 Day Diet to the Whole30 program to juice cleanses, I’m not one to stick to a set routine.

So when I volunteered to test out a weight-loss book for an upcoming story and the health director gave me a list to choose from, it wasn’t surprising that I’d already tried four of the eight options. At random, I chose Lisa Lillien’s The Hungry Girl Diet. The title was appealing and the tagline even more so: “Big Portions. Big Results. Drop 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks.” Count me in!

For the first week, I was kind of a diet snob. I didn’t jump on the Hungry Girl bandwagon right away. I didn’t particularly care for her substitution options. Liquid egg whites? No, thanks! And there were a lot of behaviors required that I already exhibited, like drinking lemon water every morning and substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream. Aside from giving in to my dinosaur-sized sweet tooth, which requires I have at least one sugary treat a day, my eating habits are consistently healthy. I told everyone the recipes weren’t challenging enough, that my food intake was very similar and I wouldn’t lose much weight.

But Lillien slowly started to win me over. I found two recipes that I really enjoyed: the Mega Fruit ‘n Yogurt Bowl and the Crunchy Beef Tacos. (I substituted ground turkey for beef.) Many of the suggested snacks were store-bought, grab-and-go options. And the portion sizes were filling, so much so that I struggled to consume the required 1,200 to 1,300 calories per day. I was beginning to think maybe there really was something to this eat-more-weigh-less concept.

By the end of the challenge, I started to appreciate the Hungry Girl diet from a different perspective: Just because it wasn’t the right diet for me (I lost only 3 pounds), doesn’t mean it isn’t a great program to follow. My coworker lost 9 pounds on Hungry Girl.

Overall, I think this diet is best for people who want to change their eating habits and make better choices when it comes to food selection and portion control. I also think it’s best for people looking to lose a significant amount of weight. For someone like me, who has a consistent and balanced diet of fruits, veggies, protein and healthy fats, the Hungry Girl diet didn’t take me out of my comfort zone, like, maybe, the 10-Day Detox diet would have.

Hungry Girl also requires a lot of food preparation. It was hard for me to balance long days in the city with long nights in the kitchen preparing six meals to take with me in the morning. I think stay-at-home spouses or someone who works from home would love this diet.

The major plus: I was able to step away from my indulgences, cleanse my body and even lose a few inches off my waistline! Now on to my next diet. Any suggestions?

 

Have you ever tried the Hungry Girl diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Click here to read our feature “Losing It!“ from the October issue or here to see more blog posts from staffers on the diets they tried.

 

 

 

 

 


Diet Tell-All: “I Slept More Soundly, Felt More Clearheaded and Lost Weight”

Written on August 26, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

By Lisa Mandel, Family Circle digital director

I’ve found myself in dressing rooms all over the tri-state area vowing to start a diet this very second about a million times. Okay maybe two million. But I usually lose my mojo by lunchtime the next day. A good run would take me through the work week, but I’d never survive a weekend. So nobody was more surprised than me to find myself at the 14th day of a two-week commitment to road test The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy—and ready to stick with it for another 14 days!

It all started three weeks earlier, when my prep for the diet began. I read The Fast Metabolism Diet and started to visualize myself following the plan, losing weight and finally slipping easily into my cropped white jeans. All that mental exercise propelled me, a few days later, to Sunday evening, which I spent shopping and preparing several staple foods so I’d have them at the ready.

I wanted to do all I could to set myself up for success this time, so:

1. I told a bunch of people I was doing this diet. I wanted to be accountable to others. Layer on that I’d be dieting for a story in the magazine and alongside seven colleagues. We’d be able to support and encourage one another, and maybe even compete to stick to our respective plans.

2. I allowed myself some caffeine and alcohol. The diet requires you to completely avoid dairy, wheat, corn, refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I decided to take the low road and drink one cup of organic coffee each day with a splash of rice or almond milk. I do have to live among other people, so being a complete and total bear will not fly. Caffeine was reduced, not eliminated. And on gorgeous July evenings when the sun set well past 8 p.m., I would not “cheat” but rather “allow” myself to have a few glasses of wine (not all at once) and enjoy lean meats that might have been marinated in something other than lemon juice and organic broth.

3. I changed my definition of success, which can be measured in more than just pounds lost. An equally important goal for me is to just plain feel better. I want to wake up energized and refreshed. I’m hoping that taking a break from processed foods and empty carbs will result in some type of change.

Clearly, I was not a religious convert to the Fast Metabolism Diet, as many people are. For me there was a lot to remember: Cauliflower is okay, but only in phase 3. Yes to watermelon, but only if it’s a phase 1 or 2 day. But I did carve out a version of the diet that I could manage and that I was dedicated to sticking to. And I liked it. And I lost 4.8 pounds. And, here’s the best part, I felt great. Not because I looked less fat—although it feels pretty good to zip my jeans and not see the dreaded spillover.

I felt great because I was proud of myself for sticking to the goals I’d set. I slept more soundly, I felt more clearheaded and I had noticeably more energy. I was suddenly game to clean out the linen closet. On a weeknight. After work. (Who does that?)

After I’d survived a friend’s backyard party and managed to eat 4 ounces of boiled shrimp, salad and crudités, eschewing absolutely every other extremely delicious thing served except two glasses of Chardonnay, I noticed I felt satisfied and victorious. I knew from that moment on I could do it again, at the next dinner or the next time there were cupcakes on the free table at work. (You try working at a magazine where the fabulous desserts you see in our pages are tested and tested again and then given to staffers at right about 3:30 p.m.— just when your sweet tooth is sweet-talking you.)

Bonus outcome: I made some changes in food choices for the diet that I’m guessing will be lifelong changes for me–and for my kids. We all loved quinoa and wild rice just as much as white rice and couscous. Turns out roasted sweet potatoes are delicious (and much sweeter) than less-nutritious white potatoes. But nothing is sweeter than success!

 

Have you ever tried the Fast Metabolism Diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Click here to read our feature, Losing It!, from the October issue or here to see more blog posts from staffers on the diets they tried.

 


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on August 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @skittykitty66 who made Spiced Scrolls from one of our cookbooks!

 

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More Than Just a Crush

Written on August 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm , by

“Back to school” is about getting back into the groove of a more structured life. It’s about buying supplies in time—not for the first day of classes but before they’re out of stock. It’s about what teachers your kid got and if they’re loved or hated.

But guess what it’s also about for a lot of kids? Crushes. The horribly awesome, terrifying, nerve-racking experience of seeing someone for the first time and falling for them hard. It could be their hair, the way they say hello, their cool red jacket, whatever—doesn’t matter. In an instant, the world will never be the same. And even if they don’t have a crush on someone, chances are good they’re going to have a friend who does and that will upend their world too.

Being aware of crushes falls into the parenting gray zone. You don’t want to stalk the school hallways or wait for your child to come home and immediately ask them about their or anyone else’s love life. Really…you don’t. Even though you may want to. But you do need to be aware of crushes as the possible source of your child’s weird mood swings. Or the potential reason behind a sudden increase in the amount of time spent texting. (They’re discussing with a friend exactly how the crush said “Hi” or how the crush affects social dynamics between your child and his or her friends.)

It’s really important to remember that crushes and puppy love aren’t insignificant. Just because kids are only holding hands or simply staring at each other doesn’t mean the feelings they have are meaningless. Take a minute to remember your first crush and how you felt around that person. See? Not meaningless. So don’t say things in front of your child about how fleeting crushes are or how they don’t really matter.

And just because I said no stalking, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your child. Sometime when it’s calm and quiet, like at the end of the day, you can say something like this.

YOU: Now that you’re in sixth grade, you might notice that people can get crushes on each other or really like each other.

YOUR KID: Mom…I really don’t want to talk about this.

YOU: This is going to be brief but it’s important to me that you hear this. Having a crush can feel great. It can also feel terrible. And it can feel both at the same time. Sometimes friends can get involved and make the whole thing even weirder. Feelings can be confusing. You don’t have to talk to me about any of this but you can if you want. Regardless, here are four things I want you to keep in mind.

1. Friends shouldn’t be mean to you or deliberately embarrass you about your crush. If your friend has a crush, the same rules apply about what you say to them.

2. If you have a crush and you get rejected it’s not going to be easy, but you can’t be rude or mean in person or online. If your friend has a crush and they get rejected, I don’t want you to join in if they start going after the person either.

3. Friends don’t have to agree with why the crush is so crush-worthy. If your friend thinks that the crush isn’t cute, that’s okay. Friends can disagree. What’s not cool is if a friend makes fun of liking the crush or embarrasses you in front of other people.

4. Sometimes friends, even really close friends, can have a crush on the same person. Covert operations to make the competition look bad almost always backfire and destroy the friendship.

Remember, these experiences are important, so if you ever do want to talk about it, I hope you can talk to me or someone else about them. Okay, I’m done unless there’s anything you want to ask. 

Then don’t wait around with an intense mom or dad expression on your face that signals to your child that you expect to have a deep, meaningful conversation. Just walk away. I promise that if you do, they are much more likely to come to you when they want to get something off their chest.

On the flip side, if your child is the loved one, it can feel great—or really awkward, depending on how they feel about the person who likes them. What’s most important: no humiliating the other person if they don’t like them.

And I have one pet peeve: If your child tells you that a kid of the opposite sex hits them at school or teases them, please don’t say with a grin on your face, “I think they like you.” And definitely don’t say, “You know why they’re probably doing that? Because they have a crush on you!” (See my previous post, “7 Words You Shouldn’t Say to Your Kid.”)

We don’t want to teach our children that an acceptable way to show you like someone is to be mean to them. Plus, we weren’t there. Maybe the other child doesn’t like your kid and now you’re enabling your kid to read the situation wrong. Maybe other children were teasing the child about liking your son or daughter, so they felt forced to be mean to them to make the matchmaking and teasing stop. If our children tell us these things, we can say:

That’s too bad. Maybe I can ask you some questions to help you think it through. Did it feel playful or mean? Did they do it around other people?

Let’s use this as an opportunity to teach our kids how to tell when someone likes them, how to be respectful when the feelings aren’t mutual, and how to be a good friend through it all. Handling all this is tricky stuff. We have to be ready to ask thoughtful questions so our kids can navigate this really rocky terrain—and then do their homework, their sports activities, their chores…It’s a lot.


Diet Tell-All: “I Lost 7 Pounds and Never Counted Calories”

Written on August 20, 2014 at 11:30 am , by

By Tina Anderson, Family Circle photo director 

I’ve always been told that one shouldn’t go on a diet because inevitably one goes off a diet. Instead you should make healthy overall lifestyle changes. I’m generally a healthy person: I cook at home and exercise regularly. But recently I was completely off the rails, which happens to a lot of people around the holidays. I was eating and drinking (for no apparent reason) like I was a college kid with a metabolism to match. So when I heard our health director was looking for volunteers to be diet guinea pigs, I said, “Yes, please. Where do I sign up?”

I followed the Super Shred diet, which is intended to be a temporary solution (four weeks max) for someone looking to drop weight quickly for an event like a class reunion or a wedding. Or life. This diet road test was the perfect excuse for me to put the brakes on my crazy consumption. I followed the diet’s directions exactly and lost 4 pounds by the end of the first week and 3 pounds the next. Not bad, huh? Hold on. It took a ton of planning. I had to go grocery shopping three times in the first four days because I hadn’t purchased enough snackable food to get me through the week! (The plan consists of mini meals and snacks that you eat at specifically timed intervals throughout the day.) And trust me. You don’t want to eat the same snack six times in a row. Yawn.

Speaking of snacks, Dr. Smith provides you with a list of nearly two hundred 100- and 150-calorie options ranging from hard-boiled eggs to nuts to frozen grapes. Too boring? Don’t worry! There are also suggestions like ½ cup canned crabmeat or 2 ounces cooked mussels. Because those are snacks that you would totally carry around in your purse, right?!

Dr. Smith does take care of your calorie counting for you, so you can choose what you like from his list and keep it moving. Just don’t bother trying to go out to eat. This diet doesn’t accommodate for that. I personally got really tired of his repeated meal suggestions of smoothies, protein shakes and soups, not to mention his detailed daily beverage list of unlimited plain water, 1 cup of lemonade, 1 cup of unsweetened iced tea, 1 cup juice and 1 (12-ounce) can diet soda. I also didn’t understand why it’s okay to have lemonade but not sweetened iced tea. I’m pretty sure that lemonade has sugar in it, otherwise it would be called lemon water. And diet soda? Don’t get me started.

In spite of my various issues with this diet, it forced me to rethink what I hadn’t been thinking about. At all. I was in a rut of mindless eating, and by participating in this diet, I was forced to hit pause. I think that any diet plan could have done that for me. I just needed someone else to tell me how to do it.

 

Have you ever tried the Super Shred diet? Post a comment and let us know.

Click here to read our feature, Losing It!, from the October issue or here to see more blog posts from staffers on the diets they tried.

 


Losing It!: The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Written on August 19, 2014 at 10:30 am , by

For the feature “Losing It!” in our October issue, writer Sheryl Kraft chronicled the weight-loss journeys of Family Circle staffers who agreed to try out six popular diets. But we put more than six plans to the test! Check out how one of our editorial assistants fared on a doctor-approved detox.

 

The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Best for: Moms who are committed to change and can afford the essential supplements required

Tester’s Weight Loss: 5 pounds

Reducing insulin levels is the key to losing weight, says Mark Hyman, MD, creator of this “reboot” diet that claims to bring your metabolism back into balance and activate your body’s ability to burn fat. Sugar and carbs are enemy territory, causing everything from type 2 diabetes to sexual dysfunction, he explains. Based on whole foods high in fiber and low in sugar and starch, the diet—which asserts you can lose an average of 8 pounds—eliminates gluten, grains, dairy, alcohol and caffeine. Instead, it stresses good-quality grass-fed animal protein, nuts, seeds, tofu, fruits and veggies.

Typical Meal: Skinless, boneless chicken encrusted with red chili pesto; sautéed spinach

Shopping List Surprises: Raw nut butters, tahini, Kalamata olives, almond milk

Supplements: Our friends at The Vitamin Shoppe helped Lauren pick out the best brands for all the pills the diet required, including vitamin D3, alpha lipoic acid, green tea catechins, PGX fiber and more.

Star Ratings
Ease of Use: 3     (5-Very Simple, 1-Just About Impossible)
Taste Factor: 4    (5-Every Meal Was Great, 1-It Was Barely Edible)
Time Factor: 3    (5-Putting Meals Together Was a Snap, 1-It Was Too Much Work)
Hunger Factor: 1  (5-Very Satisfying, 1-Stomach Always Growling)

Although our editorial assistant Lauren knew she needed this “kick starter” to lose the extra weight she’d recently gained, her admitted lack of self-control made her a bit nervous. But Lauren’s motivation to improve her overall health and get back in shape helped her stick with it, even though that involved spending lots of time in the kitchen. “Everything needs to be homemade,” she notes. Lauren liked the idea of detoxing both her mental and physical health with this plan, but in the end found some requirements—like eliminating caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy and sugar —too restrictive. “I am a firm believer that moderation is key,” she says.

Biggest Hurdle: The expense of the supplements

Simplest Challenge: Prepping the lunch salads

 


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on August 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm , by

This week’s featured chef is Instagram user @_given_to_fly_ who made our September cover recipe, Summertime Linguine!

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef?

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

 

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A Father’s Journey Through Losing His Wife to Cancer

Written on August 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm , by

Four years ago, Bruce Ham lost his wife, Lisa, and his three young girls lost a mother, but with love, music and silly moments, their family is still strong. Ham shares their story in his book, Laughter, Tears and Braids: A Father’s Journey Through Losing His Wife to Cancer, and opens his home to us. 

Your family, in three words?

My youngest daughter gave me one word, “weird.” I prefer creative, humorous and close.

Parenting Style

Although I’ve been told, “Be a parent, not a friend,” I am their friend, big-time. But I also have pretty high expectations. They don’t get away with much. I was once told by my oldest daughter that I was the strictest dad in America. I believe that was slightly exaggerated and specifically tied to a desire to have an extended curfew.

Breaking Bread

It is critical that we eat together as many nights a week as possible. That’s our time to unwind, share and laugh. Some of our best stories about my wife come out at the dinner table.  I try, but I am not a cook. My last-minute go-to food is a store-bought smoothie.

Sweet Spot

We have an island in the middle of our kitchen, which is smack-dab in the center of our house. That table is the hub: It’s where we eat, where homework is completed, where friends gather, where I write. When Lisa was alive, she always wanted to eat dinner at the island.  I insisted on the table in the great room. When she died, it hurt too much to sit at the table with her seat empty. So almost all our meals have been at the island over the past four years.

The Void

My girls are very forgiving of my inadequacies when it comes to filling their mother’s shoes. But I have to believe the void that has been left is our biggest challenge. It comes out at times through tears. It comes out at times through frustration—like when they are the last kids picked up at the after-school program because I’m working late or when I totally forget they have a field trip. Lisa would have never forgotten something like that.

Holding On

I am amazed at the resiliency of my girls. I’m amazed at their flexibility. It would have been so easy for them to shut down or to find a path that wouldn’t have been healthy. Instead, I have three daughters who are strong. One is the student body president. One spends time really trying to love and help others; her heart is as big as the ocean. The other is a comedian and actress. What an incredible combination.

Taking a Moment

I escape through exercise. I jog or go to my room and do push-ups and pull-ups. That’s how I clear my head.

Weekend Warriors

The first three years after Lisa died, I did everything I possibly could to avoid a “normal” weekend. It was just too hard to be in the house that long. It’s easier now. It seems like I’m constantly driving—getting the kids to where they need to be. And about once a quarter, we have a massive sleepover with 15 or more girls at the house. That’s always an interesting evening. We’re also very involved in our church on Sundays.

Musical Interludes

Lisa had a beautiful voice and so do all my girls. My wife listened to one kind of music at a time. Winter was country, summer was pop, and you didn’t even think about turning on anything but the Christmas radio station after Thanksgiving. But country music most reminds us of her. She loved the Dixie Chicks—”There’s Your Trouble” most reminds us of Lisa.

Remains of the Day

I still tuck each of my kids into bed at night. We laugh, sing, sometimes we cry. With my oldest, we tend to just talk. Sometimes we’ll chat for an hour or more. That is what I most look forward to every single day.

Lisa’s Girls

My oldest daughter, Bailey, has Lisa’s leadership skills. She sees a challenge and tackles it. She’s not scared of anything. My middle daughter looks just like Lisa. She has so many of her mother’s expressions and mannerisms; she is a ninth-grade version of her mother. My youngest has my wife’s carefree attitude about life.  There isn’t much that gets that kid down. She’s happy, just like her mom.

Missing Pieces

It’s the little things. I miss dancing with her. She had a beautiful voice. She used to sing along with the radio in the car and I would listen to her. If she knew I was listening, she’d stop. But sometimes I’d act like I wasn’t paying her any attention, and all the while I’d be in wonder at what was coming out of her mouth. I miss that. I miss all her clothes in my closet and her Coco by Chanel. And her flannel pajamas that I used to complain about.

A Mother’s Pride

I think she’d be proud—of her girls and of me. Proud that we’ve put the pieces of our life back together after it all was torn apartRight before she died, she told me that she had the easy part. That if she died, she would be in peace. She told me that I had the hard part: trying to move on with our three daughters. I didn’t believe her at the time, but now I know what she was talking about. It’s been beautiful to build this sort of relationship with my children, and it’s been very, very hard to move forward.

Lessons

I’m a better man, a better father, than I ever imagined I could be. When you lose someone you love that much, it puts life into perspective. I treasure my time here on earth. I appreciate the small things, like holding hands or eating dinner with my kids. I work smarter; there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I have much more empathy for others. And I’ve discovered that whatever life throws at me, I can handle—which surprises the heck out of me.

 

 

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Have You Had “the Talk” with Your Mom Yet?

Written on August 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm , by

By Barbara McCann

I ran into an old friend, Joyce, at a college reunion a few years ago and she looked so worn out. She shared that her mother-in-law, an active, vibrant 85-year-old, had come for a visit, fallen and was briefly hospitalized. Her return to Joyce’s home started a cascade of exhausting events that Joyce and her husband, Jim, were absolutely not prepared to handle. With their own demanding jobs and active family life, they were at their wits’ end, largely because they lacked the knowledge to navigate the health care system.

Unfortunately, as an in-home health care expert and chief industry officer for Interim HealthCare, I hear stories like Joyce’s every single day. People tend to avoid these tough “life conversations” and not get details about their loved one’s health care plans. But if families talk now, they will be far better prepared to care for an elderly family member when required. Here are four tips for being financially and emotionally ready at the precise moment you may be at your most stressed and vulnerable.

• Ask specific questions about all insurance policies: Where are they stored? What contact information would you need for them?
• Research now what’s covered by insurance—and, more importantly, what’s not. Someone who has been hospitalized, for example, will need physical and emotional attention 24/7 when they get home.
• Plan (and even save) for extra help at home, around-the-clock if necessary. Ask specific questions about when and how long nurses and aides paid for by insurance will actually be there. Think about how you’ll handle unattended time, including nighttime hours, when family caregiver rest is essential.
• Anticipate a loss of muscle strength after hospitalization. Activities of daily living (getting in and out of bed, toileting, getting dressed and fixing meals) may require significant help.

For my friend Joyce, the conversation with her mother-in-law never happened. Life was busy and Mary was healthy—until that fall. After three days in the hospital, Joyce’s mother-in-law returned to the couple’s home with bruises, a sprained wrist and significantly reduced muscle strength. Joyce and Jim thought Medicare would cover everything, but it didn’t. Mary needed help all night long, and Medicare only covers an aide a few days each week and doesn’t provide for nighttime assistance. Jim would help Mary to the bathroom but it was uncomfortable, so Joyce was needed too. All three were up nearly all night.

Jim spent hours collecting information from insurance companies and private agencies about in-home care. But when we bumped into each other at the reunion, I was able to talk to Joyce about options available through Interim. In less than six months, Mary returned to independent living with regular care through us.

Even if Interim isn’t your first choice, know that studies show 82% of senior citizens want to age in their own home and 8 out of 10 patients have improved clinical outcomes with in-home care. It’s far more cost-effective to age in place as long as there are no around-the-clock medical needs.

Families need to discuss now exactly what they want and can afford before emergency strikes, blindsiding them with the emotional, financial and physical toll of caregiving when they are least equipped to handle it and make sound decisions. The trick to a successful caregiver experience is advance planning.

An in-home health care expert and industry source, Barbara McCann is chief industry officer for Interim HealthCare. A former chief clinical officer, she currently represents the company with national and local health policy and health care quality organizations to support the highest standards for quality care delivered in the home.

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Food for Thought

Written on August 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm , by

By Jennifer Ball-Tufford 

Last Halloween there was a food drive at the school where I work—boxes set up in the hallways, with cute kid-decorated signs imploring us all to SCARE HUNGER and donate nonperishables for a local agency. On any given workday, I found myself gazing into the bins more than once or twice. Why? Because I like food. It’s like porn to me. I wish I was lying. So when I walked by, naturally I peeked in at the packages.

Dang. Talk about some swanky grocery shoppers at our school. Think “fancy” stuff, as in, organic this and that, and other very appealing deviations from the standard boxes of mac and cheese and spaghetti. There was rice pasta, gluten-free crackers, olive tapenade, artichoke hearts packed in seasoned oil and quinoa. I peered at the contents of those bins like Sylvester ogled Tweety Bird.

Strolling by one day, checking out the bins, I came upon one of the women who helped organize the drive and called out, “Wow! Look at all this awesomeness!” or something similarly enlightening. She beamed at me and said, “I know! The parents at this school are amazing.” As she was speaking, another woman happened by. She smiled at us, like people who see each other several times a day in passing do, and then said this:

“Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it.”

It was one of those moments in life when your ears hear something but your brain can’t quite process it. I was fairly certain I’d just heard her say what I thought I’d heard her say…but it didn’t really sink in. It floated there, like a film of rainbow-hued oil over a puddle in the street. I spoke up while she was still within earshot, asking, “What do you mean?” I needed an answer, to verify what she’d said and make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. The woman stopped walking and turned toward me, one hand holding a couple of manila folders, the other resting lightly on her hip. She was still smiling. “Those people won’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean, really. Quinoa?”

Yep. I’d heard correctly. Those people.

At that moment, it had been eight months since the last time I got groceries at our local food pantry. Eight months since the long-overdue child support from my ex-husband kicked in. Even though it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy enough food for the five of us and having to supplement from a food pantry. For that, I’m grateful.

Those people.

I can still vividly recall my first time visiting the food pantry. I’d driven by many, many times, trying to work up the courage to pull into the parking lot. I’d whisper to myself, “Dammit. I can’t,” and keep driving, home to the barren refrigerator and the Old Mother Hubbard cupboards. Until desperation overshadowed my pride.

Those people.

Once you get past the hardest part, which is walking through the door, being at the food pantry isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s not something that would inspire one to burst into song and run around high-fiving people, but as far as life experiences go, it’s not terrible. Sure, there’s the heat on your cheeks as you fill out the paperwork, giving these strangers your life history. Telling them how you got into this pickle. This predicament. Explaining what you do for money, how much you get and what you spend it on. But you get used to having hot cheeks. You become accustomed to averting your gaze so as not to make too much eye contact. You eventually become, dare I say, comfortable.

Those people.

I quickly learned that food pantries are a lot like T.J. Maxx—hit or miss. Some days the shelves are full, and with really good things. Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese. Organic marinara sauce. Fresh vegetables. Whole chickens in the freezer. Brie from Trader Joe’s that’s only two days past the expiration date. Other days, you have to scramble to even get near the required weight of food in your cart. (Yeah, you get a certain number of pounds of food, depending on the size of your family.) Dented cans of creamed corn. Spoiled produce that even the most resourceful broke chef couldn’t salvage. Individual sleeves of saltine crackers. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Those people.

All in all, I visited the food pantry a total of five times over the course of 11 months, confiding in only one friend about it. When I told my kids, I expected them to laugh or get angry or be embarrassed. They didn’t do any of those things. Instead, they helped me put the groceries away, and did so quietly, not saying much other than the occasional “Yum!” or “Gross!” I can recall, on command, almost all the meals I made with food pantry goodies. Oven-roasted chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast. More mac and cheese than I care to admit. One of my favorites was an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.

Those people.

I wanted to walk up to that woman in the hallway and smack the folders out of her hand. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her as I got up in her face and yelled at her, “You clueless, pretentious b***h! You don’t know a thing about how it feels to walk into one of ‘those’ places and be one of ‘those’ people. You’ve never had to swallow your pride and admit that you need a hand. You’ve never looked at your kids and had to hide your tears because you had no idea how you were going to feed them. You know what? Those people will be grateful to see this food. They’ll be saying silent prayers of thanks as they box that stuff up and bring it home and make it for their families. And they will never, ever forget how it felt to feel so appreciative for something as simple as food.” I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. Instead, all I could muster was:

“I like quinoa.”

To which she replied, “Well, yes, of course. You’re not one of those people.”

If only she knew.

 

Jennifer Ball-Tufford blogs about divorce, single motherhood and life as a fortysomething at happyhausfrau.blogspot.com. She loves her kids, Louis CK and binge-watching TV on Netflix.

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Character Counts

Written on August 12, 2014 at 8:27 am , by

                                      

 Parents should always be proud of their children’s academic success, but we also need to acknowledge achievements that can’t be captured on a report card. Beyond smarts lies wisdom. It’s harder to instill but worth the effort and arguably a more important quality.

To help our kids claim that higher learning, we must talk to them about making decisions that are reflective, not impulsive. When 14-year-old Hunter Gandee’s mother shared a dream she had in which Hunter was carrying his younger brother, the teen came up with an idea. He wanted to effect real change for the nearly 800,000 children and adults in the U.S. struggling with cerebral palsy, which his younger sibling has. So he strapped his 50-pound brother, who uses a walker, to his back and toted him for 40 miles in an effort to gain attention for the disease. The two-day hike was reported on national TV and in print.

Another way to guide children toward wisdom is with lessons in self-compassion. They must learn how to be kind to themselves by accepting their failures as well as their successes. That’s what 7-year-old Cameron Thompson learned after he was caught teasing another second-grade boy who brought a Barbie doll to show-and-tell. Cameron still felt bad weeks after apologizing to the boy and asked his mother if he could start an anti-bullying club at school to help teach his classmates how to be kinder. More than 75 kids showed up to the first meeting. With his parents’ help, he also posted a “Confessions of a Bully” video on YouTube. It’s been viewed at least 70,000 times.

Character, they say, is what you do when no one is watching. These kids managed to do the right thing when they were out of sight and when all eyes were on them: undeniable proof that wisdom is achievable at every age.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts hereGot a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.