Recovering And Rediscovering After Loss

When Janis Clark Johnston was 52, her husband “dropped dead of a sudden heart attack” while he was mowing their front yard. He was 54. Their son had recently graduated college and their daughter had left for her freshman year of college.

“It was shattering,” remembers Janis, now 70, who earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Boston University, and has spent her entire career as a therapist for children, adolescents, and adults, in schools, mental health centers, businesses, and in her own practice. Her first book, It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development, was published in 2013.

Janis’s new book, Midlife Maze, A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery After Loss, explores the “geography of loss in midlife, the way it can affect us, and what we can do to get back on track or redirect ourselves.” (more…)

Thoroughly Modern Marge

The moment Marge walked into the birthday celebration for my former husband, Douglas, she got my attention.

Petite and slender, she wore red slacks that perfectly matched her bright lipstick, which looked smart with her lacy-sleeved white shirt, triple-strand pearl choker, pearl earrings, and nicely coiffed short, silvery gray hair. It’s easy to tell that Marge is meticulous about the way she looks.

(more…)

Men Don’t Make Merry Widowers

If my mom had predeceased my dad, one of my sisters or I would have asked him to move in with us. He wouldn’t have coped well with being alone.  Emotionally or physically. I never even saw him boil water to make instant coffee, no less hold a broom or turn on the washing machine. He did use an electric knife in the 1970s, to slice roast beef, but the cord repeatedly fell out of the thing so it took longer to carve the beef than if he had used a regular knife. But that’s another story!

(more…)

The Essence Of Motherhood In 9 Words

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child!”

I’ve heard countless mothers quote this statement over the years, and although it’s nearly impossible to determine who came up with it, I think it’s one of the most insightful statements about motherhood ever uttered.

Madeline (not her real name), for example, was recently filling me in on her grown daughter and son.

(more…)

Kids Do Say The Darndest Things

A man named Art Linkletter hosted a popular afternoon TV show from 1945 to 1969, House Party, and on it was a segment called Kids Say The Darndest Things. A few kids sitting at attention on the stage (as kids in the 5Os were trained to do) would field Art’s questions about everything from their parents to politics, and they’d invariably make funny, clever and insightful comments. Kids have unnerving observational skills, and, without filters, they don’t hesitate to speak their minds and unleash their creativity. (more…)

Why Mother-Daughter Relationships Change

As a high school freshman, I’d sneak out of the house to make out with my 11th grade boyfriend in Manhattan’s Central Park. Now, as a recent college graduate, my boyfriend (a different guy) is a frequent topic of discussion and a regular visitor. I let my mom know when I’m planning to spend the night at his apartment, and find myself confiding in her more than I do in my friends, something my high school self never would have imagined. 

What’s changed in these last eight years to make stealthy getaways and off-limit topics things of the past?

I went straight to the source, my mom, to find out. “I now consider our times together as shared experiences vs. teachable moments, when I could give you perspective and values,” she told me. “At this point, I think you’ve demonstrated that you know them, so I don’t need to sit around ‘teaching’ you now, which is kind of liberating for me. You also have become my go-to person for advice on everything from sample sale shopping to book recommendations and the college application process for your younger brothers.”


Like me, mom revealed she’s been giving our relationship a great deal of thought.

Her friends have told her they’re committed to cultivating ‘best friend’ relationships with their daughters, but, previously, that didn’t feel quite right to her. I decided to find out for myself if other mothers had indeed made the transition from policewoman to pal. (more…)

Do You Know A Great Guy For Her Successful, Single Daughter?

“Do you still help set people up on your website?” asked the woman who called me one fine afternoon recently as I was driving to an appointment. She was referring to the FabOverFifty section we launched in 2010, called Date My Single Kid, created to help members of our community set up their single “kids.” (more…)

Do You Believe You Should Have The Right To Die?

When my former father-in-law was bedridden with congestive heart failure, at 96, he asked his son (my ex) to help him end his life. Douglas contacted the Hemlock Society, a national right-to-die organization founded in 1980, to get  a blueprint on how to carry out his father’s wishes. Douglas then asked if I’d be there while he did the deed. I said “yes,” despite the fact that it made me terrifically apprehensive (as it did him.)

Douglas’ father, unbeknownst to me and Douglas, told his nurse about the plan; thankfully, the nurse wrote an email to his boss about it and copied Douglas. I say thankfully because if we had actually gone ahead with the plan, and then someone reported what we had done, we would have been charged with homicide.  

I would not be a model prisoner, nor would Douglas. (more…)

A Wave Of Sadness Swept Over Me When I Saw Her

A woman who was my best friend for about 20 years is dying. We haven’t been pals for the last 20 years because we simply “grew apart,” but I did invite her to dinner a few years ago, and we spent a couple of hours catching up on our kids, our jobs, and our partners.

leadimage

When she walked out, I sensed we wouldn’t see each other again, but I surely didn’t think the reason would be her serious illness. She hadn’t told me that she had breast cancer years ago; I learned about it from a mutual acquaintance, and that it had returned and spread.

Then, one afternoon when David and I were walking past her apartment with dog Rigby (L lives 4 blocks away),  I saw her husband and two sons lifting her, in a wheelchair, into a taxi.  A wave of sadness swept over me. I remembered how beautiful and lively she was when we met in our twenties, her blond straight hair the complete opposite of my dark curly hair; her deep blue eyes and porcelain skin stark contrasts to my brown eyes and olive skin.

We were opposite in more ways than our looks: She was always late; I was always early. She dressed impeccably in expensive designer duds; I threw things together. She labored over every word she wrote. I churned out copy a mile a minute. She had to associate with the ‘in’ crowd.  The cool contingent usually looked at me as an outsider. We nevertheless ‘entertained’ each other in ways no one else could.  I found it amusing going to dinner at her house and being served by a housekeeper. I loved getting her older son’s handmedowns for my son. She once told me, ‘I don’t have to go the the theatre when I have you as my friend.’ (more…)

Beautiful Ways To Show Your Grandkids How Much You Love Them

Ever since I became “Grandma Muffin,” three years ago, I find it challenging to choose gifts for my grandson Primo. Does he already have this toy or book?  Is he too young for this bike or too old for that stuffed animal? What size shorts does he wear now? Will he look good in navy?  I know I’ve struck out on at least a couple of occasions!

leadWhen I received a call from the website Deserves.com, I thought these people have come up with an ingenious way to make gift-giving to grandchildren fun, easy and foolproof. Deserves puts together collections of meaningful and unique treasures for grandmas and grandpas to give their granddaughters and grandsons, on birthdays, for holidays, or simply to surprise them.

These are gifts with staying power, real staying power, not something they’ll enjoy for a few hours or weeks and then relegate to the bottom of the toy bin or left to gather dust under the bed.  I’ve chosen two pieces that your grandchildren would be sure to keep close to their hearts 24/7. And the prices are really, really reasonable!

“I love you a bushel and a peck” necklace
"My Granddaughter, I Love You to the Moon and Back" necklace
Even if you’ve never sang the song to her, your granddaughter will cherish your beautiful message of love expressed on this exclusive necklace. The 18-inch adjustable chain and the charming pendant and heart are made of platinum-plated brass.

  (more…)