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What kind of sandwich are you?

One of my favorite topics that I’ve blogged about is the sandwich generation. I am blessed to have my mother and mother-in-law in my life as well as my children and grandchildren. That’s four generations right there. I constantly vacillate between being a daughter/daughter-in-law to my mom/mom-in-law and a mom/mom-in-law to my own children. And so it goes.

Today we have a guest poster, Fay Wein, from Senior Planning Services, who comes with loads of knowledge on the topic of sandwich generations, caregiving and elderly parents. I welcome you to read Fay’s article below and feel free to comment below the post.

Sandwich Generation Vexations

Introduction: There is almost nothing as stressful as caring for elderly parents while at the same time raising your own children. Being pulled in all different direction daily can get anyone frazzled. At the same time, the altruism and strong multi-generational relationships fostered cannot be understated. This topic is multi-faceted and we’d like to touch on some of the most common issues.

What is the sandwich generation? This is the generation stuck between the old generation and the new one. You’re like the monkey in the middle doing all the catching and dodging. To get a good laugh on this phenomenon called “The Sandwich Generation”, click here.

Why all the rage about the sandwich generation all of a sudden? 44% of 45-55 year-olds have at least one living parent and one child under age 21, according to an AARP study. More than 65 million Americans provide an average of 20 hours per week of care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly loved one during any given year. For more stats, click here.

What are the benefits of the sandwich generation? July has been established as the Sandwich Generation Awareness Month to honor the heroes who truly go above and beyond the call of duty to both nurture the future generation and honor the past. One survey found that 23% of multi-generational care providers would consider leaving their job altogether and a further 31% would reduce their hours. Despite the hardships endured, many of the respondents affirmed that the experience was highly rewarding for their children as well as for themselves.

What are the primary vexations the sandwich generation has to deal with?

  • Proving care for an elderly parent. Caring for an elderly parent, the ultimate form of giving back, is a familiar phenomenon in today’s America. Caregiver stress is all too common. Caregivers need to give themselves the care they require and ask for help in order to cope. Many find that the day is not long enough for their endless obligations.
  • Being there for your child. One sandwich generation mom related to me about the time she was caring for her dad who had broken his hip when the phone rang and it was her teenagers’ principal on the line. He wanted her to come and pick up her son who was being suspended from school! Juggling everything is no easy matter.
  • Financial support. Almost 50% of Americans 55 and older say they would to provide financial support for their elderly parents and adult children, according to the Retirement Re-Set study by SunAmerica Financial Group and Age Wave, a research group that tracks the cultural and financial impact of the graying of America.
  • Medicaid planning. When faced with the decision of placing a loved one into an assisted living or nursing home facility, Medicaid planning is called for. Without proper knowledge and planning, the rules and regulations of Institutional Medicaid and Global Options can literally be a maze and the eligibility process is all but simple. Many times a Medicaid planning and consulting company may be needed to guide one through this procedure and plan the “spend down”. This so called “spend-down” is managing your asset so you can help bring your resources below the Medicaid threshold. For more info, click here.

Conclusion: This phenomenon, “The Sandwich Generation”, seems like it’s the new trend and is here to stay, according to studies. Being aware of the upside and downside of this unique situation can help an individual better prepare for it and receive the proper guidance needed.

Fay D. Wein is a content and communications specialist at Senior Planning Services, an industry leader in guiding seniors and their families through the Medicaid maze, servicing NY, NJ, CT and PA. She loves cooking, blogging and spending time with her family.

Playing the Name Game



Yesterday at the bris of  our grandson, after the mohel performed the ritual circumcision, we heard the name  announced.

The naming of Jewish babies is performed at the bris which is on the 8th day of the baby’s life.

Our son and dil named their child after my father-in-law.

One of the first decisions parents make when they have a child is the name. For each of our children, we made that decision, and now it was our own children’s turns. The parents decide what to name the child, put it on the birth certificate and keep it secret ( barring some leaking and hinting) from everyone else until the naming at the Bris.

But throughout that time, there is sometimes  a temptation for the grandparents (that would be me!) , i.e. the  parents of the adult children (me again!!)  to drop hints with opinions about what they think the name should be. Ahem! Obviously, this kind of commenting can add to the tension that is already in place when a new baby is born.

Me, I may have a big mouth regarding many topics, but regarding in-laws and names, I have to say I’m  pretty cool about it.  My motto has been for the past seven years since I became a Grandmother (can’t believe my oldest grandson is already in 2nd grade!)  and mother-in-law (to 3 wonderful young ladies)  is to refrain from interfering – especially regarding names (and plenty other things too!)


Truthfully, I believe that it is really none of my business to mix in to this decision. That’s one fo the many things I talk about on my blog and on my in-law website. I also discuss in-law relationship topics in my Grandmother book, which was published two years ago.  This kind of self-control is  all part and parcel of dealing with children-in-law in a positive manner.

So when our children had another baby boy last week, I tossed aside my expectations.

In our Jewish tradition, we often name after a family members. While Sephardic families name after the living, we, as Ashkenazik Jews have the custom of naming after the deceased.

Some background:

You see, my husband’s father had passed away almost 14 years ago, and none of our 4 other grandsons, ages 2 through 7 – has his name. One of my daughters’in-law’s own father has the same name as my father-in-law, so they consider it superstitious to use a name when her own father is still alive and well. And my other daughter-in-law named her first two children after her own grandfather and father, who recently died.

Come on, it’s been 14 years. I wanted my husband to have the pleasure of a little guy named for his father.

And at the rate we were going with boys in our family, I figured the next one will get my father’s name. So I could see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, it would be nice to have the little guy named after my dad. But on the other hand, I could understand the need to honor my father-in-law’s name.

So…when they named the baby today and called out his name, I thought:  How apropos!


All we want is Shalom - Peace!

All we want is Shalom – Peace!


Me? The one who preaches about being a nice mother-in-law? No way.  I understood. To me, the peace and love in a family that understands and respects the adult children’s decisions is more importatnt than what name is chosen.

I consider myself blessed to have children who thought things through  about what would be the most correct thing to do. They wanted to do something that would provide me comfort soon after my father’s passing, but yet they wanted to honor my father-in-law’s memory as well.

In the end, they chose well.

They chose the name that was meaningful for my mother-in-law who is still going strong at 94, and for my mother, who gave her blessing to them to do what they felt comfortable doing. (as my mom said, “My husband was one to give in to others, so it’s fitting that this was the choice…”)

I only hope the peace in our family will spread to peace in the world. We REALLY  need it.

Photos – courtesy of

Lessons from My Father


My father, Mr. Alfred (Shalom) Stern, passed away three weeks ago at the age of 88  in Brooklyn, in his home. He is survived by my mother, may she live and be well, 6 of us children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. (The photo shown was taken circa 1949).

Dad was born in 1926 in Antwerp, Belgium and traveled through France, Portugal, and Cuba to the U.S. from 1940 to 1943. They arrived in NY in January, 1943, and my father attended Torah Vodaath Yeshiva — Jewish High School and post high school  (“Yeshiva“) at that time, followed by Brooklyn College and Columbia University. In 1949, he married my mother.

Over the past weeks, I have been thinking about all the things I want to write about my Daddy, who was my children’s Opi (grandpa in German). I thought of all the lessons – both book learning and life skills – that my siblings and I learned. During the shiva (7 days of traditional mourning in Judaism), we kept going over and over these concepts that I just had to put them down in one place. I’m not sure that I practice all my father’s lessons 100 % all the time, but they are on my mind as I trek through my daily life.  Even if I’m not as perfect in inculcating these lessons, I am very much aware of them.

  1. Life is full of disappointments. When one of us would complain about something that wasn’t going the way we wanted, rather than lecture to us about learning to deal with the bumps of life, my father simply stated that phrase, often with a wink and a smile (because it was so old already).  It became kind of a joke between us and we would giggle at it and say, “Ya, ya…whatever..” but would know that my father a) sympathized with us b) was reminding us of a lesson. Interestingly, he didn’t throw in a long speech of how to handle the diappointment. That, he left for us to figure out.

  2. Everything in its place and a place for everything. A master of organization, my dad had a desk whose contents would rival Staples. No wonder we came to him for replacing lost pencils (that was me!), or lost scissors (that was my sister, the artist), or missing rubber bands (my brothers.).  Ditto for his red pens, blue pens, and black pens that he used for his accounting books. My father had a business and did his own bookkeeping. His organization was a tough act to follow. But we try!

  3. The teacher is always right.This may have been a by product of our generation, but I believe that many of the parents in my generation of baby boomer kids believed that teachers were perfect and incapable of poor judgement. Thus, if I complained about a mean teacher, my parents wanted to know what the students did to trigger it. It may be that behind my back, my parents did advocate for me to the teacher, but to us, he always maintained that united front with the teachers. Looking back, I believe that although I felt somewhat frustrated at his strong stance at the time,  I did have  that respect for authority because of my father’s strict attitude. I believe that I passed that down (with some tempering) to my children in my own parenting skills, as I always insisted on my kids respecting their elders and teachers. As my husband likes to joke to our kids, “Rule Number 1: The Teacher is always right. Rule Number 2: If teacher is wrong, refer to rule number 1.”

4. Make the garbage compact.  No, we didn’t have a trash compactor in our 1960’s style kitchen, but still my father was very conscientious about getting the trash to fit into the grey tin cans that were ubiquitous in our Brooklyn street. I have visions of my father pushing the trash down, so as not to waste space.

  1. Follow your passion and study hard. My father believed in hard work, and modeled that to us in his every act. Whether he was learning Torah, going to work in his jewelry business, or raising funds for the high school we attended, he did everything thoroughly. He expected each of us to follow our school studies and was supportive of our outside projects, to the point that he and my mom didn’t mind if we were out at a friend studying late, or at a school function. Our father was our cheerleader, whether he was rooting for two of my sisters’ artistic and haircutting talents, to my writing and musical interests, to my other sister’s acting hobbies, and my brothers’ athletic goals with their friends, and pursuing their intellectual and rabbinic studies

  2. Respect your mother. If we said or did anything against our mother, we were reprimanded big time by my father. It was a “wait till your father gets home” moment for us. My father was more particular about our respect for our mother than for himself. Although one of my sisters claims she got away with murder (her confession at the shiva), the others and myself claim that Dad would give it to us if we were “fresh.” (the popular term in those days for rude).

  3. Do loving acts of kindness. This was something modeled by my mother over the years, and my father would encourage and praise her deeds in front of us. Our home was open to all kinds of guests who needed a place to stay when visiting our neighborhood. Since we had a large home, my mother was happy to host people. Often, my mother drove people to hospitals in Manhattan – those who were too weak to drive themselves – for treatment for various illnesses. My father and mother had that kind of home, and stressed to us that it is the way to live. I try to emulate their ways in my own life.

  4. Take good care of yourself and do what’s right. As much as my dad was a man of few words, (my mother and sisters did most of the talking!), he did give me a lecture one time when I got into trouble in school. I think the issue was that the class was doing some shtick on the teacher, and I followed along. My father gave me a speech about taking care of myself and not following the pack or the crowd, if I know what’s right for myself. My father was a big believer in standing strong for what’s right – even if everyone else is doing something nutty.  (One big speech we got – “Just because everyone is jumping off the Empire State Building, doesn’t mean you have to!”)

  5. The chickens come home to roost.  This was said in the same manner as “life is full of disappointments,” except the scenario was different. In the chickens scenario, we were usually suffering a consequence of bad planning or poor organization. So, the message in that simple statement was “hey, you made your bed, now sleep in it…” but somehow “the chickens come home to roost” was gentler and cuter than the former one about making one’s bed. Just as my father was into accepting disappointments that are beyond our control, he was into dealing with natural consequences of something sloppy that we did.

  6. Write things down. Make lists. My father was a firm believer in making lists, both for what you have to do and what you delegate to others. My father often delegated chores to us, and put them down in writing. Also, he took copious notes when he attended classes given by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, his guide in Jewish analysis and “lomdus.”  I learned from my father to underline and highlight when reading material in books and to take notes for later use.

  7. Look it up. My father was a lover of words. He spoke 7 languages, partly because he lived in several countries when escaping Europe during WW II, and partly because he was interested in languages and books. When my father would use what we felt was a “fancy” word, he would not translate it for us, but would say, “Look it up.” That meant we had to go find the unabridged dictionary in his study and look up said word. (Most of the time, we didn’t necessarily do it that minute, but it made an impression on us to expand our vocabulary and appreciate nuances of different words!)

There you have it. 11 things I learned from my father. As I go through my days in these weeks after his passing, I often think, “what would Daddy say?” or “what would Opi say?” and suddenly I feel an answer come to my mind. It’s very comforting for me to have these lessons as anchors to hold onto. By heeding these lessons of discipline and love in my daily life, I believe I am honoring my father’s memory, and carrying on the message to the next generation who observes me.

“To Fill the Sky With Stars” – A Book Review


Imagine having a group of women whom you admire – bloggers, writers, mentors, wives of rabbis, teachers, authors — all sitting in the same room and sharing their struggles and triumphs. I felt as if I had that group in my living room when I read my copy of Miriam Liebermann’s new anthology, To Fill the Sky with Stars: Women Explore Their Midlife Challenges and Triumphs. (Menucha Publishers, 2014).  The writers in the book span the entire spectrum of intellectuals and mentors in the orthodox community. Chanie Juravel, Dr. Miriam AdahanSarah Shapiro, Rebecca Feldbaum, Libi Astaire, Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, and  Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz are a few names amongst the more than 60 writers featured.

When Miriam Liebermann asked me to contribute to her second anthology,  To Fill the Sky with Stars: Women Explore Their Midlife Challenges and Triumphs, I felt honored to be included amongst the “real” experts, some of my genuine role models.  I had read Miriam’s previously published book The Best Is Yet To Be, (Targum Press, 2011).  When Miriam compiled and edited that anthology, she was a pioneer in the topic of empty nest, women in midlife, and grandmother-hood musings, especially in the Orthodox Jewish world . I loved those stories, finding strength and honesty in the words of women who admit to being frustrated and sad about this new time in their lives, and taking that strength to start new careers and hobbies.

To Fill the Sky with Stars   takes the topics explored in her first anthology to another level.  We are past feeling the angst of empty nest. We already know we’ve been there and done that with  the child bearing stage. There’s less of the ambivalence every time we see someone who is expecting a child, or with a small child. (I’m talking about myself here!). There is the acceptance and contentment at this point, and rather than fight the reality, we now embrace it.

Embracing the reality of midlife challenges means tackling them head on. One women describes her struggle  while being caregiver for her elder mother who showed signs of dementia. Every time Mom yelled at her and ranted on and on in irrational ways, the daughter was faced with the sadness of watching her mother deteriorate before her eyes. And then her mom would have a flash of common sense and express something completely normal. The writer smiled at those moments. I felt for this woman who did not show herself to be a martyr but rather a normal human being facing the inevitable story of life.

The book is divided into various themes, as they relate to women in the midlife stage. Themes include:  Parenting adult children, caring for elderly parents, embracing new roles, connecting with a Higher Power, friendships, reinventing ourselves with new careers and hobbies, marriage, health issues and tips, loneliness, and death and dying are included. All sections have an overview written by Miriam Liebermann, giving the reader rich insights and interesting points of view. In addition, Miriam’s own stories are featured throughout the book in various sections.

One of my favorite stories is by a writer who describes her perceptions of being unloved by her mother her entire childhood. During her childhood, the narrator felt  that  she was being dismissed and misunderstood.  After  her mother died, she comes across some important things  while cleaning up her mother’s  house. She realizes that all along her mother did get her on some level, and that discovery and knowledge brings her peace and closure. So many of us have strained relationships with our mothers during our lives, and this story shows how often those feelings – real or imagined — can be resolved in some way.

To Fill the Sky with Stars is a smooth read, albeit long. The poetry is interesting, although I prefer the stories.  The book can be read in bits and pieces, as the stories are short and separate. 490 pages. Sold in Judaica books stores, on Amazon and on the publisher’s website.


Mazel Tov! It’s another….DIL!

I have not been posting or writing for the past few weeks, because things got really busy and exciting in our household. And since it’s really hard for me to stay away from blogging, I’ve finally broken my abstinence to appear here on these pages and share with you the reason for the excitement in the Hendeles home.

Our son became engaged! (did you figure it out from the headline??). Seriously, my husband and I now have another (#3 so far! – Thank G-d), daughter-in-law, or DIL as I’ve referred to these lovely girls who have joined our family the past six or seven years.

This post is dedicated to my DIL’s – including the newest one, who put up with me in the following ways:

1. They put up with me, or more specifically, they put up with the fact that I write about my experiences as a MIL. True, they have no choice (sort of), and although I let them see material that is particularly about them (which is very rare), it still has to be pretty hard for a DIL to know that every time her little toddler son spills his milk, her MIL will write a lesson and moral about that event.

2. They put up with our (my husband and my) sons, and even more so, they treasure them. It’s quite humbling to realize that the effort one puts into raising children really pays off as all the things that we thought were irresistible (and even the stuff we didn’t find so irresistible…) in our children, are also endearing to someone else!

3. They merge so seamlessly into our family and extended family, that it almost feels as if we’ve known them for so many years.

For this and so much more, I’m feeling blesses to have this young couple (and of course the others!) in our lives.

Mazel tov, and may all of us share happy occasions in our families…..

The Middle Holiday Syndrome

Recently, I read an article about how Chanukah has become “merchandised” and “Christmasized.” The blogger, Nina Badzin, describes Chanukah as a relatively to-the-point holiday where we eat potato pancakes and donuts, give presents, light the menorah, sing beautiful songs, and say some special prayers. In her article she expresses how she cherishes Chanukah. And she observes with some displeasure,  that these days, folks (mostly stores and businesses)  tend to over-sensationalize the holiday with extra decorations and fussy products,  as if to “compete” with Christmas.

I agree with Nina. I don’t like competition.  I – as a Jewish person and as a women — like to be myself, do my own thing, what I know and believe to be correct, and do it all as best as I can.

You see, I am a Middle Child. There’s my confession. Continue reading

12 Defenses in Favor of Jury Duty


Several weeks ago, I had Jury Duty. Now, while many people try really hard to get out of their civil obligation to show up for jury duty when called, I did not. In fact, not only did I not try to get out of it –beyond the postponing of it several times until it was a week when it was not inconvenient — I actually was hoping secretly that I would be accepted by the court.

I don’t have little kids at home, I have a job that allows me flexibility and time off for Jury Duty, and I’m a Middle-Ager who loves to do fun things.

Of course, I didn’t tell anyone that. By “anyone” – I refer to my friends, relatives, work colleagues, acquaintances and all the people who I bragged to about jury duty. I followed the party line of jury duty goers before me, and bemoaned my obligation.

“Oh well…I have jury duty. What a bummer!” Continue reading

Silver Lining and Positive Thinking

For an addendum  to the previous post on Avigail, I have decided to extend that thought to some positive aspects.

Because there is so much suffering out there in the world, I believe we need to try to find the silver lining in life. We mothers-in-law, grandmothers, middle-agers, empty nesters, Baby Boomers – whatever you are going to call us — must view things with rosy colored spectacles. Now that doesn’t mean we have to be like Pollyanna. No. We see the reality.

Nor does it mean we have to advocate for helicopter parenting and grandparenting.  Nope. Not that either.

But here’s an example: Let’s say we are out somewhere and notice something that a younger mom (you know someone who reminds us of what we were like 25 or 30 years ago?) is doing.

Now suppose that behavior is not something we think we would have done when we were that age. Or for sure, we wouldn’t do it now. And double for sure – we wouldn’t want our own children to do it.

What do we say or do?

To find out about seeing the silver lining, read today’s post on Rivki Silver’s blog “Life in the Married Lane.” Enjoy!

Helicopter Grandparents

We’ve all heard about helicopter mothers, the moms you see in the soccer field cheering their kids on from the stands, and if said kids do not happen to be on the winning team, these moms get very upset.

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down...Be Careful....

Hovering Grandparents Swooping Down…Be Careful….

Helicopter Moms  —  coined by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, have  received a bad rap – and for good reason. These parents hover just above their kids’ heads (and hearts), watching their kids’ every move, and basically living their own life  through that of  their suffocating and frustrated children.

But what about Helicopter Grandparents? How do they fit into the picture? Do Helicopter Moms (and Dads) who are unchecked (and haven’t worked on themselves to undo their annoying helicopter behaviors) grow up to become Helicopter Grandparents?

Continue reading

Grandmother Prioritizing (and pacing too!)

If you were a fly on the wall during a discussion between another “proud grandmother” (pg) and me, this is what you would have heard:

Other PG –  It’s so funny – I find that even though my kids are grown, and mostly out of the house – I have NO time for anything. Continue reading

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