and Marilyn Kentz
Nancy Alspaugh and
Marilyn Kentz have started a movement. It’s called
"Fearless Aging." In their book, Not Your
Mother’s Midlife: A Ten Step Guide to Fearless Aging,
they encourage women to pull together and face those
things that will naturally come our way in our middle
years with courage and mutual support. The authors are
determined to turn every baby boomer into a boomer babe.
A Boomer Babe is a woman who is proud of who she is at
every age. She is someone who is full of passion and
life, has plenty to say, no longer bothers to care what
others think, loves the word reinvention, is determined
to make the world a better place .... even if she does
keep losing her car keys! Boomer Babes are fearless
women who love life.
This is the beginning of the holiday season. How does
one glide effortlessly through the holidays with
courage? Alspaugh and Kentz say it’s all in the
If you happen to live in a town other than where your
parents live, visiting them during the holidays or on
any other occasion can have an effect on your spirit.
One preparation we almost never do is ready ourselves
for the actual reunion—and all that this event brings
up within our unsuspecting psyche. All too often we pack
unrealistic expectations along with our holiday outfits.
We have put together a guideline for adults when they go
home for a visit.
Here’s Marilyn’s take:
I am an adult woman. I’m vital, creative, and
ageless—until I go back to my mother’s house for the
holidays. It’s the one time I’m forced to look in
the mirror and see another reality. No matter what year—or
century—it happens to be, when I walk up the steps to
that front door I’m fifteen and I’ve just come home
from "tooling town" with some junior boy, and
my mom thinks I’ve been at the library. The spell is
broken when my mother greets me. Who is that elderly
woman? Her house isn’t as spotless as it used to be.
Her chair is too close to the television. She struggles
to walk. And so I take my place in the rank and file of
our family. I’m not a carefree adolescent fibbing
about my whereabouts. I’m an adult woman . . . the
oldest of three, with four adult children of my own and
a worn-out mother. When did the shift happen? When did
my mother become my grandmother? There is no rite of
passage ceremony for this changing of the guard. No one
crowned me Miss Middle Age. But when I really think
about it, it’s been seeping into my con-sciousness
little by little. My eyesight, my memory, my sagging
elbows—some of Mother Nature’s little hints. And
denial doesn’t work out so well when you go back home.
As I walk into the restaurant I stand there a minute
and search for my crazy friends, only to be seated at a
table with some old ladies. Apparently plastic surgery
isn’t a priority back home. Instead of sex and AquaNet,
we talk about our aches and pains, our latest diagnosis,
and our favorite drugs. Everyone has a story of some
kind of loss. There are only two Beatles left. It doesn’t
take long before I’m feeling grateful I still have my
mother. And this other magical thing begins to happen: I
see that I’m not alone. They share my resistance, my
fears, my gratitude, my gray roots. The impetuous teens
are now clever, intuitive, grown women. We reminisce
over aged wine, and the laughter—along with endorphins—begins
to wash away the anxiety. Our laugh lines are well
earned and necessary. I am reminded that without my
support system I’m overwhelmed and lost. Thank God for
Nancy adds this vital message:
The amazing thing about going home for a visit is
that while we have changed and grown (as have our
parents), we somehow forget that we can’t change the
addictions, bad habits, or annoyances of our family
members. Even though we weren’t able to make Dad stop
drinking those eighteen years we lived at home, most of
us think that somehow we can do it now. Wrong! You must
remember that even though you may be educated,
enlightened, and therapized, your parents haven’t
been. So save yourself the energy and heartache and let
go! Here’s a little warning, however—you have to let
go and try not to judge them, but don’t expect them to
let go and not judge you. Remember, you are the one who
is educated, enlightened, and therapized, not them. So
when Mom still gripes about why you don’t do things
her way, why you can’t be the kind of house-wife she
was, why you haven’t produced grandchildren yet, or
any number of things that irritate her, grin and bear
it. The most important realization of all may be that
you can love your parents for who they are and who they
are not. To love them fearlessly and not try to change
them. Try that famous little serenity prayer: "God
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot
change, the courage to change the things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference."
Before going home, whether it’s during the holidays
or for a simple summer visit, do a little mental
preparation and you can turn it into a rich and
satisfying event. These five steps will help you to stay
S—Support system. Make sure you have a good support
system in place—whether it’s with your siblings,
your adult kids, your mate, your cousins, or your old
friends. Take some time to be alone with them so you can
reveal your true feelings and hear theirs.
T—Talk, tolerate, treasure, trust. You might see
your family only occasionally. Why waste that precious
time trying to change someone else or convince them you
are "right"? In the big picture—what does it
really matter? Talk lovingly. Tolerate the differences. Treasure these moments—they will be gone. Trust
that family love will prevail.
R—Respect. Respect your parents for who they are.
Respect their rules—no matter how petty or antiquated
they seem. Respect your siblings. Their life is their
business. Your visit is temporary.
O—Own up to who you are. Acceptance is the key. The
line between who you were and who you are can get
blurred when you visit home. Take stock in the adult
you. Handle the annoyances like an adult.
N—Nonjudgment. Remind yourself not to judge your
parents, and how they chose to parent you through the
years. They raised you in the best way they were capable
of at the time. Nonjudgment applies to not judging
yourself as well. You did the best you could at being
their child. Look to the future, don’t judge the past.
G—Gratitude. If you think about it, there are many
things to be grateful for. Make a list before you leave
and look at it once in a while during your visit.
Excerpt form Not
Your Mother’s Midlfe: A Ten Step Guide to Fearless
Aging (Andrews McMeel) To learn more about the
authors go to www.fearless-aging.com
Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz
are authors of "Not Your Mother's Midlife: A
Ten Step Guide to Fearless Aging." An Emmy Award-winning television veteran, Nancy Alspaugh has produced both network and syndicated shows, among them the long-running NBC talk show Leeza. She also has created programming for celebrities including Cindy Crawford, Richard Simmons, Vicki Lawrence, and John Bradshaw; Marilyn Kentz
is half of the comedy duo "The Mommies," which began as a stage show, then became an NBC sitcom and finally a Showtime Comedy Special. In 1996, Marilyn cohosted the ABC talk show Caryl & Marilyn: Real Friends with the "Mommy" (Caryl Kristensen). She is also the coauthor of
"The Mother Load and To Know Me Is To Love Me." Both authors live near Los Angeles.
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