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Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz

Fearless Homecoming
Nancy Alspaugh 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 preparation.

Not Your Mother's Midlife by Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz

Fearless Homecoming

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 old girlfriends!

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 STRONG.

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
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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