Category Archives: Uncategorized

When is Old too Old to Drive?

A driver in his mid-nineties was trying to parallel park on a busy street in Palo Alto during the height of the lunchtime hour this week. The driver hit the accelerator instead of the brake and slammed into a pedestrian and four people seated at tables outside of a restaurant. Two of them needed surgery, the others had cuts and bruises. The driver could just as easily have killed them all. The police are calling this a tragic accident and, pending further investigation, don’t plan to file criminal charges.

The DMV requires that the driver take an ’emergency retest’ to see if his license should be taken away. Really? If he passes his retest, will they let him out on the road again? He wasn’t drinking. He could have been doing drugs, perfectly legal drugs that impair his ability to respond quickly, to coordinate his eye, hand and foot movements, to judge distances and inhibit his responses.

Actually, what he was doing is criminal. He shouldn’t have been driving in the first place.  The people he injured may suffer permanent health problems or be disfigured. Our collective insurance rates will rise because his insurance company will have to reimburse the people he injured. If he had killed the five people he injured, their families would have suffered serious consequences.

The Department of Motor Vehicles should draw a line in the sand. No matter how well a 90- year-old sees or how many questions he answers correctly, he’s too old to drive. No matter how sharp his memory or what a good dancer he still is, behind the wheel of a car, he is a potential menace. If he hands in his keys voluntarily, let’s give him a medal. If not, let’s deny him a license.

Ninety is not the new 70. The body and brain that worked well two decades ago isn’t doing so well.   Don’t endanger the rest of us in the name of beating the aging game. If you’re in your 90s, hand in your keys. If your parents are in their 90s, for your sake and theirs, take the keys.It’s time to draw a line in the sand.



Control Freak or Financial Abuser?

I’ve written about this before, but I keep meeting women who can’t tell the difference between a controlling husband and a financially abusive one. Many wives admit to fears they had while they were still engaged. They married anyway, thinking that their husband’s financially controlling behavior would change after the wedding.

Financial control can be a precursor to financially abusive behavior. A husband controls the purse strings, refusing to share financial information with his wife but expecting that she account for every choice and every penny spent.

Many wives suffer in silence, telling themselves that their husband’s controlling behavior is a personality quirk.They may still have access to joint finances, reasonable mobility and buying choices. They may be frustrated by their husband’s attitude and behavior, but they don’t live with a gnawing sense of fear.

Financial abuse is different. It is behavior designed to isolate a woman into a state of  financial dependence and fear. The most important thing to remember about financial abuse is that the abuser is not out of control. He can, at the drop of a hat, change his behavior to suit the social circumstances. He can be charming and persuasive, but his objective is to isolate his partner and make her dependence on him total.He is deliberately choosing to control his partner’s behavior by cutting off her access to money, mobility and choice.

Financial abuse can often lead to physical abuse as well. It happens within all age ranges, educational levels, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels. The rich socialite who lives in the largest house in the best neighborhood is as likely to be a victim of financial abuse as the poorest wife in the toughest section of town.

The thing to remember about financial abuse is that it often precedes emotional, verbal and ultimately physical abuse. Here are some signs to watch out for:

Controlling the finances.

Withholding money or credit cards.

Giving you an allowance.

Making you account for every penny you spend.

Stealing from you or taking your money.

Using your assets for his personal benefit.

Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).

Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.

Sabotaging your job (making you miss work or calling constantly, etc.)

If something about your relationship with your husband or partner scares you and you need to talk, you can get help by contacting the following:

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to

This website lists the numbers and locations of domestic violence hotlines for the 50 states.

You Can Take it With You

I have a photo of a hearse traveling down the highway with a U-Haul hitched behind it. It’s not clear whether the hearse belongs to someone who bought it because hearses have lots of storage space, or whether some departed soul is traveling to his final resting place with all his stuff – a latter day Tutenkamen without the gold.

Can you take it with you?

I shared the photo with my friend, Terri, who complains that her husband Bill is a pack rat who saves everything – even the packaging that everything comes in. Bill is an accountant who likes to know ‘where everything is’. They will be selling their home next year and moving to a smaller place.

Bill is having nightmares of what to keep and what to trash. He wakes up in the midde of the night, worried that he put something from the keep pile into the trash pile. To calm himself, Bill heads for the garage and checks through the piles.

Geri and Bill went to the King Tut exhibit a few years ago. They joked that Tut never had to downsize; he didn’t have to get rid of anything. That’s true, but inside his gorgeous golden mask, Tut looks like any other 3,300 years old skeleton.

Golden Chariot, previously owned hearse, or ABC storage units, even if you could take it with you, what would you do with it?

Five Realities about Marriage

Take off the rose colored glasses and listen up. I apologize for shattering your illusions. However,  if you consider these points with an open mind, your marriage may stand a better chance of surviving.

1. Marriage is not natural behavior. There is no equivalent in nature where either sex of any species mates for life as a result of illusions about their mate. They pair off to propagate the species without benediction or perception of personal future benefit. Neither Uncle Sam nor God care about the words. Uncle Sam only cares about the taxes; God is too busy holding the universe together.

2. Marriage is a choice. Unless you’re being forced into a shotgun wedding or live in an arranged marriage culture, you’re choosing your mate. The behaviors you see during courtship, or don’t see, but believe are there, are part of our human ability to camouflage and fantasize. If you don’t like certain behaviors in a fiancee, you won’t like them any better in a spouse.

3. Marriage doesn’t protect you from anything. Loneliness, disappointment, illness, financial problems, disillusion , parental neglect or daily stress can accompany you right to the altar and beyond. Your spouse is a partner, not your shield against what’s not right in your world.

4. Marriage is a legal and financial responsibility. Once you marry, you’re part of a business partnership that presents a tax opportunity for the government and a financial obligation to your creditors. Love or lack of it isn’t a valid defense against your signature on a contract, mortgage, tax return or lease. Sign it – whatever it is – and you’re as responsible for it as your mate.

5. Marriage isn’t structured to make you happy. It gives you more legal rights than living together, but it’s harder work than people predict. It is an opportunity to be with someone you love, work together with each others’ support and envision a future you can both share.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: Ask not what marriage can do for you. Ask what you can do for your marriage.


Sharing the Final Journey with his Mom

Whether you think tweeting from a hospital bed is an invasion of privacy or not, this journey of a son holding his mother’s hand during her final journey is heartfelt and moving.

NPR’s Scott Simon Tweets From His Mother’s Hospital Bedside

ByDavid Wessel

Will O’Leary
NPR’s Scott Simon

Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, is tweeting from the hospital bedside of his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman Gilband, as she approaches death — and has drawn 1.2 million followers to a moving, occasionally funny and very 21st century chronicle of one of life’s universal experiences, the death of a parent.

One Tweet posted on his feed reads “I am getting a life’s lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?”

I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

ICU seems to be staffed by good, smart young docs who think they know everything, and wise RN’s who really do.
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

When my mother woke briefly I sang her My Best Girl. She replied w/ You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Broadway in the ICU.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

If we only truly realized how little time we have..,
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

Mother asks, “Will this go on forever?” She means pain, dread. “No.” She says, “But we’ll go on forever. You & me.” Yes.

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 28, 2013

Tried to buy coffee for family w/ a mother in ICU too. Barista overheard, refused my card. “Your money’s no good here.”
— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 27, 2013

What is the idea behind deep fried onion rings in a hospital cafeteria?

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 26, 2013

I am getting a life’s lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?

— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 25, 2013


Redefining Husband and Wife

Ellen De Generis has one. So do Rosie O’Donnell, Suze Orman and Meredith Baxter. Before my husband died, I used to be one.  I often dreamed of having one.

With the emergence of same-sex marriage as a legal reality, will we need to find a new word for wife as we did when Ms. entered our life as a substitute for Miss or Mrs?

In a gay marriage, will husband take on a whole new meaning? In a lesbian marriage, who will be the wife?  Is wife a job description? Will a wife take her ‘husband’s name’? Will husband and wife only apply to straight marriages?

It’s very exciting. I think same-sex marriage will change the institution of marriage in ways that will benefit straight marriages. By providing a new model for how two people can live together equitably and create a stable environment for children to flourish, this evolution of marriage may lighten the load of assumptions and stereotypes that create resentment and stress in heterosexual marriages. Without gender stereotypes, marriage may free a couple to shed the burdens of what is male, what is female and focus instead on the partnership that modern marriage can be.

We’re barely at the beginning of this social experiment.  Just as the womens movement redefined marriage, divorce and the role of women in society, same-sex marriage may make the terms ‘husband and wife’ obsolete. Marriage vows that ask “Do you take ____ to be your lawfully wedded partner….. bode well for more egalitarian marriages – and possibly, less divorce.

Talking with a Lawyer

It can feel intimidating to talk to a lawyer. I’ve learned the hard way that if your lawyer can’t explain things to you as if you are a smart 14-year-old, you should find a lawyer who can. A lawyer is supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful.

Credentials count, but this is about more than education and experience . The law is complicated enough; you need someone who can explain things to you in addition to being qualifed to advise you. In the event of divorce, or the death of a spouse, you will be working closely with the lawyer. You want things explained clearly to you because you’ll be emotionally upset. A lawyer’s jargon and lack of ability to communicate clearly will upset you even more.

For example, I couldn’t work with someone who is patronizing. Consulting a lawyer is already an unequal situation. You have a problem. You need a solution. You don’t need someone making you feel even more vulnerable. Many lawyers think that reassuring and protecting a woman is doing her a favor. I call that the ‘Don’t worry about a thing, dear’ attitude that keeps women from being able to make decisions. Many women want their lawyer to take care of everything. I’m not one of them.

I want a lawyer who listens, doesn’t interrupt me, doesn’t flood me with jargon,and shows up on time. I want information, an explanation of options, pitfalls, and costs.

Anyone out there know someone like that?

Intimacy in Marriage and Business

A marriage is like a business that two people who love each other are building together.

People don’t like to think about their marriage as having a business component. It’s called marital finances – MONEY –how much comes in, how much goes out, what it’s spent on and how much is saved. Money, this ‘thing’ we think will take care of itself if only we love each other enough, is a huge factor in breaking up marriages.

There’s no romance or illusion involved in running a business. But there is intimacy – financial intimacy – that makes all the finances transparent for each of the partners. Financial information is shared, discussed and agreed upon. Neither partner commits the other before consulting with them.

Would you hide purchases from a business partner? Would you commit to investments your partner didn’t know about? Would you spend needed capital on something you couldn’t resist and then try to justify it?

People have a double standard when it comes to building a business and building a marriage. That’s too bad. Going into marriage, it’s all about love. Coming out of marriage, it’s all about money.


Divorce as Opening to Friendship

Divorce doesn’t have to be a battleground. What we need is a different frame of reference.

When my first husband and I divorced after 18 years, we realized we were two perfectly fine individuals who just couldn’t make it together. He was a good man; I was a good woman. We grew apart over the years and no longer shared the same values, interests or desires.

No one was to blame. We didn’t have to cast each other in the role of villain. Neither of us was victimized. We shared responsibility for not trying harder to keep our marriage intact. Our children endured the pain of divorce. At the time, neither of us knew how to ease that.

A few years after our divorce, my ex met a woman who is perfect for him. They are still married after 25 years. She was wonderful to our girls, and to me. I liked her and included her in family events.  My second husband liked that we all got along. His ex-wife didn’t think that was all right, so she wasn’t part of our life.

My ex and his wife are still an integral part of our small family. I love them both. It took a while for their friends to understand how exes could remain so close. On the other hand, I don’t understand how people who divorce spend years vilifying and blaming their ex, especially to their children.

When a marriage doesn’t work out, it’s easier to blame than to accept responsibility. Imperfect people with unmet needs marry each other and expect that their mate will make them happy. That’s the subtext in the fine print. I used to believe that too. So maybe the question to ask after divorce is “How did I grow from this experience and what have I learned about myself?”

That’s why the growing trend towards collaborative divorce is so encouraging.

Divorce can be the beginning of friendship. Don’t treat it as the end.

Here Comes the Bride

Hilary Price, a wonderful cartoonist, has a drawing in which a man is kneeling in front of a woman, holding an open jewelry box with an engagement ring. He is saying, “Let’s assume each other’s debt. Trade in our independence for security and societal approval and celebrate with an event that will have cost overruns in the thousands.

I’ve been accused of being cynical, a spoil sport who doesn’t believe in romance. Someone who wants  to take the romance out of weddings. Not so. I want something much more important. I want to put the intimacy back in.

What’s so romantic about starting married life with thousands of dollars in debt due to wedding bills paid for with credit cards? It’s not romantic when bride and groom are still paying off the bride’s perfect wedding as they prepare for the arrival of baby.

It’s not the groom who amasses the cost overruns. All he wants is to get out of there and get on to the honeymoon. But the bride has believed from the time she played Barbie’s Fantasy Wedding that a ‘perfect’ wedding guarantees ‘happily ever after’.

Sometimes that works; more often it doesn’t. How much more loving and mature would this couple be if they traded in romantic thinking about wedding costs for a financially intimate look at what they can really afford?