The song “I’ll be Home for Christmas (if Only in my Dreams)” always brings a tear to my eyes. The song is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during WWII, and it initially was rejected by the music industry for being so sad. Bing Crosby recorded it in 1943 and scored a top ten hit, and the melancholy tune remains a Christmas tradition, especially for families missing loved ones.
Every year, thousands of American families will have an empty chair at their holiday table. Some families will leave up their trees with presents wrapped until their loved one comes home. Over the years, family members waved bravely as their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives boarded airplanes to begin their deployment overseas with the US military. Many family members promised their soldiers that they wouldn’t cry…
My son Harrison joined the Army a year and a half ago, at age 19, after his brother left for the Marine Corps, at age 18, in 2011. Our holidays have been incomplete every year with one of the boys always on deployment, for the past six years.
Through their active duty, I have learned how to cope with my own anxiety while offering them positive reinforcement and support. Here are a few suggestions to help families endure the long months of separation:
• Utilize the family services provided by the military; there are many web sites full of useful information about our military personnel. Examples include: Military Family Network at www.emilitary.org and Military One Source at[NG1] www.militaryonesource.mil . Most of the units have their own Facebook pages and groups where you can find photos and important dates. Remember you are not alone, and thousands of families have loved ones stationed overseas.
• Regular contact is essential for our morale at home and theirs overseas. Most of the troops have access to email, but a handwritten letter from home is always welcomed. It’s not easy to get through on the telephone, so try to arrange, in advance, the best time for your soldier or Marine to call.
• Remember special occasions, such as birthdays and special anniversaries. It’s important to mail months in advance if you want to ensure the package arrives by a certain time. Check with your loved one’s unit, they usually have important shipping timelines available.
• Troops always appreciate a package of homemade cookies. Treats for Troops is another great Halloween option at www.soldiersangels.org/treatsfortroops. Pack them in protective padding and throw in several pairs of new socks for extra cushion.
• Don’t criticize military conflicts to your soldier overseas. While many Americans are quick to judge the war efforts, don’t let that criticism get to your family member.
• Tune into their emotions as much as you can. It’s a national tragedy that so many returning veterans commit suicide or suffer from other physical, mental, and financial problems.
• Don’t panic if you haven’t heard from them!!! They are often busy and unable to make contact for lengthy periods of time. Stay and strong and busy.
• Final caution: I once made the mistake of crying when my son called; he had been stationed in a dangerous area. He didn’t call again for a long time, and eventually told me I hadn’t helped his situation acting distraught and emotional. Be concerned but not hysterical, and try to end all conversation on a positive, loving note.
During this busy holiday season, keep in mind the sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, spouses and others who are part of a military organization attempting to bring peace to the world. Having a loved one in the military during the holidays encourages us to focus our priorities on more important issues and not get caught up in the holiday hype. This year we’ll continue the tradition of lighting candles and offering prayers for the safe return for the thousands of military members who serve for our freedom. Someday they will return home, remove the yellow ribbons, and take their seat at the table.
As both my son’s have promised me, “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
Divorce is unquestionably one of the most stressful events anyone can experience. Life as you have known it is dramatically and irrevocably altered. Your world may feel like it has stopped spinning or maybe like it is spinning out of control. Fundamental, foundational aspects of your existence—things you may have taken for granted—must be re-evaluated, negotiated, and ultimately may be determined by a third party.
Whether it’s where you live, custody arrangements for children or pets, the division of assets, earnings and memories, or just the fracture of a relationship you expected to last forever, all of these issues are life-altering. When dealing with the dissolution of so many of the certainties you once depended upon, it's easy to move into a place of constant anxiety… becoming paralyzed with ambivalence. This places an unhealthy, unsustainable amount of stress on your mind and body.
The first step toward healing is actually to take a step back. Try to get perspective on the situation. Slow down, give yourself time, and look for ways you can care for you. Over time, fears and apprehensions begin to dissipate, and confidence begins to grow. Life moves forward.
Here are some strategies that I adopted—and the ones I know made all the difference in seeing me through to my own new beginning:
It might sound cliché, but that's because it works. Truly, the best way I have found to relieve stress is through exercise. Whether it’s hot yoga, running or cycling, a workout with a friend, or kickboxing to relieve anxiety and release aggression, I came to depend upon a combination of the adrenaline rush of an all-consuming workout and the meditative inward yoga practices. But what works for me might not work for you. If those high-intensity workouts don't do it for you, try going on a hike or even a walk. Getting out and moving around is beneficial to both mental and physical health—and you get added benefits from doing it outdoors.
Exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which fight stress, minimize the discomfort of the exercise, block feelings of pain (physical and emotional), and are even associated with feelings of euphoria. Exercise and yoga made all the difference in my journey to the mindset of resilience I needed to make it through my divorce and beyond.
It’s important to commit to investing time into taking care of yourself. I could've languished in bed, depressed, when I was in the throes of my divorce, and I did for a time, but I quickly chose instead to discipline myself to fill my empty hours with things that nourish me—mind, body, and soul. I still make time for a workout every day because it clears my mind and gets me ready for the challenges I will face—both personally and professionally. A recent study from Harvard Medical School even shows that exercise improves memory and critical-thinking skills. Make sure, even during the most hectic of days, you set aside some time to focus on yourself and your well-being.
3. Get uncomfortable. (You won't regret it.)
Once you've boosted your resilience through exercise and nurtured your internal balance with self-care, challenge yourself to take on a new endeavor. Learn to cook; travel to a country you've always had an interest in; take ballroom dancing classes. It’s been proven that people who engage in new activities are more likely to focus more on the positive aspects of their life.
“Though it may feel unfamiliar—and maybe even a little uncomfortable—you'll experience incredibly positive feelings if you stick with it. Our minds and bodies are connected. When you take care of your body, your mind benefits, and vice versa. Ultimately, when you feel good about yourself, you’re able to be stronger for others in your life—as a parent, friend, sibling, or partner. Life—especially in the midst of divorce—is undoubtedly difficult. But for exactly that reason, it becomes more important than ever that we put our best, strongest selves forward to face the challenges before us”.
LIVE A BROWN DOG LIFE
The Sober Season...
In the past, if someone said they were "sober," it usually meant they were “on the wagon”… a recovering alcoholic. But over the past few years, a noticeable shift has started to occur toward sobriety. Americans have put more and more focus on health and wellness. Drinking habits will be the next frontier to be conquered.
In the last year especially, helmed by several wellness influencers, the sobriety movement has presented itself as one of the top solutions for the growing dissatisfaction we have with our lack of authentic, genuine connections and/or careers that don't challenge, energize and inspire us. Included in our quest to gain a better sense of self and quality of life is the ever-present deleterious effects of alcohol on the body and mind. According to Dr. Mark Hyman in his book, The UltraMind Solution, “alcohol damages the liver and prevents it from excreting excess estrogen… a factor that influences hormonal imbalance. Men who drink too much literally grow breasts along with their beer bellies!” This raises the question as to whether or not one may drink and still take an effective approach to dieting and wellness.
Biet Simkin, Founder of Center of the Cyclone, a musician and meditation expert, believes substances actually disconnect us from our true selves, making sobriety not just beneficial but actually a prerequisite to finding and fulfilling our purpose. "Having explored alcohol and drugs in some depth myself, I know that they don't propagate intentional living. When substances get involved, the experience you have tends to get farther and farther from the experience you intended to have." So, what does she say to people who think they need "liquid courage" to be honest—for whom alcohol is a means of facilitating intimacy? "Vulnerability requires authenticity, and authenticity requires vulnerability. Neither of these outcomes is encouraged by the crutch of substances."
The popularity of alcohol-free get togethers is growing, and in 2017, we will see even more of a shift toward mindful interactions and refreshing alternatives to booze. Cities like LA and NYC are already gaining momentum, propelled by cutting-edge and trendy watering holes and restaurants eager to catch the wave. In New York, high-end bar and eatery, The Nomad Hotel, has added a selection of nonalcoholic drinks referred to as “Mocktails”, to their cocktail menu. Farm-to-table restaurant, Riverpark, is offering Temperance Coolers, inspired by and composed of local, seasonal ingredients—just like everything else on the menu. But this isn't just an East Coast thing…
On the West Coast, in San Francisco and Oakland, microbreweries like Copenhagen-based Mikkeller are starting to cater to the connoisseur who wants to enjoy the experience and taste of a well-crafted beer without the buzz. Mikkeller's “Drink'in The Sun 13” rates at just 0.26 ABV, but features flavors as rich and diverse as lemon, grapefruit, peach, and apricot. At the same alcohol level, “Drink'in The Snow” gives you a holiday flavor profile complete with clove, coriander, and orange.
In 2017, we will see the availability and variety of nonalcoholic options continue to grow even more. Along with the increase in options, we can expect our choices to become more intentional and better integrated with our long-term dreams, goals and life purpose. Ruari Fairbairns, Founder of the alcohol-free movement “One Year No Beer”, has experienced this change personally and has seen it in other converts of the program: "I'd always dreamed of achieving so much, and part of me suspected the booze was holding me back. Now I can say with absolute authority, “The booze was holding you back, mate”.
By: Nicole Celentano Gallagher
live a brown dog life