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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.”




 
 
Browns and greys are perfect colors for many things; brown puppies are adorable, milk chocolate is brown, grey walls in your home are classic and chic, Fifty Shades of Grey sold over one hundred million copies.  But, too much of anything is bad; brown puppies sometimes leave brown messes, milk chocolate can cause unwanted weight gain, the grey walled rooms require pops of color accents, even FSG has a red room.  

February in the northeast can be downright dismal and depressing with the dullness of brown and grey day after day.  It seems like forever since you've felt the warmth of the sun on your face and the “brey days” are turning your grey matter blue.  Holiday bills are high, temperatures are low, and the days are way too short. It is the middle of winter and the winter blues are the only pop of color accenting your browns and greys.

It’s right around this time every year when you start to feel a little bummed. You don't have to wait until Spring to get out of your funk and start smiling again. Here are 9  scientifically proven ways to lift your spirits and ease the winter blues… err browns, greys and blues. 


1. Brighten your environment. When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine. 


2. Eat smarter. Foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. 

3. Simulate dawn. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.


4. Exercise. A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try yoga. to find your inner self and peace.  Yoga is food for the heart and soul.  


5. Tune in. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.  Choose your genre and exercise the  “brey days” away.


6. Plan a vacation. The beach is calling.  Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. 


7. Help others. Spending time at the soup kitchen for the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction. The act of helping others is rewarding and humbling.  


8. Get outside. Spending time outside (even when it's chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.  

9. Reconnect.  Reconnecting with friends and spending time laughing and sharing makes memories that comfort the soul.  This does not mean via social media, but rather Face-2-Face.


Don’t get stuck sitting in your room with grey walls, your adorable chocolate lab puppy and a box of chocolates, while reading FSG… sans a Valentine.  You can always paint your walls orange and adopt another puppy.  Orange is the happiest color!  Or you can wait for Spring… it will be here soon!


 
 
No one told me that life was a game of Musical Chairs...

At a certain age, the music stops and you're left without a chair, i.e. a partner.  If you stand for too long, you will get tired...you will collapse from exhaustion.

In my twenties most people thought I was pretty, smart and happy.  That I could have anyone and anything I wanted.  
I always had a boyfriend, I was a successful ER nurse, living a carefree life.  I was NEVER alone. In my recent marriage, I was very happy with a successful husband and 7 children.  We lived in a beautiful suburban home with a pool, always entertaining friends and family.  We traveled the world!  An amazing and perfect life, until my world crashed down with his infidelity. Since my divorce, I lost a sense of who I am or who I was.  I sometimes do not even believe those times actually ever were. 

I am lonely now, tired of making all the decisions... aching for a human connection.  Still, though, by outward appearances, people assume I am happy and loved.  That surely since I have remained a somewhat attractive, kind and smart woman, I must not be lonely, but I am very lonely and I am struggling to find love and belonging. I am grateful for my children and the love that we share.  It is a different love that I miss.  One they cannot be responsible for. The holidays, especially, can be harsh and unbearable.  All the Christmas music playing, everyone is "dancing", yet there are still no chairs available.  

I have no real friends left.  I have moved a lot and therefore I lost my friends along the way.  My life had revolved around his friends and family, whom I lost when the marriage crumbled. With the busy world we live in, no one has time to stay connected or to make time to foster a new relationship.  
I want to feel loved and give love.  Something I once took for granted, now eludes me...

Left feeling as though shattered is the new state of my being. All the King's Horse and All the King's Men Could Not Put Me Back Together Again.  This in no way means that I am an unlovable person.  There is someone for everyone, right? Where is my accepting someone...my chair?

Musical Chairs.  The music stopped and I did not get a chair.  I was too busy looking for the best and most comfy chair...A chair is a chair...or is it?  Should we be picky and wait for a chair that will hold us for years to come or settle for the folding chair that can collapse and fall away?  I'm exhausted and I can no longer stand.  I need a place to sit and someone to depend on...to support me...to give me rest...to tell me everything will be okay. It used to be that men gave up chairs for women.  This is no longer an option...everyone wants a damn chair!

In my quest to find a chair and find myself, perhaps I should become a maker of chairs.  Really comfy and safe chairs.  

Chairs that play their own music.  Then the music would never stop and I could both dance and have my chair for the occasional support.