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 a major life event… that seems to go on for years. The decisions one makes are filled with both immediate and long-term consequences. The aftermath that follows can be traumatizing and have a lasting effect on your overall happiness.
Women and men have different perspectives when it comes to how to handle the daily problems, decisions and demands. This is true too, for future plans. While women rule with emotions and often come from a place of reacting vs. being proactive, men are usually more strategic and end-goal focused. But this too can be only by appearance, when in reality the outcome may be due to the women’s impulsivity and nesting. How do we navigate this very treacherous territory of divorce and avoid the inability to not just survive, but to end up mostly intact and ready for new relationships and a happy life ever after?
Let’s face it, when a divorce starts, there is one home, two people and potentially children. The house cannot be divided down the middle… unless you want to end up with two piles of debris. Should the primary parent, and subsequently the children, remain in the home? Should the other parent have to provide financially for the home he, or she, no longer lives in or should we sell? We often see this alternative in cases where the primary parent is a stay-at-home parent. Often times, the “breadwinner” offers this option, out of guilt. Most of the time, the discussion of the home ultimately surrounds the woman fighting to stay in the home, regardless of whether or not she can financially afford to. Women have a need to nest and thereby stay in the home they built, lovingly decorated and raised their children. It is there sanctuary. The problems with this thinking are many. Women will fight for the home and everything in it and it becomes the source of “winning”. In the end, this ends up being an emotional and psychological mistake. Keeping the home means keeping the memories… all of them… good and bad. Keeping the possessions within the home also keeps the marriage ghosts lingering. This keeps a woman tethered to the past and unable to move on. The man, who wants to sell or keep the home, as well, and then ends up “losing” or succeeding it, actually does better mentally and psychologically. He is also more cognizant about the financial stress of keeping the home. He can replace all the “stuff” and move into a fresh start. This allows him to be free of the past quicker and he is able to find peace. His new place becomes his sanctuary and the woman is high on the hill… in emotional hell, clinging to all her memories and the home she built with him, thus unable to heal and move on. None of this is meant to imply that a man who gives up the house, merely moves on and his past life or his family never existed, it just seems to allow him the ability to compartmentalize and free up his head space without constant reminders of what could have been or used to be. Where women tend to want to hold on to the memories and that is fine on the surface, but deep down it prohibits the healing growth to find a new life.
Another matter to discuss regarding keeping or divorcing the house, is the matter of when one is ready to get rid of the past possessions and move on, whether it be in the house or physically moving to a new place, is the act of discarding all the accumulated “stuff”. Depending on the timing, this too can create old scabs to fall off. Not to mention, the actual physical labor that goes into carry things curbside. In the meantime, the one who moved out, does not have to face these wounds. As a woman who walked into her home and felt the weight of the past on her shoulders, from the marriage 10 years long gone. I was kept in this state of angst, could have, should have, victim role because of all the stuff in the house. The couch, the bed, the holiday decorations, etc. Why didn’t I buy new things, you ask? I simply could not afford to. This was a dollars and cents matter that has had a lasting impact on my psychological well-being. Selling would have been my better choice, possibly ending up with some cash to buy new furnishings.
Pros and Cons in summary:
REASONS TO KEEP THE HOUSE IN YOUR DIVORCE:
§ Chances are, you will have less money when you divorce. If you’re forced to leave the home, you will likely move to smaller, less desirable home.
§ The home is the biggest financial asset for most couples. You walk away from that, you may lose a lot of assets — even if he buys you out.
§ Historically, real estate has been a more stable investment when compared with stocks (recent years being an exception).
§ Because your household income will be lower in the short-term, the tax write offs like mortgage interest and property taxes will be even more valuable post-divorce. Plus, if you were to sell your home, you can likely pocket most or all of the profits tax-free.
§ The emotional reasons to keep the house include providing a measure of stability for you and your kids during a tumultuous time. This includes staying in the same schools and close to friends and neighbors who provided emotional and practical support. This can be a catch-22 and the emotional and memory filled home can also cause more strife and the inability to move on.
However, as previously mentioned, there are lots of very good reasons to let your marital home go — whether to your ex, or to sell it on the market. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in my work, as well as have heard from divorce attorneys, is women’s insistence on keeping the marital home in divorce — to her detriment.
REASONS NOT TO KEEP THE HOUSE IN DIVORCE:
§ You can’t afford it. Accepting that your income is now lower after divorce, and therefore you lifestyle must change, is often very difficult — especially for the lesser-earning spouse, who unfortunately is usually the woman. Going into debt, facing losing that very home you so desperately want to hang on to, and the emotional turmoil that financial stress it induces is just bad news. Don’t.
§ Selling helps you move on. Houses are emotional things. That house likely represented a family and life that you wanted very much to succeed — but things turned out differently. Nothing like new real estate (and furnishings!) to start fresh with your new life, and put your old one behind you.
§ A new home is empowering! Whether you are purchasing a new house or renting a place on your own, moms tell me that doing this solo is one of the most empowering things they’ve ever done.
§ It may even help teach your kids financial responsibility. Because your home is likely your biggest financial asset, you should treat it with as little emotion as possible. Compromising your finances, emotional well-being and good sense for the sake of keeping a house you really like is not a good financial example for your kids.
§ Selling may teach them emotional resistance. Sometimes life sucks! It just does. Divorce is usually like that. But showing a measure of grace, moving on, and making wise decisions for your whole family in the face of difficult times is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids.
So, when it comes time to decide whether or not you “must have” the marital home. Please weigh all the options, most importantly the long-term psychological consequences and whether or not you want to come out healthy and ready to find a new happy ever after without a semi-truck worth of baggage or a mini-Cooper. The women should be very cautious, as in all divorce matters, to not make impulsive and emotional decisions… trust me on this one. The men should make decisions and suggestions with a little more concern for the aftermath and future effects of the full divorce fallout.
Disclaimer: this article does not reflect any gender bias, it is meant for example and discussion topic only and of course, the gender roles may be different in each situation.
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
It has taken me awhile to write this post, as I am still grieving the loss of our Camouflage Girl "Cammie". In fact, I have started and stopped writing several times.
I know everyone thinks their dog is the best, but Cammie was THE best dog ever!
The name of my coaching business is Tactical Brown Dog because of the effect our beautiful, chocolate lab had on our family. She taught us how to live and in her death we will find life. I always had a unique ability to help others with everything from being a good listener to analyzing options, setting goals and holding my friends accountable. Cammie did the same for me. She was my best friend, my ally and my conscience. This led me to my desire to help others... to pay it forward. I became a Life Coach to honor my dog and to make a difference. My passion has turned into a dream with realization. Helping people find focus and direction, while gaining physical benefits... with the help of nature and dogs. If you stay with me on this journey, you will soon see accessories and bags for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to provide research, education and awareness of Lyme Disease and Lyme Nephritis in Dogs... in memory of Cammie.
Cammie was only four years old when she was diagnosed and she "hung on", with A LOT medications and food restrictions, for approximately three months . It was heartbreaking to watch her fight a losing battle. I researched and found a vet who seemed to be the foremost authority on Lyme Nephritis. She was affiliated with Penn Vet. I sent her an
e-mail desperately pleading for her to help our dog. She answered with genuine concern and was willing to listen to our current course of treatment, even though she was on sabbatical, overseas.
Cammie was always happy and loving. She was the most loyal dog I have ever had and she was my best friend. My oldest son, Chamber 1, left for the Marines and I will admit, my life was moving way to fast and I just was not ready for the kids to grow up and out. In my search to find peace and get ahead of the anxiety and heartbreak, we got a puppy. That puppy had many "military related" names before we settled on "Camouflage Girl", Cammie for short. She quickly became the heart and positive energy in our home. While she was always loyal and loving with all of us, my middle son seemed to have a special connection with her. He took her everywhere and she slept in his room. My daughter went away to college and another Chamber of my heart was feeling empty. Chamber number 2 had cracks for some time before she left, because she was always "leaving" in some way. Then my middle son joined the Army. Chamber number 3. There are 4 chambers in the heart and I always say that each of my children represent a chamber. Chamber number 3 was a tipping point, now with greater than a 50% compromise, my heart was really struggling. My once open heart, was slowing emptying. My youngest son, thankfully, is only 10 years old and is still home for a bit. That 4th chamber is full! Cammie was always the constant, with unconditional love. She filled the chambers intermittently when the older kids would be away.
When I woke up one morning in April 2016, and she did not get up with me, I knew something was wrong. As the day went on, she seemed to be more lethargic and not herself. She tried to be a good dog and she would rally to follow any commands. She looked at me with an apathetic and concerned look. I knew in my heart and my gut this was more than just an odd bad day. We went to the vet where she was very quickly diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Damn those deer in the backyard! I had always enjoyed seeing them, as I grew up in Florida and we lived in the "concrete jungle", with no wildlife to be found, with the exception of alligators. Moving to Pennsylvania, I always admired it's picturesque beauty with the changes each season. I was always wide-eyed with amazement when I saw all the deer in our yard. I fed them, in fact. Cammie would chase them... and inevitably always come back after they outran her. We followed the recommendations and she was vaccinated per protocol. How could she get Lyme Disease? I was now beginning to not like the deer. My oldest son had also been diagnosed with Lyme Disease several years back. He recovered without incident, thankfully. The vet told me that the vaccine does not always cover the complete 12 months and that is how dogs can get Lyme Disease even if they are vaccinated. The vet said she came up positive very quickly and that she needed to stay there for a few days to receive IV fluids. I was alone and scared. I didn't want to leave her, but I wanted her to get the care she needed. I left her there and I went home to cry. I feverishly scoured the internet for answers and support. I would visit Cammie 2-3 times a day while she was in the hospital. It was very quickly explained to me that she had a very poor prognosis. She did not have a straight-forward case of Lyme Disease, but rather a very complicated case of Lyme Nephritis. Her kidneys were were failing. My heart was broken. Lyme nephritis is seen in <1–2% of Lyme seropositive dogs, with an average onset at 5–6 years. Labrador and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to this condition.
I became determined to find a cure and that she would beat the odds. Over the next several weeks, she would have good days and bad days. Our days revolved around her medications and diet. She was taking 8 pills each morning and 7 each evening. We researched nutrition and followed every holistic approach that we could. Grandma, the kids and I all would cook her fresh chicken, rice, ground turkey, vegetables, etc. All low sodium, low phosphate, protein was a balancing act, etc. She would not eat the special kidney care dog foods. Her medications were very costly and getting her to take them was definitely a process of trial and error, along with trickery and variation. Cammie was eating better than the rest of the family. She was hungry and was still eating, albeit she became very picky. She became addicted to ice... in particular the crushed ice from Sonic that came in the blue coconut water slushy. She also started to only drink from the toilets, which she had never done. Keeping the lids closed became a new norm. When we would go to the vet to have a urinalysis, I would hold my breath. Some days the vet seemed cautiously optimistic. The Penn Vet tweaked some of her medications and she too was somewhat happy with the days when her BUN and Creatinine levels (kidney function studies) were improving, but overall cautioned me that this disease is fatal and has a poor prognosis. The roller coaster ride was becoming nauseating and dizzying. Sleepless nights from my gripping fear that I would wake to find her unresponsive. She was not alone in this fight! But as the weeks drew on she could not keep anything down, no matter what we tried. On July 22, 2016, she was more lethargic than previous days. She was craving ice water only, but then would not even keep that down. We filled the puppy pool with water to let her have some splash time, which she loved. She climbed in and did circles before lying down. She looked at me with pathetic and heart-wrenching sadness. I knew when this day came, I would just know. But my heart was not ready...
I loved my Cammie and could not imagine our home without her, but I did not want her to suffer. I called the vet and took her in that evening. I still held out hope that she would come home again. It was a very short visit. Our vet was very empathetic and honest that "she was ready" and that her body was shutting down. The decision to put her to sleep was the most difficult decision that I have had to make since my divorce. (I am thankful that my cousin met me at the vet to hold Cammie's paw and support me during this horrible moment).
I could not get up off the floor. This all seemed surreal and unfair. The thought of going home without my best friend, the dog who saw me through my children growing up and out, relationships, anxiety issues, all the losses that have chipped away at me... this was unbearable. It was as if 3/4 of my heart were instantly empty. I sat in my car in the parking lot, sobbing hysterically and unable to breath. After what seemed like forever, I drove home in a fog and could not go inside the house with just a collar and leash. I sat outside on the Adirondack chair, watching cars drive up my street, for what seemed like another forever. My daughter came home with my youngest son. I had a brief moment of peace that I was not alone. Cammie will forever be in our hearts and she will always be the strength that carried me through. She was always there for me. My fears were calmed with Cammie by my side, but now she is gone because of some tiny tick. Ticks Suck!!!!!
Tactical Brown Dog's mission is forever changed and we are committed to donating for research, education and awareness of Lyme Nephritis in Dogs.
My heart seemed to have stop that day, along with Cammie's. I felt paralyzed and unable to move. It became a year of losses that were simply too much to handle. In my concerned search to find myself and my purpose, I have been busy getting my coaching certifications, researching life coaching strategies, planning and executing specific realistic steps, studying human behavior, educating myself on the dog/human connection and dedicating myself to helping others who are feeling "lost", in a unique way that includes fitness, outdoors/nature and our beloved friend, the dog... using the life lessons my dog taught me. Walk and talk "off the leash".
LIVE A BROWN DOG LIFE
"The Universe seeks balance. In seeking balance, our part of the Universe creates everything with two poles. Everything has it's opposite. Like has dislike, black has white, light has dark, hot has cold". -execonn
My best friend and I have known each other for almost 25 years. In all those years we have seen marriages, divorces, babies, countless jobs, etc. In our younger years we were carefee and living in the moment. As we have grown, we have often discussed "the Universe" and whether or not it dictates our paths. We have shared EVERY single corner of our worlds. The one thing I keep questioning: the universe demanding balance. Is it possible that we are two people whose lives are so connected...or, disconnected...that we are living polar opposite lives? We have NEVER both been happy or content at the same time. Like clockwork, if one of our lives starts to be filled with joy and positives, the other's will be taking a downward spiral. How can this be? We are best friends. We support each other through everything. We remind each other to remain positive and work on ourselves constantly. We rejoice in each other's accomplishments and good fortune. But, on some deeper level, we know...We feel the shift in the Universe. It is not a good thing. It is a pull in the wrong direction for one of us, always. If we cease to be friends would we still be the polar opposites? Can we affect the Universe with our mental state?
The ancients say "To change your mental state, one must change their vibration, by deliberately turning your attention onto a more desirable state. If you are sad, focus on remembering times when you were happy. One does not have to get rid of the darkness, just bring a candle into the room and the darkness will disappear."
The Law of Compensation is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If the pendulum swings one way, it must always swing back the other way. Much like my best friend and I and our ever-opposite lives that oscillate between happiness and sadness. To know the highs, one must know the lows. It is all relative. In other words, if you have never known sadness or low, how would you recognize happiness or the highs in life? Mentally, however, it is possible to escape the lows by rising above with our thoughts.
"You only get to keep what you give away". The Universe is a giant mirror, always reflecting ourselves back to us. -Edgar Cayse. We are always compensated for what we do. Every thought we think, every action, every deed, creates results both directly and indirectly.