Olives and Father’s Day

P1030342With papa at the grill

I shop for food.  Lots.  Cooking is my passion. My parents were chefs.  My father loves nothing more than to make me surf and turf when I visit.  My son loves his papa’s surf and turf.  My weekly boxes of “stuff” that get sent when he’s deployed don’t include surf and turf. I cook fresh and local so it doesn’t exactly mail well over there.  So I find odd items that I know he’ll like and send him those instead, with the occasional vegan cookie or energy date bar without sugar.  YUM!  My mom sends me healthy stuff, lucky me, I imagine him saying as he watches the cookies and candy come in from other parents.  His father makes him homemade beef jerky.  How cool is that?

He won’t tell me what to send him.  This is maddening for me and the rest of the family. The only things he’s really talked much about are the single serving packaged olives that I sent him once and the Trader Joe’s Panang Curry Tuna that goes into each and every box.  The olives I was only privileged to find once in my weekly excursions.  So this week when I happened upon them I bought the entire display.  For future deployments.  The entire display. For future deployments.  Seems unfair that only a few families have to endure the continuous cycle of deployment. With only one percent of the U.S. population in the military, this is the sacrifice.

We think differently.  “I’ll buy this for the next one”.  The next one.  Think about that statement for a while.  We get to put our hands on our kids for a moment in time only to send them back again within a couple of months.  People look at me like I have 3 heads when I try to explain to them that his work requires him to be there continuously and that he feels compelled to DO the work.  The work matters.  It makes a difference that he’s there.  I thought about deployment when he enlisted, knew it was the reality of this life.  I must admit I didn’t expect to endure deployment over and over again.  I wonder how his body will continue to hold up under the physical and emotional toll that these deployments take on a human being. I worry about cancer from the chemicals and the exposure to the elements.  I worry about crashes on the ground and in the air.  I worry about his nutrition, his emotions and most of all I worry that he’ll not a find a good woman who understands his lifestyle in the military to share his life with. Someone else to send him boxes of stuff and notice when he says “I really liked the olive packs”.

How many mothers do you know instruct their sons to BANK YOUR SPERM, just in case the right woman never shows up, this way you can still experience fatherhood.  I worry about infertility.  This comes from being an oncology social worker AND a military mom. Happy father’s day to all the military Zen dads out there.  Send a box of stuff this week to a deployed dad you don’t know. They’ll appreciate it.


http://www.loveboxesforourtroops.com                                     Peace, love and little donuts,




This week as I walked past a live radio broadcast I noticed a large American flag hanging in the booth of KTRS.  I stopped to look at it.  It wasn’t Flag Day yet, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it hanging there.  The man just inside the doorway noticed I was wearing a USAF pin and pointed to his Marine pin.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, common ground found that day.  Another one percenter.  We introduced ourselves and he began telling me about a fundraiser he was involved with today, Friday, for a recent vet returning home from Afghanistan, badly wounded. We chatted for a while about these young men and women.  I thanked him for his service and for his wife’s service as Marines and went on my way.

In one day I noticed two Veteran run businesses that proudly displayed their status as military service members in their advertising materials.  Jeff Fellows.com  “The Real Estate Marine”, (the man who was holding the fundraiser).  The other company with Veteran in the name, I’m still researching to find out if they are indeed Veteran owned and operated as it wasn’t clearly stated on their website.

  But when you run across the real deal, like Jeff, who works for Keller Williams, you just have to share it with the world, or at least the 6 people reading your blog. 

Today’s call to action:  Thank a vet today by seeking out legitimate Veteran run businesses. 

This is the charity that Jeff is giving his time to.  http://www.homesforheroes.com

Healing prayers for the families grieving the loss of their children. The Department of Defense has identified 1,993 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans recently:

Read these names out loud today more than once. They lived.  They are somebody else’s children.

Taylor Baune, 21, Cpl., Marines; Andover, Minn.; First Marine Division.

Nathan T. Davis, 20, Pfc., Army; Yucaipa, Calif.; 25th Infantry Division.

Bryant J. Luxmore, 25, Specialist, Army; New Windsor, Ill.; Third Infantry Division.


The Comfort of Peace, Balance and Taking Notice

Our family has had nearly one week of settling into the comforting news that our boy is home.  In two weeks we’ll actually be able to put our hands on him.  He’ll look different, because he is different.  War changes you.  He is a healthy, stable young man who loves his work, but war changes you.

I learned a lot from watching him go away and come back and then go away again and come back in such a short amount of time.  He taught me more about perseverance and about how our lives here on earth are just too short, simply by sharing with me his attitude about life and death as well as life and work after  his friend and a beloved colonel were killed within one week of each other.   A wise man once said, when you work a job you love, you never work a day in your life.  When you find work that integrates your talent and your passion, you have a near perfect combination for a happy, healthy work life balance.  As difficult as the losses were for him, they motivated him, and in turn motivated me to make some changes to ensure that my remaining life was one of healthy balance.

As difficult as the conflict in the middle east is for those of us living with the stress of it in our own homes, I find comfort in knowing that he wants to do this work and that he feels passionate about it.  How many people really get to say that about their jobs?

As my son got ready to board his first plane home last week, I received the news from TriCare that I was now a provider.  TriCare certainly isn’t an easy insurance to manage as a therapist.  The reimbursement rate won’t make you want to leap into their pool of providers.  But knowing that I’m providing a service to families who need support certainly gives me a way to Zen up and be strong while he’s away.  In two or three short months the dread will be back as we count the socks left in the sock drawer and begin the cycle of deployment all over again. We aren’t the only families affected by the cycle, but we feel pretty alone due to where we live.  I don’t see any American flags hanging in my neighborhood.  When he goes away again, I’ll need to constantly find other ways to Zen up as a military mom.  Due to the changes I’ve made in my life, I have more peace of mind and more energy to help other military parents endure the cycle. My own coping skills are being sharpened with every deployment.  I have my son to thank for motivating me to seek a healthier life in my work and in my personal relationships.  His service forces me to take notice when I see a student walking across campus in BDU’s or a veteran wearing his unit cap in Starbucks on the anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy (which by the way was Wednesday).  If you didn’t notice it, it isn’t too late to thank a vet or put the Got Your Six logo on your Facebook page to honor the over 1.5 million living veterans of WW II.  Find your own unique act of service this summer.     www.gotyour6.org  Bridging the civilian-military divide

My boy


Yesterday at noon I heard the sound I had been longing for, “hey mooooooooom, I’m in the states”.  After an hour of advising him to keep his stimulation down, stay out of Wal-Mart, don’t go to any bars, and stay away from loose women (okay, I advise of him like that even when he hasn’t deployed) and listening to him talk about  his commute, he boarded one more flight to get him home.  At 6:47 I received the text:  Beer is delicious.  My baby boy was safe and sound in his condo at his home base.  After another 1/2 hour of advising, keep your stimulation down, don’t drink more than 2 beers, keep processing and stay away from loose women he was off to bed and I slept like a baby for the first time since the early spring.  I know it won’t last, this feeling of safety that I have when he’s on US soil, but he’s here NOW and I’ll get to put my hands on him in a couple of weeks after he’s in-processed and he’s ready for me to PUT my hands on him.  I posted a picture of him smooching me when he was a toddler on his Facebook page this evening, just to hear him chuckle.  He’s still my little boy.  We don’t see these warriors as civilians see them.  When he sends me pictures of himself standing in the desert in BDU’s holding a machine gun, I see my little boy in a ninja turtle outfit jumping off of his red bunk bed. Today I had the blessing of a long conversation with a dear friend, a mother of four.  She is my hero, raising 1 very special little girl along with her 3 beautiful boys in such a lovely zen mom way.  She asked me “what is it like, to know your son goes through everything that goes along with war?” ” Michelle, it is every terrible thought and feeling you could ever imagine, it never goes away when they are gone, it just sits there waiting to pounce on you”. You “zen up” by staying busy and trying to be worthy of his sacrifices for you. You tell everyone you come into contact with that he’s there.  You make every civilian see the sacrifices by wearing his unit pin or plastering your vehicle with stickers that shout out your pride.  You take every moment to educate  99% of the rest of the country about what it is REALLY like to be a military family member. You try to comfort your daughter, his big sister who still calls him “bubby” when she looks up at you like she’s 3 years old again and says “he needs to come home now”.

The Fragility of the Heart

A few weeks ago my father shared a story with me. He stated that he was flooded with emotion during a meal that he usually enjoyed preparing for my son, his only grandson. He simply couldn’t eat the meal after he prepared it. These feelings hit military families when we least expect it.  The stress of a continuous deployment schedule creates a body that when under pressure, produces stress hormones, which cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. This can cause your arteries to grow narrower. Adrenaline, one of the major stress hormones is said to make platelets stickier. The emotional heart, the part that you can’t see on an EKG or a stress test is affected by hostility and stress and even depression. Weeks of hostility in my father’s voice reacting to me harping about a much needed procedure that would help his fractured heart, evaporated yesterday when I told him that his grandson was on a plane home.  The sock drawer was finally empty.  My father’s fractured heart is healing from this news and the gifts of modern medicine.  I often wonder if we will see a surge in heart disease and cancer in this new generation of young men and women whose daily exposure to stressful events and hostility increases their chances of disease at an early age. The Mayo Clinic reports that psychological stress is the strongest indicator of future cardiac events. Psychological stress coupled with the physical stress of war creates a perfect breeding ground for disease.  I have been impressed with the recent educational modules coming from the DOD and VA for the assessment and treatment of our returning warriors.  Research is proving that teaching this generation of veterans stress reduction techniques that have been present for centuries rather than loading them up on never ending scripts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and sleep medications and forgetting about them until their next appointment simply doesn’t work.  I continue to learn new techniques to utilize with veterans in my practice because of this research.  I continue to be convinced that we can care for this generation of warriors in a more civilized way than we did in past wars, if we only open our own hearts to understanding and appreciating their sacrifices.