Kripalu meets militaryzenmom

The Kripalu Institute is a truly magical place.  Meals are prepared mindfully, organic, local, fresh and seriously the best food I believe I have ever had privilege to eat.  Breakfast is silent.  Meals are eaten communally.  It is a magical place. A place to learn, a place many go to heal.  Last week I had the privilege of being part of a small group training  with Dr. Ronald Siegel, a psychologist practicing at Harvard Medical School and an author of Mindfulness based psychotherapy practices.  He was funny, warm, genuine about his own self-perceived lack of Mindfulness from time to time through the years as therapist, a husband and a father.  He was real.

I checked my ego at the door and attended many classes outside of my continuing ed track as Charli, rather than Charli the therapist.  I opened myself up to learning more about why I do what I do for a living, a vocation that I chose out of personal experience, and continue to choose due to the true bliss that I feel when practicing.

During one portion of lecture,  a comment was made by a fellow attendee about the security organizations overseas, I couldn’t help but make my opinion known that they are necessary. We may not agree with what we read about them, but because only 1% of the population serves in the military, they are necessary.  I’m a loud mouth, nozen mom when it comes to keeping my kid safe.

My comment caught the attention of a woman sitting next to me who pulled me aside the next day and stated “I heard you and I agree with you, I am a retired Army nurse with 3 deployments under my belt”.  An Army nurse, with her retired USAF husband at a retreat in the Berkshires on Mindfulness.  I had an immediate connection to them both.  I hadn’t expected to meet up with anyone associated with the military in this setting.  Why am I always surprised to meet a meditator, or a yogi associated with the military?

My own son is a meditator and I’m constantly prodding him to become a regular practicing yogi. I forgave myself for my misplaced assumptions that I had prior to leaving.  Assuming that I would be surrounded by “hippy type” therapists that wouldn’t understand the part of me that needs to serve the military population.  I was wrong.  Again.   I had more than one discussion about what an honor it is to do the work with this population.   People care about  our military and they want to do more, they just don’t know how to go about it.

I wondered to myself what it would be like for Kripalu to host an entire weekend of yoga, meditation and clean food to Veterans and their families.  I think I’ll put that out there.  They deserve some magic.


Does anyone hear me?

Hear me please.  With so many deaths in Afghanistan this July, I have little to say today. But what is here is important.  I’m in a spiritual place this week, this seems like a fitting place to read these names out loud.  Since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 16,858 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department.  Naming them each week would simply be impossible.  I can’t even mention the emotional wounds that we may never know exist.  Average age of the dead listed below…………………..23.  Twenty three years old.  Their lives had barely begun.  Two were national guardsman.  Can anyone hear me?



Middle East Sushi

Today was Friday the 13th and my son flew on a plane with a silly name with his best friend and wing man.  I’m glad that this war hasn’t taken away his sense of humor and irony.  In fact, I think his sense of humor just has more material thanks to his experiences.  He gets his sick sense of humor from his mother.  We actually call this sushi something else, but if I shared that with you it could mean a national security breach.  That was a joke, please don’t send the men in the government Dodge to visit me, I don’t know anything about national security.

Admit it, the title made you come to the blog.  I will shamelessly call attention to the sacrifices of the military any way I can.  Thanks for clicking.

Ingredients:  Cooked packaged brown rice from Trader Joes + Trader Joe’s Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks + Trader Joes Curry Panang Tuna Packs + 1 package of fast food mayo swirled together w/ Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.  Combine.  Enjoy.

My son gets credit for figuring this out during his last deployment, but momma gets the credit for sending the boxes each week that inspired him.  I take credit for everything he’s ever done right because that’s what proud mother’s do.  The truth is, he became the man he is IN SPITE of all the mistakes I made in raising him as a single mom.  Mothers never think we do much right when we don’t stay married to our children’s fathers, even if the kids turn out okay or in my case, better than just okay.

This recipe will be included in the food section of my new e-book I hope to publish in 2013 that I hope to share with other military moms and dads.   Share this post with those you love who are far away and missing the chow line, but give proper credit of the recipe to Chef Alex!

Acknowledge the mother or father of a Veteran today and send somebody a box of Middle East Sushi with directions on how to assemble.

Peace, love and little donuts,


Avoiding Arlington

Nearly every year I visit Washington D.C. for training in cancer care or advocacy work that provides me with the skills I need to do my work as a therapist and advocate.  Every year I walk around the monuments, the capital, visit the restaurants and experience the power that you can literally feel coming from the ground there.  It’s like your being shocked at a low voltage from the moment you see the White House.  When I see the Honor Flight WWII Veterans sitting in the lobby of the hotel, I thank them for their service and sometimes, they cry.  When I worked for hospice, my territory included the Missouri Veteran’s home.  Sometimes, I had as many as 15 Veteran’s to see on my caseload there.  Walking through end of life with these Veterans was vastly different than walking the path with civilians, but that is another entry for another day.

When I’m playing advocate, I take the elevator to the basement lunch room surrounded by uniformed women and gentleman with more “lapel flair” than I’ve ever seen and it is simply surreal.  I smile at them, thank them for their service, then watch as they make their way to lunch looking like American royalty.  They go home each night to their families and put their jammies on just like everyone else but they look like some serious super heroes to this girl.  I’m star struck as they walk so straight to their tables.  I wonder if my son will work in the Pentagon like his uncle before him.  I feel a pang of guilt as I remember the thoughts in my head begging him not to re-enlist unless he can spend less time “over there”.  So glad I didn’t say it out loud.  I’ve no right to say it aloud.

 Each year I say to myself “this is the year I will visit Arlington”.  Each year I am unable to make the short trip by car or train to pay my respects to those who gave everything.  I am afraid I will just lose it and embarrass myself in front of strangers. This year will be different.  This year I’m going to pay my respects to someone who lost his young life just two years after getting married.  He was part of my son’s military family and this year, in death, he will give me strength that I need to visit this sacred place.

Today, the following Air Force servicemen were buried at Arlington, 50 years after being lost in action.  After taking off On Christmas Eve 1965 an Air Force plane nicknamed “Spooky” took off from Vietnam for a combat mission and never returned.

Col. Joseph Christiano, of Rochester, New York;

Col. Derrell B. Jeffords, of Florence, South Carolina;

Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa;

Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, New York;

Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, of Lebanon, Oregon;

Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Say their names out loud in your prayers tonight or on your yoga mat tomorrow morning.  Namaste’

Just go…….

Just go…….

Yesterday in Kandahar, 14 Afghan civilians lost their lives to roadside bombs.  Six Americans, someone else’s kids,  lost their lives in a separate incident.  They lost their lives while I spent the morning enjoying the company of friends new and old in celebration of the official opening of my office.  While I drank lemonade and ate croissants and enjoyed hugs and laughter, 6 other mothers were visited by a government chaplain.

Sadness quickly overshadowed the evening and I knew that it was time to start blogging again.  I’ve spent the last 3 weeks taking a break from militaryzenmom.  I suppose I was in denial of the war’s ongoing carnage, because my child is enjoying hot showers again in his home in the states.  In a few short weeks he’ll head back again, but for now, I am enjoying the luxury of knowing he is safe from rockets, road side bombs and  soldiers who are supposed to be “on our side” shooting to kill.

When I put my hands on my son this time, his shoulders felt broader and his spirit felt heavy.  When I hold him I don’t want to let him go.  I want to hold onto these moments as they are precious.  He is precious.  He talked of physical pain, something he rarely complains about.   I know it is present in his body from injuries, from flying too many hours from the stress that our body holds inside when we experience traumatic events.  I want to take him to a specialist to get him checked out because his medical care is by my standards, substandard. I want to do so many things to care for him.

I hold his latest medal in my hands and read the letter carefully as it artfully describes what he did to be granted something so beautiful.  I want to keep it.  I want to bring it home, to put it under my pillow, to show it to the man at the bank that helps me with my accounts and ALWAYS thanks me for my son’s service, every time.  I want to take it to the high school that he attended and show it to his guidance counselor that never supported his decision to join the military so that she can grasp the magnitude of what these kids are doing over there.

In spite of the pride I feel when holding the medal, I fight the urge to ask him to leave the work that he loves.  The work that in my opinion, made him a better man.  We are in that odd time of making the big decision.  Stay or go.  In a few short months he will sign on the dotted line officially………………. to stay or go. I give him room to make the choice that is right for him, in this time and space that is his life, but my heart says “go, please go”.  Find a wife, go back to school, re-enter the civilian world, I’ll help you transition back, just GO”.  I want to scream out, “you’ve done your part, you’ve made us proud, now just GO”.  My words stay in my head; I stay silent and pray the choice he makes will be the right choice for him. I write every reporter I see on Linked In and beg them to talk to me about this work that other people’s children are doing, to hear me, to hear the other mothers and fathers who need to say out loud how proud they are of their kids.  I ZEN UP and start talking loud.  I ZEN UP and write Michelle Obama AND Jill Biden and ask them to read my blog.

May the  Americans who died this week be blessed for their ultimate sacrifice, and their families find the memory of them to be a blessing.


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