Keeper of Stories


067As a therapist who specializes in deployment, I find myself in the position of Keeper of Stories.  Week after week, soldier after soldier trusts me to offer them a shoulder, an ear, a safe place to just “be”. It is a sacred job, to just hold the space for them. After so many years as a therapist, it is impossible to be shocked with the content of people’s personal stories anymore. The responsibility of keeper of stories that took place in the theater of war is a big one.  From time to time I have to take a step back and seek my own sacred space in order to shed the stories and refresh my soul so that I can process the new ones awaiting me at my next session. I am grateful for my family and my yoga teachers who facilitate that process for me just by allowing me to keep to myself. My son, a SSgt. on a permanent rotation in the middle east once told me that “some stories can never be told mom“. So the silences between the soldiers and I become just as sacred as the stories themselves.

Cold & Lonely


After a wonderful 3 days with my son awhile ago, I said goodbye again. Spending the evening with highly decorated service members telling me how much they appreciated my son’s work was one of the proudest moments of my life. Writing about zenning up as a military parent hasn’t been as therapeutic as it once was. I’ve been frozen at the keyboard, erasing everything that I write because even basic Information is too sensitive to share, even when our loved ones leave and come back in is too sensitive to discuss on the blog. So I’m finding my comfort in providing counseling services to our military through my practice as a therapist. I feel like I’m actually doing something, something honest and true to help these families. I miss my son. Last message from him was about the lousy weather. So of course I’ve spent the last few days feeling that lousy weather right along with him. I always take on the feelings of my kids. When my daughter gets sick, I feel her symptoms even though I’m not sick. When my son is tired, the fatigue I feel is overwhelming. He never states that he’s tired, but I can hear it in his voice. I worry. This time more than others. Praying more than usual. Through my work with the military I’ve learned so much. Too much. So now, I’m left to worry from a different perspective. Zenning up has taken on a whole new meaning this year. My son was able to see my granddaughters for a quick minute before he left. They adore him, just look at these faces. He has to come home safe for them. He just has to. alley and the girls Peace, love and little donuts.

We begin it all over again


I can’t help but get choked up every time I hear our national anthem played before a football game.  The addition of a flyover gives me goosebumps to boot.  Our family has had the advantage of extra time with our airman this summer and fall.  I know it is coming to an end too soon but am grateful that he’s had a moment to catch his breath and lead a somewhat normal life.

Leading a somewhat normal life, included totaling his beloved Subaru on his way home from the base, only 2 miles away. He was only slightly injured but decided not to call me until he had been released from the hospital.  How ironic is it that he does two tours in the middle east in 1 year and ends up getting hurt on a short commute home because another driver decided they needed that extra 20 seconds to pull out in front of him.

As we begin our countdown, my restful summer slumber is beginning to be interrupted by the worry of sending him back to a place even more corrupt than when he left.  With news of an increase in shootings by middle east soldiers on our troops, I wonder how this deployment will feel differently than the others.  Is he worried?  If he was he certainly wouldn’t share it.   I’ll wrap my arms around my boy in early on this winter and see him off again, this time with more stripes on his arm and a brand new commitment to serve another 4 years.   I wonder what the next four years will be like for the military after this election plays out.

Ironically I’ll be in D.C. on election day.  I have no idea how I feel about the candidates.  I’m numbed by the ads, felt little satisfaction about supporting either candidate after the debates.

Election day for me will be spent in Arlington paying tribute to the fallen.  I can’t avoid Arlington any longer. This is the year that I don’t flake out on the men and women who made it possible for me to cast my vote.  A vote that was particularly difficult this time around.

Peace, love and little donuts….next report will be from Arlington.

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,

Militaryzenmom

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’

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.

www.packagesfromhome.org

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