Monday, January 21, 2013

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

It took a great man, to lead our country in one of the greatest efforts of equality, and ultimately the love of all humanity. Regardless or color, regardless or religion, regardless of social differences…just equality.

Today, I thank that great man for his excellence and sacrifices.

Thank you for uplifting our humanity Dr. King. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

WW Resource: The Stress War

For most of us, stress is just another part of our everyday make-up. We experience and encounter stress in many different forms throughout our daily lives; stress from work, stress from parenting, stress from financial burdens- stress for the most part is the only constant in many of our lives. Although some stressors may not be harmful, continued or prolonged stress without management can be extremely dangerous and detrimental to your overall health. For a warrior wife, the day-to-day stressors of life become overwhelming when added with the stress of coping and living with someone with PTSD and/or TBI (among other wounds- both physical and mental-of war). Stress, simply put, becomes insurmountable and because of that fact, life becomes even more cumbersome and harder to balance than ever. Often the level of stress that a warrior wife will or can experience on a daily basis, renders that warrior wife susceptible to medical ailments like: anxiety, depression, over-eating, exhaustion, mal-nutrition, chronic headaches, excessive weight gain or loss, hormone imbalances sometimes leading to infertility, heart-disease, mental illness, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and skin conditions. This isn’t just my opinion, here is a passage from an article I found on Web MD:

The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.
Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress -- a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems. Consider the following:
·        Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
·        Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
·        Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
·        The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
·        The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

Passage found from:

Experts have noted, that people with current medical conditions that experience continued stress with no relief, can actually worsen the medical conditions and cause more health related problems going forward, and rising cases of worsening medical conditions due to stress in women are fertility issues.

Stress and Infertility
Basically, stress that is not managed and/or relieved is often much more harmful than any of us ever realize. Stress plays a huge role in many fertility cases such as Endometriosis, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Although studies have not conclusively discerned how either medical conditions start, many believe prolonged exposure to severe and unmanaged stress caused their initial symptoms and worsened them thereafter. Studies note that high levels of prolonged stress do worsen the symptoms of both diseases, leaving the sufferers of these diseases caught in a vicious cycle of continued or worsening pain and discomfort. In many cases for both diseases, worsening symptoms have led to diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and more.

So, what is stress?
The definition of stress varies from person to person, however, many define stress itself as a feeling; whenever life begins to feel out of control or overwhelming, but for others, stress is much too broad to just be classified or identified as an emotional manifestation of things going wrong around us. I found this passage from an article written for Medical News Today, that I absolutely thought fit my definition of stress:

Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses get you going and they are good for you - without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when the stresses undermine both our mental and physical health they are bad.

What works to reduce stress?
For me, relieving my daily stress revolves around my ability to assert my creativity. I love to draw, paint, write, work on crafts or do-it-yourself projects round my home, and spending time watching old movies, or of course my indies! I’ve done all of these things my entire life to relax me and because I truly enjoy them, and I have to say that for me, they work every time to reduce my levels of stress. In case arts and crafts aren’t your thing, here is what the Mayo Clinic suggests to relieve stress:

1.      Get active
Virtually any form of exercise and physical activity can act as a stress reliever. Even if you're not an athlete or you're out of shape, exercise is still a good stress reliever. Physical activity pumps up your feel-good endorphins and refocuses your mind on your body's movements, improving your mood and helping the day's irritations fade away. Consider walking, jogging, gardening, house cleaning, biking, swimming, weightlifting or anything else that gets you active.

2. Meditate
During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation instills a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. Guided meditation, guided imagery, visualization and other forms of meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time, whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus to work or waiting at the doctor's office.

3. Laugh
A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but it can help you feel better, even if you have to force a fake laugh through your grumpiness. When you start to laugh, it lightens your mental load and actually causes positive physical changes in your body. Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, producing a good, relaxed feeling. So read some jokes, tell some jokes, watch a comedy or hang out with your funny friends.

4. Connect
When you're stressed and irritable, your instinct may be to wrap yourself in a cocoon. Instead, reach out to family and friends and make social connections. Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can distract you, provide support, help you weather life's up and downs, and make you feel good by doing good. So take a coffee break with a friend, email a relative, volunteer for a charitable group, or visit your place of worship.

5. Assert yourself
You might want to do it all, but you probably can't, at least not without paying a price. Learn to say no to some tasks or to delegate them. Saying yes may seem like an easy way to keep the peace, prevent conflicts and get the job done right. But it may actually cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family come second, which can lead to stress, anger, resentment and even the desire to exact revenge. And that's not very calm and peaceful.

6. Do yoga
With its series of postures and controlled-breathing exercises, yoga is a popular stress reliever. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety. Try yoga on your own or find a class — you can find classes in most communities. Hatha yoga, in particular, is a good stress reliever because of its slower pace and easier movements.

7. Sleep
Stress often gives sleep the heave-ho. You have too much to do — and too much to think about — and your sleep suffers. But sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. And the quality and amount of sleep you get affects your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning. If you have sleep troubles, make sure that you have a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine, listen to soothing music, put clocks away, and stick to a consistent schedule.

8. Journal
Writing out thoughts and feelings can be a good release for otherwise pent-up emotions. Don't think about what to write — just let it happen. Write whatever comes to mind. No one else needs to read it, so don't strive for perfection in grammar or spelling. Just let your thoughts flow on paper — or computer screen. Once you're done, you can toss out what you wrote or save it to reflect on later.

9. Get musical
Listening to or playing music is a good stress reliever because it provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones. Crank up the volume and let your mind be absorbed by the music. If music isn't your thing, though, turn your attention to another hobby you enjoy, such as gardening, sewing, sketching — anything that requires you to focus on what you're doing rather than what you think you should be doing.

10. Seek counsel
If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care stress relievers just aren't relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of professional therapy or counseling. Therapy may be a good idea if stress leaves you feeling overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school. Professional counselors or therapists can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

Here is what I know
The most important thing to remember as a warrior wife is to do things for yourself, and take the time out that you need to breathe, re-boot, and rejuvenate in order to deal with whatever is currently on your plate.

When my hubby came back from Iraq in 2006 carrying with him the wounds of war in the form of severe PTSD and TBI, I honestly felt my entire world had shifted off its axis. It was the scariest, and most stressful thing I think I have ever (and still continue to) experienced in my life. Not only was there the stress from trying to just understand what was going on with him and what had changed, there was also the added stress of trying to figure out if he would be released from the Navy due to his injury, how we would manage financially if (or when) he were, where we would live, and how our marriage would survive it all. It was hell, and more so, it was hell on my body. I gained weight, and developed PCOS, and for the first time in my life, my health was at stake. I knew by 2010, after 4 years of battling with my deteriorating health and devoting all my time and energy into my hubby’s issues and work, that something needed to change fast, and it was that realization that helped me turn both my health and my life with my hubby back in the right direction. I decided to look into adapting to a vegan diet (a little extreme for some, but for me was perfect since I already wasn’t big on dairy or meat, and had been vegan in the past) and was determined to remind myself to take time out to do the things that make me happy. I was lucky because none of my health issues were advanced enough to cause further damage to my body, but some of you out there may be in an entirely different boat, and therefore taking action against prolonged stress is even more imperative and compulsory to your overall health and well-being.

What I know about stress is this: you have to take charge and make the decision to not allow your stress to drown you- and trust me it can and will try. You have to know that regardless of your circumstances, if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be no good to anyone else, especially your wounded warrior. Taking care of yourself may be hard considering all that you have going on, but it’s worth it. Read, get off your feet and watch some T.V (even if it’s only for an hour or two) take a weekend to yourself, start a journal, go on a long walk once a day, just do something for yourself. I know that I plan to make 2013 my year of doing things for myself on a weekly basis (maybe even writing about the places I go or the things I do here!). It’s not selfish, it’s vital to your health, your family, and your ability to let your body heal naturally. And trust me, your future self will thank you.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A little taste

So I know I already mentioned in my 2012 Post Mortems post, how absolutely stoked I am for the highly anticipated premier of my FAVORITE book turned film adaptation Beautiful Creatures -in theaters Valentine's Day- but failed to mention why. So… In an effort to show you all why I’m literally counting down the hours until I’m pleasantly cemented to the chair of my local theater watching this wicked awesome film, I figured I’d give you a little taste via trailer.

Hope you enjoy it; better yet, I hope you run to your nearest book store and pick up the four part series. I think you just might become addicts just like me J

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

WW Resource: Caregiver Programs & Education

Hey there my fellow Warrior Wives! I’m finally hammering through my mound of emails that I have sadly let accumulate over the last 3 ½ months due to my overall busy work schedule, and a little bit of laziness. Sad but true;  all work and no play makes me non-responsive and blah.

I’m working on it though. It’s a new year and all that jazz, you know.

Alas, with the ringing in of the New Year comes a new motivation and commitment to this blog and re-connecting to all you crazy kids that actually read what I have to say here- you poor unfortunate souls you (said in my best Ursula voice- too much Little Mermaid for me thanks to my lovely niece). Either way, I’m stoked to know you are there, and are reading, and enjoying my sometimes tyrannical tirades, and acknowledging my general fiery awesomeness. True story. Hey, if I don’t blow my head up who will? Just as long as it doesn’t excel to that of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon big, I can afford to give myself a few over exaggerated credits… or two.

Oh, how I digress…

Any-whoville. I came across an email from a lovely reader by the name of Soul Sister Sara, (by the by, your name rocks my socks. I’m crushing hard core- get it girl!) who indicated that she was advised that she would qualify for tuition assistance from the VA now that her hubby’s rating has been increased to 100% disabled. She wrote that she has been having a hell of a time trying to find out how to get the ball rolling in applying for this benefit, did not know where to even start, and wanted to know if I had ever heard about this benefit and have any pointers for her. I have heard that dependents of a Vet who is considered either 100% disabled due to service connected injuries, or who is deceased and was a veteran of foreign war  (that’s where they kind of nail you if your vet had no foreign war involvement), are eligible for education assistance. I usually refer back to the caregiver support website whenever I am unclear about a benefit or need verification. Here is what I was able to pull from the site regarding the post 9/11 GI Bill:

Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA)
Summary of Benefits
Dependents' Educational Assistance provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.
You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:
· A veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. The disability must arise out of active service in the Armed Forces.
· A veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability was in existence.
· A servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
· A servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
· A servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability. This change is effective December 23, 2006.
Period of Eligibility
If you are a son or daughter and wish to receive benefits for attending school or job training, you must be between the ages of 18 and 26. In certain instances, it is possible to begin before age 18 and to continue after age 26. Marriage is not a bar to this benefit. If you are in the Armed Forces, you may not receive this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions. VA can extend your period of eligibility by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. This extension cannot generally go beyond your 31st birthday, there are some exceptions.
If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the veteran. If the VA rated the veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of 3 years from discharge a spouse will remain eligible for 20 years from the effective date of the rating. This change is effective October 10, 2008 and no benefits may be paid for any training taken prior to that date.
For surviving spouses (spouses of service members who died on active duty) benefits end 20 years from the date of death.
How to Apply
You should make sure that your selected program is approved for VA training. If you are not clear on this point, VA will inform you and the school or company about the requirements.
Obtain and complete VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance. Send it to the VA regional office with jurisdiction over the State where you will train. If you are a son or daughter, under legal age, a parent or guardian must sign the application.
If you have started training, take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to VA.
Section 301 of Public Law 109-461 adds a new category to the definition of "eligible person" for DEA benefits. The new category includes the spouse or child of a person who:
VA determines has a service-connected permanent and total disability; and at the time of VA's determination is a member of the Armed Forces who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient medical care, services, or treatment; and is likely to be discharged or released from service for this service-connected disability.
Persons eligible under this new provision may be eligible for DEA benefits effective December 23, 2006, the effective date of the law.
DEA provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service related condition. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.
Special Restorative Training is available to persons eligible for DEA benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs may prescribe special restorative training where needed to overcome or lessen the effects of a physical or mental disability for the purpose of enabling an eligible person to pursue a program of education, special vocational program or other appropriate goal. Medical care and treatment or psychiatric treatments are not included.
Special Vocational Training is also available to persons eligible for DEA benefits. This type of program may be approved for an eligible person who is not in need of Special Restorative Training, but who requires such a program because of a mental or physical handicap.
Hope this will be helpful in making 2013 your year to pursue your education dreams!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Post Mortems

What a difference a year makes! 2012 was filled with major accomplishments and major set-backs, and as most us do when entering a new year, reflecting back on the prior year seems to be the most commonly used tool to help carve out a clear path for the hopes and goals we wish to accomplish going forward. 

Usually I make a list of all the things I want to set in motion and list achievements I seek to bring to fruition during the new year, but this year I decided to make my traditional New Year’s blog a little different. That’s why when trying to devise a theme for this post, and coincidently surfing blogs I frequently read- as I usually do on my free time- I came across a post I absolutely loved from The Lost Book Reports blog (an all things book lovers blog). This blogger usually does a monthly look back (which I think is an amazing idea that I would like to somehow incorporate into my blog this year, but with a twist) and includes things she did, read, accomplished, and so on during the previous month. I love doing look backs and am always surprised by what I had going on, and how much I’ve actually done. If you like it, I strongly suggest you check out her blog whenever you have some free time.

2012 In One Word

5 Big Things That Happened In 2012
My old company was acquired by a larger organization = A big promotion and raise!!
Finally got a good team of doctors together for the hubby
Joined Hearts of Valor
Finally Saw Nikka Costa Live!
Went Vegan (still a work in progress) 

5 Songs That Were Most Popular On My IPod
Man Like That by Gin Wigmore
Settle Down by No Doubt
Ho, Hey by The Lumineers
Home by Phillip Phillips
Easy by Rascal Flatts and Natasha Bedingfield

Top 5 Favorite Books Read In 2012
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
Beautiful Creatures Series by Margaret Stohl

2 Most Popular 2012 Blog(s) 
Absence makes the heart grow fonder...or it just gives you plenty of time for Indies
WW Resource: Higher Ground

3 Obsessions in 2012
Oprah’s Lifeclass
VA Volunteer Work

3 Things I’m Looking Forward To In 2013
Hearts Of Valor Retreat
Premier of Beautiful Creatures (Film Debut!)
Finding more joy in my life

Although 2012 for me wasn’t filled with half as much stress and chaos as previous years, it did leave me incredibly busy, and in serious need of re-grouping, reassessing, and re-connecting with my biggest sources of joy. Instead of writing down a list of things I hope to accomplish in 2013, which inevitably I won’t get to achieve, I decided to instead make a few promises to myself that are attainable, and easy to remember. I’ve rounded this (would be repeatedly long) list into 3 simple promises

I promise to be Kind. Kind to my body by eating healthy nourishing foods, kind to my hubby by finding time to relate to each other as a married couple regardless of the stress, and busy schedules, and kind to others by finding more time to give back and become more involved in the charities that are near and dear to my heart.

I promise to nurture my creativity. Whether it be writing, blogging, photography, painting, crafts, or drawing, I promise to dive deep and make time to exert my creative side without excuses.

I promise to find joy. With all that we warrior wives have on our plates at any given day, it’s easy to loose sight of the things that bring us joy and happiness. For me, happiness is too general of a concept to try to reach everyday, so instead I choose to find joy in my life, joy in my marriage, joy in my the little things that I often overlook, and joy in the time I am able to spend with the people I love. Joy is all around us, we just have to dig through the muck to find it.

I hope your 2013 is jam-packed with overwhelming joy, success, fun, and freedom bloggerella’s and fella’s!

Here's to a happy 2013!!