Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

Today's guest blogger, Jillian Lemons, has learned some tough lessons through repeated deployments.  But the best lesson she's learned has helped her be a better -- and happier! -- person.  Read how this National Guard spouse decided to be proactive, take a postive view of life, and invest in herself!  You can follow Jillian on Twitter:

As always, feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas, too!

Being a military spouse and a stay-at-home mom are two very challenging roles to play. I’m an Army National Guard spouse, so I don’t live on post or near a base like the typical military spouse does. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that when your spouse is deployed, all the responsibilities end up on your plate.

I’ve taken a different approach to being separated from my Soldier this time around. Instead of being negative, feeling sorry for myself and sadly looking at the calendar and how much further we have to go until he comes home, I decided that this time around is going to be better. I decided that I’m not going to let my negativity infect my whole world and make everything harder and worse for myself.

Not only have I taken this new way of thinking and applied it to my military life, I’ve applied it to my everyday life as well. My new mantra is: Invest in yourself.

When I say, “Invest in yourself,” I mean exactly that. Take the time to make sure you’re at your absolute best. It’s like a going on a long road trip. You wouldn’t just get in the car and get going, would you? No, you would make sure the car was prepared for the journey; oil change, tires, engine, etc. Same goes for you when it comes to deployments. In order for you to take on the responsibilities necessary for you and your Family to make it, it’s smart to fine tune yourself as well; physically and mentally. It’s like the old saying goes, “you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” It’s also true for caring for your Family. How can you expect to take care of your Family and do the best job you can, if you’re not taking proper care of yourself?

Most mothers will admit that they put their spouse and children’s needs before their own. And while I agree with that to a point, I’m a firm believer in making yourself just as high on the priority list as they are. It takes a lot to care for a Family. It takes even more to care for a Family while you’re spouse is deployed. You’re running the whole show! Just like your husband is on the job 24/7, so are you. And why should you get moved to the bottom of the list, just because you’re solo? If anything, that’s the reason you should move to the top of the list! If you’re not at your 100% best, it will ultimately affect your ability to care for your Family, which will then make it harder on everyone else, too.

We knew ahead of time that we had a deployment coming up. This meant that I had many responsibilities that were going to be served up to me, ready or not. And I decided to be ready! I started by going through the usual “checklists” for military spouses when preparing for a deployment. But I also made a self checklist too.

I decided to find psychologist/therapist to see and talk to throughout the deployment. I figured, it couldn’t hurt and would most definitely help. It’s a great way to just talk about whatever is in the forefront of your mind at that point in time and the best part, the therapist will listen objectively! No friend/family input or opinions or unwanted advice. Therapy is definitely an indulgence for me. My therapist isn’t there to try and “fix me.” That’s not what it’s about. It’s just a good way to get the “stuff” floating around in my head, released. I look forward to those appointments and end up leaving happier than when I arrived. I lucked out and found a great person that I really meshed with. Therapy and mental health get a bad rap in general, but believe me, it’s definitely a great thing to check out and see if you benefit from it or not.

The other things I did to put myself first is to be at my healthiest. I started exercising 4-5 days a week. I designated a specific time to workout and was consistent with it. It was MY TIME. Yes, I have to take my 1 year old with me, in her stroller, but I still count it as “me time.” I could make excuses that I’m too tired, or I have a baby and two other kids and can’t go or a million other reasons as to why I can’t find time to workout. However, I’ve found that exercise is yet other key to being at your 100% best. I’ll be the first one to admit, its hard work, but having the dedication and commitment is crucial to becoming successful. I found a quote by Ralph Marston that goes, “Success often comes from doing ordinary things with extraordinary commitment.” I think this is an awesome quote and a great way to look at the things in your life.

The biggest and most challenging thing I’ve done to grow through this deployment instead of getting through this deployment is being positive. I know that may sound cheesy and but it’s a lot easier said than done. By getting rid of all the negative things that surround the word “deployment” and turning it into a great thing, I saw it as an opportunity for me to set goals for myself, find new hobbies, discover and learn things about myself, and to be proud of myself and the things I do. I take pride even in the smallest accomplishments. All of those small accomplishments will add up to one big one when the deployment is done.

Like I said before, it’s not easy to have a positive attitude and outlook all the time. Sometimes you just have to learn to laugh at the situation or let it go, no matter how bad you think it is. Life isn’t always smiles and fun. But being able to see the brighter side of things instead of the darker side is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your Family.

I’ve even been able to help turn my husband’s attitude around by giving him positive advice about whatever is going on in that particular moment in time. Everyone needs to vent at one point or another. Get it out and then move on. There’s always going to be something good that comes out of something not-so good. Not only is negativity a waste of time and energy, it’s contagious. It infects everyone around you. Same rings true for a positive attitude and a smile … whether its real or not.

There have been many times that I haven’t wanted to smile or be a “positive Polly.” It’s easier to join in on the negativity and stew in it, instead of rising above it and choosing a different outlook. Now, I don’t have to fake the smiles or “pep talks” so-to-speak. They’re real. It’s become my persona. Quite a few friends have taken notice of this change as well. It’s funny because in the past when I had the negative outlook, no one said a thing. But now that I’ve changed all of that, people are speaking up and complimenting me on how well I seem to be doing. And there’s no “seem to be” about it. I’m doing well. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that I’m doing great! I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids, my husband is deployed, and I can still smile and have a wonderful day.

Surprisingly enough, these past almost four months have flown by. I haven’t once looked at the calendar and thought to myself, “Ugh … time is going by so slow! When will this be over?” To this day, it still shocks me at how fast the days, weeks, and months are coming and going. I’m most definitely giving the majority of the credit for the way things are going to the fact that I decided to invest in myself, prepare myself ahead of time, and no matter what, always look at the brighter side of things. All of this has reflected from me to my Family and even all the way across the world to my husband.

For more information, visit Army Well-Being: Deployment Cycle Support.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who Am I to Advise Anyone? I'm Just an Army Wife.

Today's guest blogger is Army wife Jennifer Morrison.  Jennifer records her military life at her blog, "Also Known As ... The Wife."  In this blog post, she reflects on the advice she wishes she had been given as a new spouse ... and shares some tips on how to best jump right in to the Army life!

What advice would I give to someone whose spouse is joining the military? This was a question I inadvertently posed to myself when I saw a friend’s Facebook status wishing her husband luck on his ASVAB test tomorrow. I saw many people wishing him luck, some of those who are military spouses themselves, but no one really gave my friend any type of advice or a brief heads up about what she could expect through the enlistment process, Basic Training and Advance Individual Training, and then life as a service member’s wife.

It seems that the spouse is always an after thought, if a thought at all, for most people. What could I say to her that could convey the huge lifestyle change that her young family was about to embark upon? What advice did I receive when I decided that my life would be intermingled with the military? The more I thought about it the more I realized that no one gave me advice on what to expect until after I was head-first down the rabbit hole.

I’ve developed my own mantra which I live and die by with all things military-related: “Nothing is ever definite in the military until after it’s done … and even then it’s negotiable.” This has proven itself true over and over again in the course of the six years Tim and I have been together. I’ve been told that he’s going to a school needed for promotion more times than I count only to have it fail to come to fruition. I’ve seen my husband go up to a promotion board, pass, and be told that it didn’t count because it wasn’t the correct board. Tim was activated for deployment three times since September 2001 and has only deployed twice. Amazingly, his deployable status seems to be more favorable since we’ve been together. I could go on and on with examples but my point is to prepare for anything and everything, the worst case and the best case and somewhere between as well.

I’m big believer that you’ll enjoy the military lifestyle more if you become an active member of the military community. There is no one else in this world that can truly empathize with what it’s like being married to a service member more than another military spouse. Sure, your friends can tell you how much they missed their husband when he was gone for two weeks for work training but it just isn’t the same because your friend’s husband isn’t training for combat operations and, last time I checked, San Diego wasn’t a war zone with a different language, culture, and a population who gave you the most evil of eyes every time they walked past you.

A military spouse can listen to your deepest concerns and worries and in the next breath make you forget all about them. When I found out Tim was heading for another deployment, I quickly became more involved with the unit and then with the Family Readiness Group. I wanted to be ‘in the know’ and the only way to do that was to get involved. I went to family meetings hosted by the unit and I did all the reading I possibly could. I also joined a military spouse message board and it became of a wealth of information and support when I needed it the most.

Knowing I wasn’t alone in dealing with all the crazy things the military can throw at you allowed me to throw away that “woe is me” attitude and realize it’s not just me and I could certainly have a worse situation. There’s also something to be said for the military rumor mill; you can sometimes get some good information from it and other times you can get an incredible belly laugh.

The best piece of advice that put it all together for me came from a friend who was then a Captain in the Air Force. He said to me, “You need to realize you’ll never be number one, hell, you may not even been number two at times. It’s always duty first and the Soldier decides to prioritize the rest.” I sat with my mouth open for a good thirty seconds because I couldn’t think of a reply to debate his point. He was absolutely right. No one can prepare you for not being your spouse’s first priority; it’s completely against the tenets of most marriage vows (“forsaking all others” ring a bell?).

The military will become your husband’s wife and you’ll be the mistress sometimes. It’s especially frustrating being a second priority when your spouse is still your first, but you know the old saying about life not being fair. Once you realize this, you’ll become a more empowered person; you’ll be handling situations you never dreamed you’d be handling without your spouse. I’ve learned to change my car battery, beat the hell out of my car starter to get the engine to turn over, and that I can drive from New Jersey to Florida in 12 hours.

If you’re shy, you’ll come out of your shell in the blink of an eye and wonder what took you so long and what really was holding you back. If you embrace and accept reality, you’ll actually enjoy the role you play in this crazy lifestyle.

So again, what would I advise a new military spouse? Be skeptical, be well prepared, get active, and get with reality. It also helps if you can cook or bake; there is no better way to fall into good favor with the Soldiers then by bringing up some chili or cookies. I would know; I’ve earned the nickname of “The Cookie Lady.”

For more information on Army life, visit Army Well-Being: Personal Life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Family Matters: Army Community Services

Today's guest blogger is Kristen Smith.  Kristen is an Army spouse and blogger, writing about her experiences in the Army at "That Army Wife Life."  This post is about all the amazing resources available at every Army installation.  New to your post?  Start with Army Community Services!

There are a multitude of services of available on every post for Soldiers and their spouses. The key is learning where to look and who to ask when looking for assistance. My experience has been that a great many of these programs are vastly underutilized. People don't know that they are there, the benefits to utilizing them, or don't think the programs can help them.

A good place to start no matter what you are looking for is Army Community Services. Known as ACS, Army Community Services provides information, assistance, and guidance to active duty Soldiers and their Families. In many cases, ACS can refer an individual or Family to the appropriate agency.

I wanted to highlight a few of the standard offerings of ACS. While it is an Army-wide program, the details of any program will vary a bit from post to post.


Army Emergency Relief (AER) - Emergency financial assistance in the form of low interest loans and (occasionally) grants. The application for AER assistance goes through the Soldier's chain of command and is generally approved to pay a very specific amount (bills/car repair). Soldier is often required to provide proof that the funds were used to pay that specific expense by bringing back a receipt or similar verification.

Financial Readiness - credit information and assistance, budget preparation, and more offered through financial readiness classes. Open to both service members and their Families. These classes are frequently offered by units, especially while gearing up for a deployment.

ACS Volunteers - Between jobs, want to get out of the house, or build a resume? ACS is staffed by volunteers in many areas. Some posts offer free childcare to ACS volunteers.

Information and Referral - Assistance regarding crisis counseling, foster care information, support information, referrals for food stamps, emergency food resources, emergency food baskets, and community education.

EFMP Assistance - Help with resources, information, referrals and assistance with registration in the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP.

Relocation Readiness Program - Know that a PCS is imminent? Or just arrived at a new duty station? ACS has Welcome Packets and local information. Citizenship assistance and classes as well as ESL (English as a Second Language) are often also offered.

Loan Closet - short term loan of daily use items for Families in the course of a move to or from an installation. Usually available are dishes, plate and silverware, cots, cribs and other similar household items to bridge the gap between the move and the delivery of household goods.

Army Family Team Building (AFTB) - a series of classes with something for everyone. Army basics (like what all those acronyms mean!), an installation tour, basic overview of resources available at your post, and a chance to speak to representatives from many different on post organizations.

This list is not exhaustive, but should show you that your local ACS has something to offer for even the most experienced spouse. There are all these resources out there to many this often challenging life a little easier ... let's use them!
For more information, visit Army Well-Being: Resources A - Z.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"I Do." Vows to Keep In An Interfaith Marriage

Today's guest blogger is Archelle Georgiou, MD.  Her blog, "Archelle on Health" is a fabulous resource for all things health-related.  In this post, she shares with us some of her experiences in an interfaith marriage and offers some (unsolicted) advice for newlyweds, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy.  Read more about her marriage, advice, and let us know what you think!  We always appreciate hearing from Army Well-Being readers.

The marriage of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky generated speculation about how this couple's religious differences would sort themselves out:

How will they raise their children?
Will she convert?
Will he keep Kosher?
And, of course: Will they have a Christmas tree?

The newly married couple has been spotted in Namibia on a safari. But soon enough, the honeymoon will be over. Since I have a bit of experience regarding interfaith marriage, I thought I’d offer some unsolicited advice.

Dear Chelsea and Mark,

David and I have been married for 22 years. While the religious details of our wedding are a bit different than yours -- I converted and we had a Conservative Jewish wedding -- we have faced many of the joys struggles of an interfaith marriage. So, I thought it might be helpful to share what we have learned as the two of you begin your new life together.

-- Don't ever EXPECT that your spouse will change their values or their belief system.

While an individual’s religious beliefs can evolve (as mine did), that change can only come from within. Even then, it’s really hard. I sailed through my conversion process that consisted of “10 Easy Lessons to Becoming Jewish.” Then I spent the next 10 years figuring out (and struggling, at times) how to embrace a new faith while honoring and respecting my past.

Mark, I was thrilled to see that you signed a Ketubah, stomped on a crystal glass, and danced the hora on your wedding day. Chelsea, I hope that you, too, incorporated equally meaningful symbolic moments into your day. To be honest, I was a little worried that they weren’t as evident in all the pictures that we saw. Remember, each of you has entered your marriage with over thirty years of traditions-—family traditions, religious traditions, cultural traditions. They make you who you are. Getting married is an opportunity to share them…not abandon them.

-- Decide what religious beliefs and traditions will guide the upbringing of your children, and, figure it out well before they’re born.

We got this one right from the beginning. In our case, it was easy; the kids would be raised Jewish. But, in 1994, during a moment of inconsistency, I talked David into letting me decorate the house with garland during the “winter” holiday. I rushed off with Arielle to Michael’s Crafts, and while we were in the checkout lane, she said "Mommy, why are you buying that? We don't celebrate Christmas." My 5 year old's reminder made it easy to leave the store empty-handed. Do your kids a favor -- don't confuse them. Children look for unity in the messages that they get from both parents.

-- Intrafaith differences are just as important to address as interfaith differences.

David, the grandson of an Orthodox rabbi, grew up in a traditional Kosher home. Fasting on Yom Kippur really meant eating absolutely nothing! I, on the other hand, was raised in a home where fasting for Easter simply meant not eating meat on Good Friday. We entered our relationship with very different expectations of our levels of observance, and it took several holiday cycles to find some common ground. Here’s the best advice I have on this issue: compromise.

Its easy to think that I was the one who compromised most in the relationship. I thought so too, for twenty years, until June 2008 when Fay, David's mother, passed away unexpectedly. I saw my husband fully immerse himself in the Jewish Orthodox funeral traditions -- sitting shiva, remaining unshaven, wearing a torn shirt and tie for a week and committing to saying Kaddish for a year. I realized that at his core, David is highly observant because he finds comfort in the structure of organized religion. But, he had quietly and willingly given that up and, on the surface at least, he settled into the looser traditions of Reform Judaism so that we could live our life together.

-- As your children mature and recognize that you came from different backgrounds, be prepared for questions that challenge and explore your deepest held assumptions beliefs.

Our girls attended the funerals of 2 grandparents in one year. Fay's had a closed casket. My father's Greek Orthodox funeral had an open casket accompanied by wailing women in black veils. Why the difference? Which approach offers a greater sense of closure? What would the girls each prefer when they die? Can they be Jewish and still have an open casket? Arielle has made the decision, at the age of 20, to document a specific, customized interfaith approach to her own future funeral so that it can be exactly how she wants. These conversations aren't for the faint-hearted.

Chelsea and Mark, you are both highly intelligent people and clearly thrive on intellectual and spiritual stimulation. If you are open and accepting, your interfaith marriage can be an ongoing journey that is just as enlightening as it is challenging.

Mazel Tov,
"Συγχαρητήρια για τον γάμο σας"
Archelle (and David)

For more information, visit Army Well-Being: Your Relationships.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Catch Those Creative Juices and Box 'Em Up for Your Soldier!

Today's guest blog post comes from military spouse, Jillian Lemons.  Jillian shares some great ideas for care packages while your Soldier is deployed.  You can follow Jillian on Twitter:

As always, feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas, too!

I haven’t been a military spouse for long, but with all the care packages I’ve sent and ideas I have you’d think I’ve been doing this for a lot longer. I love being creative as creative as I can. I love doing things for my husband that I know will make him smile or totally make his day great!

Anything and everything that I think may make my husband smile, especially if I think it may be silly or stupid, it’s usually the things he loves the most. Sending a thoughtful package that I’ve put lots of time, effort, and love into makes me just as excited to send it as it is for my husband to receive it.

It seems that when I come up with a great idea, I get worried that I won’t be able to “top” it, in a sense. But somehow, someway, I end up thinking of another way to show my love and appreciation for my Soldier.

I’ve complied some of the things I’ve done for my husband and some ideas I have yet to do. I hope it gives you some inspiration and that you can put your own creative spin on things or even add to them and make them even better!

One of my husband’s favorite things I’ve ever sent to him was this box full of ordinary, everyday items that I turned into anything but. Each item that I included in the box had a bigger meaning behind it than you would normally think of when you saw each item. I also attached the name of the item and then the reason it was in the box (I typed up, printed out, cut apart, and glued each one on red, white and blue construction paper) with ribbon.

Here’s a list of the things I put into the box:

  • A yellow ribbon: so you always know you have 100% support.
  • A piece of rope: for when you’re reaching the end of yours.
  • Lifesavers: because that’s what you are to me.
  • Hug (Hershey’s): so you know that someone is always on your side.
  • A bag of marbles: for when you feel like you’ve lost yours!
  • Ibuprofen: because all jobs can be a headache sometimes.
  • A tootsie roll: to help you roll with the punches.
  • Confetti: to remind you to have fun.
  • A candle: to light up the darkness.
  • A penny: for luck!
  • A rubber band: to stretch yourself beyond the limits.
  • A cotton ball: to cushion the rough roads.
  • A jolly rancher: to remind you of how sweet things can be.
  • Magnets: to remind you of how strong and powerful our love is for each other.
  • A battery: to give you that extra charge to keep you going.
  • Tape: to fix things that won’t work.
  • String: to tie things together when everything falls apart.
  • A match: to light your fire when you’re feeling burned out.
  • Starbursts: to give you a burst of energy on a day you feel you have none.
  • Gum: to help your unit stick together.
  • Smarties: because that what you are..SMART!
  • A bag: to help you keep it all together.
I’m sure there are many other things that could be included with this idea, but those are the ones that I used. He loved it!  It took a little time to put it all together, but it was worth it!

For more information, visit Army Well-Being "Deployment Cycle Support."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Long Live The Greeks ... But Will They Prosper?

Today's guest blogger is Archelle Georgiou, MD.  Her blog, "Archelle on Health" is a fabulous resource for all things health-related.  In this post, she shares with us a recent trip to Greece with her family ... and the lessons she learned there.

Celebrity chef, Andrew Zimmern, said it well in a recent article, "Headlines be damned. Greece is still open for business."

Well, sort of. . .

My family and I recently returned from a month long trip to Greece. Indeed, it was glorious, and it would be fun to write about the exquisite meals, the inspiring history, and the experience of "moving in" to Lahania, the small village (population: 50) where my father was born. But, that's not what I'm writing about because, frankly, I expected that we would have a wonderful vacation. What I wasn't expecting is that I would get an insider's view of the Greek economic crisis.

It started the moment we arrived. The plan for our first full day in Athens was to visit the New Acropolis Museum that opened to rave reviews in 2009. It cost $200 million and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon. BUT....we were promptly informed that the museum was closed. In fact, all of the historical sites were closed due to a 1-day national strike.

Two and half million public and private sector workers in Greece were on strike in Athens and other major cities protesting the European Union-International Monetary Fund austerity measures. This particular strike was scheduled on the same day that the Parliament was voting on a bill to increase the retirement age to 65 and decrease early pensions for workers. FYI...the Greek government has policies that promise early retirement (age 50 for women and 55 for men) to 700,000 people. Warning: Don't get in between a Greek and their "syntaxi" -- their retirement check.

No problem...we decided to spend the day in Varkiza, one of the lovely beaches just outside of the city.

Interestingly, despite the palpable anger and frustration (with their own government, not the EU or IMF), we didn't see any picket lines or strikers. The beach, however, was packed with locals who were thrilled to have a day off. Little did we know that this was the 5th national strike since February with the sixth strike scheduled for July 25.

Over the course of the next four weeks, we had many conversations about the financial crisis, and there were two consistent themes regarding the root cause: overspending and fraud.


There are many reports that suggest that the 2004 Olympic Games put the country into a downward spiral, and this issue came up frequently in our discussions. Costing $11 billion dollars, in addition to infrastructure costs, this was 50% over budget and clearly more than the country could afford. In our conversations, however, the prevailing perspective was that it was the government's fault.

Maybe so, but there is a long history of overspending, in the form of entitlements, that the country cannot afford to continue but, yet, the people don't want to give up. Did you know:
  • As a way to stimulate population growth, women who have three or more more children are given a lifetime stipend. One family that we were with has four sons. All are adults, and the mother continues to receives 200 euros per month...forever.
  • As a way to stimulate tourism, the government established incentives for entrepreneurs to build hotels and open restaurants. And, what a deal! The government gifted--yes, paid for...60% of the development costs for new projects. This helps explains why the islands are lined with large, luxurious hotels with a 57% average hotel occupancy rate.
  • All employees receive two bonuses a year: a Christmas bonus equal to one month of salary and an Easter bonus equal to two weeks of salary. So, employers are obligated to pay 13.5 months of wages for 12 months of work. Can anyone say pay for performance? Management discretion? Nah.

The common enemy among those we spoke to is the 2004-2009 government led by Kostas Karamanlis. "They stole our money! Why should we suffer as a result of those criminals?"

Agree. Many articles describe Karamanlis' reign as corrupt and scandalous with fraudulent financial practices. But, fraud is not limited to the government. Greece has a well-known, long history of tax evasion that costs the country $20.5 billion per year.

While I was well aware of the tax evasion, I didn't realize how much fraud is woven into the country's culture. Defrauding "the system" is not considered unethical, it's how they win. They don't hide it. Rather they brag about it -- because it's the norm. We heard several examples that simply made us cringe:

  • In casual conversation, one gentleman was telling us about his fifteen day hospital stay; the doctor submitted a bill for thirty. One of long time friends, a US citizen, didn't have insurance in Greece but needed Lovenox, an expensive medication to prevent blood clots. She had a doctor write the prescription for her mother, a Greek citizen, who was insured by the national plan. An economist and health care broker estimated that 10% of health care costs are fraudulent.
  • Business going under? Set it on fire and start over. Arson drives about 20% of fire insurance claims.
  • It was recently discovered that on top of the 2.6 million people getting a retirement check, there are an additional 160,000 people are on the pension rolls. Here's the problem: they are dead and their families are still cashing the checks.
As a Greek, I deeply disappointed. As a US citizen, I am deeply concerned because it seems that the EU-IMF's rescue loan will only have a sustainable impact if the country's values are re-wired to include personal accountability and integrity. However, in my opinion, the prognosis is dim and, according to Alberto Alesina, a professor of political economy at Harvard, "...what matters is (the) family....there is less of a sense of duty towards the state." (WSJ, 2/10/1010). In other words, less money in the government's pocket means more money in the family's pocket. And, that's what matters most.

The Greeks' unflappable commitment to their families is both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. Extended families frequently live within steps of each other and eat two meals together...every day. Young adults enjoy spending time with their parents and live at home until they are married. The elderly are included as an important member of the family, and placement of seniors in nursing homes is the exception rather than the rule. It is well known that family connectivity, meaningful conversation, and interacting with people who make us feel loved and appreciated is a key component of longevity. The life expectancy in Greece is 79.8 years versus 78.2 years in the US.

So, what's the bottom line? Take a trip to Greece. Eat a Mediterranean diet. Get up and dance on the tables. Drink ouzo. Take a nap. Watch very carefully how families interact.

Then, come home to the good 'ol USA and incorporate the good that you've learned into your life.

Create Health,

For more information, visit Army Well-Being: Health Information.

Monday, August 09, 2010

An Open Letter to Teachers of Military Kids

Today's guest blog post comes from This Fabulous Army Life and reminds us that back-to-school can mean different things to different students ... and our military kids may have more on their minds than just first day of school jitters.

My military kids heading back to school
Dear Professional Educators,

For most kids, Back to School means school supplies, new shoes, and a reluctant farewell to the lazy days of summer. For military kids, it might be a bit more complicated. If you have military kids in your classroom, this letter is just for you!

On the first day of school, many of our military kids will be attending yet another new school. They will have to learn new rules and procedures, introduce themselves to new friends, and try to find their place in a world that is brand-new to them.

Remember that they may have just moved into the area, leaving behind close friends and familiar surroundings. It could be that they are still living out of boxes since their family’s household goods were delivered the day before. Or they might be the ones who stayed in their home while their closest friends moved on to a new installation in another state. Thank you for providing them a comfortable, safe place at school to learn and grow.

If these military kids have a parent deployed, they are in a special group all to themselves. This group of children may need additional support, extra attention, and a touch of compassion for their unique situation. When a young mind is worried about the safety of their parent, it changes their perspective on life and could affect their school performance.

If one appears uninterested in geography, it may be that he is distracted, thinking about countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, where his hero has been and is currently deployed. If another becomes aggressive at recess, consider that she may be acting out on emotions she doesn’t even understand. They miss their Soldier-parents. Thank you for showing them kindness and helping them learn appropriate ways to handle their frustration.

Finally, thank you for taking on the challenge of educating today’s youth. We appreciate your dedication to teaching and encouraging our children. Along with their peers, they need teachers like you, who will care about them, set high standards, and work to ensure their success. We look forward to working with you to determine the best learning possible for our kids and making this a successful school year.

Very Sincerely,
Military Parents

Leave a comment or share your tips for preparing our military kids for a new school year!