Is it just a Blue Christmas?

Is it Christmas blues or could it be depression

Sometimes signs are all around us and yet seeing them is difficult. The holidays can be a time of mixed emotion for anyone. For those of us who serve, those feelings can be compounded. Sadness can hide in the glow of holiday lights and loneliness most certainly lurks in places far from home. So, how do you tell the difference between a Blue Christmas and depression?

If you’ve been around here much you will likely know that I’m a Navy veteran. You may even know that I have a son currently serving in the Marine Corps. What you likely don’t know is that I suffered from my first bout of depression while I was on active duty.  

Because I have the unique perspective of someone who served during a time of war, having been a military spouse, and now being a Marine mom, Med-IQ reached out to me for help in spreading the word about how to recognize the symptoms of depression – or major depressive disorder. Through this sponsored post I hope to shine some light on the signs of depression and dispel some myths along the way.

Looking back I wish that I’d understood that what I was going through wasn’t just homesickness. I wouldn’t have put so much blame for my sadness on being half a globe away from home. Maybe I’d have recognized that it wasn’t all Bing Crosby’s fault even though every damn time I visited the chow hall that December, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” seemed to be in an endless loop – that is just cruel! The truth was I’d been spiraling downward far before that holiday season began.

With the benefit of hindsight and talking with Dr. Leslie Citrome, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, I now understand that I’d been experiencing some of the signs of depression for months. I now know that things like changes in sleep patterns, pervasive sadness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating and feelings of hopelessness are all signs of depression and not just the blues – Christmas or otherwise.

I served in the early nineties, a time when seeking help for mental illness meant an almost sure smudge on your record. Even if I’d known that I was going through was depression, I would never have sought help in that environment. The good news is that these days the military has gotten a bit better at allowing active duty members to seek mental health care. A bit.

There is still a long way to go. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is getting more attention, the fact is that those with PTSD tend to also suffer from depression. The two are not one in the same. Those with PTSD have higher rates of anxiety, are more irritable and have more difficulty sleeping, which can also mean that the signs of major depressive disorder go undiagnosed. PTSD and depression often travel together. 

Knowing the signs to look for can help us distinguish the difference between just having a Blue Christmas – which let’s face it, the holidays aren’t the same when you serve – and suffering from depression. Recognizing a bout of homesickness from the beginnings of an illness is only one part of the mission. We all need to do a better job of dispelling myths that create a stigma around those who suffer from mental illnesses because ignorance can be costly.

Though rates of suicide in the military have decreased since an all-time high in 2012, the rate at which members of the military take their own lives still far outpaces that of the general public. In my own military family, we’ve experienced two suicides attempts in the last year. One successful and two too many.

 

The truth is that if you have major depressive disorder, you are sick in the same way that someone who has cancer, diabetes or heart disease is sick. There is nothing defective about you. Whether it is genetics or environment that caused your illness, you didn’t bring this on yourself.

Those of us who serve have had each other’s backs time and again to complete the mission. I’m asking that we do the same in this mission of spreading awareness. Knowing the enemy is the first step. Med-IQ, in conjunction with Dr. Citrome, has developed a quick and confidential survey to learn how much we as a military community, as caregivers and even as civilians understand about depression.

This survey does not collect your personal information; it is completely confidential and secure. It is a quick (10 minutes tops) and easy way to help us help each other. You could also win one of 10 $100 VISA gift cards for your participation. To keep your response confidential and still participate in the drawing, simply email surveydepression@gmail.com and let them know you’ve completed the survey and would like your shot at winning. START YOUR SURVEY

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t think you are alone. There is help out there. Veterans and their families can reach out to ptsd.va.gov . If you believe you are suffering from holiday-related depression, visit the Mayo Clinic for resources. Also, avoid Bing Crosby at all costs, haha.

 

I was compensated by Med-IQ through a grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression awareness. All my opinions are my own.

*These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

Is Travel Elitist?

This post has been brewing (festering, if I’m being honest) for nearly a year now. I’m not sure why it has been so hard to write. I feel very strongly about the point I hope to make yet still, the words haven’t flowed.

It all started when a stranger on social media accused me of being an, “out of touch elitist with no ability to understand that most people don’t enjoy the privilege of being able to travel.”  My knee-jerk reaction was a mix of anger and bewilderment. Months later I feel myself still struggling with a question… is travel elitist?

Let’s start with a little context. The comment was in a forum where the topic of discussion focused on traveling with family. In retrospect, I believe their reasoning may have been to point out to the group that not everyone has the means to plan a trip around the globe with children in tow.  Point taken. Honestly, I don’t have the means to do that either!

Wouldn’t we all want to be able to do that? The truth is nearly none of us can or ever will. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still go places. Maybe that is the crux of the issue. Perhaps it isn’t that travel is elitist but that one’s definition of it can be.

Travel has looked very different to me at many stages in my life. Growing up there was a period of several years where the state we lived in teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. My father, an employee of that state, lost his job and was without work for a longer time than my family was equipped for.  Young parents to three small children, my mother and father had to scrape to pull things together often finding that ends still wouldn’t meet.

Still. We. Traveled.  

Mom would raid the garden, bake some bread, fill a canteen and off we’d go. Be it to the next town over by car or on foot into the wilds of the high desert, we went places.  Years later, when finances had improved, we’d embark on a cross-country trip by train. I was probably around ten and to this day I vividly remember most of that adventure. Seeing America glide by as the sun rose and set is where my insatiable wanderlust took root.

cathedral doorway Harlem, New York

Many years later my military service would take me far from home, a nineteen-year-old living in a foreign country a world away from all she’d known.  I didn’t just explore, I thrived. Travel became a need, not at want. 

The small town where I lived in southern Spain served as a base camp. From there I’d adventure into Morocco to ride camels by the sea, to Portugal where I’d eat the best meal of my life for less than three American dollars, into small towns and bustling cities I’d wander, get lost, find myself and go again spending more time than money.  

As began my own family travel just naturally became part of our fabric. When there wasn’t enough change under the cushions of the sofa to put gas in the car, I’d pick up a Lonely Planet guidebook and we would mind-wander together. Growing up my kids loved our semiregular Travel Nights at home. They would pick a place they wanted to see and I’d make them research the area, find out what made it unique and build a list of the things they’d like to do there. We’d find music from that culture and cook dishes that you’d find there.  We couldn’t afford to get on a plane and go to Germany, so we’d bring Germany to us.  

None of that early travel was made possible because I had means, it was because I was open to seeing travel as more than a hotel and a passport.  I truly believe that your definition of what it is to travel plays a big role in how accessible it becomes. 

Now that I’m all grown up (yeah, right) traveling to far off places is easier.  My job as a freelance travel writer has helped facilitate adventures beyond both my wildest dreams and my budget. Because of that work, I was able to take my father back to the country his family came from and yes, we stayed in a five-star hotel… because I worked hard for it and that hard work gave me the privilege to do this. How is that elitist? 

blue sky day on the Chesapeake Bay

A desire to see and experience as much of this world as I can, has forced me and my family to give up more things than I’d ever imagined I might consider going without.  In return, it has given us back more than my wildest dreams. My hope is that making my kids travel when what they really wanted to do was play little league or have a dog, will help them see the world though eyes of compassion and have a healthy sense of our contentedness to each other and our planet. 

To that person who felt compelled to say what they did I say, go somewhere, anywhere! Hop on a bus, take a walk to the next park over, visit the library and grab a book about a place you long to see. I know it isn’t always going to be easy and may never get to that place, but you will still have gone somewhere, seen more and learned more. Then I’d challenge them with one question… is travel elitist? 

Don’t Buy Gifts That Suck

As of the writing of this post (in mid-October), it has been holiday shopping season since roughly three months ago.  One may think that the propensity of retailers to start the gift buying frenzy off earlier and earlier would result in fastidiously chosen alms of holiday joy. Yeah, not-so-much. This year I implore you, use your time wisely… don’t buy gifts that suck

True story, three years ago I received exactly eleven scented candles as holiday gifts. Either I really need to step up my housekeeping game or these people needed to stop phoning it in. So, in the spirit of actually wanting to unwrap gifts received, I have agreed to write this post that is sponsored by uncommongoods. (disclosure: I am only accepting their money because I can actually use it to buy the things from them that I had already planned on purchasing – don’t tell Ri she’s getting that F-Bomb paperweight.) 

I started buying gifts from uncommongoods a few years back when Marc asked for rocks for his scotch. Yeah, actual rocks not ice. Turns out there are soapstone rocks out there that chill your scotch without diluting it. Well, now it turns out pretty much everyone knows that but a few years back it was just my man and uncommongoods. Turns out they have like 425 (or a few less) versions available online and in their catalog.  This year I may have to get him a hand-painted Bocce Ball set because he is Italian and I don’t by gifts that suck. 

 

Two years ago I stopped stuffing stockings. Why? Because, nobody stuffed mine, dammit! I mean the kids are now old enough to know that there isn’t a jolly elf out there paying mom and dad’s credit card bills. This should lead one to conclude that when the stockings of everyone but mom are brimming with goodies, it is time to step up to the plate. 

This year I’ll make it easy. I demand wine soap, coasters made from old LPs (and used on my good table!), Yoga Joes and a Moscow Mule Carry-On Kit for all my long-haul flight needs be stuffed in my stocking.  See, it really is not that hard to find something cool. So say it with me people… don’t by gifts that suck! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what does it mean to be a global citizen?

What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?  Is it just about living in different places, exploring unfamiliar cultures? In an effort to understand the concept and how we may differ in defining it, I’ve asked for input from journalists and Reiki Masters, expats, veterans, an octogenarian and even a middle-schooler. Their answers may surprise you. 

I’ve long held a  belief in travel as a catalyst for transformation. But, often wonder if travel alone is what imbues one with a sense of contentedness. What I found in researching this piece is that travel is not necessarily the common thread, it may be something deeper. 

The following are unedited quotes given by a wide range of people, of varying ages with a tapestry of backgrounds and life experience. Some have never traveled beyond the borders of the United States, while others are global nomads. Is there a commonality in how they’ve responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”

What Does It Mean To Be A Global Citizen? 

 

“When you become a global citizen, you stop seeing people’s race and color, your home is where you are currently located, your interest in people’s culture and background is genuine and you sort of want to be a part of their experience. You stop judging people. Instead of judging, you ask such questions as “why they do things differently, why they eat different food, and wear different clothes, and behave differently in some situations.” As a citizen of the world, you look for similarities instead of differences, or try to tear down the borders instead of building them up; and then, at the end of it all, you realize how alike we all really are.”  

~ Svetlana G. (International businesswoman who has lived in Russia, Germany, Peru, Ukraine, and the US. Speaker of four languages, currently working on her fifth)

“My dad joined the military when I was 7, and it was the most important decision he ever made for our family. While the military generally skews conservative, it opened us up to experiencing people, places, religions, food, music, etc. we would never have had we stayed in Arkansas, where both my parents were born and raised. 

All that to say, being a global citizen isn’t just a progressive/liberal mindset. I’m extremely liberal now but grew up rather conservatively. Being a global citizen, at the very least, means being aware that there are other people, countries, religions, other than your own. Of course, a more progressive mindset takes it a step further, considering how the actions of our government and our own actions impact others. That is also the difference between being a global citizen and a GOOD global citizen.”

~ Brent A.  (Graphic Designer, advocate, author, blogger, husband and father) 

 “I’ve tried to teach my four kids that because they’re had access to great opportunity in the US doesn’t mean they’re entitled to success. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people who have had less opportunities are less worthy of succeeding. As the great Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” I try to instill a sense of gratitude, responsibility, and respect for all cultures.”

~ Lindsay M.  (Mom, DIYer, advocate, author, and wife of a musician) 

“A Global Citizen to me is someone who does not feel the boundaries of certain areas and has the sense of responsibility to be wary and cautious of the land and world around them. They know what needs to be done to take care of this world and they act upon it.” 

~ Tyler B. W. (Surfer, rapper, dog-dad, husband, and currently serving United States Marine)

“Having respect and compassion for people of different cultures within our borders and beyond. Recognizing that we are all of the same world and taking care of that earth and its occupants together.”

~ Julie C. (Journalist, travel expert, wife, mother and Doxie lover) 

“Global Citizenship means, connection. I have been blessed to travel and live in other countries, this has allowed me to experience different cultures and traditions.    I choose to believe that we are connected to each other by and invisible thread that I call God/Spirit.  We all share the same responsibility of nurturing and protecting the land/sea/air for future generations.  I have found although our traditions and cultures differ our consequences to this planet has an overall impact on the rest of us.”

~ Carolyn G. (Seeker, singer, mother, wife, former British expat now U.S. Citizen)

“Being in touch with the rest of the world and having concern/interest in all of our Human race brothers and sisters. None of us had a choice as to which country we would belong to when we were born.”

~ Robin R. (Manufacturing Executive, father, husband, mountain biker and veteran) 

“Global citizens feel at home in multiple locations as they roam the world, and feel the sense of belonging to others despite their cultural, racial, societal or economic or other differences. They thrive on learning new things and appreciate local cultures. At the same time – their own roots can weaken and their own cultural habits diminish as they learn and adapt to other cultures. At best global citizenship is when you teach your own culture to others as well learn from others.”

~ Katja P. (Author, Editor, expat, mother, influencer, photographer, entrepreneur, global nomad) 

“Sending aid to victims of the Mexican earthquake the same as you do the victims of Harvey or Irma. Feeling empathy towards the Palestinians and the various African people starving due to drought and war. Recognizing and celebrating the connectedness of all people from wherever they originate. And whatever your beliefs are about your creator and whatever the person on the exact opposite side of the planet (or city or state or country) believes about the creator, it is the same being. Remember that in dealing with your brothers and sisters from across the globe. And maybe someday from across the galaxy.”

~ Kevin H. (Financial planner, singer and husband)

“It means we are all on this big rock (Earth) together and we are all connected in some way even if it is only by the internet. It means knowing that we may not all agree but we will need each other at some point. Our differences can slip away over the common ground of a basic need of survival or compassion for one another. The only place that I have traveled out of the USA mainland is to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Having seen the beauty of the island and of the people, I am extremely concerned about the recent hurricanes they have been sustaining. How will this impact their way of life and the island. I am more connected having actually been there because I have first-hand knowledge of the kindness of the people who live there.

It is important not to be or become desensitized to others around the world because when we do, we become desensitized to our basic humanity.”

~ Beth F (Nurse, homeopathic wellness expert, Reiki Master) 

“It means one who is dedicated to stewardship of our planet while seeking education for them self and others through kindness and compassion.” 

~ Sarah Jane C.  (gardener, reader, enjoying life at 81 years young)

“It is when you care about people because they are people and the earth because we share it.” 

~ Emily D. (11-year-old traveler, lover of dance and her French Bulldog)

I came away from this little experiment in social consciousness with an unexpectedly profound revelation and more questions.  With such a diverse group it seemed logical that the responses would have a wide range. Yet, they really don’t. 

We seem to have an innate understanding of our own connection to one another and to our planet. Whether we’ve seen much of the world or rarely ventured beyond our hometown, we feel a sense of community in our shared humanity. But do we foster that connection, act on it, practice the understanding we have? If we don’t, why not?

In a time where so many forces seek to polarize or isolate, I see hope in our understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. With that said, I also wonder how we turn that knowledge into action. How do we move beyond answering the question and becoming true global citizens through action?  

This week I’m in New York city attending my second travel bloggers summit on study abroad and global citizenship. It is my hope to find ways – both big and small – that can help us all take meaningful action on behalf of each other. 

If you’d like to take part, follow along on social media using #StudyAbroadBecause 

Sand Lot by Spike Gjerde

Is the coolest pop-up in Baltimore a home run or a ground out to second? We’re adding our review of Sand Lot by Spike Gjerde to the lineup so that you don’t miss it before it closes this season. 

I love Baltimore. There, I said it. 

History, art, sports, sailing, the food scene, there is just so much to dig about B’more.  J’dore! 

Sand Lot by local culinary heavy-hitter, Spike Gjerde,  is the hottest pop-up eatery in Baltimore this summer. Naturally, that meant we had to go check it out.

The name is an homage to the baseball history of the town that birthed The Great Bambino and the best damn sports flick ever – The Sand Lot!  

The Lot (venue)

Gaint Jenga, bocce ball courts, sidewalk chalk, beach chairs, strings of lights, hammocks, and SAND. The vibe is decidedly summer and certainly cool. 

From the shiny Airstream serving as the bar to the cargo container kitchens, the laid-back feel is fun and inviting. Hip menials, cocktails in hand,  toss cornhole bean bags. The high chair crew climbs through cargo nets waiting for their corn dog delivery and it works! 

The Lineup (menu) 

Don’t expect Woodberry Kitchen. The summer vibe extends to the menu which I can best describe as ballpark chic. While some dishes are certainly elevated it is still pretty much street food –  which I don’t mind but wasn’t expecting. 

Corndogs with Ranch – Strike

They weren’t impressive at all and serving them in a pool of ranch didn’t help. Even the 10-year-old was unimpressed… with a corndog! 

Pulled Pork Nachos – Walk-Off Double

The meat had a deep layer of flavor, owing no doubt to being smoked. The sauce was flavorful but not a huge wow. Combining the meaty favorite with crispy chips was a texture win.

Crab and Corn Fritters with Pepper Jam – Sacrifice Fly 

 Spike is well-known for keeping it local at all of his restaurants. Makes sense that crab would make the lineup at the lot. These fritters showcased very little of our iconic blue crab. Maybe understandably so since they were very small. The saving play here was an outstanding pepper jam that was the perfect pitch of sweet and spicy.

Smoked Meatballs – Home Run! 

OMG! Seriously, my mouth is watering at the mere mention. Mr. Gjerde, I’m not sure what you did to these but they are good enough to kick a vegetarian off the wagon.  

 

The Scorecard 

Food = Hit or miss but for the most part it is a solid Double 

Location = It isn’t the easiest place to find but I feel that sort of works in their favor. I’d say this is a 1 Run Single to Left. 

Atmosphere = Between the cool reclaimed vibe, the unique seating options and free activities (hello, bocce on the beach!) they get a Walk Off Homer. 

Family Friendly Score = Grand Slam! Pets welcome, lots of free activities, finger foods, and the best place to catch a Charm City Sunset, it’s a total win! 

Sand Lot Baltimore vs Pizza Delivery on a Friday Night – 10 to 0 

 

 

 

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT