Category Archives: Holidays

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.

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate FudgeHonestly, does a post with a title like this really need anything more than a recipe? I could tell you about how I’ve just recently developed an interest in bourbon, and the craft of distilling it. Could go on about how discovering I like it has sparked all sorts of mixology adventures. Maybe I should tell you that Maker’s Mark enlisted me in some boozy baking fun, and that they helped in the development of this recipe by sending along a bottle of their amber awesome for me to play with. But really, all you want to know is…

“How do I get this in my belly… NOW?!”

So here ya go, you chocolate-loving-booze-hounds. (people after my own heart)

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge IngredientsOne note about ingredients : Though fudge is oft made with semi-sweet or milk chocolate, this recipe uses high cacao content dark and semi-sweet chocolates. Why? Because this blend helps showcase the smokey notes of the bourbon and plays well with the tart cherry flavor. I tested a few chocolate options and this final blend took the recipe over the top – which is what boozy chocolate should be, right?

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge
Serves 24
Dark, rich and delish, adding bourbon and cherries takes this fudge from holiday treat to confection perfection. I highly recommended using both good quality chocolate and vanilla bean rather than extract.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Makers Mark)
  2. 1 cup Dried Dark Cherries
  3. 1 pod Vanilla Bean
  4. 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  5. 1 cup Sugar
  6. 5oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  7. 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  8. 6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  9. 6 oz Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place cherries and bourbon in a small sauce pan, allow to simmer on medium heat until most of the bourbon is absorbed into the cherries. Set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat combine milk, sugar, vanilla caviar (insides of the pod) and butter. Allow to come to a simmer. Add chocolate by 1/2 cups, whisking to combine. Once all chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir in cherries and bourbon until combined. Place in a disposable 8x8 foil pan. Top with dried cherries, pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional). Allow to cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving.
Notes
  1. If you prefer a more pronounced bourbon flavor, decrease the amount of condensed milk by 1 ounce and increase the bourbon to 3/4 of a cup.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

 

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

So this is Christmas, and what have I done? Forgotten teacher gifts, failed to mail holiday cards and let the Big Guy down in the stocking stuffing department. In short, I’m failing Christmas this year. Or maybe not. Did you know you can get last minute gifts from your smartphone? No shipping. No wrapping. Nobody has to know how very Grinchy it got.

Generally I’m the very model of Merry and Bright. Most years the halls have been decked by the day after Thanksgiving, shopping finished by December first, by the week of Christmas the oven is  continuously cranking out sweets and savories for friends, family and public servants too.

This year… not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s the 70 degree weather in Maryland – Maryland NOT California! Or loosing one of our fury family members of 13 years the day before Thanksgiving. It could just be seasonal lazy. Who knows. All I do know is that I’m every so grateful that modern technology has my back. Otherwise people might be on to the fact that I don’t really have it all together… any time of year.

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Smilebox Holiday eCards

Didn’t have time to create that cool holiday card, stick a stamp on it and mail it? No worries, you can send an equally awesome eCard with your own photos and personal touches straight from your smartphone. Smilebox has an easy app with lots of customization available through templates and more.

You can create cards, build slideshows, and create collages. Plus this is an Eco-friendly way  to send those holiday wishes.

Text A Gift Card

I can’t even tell you how awesome this feature is. Imagine no shipping charges, not having to fight crowds, no wrapping. It’s a holiday miracle.

I forgot gifts for the kids’ teachers this year. I always give them Starbucks gift cards, because coffee.  This oversight came to my attention sitting in the drop-off line this morning… the last day of school before the break. That’s the level of fail we’re talking about here.

I’m a Verizon customer and the messaging app on my phone allows me to click on a cute little package which then opens up a window with gifting options. Three clicks and all the teachers got texts wishing them a Merry Christmas and happy caffeinated New Year.

Google Store has a similar option as does iTunes. Helpful little elves that they are.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts from Your SmartPhoneBe There, Even When You Aren’t

My parents live in California, where I grew up. We are all the way on the East Coast. It gets pricey to fly four kids, two grownups, and an ostrich in a bear tree across the country at the holidays. Airlines with inflated holiday fairs are the real Grinch, huh? 

Live video streaming is a built-in feature on my Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. All I have to do to let Memaw and Papa see the kids open their gifts, is tap a few buttons and we’re all in the same room.

Sing and Dance Together

Music is a big deal in our house. It seems everything we do from hiking to house cleaning has it’s own playlist. The holidays are when we turn it up to 11.

The kids and I put together playlists for cookie decorating, Christmas dinner, and even to send to our Marine who is stationed far from home. Spotify let’s us all contribute our favorite tunes and share them. We play this music through the audio in the car on the three hour drive to see my husband’s family in New York city, and beam it to our smartTV while we unwrap gifts. The teen even rocks the tunes from her phone while she’s doing dishes… cuts down on the complaining… sometimes.

Even if you’ve totally failed the holidays to this point, if you’ve got a Smartphone you’ve got it covered. Merry Christmas from our family to you and yours!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

 

Christmas Rewind with Wizzard

I love that my teen is open to all sorts of musical and artistic expression. Okay, really I mostly love that she digs the same music I do.  One of my favorite parenting moments came when the manager of The Violent Femmes liked a tweet about my kids rockin’ out to ‘Kiss Off’ on one of our epic road trips.

I. Win. Parenting.

While making merry and junk, she began to ponder complain about Christmas songs that get remade with each generation (lack of creativity much?) Wanting to prove that the holiday music scene has more to offer than the 2,147th remake of ‘Santa Clause is Coming To Town’ I decided to I’d share my favorite Christmas song with her; ‘Fairy Tale of New York.’

Naturally we went to YouTube, because actually seeing Shane MacGowan sing is a gift in itself. She loved it, I beamed. Then YouTube served up another Christmas-themed-British-type music video.  My words fall short in describing this, so I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

Were two drummers really necessary? Why is there just one balloon, and is that child beating himself with it? Don’t even get me started on the guy at the piano or the overuse of blue eyeshadow. Did he just kick that child? This is a CLASSIC!

Her reaction… “All. The. Drugs. They must have been on all the drugs.”

Happy Christmas!

 

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!

A CHAINSAW!

At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!