Archive for May, 2011

A friend of mine, Stephanie Himel-Nelson wrote a fantastic piece in the At War blog of the New York Times, Explaining War to Our Children.  I don’t have to explain war to my child, he’s a veteran of OIF himself; we have to explain it to our Granddaughter.

The last time my husband deployed, Granddaughter was only 3.  Since we live halfway across the country – she didn’t realize that her Chief was overseas, he was just a little more gone and not on the phone with Nana when she called.  This deployment, she’s 5 1/2 (don’t forget that half!) and she has asked a few questions.  I know I need to talk to our son and daughter in law about what we are going to say to her if she asks about where Chief is.  Do we tell her he’s away; do we pretend that he’s at work if we talk or skype together?

Our son was raised, until he was 7, in an active duty military family – we were stationed in Germany twice and he was immersed in both the military and German culture.  He understood that Daddy wore a green (later BDU) suit and did mysterious things “at work”. Our Granddaughter is being raised in a two veteran household, her mommy and daddy have pictures of themselves in uniform and deal with the VA daily – but I’m still not sure what she’s been told or understands what the whole Army thing means

Reading the piece, I understood Stephanie’s feelings.  Reading the comments, however, I was angry – angry that the comments were “you need to explain how awful military people are – baby killers etc”… “imperialist war machine”…. “going to war to make others rich”..  I cannot imagine that any of those making these statements would want to tell their own children that their family member’s service and the family’s sacrifice is because he or she is a tool doing the bidding of an immoral government.

Whatever our opinion of the wars our military are involved in, we are telling children,  our children, about what their parent, their family member, is doing; why Daddy isn’t home to tuck them in and read a bedtime story; why Mom is celebrating their birthday via Skype; why their big brother or sister isn’t around the dinner table; why the uncle or aunt can’t be there for the family BBQ or Thanksgiving gatherings.  To tell Stephanie, oh so politely  but nonetheless as a backhanded slap, that her children should be told their loved uncle is going to war because he’s a baby killer/war monger/fool who doesn’t know better – is insulting, foolish and frankly beneath contempt.  Stephanie is a lot nicer than I am (really, I know her, she’s a LOT nicer) and she won’t tell these people what she thinks.  Out of respect for her, I won’t say it in the comments either (I’d get into trouble) I’ll say it here – tell me something like that and you better run like a rabbit.  I’m so very proud of my husband the soldier, of my son and daughter in law the veterans.  Say anything like those comments to me and you better duck.



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Great News!  For all of us who enjoy museums and spending time with great works of art, or a fun place to spend a day with kids where they learn something!  It’s back!!!  the Blues Star Families Museum program that has worked with the National Endowment for the Arts to create –

a partnership with more than 1,300 museums across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2011.

Yes, Free Admission!  Here’s the link to the list of museums.  Last year, Chief and I used it for a great day at Colonial Williamsburg, for a Show of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass and other works.  This year, I’m heading to Hillwood – all that lovely Faberge!   Take a look – I’ll bet you will find a wonderful place to spend some time this summer with the whole family, doing something fun, and (sshhhh, don’t tell the kids)… educational even!


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This can only happen in America – a serious matter like air quality, given a twist!  The EPA is hosting hearings in Atlanta on Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. about Mercury and the effect on pregnant women, women of child bearing age and children. The Sierra Club is asking Atlanta area citizens to come to the meetings, and has a few incentives to help you make up your mind.  Find out your mercury level with a quick snip – See below for the link to register to get tested.  There will be a fish fry and after hearing social.  so, go hangout with like minded folks, and make sure your voice is heard.  There will even be activities for the kids, so bring them along.


* What: EPA public hearing
* When: Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
* Where: 61 Forsyth Street, SW Atlanta, GA 30303 (Directly across from the Five Points MARTA train station)
* Who: You–and hundreds of other Georgia residents

For more information & to sign up, visit http://action.sierraclub.org/AtlantaHearing

Special events include: Free Mercury Hair Testing from 12Noon-1P.M. at the Vintage Barber Shop in the Healey Building (57 Forsyth Street Atlanta, GA 30303); a 5:30 p.m. fish fry hosted with resources provided by the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI); and a rooftop social at the Glenn Hotel following the hearing.

Contact erin.glynn@sierraclub.org or (404) 607-1262 x233 and follow us on Twitter @gasierraclub

Details on the noon hair testing are here:

Mercury Hair Testing Invitation

One in six women of childbearing age in the United States has enough mercury in her body to hamper her child’s ability to walk, talk, read and write should she become pregnant. The EPA has issued a draft rule that would cut mercury pollution (along with other pollutants like arsenic and lead) from power plants. One of three hearings about the rule will be held in Atlanta on May 26th.

At 12pm on May 26th Sierra Club and Environment Georgia are hosting an event in a hair salon down the street from the EPA hearing to test the mercury contamination in Atlanta area women. During the testing speakers—from decision makers to impacted mothers will speak to the importance of limiting mercury pollution.

Testing slots are limited so please email erin.glynn@sierraclub.org if you’ll be able to attend

Details on the hair testing:

* What: Find out how much mercury you have in your body by getting your free mercury hair test in conjunction with the new EPA Mercury Rule and May 26 public hearing.
* When: Thursday, May 26th, 12-1pm
* Where: Vintage Hair Gallery, 57 Forsyth St NW Atlanta, GA 30303

After the hair testing, attend the afternoon session of the EPA Mercury Public Hearing at USEPA, 61 Forsyth Street, Atlanta 30303. Moms will be given special pink corsages at the public hearing. Bring your kids as there will be a place in the hearing room for a children’s activity.

Contact: erin.glynn@sierraclub.org or (404) 607-1262 x233 desk or (770) 598-6814 cell.

For more information, don’t forget to go to Mom’s Clean Air Force

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At a time when nearly 5 million children suffer from asthma, and childhood cancer rates are rising dramatically, successful environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act are at risk of being dismantled. With the economy, budget cuts and a host of other pressing issues, the last thing Congress has on its mind right now is our families’ health. What does this mean for our children? Why is the Clean Air Act so important for family health and what can mothers do to safeguard their kids?

This invitation-only online event will be hosted by Dominique Browning, author of Slow Love, blogger at Slow Love Life, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden, and lead blogger for the Moms Clean Air Force.

She will be joined by special guest Jessica Capshaw, star of “Grey’s Anatomy”, and Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Jessica Capshaw is a mother of two, the actress who plays Dr. Arizona Robbins on “Grey’s Anatomy” and a passionate advocate for the environment and children’s health. Capshaw is married to Christopher Gavigan, bestselling author and former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, a nonprofit that empowers parents to protect children from harmful chemicals.

Vickie Patton is a mother of two who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She has fought to protect human health and the environment from air pollution for two decades — at EDF and, before that, at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of General Counsel.

Participants will have the opportunity to live-chat, Tweet and/or ask questions throughout the presentation and discussion.

Will you join us? This webinar is a unique opportunity to join the conversation about protecting our kids’ health and preserving the environment for generations to come.

We look forward to “seeing” you on May 18th! Here’s the link.

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A book I had been asked to review arrived at the house the day we were packing to leave for a weekend away, so I popped it into the knitting bag as we went out the door. Since I woke up the next morning at 5, I pulled it out, and switched on my little book light to let my husband sleep since the ceilidh the night before went late.

The book – Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. Briefly (and without giving out the ending) this is the story of a young teenage girl, whose Reserve/Guard dad has been activated for service in Iraq during the peak of Guard deployments. Her mother Angie’s reaction to the deployment – Alice’s relationship with her mother and father, and the boy next door – her little sister Ellie who is 8 going on 37 – the Gram who gives her strength and love; this family is everyone’s family. For the women reading this – remember when your daddy was the perfect hero, the greatest strongest person, the only one who understood you? And your mother didn’t get it, she was just so… so impossible? This is Alice’s reality. She is her daddy’s girl and when he goes away, her life changes in more ways than she can handle.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was written by a member of a current military family; from Angie’s inability to function in the home; Alice’s desperate wearing of her dad’s shirt until it reeks; the “backwards dinner” or the cereal meals, it’s written with an empathetic voice and understanding for these people that reverberates through the book.  The box of letters from her dad written for her to open “just in case”, is one of those rites of passage that the military community understands without question, but that most civilians wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

Crying while I read a book is not a common occurrence, but these characters were my family and I wept for them, laughed with them, and ached to comfort them when they hurt. As one of the 1% who are being impacted by the multiple deployments, these people are mine, this family represents all those I’ve seen at the farewells and the FRG meetings; those spouses who leave the comments on Facebook pages asking for help, for understanding, for a shoulder to lean on for just a few minutes. If Ms. Harrington can introduce the rest of the country to these families, if her words can help the other 99% understand how we are functioning, can shine a light on the situations we find ourselves conquering; we will all stand in line to say thank you and I’ll be first!

Putting the book down was painful, although at times reading it was almost agonizing. If you are the parent of a teenage girl you’ll recognize Alice; if you are a military family member, you’ll recognize the family.

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I received a request from the researcher – she wanted to ask for our help. This study will ask about US, the spouses; about how deployments are affecting the spouses.  This research is focusing on Army National Guard and Reserve spouses.   The purpose and the background for this research is set out in the press release below.  Read it first.  Yes, I know, another study.  But we need to give them the information – we need to get our voices heard.  So be LOUD!  here’s the link   but read the release below first.



The ravages of war often stay with soldiers who return from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Guard and Reserve soldiers return from battle directly into their civilian communities. Now their spouses are on the frontline. Researchers to date have largely ignored these spouses. New research focuses on the post-deployment experience of this neglected population. Support for military families is a timely topic and deserves nationwide attention.

Returning Guard and Reserve soldiers return from combat and go directly into civilian communities. Their homes and families are off military bases – often great distances from existing post-combat support systems. Their spouses are thrust into caring for and coping with someone who may have been profoundly affected by combat. Recent studies indicate that Guard and Reserve soldiers experience higher rates of PTSD and suicide than active duty soldiers1, 2, 3. How are spouses coping with this? How is it affecting their marriage? Is there volatile behavior in the home? Are spouses experiencing any behavioral health issues? Where do spouses turn for help? Is military family support helpful? Is support from family or friends helpful? These are important questions, which a new research study seeks to answer.

A nationwide study is being conducted at the University of Hawaii and it focuses on marital distress and behavioral health issues of Army National Guard and US Army Reserve spouses. Numerous studies have researched the adverse impact military combat has on the behavioral health problems of military combat soldiers. However, little research has examined the level of post-deployment marital distress and related behavioral health issues affecting the spouses. Research is especially lacking for spouses of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers.

Recruitment is underway for this study nationwide. The study is set-up as an online survey and the link to the survey is located at http://armyspousestudy.com. The participant’s identity is not collected or required and all data received is anonymous.

Why does this study focus on Army Guard and Reserve families?

Since the 1990’s, the Reserve Component has been viewed and used as an operational reserve rather than a strategic reserve force4, 5. This shift in perspective has greatly increased the use of the Reserve Components overseas since the Global War on Terror began in 20014, 5. From Sept 2001 – Nov 2007 OEF/OIF deployment included 254,894 National Guard and 202,113 Reserves6. Additionally, during the first Gulf War, 18% of Reserve Components were deployed, whereas more than 40% of Reserve Components have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. These figures do not include deployments from 2008-2011.

There are similarities between the Guard and Reserve families that differ from the Army’s Active Component. Fifty-six percent of active duty soldiers and their families live on or near their base, whereas no Guard/Reserve soldiers and their families live on base. Additional¬ly, 48% of Guard and 50% of Reserve live more than 30 minutes from the nearest military installation and about 27% of Guard and Reserve live more than one-hour away.  The distance from base may create problems with access to military resources for the soldiers and their families.

Another important difference between Reserve and Active Component spouses is in their understanding of the possibility of their husband’s deployment. In a survey of spouses in 2000, only 35% of Guard and 28% of Reserve spouses thought it would be likely or very likely that their husbands would deploy during the next five years. Between 46% to 69% of Guard & Reserve spouses were unprepared when their husbands were called to deploy in ’01 & ‘028. Furthermore, 60% of Reserve families were given only a 2-week notice at the time to prepare emotionally & administratively (preparing wills, power of attorney, & other necessary financial and legal documentation) for deployment.

These are only a few of the differences between the Reserve and Active Component families that give good cause to understand the challenges faced by the Reserve Component spouses during the post-deployment period. Nevertheless, studies of active duty spouses are greatly needed as well and it is hoped that the findings of this current study will help to further research for all military spouses.

This study intends to gain understanding of the many challenges faced by spouses of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who have returned from OEF/OIF deployment. This includes marital relationship and behavioral health issues (such as depression). In addition, we want to understand how well community and military family support services are helping spouses with post-deployment needs.

Information from this study will be used to inform the public and policy makers about the challenges faced by spouses of Guard and Reserve soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan military combat deployment. Additionally, information from the study will inform the public and policy makers about the community and military family support service needs of this population. The results of the study will be widely distributed to have maximum benefits for families and those who provide services to families.

Who should participate?

If you are a civilian spouse (or unmarried couple but living together) of an Army National Guard or Reserve soldier who has returned from OEF/OIF deployment, your participation is very important. You will have the opportunity to have your personal situation heard and understood. By participating, you will help get information to the public about the challenges faced by Guard and Reserve spouses, which could lead to improved and/or new services to Guard and Reserve families. We anticipate that some spouses and their marriages are doing well and some are not. In order to understand the differences in these spouses and their marriages, it works best to compare and contrast the different situations, so we encourage spouses who are doing well to participate in the survey as well as those who feel they are not doing well.

As mentioned above, the study is being conducted as an online survey and the link to the survey can be found at http://armyspousestudy.com . The survey is anonymous. It takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete. There are a number of questions regarding your background, your emotional well-being, your marital relationship, and support received from family, friends, and military family support services. At the end of the survey, there are open-ended questions available for you to state anything you feel is important to understand about your situation that was not covered by the questions.

Cynthia J’Anthony is the principle investigator for this study. She is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Department of Psychology. Send questions regarding this research to csjantho@hawaii.edu.

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The health of our children isn’t just a matter of protection of our young, isn’t just that gut instinct of the parent to protect its cub; the health of the nation’s children isn’t just what a responsible group of statesmen and public officials are morally obligated to do; we need to do it for another reason. It’s a crass thing – it’s something we don’t want to discuss.


The health of our children doesn’t just cost them physically, it doesn’t just cost us as parents or grandparents, emotionally when they are sick, when they have trouble breathing with asthma. It costs all of us monetarily. Those of us with health insurance are grateful for the coverage, except when we have to change insurance and that asthma is a pre-existing condition, and ends up costing hundreds in additional premiums; or the condition isn’t covered and all those doctor visits and medications aren’t paid for! The children of those who don’t have coverage at all – can you imagine the cost of those visits and meds to Medicaid?

When our son was in elementary school, we didn’t live close to any family members who could watch him when he got sick. So every cold, every flu, every “tummy bug” ended up with one of us having to take time off work. Multiply that by the amount of children in our country and we are talking some serious cash! For a child with asthma, for a child who is affected by mercury exposure, childhood cancer, lead poisoning, the medical visits and costs are frequent and expensive. The loss of productivity is amazing.

As a matter of fact, there is a new report out – the results are pretty staggering. The title says the costs are $76.6 BILLION in 2008 for children with environmental diseases. This includes costs for those children who were exposed in utero to mercury, which can mean special education for a child with intellectual disability from mercury poisoning. Since the single largest depositors of mercury are the coal fired power plants in this country, stricter regulations are necessary.

The report “ limited [their ]analysis, as Landrigan and colleagues did, to those diseases in childhood associated with “chemical substances of human origin in environmental media—air, food, water, soil, the home, and the community..” The indirect costs for asthma alone, as discussed in this report is $2.2 BILLION. This is serious money!

Since in our society Money Talks – maybe this will make those who deny that pollution costs all of us in so many ways, wake up!

I’d rather have someone vote to strengthen the Clean Air Act because it’s the right thing to do. But if it takes the report of the cost to make them vote – fine. Here’s the link to the report.

Read it, send it to your congressperson.  Make them realize that this is crucial, to our health, to our country.  As always, for more information, take a look at Mom’s Clean Air Force.


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