Category Archives: Stress Reduction

Military: Sign up now for free summer camp, and free family retreats

Military child climbs rock wall: Photo: NMFA
Military child climbs rock wall: Photo: NMFA

Applications are available now through April 6 for the National Military Family Association Operation Purple Camp program.  The program provides military children with 1 free week of summer camp in locations across the US.  Eligibility is as follows:

“Operation Purple camps are open to military children with a parent or guardian from any service branch, including National Guard and Reserve, Coast Guard, and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Priority is given to children who have a parent or guardian who incurred service-connected injuries or illness on or after 9/11 or will have a parent or guardian deployed during a 15-month deployment “window;” this includes pre-, during and post-deployment phases. Remaining camp slots are filled with any DEERS-eligible military child. Children of retired military personnel are eligible if the service member was injured or ill on or after 9/11 or deployed at any time during the current deployment “window” before retirement. Specific “window” time frames will  be announced each year.”

This is a TERRIFIC program. My daughter went while my husband was deployed to AFG.  It was a really great experience.

GO HERE TO read more and apply for kids summer camp

Family activity at Operation Purple Healing Adventures. Photo: NMFA
Family activity at Operation Purple Healing Adventures. Photo: NMFA

Also, families may apply to Operation Healing Adventure, in Northeastern Pennsylvania in June.

Operation Purple Healing Adventures celebrates rediscovering family-fun and togetherness after an injury. This FREE three-day experience combines family-focused activities with outdoor exploration, like hiking and canoeing to encourage each family’s growth on their new journey post-injury. Our Association welcomes wounded, ill, injured, medically separated, or medically retired military families to reconnect at Healing Adventures. Using specially adapted communication activities developed by FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress™), Healing Adventures ensures your family returns home strong and resilient. 

Food and lodging are provided to families at no cost. There are no activity fees or other expenses. Families are responsible for their own transportation to and from the program. 

Go here to apply for Operation Healing Adventures for families

Review: “Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury”

With more veterans being diagnosed with TBI, and the real concern of being at a higher risk for developing dementia,  along with studies on NFL football players, there is the looming question of what it means.  What does dementia look like, and how does the affected person feel?  What impact does it have on those around them who will go from spouse or friend to caretaker? These questions make us uneasy, though one film answers it by delivering a moving portrayal of a wife, mother and friend slipping away.

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Connie Shulman with Laury Marker Sacks

Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” is a documentary that follows 46 year old Laury Marker Sacks in her decline due to frontal temporal dementia. Sacks was a married playwright, actor, singer, and a busy mother of two living in NYC, who gradually started to lose her words, and eventually, her cognitive abilities. The documentary was intended to be a project that Sacks could be involved in with her friends, a way of hanging on while she knew she experiencing a downhill slide. What we see is a husband doing his best to juggle as she is less able to communicate and participate in the household, a daughter who is quiet but showers her affection on a caregiver, and lets a friend talk for her. The chaos of their home life is shown by a house in disarray, as they grapple with her deteriorating situation. And what we hear is Laury admitting, “It’s not good,” of her diagnosis. While Laury is still there, the mother and wife and all that she did are missing.

Her friends are a huge part of the film, a sturdy and sympathetic community that rallies around the family. “Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” is as much about their reactions as much as it is about Laury. Some go to familial lengths –providing adult day care for her after the caretaker quits. But as the caretaker points out –Laury is a lot sicker than any of the friends realize. Though she’s losing her ability to talk, what she hasn’t lost is her mobility. Her desperation is manifested in her almost frenetic walking. Walking is the one thing that she hasn’t lost, and so she does it. But it’s less walking for a purpose to go and get somewhere, as it is her one last stab at independence. 

Is she still there, as she gradually slips away?  It shows up in glimmers –saying a friend’s name, admitting that things aren’t good, showing dissent when the hiring of a caretaker is suggested by her husband and friend.  Her laughter is also affirmation that she’s still there. One friend says it’s as if Laury is standing outside of her own body, and knows how “ridiculous” this all is.

Filmmakers Pamela Hogan (“Women, War, and Peace”) and Connie Shulman (“Orange Is The New Black”) have told a story about their friend with love, respect, laughter, and concern.  But the laughter doesn’t hide the fact that the wife, mother and friend is seriously ill. And that’s the irony: that someone still so seemingly vital could be slipping away so quickly.
Available for streaming now on PBS “America Reframed.”

Respect: Blind Veterans Kayak Yankee Jim Canyon

Our friend Steve Baskis, over on his site, Blind Endeavors, describes his recent trip down the Grand Canyon in a kayak.  Organized by Team River Runner, both the training and the trip were led by blind kayaking pioneer, military veteran Lonnie Bedwell, and his sighted guide Alex Nielson. In addition, Steve was joined by fellow blind athletes, Travis Fugate, Aaron Hale and Eric Marts

From his blog, Steve writes:YankeeJimCanyonBlind-23-300x200

In July of 2014, a friend named Lonnie Bedwell invited me to The Out of Sight Team River Runner Clinic in Emigrant, Montana. The preplanned Team River Runner trip was a wild adrenaline pumping adventure on a few of The Yellowstone Rivers white water rapids. Lonnie Bedwell, a fellow veteran who lost his vision in a hunting accident many years ago, was there to help  lead the way. Lonnie had successfully paddled the entire Grand Canyon Colorado River stretch the following year and was excited to teach myself and 3 other blind veterans how to run class 3 white water without sight. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive and anxious about this challenge, water is truly dynamic and wild at times. Navigating down a high flow river with all of its power carrying you can make you feel vulnerable and weak when you cannot see where you are going. The challenge was not impossible to overcome though. Lonnie and his Grand Canyon adventure was enough proof that a blind paddler could dance on the river and tango with blind kayakers.

To follow athlete, and blind OIF veteran Steve Baskis, please follow his website: Blind Endeavors.

Watch Lonnie Bedwell’s pioneering journey with Team River Runner as the first blind kayaker to make it down the 226 mile run through the Grand Canyon.

San Francisco: 3rd Annual Veterans Day Gathering & Fundraiser

unnamedThe deepest honor we can give veterans is to cultivate peace. For the third year in a row, in honor of Veterans Day, we invite you to come and spend the afternoon with veterans, cultivating peace from the inside out.  

Please join us for the afternoon to witness and share veterans’ individual and collective journeys back to wholeness. There will be sharing by veterans, opportunities for connection as well as time to find ways you can contribute.

You can support HPW’s programs and these veterans by bringing a friend, neighbor, colleague or family member.

Sunday, November 9th from 1-4pm
Private Dining Room, Greens Restaurant, San Francisco
Put the date on your calendar today, forward this email to some friends.  And if you’re ready, you can RSVP today!
If you didn’t have time to read our last newsletter, it’s on our website here.

With deep bows to each of you for your support and caring, and for joining us on this path.

~ The Staff of HPW
Lee Klinger Lesser, Executive and Programs Director, Cofounder
Chris Fortin, Lead Facilitator and Cofounder
Dyan Ferguson, Development and Operations Manager, US Army Veteran

Study: Meditation & Yoga found beneficial in new study

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Adam Burn, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, practices yoga techniques to help combat stress. A Stanford scholar has found that breathing-based meditation dramatically reduces PTSD in veterans. Photo: Stanford, L.A. Cicero

Who:  21 veterans were studied by researchers at Stanford University.

Method: The 21 participants met for three-hour sessions over seven days. Researchers measured eye-blink responses to loud noises, respiration rates and self-reported descriptions of participants’ PTSD symptoms. Assessments were taken at four intervals – before, during, one month later and one year after the treatment.

Why it’s important:  Because it’s proof of something that we’ve known all along. Studies can serve as a way to encourage the funding of yoga teachers and programs at VA hospitals.

Read over here:  Stanford Scholar Helps Veterans Recover From War Trauma

To find out how to do yoga in your own home, go to veteran-founded and run Bootstrap USA.

South Dakota: Pheasant Hunt for veterans with Wounded Warriors In Action

The wwiaf-logo1Wounded Warriors In Action Foundation is a veteran-founded and operated organization that offers hunting and fishing opportunities in the great outdoors. WWIA has many listings for sporting events throughout the country on their website, including the one we’ve highlighted. If you are a purple heart veteran, and would like to go to their application page.

The following is from their website.

South Dakota Pheasant Hunt — November 07 – November 10, 2014

Hunt pheasants behind Braque Francais French Pointers on opening day in South Dakota! Enjoy accommodations at the well-appointed Grand Ciel Lodge.

What do you get when you combine a great upland pheasant hunt in South Dakota with really good food and awesome accommodations?

A) sore feet
B) pants that don’t fit
C) a real Charlie Foxtrot
D) an unbelievably wonderful experience chasing a cunning bird and great memories that will last a lifetime

Find out more about WWIA and its mission by watching this short video.

OREGON: Smith Rock Climbing for Veterans (free!)

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A free, six day rock climbing course for veterans on 11/9/2014 – 11/14/2014.  No previous experience necessary.  Sign up on their site. Transportation to and from is not included.

From Northwest Outward Bound website:

This is a six-day rock climbing course at world-renowned Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon. Veterans will receive individual instruction and test their skills against vertical cracks, steep faces and boulders. Whether you are new to rock climbing or already have experience this course will be an opportunity to learn further skills and practice in a positive and supportive environment.

The group will set up a basecamp in a campground near Smith Rock State Park among the multicolored cliffs and spires, in order to focus on building climbing skills and techniques, and to establish a comprehensive and safe climbing foundation. You will learn about basic climbing equipment, ropes, carabineers, harnesses, knots, belaying and rappelling techniques, and most importantly, how to move across the rock face efficiently and effectively using hand and foot holds.

Personal feedback from instructors helps you progress toward your climbing goals. Our staff to student ratio averages 1:3. You’ll not only build strong climbing skills and get a great taste of Smith Rock, but you’ll get all that Outward Bound and our incredible staff have to offer as well! Students who advance in the basic skills have the opportunity to do a multi-pitch climb or a spectacular Tyrolean Traverse put the newly gained skills to the test.

You do not need to have any previous experience. We will teach you the necessary skill sets for each activity.

To The Girl On The Bus

We’re starting a new feature:  The letter you always wanted to write.

10706663_392775517537060_212893065_aThere we were, on the Fly Away Bus at the airport, waiting to begin our trip to Union Station. We just started to pull out of LAX, when you turned to face the window. I busied myself, trying not to look at you.  It was only going to be a 25 minute bus ride. This wasn’t a commitment to be a chatter box on an uneventful ride.

As the bus made its way onto the crowded freeway, it was clear you were crying behind those sunglasses. You’d pick up your phone, text, then cry again. I tried my best to not engage in your drama. Scenarios ticked off in my mind, none very original.  Were you breaking up?  Did someone die, and were you arriving too late? I kept  to myself, determined to grant you space, but your tears weren’t letting up. You were wiping them away with the back of your hand. Combined with the worst collection of heartbreak songs being piped over the bus PA system …you were breaking me up.

So I handed you a tissue. It wasn’t a gallant handkerchief, the type that would have been offered by a gentleman. No,  just a kleenex, offered to you by a Mom. I hoped you wouldn’t take offense. You didn’t. A conversation started during rush hour traffic on the freeway, and continued through the backstreets of Los Angeles. You were searching for comfort and reassurance and I, feeling the echo of an empty nest, was willing to provide it.  You’d just dropped your mother off at LAX. A three week vacation of hiking, going to the beach, and many smiles had ended. She was on her way back to Scotland.

You missed her the minute you had to get back on the bus, and now, on the ride back, the future tumbled through your mind. Would you move back? You couldn’t, really. Would she move here? She couldn’t, really. All these poignant questions loomed over you like a sad cloud.

To miss someone is a horrible thing. To miss your mother?  Ah, that’s the stuff of poetry.  So all I could tell you was that things have a way of working out. I hoped I didn’t sound so trite. But the truth is, your mother is always with you.  You’re riding on this incredible wave of love, given to you from her.  She instilled the courage in you to pick up stakes in Scotland, and move across the ocean (and then some) to the west coast. Your Mum is the reason you’ve been able to work through 2 states with one company, riding the opportunities they’ve given to you. Will you go, or will she come?  There’s no way of knowing. The answer will be revealed to you over the years. Keep building bridges, and you’ll have more choices. Eventually, you’ll know. The uncertainty of the future is something that will always be hovering just above our heads. But love hard, be present, live, grow and learn. Things will work out.

The Power of One

September is Suicide Prevention Month and we wanted to take a moment and let you know about one of the resources available. The Veterans Crisis Line is available to Veterans (and their loved ones!) via phone call, text message or online chat. The Folks at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances.

a2NXEze_700bIn support of Suicide Prevention Month, the Veterans Crisis Line has dedicated a section of their website to “The Power of One” and other resources and information available.

If you or someone you love displays the “signs of crisis”, please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line, where confidential support is just one call, text, or chat away.