Stir, sprinkle, share

Before I got married, my mom gave me a small three-ring binder. In it she had written down some basic recipes and family standards. She also included quite a few blank pages, which over the years have been filled with recipes. The now-faded blue notebook has become a culinary history of military assignments and friends.

The raspberry coffee cake I make every year on Christmas morning came from Heidi, who lived on our street at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

Free e-book for Christmas

In “Taming the Fire Within,” author Anne Freund speaks conversationally to combat veterans of all eras, explaining the natural emotional and behavioral reactions to the many stressors of war.

Freund, a licensed clinical psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering free downloands of her book to military members, veterans and their families at this link.

NORAD believes in Santa

Dear Spouse Calls,

I am 8 years old, and I just moved from Fort Sill, Okla., to Fort Eustis, Va. I am worried that Santa might not know where to bring my Christmas presents. The kids at my new school make fun of me. They say there is no Santa Claus. My dad said, “If you see it in Stars and Stripes, it better be true.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus, and how will he know where to find me?

Tragedy evokes memories, questions

When I heard Friday about the terrible events that ended 26 lives -- most of them as they were just beginning -- my thoughts went back to 2009. That year a friend and colleague of my husband died in early November in Germany, just days after a gunman took the lives of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.

No individual grief is comparable to another. No terrible outcome can be adequately explained to the bereaved. As I contemplated a response to what happened this week, I realized that my thoughts now are very similar to words I wrote during the Christmas season three years ago:

Ghosts of deployments past

This Christmas, while my military husband is safe at home, I remember the Christmases he was not and the spouses and families who are celebrating their way through challenging holidays. The ghosts of Christmas deployments past are here to remind me of the military families separated from someone they love this season.

Late at night, someone is up longer than he planned to be. He might be assembling a toy that didn’t look nearly so complicated in the box, or hoping he has enough wrapping paper for the last few presents. He’s single-handedly manning his branch of Santa’s workshop while his wife is deployed, and he’s not forgotten.

Insult and injury

Dear President and Mrs. Obama,

As a citizen of the United States and the wife of a military member, currently stationed in the D.C. area, I’ve been frustrated by how difficult it is to visit the White House. However, I know it’s your home and that the security of your family is a top priority.

Giving words

How about some drama under the Christmas tree? If that’s not for you, how about adventure, fun, inspiration or healing? All of these can be wrapped up inside the simplest of gifts: books. Here are my suggestions for books to give – at Christmas or all year long – for those who live the military life and those who love someone who does.

Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength and Spirit, is the inspirationally written autobiography of Army veteran J.R. Martinez. In spite of disfiguring injuries he suffered in Iraq, Martinez became a cast member on a daytime drama and a winning contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” His story is upbeat and forthright about his difficult childhood, his family, romantic relationships and the price he paid for his military service.