September 2015: This is a repost from several years back. I see no need to change anything.

Never forget. 

My life has two parts to it. The part up through September 10, 2001 and the part from September 11, 2001 to the present. A defining moment. My life as an Army wife also has two parts. The first part was where the biggest drawback or downside of military life was a hardship tour to Korea. The second part is life as I know it right now.

The morning of September 11, 2001 I was 10 months pregnant and 5 days from my due date. I had 4 days left to go as a teacher before going on maternity leave and was only working half days so I didn't need to be in until 11am that day. MacGyver had a 7am work call and was in the shower when my alarm went off. I remember smacking the snooze button on the radio and through the haze of sleep, I heard the DJ say "a plane has hit the Pentagon.".

I woke up. Quickly.

I turned the radio back on and sat bolt upright in bed as I listened. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around what I was hearing. In that time, MacGyver finished his shower and turned off the water. I got up and out of bed as fast as my pregnant belly would let me and knocked on the door. He answered and I told him he needed to go downstairs and turn on the TV.

How many people uttered those words that day?

Everyone I talk to, every story I hear involves those words. "You need to go and turn on the TV."

We went downstairs and stood, gaping, at the television. We couldn't even cry. We were too shocked. I think the first tower fell while we were watching and that must have sparked MacGvyer to move. He bolted upstairs, threw on his BDUs, grabbed his overnight bag and some food, kissed me goodbye, and left. Still, there were no tears. I didn't know if I would see him again. In my mind, he would deploy. I don't know where I thought he was going or what I expected him to be doing but I did not expect him to come home. Mentally I was trying to steel myself to have this baby alone. And I was ok with that. Hell, after thinking about what the people in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania were going through, having a baby on my own was nothing compared to that.

Still, there were no tears.

I went to school. It was chaos and sadness all at the same time. We didn't get anything done that day (or for a few days after). We all sat and watched TV. And talked. And worried. And prayed. Yes, we prayed in a public school. Seemed like the thing to do at the time.

But still, no tears.

And then I came home. And I sat down and watched TV. And I saw this...

And, for some reason, that image stuck with me. Moreso than any other image I saw that day or any other day. I had read about Father Mychal Judge a while back. I knew who he was. I remember reading about how he tended to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 when it crashed off Long Island and thinking what an incredible man he was.

When I realized who it was that they were carrying out of the rubble, my heart broke.

And I cried.


Father Mike was so many things to so many people. A Catholic priest. A recovering alcoholic. A gay man. A friend to the firefighting community and a pillar of the community. Larger than life.

His funeral was reported to have the makings of one hell of a good joke. A priest, a lawyer, and an Irishman walk into a bar . . . Who else could have brought together a room full of people from every spectrum of life?

But his LIFE was so much more than how he died. His work as a priest and as a friend touched thousands of lives. He firmly believed in the concept of Alcoholics Anonymous, calling it "America's greatest contribution to spirituality." The day he died marked his 23rd year of sobriety. He believed that the creators of AA did more for humanity than even Mother Teresa.

He ministered to AIDS patients back in the 80s when society was terrified of the disease and those afflicted. He treated AIDS patients with the dignity that each of us deserves from our fellow humans. He was a shining example to us in that.

He ministered to the families of the victims of TWA flight 800 in 1996 when it exploded and crashed off the coast of Long Island.

Father Mychal Judge would become a familiar presence among family members mourning lost passengers. He made the drive daily, for weeks, spending 12 hours a day consoling friends and families who had lost loved ones. He also celebrated Mass every other day, participated in counseling sessions for people of all denominations and organized ecumenical memorial prayer services for the victims' families and TWA personnel.

"When that call came through it was the Lord calling me somehow," he told a reporter during a visit to his third-floor room at the friary. "I went out there that night and I stayed there for all hours of the morning, talking to people from all over the country and all over the world."

Father Mychal helped to organize services on the beach for the Flight 800 families. A news photograph of him at one such service, wearing his brown robe and gazing out to sea, was distributed around the country.

"The water becomes sacred to them," he said of the families.

Those family members became part of his ever-expanding parish.

He remained involved in some of their lives until his death at the World Trade Center.

A Los Angeles Times reporter researching an article on support services for families of air crash victims interviewed Father Mychal in 2000, and he spoke of his efforts to be a healing presence for people whose lives had been torn apart.

"In seminary, you can get all the theology and Scripture in the world, and you land in your first parish, and you find out it's you-- the personality and the gifts that God gave you," said Mychal Judge.

"He was absolutely hands-on. Religion didn't make any difference for him-- he was the same toward everyone, regardless of their beliefs," said Hans Ephraimson-Abt, a New Jersey businessman and longtime advocate for families of air crash victims.

"The TWA families considered him a saint."

- from The Life of Father Mychal Judge

I sure would have loved to have had the privilege of meeting him in person. Guess I'm going to have to wait a bit.

At the memorial, McCourt told the mourners about his own fantasy. Judge, he says, dies and is momentarily disoriented, because after leading such a simple life, he suddenly finds himself in a place with large marble hallways. A figure approaches.

"Can I help you?"

"Well, I don't know where I am."

"What's your name?"

"Judge. First name Mychal."

"Really? Some people call me Judge, too."

"Oh? And what's your first name?"

"Almighty. What kind of work would you like here, Mychal?"

"I'd like to be someplace where there are fires."

"We don't have any fires here. The only one we know about is very far away, and that burns eternally, because all the firefighters are here, and we don't tell them about it, because otherwise they'd be down there fighting it."

"Well, could I go there and give some people a hand?"

"No, Mychal. Because if you go there, you have to be a sinner, you see? And you're a saint."

"Could I have a temporary pass to go there, then? Could I be an honorary sinner?"

"Yes. But please don't bring back any conservatives."

At that point, the crowd, already laughing, started to howl. McCourt paused to let everyone collect himself. "And away he goes," he finally said. "That's my fantasy about Mychal. He keeps working. He never stops. He's trying to get all of us out of hell."

- from The Fireman's Friar

Father Mychal Judge was so much more than the priest whose death certificate bears the number 00001 - the first official casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was a man - flawed yet repentant - who did his best to serve God and his fellow man.

Learning more about him in the days and weeks that followed September 11 gave me hope in a time where hope was hard to find. Those of us who had babies right around that time I am sure had doubts as to what kind of world we were bringing our babies into. But knowing that a man such as Father Mike sits up in Heaven reassures me that there is hope and that we will be ok.

I will NEVER FORGET Father Mike. Never.

For a list of participants in the 2,996 project and their honorees, GO HERE.

Read. Remember.


- hfs


Coiled up and ready to spring!

07.01.2015: I guess it's been longer than I thought since the last time I posted. Thought I had published the entry below but I find that I haven't. Might as well update everyone (all 3 of you...hi mom!) on the garden and life.

The garden is hanging in there. It's not doing as well as I had hoped, but it's doing better than my gardens in the past have done AND most of it has survived the wet summer we've had thus far. The broccoli didn't really make it (save for a rogue broccoli plant that sprung up well away from the actual garden), nor did my peppers. But the lettuce is growing like mad, as are the sage, the cilantro, the basil, and the wildflowers. My beans started off well and even produced a few pods, but never really took to the teepee I built for them and then just kind of puttered out after that.

Aside from the seeds I planted the volunteer crops are doing well: strawberries for weeks, carrots, wild garlic, black walnuts...all are doing well! And the weeds are doing fantastically! It took us a while to track down a reasonably-priced riding mower that was in decent condition and I've spent the better part of 2 weeks using the little free time I have to try to get the 'tweeds' (tree/weeds) under control. I rarely have enough time to tackle the front yard, the backyard, and the side yard in total so I usually hit one. By the time I get all three mowed the first one is looking shaggy and in need of a trim again. Thankfully I really enjoy getting on the rider and just mowing. 

Our menagerie has grown as well: in addition to the pups, we acquired two kittens that are going to help keep the rodent population under control as well as a hedgehog and a Beta fish. The hedgie was something The Girl has wanted for a while and a friend was moving and needed to rehome hers so we took her. It's taking her a while to get used to us but she's coming along well. The kittens are wonderful little hunters and spend their time hunting dragonflies, houseflies, grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas. We'll be installing a pet door soon to allow them in/out access now that they are bigger and no longer likely 'owl bait'.

Work is keeping me busy - busier than I expected and I'm struggling to find a balance. This summer has been cooler than expected and I find that one of my favorite times of the day is in the evening when I head out to water the garden: the air is warm and still, the lightning bugs are firing, the cicadas are singing, and occasionally I catch a whiff of honeysuckle or some other flower blowing on the breeze. It is heavenly. I am still learning what trees we have on the property and just last month discovered that I have an apricot tree growing! When I was a kid, my dad hung my first swing (a plank of wood and 2 ropes) from the apricot tree that grew in the backyard. It came down in a windstorm (it was diseased) while I was still a kid and I missed that tree so finding one in my backyard now made my heart smile. We also have maple, oak, catalpa, sycamore, crab apple, box elder, redbud, elm, and probably more than I can't identify yet. It's wonderful and I fall more in love with the property each day.

I have managed to carve out a little time to do something soley for myself - I've gone back to jiu jitsu. While The Girl is at practice, I get to go roll. It feels SO good to be back on the mat. I am rusty and feel like I'm starting from scratch, but my instructor has the patience of Job and I'm slowly progressing. I'm within striking distance of my second white belt stripe so I set my goal of obtaining my blue belt by Christmas. It's more than doable but only because I've managed to carve out consistent time to roll. Once school starts and The Girl's swim practice schedule changes, that might be more challenging but I will find a way. After that, I can start working toward my purple belt. Right now, one step at a time: 2nd stripe, 3rd stripe, blue belt test.

That's all for now. There's more - there's LOTS more - but I don't want to overwhelm everyone.


 ~ hfs

From April:

Driving home from work today, you can almost feel spring ready to burst forth. Most of the trees are still bare but it looks like there is a mist of green floating among them. The trees in our backyard are so close to budding but they just aren't quite there yet. The potential energy in those buds could probably power a small city, or so it seems.

My seeds are planted - well, most of them. There are some that won't be started for another few weeks. I decided to buy some fluorescent lamps and start them indoors in the hopes that my garden sees greater success than it has in the past. Something about being in the Heartland that makes me want to grow stuff. Right now, I have seeds going for broccoli, lettuces, peppers, a bunch of herbs, peas, bush beans, and a bunch of different flowers designed to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Later on, I will plant seeds for watermelon, sunflowers, more herbs, carrots, and tomatoes (though I suspect I will wind up buying starts because I rarely have luck growing tomatoes from seed). I also planted 2 raspberry plants and a blackberry plant and I'm currently rooting a pineapple top. All of this is to go with the blueberries, garlic, and black walnuts that I have found to grow on our property. We shall see what this harvest winds up looking like!

Work and school have kept us quite busy - to the point that we're not even fully settled into the house yet. I have no idea how families with two working parents (full time) manage to do it. I'm only working a little more than 1/2 time and I'm slammed. Granted, I'm also spending additional hours per week running kids to various activities, and overseeing homeschooling so that probably puts me beyond full-time but I still find myself very much behind the 8-ball in terms of settling in and getting projects done around the house. I am hoping to get back on the mat with Jiu-Jitsu soon and I'm still not quite sure where I am going to shoe-horn that in to my schedule. Nor do I know how I am going to help run a youth group either. But it will get done one way or another.

Being back here this time around is kind of weird. Because we're no longer military and don't plan on going anywhere any time soon (*knocking on wood*), I don't feel that push to 'do all the things' like I used to when we were fresh off of a PCS and the clock was ticking on our time in a particular location. That might explain why there are still plenty of pictures to be hung, furniture to be acquired (money also being a factor), and stuff to be put away.


Three years

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
DANCE there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?

Three years. Feels like forever ago but hurts like it was yesterday.

I spent 4 months in SoCal late last year and I could have driven down to Sandy Eggo to visit you...but you're not there. Not really. I think it would have made me sadder. And I try to avoid things that make me sadder. I keep hoping your blog will be back up one day soon. I am pretty sure I've read all of your posts but to be able to go back through and read them again would put a smile on my face. In that, I know I am not alone.

You are missed.


- hfs


Making progress

I am winning the war on cardboard. Not only am I vanquishing it from inside my house, I am vanquishing it from my life. Had a friend swing by yesterday and take home easily 75% of our boxes. They are planning a move out of state and will need all of the boxes and packing paper they can get their hands on. I am happy to oblige.

The house is probably about 75% unpacked.

Kitchen: 95% done. Need to find homes for a few odds and ends and hang decor and curtains.
Family room: 80% done. Two boxes of mementos that I need to sort through and decor to be hung.
Bedrooms: 80% done. Kids need mattresses and (got new ones) desks.
Living room: 50% done. Needs furniture (armchairs) so right now, it's the holding space for all of our wall decor.
Garage: I don't know. MacGyver says he's unpacked everything and is now putting things where they belong.

I am missing a box. Probably a dish pack that has my toaster oven, crock pot, kitchen linens (pot holders, oven mits, etc.), the contents of my junk drawer (found it!), and a few other odds and ends. Not a big deal but annoying, nonetheless. However, not nearly as annoying as our renter. The house came with a washer and dryer (our old ones). He was told he was welcome to use them and, as with any other appliance in the house, to let our property managers know if there were any issues. The washer was only a few years old and the dryer had never given us any trouble that wasn't fixable. When we came back to the house, the washer and dryer were gone. We thought our property managers had them but they did not. (in their defense, when it came time for our renter to clear, they had a family emergency and he bailed in the middle of the night)

Our property managers finally reached the renter and she said he was told that, once the washer and dryer started having issues, he could 'ditch' them. Um...no. No one told him that. Apparently the washer 'started leaking' and, rather than call the property manager, he 'ditched' the washer and then gave the dryer to his mom after buying a new set. I can *almost* understand ditching the washer (not really but it's more believable than giving the dryer - which was NOT his! - to his mom) but where he gets off giving away a functioning appliance that wasn't his is beyond me. Thankfully our property managers were able to find us a new (to us) set at a refurbishing company so we now have a washer and dryer but I'm still baffled by our renter. He also broke my windmill which pisses me off more than the washer and dryer. And I won't even go into the cleaning he didn't do, the dog poop he didn't pick up (one and a half 13-gallon trash bags from dogs he wasn't supposed to have, per the lease!), or the expanding foam insulation he piped in around the styrofoam pieces he put in the windows downstairs - foam he piped on to my wooden windowsills.

Needless to say, we learned a LOT with this renting experience - namely that our previous property managers really weren't anal-retentive OCD control freaks when they made us sign leases that were ridiculously explicit. They just knew what people were capable of. Thankfully, none of the damages are beyond what his security deposit will cover so we're good. But eesh.

Work (for me) and school (for MacGyver) start tomorrow so we're on to the next chapter. I am excited for both of us, probably moreso for MacGyver because he's going to be doing more of what he loves - flying.  I'll be working with people I really like so that is a plus too. It will take us some time to get in to a rhythm but we'll get there. And there are some irons in the fire for additional opportunities so that's exciting as well. Hopefully we don't have to do the broke college student thing for too long. In the meantime, we'll just keep plugging along. I'm sure I'll have more to write once my life settles down a bit.


- hfs


Home sweet home

And we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. We made it back to the midwest last week and are currently drowning in a sea of cardboard boxes. I cannot stand cardboard. We are probably about 60% unpacked but we have not yet found homes for everything just yet and the things that have found homes aren't neat or tidy so we still have some serious work ahead of us.

Oh, and MacGyver starts classes next week and I start work on the same day. Needless to say, this weekend will be all about getting this house put together. And fixing the car. We had a friend store our car while we were in Korea - it is an older sedan but it's solid (structurally...not necessarily mechanically) and we really like it so we wanted to keep it. The thermostat housing has been an on-going issue with this car and, once again, it's leaking. I want to say this is the fourth time MacGyver has had to replace it since we bought it back in 2009. Maybe fourth time is the charm? But it needs to get fixed - we only have one other car and with him going to school (about an hour away) and me going to work, we both need cars and we don't have room in our budget for a car payment. Thank goodness I married a competent mechanic!

The house is good - nothing that some elbow grease, a few power tools, and a home equity line of credit won't fix. Heh. The renter was a bit of a knucklehead but nothing that we can't fix. The kids are settling in to their own rooms and will be even more settled once we buy them beds. The dogs are absolutely LOVING all of the space to run and play and the kids are loving the opportunity to get out and explore since the temps this week have been unseasonably mild. MacGyver is loving the big garage, especially as he tries to get the car up and running. And I am loving that we are just stepping back into our lives here as though we never left. The Girl has started back with her sports. The Boy has hopped right back in with his friends and will pick back up with his Scout troop soon. We are surrounded by friends and happy to be home.

The VA will take some straightening out. MacGyver didn't really get a chance to be seen and evaluated by a VA doc here before heading out of country and there was a hiccup with his meds so we have some untangling to do on that side of things. Thankfully the VA office here locally has been super helpful. Along a similar line, I had to do some 'adulting' this week and get us signed up for health care (i.e. Obamacare). Going without health insurance scares me - I have seen how expensive even small medical situations can be and the idea of being without that safety net makes me very nervous. So I put my big-girl pants on and blew a few hours of my life getting us enrolled (two hours because I had to delete the first application when a job possibility fell through and our financial picture changed abruptly). Now we're just waiting on the invoice so I can pay it and get us rolling. The premiums (even the unsubsidized ones) are a lot more tolerable than what we were paying for COBRA.

Then I kept my big-girl pants on and contacted our local IRS Tax Advocate because our amended Federal return had gone MIA and the website wasn't giving me any useful information. Thankfully the Tax Advocate was able to access our files, give me some good information, and assure me that the IRS does actually have (and is working on) our amended returns. Hopefully we'll see that money soon - the moving expenses have piled up. In the mean time, I get to go back to the days of squeezing every last penny out of our budget for the next few months. It's doable and thankfully our local Aldi is wonderfully stocked. We have a few more months of access on post so we'll be making at least 2 or 3 more runs to the commissary and PX to stock up on necessities. We should be ok. And it's not like rice and beans/beans and rice is bad for you! Time to get back to my Dave Ramsey mindset! I can't wait to get a garden planted and skip buying veggies at the grocery store. Mother Earth News, here I come!

The war on cardboard will continue tomorrow. In the meantime, I am going to go to bed...in my own bed...in my own home. Life is good.


- hfs


Two steps forward...

...one step back. Back to the Sunflower State. Back to the closest thing that resembles 'home'. Hoping to pick back up right where we left off a little over a year ago. Some pretty big changes in store for us - new jobs, new careers, new school situations, (relatively) new house. Old friends. Well, 'old' in the military sense...as in we've known them longer than a year. For military families, that's old!

I am one part thrilled to be going back to Kansas and one part sad to leave this place I grew up. I'm finding that being here - surrounded by the 'used to be' memories is making me quite sad. There's no way we can afford a house here - hell, we can't afford a studio apartment here - and even if we could, it will never be to me what it was and that makes me quite sad. I had a terrific childhood. My hometown was a perfect place to grow up. I had good friends, wonderful family, and great experiences here. But this place has changed. There is so much that looks like what it used to be but *I* am not who I used to be and that changes everything. You can't go 'home' again...not because 'home' has necessarily changed (though in many ways it has), but because *you* have changed.

So we are off on a 3-day road trip. Because two international moves in a year weren't exhausting enough. I'm just hoping we don't run into a blizzard. I've been keeping a keen eye on the weather and we're taking a southern route in the hopes of avoiding not only steep elevation climbs but snow for as long as possible. I cannot wait to get back into my house again. We were only there for a few short months so I really didn't get to settle in and learn it. And I'll get to see my STUFF for the first time in 18 months. I wonder how much of it I will look at and think, "What in the WORLD was I thinking keeping this?!?" I sense another round of serious purging coming on! Last time, I managed to knock out a literal TON of stuff - I dropped 2,000 pounds of stuff from our last move to this one.

I'm going to have to get used to wearing semi-professional clothing again. Working as a lifeguard, I've been schlubbing around in Guard shirts and track pants but now that I'll be working in an office, I need to dress appropriately. Thankfully there are a few decent thrift stores in the area so I can supplement my wardrobe a bit. I weeded through and ditched a good 50% of my clothes before we moved to Korea so my goal now is to only buy basic items that I not only need but look and feel good in. Shouldn't be too hard - even after purging my wardrobe, I still had a solid amount of basic, fundamental pieces.

I can't wait to paint a wall or 10. I can't wait to tackle the bathroom redo. I can't wait to plant a real garden. I can't wait until next Christmas when I can put my own decorations up for the first time in 3 years! SQUEE!

At the same time, the house will be a bit lonely without having the grandparents around. I am so grateful for this time with them. I am grateful my children were able to spend time not only with them but in the town their parents grew up in. It's been fun showing them around. But now it's time to PACK!


- hfs


A Spike

A sudden influx of comments alerted me to a hard-core spike in visits to this humble little blog. Apparently a post from 2006 has garnered some attention from someone who posted it on Facebook. While I'm thrilled to have people visit, I'm not quite sure where everyone came from (investigating the links led me to a wall on FB). So, if you're here via a Facebook post, give a shout in the comments and let me know how you found this place. And welcome!


- hfs