From @RennaW on Twitter:
"Breaking: report reveals absolutely no terrorists were forced to choose between burning alive or jumping to their death"

To say I am conflicted over this would be an understatement. The part of me that remembers watching people choose between burning to death and jumping out of a window 70+ stories up has no issue with water-boarding or sleep deprivation or loud music and bright lights. The other part of me that understands that true torture rarely yields the results sought and draws us more toward our barbaric, animalistic side does have a hard time with it. 

For me, what it boils down to is this: swift justice. If we had the fortitude to mete out swift justice to our enemies upon their aggression, we wouldn't be thirteen years (or hundreds of years, if you care to study history) into a war with an enemy that only understands violence of action. 

I hear people say that they’re weary of the Long War. I understand. I’m weary of it too. But mostly because I’m tired of us notfighting it, at least not fighting it to win it. Instead, we’re sending our best and bravest off into meat grinders with both arms tied behind their back, told that they’d better be nice and gentle with the beasts trying to murder them or we, the nation that they’re fighting for with a courage and dedication second to none, will treat them far worse than we ever treated Khalid Sheikh Mo-ham-head." ~ Emporer Misha



- hfs


Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving was a quiet event this year - much different than in years past. And it was bringing me down a bit - I was missing the loud, busy, crowded dinners we've been a part of. But a text from a friend brought that all into perspective and has really snapped me out of my little funk.

My friend asked how life was going after I texted him to wish him a happy Thanksgiving and it gave me pause. I had started to write to him about my gripes and grumps and stopped about half-way through the text - that wasn't what I should be focusing on...especially on THANKSgiving. So I erased what I had written - my trivial complaints - and typed instead that we have a roof over our head, delicious food on the table, and everyone is (relatively) healthy. Really, what more can one ask for?


Not one thing.

So when I start to get grumpy and chafe at the limitations I'm currently dealing with or the minor frustrations that pop up in my life, I just go back and re-read that text and get my perspective squared away. We are healthy. We are housed (with offers from others backing up the graciousness of my in-laws) and fed and have clothes on our backs. We have a car that runs (knocking on wood as I type this) well and gets me to and from work. I have a job that helps make ends meet. They aren't quite meeting but they aren't TOO far apart and we have some savings that is helping to bridge that gap. We have prospects on the horizon.

We are blessed. And because we are blessed, we are constantly looking for ways to bless others. It may not be with money or gifts this year but we can bless others with our time and our service - even in little, unseen ways: doing a chore for a family member; running an errand; helping out at work beyond what the job description calls for; donating some of our excess (because even in these lean times, we are abundantly blessed); spending time with friends and really BEING with them. It's not much but it's what we can do.

And we are blessed to be a blessing.


- hfs



Explaining military life (or pseudo-military/contractor life as it were) to civilians is exhausting. I dread questions about our circumstances and usually resort to tidy explanations such as, "My husband works as a contractor with the military and is between jobs right now."

So much easier than delving into anything that resembles details.

I sat toward the back at church today (I prefer to do so - easier to cause trouble in the back!) and in front of me were 4 women who had obviously known each other for some time and probably sat together on a regular basis. And I envied the crap out of them to the point that it almost brought me to tears. I'm pretty sure God was all *faceplam*.

The Girl got in the car today after church and was quite subdued so I asked her what was up. She told me she doesn't want to make friends while we're here because she knows she's just going to have to say goodbye to them. I feel her pain.

I'm tired.


- hfs


Civilian vs. Military Life: An Observation

The Boy had a Scouting event recently and sitting there, a realization slowly dawned on me...there were men. LOTS of men. Men in Scouting uniforms. And it blew my mind.

All of the Scouting we've done until this point has been military-related and mostly run by women - wonderful women but women, nonetheless. Female Pack Masters, female den leaders, females everywhere. There were some men but they kind of came and went - field problems and deployments and 24/7 work schedules usually prevented them from fully participating so the women filled in. And that was a blessing.

But this time, there were men. Men leading the Pack. Men leading the dens. Men in the audience. Men everywhere. And it is a wonderful aspect of civilian life. As much as I miss military life, I don't miss the men being gone all the time.


- hfs



My hometown is a black hole. I've always joked about that. I have friends that made it to other countries, only to be sucked back in by the black hole that is my hometown. And I joked, thinking it would never happen to me.

Never say never.

Not only am I back in my hometown, I just went through the first round of interviews/testing for a position I held 20+ years ago. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. To say I am tired after the swim test would also be an understatement. Apparently, I am not 20 years old anymore. Who knew?

But the pay is solid, the hours are flexible and I can work them around homeschooling and MacGyver's schedule (he's looking into taking some helicopter courses here locally to work toward his private pilot's license). And it's lifeguarding! Best job in the world. Who knows? Maybe the swim team (which my daughter has considered swimming with while we're here too) will have an opening.

Being back in the pool I 'grew up' in was really cool and really weird all at the same time. Not much has changed - they took out the 3m board (liability) - but the locker rooms still smell the same and the facility is still pretty much as I left it back in the mid-90s when I left town for good. There is an odd comfort to all of this and I'm grateful.

I am doing my best to be patient (not one of my strong suits) and revel in the small blessings of being here. I've already run into several old friends and have plans to meet up with more old friends in the coming days and weeks. Our family that we are staying with have been nothing but gracious and the dogs have settled in nicely. All of this helps temper my itch to get things settled and move on to the next chapter of our lives. I'm still hoping and praying to get back to Kansas, to move back into my house at some point, and to implement many of the plans and dreams I have for the property.

I keep saying I don't do 'limbo' well but I guess I need to change that statement. I don't like it but I've had enough practice at it over the past 5 years that I can now say I do it decently. But I'm quite tired of it and would like to stop now, please. In the meantime, I'll enjoy having In-N-Out and REAL Mexican food at my disposal as well as access to many old friends and beaches. Works for me!


- hfs



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


Going 'home' again

Have you ever gone back to your old house - the one you grew up in (assuming you're not a military child and that you haven't had 10 bedrooms like my oldest has had in her 13 years) - after having grown up and moved out? Have you ever realized that your room is smaller than you remember? A LOT smaller?

That's how I'm feeling right now. When MacGyver's contract was defunded, we couldn't stay in Korea but we also couldn't go back to Kansas - we have a renter in our house and I'm not inclined to boot the person that is paying my mortgage. Plus that would be rude. I would have loved to have gone back to Hawaii but with no income, that makes no sense either. Southern California affords us opportunities that other locations do not - family with extra bedrooms and extra space, access to many CFI (certified flight instructor) courses and other training that MacGyver can take advantage of using his GI Bill, job possibilities for me that pay decently, and activities for my children.

So here we are. 

And I feel like I just walked back into my childhood bedroom after having been out on my own for years. This place feels...familiar and yet quite alien at the same time. A lot has changed here but it's still the same little city. Only more crowded. A lot more crowded. And it feels weird. I am sure that part of it is slight culture shock (though we were only in Korea for 9 months). I wandered around Target and the local grocery store and had to leave because the 13 choices for dog food were overwhelming me a bit.

And I never planned to be back here for anything other than holidays and short visits. But this time around is shaping up to be a more extended stay. That's ok - just unplanned and it's taking some adjustment.

Story of my life. 


- hfs