School's out for...Fridays?

Hawaii teacher furloughs will cut class time, not preparation days

So the state of Hawaii cannot balance it's budget or manage it's money properly. This state is worse than my 8 year old with her birthday money burning a hole in her pocket. It's ridiculous. The amount of revenue brought in my tourists, property taxes from outrageous home prices, and the prohibitive taxes imposed on the people of Hawaii slip through the hands of state officials like water through a sieve. And yet the roads remain full of car-eating potholes, the airport looks like something you'd find in a third world country, and the schools are now so far in the hole that the school year is being trimmed back by 17 days.

It's disgusting.

This whole issue bothers me on so many levels:

1.) If you read the article, you'll see that both the State DOE AND the teachers' union agreed not to use ANY of the professional development days as part of the 17 furlough days being imposed. Not one. Not. ONE. Disgusting.

2.) Rather than trim some of the fat that exists at the DOE (last I heard, the ratio of DOE employees to teachers is something like 13:1. WHY do we need 13 DOE employees sitting in an office somewhere, pushing paper, for every school teacher out there, busting their butts to educate our children??), the DOE is content to shift the burden of the shortfall on to the backs of working families. Child care is ridiculously expensive in this state and now those parents who both work have to come up with the money to cover 17 random Fridays throughout the school year. Disgusting.

3.) Rather than make things easier on parents AND teachers - who will both be feeling the economic impact of these furloughs - and schedule these furlough days in blocks either at the end of the school year or at breaks, the DOE and the teachers' union have decided to give everyone a bunch of 3 day weekends randomly throughout the school year. Had they cut the year short by 17 days, teachers would have been able to apply for summer jobs and simply start working two weeks earlier than they had planned. Summer programs could have been started 17 days early, thereby alleviating the stress placed on the backs of working families. But no...the DOE and HSTA (the teachers' union) had to make an already difficult situation even more difficult by choosing this route. Disgusting.

4.) The state of Hawaii now has the fewest days in school of any state in the union. After these 17 furlough days are implemented, students in Hawaii will go to school for a TOTAL of 162 days. And that includes at least 8 half days (where students get out at 12:30pm for parent-teacher conferences. According to the law, these days are actually classified as full days because the students are in school through lunch.). Disgusting.

Now, before you jump all over me and tell me that those teacher prep and waiver days are necessary and that I don't know what I'm talking about, let me give you my background: I am a K-12 certified public school teacher. I have taught in Colorado, California, Alaska, and now I sub in Hawaii. I know how important those prep days are. And I know - on the whole - how worthless those Professional Development days are. Waive some of them. Not all of them. But instead of forcing students and parents to shoulder the FULL burden of the furloughs, the teachers' union should have agreed to include a few of those PD days in the furlough. But they didn't. Disgusting.

The case for homeschooling was just made stronger by one decision by the Hawaii DOE and HSTA. And that will have ramifications for years to come. It is a sad day here for Hawaii's schoolchildren, teachers, and families.

(coming soon...Space Available travel adventures!)


- hfs


9.11.01 - Father Mychal Judge 00001

This is a repost. More here, here, and here.

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...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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



I love a good debate. Really, I do. Surprisingly, some of the best debates I had were in high school - before people got really good at mixing insults into their arguments. Before it got personal. Because in high school most of the bigger issues were purely hypothetical for us and somewhat abstract as well. Because we didn't have much personal experience with the issues we were debating we had to actually DO our research rather than rely on limited personal experience and gut feeling as the basis of our argument.

Thanks to Facebook I am still in touch with many of the people I went to high school with and the current national discussion surrounding health care has sparked some interesting discussions. And so far those discussions are quite similar to the ones we had in high school - respectful, intelligent, informed. I like it.

The other day a friend of mine posted a comment along the lines of "Can't we all agree that the system as it is is broken and we can work together to make it better?". A very valid question. My response was that I would agree with that as long as we can also agree that allowing government involvement in the solution is NOT an option (I should have used the word 'solution' instead of 'option').

I have written a few times about nationalized health care and my thoughts on that idea. Anyone who knows me - even remotely - knows that my Libertarian leanings prevent me, on a fundamental basis, from thinking that involving the government in ANY way is a good idea. The answer is LESS government involvement, not more.

This really isn't rocket science. If we, as a nation, truly want to "fix" the health INSURANCE problem in this country (because health CARE isn't the issue - anyone can walk into a hospital and receive treatment, regardless of ability to pay), there are really only three things we need to look at:

1.) tort reform
2.) allow co-ops/bargaining groups
3.) allow for interstate commerce and competition among the PRIVATE insurance companies

NONE of these involve MORE government. Not one. The Federal government (whether under Democratic, Republican, or alien reign) cannot run itself properly. What makes us think it would be a good idea to let it run the health insurance industry? The definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over and over, expecting a different result.

There are very few things that I want - and I would suspect others want - from a properly functioning health insurance industry:

1.) Choice. Let ME choose what doctor I see and what health insurance plan fits my needs and the needs of MY family. The government doesn't know me or my family; nor does the Fed know what is best for us. It's MY family. Let ME choose.

2.) Access. Let me have access to the care I need, when I need it. Let me have an insurance plan that goes with me when I change - or LOSE - my job.

3.) Fairness. If I am going to pay for my own health insurance, let me have the same tax breaks as an individual that employees receive. Then redirect the government assistance to those that truly need it.

4.) Responsibility. Let me have more control over my own health care decisions. Let me have a system that encourages the elimination of waste and fraud, and abuse (hint: the government does not do this. LOOK at the military. LOOK at Congress.) Let me decide whether or not I even want to be involved in this plan in the first place. But don't absolve me (at the cost of tax-payer dollars) of the consequences of my decisions.

It's really not that hard. And for those of you that would argue against a Republican alternative to ObamaCare, do me a favor and go check out Ron Wyden's (D - OR) plan. It's one of the better one's I've seen or read about. I don't care what political party someone is affiliated with (hey we can't all be perfect...or Libertarian). I care whether or not the idea/proposal meets my criteria.

I will agree that our health INSURANCE system is busted. Our health CARE system is one of the best in the world. Now we just need to get the government out of it's way.


- hfs


Small surprises

Do you ever have one of those things that you find out and it just kind of lingers with you? Something you didn't know but now that you do, it just kind of puzzles you...but in a good way? To the point where every once in a while you just kind of stop and go "Huh." with a half smile and a puzzled look on your face?

I had this happen to me a short while back and I'm still wandering around with that half smile on my face saying "Huh." every once in a while. I found out that someone I know in real life actually reads my blog. This person is not someone I would EVER expect to a.) read blogs or b.) read mine. And while it's flattering to know they read my blog, it's more than a little surprising. And intimidating to some extent.

Briefly I worried about the quality of my writing. To the point that I actually started to dig through my archives and consider weeding out some of the less impressive stuff (I very rarely go through my archives. I never read back through my diaries either. I usually burn them, if you want to know the truth. So those of you that might possibly be concerned that I might one day write a tell-all book, you can breathe now.). But I stopped. This blog is what it is and taking into consideration who reads this blog isn't something I plan to do when it comes to how I write.

Except for the fact that both my mother and my mother-in-law read this so I do try to keep it appropriate. Hi mom!

Still, it gives me pause. I don't usually stop to think about WHO reads my blog. To be honest, in my mind, I don't think anyone reads it (though my sitemeter tells me different). I started this blog as an outlet and that is pretty much what it has remained. It's my way of cashing in my chips as it were. And I am sure my husband thanks God for Blogspot on a regular basis. Maybe.

I have the house to myself this afternoon and it's been nice. I've had a chance to live inside my head for a bit and process some of the stuff that's happened over the past weeks and months. Not sure I'm getting a true handle on things - I'm still a "beautiful disaster" - but maybe I'm making headway. Who knows?


- hfs


This and that

First, an update on Christian...he's in San Diego with his mom and his dad, awaiting surgery. Seems he caught a bug of some kind and spiked a temp so they are treating him with antibiotics to get rid of whatever he has. It looks like his surgery will take place sometime early next week. For those that are interested, the issue with Christian's heart is called Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return.

So keep praying and sending good thoughts - they are definitely needed! In the meantime, Christian's two older brothers and cousin are being spoiled rotten by their grandfather who is here, taking care of them. But their mom and dad miss them terribly and hope to be reunited with them soon.


- hfs


Wrote this six years ago. Nothing's changed.  One of my favorite movies is 'Bull Durham'. And one of my favorite scenes in ...