Just as parents aren't supposed to outlive their children, teachers are not supposed to outlive their students. It's unnatural.

I taught in Alaska for 3 wonderful years. High school. In addition to teaching, I coached the swim team and I cannot tell you how many wonderful people I had on that team. I was blessed beyond measure. Thankfully I was able to stay in touch with many of my students and swimmers even after we left Alaska (thank goodness for email, MySpace, and Facebook!).

Shortly after we left Alaska, one of my former swimmers, B, got back in touch with me about swimming. He was swimming in college and was having pain in one of his arms and wanted to know what part of his stroke might be causing the pain. We discussed a few possibilities and how to rectify those problems, talked about having him film his stroke and send it to me so I could take a look, and planned to get back in touch in a few weeks to see if things had improved. I never got his video. Shortly after we talked, the pain got worse and he went to his doctor as it was apparent that it wasn't his swimming that was causing the pain. After many tests, he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in his humerus. Sadly it had already metastized and in his brain. He fought hard but died shortly after being diagnosed.

It broke my heart to follow his progress on CaringBridge and to pray for him and then to watch him slip away. There is very little in life beyond things like this that leave you feeling more helpless.

During my time in Alaska, another of my students, S, was diagnosed with the same disease - Ewing's Sarcoma - but it was diagnosed at an earlier stage. She fared much better and, after surgery and chemo, seemed to have gained the upper hand on the disease. She graduated, went to college (she majored in radiation therapy, "The career was chosen early on because she knew she had the empathy and understanding of what cancer patients were experiencing during treatment."), and seemed to be doing great. I managed to hook up with her on Facebook about a year ago and was thrilled to see pictures of her traveling, hanging out with friends, living the good life. It left me with a smile every time I looked at them or talked to her.

However, a few months ago, the cancer came back. She gave up her arm to it this time. But she was a fighter and took on the disease in the same manner she had taken it on ten years ago - that same determination, that same energy, that same smile. Her color faded but she still glowed, especially as she walked down the aisle. There was no reason to doubt that she wouldn't be able to defeat it this time around as well.

Wrongly, I assumed things were going well and therefore didn't check in with her for a while. A few weeks back, it dawned on me that I hadn't heard from her in a while so I popped over to her FB page and cried when I read her friends telling her how much the loved her and missed her. It broke my heart, yet again. Teachers are not supposed to outlive their students.

It's just not natural.

Today, when I logged in to Facebook, on the right-hand side, there was a reminder to "reconnect" with S.

Oh, how I wish I could.

I miss you, S. We hear so much from students about how a particular teacher touched their life in one way or another. From my position, you blessed mine more than you know.


- hfs


UPDATE: Just heard from my professor and she's actually going to let me take the exam. Wow. I completely did not expect that. Time to studystudystudy!!!

I just completely blew my 'A' in one of my online courses. I had an exam that was due today and I forgot to take it. I had a window of opportunity - 5 days, in fact. And normally I take my exams on the last day of that window which is usually a Saturday. But I either forgot that I had an exam due or forgot that it is Saturday (damned Furlough Fridays mess me up) and it wasn't until 10 p.m. when I logged on to take a quiz that I realized I had missed it.

I wondered when that was going to happen. Dammit.

I was on track for an 'A'. Now, even with a perfect score on the final (highly unlikely), I'll be 26 points (out of 500) away from an 'A'. Damndamndamn.

I wrote to my professor and asked if she would consider allowing me to take the exam first thing Monday morning but I'm not hopeful. She doesn't allow makeup work under any circumstances and I have no excuse for missing this exam (other than 'I forgot') so I'll probably just have to accept the consequences.

In my defense, it's not like I was lounging at the beach - I actually spent this morning studying for another final, finishing up PowerPoint for church tomorrow, putting the finishing touches on a baby shower gift and getting the last details together for the shower itself (I was tasked with running games), retrieving a child from a sleep-over, feeding both children, etc.

Maybe I should have gone to the beach.



- hfs



Have you ever had someone say something to you that sets you back a bit and causes you to try to see yourself as others see you? I was talking with a good friend of mine the other night and she made a comment about meeting me for the first time that made me chuckle at first and then, as I chewed on it for a bit, it really started to...not quite bother me but it definitely was disquieting. The comment she made was that she didn't really like me when she first met me. She tried to clarify what she was trying to say and explained that she just really wasn't sure how to take me.


Normally, I don't give a lot of thought to what others think of me. Not that I don't care - I just am who I am and I understand that there will always be people who just do not like me - not because of anything I've necessarily done but just because they just don't like me. But this person is my friend - someone I would consider to be a very good friend - and for some reason her comment really bothered me. I know I'm far from perfect and probably not even in the same orbit as perfect. I know I have strengths and weaknesses and I'm aware of what most of those weaknesses are (and I'm doing my best to address them). I think that most of my "in real life" friends would agree that I'm pretty up front and honest about my flaws. But sometimes, someone will say something that really just sets me back and causes me to try to see myself as others see me.

I wanted to ask my friend more - what was it about me that she didn't like? Does she still see that same quality in me now (she and I have been friends for a few years now) and does it still bother her? I'm curious to know if whatever it was that bothered her then is something I'm aware of about myself or if this is something I've not yet been made aware.

But I don't want to bother her.

I'm not a fan of navel-gazing. Not like this. But I'd hate to think that I'm missing out on becoming friends with people because of a character flaw that I could possibly address or at least temper. I feel like a preteen. Ick.


- hfs


Good things come to those who wait

This week wound up being more than I could handle, apparently. We all know what good intentions are used for so I'll leave it at that.

The MilBlog conference has come and gone and I am glad I went. Even though my 44 hours on the ground was rivaled by my 36 hours in the air, it was worth every cramped minute in coach. It was truly good for my soul. I won't give you a play by play because, honestly, I've slept since then and I'm sure I've already forgotten 1/2 of it all. But there were many highlights:

(in no particular order)

* meeting Boq. A regular commenter on several of the blogs I frequent, it was wonderful to finally meet him in person! Sadly it was all too brief but I'll take what I can get. The same can be said for my time with Cass but she had a migraine so I'll cut her some slack. And I might have a chance to actually buy her a Blue Hawaiian in the near future so that should make up for not being able to spend ample time with her in DC.

* meeting some of the people from Team Rubicon. I admire their work greatly and would like nothing more than to be able to participate the next time they are needed (which is a major reason why I want to get my EMT certification, among other reasons) so to meet some of them was awesome. Gary Cagle is a sweetheart as is Will McNulty.

* seeing old friends. We really should do this whole "conference" thing more than once a year. Preferably here in Hawaii. I'm already counting days until the 2011 conference.

* meeting Lt.G who, come to find out, was stationed here with 25ID while blogging. Small world. I'm placing my order for his book right now!

* meeting new friends. Most people find it odd that I would fly 1/2 way around the world to meet people in person that I know so much about through the internet. Kind of like a mail-order bride but without the intimacy (well...for the most part). I find it completely normal. And I love the "Oh my gosh!!!" feeling that comes when you meet someone, face to face, that you've "known" online for months and years. It's a great feeling and something I had the pleasure of experiencing several times this past weekend.

* listening to Michael Yon call in from Afghanistan to talk to our roomful of bloggers. I've admired him for years and this is probably about as close as I'll ever get to meeting him in person (other than his Facebook page) so it was wonderful to listen to him talk about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Disappointing to hear that he's been disembedded but happy to hear he's planning another book.

* watching GEN Petraeus' taped introduction Saturday morning. Almost as awesome as watching President Bush's taped introduction to the same conference three years ago. Very cool. In addition to that, there were several high-ranking military officials either on the panels or in the audience. It's good to see the different branches of service really start to realize what an asset social media can be.


* seeing MaryAnn from Soldiers' Angels. She was my lifeline to our good friend E when he was injured in Iraq and I am forever grateful for her and for Soldiers' Angels who took care of E in Germany and at Walter Reed. Not to mention the fact that she's just...cool.

* Arlington.



- hfs


MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - AAR forthcoming

I like the word 'forthcoming'. Compound words are favorites of mine - very efficient uses of a rather inefficient language.

My AAR of the 2010 MilBlogging conference is in the works. However, microbiology, anatomy, sign language, children, a messy house, and my bed are all competing for my time at the moment. So the AAR will have to wait until tonight at the earliest. I did not take many pictures - actually the only pictures I took were at Arlington National Cemetery.

And those are sufficient. I'll be back in a little while.

In the meantime, you can go read Maggie, Starbuck, or or Taco for a review of the conference - theirs are all better than mine will be anyway! Ok - maybe 'better' isn't the word...'different'. Theirs are different.


- hfs


MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - 5

FIFTH PANEL: Legislation, Military Style

1.) Brandon Friedman (VA.gov)
2.) Winslow Wheeler (CDI.org)
3.) Mark Seavy (This Ain't Hell but he also works for the American Legion if I'm not mistaken)

Moderator: Colin Clarke of DoDBUZZ.com

I joined this panel already in progress. Currently we're talking about money - discretionary vs. non-discretionary...it's not an unlimited pot. So what gives? Where does the money come from? What do we sacrifice in order to rebuild the WWII era barracks or add more nurses to the VA ranks?

Are benefits the best way to recruit the right people for the job? Is it better to deliver on the promises already promised rather than promise new promises?

Question: Where do you drop the axe? What do you cut?

Question: Opinions on the changes with regard to DADT (don't ask, don't tell).

Question: If every claim in backlog at the VA were approved tomorrow, would the VA have enough money to pay?

OK - that's it from me for now. Hope you all enjoyed the live blog.


- hfs

MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - 4

PANEL FOUR: The View From the Top

1.) Jamie McIntyre (LineOfDeparture)
2.) Admiral J.C. Harvey, Jr. (USFleetForces)
3.) Price Floyd (Twitter.com/PriceFloyd)
4.) COL Gregory T. Breazile, USMC

Opening remarks. I'm having a hard time focusing on this one. Sorry. Go check out the live feed HERE.

MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - 3

THIRD PANEL: MG David R. Hogg (US Army)

MG Hogg joins us live via video conference from Afghanistan. (and that's Hogg...pronounced "hoag" as in "hoagie")

If you'd like to watch the livestream for this panel, go HERE.

MG Hogg is discussing the situation in Afghanistan with regard to the Afghan National Army and their commandos. He says that the Afghan commandos have a less than 1% attrition rate.

The question has been brought forth about UCMJ and its implementation in Afghanistan with regard to the ANSF. MG Hogg responds that they understand it but the implementation is forthcoming.

Next question: what is the primary mission with regard to the ANSF? There was an attack in Kabul a few weeks back and it was the ANSF that went in and got it under control. In central Helmand, the ANSF were the first ones in that set the stage for the rest of the forces to come in - a highly successful mission.

Next question: How do you find/recruit for the ANSF? It's a combination of the Afghan recruiters going out into the population and recruiting, the elders in the villages recruiting, and different cultural methods. There is a new campaign forthcoming to target more recruits from the southern sector. Back in September, the recruiting numbers were about 850. In December, that number had jumped up to 8,000+ and overwhelmed the training program.

Next question: What has been the relationship between the people of Afghanistan and the ANA? The polls run in Afghanistan show a confidence in the ANA. It's all about being a part of Afghanistan. They believe in their country. The pay raise helps but there is a national pride that plays in as well.

Next question: What are the Afghan military leaders doing about the prevalent drug use in the ANA? It is a big issue. There is full medical screening and the rate of positives is about 5.9%. There are cultural differences that play in to this. Marijuana is not frowned upon like it is here. Anything else will get you booted but MJ use is not grounds for prevention of enlistment.

Next question: Any idea how the Polish soldiers are handling the tragedy currently playing out in Poland? Our hearts and prayers go out to them. There really isn't much more to say.

Next question: How much do forces differ from those in Iraq? With any Army, you're going to face similar challenges. I think the biggest difference you face is the tribal cultural issues. Trying to maintain an ethnic balance is an issue.

Next question: How many people in your command are blogging and do you encourage your people to blog? My boss is GEN Caldwell so yes, blogging is encouraged - both through NIPR and outside of NIPR.

Next question: Does the blogging that you allow include open dissent? I've not yet seen that issue come up. There are guidelines that must be followed but I've not heard any instances I've seen that have come up.

Next question: Is there anything that you can tell us from your level about the recent Osprey crash? You're probably not going to like my answer - I don't have details. And if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you due to the fact that it's an ongoing investigation.

Next question: What sorts of enablers do you have for the Afghan commandos? What have they been trained on? And what's the down-the-road plan for providing them with aviation support? They are partnered with our SF so they get additional air support as needed. They do have lift assets, sniper capabilities, and uparmored Humvees. We're looking to maintain basic light-infantry equipment.

Next question: How has the infighting between our admin and the Karzai admin affected troops and mission? No affect on the mission. We worry about the things we CAN control. It has not affected our mission.

Next question: How are the ANA and ANP dealing with new weapons systems? It's still working. What we have not done yet but needs to be done is to get them the ability to maintain and repair those weapons.

Closing remarks.

MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - 2

SECOND PANEL: "National Security Smorgasbord"
1.) Abe Sofaer (Hoover.org)
2.) Michael Yon (Michael Yon)
Moderator: Greyhawk from Mudville Gazette

Mike Yon is live via satellite from Afghanistan - connectivity has been iffy so hopefully we can keep him connected. Greyhawk asks him how the morale of our men and women over there is. Mike says that, despite some hard fights and casualties, they are doing well.

Mike says that just a few hours ago, he found out he's been "disembedded".

Shelle reminds us that Mike has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account, in addition to his blog. Mike says that both have been incredibly useful - much more informal than even blogging.

Marcus (who is running the live stream on YouServed.com) asks a few questions from the live stream chat.

Troy (also from YouServed) asks whether, in hindsight, the abrupt end to Mike's embed with the Brits wound up being a good thing or a bad thing. Mike says it was probably a bad thing for the Brits but he's able to be flexible and go where he can when he can.

Mike's closing remarks: pay attention to Afghanistan. This year will show us which way this war is going to go. He just signed on for another book (w00t!) so maybe being disembedded is a good thing!

Thanks Michael!

Mr. Abe Sofaer is up now - interesting guy. Retired AF, former district judge under Jimmy Carter. Works for the Hoover Institution. Greyhawk asks, "What is the purpose of a think-tank?"

Mr. Sofaer is now discussing his book, The Best Defense?.

More to come.

Next up we have SSGT Norman Hatch - a WWII veteran and combat cameraman who went ashore with the Marines at Tarawa and filmed the landings, assault, and battle for that piece of land. He won an Academy Award for his film of that event in 1944. He's discussing Iwo Jima now.

If you care to watch live footage of the conference, go HERE

MilBlog Conference 2010 (MBC) - 1

The fifth anniversary - wow. Time flies when you're having fun, right? I made it in on time yesterday, grabbed a quick shower and hit the festivities. It's good to see old friends! Some aren't here which keeps this one from being as good as years past but it is truly good to see old friends.

Unlike years past, Friday night included a panel - the kick-off panel titled "A Marathon, Not a Sprint". All the old farts were up there - Matt from BlackFive, Greyhawk from Mudville Gazette, Taco Bell from Sandgram, etc. It was a great way to open up the evening.

For anyone interested, you can check out the live stream of the events at YouServed.com's live stream. This is the first year that there has been a livestream from the MBC so this should be good for those that aren't able to be here in person.

SPECIAL GUEST (via recorded message): David Petraeus!

Two years ago, we were addressed via recorded message by then-President Bush and what an honor THAT was. Now we have GEN Petraeus doing the same thing. Very cool! He's talking about how his own wife has dealt with his deployments (5 years since 9/11) and I don't know that I've ever stopped to think about the fact that even a 4 star General's wife has to put up with many of the same issues and challenges that lower ranking families. What a wonderful surprise!

FIRST PANEL: The Charitable Landscape moderated by Greta Perry
1.) Shelle Michaels (Soldiers' Angels)
2.) Vivian Greentree (Blue Star Families)
3.) Keith Hensley (Wounded Warrior Project)
4.) Taylor Kiland (NavyMemorial)

Currently, the discussion is centered on how these organizations successfully use social media (Facebook, blogging, etc.). Many organizations use social media for fundraising efforts. Others use it for making connections with people who need their services or can provided services for those in need. Additionally, (for example), Wounded Warrior Project uses social media avenues to empower caregivers with a "voice" at the national level and provide a "call to action".

Blue Star Families uses social media to engage their membership. With so many difference sources coming in and members spread out all over the nation and the world, social media allow families to feel connected and engaged. Vivian gives the example of the MyCAA debacle - most people found out via Facebook.

From here, we go to money. Non-profits' mainstay is money and social media area key to raising funds. Is it appropriate to use social media to raise funds? And, if so, HOW do you monetize social media?

Taylor Kiland (Navy Memorial) states that she still relies on face-to-face connections moreso than social media connections to raise the majority of the funds for her organization.

Shelle Michaels (Soldiers' Angels) - "Ask for what you want or take what you get." A friend of mine tells me "The answer is always 'no' until you ask." So true.

Keith Hensley (WWP) states that the more members you have, the more likely that organization is to be viewed as credible. It's a great way to get the word out about different events/activities/services/etc.

Greta asks the question: "How do you recruit members and volunteers through social media?"

Shelle encourages people to choose one organization that they are passionate about and talk about it - Facebook, Twitter (not "Twittah" as Maggie would say), etc. Tell everyone why THAT organization is great. One a week, once a month...whatever. But get the word out. People outside the military are always looking for a way to help those in the military - give them options! You'd be amazed at who "retweets" or passes that information along!

Questions from the audience:

* @NavyNews: If you were the Chairman of the JCoS, what would you tell them to help them help you?
- Shelle: Share the stories. Tell us what's going on out there. It's amazing what Americans DON'T know. Help us inform them.
- Keith: Encourage servicemembers to be cognizant of other servicemembers and the help that they need. Situational awareness. Point those in need in the right direction - to events and organizations that can help.
- Vivian: Incorporate the family into the servicemember's experience. "Happy wife, happy life" is true. Focus on the things that support and empower the families.

* @USO Social Media: What advice would you give to corporations/CEOs/etc. to help?
- Shelle: sometimes less is more. Have a plan.

Back after the break!


Facebook tips for military spouses

*This was originally posted for submariner wives but it applies to ALL military spouses (and servicemembers), regardless of branch of service. Too many times I've seen people post information that puts them or their military member and his/her unit in danger. Please think before you post. OPSEC, people. It's not that difficult to understand.*


Since there has been conflicting information going around as to what is appropriate and what isn't regarding boat movements on Facebook, I just wanted to clarify current rules so that everyone is receiving correct information from the source.

1. It is NEVER appropriate to post boat departure and arrival dates (this includes sly references such as "Tomorrow I won't be sleeping alone.... or "my daughter's b-day minus 2 days is when he'll be back", etc) Also included in this would be online countdown calendars.

2. Unlike a conversation you would have with a friend, any information you post on Facebook/Myspace is accessed by hundreds, if not thousands of people. So even broad statements (referring to month of departure/arrival or general timelines - months/weeks) are inappropriate. You may not think you are giving specific information, but in most cases it is possible to look at your profile and determine what command your husband is with, as well as identifying information regarding timelines (aka - if you state to a friend that he is leaving right before your b-day, I can look at your profile and determine the command name, your b-day and approximate boat departure just based on that general statement)

3. It is not appropriate to talk about the condition of the boat. This includes saying that the boat is broken, rumors about other boats being broken etc. It is also not appropriate to discuss BSP's, mail drops or the boat's mission on the internet.

4. Beyond, the National Security risks associated with revealing boat movement, there is also a HUGE personal safety issue in revealing this information in such a public setting. Stating to everyone on Facebook that you are alone, greatly adds to the possibility of that information being given to the wrong person. Just like you wouldn't post that you were leaving your home for weeks and that your key is under your flower pot, you shouldn't share with strangers that you are alone for weeks, months, etc. Unfortunately, many criminals realize the vulnerability of military spouses while their husbands are deployed and have exploited information like this.

I realize it can be confusing trying to determine what can/can't be said on the internet regarding your husband's job. I would highly advise that if the comment seems to fall in the "gray" area or you have ANY doubts about whether it is appropriate, error on the side of caution and DON'T post it. Violations such as these are resulting in loss of email privileges for family members, extended underways for the boats- or in some cases, no phone tree messages regarding departure/arrival of the Subs if there is continued trouble with information being given out. At the very least, most Commands are requiring that your sailor get a not so friendly talk from the COB/Chief regarding information that is revealed by a spouse, significant other, or family member.
If you see a violation on the internet, you should inform your friend to immediately remove the information - if there is no immediate resolution or if it is a blatant security violation, you should contact the Ombudsman, COB or NCIS with the violation. If there are any questions you have regarding this note, please feel free to contact me so we can discuss them! I don't want to sound like I am lecturing everyone but I realize that the Navy has not been very clear in spelling out exactly what can and can't be said over the internet. Many times spouses get information from other spouses and even sailors regarding Operational Security on the internet that isn't accurate. Rather, than having to learn the hard way, I am hoping this information will give you some ground rules for any future information you share over the internet. I hope we can all work together to keep our sailors safe and ensure that they all get to come home as quick as possible.

Stolen from Megan Matthiesen Ombudsman USS Rhode Island (B)

I've seen things as vague as "Tomorrow!!!!!!!!!" and as blatant as "My husband is on AA flight #3621 coming through ATL at 3:15pm..." and all of them make my head hurt. Seriously, how difficult is it to wrap your brain around operational security? It's ok to talk about things AFTER the fact but it's not ok to talk about them BEFORE they happen.

I really appreciate Ms. Matthiesen's guidelines.


- hfs


Still here

I am still alive and kicking. Barely. I managed to get slammed with a sinus infection - something I've never had before. First time I've had a fever in years. And it's sidelined me something awful. I think I've slept more in the past 3 days (yay NyQuil!!!) than I have the entire month of March. I'm on the mend but still not 100%.

This coming week is another killer. I'm heading to the MilBlogging conference at the end of the week so I have to get all of my exams taken care of before I leave. So this week includes: 2 in-class quizzes, 2 labs, 1 in-class exam, and 2 online exams. Whee. And lofty though my goals during Spring Break were, I failed to achieve them. Imagine that!

Easter is upon us and the eggs have been dyed. We are heading to church for our version of "sunrise service" which will involve setting up for our 10am service in the park. It takes a lot of people to move our entire sound system, video system, chairs, tents, etc. down to the park so we'll be there at 0545. But it's wonderful to watch the sun come up!

Following service, there is a wonderful luncheon followed by games and an egg hunt for the kids. Then we're heading to a friend's house for dinner with a bunch of other friends and an adults-only, full-contact, egg hunt. Should be fun!

I'm counting days until the MilBlog conference. It will be a nice reminder that I am still a military spouse. And being around old friends will be good for my soul. I'm dreading the plane flight but that's nothing that a diphenhydramine can't take care of. I'm going to be on the ground in DC for a whopping 36 hours and I don't plan to sleep (I'll sleep on the plane). Should be lots of fun!

I'll be blogging more toward the end of the week once I get these exams out of the way. I'll be very glad when May in here and I can be done with these classes.


- hfs


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