5.31.2011

Floating lanterns








So many lanterns. So many names.


There is a ceremony that takes place prior to the floating of the lanterns. VIPs are introduced. Drums are played, hulas are danced. Prayers are said. The flame is lit and the main lanterns are escorted to the catamarans to be floated in the bay prior to the individual lanterns. Once the bell is rung, the individual lanterns are floated. The floating is quiet. Aside from the noise of the children, there isn't much talking. People leave those around them to their thoughts and memories.


I saw people with lanterns commemorating parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. I saw many lanterns with thoughts and prayers for those enduring hardships from natural disasters. The man standing next to me took his dog tags off, placed them inside the lantern, and floated it off in memory of his platoon leader and several of his friends who had been lost in Iraq.


We left shortly after that - it was time for dinner. But I know from years past that most people are loath to leave, wanting to linger and revel in the memory of those they've lost. I know I did. But life goes on and pulls the living along with it most of the time. I am grateful that we were able to be here for one more year and that I was able to get down to float my names. In the post below, I forgot a name...Alan Wendell Gunn, you are not forgotten. Your name was on that lantern too.




Pau.




- hfs

5.27.2011

Our Memorial Day

Four years ago, our Memorial Day changed. Hard to believe that it has been that long - feels like it was just yesterday.








Pau.




- hfs

5.24.2011

God only gives you what you can handle

How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times have you said it? Over the past two years especially, I've heard that phrase more times than I care to count. And I have to tell you...I think it's junk.


I really do.


And here's why...if God only gave us what we can handle, there really wouldn't be much on our plates. As a whole, humans are rather unprepared for the crap that life slings at them. I mean, honestly...think about it. Can you possibly prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one? Nope. Can you prepare yourself for a devastating car crash? A financial debacle? Your child becoming ill? A house fire? (Ok, you can kind of prepare for the house fire in terms of escape routes, fire extinguishers, etc. but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about your house burning to the ground, taking everything you own and hold dear - outside of your family members and maybe the cat - with it)


You really can't. You can TRY. But how it plays out in your mind is NEVER close to the reality of it all. But I'm off track here. Getting back to God only giving us what we can handle. I think it's bunk.


Because if He only gave us what we could handle, we wouldn't need HIM.
I think he INTENTIONALLY gives us more than we can handle because it forces us to rely on him. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day."


"...I had nowhere to go..."


The little things in life - the ones we can handle - we don't think we "need" God to help us in those things. We get so full of ourselves and our abilities to handle the junk that comes at us each day that we turn a blind eye to the possibility of bigger troubles rolling our way. And I think God uses those to get our attention and remind us that we really cannot handle it without Him.


Two years ago, I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. We had made it through our first deployment and were gearing up for our second. I had learned a lot through that first deployment - lessons I planned to put to full use for the second go-round. I had plans and I was going to make them WORK. We'd pay off bills. We'd save some money. We'd do x, y, and z while MacGyver was gone. My house would be clean. The kids and I would enjoy our last adventures on the island while Daddy was off flying missions in Iraq. I'd get to spend some quality girl time with my friends whose husbands were also deploying. We'd take a hop or two back to the mainland to visit family. And then, MacGyver would come back, our family unit would be complete. We'd wrap up our time here in Paradise and PCS on to the next chapter of our Army life.


I could handle that.


The only things out of that entire list above that actually happened was the part about saving money (out of dire necessity) and the fact that our family unit is still complete. Which is an incredible blessing, in and of itself...one that outweighs every other thing on that list. Ten times over.


But God gave me a challenge that I had no possible way of handling. I was wholly and utterly unprepared for it. I never saw it coming and it knocked me so far back that I doubt I'll ever get back to the place I was before June of '09. How do you "handle" your husband being in trouble so deep that you literally cannot see a way out? How do you handle a CID agent telling you that you face criminal charges of your own and that CPS might very well take custody of your children because of that? (scare tactics...I know) How do you handle watching every single thing you've worked for your entire adult life disappear in front of you? How do you handle being so scared that you cannot breathe?


You don't.


You can't.


I couldn't.


Have you ever been in an earthquake? We take for granted that "terra firma" means "firma" all the time. In an earthquake, there is a mental disconnect - a dichotomy of sorts - between what your brain thinks it knows (the ground is solid and unmoving) and what it is experiencing (the ground IS moving). This was an earthquake of sorts only it was my life that was shaking all around me, not the ground. Nothing was solid. Nothing was as it should have been. Nothing was trustworthy or safe. There was nothing on this earth that I could rely on in those moments. Nothing.


I had friends - wonderful friends - telling me that it was going to be ok. As much as I love them, I wanted to yell at them that they were full of crap because no one knew, especially at the start of all of this, that any of this would be anything close to "ok". Like I've said before, I'm used to being able to pull strings and call in favors. I'm used to being able to put people in contract with the right resources for the situation and get them moving toward a solution. But I had no strings to pull. No solutions to point toward. I was left with my faith.


Up until that time, I was basically paying lip service to my faith. Yes, I believe in God. Yes, I believe that He has my best interests at heart. Yes, I believe. But those are words, not actions. I don't think there was ever really a time in my life prior to this that I've ever had to fully rely on God for anything. Or ever cared to. I could handle it all myself. But not this time. I've spent more time on my knees in the past two years that in the other 37 combined.


People have failed me. Institutions that I thought would support me have not. Friends that I thought would be there were not. Lifelines that I thought existed were not as strong as I would have hoped. These were some very tough lessons to learn. But I have never been forsaken. And through all of this, I have been blessed in ways that are immeasurable. I know I've discussed that before but I'm reminded of it on a daily basis now, which is it's own blessing as well. I took things for granted before that I no longer do.


The next time you find yourself getting ready to tell someone that God only gives us what we can handle, think about what you're saying. There really should be a caveat attached to that - He only gives us what we can handle WITH HIM and THROUGH HIM.


I'll step down off my soapbox now. This was just something that's been a burr under my saddle for a while and I needed to get it out.




Pau.




- hfs

5.21.2011

Swamped

Wow. I just looked at the date on my last post and realized it was two weeks ago. Whoops! Sorry about that. It's the end of the school year and I'm swamped. Homeschooling is having a full-time job AND all of the responsibilities of being a "stay-at-home-mom" on top of that. Which is exactly what working parents do every day only I'm not drawing a paycheck. But it's worth every (non-existent) penny.


That being said, we are slammed with wrapping up our main subjects, figuring out what needs to be worked on over the summer (math, history), and lining up curriculum and plans of attack for the next school year. Add to that a major play production for the homeschool co-op we are involved in, the end of the Awana year, Cub Scouts, BMX (I'm riding too!), and tackling our "Hawaiian Bucket List" in the hopes that we will...eventually...one day get off this island. We actually have two lists: the beaches we want to visit (and collect sand from) and the things we want to do. Our beaches list includes:

1. Ali'i Beach
2. Bellows Beach
3. Pipeline/Ehukai Beach
4. Ko'Olina Beach
5. White Plains Beach
6. Three Tables/Pupukea/Sharks Cove
7. Sunset Beach
8. Waimea Bay
9. Mokule'ia Beach
10. Sand Island Beach Park
11. Waikiki Beach
12. Ala Moana Beach
13. Lanikai Beach
14. Kailua Beach
15. Ma'ili'ili Beach


Our "to do" list includes:
1. snorkel north shore (again)
2. hike Makapu'u light house
3. hike Koko Head
4. hike Diamond Head
5. snorkel Haunama Bay
6. skydive
7. water park
8. botanical gardens
9. play tourist in Waikiki/Honolulu
10. swap meet


There are a few other small things that we want to do as a family - things that are special to us here but not worthy of being placed on the "bucket list" simply because they are things that we enjoy on a regular basis. But that pretty much covers it and that will be the goal of our summer - to visit/accomplish as many of those items as possible before we have to leave.


Assuming that day EVER comes...




Pau.




- hfs

5.07.2011

Don't get any on you

We went to a "Hail and Farewell" the other day (a going-away party that doubles as a "nice to meet you" party in military circles) to say goodbye to some really good friends. We all know how lame I am when it comes to goodbyes but I gutted it out because these people are absolutely worth it. When life was falling apart around us, they stood by us. When I found myself in a deep, dark hole, my friend was there with a flashlight (and a glass of wine if I needed it).


And, while it was great to be there for my friends and formally say "farewell" to them, I was reminded why I have avoided that scene for the past two years. When everything hit the fan with regard to MacGyver's career, some people scattered like cockroaches in a greasy kitchen when the light comes on. It was to be expected - the situation was messy. And I can almost respect that. They ran and didn't look back. Fair enough.


The thing that really baffles me are those people that - even today, TWO YEARS LATER - treat me like I am radioactive; like I'm going to contaminate those around me and that, even by being civil, they might possibly be infected in some way. MacGyver's mess started right before soccer season and this person to whom I refer had children in the same league as my children. Not once did this person say hello - even when social situations would dictate such an interaction. Not once.


At first, it hurt. At first, EVERYTHING hurt. It was just salt on a gaping wound at that point. But two years later, it's ridiculously comical. I sat at the bar during this Hail and Farewell (drinking a coke, in the hopes I might stay awake during it all), watching this person literally walk around the outside of the building to get to the other side rather than walk past me inside the building; not just once or twice but three different times. In the rain.


Who does that? What kind of an adult acts like that? MacGyver's mess is close to being wrapped up. The scary/icky/horrible part of it all is over and done with. There's nothing left to contaminate anyone. It's done. And yet, this person cannot bring themselves to act like an adult. It would make me laugh if it weren't so sad.


As much as it kills me to think about leaving this place, I cannot WAIT to be out of here for this reason alone: so that we won't have to put up with this ridiculousness any longer. I'd love to go to a company or battalion event and not be treated like I have leprosy. But this whole experience has left quite a sour taste in my mouth with regard to company-level and battalion-level events and, should the Army choose to retain my husband, I don't see myself being much involved with those things ever again.


Their loss.


If I could speak personally to these people, I'd point out that they missed a perfect opportunity to rise to the occasion and support a fellow military spouse. My husband didn't die, nor was he injured. But our family was devastated by the events that transpired and, when we needed them most, they failed. They failed to offer comfort, support, kindness, or even simply to reserve judgment at a time where that one simple act would have meant the world.


I bet that gavel gets quite heavy.




Pau.




- hfs

5.04.2011

Where are we going

and why am I in this handbasket? Seriously, I leave the island for a few days and all #$(( breaks loose. I managed to eek away time and, thanks to the generous donations of friends and family members, was able to head to the mainland to visit my mom, my BIL and SIL, and attend the MilBloggers' Conference.


I used to adore flying. Loved it. I used to get so excited that I literally couldn't sleep the night before a trip - even as an adult. That has changed. I'd blame it on 9/11 but that isn't really true. It's a completely irrational fear - I hate flying over water. If a plane has a mechanical malfunction while over land, there is an airport or most likely a flat stretch of ground that the pilot might be able to land upon. Not so much when you're over the Pacific Ocean. See? I told you it was irrational. Aren't most fears? I understand that I am many times more likely to die while driving my children to art class and that, should my plane experience mechanical malfunction while at 35,000 feet, I'm dead no matter what we're over - land or water. Regardless, I was a basket case getting on the plane in Honolulu. I'm pretty sure that, the next time I fly, there will be anti-anxiety meds involved. Hello, Ativan!


But I made it to Atlanta (yes, Hartsfield-Jackson airport IS the 7th circle of hell) and then on to my final destination. The ride itself was relatively uneventful and Advil PM is my best friend. Not to mention the fact that it was a new aircraft with the individual monitors so I was able to watch more movies in my 8 hour flight than I've watched all year long. I need to get out more.


And then, one of the highlights of my trip: I got to DRIVE. I live on an island whose circumference is a whopping 120 miles. So being able to drive more than 40 miles in any one direction without having to make a left turn was FASCINATING; not to mention the joy that comes from actually exceeding 55 mph. It was bliss. Add to that the ability to eat Panera and Dunkin' Donuts and I was a happy camper.


This trip was a tough one though. It's the first time I've been back to my parents' house since my Dad and my Grama passed away. I kept expecting my dad to come up from his workshop downstairs or to find my Grama out on the balcony, reading a book. It was really good to see my Mom who is recovering nicely from dislocating her hip and fracturing her femur. She showed me the xrays of the break and subsequent repair (2 rods plus screws) and it's impressive. Hopefully that's the last of any major medical issues for her for a while.


While I was there, the weather got crazy. We were due to drive down to Ringgold to visit my cousins the morning that all hell broke loose. Thankfully, I chose to err on the side of caution and we decided to stay home. Less than an hour later, my cousin in Ringgold texted me to tell me that her mom and dad's place in Chattanooga had been damaged in an early morning tornado - one of the first to hit the ground. Trees down, power lines down, power out. Minimal damage to the house but plenty of damage all around. I ran out to get batteries and candles - thankfully my father was the uber-prepared type so that's really all mom needed (actually, she probably didn't need the candles - they just weren't all in a central location). After that, we hunkered down and watched The Weather Channel for updates. I literally lived on my phone - between texting with my cousins, checking TWC's app for updates, and checking Facebook for info, I about wore my poor phone out.


It looked like we had made it through the worst of it with just some minor issues - trees down around mom's house, some minimal damage on the other side of the highway, etc. We had heard about the tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa and B'ham but that was far away and I don't have family in those areas so, while I was concerned, I wasn't worried. And then the cable went out. There was one last cell headed toward my cousins' house in Ringgold that looked menacing but they couldn't track it with the power out. So she texted me and asked me to check on my phone. When I did, it was right on top of them. Thankfully they were in the basement. The tornado that touched down in Ringgold passed less than 2 miles from their house. You can see the path it took HERE. Downtown Ringgold, including the high school, middle school, and (I believe) elementary school are gone. The level of devastation is incredible.


My cousins in Chattanooga will be without power for weeks. But that is a small inconvenience compared to the lives lost and property destroyed by this storm. I am just glad they are all alive.


Once the weather settled down, I was able to head out to visit my BIL and SIL who live a few hours away. It was good to see them as I have not had the chance to do so for entirely too long. And then, it was off to the MilBlog Conference.


The MBC is a family reunion, of sorts...complete with all of the crazy cousins, the perverted uncle, the in-fighting, the cousins that can't hold their liquor, etc. So really, it's a lot like going home. (sorry Mom!) It was good to see old friends, familiar faces, and make some new friends.


My flight up there took forever and then I managed to get my silly self on to the wrong Metro train (I was tired...I don't live there...I wasn't paying attention) and didn't manage to notice this until I was 4 stops past where I needed to catch my connection. I was almost late getting to the hotel to catch the bus out to the Naval Memorial to catch Mark Wills in concert. He debuted his new song, "Crazy Being Home" and it brought me to tears (doesn't take much, it seems). It was awesome. Cold, but awesome.


Donald Rumsfeld opened up the MilBlogging Conference and you can read about all of that in the posts below. I can't really add much to what I've already said.


The day wrapped up with dinner down the road a ways with some good friends and then drinks down a different road with some other friends. I can't really put any of that into words that would make any sense to anyone. I find that, after this conference, it literally takes me weeks to process everything. But I'm already counting down the days to the next conference. And I swear, this time, I will go earlier and stay longer. I SWEAR.


There were some friends who were absent and they were missed. Terribly. Hopefully they will be there next year. We missed you.


Flying home was an Olympic event, complete with sprints, ruck marches, obstacle courses, and weight lifting. And we ran into some E-ticket weather coming in to HNL, including one heck of a light show which you can see HERE. I missed the biggest strike, sadly, but it was still impressive. Seems the weather here was insane just like it was on the mainland.


It will be a while before I leave again.


Edited to add: I totally forgot! While I was back at my BIL/SIL's place, we found out that Public Enemy #1 had been killed. Definitely an interesting evening. There are plenty of other people - some who are much more well-qualified than I - commenting on how things played out so I will use this time and this space to express my undying love and adoration for our Special Forces personnel. Seal Team 6 and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment: I love you.





Pau.




- hfs