Lantern Floating 2012

Every year, the Shinnyo-en and the Na Lei Aloha Foundation put on a lantern floating ceremony down at Ala Moana Beach Park. I have been able to attend since I first learned about it back in 2008. It's a beautiful ceremony and I was fortunate to be on island for this year's ceremony. I could think of no better way to say goodbye to my friend, Lex.

The Lantern floating is a time-honored Buddhist rite originating in Japan and conducted in order to pay respects to our ancestors and comfort the spirits of the deceased. During this Toro-Nagashi, or "lantern offerings on the water," candle-lit lanterns are individually set afloat on the ocean and are said to ferry spirits "from the shore of delusion to the shore of salvation."

When I was younger, I stumbled across John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and his work, "High Flight". There is no one on this earth that embodied the spirit of "High Flight" better than my friend, Carroll "Lex" LeFon. I loved it then and I love it even more now that the two are forever linked in my heart and mind. It was fitting to inscribe it on this year's lantern.

My children also filled out a panel on the lantern with notes to their Grandpa who passed away in 2008.

It is amazing how quiet 40,000 people can be but when the time came for the lanterns to be launched, they were. Everyone seemed to be wrapped in their own memories.

Somewhere in that picture is my lantern, floating with the memories and prayers for my dad, my uncle, many friends, and two of my former students. The Boy and The Girl were with me and were able (and willing) to participate this year by writing on their own panel. And The Boy was the one to launch my lantern. We took time to talk about each of the names on the lantern and I am grateful that I was able to share a little bit about each person. I am even more grateful that, beyond their Grandpa John and their Great-Grandmother, they didn't have any names to include.

I long for those days, when my lantern didn't have so many names on it.


- hfs


Memorial Day 2012

I've been trying to come up with something to say about Memorial Day this year but I can't. The words won't come. So I'll send you over to The Sniper's place and you can read what he wrote. He said it better than I could have.

This is an edited repost from last year.

Staff Sgt. Charles Sanders and the crew of Big Windy 25

CW2 Theodore U. "Tuc" Church and 1st Lt. Keith Heidtman

CW2 S. Blane Hepfner and CW2 J. Bryce Millward

CW2 Earl R. Scott III and CW2 Mathew C. Heffelfinger

CW3 Phillip E. Windorski

CW3 Corey J. Goodnature and the crew of Turbine 33 as well as the SEAL team they were heading to assist

SPC Thomas Allison and the crew of "Wild 42"

Chief Warrant Officer Alan W. Gunn - for whom I wear a bracelet

Clay Hunt


My God, I miss my friends. For the ones I didn't know well or personally, my heart aches for their families - today and always. This afternoon, we will head down to the beach and float lanterns with their names on them. It's a small gesture but a gesture nonetheless. And we will remember. Always.

Feel free to leave the names of those you are remembering in the comments below.


- hfs


Living 'aloha'

We are back in the land of trade winds and malasadas and loving it. We booked an extended vacation here and are doing our best to soak up as much aloha as possible while pretending we never left!

Posting will be light until I get back to reality. We're off to da beach!


- hfs


Freebies - Amazon books

I'm always on the lookout for freebies. Always. I like cheap and on sale but I LOVE freebies. I'm still new to the freebie game but I'm learning quickly. Amazon has some great freebies too - especially when it comes to books.

I love free books because I read through them so quickly. It is ridiculous to go to Barnes and Noble and buy a book for $15 or $20 if I'm going to be done with it in a day or two, unless it's something I will refer back to on a regular basis. And then there is the military issue - we are only allowed a certain amount of weight when we move and books are HEAVY. So I no longer buy a lot of books. I used to. And then I found that I was having to buy additional furniture to accommodate my books which made even LESS sense. So I embraced my local library, weeded through my stacks of books, and donated a large majority of them (or sold them at yardsales). 

MacGyver also gave me a Nook for Christmas two years ago and it's been wonderful loading all sorts of books on there but even those I look for freebies because I have a hard time paying $15 for an email attachment. The nice thing is that many of the classics that I had read as a child (or never got around to reading as a child) are out there for free! In addition to the Nook, our iPad has a Kindle app so anything that Amazon puts up for free is downloadable to my iPad!

Which brings me to today's post: free books from Amazon. There are many out there but I am highlighting two that I downloaded today. The first is '30 Perfect Popcorn Recipes'.

My children love popcorn in all forms so this one speaks to all of us. I love the fact that it's a healthy alternative to potato chips for a snack and it is a common staple for our movie nights (because I'm too cheap to go to the movies!). So this one is a book we are all going to enjoy!

The next book I picked up today is '33 Great Camping Recipes'.

We love to camp - as a family and for Cub Scouts - so this book will definitely be a go-to book for the camping season. And this book goes beyond just main dishes to include sides, drinks, and desserts. The ebook version also has tips including: 7 Camp Clean Up Tips, How To Camp-Cook With Unusual Ingredients, Five Ice Chest Tips, and The Perfect S'mores Technique.

So there are your freebies for the day! Hope you enjoy!


- hfs


Carpet Bombing and Benevolent Neglect

Not necessarily the best approaches to gardening but they are my approaches this year.

The garden is coming along, though not like I had planned. Most of my indoor starts have fizzled. I'm not sure what I did wrong - not keeping them watered well enough, not using the right kind of soil, not enough sunlight...who knows? A few seedlings survived: cauliflower, some chives, jalapenos, some cilantro, a few lettuces, some carrots, and maybe a broccoli seedling or two. Those have been transplanted and I'm restarting a bunch of other stuff from seed in addition to picking up a handful of tomato plants.

My approach to gardening is not the OCD plan that I had envisioned. It has since morphed - due to time constraints as well as threats by Bugs Bunny and his minions - into more of a 'carpet bombing' technique.

I had all sorts of plans and ideas for a nice, well organized layout of bags and planters and whatnot but it's really turned into quite the hodge-podge of layouts. And because my indoor starts didn't do so well, I find myself throwing down a little bit of this and a little bit of that to see what works. 

Above are my tomatoes and marigolds. I bought starter plants as I know that it can be tough to get tomatoes going from seed. We'll see if the marigolds help keep the bugs away from the tomatoes. 

Here we have some lettuce and what's left of my broccoli seedlings. I should have planted the broccoli last fall. Live and learn. We'll see if these 3 survive and produce. 

Onions: red, white, and shallots in this bag. Between the onions, the tomatoes, and the jalapenos, I should have some killer salsa this summer!

Kale and radishes. Neither of which my children really like but we'll see if growing them in our own backyard makes a difference. When I was a kid, I was *much* more likely to eat something if I had picked it out of our own garden. 

More lettuces and a row of spinach. We go through plenty of both.

Carrots! I had to plant them in this planter because I was worried that the bag method would stunt their growth. I remember the carrots I tried growing as a child being puny so I'm curious to see how these turn out.

Peppers (bell peppers). Planted with seeds from a pepper I hacked up for salad the other night. Not sure how these will turn out. Think they'll be better than plants grown from seed company seeds?

Strawberries. These are starts that I ordered from the seed catalog. They really haven't done much since I planted them but they also haven't died so I keep watering them.

I have NO idea what I planted in this bag above...I love surprises!

My cauliflower are doing quite well! Which makes no sense to me since cauliflower and broccoli are both cruciferous vegetables. If one is doing well, the other should be too. Hmm...

My salsa bag (above): more tomatoes, jalapenos, and marigolds to keep the bugs away.

Basil, carrots, and dill. I need to transplant these poor guys. A bug made its way into the basil container and had a great meal so they are starting over again in the leafing department.

More strawberry transplants (these were from Wal-Mart, I believe, and are doing better than the seed company transplants. Morning glories in the middle, and a cilantro/parsley pot on the right.

I still have pole beans, pumpkins (two varieties), and corn to plant. And at each corner of my fenced area, I planted some of The Boy's sunflower seeds. We'll see how they turn out. In addition to my carpet bombing technique when it comes to planting, this summer's other approach is benevolent neglect. The kids and I are doing a bit of traveling and my housesitters have simply been instructed to water on a daily basis. Nothing more. I'll fertilize and plant more seeds once we're doing with our travels. I'm curious to see how the 'bury it and forget it' approach plays out!

In the meantime, I am digging through all sorts of fun gardening books. My favorite thus far is "A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello". The man is my OCD hero. 

There are several other books that I've picked up that I'm enjoying - I'll have to discuss a few of them here soon! 


- hfs


We don't do a LOT of vitamins but we definitely do some. The Boy and The Girl each take a multivitamin in addition to a calcium supplement, vitamin C, and vitamin D in the winter. I take all of that (and oh, let me tell you, my body is quite vocal when I don't take my D!) plus grape seed extract, Co-Enzyme Q10, and D-Mannose.

I am not sure about the health benefits of the Co-Enzyme Q10 but, like I said, my body HOWLS at me when I skip my Vitamin D. I've not had a UTI since starting the D-Mannose (at the suggestion of my pastor's wife who is also a certified nutritionist). And *knocking on wood as I say this* our immune systems stayed in tact this winter, due in part (I think) to the grape seed extract.

We have one health food store in town and it is EXPENSIVE. More expensive than the one in Hawaii. Go figure. The closest Trader Joe's and/or Whole Foods (which is also expensive) are 2 hours away. So YAY for Vitacost! I signed up last fall when I was looking for bug spray that The Boy could tolerate without rashing up like he had the measles. They were offering $10 credits for new accounts and free shipping on orders over $49. WOOHOO!!! They are offering that AGAIN now! And if you sign up using my referral link, you and I BOTH will get $10.

It's about time for the local swimming pools to open so therefore it's time to stock up on sunscreen! Head on over, sign up for a new account with my referral link, and save $10 plus get free shipping on your order if it's greater than $49.

And check out their Memorial Day sales too!


- hfs


Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day

I have many thoughts about this sisterhood of military spouses of which I am a part. But the day's responsibilities are calling so my thoughts will have to wait. Until then, I leave you with this poem that my friend T posted today. It sums things up quite well. I am blessed to be a part of such an AMAZING group of women.
Sisterhood I am a military wife - a member of that sisterhood of women who have had the courage to watch their men go into battle, and the strength to survive until their return. Our sorority knows no rank, for we earn our membership with a marriage license, traveling over miles, or over nations to begin a new life with our military husbands. 
Within days, we turn a barren, echoing building into a home, and though our quarters are inevitably white-walled and unpapered, we decorate with the treasures of our travels, for we shop the markets of the globe. 
Using hammer and nail, we tack our pictures to the wall, and our roots to the floor as firmly as if we had lived there for a lifetime. We hold a family together by the bootstraps, and raise the best of "brats," instilling in them the motto, "Home is togetherness," whether motel, or guest house, apartment or duplex. 
As military wives we soon realize that the only good in "Good-bye" is the "Hello again." For as salesmen for freedom, our husbands are often on the road, at sea, or in the sky, leaving us behind, for a week, a month, an assignment. During separations we guard the home front, existing until the homecoming. 
Unlike our civilian counterparts, we measure time, not by years, but by tours - married at Knox, a baby born at Portsmouth, a special anniversary at Yorktown, a promotion in McDill. We plant trees, and never see them grow tall, work on projects completed long after our departure, and enhance our community for the betterment of those who come after us. We leave a part of ourselves at every stop. 
Through experience, we have learned to pack a suitcase, a car or hold baggage, and live indefinitely from the contents within: and though our fingers are sore from the patches we have sewn, and the silver we have shined, our hands are always ready to help those around us. 
Women of peace, we pray for a world in harmony, for the flag that leads our men into battle, will also blanket them in death. Yet we are an optimistic group, thinking of the good, and forgetting the bad, cherishing yesterday, while anticipating tomorrow. 
Never rich by monetary standards, our hearts are overflowing with a wealth of experiences common only to those united by the special tradition of military life. We pass on this legacy to every military bride, welcoming her with outstretched arms, with love and friendship, from one sister to another, sharing the bounty of our unique, fulfilling military way of life.


 - hfs

Counting down...

Suitcases out - check.
Laundry in progress - check.
Transportation to airport - check
Someone to water the plants - check (MacGyver will be here, sadly, but I don't want him to have to worry about the garden and I like 'employing' the neighborhood kids).
Lodging - check.
Transportation on island - check.
Someone to take care of my worms - check (yep, worms. Don't judge. My vegetables will be OUTSTANDING this year because of my worms and their products!).
Sunscreen - check (I. AM. PALE. Stupid Kansas winter. And genetics.).

Return ticket...I seem to have lost that. Hmm.


- hfs


Metamorphosis of a mother - part 3

In our final installment, we find that life rarely has tidy endings. No surprise there, really.

- hfs

Once the physical and logistical challenges of motherhood had begun to ease up (The Girl's digestive/potty training issues had been addressed and were in the process of being resolved at this point. I have to give a serious shout-out to the Pediatric Gastroenterology department at Tripler. They ROCK.), *I* relaxed. I finally - after more than a year - began to feel comfortable in my skin again. I no longer felt like I was fumbling in the dark with earmuffs on. I no longer felt like I was drowning. I began to enjoy parenting much more but still found myself very easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Part of that was due to the ages of my children and part of that were my own shortcomings. The red hair brings with it a short temper. 

No, really. 

Stop laughing.

Many days I felt like I could barely get my feet under me. And then we faced a deployment - our first. But we were as ready as anyone was going to be and shortly after MacGyver deployed, The Girl started Kindergarten. I'm not sure who was more excited - she or I. For a few hours each day, I went from being an overwhelmed, stressed out single mother of two to a much calmer mother of one. The routine was comforting to all of us and being able to spend some solid one-on-one time with The Boy while The Girl was at school was a blessing. It allowed me to connect with him on much more solid ground than I ever had before. Instead of just gutting it out and getting through the day, I was able to truly enjoy the time I spent with him (and the fact that I didn't have to fight to get two children down for naps at the same time).

Looking back now, I don't think I really started to develop a relationship with my son until that point.  I had been in survival mode.

Come to find out, he's quite the funny man. Complete with belly laughs and a smile that lights up his face. It was wonderful getting to 'know' him. And it was wonderful watching my girl blossom. She adored Kindergarten and doing all of the wonderful things that Kindergarteners got to do that her overwhelmed and under-creative mother wasn't capable of doing, like playing with glitter. Glitter is of the devil and is not allowed in my house. I'd rather let my children play with Sharpies than glitter. So she loved school.

And I loved the fact that someone ELSE had to clean up the glitter.

And she loved coming home. She was greeted by her biggest fan (The Boy) and their excitement at seeing each other for the first time in 7.5 hours gave me a few minutes of breathing room - usually just enough to find my second wind and get us through homework and dinner time. It was interesting to watch their differences develop too. She is a social butterfly - loves to be out and about, in a crowd, busy, and engaged. He is a homebody - loves to be at home, in his own domain, surrounded by familiarity. In that respect, they were as different as night and day. That has since changed a bit - her 'first born' need for solitude is becoming more developed and his inner social butterfly has started to emerge, though on a much smaller scale than his sister's.

To help draw him out a bit - and to give me time to bring in some extra money by substitute teaching - we enrolled him in preschool. I expected a struggle to get him settled in but it was the same preschool The Girl had attended so it was familiar to him and he surprised me by taking right to it.

Suddenly, I had TIME to MYSELF. A life outside of mommyhood. And I relished in it for a bit. It felt a lot like late spring in Alaska; like coming out of hibernation. And it was glorious! For a bit. But I found myself missing them and that floored me. I had spent the past 3 years yearning for freedom and yearning to return to that carefree, unencumbered life that I had known before children and yet, all I did was consider the time of the day and what they were up to and whether they missed me like I missed them.

And at that moment I finally embraced who I had become - a mother. It only took me 5 years to do so. What can I say? The learning curve was a bit steep on that one.

Fast forward to The Boy's entrance into Kindergarten. I was still subbing at the time but it was sporadic. He struggled in Kindergarten - not academically but behaviorally because he was BORED. He walked in knowing how to read, add, and subtract. He blew through all of the classroom readers and free-reading books in the first two months of school. At the parent/teacher conference, his teacher actually told us this and then said, without blinking, that she didn't know what else to do for him. I thought about explaining the fact that the first grade classrooms were in the next building and that the library was across the oval but I didn't think she'd see the humor in it. But that was the first inkling that something wasn't working. Also at that point, The Girl was starting to run in to some difficulties of her own - with a bully that the school failed to deal with adequately, with her own anxiety and perfectionism, and with multiplication.

All of this led me to consider homeschooling my children. And, if you look back at where I started in all of this, the full-circle nature of it all is both completely ludicrous and makes complete sense, all at the same time. Life is funny like that.

I've had a hard time wrapping this up because it doesn't fit into any pretty little boxes that my OCD brain prefers. There's no pretty bow with which to tie this all up. I'm still a mess at times. A hot mess, at that. There are days where I see the school bus and think, "What if..." In Hawaii, it was tough homeschooling because a lot of my friends had their kids in public school and would go and DO things during school hours - beach, lunch, shopping, etc. - things that I "couldn't" do. I did my best to steer myself away from resentment, and for the most part that worked. It's easier now that we're not in Hawaii anymore and I don't have many friends here. And the friends I do have either homeschool or work during the day so the resentment monster is locked away in a closet.

So there's no moral at the end of this story. I'm still a work in progress. I probably always will be. Just when I think I have the game down, the rules change. C'est la vie, n'est pa? 


- hfs


Hang on kids

Life's about to get a little crazy here in a bit.

My 'Metamorphosis' post (part 3) is almost done but Bugs Bunny has taken to snacking on my broccoli and cauliflower starts so I had to spend the majority of my day putting up Fort Knox - Garden Edition. There is plenty for Bugs to snack on elsewhere and I'd rather not have to unleash my 8-year old sniper on him. The Boy is quite good with the BB gun...

While I was out putting up fencing, I put down seeds for more spinach and some more carrots. I have carrots already growing in a container but just a few so I started some fresh from seed. I also set in my onions and garlic. I was worried about setting seeds out before we head to Hawaii for a long visit but MacGyver's leave was canceled (yeah...don't get me started) for training so he'll be here to water and look after things (ok, he'll be here to water). Tomorrow I'll get the rest of the herbs in and put down some more peppers and lettuce. I had wanted pretty rows and things grouped in categories in my garden beds but it's quite schizophrenic out there now. So we'll see how it all comes up.

It's our last week of official school. We're done with all things language - actually finished that all up a while back but kept plugging ahead into the next level. This week we're continuing with math (that will go all summer) and finishing up most of science. As part of astronomy, we took the telescopes and camera out on Saturday night to take a look at the Super Moon (no, it did not wear a cape, much to my son's chagrin). It was great to see the craters up close and personal. And the kids were thrilled to be allowed to stay up late. Until I had to roll them out of bed for church in the morning.

MacGyver's training schedule this summer made itself known last week. Looks like he's going to be quite the busy guy. So much for lazy summer days around here. More like single parenting again. Yay. Thankfully, beyond swimming lessons and pool time, we didn't have much planned so he won't be missing too much. Except our trip to Hawaii.

Wish I had known BEFORE I bought tickets (we waited for his leave to be approved after having submitted the paperwork THREE times, a delay that cost us $200 more, beyond what we paid for our other tickets. No, I'm not bitter. Why do you ask?). I'm not looking forward to the fight with the travel insurance company on getting our money back. Nowhere in their description of coverage does it say anything about 'military leave canceled'. I have a feeling we're going to get hosed. But I'll fight it. So we'll see. Regardless, we're going to miss having him with us in Hawaii and he's bummed because he was looking forward to seeing everyone again and having a small break. And he was looking forward to working some connections with the National Guard guys there. So that will have to wait. Hopefully we won't need the connections but it's better to be prepared.

And then, in the middle of writing this, we had a sweet, unexpected visitor show up on our back deck!

He just wandered on up and said hi at the back door. Well cared for, collared, leash-trained. Probably between 3 and 5 years old. Took him around the neighborhood but no one recognized him. So we called Animal Control. Hopefully he's chipped and back home with his family soon! It was fun to have a dog for a few hours.

Time to get more science done! We've about finished Jupiter and we're moving on to Venus. Fun times!


- hfs


The metamorphosis of a mother - part 2

In this episode, we see the development of HomefrontSix's inner turmoil and begin to understand why 'normal' is just a setting on the washing machine. And highly overrated, if you ask her.

- hfs

Two and a half years later, The Boy made his entrance. It was a relatively quiet entrance - no drama beyond back labor and not being able to eat for 18 hours while I was laboring in the hospital (and EVERY. SINGLE. COMMERCIAL. WAS. FOR. FOOD.). But his quiet entrance masked the chaos that was to reign for 6 months. Pyloric stenosis (undiagnosed thanks to condescending doctors and my lack of experience in being a forceful pain in the butt parent) plus colic plus reflux plus a toddler with potty-training issues equals a big freaking mess. Oh, and just for kicks, add in there flight school and a mild case of post-partum depression (probably brought on by all of the other variables).

If it hadn't been so crappy, it would have been funny.

But it wasn't.

We didn't go anywhere, not that there was anywhere TO go in Enterprise, Alabama. And when we did, we went with 3 changes of clothes for everyone. The Boy was incredibly adept at puking on anyone and everyone within a 3-foot radius. Eight ounces in, six ounces out. Because of this, I never let anyone hold him. The sad thing was, *I* didn't want to hold him. What mother doesn't want to hold her OWN CHILD? We didn't use burp rags, we used hand towels and bath towels. And it was a blessing that the flooring in the houses at Fort Rucker were linoleum tile. He puked all.the.time. It was embarrassing. It was maddening. It was depressing. It was my life. And, for a time, it was awful. We joke about it now but I'm pretty sure that, had a roving band of gypsies or carnies come past my house, I would have handed him to them. I say that in jest now, but at the time, a very large part of me wanted to be anywhere other than where I was. And I wanted to smell like anything other than baby barf. But the guilt associated with even just that thought was gut-wrenching.

That set up an internal struggle, the magnitude of which I am just now beginning to realize. I resented both of my children, but mainly my son. What little 'life' I thought I had prior to his arrival vaporized along with any thought of sleep I might have hung on to. My last shred of independence was gone and I was unable to reconcile myself with any of it. 

It was a long six months.

And my husband was unable to offer much in the way of help. I'm not sure exactly what we were smoking when we decided that flight school was a good time to have a baby. It probably would have been easier on everyone if we had opted to have a baby while he was deployed. At least then, I wouldn't have had to try (unsuccessfully) to keep quiet a baby suffering from the digestive issues my son was dealing with. I was home with screaming Sir Pukes A Lot all day and, when MacGyver was able to come home from school in the evening, I had to try to keep screaming Sir Pukes A Lot quiet so MacGyver could study and then sleep in order to get up and do it again the next day.

Like I said, having a baby while my husband was deployed would have been easier. On EVERYONE. I'm still not sure how we made it through that time period with our marriage and our sanity in tact. God's grace, I suppose.

But he grew out of the puking/screaming/not-sleeping stage just as I grew INTO my role as a mother. I don't know what changed in my brain but I'm sure it had to do with an increase in the meager amount of sleep I was getting combined with a decreasing frequency of Exorcist-like puking episodes from The Boy. Whatever it was, things eased up just slightly and I felt like I could breathe again.

I've always said that 6-12 months is my favorite baby stage and The Boy reinforced that belief. At about 6 months he started keeping his food down on a more consistent basis. He started sleeping for more than 2 hours at a stretch. He stopped screaming all the time. He started being much more fun. I'd say he was much less work but I'd be lying. He was a master at undoing any and every attempt I made at trying to clean my house. He was a one man wrecking crew and his sister cheered him on. I was, at that point, outnumbered in that department. A foreshadowing time, if you ask me as I am still completely outnumbered in the 'keeping the house respectable' department.

His whiny, cranky disposition gave way to an easy-going, easy-smiling baby and he was much more enjoyable to be around. We relaxed. And we moved to Hawaii. And Hawaii makes EVERYTHING better, doesn't it? Yes, yes it does. The digestive issues hadn't completely resolved but who cared? It was easy enough to dip him in the ocean and rinse him off. And warm enough to strip him down to his diaper should he make a mess of his clothes (which he did. Often.).


I think I have one more part left. It's not done yet but it's getting there. Might be two parts. We'll see. Thanks for stopping by!


Cutting off our nose to spite our face

My 'Metamorphosis' story is coming along but this one was really nibbling at my brain so it needs to go up.

- hfs

A short while ago our FRG (Family Readiness Group) sent out a flyer advertising a Brigade-level social event. The flyer specified "E-7 Spouses and above, please". This is nothing new and maybe it was the phase of the moon or the direction the wind was blowing at the moment but it *really* (for lack of a better term) pissed me off.

A little background on me to set the stage for my righteous indignation: MacGyver was enlisted before he was accepted into flight school. He spent the better part of 3 years as a crew chief and then a flight engineer in the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter up in Alaska. Anyone who has ever flown on a Chinook understands how integral the crew in the back are to the function of that aircraft - the relationship between the pilots up front and the crew dogs in the back is a symbiotic one. They ALL work together to keep that ugly school bus in the air. And that relationship really blurs the line between officer and enlisted. It took years before I realized that other MOSs didn't see E-4s and O-3s/O-4s chilling together at family BBQs on the weekends.

I understand the need for the rank structure and the formalities that go with it in certain MOSs but it's not often like that in aviation, especially in the Chinook world where the playing field is a little more level based on the circumstances of the beast.

So there's that.

As such, social events in the Chinook community tend to be open to everyone. And, because of the nature of Fort Wainwright and its distance from the proverbial flagpole, that was pretty much the same throughout the aviation community during our time up there. It never occurred to me that social events would be open to some spouses and not to others. Ignorance is bliss, it seems.

There's an old joke about spouses and rank. At a meeting of military spouses, the LTC running the event issued the instruction for all of the spouses to line up, according to rank. They begin to do so and the LTC stopped them, pointing out that they were spouses - they had NO RANK. I have no rank. I am not in the military. My husband has rank - he earned it through hard work and sacrifice. (Of course, there's always the theory that the spouse's authority supersedes the soldier's rank but that's a different blog post) My point is that, as spouses, we have no rank. We are ALL 'dependents' (and that's another word that lights my fire but, again, I'll save that for another post) - nothing more, nothing less. And yet, some of us are prevented from attending social events based on our husband's rank.

I understand the rationales behind the policy even though I do not agree with them. I'm sure there is concern about younger spouses not adhering to the code of 'acceptable behavior' (I'm sure I was one of them. Probably still am.). And it's possible that the policy is in place to keep the number of spouses attending such an event to a workable number, though I highly doubt that a Brigade-level social event in the middle of a workday is going to exceed the capacity of the venue. Call me a pessimist.

But what about my friend, D, who is a veteran military spouse of 25 years? Twenty-five years. Yet her husband is an E-6 and she would not be allowed to attend this event. What a loss for the military spouse community. My friend D is a wealth of knowledge and insight whose experiences and perspectives on military life would be a gold mine of information for just about every spouse around her (not to mention she's just good people). And yet, she would not be able to attend this event because her husband is 'just' an E-6.

What a disservice we are doing to our junior spouses. For those of you who are military spouses, think back to your early years on this wonderful adventure. Did you have someone - someone with some experience as a military spouse - take you under their wing and show you the ins and outs of military life? If you can even just think of ONE person who did this for you, you are fortunate. Many younger spouses have no one to guide them, no one to offer them perspective, no one to set a positive example. They are left to flounder in a very foreign world.

Because, let's face it...military life is freakish. Our spouses come and go on training exercises, staff duty rotations, and deployments, with such frequency as to warrant consideration of installing a revolving door. We live a nomadic and transient life. We write names in pen and addresses in pencil. Our customs are not the customs of the civilian world. Many of us deal with 'anticipatory grief' on a regular basis. We've probably been to more funerals and memorial services than weddings.

A good friend of mine from childhood has a job that takes him away from home overnight on occasion. He's married to another good friend of mine and I remember talking to her one day about his job and how she has a really hard time being home alone on the nights when he is gone. Oftentimes she will either go spend the night at a friend or have a friend come spend the night at her house. And I chuckled. Having MacGyver gone for one night just means I get the ENTIRE bed to myself and can eat waffles for dinner with no one raising an eyebrow at me. After a 15-month deployment followed by a 4-month TDY, and 2 rotations to training centers - all in the span of a 30-month period - having him gone for a night or a week barely registers on my radar.

So our lives are different. And, for a new military spouse, this new life can be overwhelming and isolating and frustrating. And rather than open up as many possible avenues of support, we close those doors because they don't have the correct rank.

And we wonder why military marriages are so quick to fail...


- hfs


The metamorphosis of a mother - part 1

This one's been brewing for a while and it's not quite *there* yet. But here's the beginning. 

Part 1 ~

Growing up, I never daydreamed about getting married or having children. Not that I didn't think I would, it's just that is not how my brain is wired. I don't envision things far into the future. I can't create a mental picture of my husband and I growing old just like I couldn't create a picture of what my wedding would be like or what motherhood entail back when I was younger. Once MacGyver proposed, I was definitely able to conjure up ideas and visions for my wedding but I didn't sit around as a tween and daydream about it. My practical side overpowers the creative side of my brain more often than not.

The same thing goes for parenting. I knew I would have children - that was never in doubt. I wanted children. But it was very much an abstract concept to me. For my first wedding anniversary, my mother-in-law gave me a Creative Memories scrapbooking set and that set me off on the scrapbooking adventure that swept the country back in the late 90s. I loved the idea of scrabooking and acquiring all of the cool gadgets, papers, stickers, and other elements - the stuff - was FUN. I even dabbled in selling scrabooking supplies until the company went belly-up. I scrapped my wedding photos, my husband's early Army career, my daughter's first 3-4 years, and my son's first year. And I found that scrapbooking - though it looks like a lot of fun in the pictures and articles - is a lot of work, especially for a hobby! And life (and Army moves) has a way of getting in the way of hobbies and my scrapbooking was shelved (no pun intended) to make way for, well...life. But the STUFF was cool!

For me, the idea of becoming a parent was a lot like the idea of scrapbooking - lots of fun to acquire the stuff that goes along with it but the reality was that it was work! I loved the idea of becoming a parent - baby snuggles, bathtime fun, adorable clothes and toys, walks in the park, play dates and crafts, and so on. My idea of parenthood looked a lot like a Pinterest  board - all of the cute and none of the reality.

For those that don't know me, I am a relatively independent person (stop laughing). I realize this is probably quite the statement of the obvious but there might be one or two people that don't realize just how independent I am. I blame my mother for it is how she raised me. And the Army has solidified that part of my personality, if not magnified it. MacGyver and I were married for 4 years before The Girl came along. I loved being responsible solely for myself during that time. If I needed to stay late at work, I did. If I needed some time to myself (I grew up as an only child...there are times when I CRAVE alone time like an addict craves a drug) I took it. My time was my own and - aside from courtesy toward my husband in checking with him before I took off on my own - I didn't have anyone to answer to or worry about in my absence. It's not like I took off for weeks at a time. We lived in Fairbanks, Alaska - there really wasn't anywhere TO go. But I could head to Fred Meyer or Borders in the mall and lose myself for a bit without worrying about responsibilities at home. Or, if I needed to go see my parents, there was just one plane ticket to purchase and I didn't have to arrange child care or meals or anything like that. I could just GO.

Then my daughter came along. Aside from a few hiccups (and a milk protein allergy) in the first few weeks, she was quite an easy baby. And yet, I resented being 'tied down'. Not TOO much but it was there, simmering under the surface. As many military spouses (and other SAHMs) can attest to, it was made worse by the fact that my husband 'got' to go to work and I was 'stuck' at home with a baby (a baby that I wanted but that didn't factor into my mindset at the time. I was hormonal. Don't judge.). He was able to interact with other adults whereas I had given up my teaching position to stay home and my interaction with other adults was limited to phone calls and the gate guards on post. Those first 6 months were tough but we made it through and I settled in to parenthood pretty well at that point. Found my groove, so to speak. It helps that The Girl also figured out how to sleep through the night around that time. I'm sure there is a correlation. She was fun - and CUTE - and I enjoyed showing her off and playing with her and watching her grow. But the reality of parenthood did not even come close to the ideal image I had conjured up in my brain.


More to come 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 ...