Do you ever find yourself wondering, "Where am I and how in the world did I get here?" That was me today. Standing in the middle of a soggy football field in the middle of the country, watching my son run for a touchdown, I wondered how in the world I wound up here?

When we first moved to Alaska, MacGyver and I would randomly stop and look at each other and remark, "We're in Alaska...!". And when we moved to Hawaii, it was the same way. The shock of both of those moves didn't wear off for a very long time. And some days, it feels like our time in both of those states was a dream. We've been here a year and I still stop and wonder at the fact that we live where we live. I never envisioned this. Then again, I'm not one to envision much of my future. So this shouldn't surprise me, I suppose.

We move in a week. We're moving a little closer to town (hopefully this will ease some of the strain on my gas budget) and into a smaller place (hopefully this, too, will ease some of the strain on my budget) and I am looking forward to it. Less space to keep up after, less space in which to lose people. A lot of our belongings will be packed and will remain packed until we figure out where we go next. No sense in unpacking camping gear if we're going to be gone before it gets warm enough to camp again. Same goes for the fine china, the American Girls dolls, the scuba gear, and so on. Thankfully, our new place has lots of storage so we can just keep it tucked away. Maybe that will appease my minimal(ish)™ tendencies. Maybe. We've culled a lot. Let me rephrase that, *I* have culled a lot. MacGyver has simply unloaded most of what he has 'acquired' since we arrived here. I'm coming to the conclusion that is why he acquires so much stuff...so that, when I go on one of my minimal(ish)™ tears, he isn't forced to truly get rid of anything substantial. Getting rid of the stuff he's acquired recently makes it *look* like he's getting rid of substance. But he's not.

I'm on to him.

But this time, we are moving ourselves. And MacGyver will be doing the majority of the heavy lifting so I'm hoping this helps him appreciate my point of view...that we have ENTIRELY too much stuff. We'll see. 

And in the midst of this DITY move, we will be attempting to keep up with our regular, punishing schedule of swim team, football, PE/art, Awana, and archery. Thankfully, two of those activities are fairly short-lived and they'll be over soon. We've enjoyed them but I'm pretty sure my 'okole is growing roots into the seat of my car. 

No news on where we're heading next. I keep reminding myself that it's the end of the fiscal year so things are very quiet. We have heard back from a few places and several of them are waiting on word regarding contracts. We'll see how all of that pans out. I've not heard a peep from any of the National Guard jobs I've applied MacGyver for but I suspect that will change next month. And no news is good news - at least they've not yet eliminated him as a candidate. So there's that.

He gets to start the transition process here soon. I'm sure I'll have lots to blog about once that process gets started. I'm hoping our experiences with the VA aren't the horror show that I've witnessed others contend with. We'll see. He has a few things that will count toward a disability rating so it's time I read up on all of that. In the meantime, we wait, we pray, we wait some more. 

One question I *DO* need answered is this: MacGyver will get 'involuntary separation pay'. Basically, it's a payment in lieu of his pension that he would have earned had he stayed in to 20 years. If he accepts a state-funded National Guard position that allows him to continue to work toward his 20-year pension (but doing so in the National Guard, NOT through a federal position), is he then required to pay back the involuntary separation pay? I understand he would be obligated to do so if he took a job with, say the FAA or Forest Service, but the NG is state-funded and their retirement is a different animal than the US Army's retirement system. So I'm stumped. I have a few feelers out with some friends but no one has come back to me with any solid information. Let me know if you can answer this one for me!

I'm out. Time to pick up The Boy and The Girl. I should paint my car yellow and slap a "TAXI" sign on top!


- hfs

Minimal(ish)™ vs. stockpiling

I've been busting my butt trying to bring our food budget (and our overall budget) down and I found myself incredibly stressed out but I couldn't put my finger on WHY. It wasn't the process of couponing or searching for those amazing deals. If anything, that process was exciting! But the concept of stockpiling foodstuffs really left me feeling anxious and stressed and I just couldn't figure out what my deal was.
And then I was flipping through my Google Reader list and it hit me. In the process of searching for great deals, I've subscribed to several blogs and websites that alert me when there are AMAZING!!!!1!!! deals to be had. Quick! toilet paper is on sale for 21 cents per roll if you stack a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon and are one of the first 500 through the door to grab this deal! And so, because TP is on sale for such an AMAZING !!!!!!1!!!1!!! price, you feel like you should be buying dozens of rolls. Which, in a long-term outlook, makes sense if 21 cents per roll is a great price. Everyone uses TP, right? Well, those of us in civilized countries do. 

However, this minimal(ish)™ mindset I've been adopting really runs smack in the face of the "oh-my-goodness-I-must-buy-eleventy-seven-of-these-items-because-this-is-such-a-great-deal" mentality. It's tough to balance the idea of having eleventy-seven of something when really, all I need is ONE. Yes, I will need another one in a short while but RIGHT NOW I need ONE. 

Just one. 

So where is the balance? I don't know yet. 

Currently, I have twenty-six boxes of different kinds of cereal in my house. Twenty-six. I didn't pay more than $2 per box for any of them and most of them actually cost closer to $1 each. And we WILL eat all of that cereal. We eat cereal for breakfast, for snack, for lunch and dinner at times. It comes with us to our sports practices, to church, on hikes and bike rides, and so on. It will be eaten. But we are also getting ready to move from a 3,000+ square foot house into a condo about 1/2 that size. I am not going to have the room for twenty-six boxes of cereal. See my quandry?

I just cleaned out my closet. Right now, there are 3 giant lawn-and-leaf-sized trash bags full of clothes sitting in my bedroom. Once I haul all of my clothes that I have not worn in a year off their hangers, I'll probably have two more trash bags' full. Plus several pairs of shoes. Just pulling the bags out of the closet and moving them into the bedroom was liberating! My closet seems so OPEN! It is great. I don't spend much time worrying about what to wear on a regular basis (not that a stay-at-home-mom really needs to be worrying about what to wear...'Is it clean?' really is the most important issue at hand for me on a regular basis) but even on Sunday mornings or on the rare occasion that we go out, I don't spend much time. I have a few items that I know look good on me and I simply choose from them. Easy peasy. 

But then I'm back to reading the blogs and the websites and I come across great deals on shoes or books or school supplies or whatever and that urge to buybuyBUY kicks in and I have to restrain myself. Yes, 27 cents for a composition book is a good price. But we already have several brand new ones left over from last year so I do not NEED any more, regardless of how wonderful the price is. But I have to keep reminding myself of this because the buybuyBUY pressure is constant. It's a tough balance to strike - having enough, paying as little as possible, but not having too much. 

How do you strike the balance?


- hfs


Father Mychal Judge - 00001

This is a repost from several years back. I see no need to change anything.

Never forget. 

My life has two parts to it. The part up through September 10, 2001 and the part from September 11, 2001 to the present. A defining moment. My life as an Army wife also has two parts. The first part was where the biggest drawback or downside of military life was a hardship tour to Korea. The second part is life as I know it right now.

The morning of September 11, 2001 I was 10 months pregnant and 5 days from my due date. I had 4 days left to go as a teacher before going on maternity leave and was only working half days so I didn't need to be in until 11am that day. MacGyver had a 7am work call and was in the shower when my alarm went off. I remember smacking the snooze button on the radio and through the haze of sleep, I heard the DJ say "a plane has hit the Pentagon.".

I woke up. Quickly.

I turned the radio back on and sat bolt upright in bed as I listened. It took me a minute to wrap my brain around what I was hearing. In that time, MacGyver finished his shower and turned off the water. I got up and out of bed as fast as my pregnant belly would let me and knocked on the door. He answered and I told him he needed to go downstairs and turn on the TV.

How many people uttered those words that day?

Everyone I talk to, every story I hear involves those words. "You need to go and turn on the TV."

We went downstairs and stood, gaping, at the television. We couldn't even cry. We were too shocked. I think the first tower fell while we were watching and that must have sparked MacGvyer to move. He bolted upstairs, threw on his BDUs, grabbed his overnight bag and some food, kissed me goodbye, and left. Still, there were no tears. I didn't know if I would see him again. In my mind, he would deploy. I don't know where I thought he was going or what I expected him to be doing but I did not expect him to come home. Mentally I was trying to steel myself to have this baby alone. And I was ok with that. Hell, after thinking about what the people in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania were going through, having a baby on my own was nothing compared to that.

Still, there were no tears.

I went to school. It was chaos and sadness all at the same time. We didn't get anything done that day (or for a few days after). We all sat and watched TV. And talked. And worried. And prayed. Yes, we prayed in a public school. Seemed like the thing to do at the time.

But still, no tears.

And then I came home. And I sat down and watched TV. And I saw this...

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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.

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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



There are days where I seriously consider putting my children back in public school if for no other reason than to be able to maintain tidiness in this house for more than 13 minutes. If they were in school, I could tidy up and - for SEVEN GLORIOUS HOURS - this house would stay tidy. Let me tell you, it's an enticing prospect.

As we get closer to our move to the next town over, I feel my frustration levels ramping up. Short distance moves are a major pain in the katuchus. There's really no need to pack - you're just moving a few miles away. Toss stuff in a box, schlep it to the new location, put it right back on the shelf it was sitting on an hour ago. Easy peasy, right?


That's never how it works. You know this. I know this. And yet, we're three weeks from this move and I've not packed a single thing. And I can't say I plan to do so. Why bother? This is how I see it going:

- remove drawers from dresser (leave clothes IN the drawers)
- remove dresser from house
- load dresser on to trailer
- put drawers back into dresser
- drive 20 minutes to new location
- remove drawers from dresser
- unload dresser from trailer
- take dresser into new house
- put drawers back into dresser

Why do I need to pack? I can see packing the breakable stuff - dishes, glasswear, pictures, etc. But everything else? Nah.

In the meantime, I fight the never-ending battle with our stuff. I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons I want to get rid of so much stuff is because it EXHAUSTS me. The constant battle of trying to keep a house clean while the other three people I live with undo pretty much any progress I make just wears on me. It would be infinitely easier if there was less STUFF with which to battle.

Less stuff = less stuff to put away = less exhaustion/frustration for me.

Or I could keep the stuff and get rid of the people which leads me back to my opening paragraph - I am halfway considering putting my children in public school just so I can have a 7 hour head start on them each day in terms of keeping this place neat. I think moving into a smaller house will help that issue significantly. It's harder to leave the messes when you're only living in 1,500sf as opposed to 3,400sf. In 3400sf, if there is a mess, you can just move to another part of the house where the mess is NOT.

And then make a mess THERE. And then move to another part of the house where the mess is not...it's like the book, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie". But in a smaller house, if you make a mess, you won't have anywhere else to go and you'll either need to clean up your mess or sit on Legos while you try to play with your friends. Not particularly comfortable.

I am convinced that we, as a family, do NOT need anything larger than 2,500sf. Honestly, I'd be happier in 2,000sf - enough space to fit everything without having to get too creative with the storage solutions but not so big that you can leave messes in your wake like Hansel and Gretel and their stinking breadcrumbs! We'll see how that plays out and maybe, just maybe, I'll change my mind about sending my children off to public school.



- hfs


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