2.26.2012

Off to the big city

The Boy celebrated a birthday recently - I'm still trying to figure out how it is he is now 8. I swear, he was born yesterday. But then I get to thinking about the long, horrible nights (and days) of his first six months and I realize it has been 8 years. Those were some LONG nights. Colic combined with (undiagnosed) pyloric stenosis (mild but it meant that 8 out of every 16 ounces he took in wound up coming right back out - on to me, the floor, the couch, him, the carseat...you name it), and some post-partum depression (mine, not his) and it's amazing that any of us made it out with any semblance of sanity. But he's such a sweet, kind boy now so I'm glad we made it through!


Because we haven't yet made a lot of friends here, The Boy decided that Dave and Buster's was a great place to celebrate his birthday. So we piled in the car recently and took off to the Big City where D&B's is located. Because it's a bit of a schlep, we decided to find other things to do to warrant the drive and wound up at Union Station. They have a science center and model train museum so we figured that would be a fun warm up to D&B's. As we were pulling off the interstate, I heard an odd rattle (not uncommon in a 14 year old car that has 115K miles on it). Thankfully we were just a short drive from our destination and, as we pulled into the parking lot, the rattling stopped and something fell out of the engine compartment.


That's never a good sign.


We pulled into a parking space and popped the hood, after locating my Leatherman and a crescent wrench (for some reason, my normal toolkit wasn't in my trunk...). A little bit of digging revealed that the idler pulley for the serpentine belt had the bearing seize up and the pulley itself disintegrated. Thankfully (I said this a lot this day), it was early so we had time to explore some options. MacGyver, after locating the offending part, called around and located a parts place that a.) was within walking distance and b.) could get the part we needed by early afternoon. So we took the kids in to Union Station, grabbed a bite to eat, and explored until it was time for MacGyver to head out for the part. A few short hours, $100, and two bloody knuckles later, my V6 was up and running. Off we went to D&B's. The Boy had a great time as did his sister. And, while we were there, I was able to meet up with a blog friend who happened to be in the area with his family as well.


Sadly we did not have time to get up to see The Armorer but the kids and I will make it out to see them hopefully next month. I hear they have quite the petting zoo out there!


This week looks to be a quiet one - even quieter than before as hockey is now over. No more freezing my okole off! And our countdown to Hawaii has begun. We are blessed to be heading back for a visit in a short big. I'm excited beyond belief. Hopefully we'll have a better idea as to MacGyver's future in the active duty Army and, if necessary, can start talking to the Hawaii National Guard to see if they have anything that might work for us. Keep your fingers crossed!


I'm anxiously waiting for my order of seeds to get here so I can start planting and hopefully get some things growing. The weather here has been wonderfully spring-like so it's time to start moving in the gardening direction. The kids and I mapped out our plans for beds and pots and seeds have been ordered. My hope is that we can offset some of our produce budget by growing our own. And what we don't grow, I'm hoping to get from the Farmer's markets once they start back up. I'm also looking into raw milk distributers and an organic co-op as well. We're doing pretty well with cutting out a lot of processed foods as well as eliminating food dyes and artificial flavors and sweeteners. Not perfect by any stretch but it's better than it used to be!


Time for bed.




Pau.




- hfs

2.21.2012

A rant, of sorts

Want to know the BEST way to keep me from attending an FRG meeting? Make it 'mandatory'. I don't respond well to orders. I'm not in the Army. If you're going to make it 'mandatory', you might as well not hold the meeting at all.


As an FRG leader (or a commander, for that matter) I'd like to think I'd be able to come up with a way to encourage attendance at a meeting such as this without resorting to threats and brow-beating. Apparently that is not possible. So we have a 'mandatory' FRG meeting to discuss the upcoming training exercise.


Training exercise.


Not deployment. Training exercise. *sigh*


Prior to a deployment, soldiers go through a process called "SRP" (soldier readiness packet). It's a process that ensures that the soldier has the appropriate paperwork in hand and has taken care of the necessary tasks prior to deploying; things like powers of attorney, wills, banking arrangements, shots, dental checkups, etc. And prior to a deployment, this made sense.


Only now, soldiers go through the SRP process before they leave on training exercises. Good grief. What in the world have we become? How ridiculously incompetent must soldiers and their families appear to have necessitated this requirement? While part of the blame lies in the leadership for a knee-jerk reaction to a few isolated incidents of oversight in terms of preparation for a training exercise, the other part of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the soldiers and their families. Because the decision to require SRP prior to leaving for a training exercise didn't come about for no reason. Someone, somewhere, wasn't squared away enough and a problem arose that wasn't properly dealt with at the lowest levels of leadership. And someone complained to the higher-ups who decided to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer. And now we have SRPs for training exercises and 'mandatory' FRG meetings for the same.


How sad is it that our soldiers cannot leave home for a few weeks without preventable catastrophes happening that necessitate policies such as this? How hard is it to make sure that you (or your spouse...depending on what angle you're looking at this from) have access to the bank accounts? That the cars are adequately registered? That the LES is squared away? That you both have up to date wills? How hard is that? It's not that hard - I've done it. I did it as a junior enlisted spouse, an NCO's spouse, and as a warrant officer's spouse. I've done it with and without children. I've done it with babies and toddlers (at the same time). It's not that hard.


And yet, here we are - SRPs for training exercises and 'mandatory' FRG meetings.


We have no clue how to take care of ourselves anymore. Ridiculous.




Pau.




- hfs

2.12.2012

Lynch mob mentality

As previously posted, the internetz have been all a-twitter over a blog post that shares the blogger's opinion (she's an active-duty spouse) that National Guard soldiers are not really soldiers. Along with the spouse's opinion, her husband (the active duty soldier) put forth his opinion in the comments, backing up what his wife had to say after she came under fire from several commenters.


The comments, pictures, and (now) the blog have been removed. It's my understanding that the soldier's command was contacted and he has been reprimanded. Which is all well and good, if you ask me. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Most people know the old saying - opinions are like...well, you know. The thing is that, when you swear that oath to protect and defend the Constitution, you suspend some of those rights for which you are fighting. One of them is free speech. What "The Hubs" said was rude (not the problem), ill-informed (not the problem), and narrow-minded (again, not the problem), but most of all it EMBARRASSED THE ARMY (bingo! We have a winner! THAT is the problem.)


"The Hubs" was reprimanded (or, should have been reprimanded) not for what his wife wrote on her blog but for what HE said on her blog. There are a lot of people up in arms over the Army censoring HER free speech but that's not what happened. It was HIS comment on her blog that drew the command's attention and the consequences he is facing. I can write pretty much whatever I want on this blog. I can criticize the President, Congress, my husband's chain of command, etc. And - TECHNICALLY - it is not supposed to cause a problem for my husband. Now you and I both know that's not how it really works but on paper, what I say and do should have no bearing on his career. I've been around long enough to know that, while it may not cause 'official' trouble for my husband, it sure as heck might bring 'unofficial' trouble. The Army is like any other employer - criticize your husband's boss and it's going to cause waves for him at work. It won't be anything official but he might see his name less frequently on the flight schedule and more frequently on the staff duty roster. Or small gaffes that might normally go without notice now draw scrutiny (and consequences) from the command. And so on. So, while I may have opinions - very STRONG opinions (those of you that know me are all nodding your heads in agreement. You can stop now.) - about certain things in the Army, I keep them to myself out of tact. And boy, does my tongue BLEED from biting on it!


There were many people - people I know and respect - who were treating this woman as if she needed to be tarred and feathered and this saddens me. Don't get me wrong - her blog post about lit my hair on fire but it was an OPINION. I have no problem going after the OPINION but when you start going after the person - the content of their character, their marriage, etc. - you've crossed the line. And many people seem to have done so with their comments about all of this. I get as passionate over things like this as the next person but when did the game change? When did we stop attacking the message and start attacking the messenger? When did we cast aside tact and professionalism and degrade into name-calling and insults? And I completely understand that - in pointing a finger, there are 3 pointing back at me. In my previous post, I voiced my opinion that "The Hubs" has an inferiority complex and that was going too far. It seems to me that his opinion comes from an inferiority complex but I don't know this man and have never met him. He might very well have a perfectly fine complex or none at all. I didn't take the time to let my emotions pass completely and I didn't stick to attacking simply the message. And for that, I apologize.


My hope is that everyone learns a lesson here. I hope that the wife whose blog post started all of this will, in time, learn that National Guard soldiers (as Mary pointed out in the comments on the post below) bleed the same color as Active Duty soldiers. I hope that she meets some INCREDIBLE National Guard families that cause her (and her husband) to rethink their opinions. I also hope that - through this mess - they meet some wonderful active duty families that will extend to them the grace that was sorely lacking from this brouhaha. And I also hope that whatever reprimand "The Hubs" received does not negatively impact his career in the long term. Discipline is to be used for teaching and, if he is booted out of the Army, he will not have the chance to prove that he's learned the lesson. And I hope that the rest of us are able to take a step back and realize that, while passion is natural, allowing that passion to override the basic tenants of respect and courtesy is never right.


"There, but for the grace of God, go I."
~ John Bradford




Pau.




- hfs

2.10.2012

A poop-storm is a-brewing

Came across this little nugget yesterday during my time spent online. Before I throw my own opinions about the subject matter out there, I do want to say that I don't think the author deserves the level of vitriol currently being lobbed her direction on her blog or on Facebook. However, I do think she's wrong on a variety of levels. Let's discuss...


Money quote #1:
"The National Guard spouses around here like to refer to themselves as 'Army Wives'. They aren't. I respect their significant others for the things that they do, but they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, soldiers."



I about fell out of my chair on this one. National Guard members are not soldiers? In what universe? Last I checked they all wear the same uniform - one that includes the tape "US ARMY" on the breast. Last I checked they have all sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Last I checked, they deployed at the request of the President and Congress (yes, it has to go through an additional level of state bureaucracy but it's still at the request of the President and Congress) to foreign countries. And that is IN ADDITION to their responsibilities to their home state. National Guard members are soldiers on many different levels - not JUST the Federal level.



Money quote #2:
"I agree, your husband got deployed, just like mine, but when he came home, he knew he wouldn't get deployed again for at least another four years, in which time he probably wouldn't have re-upped his contract. "



Funny...I have several NG friends who have recently wrapped up one overseas deployment (and that's in ADDITION to time spent away from their families doing train-ups prior to actually deploying) and are already (in less than 4 years) gearing up for the next one. Thank you for playing.


And really? We're going to turn the number of deployments or their length into a pissing contest? Oh, honey...you have SO much to learn.



Money quote #3:
"I guess what I'm trying to get at here, is that I would really like people to stop jumping down my throat when I tell them that they are not an Army Wife. I'm not trying to imply that you're any less of a person. I'm not trying to imply that your husband is any less of a man. I applaud him for what he did, if he got deployed, and I respect him for that. I applaud him for the time that he does give up, on his one weekend a month, two weeks a year. I applaud him for going through BT and AIT. He is a member of the Guard, 100%, there is no denying it. He is not a soldier, you are not an Army wife. It's nothing to be ashamed of. "



This one made me laugh out loud. You want people to stop jumping down your throat when you condescendingly tell them that their service - or that of their spouse - isn't the same as your husband's because their paycheck comes from the state instead of Uncle Sam? Howzabout you just stop saying these things to people? That might go a long way in helping them not want to smack you. Proverbs 17:28 tells us "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. " You are welcome to your opinion but you cannot be surprised by the consequences you face when you air that opinion - especially if it is condescending, short-sighted, and ill-informed.


But the best quote in the entire post actually comes from her husband in the comments. And, really, it makes me sad to think that the Army - active duty or not - has people who have nothing better to do than sit around and worry about this kind of stuff.

"What most of you don't understand, since you are National Guard, related to one, or married to one, is that it really bothers any active duty, full time, Regular Army soldier to be compared to national guard."



I brought this up with MacGyver this morning after he had come home from PT. He laughed out loud and said "Heck no. It doesn't bother us. We ENVY them!" No one that I know in the active duty Army (and MacGyver's been in for 13+ years and we've been stationed in 5 locations, not counting Basic and AIT or other TDY locations) has EVER expressed any form of frustration/anger/negative feeling upon comparison with the National Guard. They envy the NG soldiers (yes, 'soldiers'...because that is what they are. A Chinook pilot in the NG is the SAME THING as a Chinook pilot in the AD Army - their paychecks just come from a different location). The active duty people we know in the Army are too busy doing their jobs to worry about what someone thinks about what branch of the military they belong to.


What "Hubs" doesn't seem to understand is that HE is the only one that this bothers. HE is the one harboring the inferiority complex that shines through in this attitude. Everyone else is too busy doing their jobs to get their BVDs in a bunch over something as trivial and ridiculous as this. Sounds like "Hubs" might need to find something else to occupy his time. As for his wife, my husband would be embarrassed if I were to put something of that nature up on the internet for the world to see.


To my National Guard friends and anyone reading this: than you for your service to your state and to this country. I hope that none of you take this woman's opinion (or that of her husband) to heart. As for this woman, I truly hope that time and experience will alter her perspective on this subject. She's obviously lacking for a mentor and for wisdom.




Pau.




- hfs

2.08.2012

Where are we?

What month is it? Whew...I swear I've been near the computer but my brain loses track of the days and I forget how long it's been since I last wrote. We had a tummy bug sweep through and way-lay certain people (not me but I got to take care of the sicky). It lasted a little longer than what I think is reasonable for a tummy bug so, on day TEN I finally broke down and took the sicky to the doctor...who then promptly told me that 10 days is NOT an unreasonable amount of time for a tummy bug (I beg to differ, especially when *I* am the one stuck at home with the sicky). Of course, the day I finally take the sicky TO the doctor is the day things start to improve.


Of course.


We've been up to our eyeballs in school. I'm still stuck in the mindset that we are BEHIND due to the fact that we started a month late this year. Mind you, we are not 4+ months into our school year and we caught up with where we *should* be several weeks ago. But I can't break the mindset that we are still behind. So we push and, by the end of the week, the last thing I want to do is put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Hopefully, once the weather warms up, my "go go go" mentality will ease up and I'll relax.


MacGyver is flying often and I am grateful. Makes for long, lonely days and nights but it's not that big of a deal. I love hearing the occasional sound of Chinooks flying over the house. We're not as close to the flight path here as we were in Hawaii so it doesn't happen as often but it's still nice to hear them flying over head. The FRG here doesn't seem to be too active which is kind of nice - keeps me from having to decline invitations.


In the meantime, I've been having fun tracking down steals and deals and building a little stockpile in our pantry. Tonight I hit Target and made off with $46.00 worth of merchandise for $21.00 thanks to coupons and Target's sale prices.





They had a nice sale on shelves two weeks ago so I snagged one and it fits nicely in our laundry room. I had been storing our stockpile in the garage but the temperatures were too extreme and I didn't want to lose any food because of the cold (and the upcoming heat this summer). Our Target is currently remodeling so they have had a ton of stuff on clearance which has been nice. And I'm learning what items are cheaper at Target than at the commissary (bread...for instance. $2.59 at the commi and less than $2.50 at Target. Chicken noodle and tomato soup is often $0.59 at Target, whereas at the commi it's normally $1.35). So I'm learning.


And, I'm proud to report, the envelope-method for spending and food monies went really, really well in January (and the first part of February). The only action my debit card saw was the cash withdrawals and two items that I had forgotten to pull cash out for. And the credit cards both saw only decreases in the balances (we have 3 or 4 recurring payments on the credit card that I budget in and then add that amount to my monthly payment). I am so stoked! The excess from the food and spending envelopes went into our cash savings so that was nice as well! And the excess money that I had set aside for educational expenses is being stockpiled to purchase next year's textbooks and supplemental items. So far, so good!


When we moved, we took an advance on MacGyver's pay. When you PCS, you can elect to take an advance equal to one month's base pay. It's a zero-interest loan and the Army takes the payment (1/12th of the balance) out of his paycheck automatically each month. So right now, that's a fair chunk of change coming out each month. However, we were able to pay off a pretty big chunk of a bill that had been earning 10.74% interest each month so the savings is worth the slight imposition it places on our monthly budget. Once that loan is repaid, we will have already become accustomed to living on the tighter budget so I have already planned to set a small portion of that 'extra' money aside for car expenses (like my new water pump, tires, oil and fluids, other unexpected repairs, registration, etc.) and the rest will go into our snowball that we are working on to pay down our credit card debt. I love our bank's online banking that allows me to set stuff like this up ahead of time so I won't be tempted to splurge when that extra money hits our checking account. It's already set up to divert the money into the appropriate accounts/bills.


And I'm getting ready to order seeds and whatnot for spring planting. The weather is supposed to be nice late this week so the kids and I are going to map out the yard and plan where we want to plant and WHAT we want to plant. It's going to be a fun math lesson for all of us - geometry, budgeting, mapping skills - and some botany as well. I do not have audacious plans - I'll be happy if we can produce enough to cover our salads for the summer. We buy a lot of lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, carrots, and herbs and I will be thrilled if I can grow the majority of that here rather than buying it at the store. We're also hoping to grow broccoli, cauliflower, maybe some pumpkins, some garlic, onions, and maybe a few potatoes. Oh, and strawberries. We'll see if anything else strikes our fancy.


It's time for bed. My brain is fried. I have visions of fractions and lists of helping verbs dancing in my head.




Pau.




- hfs