3.27.2012

No more tears

I was going to title the "The Last Post" as it is the name of the video clip I have but I didn't want to imply that I'm going anywhere. But really, the title should be "The Last Post". And I will give credit where credit is due...my friend Sgt. B posted this on his FB page and I spurred me on to write this.





These are the last tears I will cry for my friend, Lex. He would want it that way. He's probably shaking his head, wondering what all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth is all about. So into the box and onto the shelf it goes.


He was the one that properly turned me on to Yeats so I'll leave you with "The Wild Swans at Coole" - a fitting selection (thanks Kanani) though I wonder if "The Wild Old Wicked Man" might not be more apropos...


The Wild Swans at Coole
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?



I teased him once about his preference for Yeats - Irish poets tend to be so...morose. He said his Irish heritage demanded it. I laughed and said maybe that explains my inner turmoil...I've been denying that which was demanded by my heritage. Who knew?He said no thanks were necessary for that one..."And if you’re wondering whether you can buy me a beer, the answer is yes. Yes, you can." So I did and it was worth every damned penny.


Requiescat in pace, my friend.




Pau.




- hfs

March

Yesterday would have been my father's 84th birthday. It's been three and a half years since he died and I still feel it as sharply as I did that October night. And I probably always will. I'll come across something I've read or heard and would love to discuss with him, or I'll have a question about something that I need to ask him. And I'll have the phone halfway up to my ear before I realize what I'm doing.


Today there is a memorial taking place out in San Diego for a man who was very much like my father - smart, insightful, funny, possessing integrity moreso than almost anyone else I know. And the hole in my heart for this man comes close to matching that which my father left. I can't explain why that is - why a man I barely knew, only met once, and only had limited correspondence via email and texts could leave such a gaping hole in my life. And I don't care to. He was my friend and I miss him. We are poorer for his loss. There is an empty chair at the table tonight.


It breaks my heart that I am unable to attend his memorial. But I cannot so I will say a prayer for his family on this day because that is all I can do. And it is enough.


I miss you Lex. I miss reading your insights into the world, for your grounding perspective, for your wicked sense of humor, your integrity, your honesty, your willingness to let us into your life, your love of your family, your job, your life. I miss knowing that, should life not make sense, YOU would. How blessed we were that you do so for 8 years. You are missed.


Thank you for being my friend.







Pau.




- hfs

3.22.2012

Eyeore

I seem to have lost my voice. Not literally but figuratively. I'm still struggling to get on top of my sadness and I'm not sure which is better for a blog - to give voice to the sadness or shut up until it passes. Eyeore is really only tolerable in the cartoon.


And I don't know what to talk about besides that which currently consumes me. Maybe 'consumes' isn't the word...life is going on. The Boy and The Girl are doing fine. School is going well - we're on track to be done early with everything except History and Science and those will be done on time. The midwest is still here and still in one piece, mostly. Though it is now spring and I have a feeling it's going to 'sprung' here right quick. Our emergency shelter/area is in the process of being stocked - 72-hour bags, first aid kits, water, food, flashlights, etc. are all being readied. My hope is that we will not need them.


Now that the weather is more tolerable, we're venturing out more. Off to the Big City this past weekend to meet up with some friends and romp a bit. The garden is getting it's head start indoors, just waiting for the danger of frost to pass. Our caterpillars have made the transition into butterflies...well, all except one who seems to be the 'late bloomer', as it were. If the rain would let up, we could release them.


Seems the car and the appliances have taken note of my broken heart and decided to follow suit. Apparently, it's contagious if you're an inanimate object. Working on the dryer. Not on the car - that's MacGyver's area of expertise so I'm leaving it to him. I'll take fuel pump for $300, Alex. We'll see if I'm right.


So I'm still here. Struggling to keep my head above water and not let my sadness overwhelm me. The shock has worn off and I keep waiting for the anger to set in. I can handle the anger. It's the sadness that leaves me spinning. I have nowhere to go with it.




Pau.




- hfs

3.11.2012

This makes it real

FUNERAL SERVICES
March 27th at 1pm
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
San Diego, CA

3.10.2012

Grief

I don't know where to begin. I don't know HOW to begin.


I 'discovered' Lex back in either 2004 or 2005. I had been blogging since 2004 and was starting to learn my way around the MilBlogosphere at that point. There weren't a ton of MilBlogs in 2004 and really not all that many in 2005 either. Some came, some went. Some stayed. Lex stayed. I think I followed a link from Greyhawk, poked around, was captivated by Lex's style, and never left. He just had a way about him. But I rarely commented because, in all honesty, I felt completely out of my league and nothing I could say would add anything constructive to the incredible conversations there. So (for once in my life) I kept my mouth shut and just listened. And learned.


The MilBlog Conference started in 2006 and I was fortunate to be able to attend that year and the following year. Lex was at the 2007 MilBlog Conference and was on the Live Fire Roundtable. That year proved interesting in that the Army had gone ahead and passed another knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive as an OPSEC issue. That issue led to some quite heated debates over the wisdom of such a decision and a very interesting panel discussion. It was quite civil but interesting, nonetheless. Noah Shachtman from Wired Magazine took a lot of hits during this panel because of his views on the MSM and how it reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I did not agree with him on many points, his ideas were his own (big, in my book), and he did a pretty good job of trying to keep an open mind. The panel was actually a lot more reserved than I had hoped, especially with the new Army regulation coming out about electronic communications and the impact(s) it would have on blogging. I was hoping that Lex would push Noah a little harder on his thoughts but it never went that far. Always the gentleman.


The conference wrapped up and the fun began. The nitty-gritty details (some of them...) are in my AAR. But one of the things I remember most about Lex at that point was the fact that his voice in real life - the way he spoke, the thoughts he conveyed, the way in which he conveyed them - mirrored the way he "spoke" on his blog.


I write pretty much as I speak but I'll go back and look at something I wrote months ago and think, "I wrote that?" because it just doesn't mesh with how I hear myself most of the time. Or maybe it's just the voices in my head, I'm not sure. There was a funny bit going around on Facebook and Pinterest a short while back - a picture of Morgan Freeman and a quote of some kind. And the last line in the quote was something to the effect of, "you are now reading this with my (Freeman's) voice in your head." And the funny thing is that, after meeting Lex and spending the evening just listening to him tell stories, his voice stuck with me and I hear it every time I read something he's written. Every time. Because how he wrote was how he spoke.


We had all been drinking - some of us were rather inebriated - and car keys were taken, for safety, of course. I teased him once that I saved his life and he owed me. He promised to repay and he did. When life hit the fan a short while ago and many people I thought were my friends scattered like cockroaches on the kitchen counter when the light goes on, he was one of several people offering a voice of calm reassurance in the midst of a very dark time. He dropped me a note early on and asked if I was ok. I was not and he talked me back from the edge on several occasions - always with the gentle reassuring tone. And once things had settled down a bit, I could count on him to drop a note here and there, especially if he hadn't seen me at his place or if I hadn't been posting here. Kind of like Pogue and BillT, in that sense (thanks, friends!).


We stayed in touch sporadically and he was always quick to respond if I emailed him, even though (like others have said) there were dozens of us and only one of him. He was good at making you feel special. Even if you weren't.


I remember the first time I commented - not so much which post or subject was discussed - but the joy that was had when he responded. Again, feeling incredibly out of my league over there, commenting took a lot of courage as I really felt I had nothing to contribute to the incredible conversations taking place there. Occasionally I'd get it right and I'd be rewarded (as it were) with a blue rectangle below my comment (indicating the author was responding). I was like a child who's parent acknowledges their hard work. I think I rode that high for the rest of the day and into the next.


I think that was one of the things I liked best about him - he had the same, gentle way about his as my father. And I'm sure he's rolling his eyes right now on being equated to my dad. But that's how it felt - he was kind, generous with his knowledge, always looking to impart some wisdom, and I admired the hell out of him. I am grateful that I had the chance to tell him that in writing and in person.


However, the flip side of that is the grief that I'm swimming in right now. I don't think anything aside from my father's death and the death of one of my students has ever hit me like this. And part of it is the fact that the community that he built up at his blog - the incredible people behind those screen names whose wisdom, insight, and humor I have come to cherish and crave - no longer has an anchor. We are unmoored - literally and figuratively. And that's about how I feel right now - unmoored. Lost. He was an anchor in my life - someone I could turn to (even if it was just virtually) for insight, wisdom, and usually a laugh - and now he's gone. I can't explain this to people outside of the MilBlogosphere. They don't 'get' it. And that's ok but doesn't do much to help the moms in my homeschool group why I'm a hot mess this week. So I just told them that I lost a very good friend this week.


A friend and I were talking earlier this week about the fairness of it all. Not so much his death but the manner of it. Was it fair to subject his family to the small agonies of military life? Was it fair to subject them to the horrible agony of dying as a result of that life? Lex pondered 'the separation thing' in one of his earlier blog posts - one that rings very true today.

There are many wonderful things about a life spent flying fighters off of aircraft carriers, many great rewards from sailing the seas in your country's defense. But I have lost thousands of days that I will never get back, days gone forever. And there are times, gentle reader, when I wonder if it was worth it.



I cannot speak for Lex's family, nor can I speak for my friend (who posed the question in the first place, moreso regarding his own military service as opposed to Lex's) and his family. I can speak for myself - it's worth it. I've told MacGyver on several occasions that I want him to do what fulfills him. I've watched my husband work in a position he didn't want, doing jobs he didn't want to do but doing them to the best of his abilities, regardless. I've watched him fight losing that zeal for life during that time. And - from a more detached and distant viewpoint - we all watched Lex go through the same thing. Life in the cube was sucking it out of him in many ways. As hard as MacGyver has had to work to get back in the cockpit, it's all worth it because that gleam came back into his eyes. His fulfillment was worth it.


If it's your time to go, it's your time to go and it doesn't matter if you're tooling around the Middle East in a flying school bus or flying jets, training the next generation of pilots in the Nevada desert or sitting on your couch watching 'American Idol'.


I just wish it hadn't been Lex's time. I miss my friend deeply. The 'unbearable lightness' is gone and I am unmoored.




Song found in the last video he put up - Ahab.




Pau.




- hfs

3.07.2012

Fair winds and following seas...

"High Flight"

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even[8] eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.



I have no words today. My heart is broken.


Lex, you provided an ear and a shoulder - and more importantly hope and light - in a desperately dark time in my life. And now you're gone and we are poorer for it. The world is poorer for it.


I am so glad you were doing something you loved to do rather than sitting in a cube. And I am blessed to be able to call you my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with your family and your friends. My grief is overwhelming...I cannot imagine theirs.


I will miss you.




Other posts: (to be updated as they come in)

USNI blog
The Wood Shed
CDR Salamander
InstaPinch
The Sand Gram
Bill at the Castle
John at the Castle
SKK
AW1 Tim
SteelJaw Scribe
Kitchen Dispatch
BJ Armstrong at USNI
McQ at Blackfive
Subsunk at Blackfive
The Sniper
Villainous Company
Technicalities
Chuck at TC Override
Bou
Carmichael's Position
Tailhook Association
Navy Times
Lex's opinion pieces at Military.com
Doc in the Box
Pete Daly at USNI
FbL at The Castle
Far East Cynic
NRO
Ace of Spades
The Thunder Run
Blonde Sagacity
Chicago Boyz
Op-For
Bob Owens
Matt Gallagher at TIME
Just Barking Mad
The Gun Line
Bouhammer
Mausers and Muffins
Padre Harvey
Pogue
Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid
Mudville Gazette
Sharon at The Hokey Pokey
Steeljaw Scribe
Musings

3.04.2012

Facebook

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was talking about ditching Facebook. You hear it a lot when Facebook decides to 'fix' things. People don't like change and Facebook has a way of making things more difficult, rather than easier, with their fixes. And privacy is always an issue so you'll see people start griping about Facebook when they alter their 'privacy' policy. And most people's concerns are valid - Facebook is a perfect portal for accessing your personal information...IF you put it out there.

So when another friend of mine started talking about ditching Facebook recently, I put my thoughts on paper and here's what I came up with:


Facebook is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. It's a tool, much like a hammer. The hammer can be quite useful, if used in the correct capacity - namely to pound nails into something (or to pry them out, should that be necessary). However, if the hammer is used incorrectly, it can cause pain. Try smacking your thumb (as opposed to the nail you're trying to drive) and you'll get my meaning.

Facebook is a great tool for staying in touch with people you would not normally stay in touch with. Used properly, it allows you to keep up with family and friends that live thousands of miles (or, depending on how ridiculously busy your life is, your friend that lives just a few miles away yet you can't find 30 minutes in your week to call or visit...sigh) away - friends and family that would otherwise be relegated to Christmas cards and the occasional school photo of the kids. For those of us in the military, it is a priceless tool on many levels.

Used incorrectly, Facebook is a nightmare of drama, headache, and stress. Thankfully there are settings that will allow you to tailor what you see in your news feed, who you are friends with, and whether people can post to your wall. Make use of them. If you don't want to see my latest political opinion piece, no need to leave Facebook completely - just 'hide' me in your newsfeed (I"m not saying I"m the problem - just using myself as an example). If you don't want me (or anyone else) posting random crap to your wall, then go into your settings and disallow posting to your wall. If I play too many arcade games and apps and you're tired of wading through that crap in your news feed, click the little drop-down arrow thingy and 'hide' the apps as they come up.

You can make FB work FOR you as opposed to against you - it takes just a few minutes. And for those that have issues with the OPSEC/PERSEC stuff, no one says you have to be completely honest and forthcoming with the details of what you're up to and when. For instance, my kids were taking hockey lessons and I like to post pictures of things like that for family (and for their friends that miss them) but who's to say that the lessons were taking place at the time I posted them? I may post something about J being gone for training but who's to say that he wasn't gone LAST month and I'm just now posting about it? I can put out purposeful disinformation just like Uncle Sam...

I love Facebook for what it is - a way to stay in touch with friends and family that I cannot speak to in person. That's all that it is and there is no other platform out there right now that does what Facebook does. You can make it work FOR you or you can LET it work against you. Your choice.





Pau.




- hfs

3.01.2012

Product love - Sarna lotion

We moved from a wonderfully tropical locale to one of the most arid, dry, moisture-sucking locations the Army could have sent us. Combine that with cold temps, cranked heaters, hot showers to help restore circulation to my appendages and the state of my epidermis is depressing. I've tried several remedies...baby oil, Aveeno oatmeal baths and lotions, Aquaphor, and coconut oil. And none of them have helped.


I itch. And when I say I itch, I don't mean just a little bit. I mean I ITCH. In that way that causes you to wake up in the middle of the night, scratching at yourself, leaving welts here and there. It's incredibly annoying to FEEL every part of your skin all day long. I feel every seam, every point of contact, every everything. My hips and my arms are the worst but it's pretty much everywhere that I itch.


I came across a coupon for some medicated lotion called Sarna and figured I'd give it a try. I was waiting for it to go on sale at Target or Wal-Mart or somewhere but finally gave up and just went ahead and bought it with the coupon. It's not cheap - I think it was $10.99 for the bottle (minus the $5 coupon I had) and I used it for the first time today.


Oh. My. Goodness! I don't feel like scratching off the skin on my hips anymore! I made it through the day without clawing at my arms in desperation or digging welts on my hips, trying to get the itching to stop. What a relief! The bonus is that Sarna is non-steroidal so it carries with it fewer possible side effects than a topical steroid cream. Not to mention the fact that you can buy it OTC so I don't have to wrangle a referral to the dermatologist out of my doc. Woohoo!


I grabbed the 'sensitive skin' version because I'm finding that I am more sensitive to fragrance than I used to be. This entropy thing is a pain. *sigh* But at least I don't itch as badly! And this was just Day 1! Sarna, you have a fan!







Pau.




- hfs