8.29.2012

Corner

I think I've painted myself into one.


This is not a whine...more of an observation. I realize I've done this to myself.


We knew, moving here, that our time here might be short. I think, deep down inside, both of us knew it would be. And leaving a duty station that you love - that has become home - is difficult, to say the least. Naturally I have resisted making friends here. Saying goodbye to my friends in Hawaii was brutal and the idea of having to do that again was not something I looked forward to. So I have pretty much become a hermit.


I've resisted making friends at every turn. I keep everyone aside from my own family at arm's length. It's easier to be lonely than it is to make friends, KNOWING that I'll have to say goodbye to them sooner rather than later. I do my best to avoid getting involved in many things because untangling myself from them when it's time to go is painful. I'm isolated and honestly, I like it that way. Because it hurts less.


But I am lonely. I miss having close friends a short walk or drive away. I miss knowing that, should I skip church, someone other than my husband will notice and call me out on it. I miss getting calls and texts from friends, asking to meet up for coffee or a hike. I miss all of that.


It's easy to isolate myself. Aside from my husband, there's really no one here to hold me accountable. No one to stop by. No one to drag me out of my hole. There are upsides to this hermit life (aside from the whole 'not getting hurt again' thing): school is going really well since there are very few distractions and reasons to play hooky; the house stays pretty tidy as I am home all the time and can keep up with it all; we eat more home-cooked meals since I am home to prep and cook most evenings.


But I find myself tired often; not physically but mentally. Having only oneself as company lends itself to a lot of navel-gazing and that not only becomes annoying but it is exhausting as well. So here I sit, a little lonely, a little tired...waiting. I'm waiting to move (temporarily) to a new house closer to town. I'm waiting to find out where we go next. I'm waiting to see if it will be a place to put down roots or yet another place where I feel it's not worth it to invest myself or make friends because we'll be leaving soon enough.


Maybe that's why the idea of going back to SoCal appeals to me on some level. It's familiar. It's where I grew up, though I don't really call it 'home' anymore. It's where many of my old friends are - friends that I know would welcome me back into the rhythm of their lives without missing a beat because that's what old friends DO; friends I wouldn't have to *make* because they already are. I know the town, I know the smells, the sights, the feel, the ins and outs...it's easy and it's safe. Easy and safe...two things that my heart really craves right now.


Because I feel like neither. I don't like this corner but, right now, I don't see a way out.




Pau.




- hfs

8.24.2012

The Planesman


My dad was born too late in life. Or so he said. He was too young to fight in WWII. I'm not sure if that bothered him or if it was just something he acknowledged. His brother, E, was not too young and did, in fact, fight during WWII. I didn't know my Uncle E very well - our family didn't take vacations often and my Uncle lived out east so we only got to see him a time or two while I was growing up.


Thankfully, his son (my cousin) put together a book titled, "The Planesman" about his father's experiences in the war. It's a wonderful treasure and I am grateful that he did so. My Uncle E and my dad were a lot alike. In the book, my cousin describes his dad: "He rarely offered an opinion but when he did it was informed and very much to the point." Regarding his intellect, "Every one of them (his co-workers at GM, after the war) had great respect for his expertise and intellect. More than one has commented that he was the most intelligent man they have ever met in his field." He could be talking about my father. Seems they both came from good stock.


My Uncle E







Come to find out, my Uncle did his cadet training not too far from here, in Garden City, Kansas, where his first 130 or so landings (about 65 hours of stick time) were in the North American AT-6. After that, he was off for to Foster Field, Texas, spending a short time in the P-40 Mustang, which I just think is about the coolest thing EVER.  Following his training in Texas, he moved to Napier Field, Alabama (***currently, Dothan, Alabama and there is a crazy side note to be had there. See below.***) for some more time in the AT-6 and then on to Virginia with the 325th Fighter Wing where he stepped into what was to be 'his' aircraft - the P-47 Thunderbolt








I believe they named this one "Bar-Fly".
There's a story there...


Eventually, he would be assigned to the USAAF - 10th Air Force, 1st Air Commando Group, 6th Fighter Squadron and would deploy to the China-Burma-India theatre of operations. According to his flight records, his first combat flights involved strafing runs in the Rangoon area, escorts of B-25s to Yamathian, and strafing runs on a "Bridge at Leyte". Later on in the month, it lists "D.B. (dive bomb) Mu River Bridge, destroyed bridge" as well as the same for several other bridges in the area. This was in addition to escorts of B-25s and other strafing runs. Subsequent months list much of the same: strafing runs, dive-bombing raids, patrols, and escorts. 


What blew me away in reading this book was the fact that my Uncle was awarded both the Air Medal Award with oak leaf clusters as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross. He never spoke of it. To anyone. His own wife (my aunt) asked him about it and he would not discuss it. To this day, no one knows why he was awarded either medal. His flight records detail the areas in which he flew and I am starting to dig into those but I suspect my cousin has already exhausted those avenues and it's possible that we will never know what he did.


My father is quoted as saying that the man who returned from India was not the brother he knew who left home for flight school. "I don't know who he was but that wasn't the man I knew." The experience changed him fundamentally.


Several months ago, I read the book, "Flyboys" and it was a wonderful read but also an eye-opener as to everything that our men overseas endured. Though my Uncle was never a POW, reading about the conditions under which they operated was enlightening. 


There is more to my Uncle's story but this is what I have for now. I wish he were still around. I wish I had known him better. I wish I had known enough then to even just sit and listen to him. However, I am grateful that I knew him at all, that I was able to visit with him at our family reunion before he died, and that he lived at all. We all should be.




***Small world story: After reading my cousin's book about my Uncle, I find that he spent time in Dothan, Alabama (near Fort Rucker) prior to shipping off to the CBI theatre during WWII. Shortly after WWII ended, I believe my maternal grandfather ALSO spent time at Fort Rucker, as a SeaBee building barracks and housing. It fascinates me that the two sides of my family tree (before they became sides of my family tree...my parents didn't meet until 1969) just about crossed paths and did so in a place where MacGyver and I have also lived. SMALL WORLD.***




Pau.




- hfs


8.21.2012

Full plate

Yep, still here. Still breathing. Actually, more like huffing and puffing. I feel like I'm going 18 directions all at once and can't focus on any of them. So, pretty much the norm around here! We just wrapped up a 4.5 day weekend which was really nice. We didn't DO anything in particular...actually we really didn't DO anything at all except meet up with some wonderful friends from Hawaii that were in town. But it was a glorious weekend!


And now we're back to the grind. MacGyver's flying and working his butt off. School has started and this is our first week of full days. This year is going to prove to be more challenging for all of us - sixth grade is no cake-walk! The work load has intensified and I think The Girl is in for a bit of a surprise in terms of how easy she's had it until this point. Not that we've been slacking...it's just that sixth grade (and the curricula I have chosen for her) is going to be challenging. But that's a good thing.


In addition to my teaching gig, I am up to my eyeballs in the headhunting gig. And the home-finding gig. So a full-time job plus two part time jobs in addition to the whole 'mom' thing. Sleep? Sleep is overrated.


Looks like we've found a place to move to. Less expensive, closer to our activities (so it saves us in the gas department as well), smaller (read: less space to tidy and keep up with as well as lower utility bills), and closer to many friends. It should be available sometime after the first of the month so we'll be packing up and moving over shortly. I hate in-town moves. Well, let's face it...I hate all moves. But in-town moves are the pits because you don't really PACK anything. You just kind of scoop up what you have and schlep it over to the new place. When we moved the 3 blocks (yes, three blocks) down the road in Hawaii, it was like watching Sanford and Son move. It was ridiculous. I'm pretty sure we rolled our washer, dryer, and the entertainment center down the street on a furniture dolly. Yep, classy. It was much less stressful to have movers come in, wrap everything up, load it into a bunch of crates, and ship it off. But it is what it is and this move will help us sock away another chunk of change in anticipation of the end of Army life. *sigh*


Speaking of the end of Army life (*sigh*), we did get a wonderful ray of sunshine in terms of good news the other day. Looks like there is room in the F-model transition class for MacGyver. This is a HUGE blessing and opens up so many more doors for him in both the civilian and National Guard world. I've about exhausted the D-model job opportunities (in terms of throwing a resume/application at them) so now it's on to the F-model job opportunities. Something will stick. Hopefully, it will stick in a location I'm hoping for!


I'd love to type more but right now there are 3 loads of laundry on my couch that are begging to be folded and put away. I have 2 posts in queue and two in my head - one about balancing my minimal(ish)™ tendencies with my stockpiling tendencies and one about my mom's visit and touring the post. But for now, the laundry wins.




Pau.




- hfs

8.16.2012

Fifteen years

Fifteen years: 7 states (9 if you count basic and AIT), 8 houses, 19 cars (19!) 20 cars (20!), 2 cats, and 2 children. What a ride! 







Pau.




- hfs

8.10.2012

Spray and pray

My friends and family insist I need to take my time, remember to breathe, let things sink in, and so on.


Yeah...not so much.


I've had three years to breathe and let things sink in. I've been on hold for three years. And now, the uncertainty has been lifted and now we know. Shortly after the end of the year, MacGyver will no longer be a part of the active duty Army. As disappointing as that is, at least we now know. And the contacts and resumes I've been sitting on for three years can now be put to use. And they are.


Long before the promotion results were made public, we had compiled a list of all of the National Guard units that utilize CH-47s. Our first priority (and it is OUR priority...what makes HIM happy makes ME happy) is employment that allows him to continue working toward his federal retirement. He'll have 14 years in when he gets out - no sense in letting that go to waste. So National Guard or other federal employment is our first priority. After that, contract work (with a part-time Guard slot on the side) is the next batch of possibilities. We're also looking at overseas employment - UK, Australia, and even the possibility of contract crewing in the middle east (last resort). And there's always the GI Bill.


So we have options. But I'm not waiting until we get to his terminal leave to start working all of this. I'm employing what one of my friends called the 'spray and pray' technique - throwing resumes at anything that involves the word "CH-47" and praying that God opens one of those proverbial windows. And He will. He always does. I did the same thing when I was fresh out of college and looking for a teaching position. And I did the same thing when we were moving to our first duty station in Alaska. And each time, a great job opened up for me - mostly because I asked. Another friend of mine has a saying, "The answer is always 'no' until you ask." So resumes go out in large quantities. We'll see what opens up.


But I'm not waiting. I'm not going to sit around and breathe and let this all sink in. The pickup rate for this promotion board was less than 50% - that means that there are dozens of well-qualified Warrant Officers out there who will be clamoring for open positions. So no waiting.


Besides, if I wait, the panic attacks ensue. And I'm an ugly crier.


So, if you want to keep the redhead from ugly-crying, let me know if you have contacts in the aviation world for a CH-47D Maintenance Test Pilot. Those around me thank you!




Pau.




- hfs

All good things must come to an end

And so it is with MacGyver's active duty Army career. We received word yesterday that he was not selected for promotion. We are sad and disappointed but not surprised. I think we would have been more surprised if he HAD been selected. From what I'm hearing, the selection rate was less than 50% on this board. That is a HUGE cut in the Warrant Officer ranks.


It's been a LONG three years and a big part of me is glad this is finally over. I am excited about the possibilities and that is currently winning out over the panic attack that is bubbling below the surface. So, for now, I am immersing myself in my headhunting responsibilities as well as in paring down our belongings. Looks like we are moving into a smaller (read: less expensive) place here in the near future.


Lots of changes coming. And we all know how well I tolerate change. Hang on to your hats, people. This might get a little bumpy.




Pau.




- hfs

8.07.2012

My minimal(ish)™ move for the day


In an attempt to avoid going street-rat crazy while waiting for news from the promotion board, I am trying to stay as busy as possible. Yesterday, we tackled The Girl's room. She had decided she wanted a change of scenery so we tidied up and moved furniture around. She lost floor space by pulling the bed away from the wall but the layout now reflects the fact that she's almost 11 years old and not 6 anymore. Even though I am having a tough time coming to grips with that concept.


Anyway, moving on. Today, I tackle the receipt/coupon drawer. It's not quite a 'junk' drawer but it's close. It's one of two drawers next to the fridge - an area that isn't really involved in food prep so it turns into a dumping grounds of sorts. MacGyver and I each have a basket on the counter for things like paperwork, magazines, odds and ends, etc. There are two drawers - one holds batteries and such and the other holds receipts and coupons. And it's a MESS.


Here is the 'before' picture:





Receipts, expired coupons, phone books that are never used, and goodness knows what else in there. 


Here are the piles after I hauled everything out of it:




On the left is the pile of phone books, maps, and other local area information - some of which is used, most of which is not. The middle pile is a bunch of expired coupons - newspaper coupons, Costco coupons, Walgreen's coupons...you name it. Next to that is receipts. I'm not sure why I keep them - I'm usually pretty good about writing down what I pay for things in my spreadsheet so there's really no reason to hang on to them. The far right pile is miscellaneous stuff - a notepad, some fridge magnets, a recipe clipping. 


And here it is all tidied up. I ditched the expired coupons and the receipts. I also ditched most of the phone books and maps, hanging on only to one local phone book and the post phone book. Our worm manual is also in here, as is my notepad and the bag of unused fridge magnets. I'll go through those and ditch most of them but not today. 





The counter has been wiped down, the basket cleared out, and the electronics somewhat wrangled. That should keep me sane for a bit!




Pau.




- hfs

8.04.2012

No news

No news is...well, no news. Seems the brigade commander was on leave and the brigade XO had no news. So no news. Maybe Tuesday. Maybe not. 


I heard from a friend recently - seems her husband is facing the promotion board for the second time as well. She's facing the same stress and uncertainty that I am. Maybe it's because misery loves company but knowing this makes me feel better. It's good not to be alone. As wonderful as it is to have the love and support of my family and friends (real and 'imaginary'), there's something to be said for having someone who can truly empathize.


And she shared with me a verse that has really helped to sustain her through all of this and it's the same verse that has been with me since the start of all of this: Romans 8:28. 



28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose.

Looking back at the past three years, it's amazing to see where we are now and the options we have that we didn't have when this all started. Things are still nerve-wracking but not nearly as terrifying as they were. So we wait. We have plans, backup plans, and backups to the backup plans. I'm updating MacGyver's resume as well as my own as well as starting to dig through aviation employment websites for job possibilities. We are planning to move but, until we find out what the promotion board's decision is, I'm not sure if we're moving in to a small condo (to save money) or another house. Either way, we'll be closer to 'town' and that should help cut down on our gas bill, which is currently painful.


If the news is good, I am going to have to seriously resist the urge to go on a spending spree. Our budget has been quite snug since all of this started and my natural tendency would be to relax the budget a bit (or chuck it completely to the wind) if the news is good. But we still have a hefty legal bill to deal with in addition to paying down our other debts. So there's that.


But we might splurge and go out to dinner. And we might let the kids order drinks AND dessert. Maybe.


In the meantime, we're enjoying the cooler temps, the occasional rain, and the 4-day weekend. Life is good. 









Pau.








- hfs

8.01.2012

Just breathe

We got word today that the results of the promotion board are imminent. We should know something in the next week - possibly as soon as tomorrow. In this case, no news is good news for the next few days - the commanders will get advance copies of the results in order to inform the non-promotes in person. The BEST thing that could happen right now is that MacGyver doesn't talk to his commander for the next 7-10 days.


I'm a basket case. I need a drink and a case of Tums. Or some Ativan.




Pau.




- hfs

Minimal(ish)™

I don't remember when I started realizing we had too much stuff...probably the first time we ever made a military move. That would have been late 2002 - Alaska to Alabama. Having someone else pack up my stuff really helped me see it from another person's perspective. Watching it all be boxed and crated really helped to quantify it for me. There was really no reason for 3 people to have NINE crates of belongings in addition to the 'important stuff' that was stashed in the 14 foot trailer we towed behind our Pathfinder.

However, just because I started to realize we had too much stuff doesn't mean I actually DID anything about it. In fact, we added another person - and another person's STUFF - to the mix. And then we moved to Hawaii. Moving into a house that was many hundreds of square feet smaller than what we had been living in on the mainland once again showed me we had too much stuff. Rather than start to pare down, I looked for ways to 'creatively store' our excess. I searched for storage benches and boxes and bins - anything to hide our stuff.


And all this talk of 'stuff' reminds me of the George Carlin skit...




***warning...language alert***





The turning point came three years ago when our lives were turned upside down. Our 'stuff' that had just been a minor source of raised eyebrows and the occasional attempt at 'decluttering' began to feel like an albatross around my neck. With all of the uncertainty surrounding us, where was I supposed to PUT all of this stuff if I needed to uproot our family quickly? How would I pack it? Store it? Ship it? It simply added to my already-panicked state of mind. Thus, the push toward a more minimalist lifestyle began in earnest. Hence 'minimal(ish)'.


And the '(ish)' comes in because I am only 1/4 of our household. I can have some effect on the amount of stuff my children possess but I have very little control over the amount of stuff MacGyver possesses. And oftentimes I find myself trying to compensate for all of his stuff by getting rid of even more of MY stuff. That can lead to resentment so I fight very hard to avoid going down that path. I'm a practical person by nature so I do my best to take a rational look at our belongings. How many sets of sheets does a family of 4 really need? Do we need 5 sets of placemats? What clothes do we wear REGULARLY? Can we get rid of item B and make item A do double duty in its absence?


I frequent a variety of decluttering/minimalist blogs and Facebook pages, not as a way to motivate myself or compare myself to others (comparing myself to others simply takes the joy out of my life and that's not my goal). I do so in order to help myself critically assess our belongings. How many sets of sheets DOES a family of 4 really need? Oftentimes, reading someone else's thoughts helps me clarify my own. I also like to challenge myself in areas like this so I'm always curious to read about tactics others have used to help pare down their belongings. Can I really go an entire year without buying new clothes for myself (aside from undergarments and special event clothing, if necessary)? Can I find a way to make item A do double duty and take the place of item B? Can I set a budget for things like homeschool curricula (a budget that, in the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, I would have thought to be ridiculously meager) and then stay below it? On any given day, can I find 10 items in my house that are either broken or missing parts/pieces and recycle or throw them away? Can I find 10 items in my house that we no longer use that I can either give to others or donate to a thrift store? If I buy something new and bring it into the house, can I find something else to take OUT?


Yes. Yes, I can.


So I'm trying. I'm trying to cut back on the things we have and don't need or use. Really, each of our beds only needs 2 sets of sheets - one that is on it and one that is clean. Add in an extra set for the guest bed and that's really all we need. Two sets of placemats works for us - one to use and one being washed. So far this year, I've only bought 2 pair of capris and a tank top for myself and have managed to already cull 2 giant trash bags' worth of clothes I do not wear. I also went through and turned everything that is hanging around so that the hanger faces 'backward' on the rod. If an item of clothing is worn, after it's washed I put it back on the rod with the hanger facing the right way. At the end of the year, anything that is facing 'backward' goes (unless it's a special occasion item or something sentimental like the silk robe I wore on my wedding night). Same goes for shorts, pants, skirts, jammies,  shoes, etc. I expect to unload at least 50% of the clothing I had when we left Hawaii by the time I am done. And I'm doing the same for the kids' clothes as well. I'd rather they have a small selection of clothes they LOVE as opposed to a large selection of clothes that just sit in their closets, taking up space.


It's a process. And there are areas I've not yet tackled (Christmas decorations, anyone?). But I'm getting there. Slowly. It's going to be one heckuva yard sale in the fall!




Pau.




- hfs