Panic attacks suck

Particularly at 12:21 am. Particularly when you're alone and the rest of the world is asleep and you're stuck trying to talk yourself down from one. In the dark. With no Xanax prescription. So I write. Hopefully it calms me enough that I can sleep in a bit. It's going to make waking up for early morning jiu jitsu practice brutal.

It feels like the weight of the past 6 years came crashing down on my head in the dark as I was trying to get to sleep. The past 6 years have kicked my ass. I've seen my husband through a 15-month combat deployment and major surgery, lost my father and my grandmother within 6 months of each other, watched friends face unimaginable horrors, said goodbye to more friends than I can count due to suicides, combat-related deaths, PCS moves, or simply life moving them on from me (some of these were blessings in disguise), faced ridiculous unexpected stresses related to MacGyver's Army career and the legal mess that spelled the end of it, multiple non-combat-related separations, his unemployment and subsequent employment in a foreign country plus that extended separation, and buying a house (our first!) on my own.

The panic attack makes sense (particularly given the fact that my closing date on the house falls right smack - TMI alert - in the middle of my PMS week...oy). But it still sucks.

The other night, I dreamt that I was driving my poor old sedan on the freeway in SoCal. And as I'm driving (through the tunnel that leads you under the runway at LAX), my steering wheel came off. It was quite the panicky chaotic scene as I tried to steer my car without a steering wheel. Obviously I'm processing more stress than I realized. My dream is about as good of a metaphor for my life as you could ask for - more often than not, I feel like I'm just kind of careening down the road with little to no control.

Tonight, before I could even crash out, the stress hit me so here I am at 12:30am typing away in an attempt to keep these demons away. I had turned off the light and was working on drifting off when I started thinking about our flight to Korea. I am not a fan of flying over water - never have been. Over an ocean that large, where the hell do you land if there is a mechanical issue? You don't. I've had many a nightmare about crashing in to the ocean. For some reason, flying over land doesn't bother me as much (I'm still not a huge fan of flying anymore. I used to be, as a kid but now it just makes me nervous) because in my mind, there are many places you can land a plane if you're over land. Not so much if you're stuck out over the Pacific Ocean. And the idea of crashing into the ocean terrifies me. Moreso if my children are on board with me. So, when I started thinking about our flight to Korea, it set my panic attack that has been building for weeks off like a firecracker. I can still feel my heart racing and I can't get my breathing to settle down.

I need a break. I need a hug. And I need for the next 2 months to hurry the hell up and be over so that we can be together again as a family. I need the next few years to be kind to me. Not easy, just kind. Because the last 6 have really kicked my ass. There's no shame in admitting that, right? I have none. This isn't too much to ask, is it? Don't answer that if you're going to disagree with me.

In my fantasy world, I could hit 'rewind' and go back to 2006. Back to the calm before this storm. Back to the 'before'. I'd be surrounded by good friends who were enduring the same challenges I was facing, before the sadnesses hit, before things really got rough. Maybe if I focus on those things, I can push the panicky feelings aside. Maybe it will help me feel less like I'm drowning. Maybe it will help me breathe.


- hfs


Minimal(ish)™ - Korea version

Be careful what you wish for. Or, as my inner Grammar Nazi says, "Be careful that for which you wish."

Shut it, Grammar Nazi. 

I've been on a 'downsizing kick' since we first had the military pack us out of Alaska. We had moved ourselves TO Alaska (and by 'we', I mean MacGyver - he loaded our stuff out of the storage unit in SoCal into a UHaul truck and, with his mother, drove through blizzards north to Alaska) but the Army packed us out of Alaska. And it was disconcerting to have other people handling our stuff. ALL of our stuff - we had lots. Not tons but more than other people we knew. And it made me feel...self-conscious (I've since learned that comparison sucks the joy out of everything but, at the time, I did not yet know that). I've been trying to purge and downsize ever since.

About twice per year, I'd get on a kick to get rid of as much as possible and live simply. Do we really need 15 dishtowels? Six sets of sheets for each bed? Twenty-two bath towels? Two 8x8 baking dishes? A box marked 'wires'? Four RipStiks when we only have TWO children? And so on. I'd do my best to purge and limit the things we bought and brought into the house but usually to no avail. I'd even gone so far as to pray about it (because God cares how many towels I have. NOT.). 

Evidently, He heard my prayers. And He chose to send us to Korea. With a company that will not pay moving expenses (beyond the employee's plane ticket and a small allowance for tools and other professional gear). *please note this is NOT a complaint against said company for their policies. Just an observation. I am grateful for the things they do provide and the fact that MacGyver has a job.*

Evidently He has a sense of humor. Because we are unable to ship our HHGs (household goods), we are either getting rid of stuff (yard sale, giving things to friends, Goodwill/donation) or putting it in storage. In the past few months I have easily purged 10% of our HHGs. Before MacGyver left, we had probably purged another 10%. And I still need to get rid of the mattresses (they are old and needed to be replaced anyway. No sense in storing them), our dining set, our behemoth of an entertainment center, our hand-me-down Christmas tree, and a few other odds and ends. We'll be taking some things with us to Korea - clothes, personal items, school stuff, a few kitchen items, and our irreplacables but that's really about it. 

The challenge I'm facing right now is this: what should I get rid of and what is worth putting in storage? I abhor the idea of coming back in 2, 3, howevermany years and unpacking our stuff and wondering what the hell I was thinking PAYING to store item X for that long. It drives me MAD. And I know I will. I know I will open up a box, find a toy or a book or a kitchen item and think, "I never used/liked this item...why did I hang on to it?" I suspect we'll hold yet another garage sale (which I also abhor) right after we get back just to get rid of all the crap we *should* have ditched before we left!

So all those years of praying that God would provide an opportunity to live a 'minimal(ish)'™ lifestyle have paid off...not necessarily in the way I would have envisioned but, hey, beggars can't be choosers, right? 

If you need me, I'll be out in the garage, bagging up clothes and stuffed animals and toys and books and decor and other crap that I've toted from California to Alaska to Alabama to Tennessee to Hawaii and back to the mainland. And now it's time to ditch it. So I can go buy new crap to tote back from Korea!


- hfs


Five Years

Seems like it was yesterday. Miss you like it's been forever. 


- hfs


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...

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.

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


Slippery slope into a burqa

Recently, a mom to young boys wrote a letter to teenage girls that has since opened up quite a discussion. Many of my friends posted the link on their Facebook pages. I even copied the text of it and emailed it to my own daughter, asking her to read it so that we could discuss it. I didn't say anything more about it in the email - just gave her the text of it and told her I wanted to know what she thought. And the reason I didn't give her any more than that was because I couldn't quite articulate my thoughts about it. 

It didn't quite sit right with me. 

There was a lot to which I found myself nodding in agreement - the fact that the family is involved in their children's social media interaction, how she pointed out that, if you're friends with one of her sons, you can consider yourself friends with the entire family, that they all enjoy 'seeing things through your unique and colorful lens'. I truly love the people with whom my children are friends because they are so unique and dynamic and interesting. I also think it's wise that parents stay involved in their children's lives - particularly online - because there are so many pitfalls and difficult situations and having someone to guide you can often mean the difference between wisdom and regret. 

But there was something that hovered at the back of my overloaded brain and I just couldn't lasso it into anything articulate until I read a post by 'Beth' where she pretty much seemed to reach into my brain and pull out my inarticulate thoughts and wrestle them into submission. She points out that our goal as parents is to teach our children - boys AND girls - to see people as PEOPLE, not as objects. She also points out the one thing that really weighed heavily on my heart - the idea of second chances. Mrs. Hall states that, for the ladies, there are no second chances; once you make a mistake, you're toast. I find this sad and, if my daughter ever faces this situation, it will break my heart. 

How many of us have never made a mistake? 


I didn't think so. I make plenty of them. Every day. Every hour. Sometimes, more than one at a time. I've posted things I later regretted. I've said and done things in real life I wish I could take back. Haven't we all? Last I checked, there was only one perfect person to walk this planet and He is not me. Thankfully, there are people in my life that love(d) me enough to see past my mistakes. They love me enough to give me a second chance. And a third. And a seventy-seventh, if the need arises (though I try hard not to make that necessary). Isn't that what we're supposed to do?  Isn't grace for our fellow human being one of the biggest parts of love? I'm not saying condone poor behavior - what I AM saying is that casting aside a person because they made a mistake is not loving. It's not graceful. It's not kind. And it leads to a very lonely and confining life. 

That was the heaviest thing on my heart. 

But then I read this piece about 'Seeing A Woman' and it really struck at the heart of what had been weighing on me. Mrs. Hall - though I'm pretty sure she did not mean for it to come across this way - put words to an attitude that has become more prevalent of late: that the responsibility for how people view us (as girls/women, as boys/men, as people) rests SOLELY upon the shoulders of the person being viewed. The attitude is that how a girl - in this instance - is viewed is based completely upon how SHE presents herself to the world. If she chooses to wear a 2-piece swimsuit, for example, then the world has the right to view her as a skank. None of the responsibility rests upon the person doing the viewing. In this case, none of the responsibility rests upon the male - it's not *his* fault that he's now seeing her as a piece of meat, rather than a human being in a 2-piece. 

This attitude is wrong. We should not fault a female who was sexually assaulted for wearing the wrong clothes or giving off the wrong signals so why is it acceptable to fault a female who is wearing a bikini when a male objectifies her? Why is this a zero-sum game? An all-or-nothing proposal? 

It shouldn't be. 

It should be a two way street; a team effort, if you will. 

To quote Nate Pyle, "There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into.  One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men.  The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves.  Son, you are better than both of these.  A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention.  You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being.  On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you.  You need to be in control of you."


And that is what I not only intend to teach my son but my daughter as well. Because this life IS a team effort. It takes both parties - males and females - to make this work. 

Females need to be aware of the people around them. Human beings (not just males…all of us) are visual creatures. We LOOK at things, especially things designed to catch our eyes. Therefore we need to be mindful of how we dress and how it affects those around us. That being said, it is NOT our responsibilities, as females, to do anything more than that. If it were, where would we draw the line? Bare bellies are provocative to some so let's cover those. Thighs are enticing - cover those too. And some people find ankles overwhelming so cover those as well. Oh, and hair too. See what I'm saying? It's a slippery slope into a burqa. Where do we draw the line?

We draw the line by teaching our sons to see girls/women as PEOPLE. We teach them to appreciate the beauty of a female but to do so while not objectifying them. We draw the line by teaching our sons that women are individuals with hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings - just as men are. Respect them as people. Don't turn them in to objects.

My son is responsible for HIS brain. He is not responsible for what a girl wears but he sure as hell is responsible for HIS brain - what it thinks, how it classifies the people with whom he interacts, how it affects his words and his actions. Just because a female wears an immodest piece of clothing does not mean that he gets to let his brain turn her into a piece of meat - an object. He is BETTER than that. He is STRONGER than that. He is SMARTER than that. We ALL are. 

It's about time we start acting like it.


- hfs


Memorial Day 2013

Each year I try to come up with something to say about Memorial Day and each year 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 years past and is, in no way, comprehensive.

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


CW3 Frank Buoniconti

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.

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


- hfs


Memorial Day is coming

This is a repost from 2010. Memorial Day for me used to be a holiday focused on BBQs and the coming of summer. It means so much more now. Go read "Happy" Memorial Day?.

Memorial Day is so much more now. So much more.


- hfs


한국에 오신 것을 환영합니다

Curious about the title? It says 'Welcome to Korea'...in Korean! 
Looks like that is where we are headed in the near future! 

After months of waiting for things to fall into place, after dozens of applications and resumes sent out, after numerous interviews, MacGyver has settled on working as a contractor in Korea. Once his passport is in and the hiring process complete, he'll be on a plane. The kids and I will follow shortly.

We are excited but still a little incredulous and definitely overwhelmed. The company for whom he'll be working makes no provisions for shipping any household goods (HHGs) other than the tools he'll need for his job. Nor do they pay for anyone's plane ticket other than the employee. So anything we ship over as well as our plane tickets will have to come out of our pocket.

We do not know how long we will be there. Our plan (I know, I can hear God chuckling right now) is to sell anything that does not hold sentimental value or is not irreplaceable and put the rest in storage. We'll ship over clothing, bed linens (one set per bed), our school supplies (the basics, not everything), a few personal items, a few kitchen items I doubt I'll be able to find in Korea and don't want to rebuy, and that's about it!

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it all. I"m really excited at the possibility for international travel, being able to see and touch many of the things we've studied in history, explore a new culture, learn a new language...and I'm overwhelmed at the idea of having to learn a new language, navigate a foreign country, learn a new monetary system, and be away from America. I've never set foot outside of the United States, other than a few hours in Haines Junction (Canada) on our way down from Alaska. I've never been to Mexico. Hawaii and Alaska are as close as I've ever come to living outside of the United States. So this is new.

Very, very new.

I'm thrilled that MacGyver has a job, doing what he loves to do and one that will take him closer to his long term goals. I just need to remember to breathe...

Pau. (I'm going to have to figure out what 'done' means in Korean.)

- hfs


Poor pitiable blog

I just looked at the date of my last post and it wasn't as long ago as I thought. I was thinking it had been a month since I last posted but it's only been about 3 weeks...because, you know, that makes a difference!

The end of the school year is always a horrible time for me when it comes to writing - trying to wrap up the loose ends of the school year, yearning to get outside and soak up some Vitamin D with the sunlight (and I type that as it's currently overcast, gloomy, and 55° outside...yay spring...), plant seeds and watch stuff grow, transition from school-year activities to summer activities, spring clean, etc. all take their toll on my ability to form coherent thoughts. Spring tried to show up the other day but Mother Nature has her own ideas and we've been on quite an interesting ride of late. We saw snow the first week of May following near record temps the week before. We're now back down into something that more closely resembles spring weather (thunderstorms, breezy, warm days, cool nights, etc.) but today kind of looks and feels more like winter than spring. My knees agree. This getting old thing is for the birds. It's supposed to clear up for the weekend and into next week so that's good.

School IS wrapping up nicely. We finished history a while back and opted not to start on the next volume, instead turning our focus toward wrapping up Anatomy and our other subjects. The nice thing about being ahead in our other subjects is that we can be done when we feel like being done! So we'll be done when the public school kids are done. All in all it's been a good year. We're tweaking a few things for the upcoming school year but not much. This summer will be spent at the pool, a few art lessons, some baseball, and lots of time with friends.

I do have a tidbit of news to share...things on the job front for MacGyver are starting to work themselves out. I can't go into detail yet (nothing is solid and I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch) but the few pieces we were waiting to have fall into place have done so (yay!!!) and now it's a matter of figuring out which job offer works best for MacGyver professionally and what works best for us as a family - hopefully we can find one that does BOTH! That being said, one of them would be QUITE the adventure for our little family and has me both overwhelmed and excited, all at the same time. We shall see!

And with that, I am off for the weekend with The Girl for some one-on-one time. The Boy gets to go to his very first baseball practice with his dad and enjoy some male-bonding time as well. Two weeks of school and then it's POOL TIME!!!

What do you have in store for the spring/summer? Have a great weekend!


- hfs


This week...

"When the world seems loud, we must be quiet. When the world seems evil, we must be good. When the world seems terrifying, we must comfort each other. " ~ Momastery

The Onion put up a post a few days ago about this week - before the manhunt that consumed Boston for the better part of 24 hours on Friday - and it really summed up my reaction to this week:

“Maybe next time we have a week, they can try not to pack it completely to the @#$%^&* brim with explosions, mutilations, death, manhunts, lies, weeping, and the utter uselessness of our political system,” said basically every person in America who isn’t comatose or a complete sociopath. “You know, maybe try to spread some of that total misery across the other 51 weeks in the year. Just a thought.”

So very true. In Hawaii, there was this plant called 'Sleeping Grass'. If you touch it, it responds by withdrawing and closing up. If I had a plant Doppleganger, Sleeping Grass would be mine. I spent the better part of Monday trying to come to terms with the fact that a woman I know online had to say goodbye to her 5 year old son. Gavin was amazing - their whole family is amazing - and I cannot begin to imagine the horrible pain of losing a child. And then Boston...I had friends there. Trying to track them down and make sure they were (literally) all in one piece was exhausting on top of everything else and by the end of Monday, I was ready for the week to be over. But it just kept going: political worthlessness (what's new?), conspiracy theories and tinfoil hats, explosions, more casualties, and so on. 

By Friday, I was done. Stick a fork in me and call me dinner DONE. Thankfully, life conspired to keep me away from both the computer and the television and for that, I was grateful. And now, it is Saturday. The manhunts are over. The Monday-morning quarterbacking (or Saturday, as it were) has begun and I just can't handle it. It's taking what little self-control I have not to rip people to shreds for criticizing how the manhunt in Boston was handled ('martial law'? Really? Shut up.) and looking for conspiracy theories where there aren't any. If people have enough time on their hands to come up with that kind of tripe, they need to get on the horn to their CongressCritter and demand a full - PUBLIC - investigation into Benghazi. But Boston? 

No. Not Boston. 
But rather than pick a fight with crazy people, I retreat like Sleeping Grass and call it a day. It's just too much. Maybe I'm becoming soft in my old age (is 40ish really 'old' these days?). Or maybe the events of the past 12 years have just worn me down to a point where I can no longer tolerate some things without being overwhelmed. I don't know. I saw a tweet on Twitter the other day that about sums it up for me: "
Beginning to think that getting your news a day later on a piece of paper really was the way to go." So true.
So true.


- hfs


April Challenge

Do you have an Aldi grocery store near you? I had never heard of them until we moved here. They carry the equivalent of store-brand goods. They are bare-bones: bring a quarter to 'rent' a shopping cart if you plan to use one (you'll get it back once you return the cart) and bring your own shopping bags. Credit cards are a no-no but they do accept debit cards and cash. I had poked in for a walk-through a while back and have decided that this month, I will try out a few items - items that I normally buy at the 'big box' grocery store or the commissary. I'll be posting what I buy and our assessment of them over the next month or so.

This month, I bought trash bags, some Belgian-style cookies (Aldi is a European-owned corporation so I've found a lot of European foods there), chicken nuggets, and smoked Gouda cheese.

First up are trash bags. I managed to throw away my receipt before I noted the price but I believe I paid $3.99 for this box of 45 bags. So far (we've used about 10 of them thus far), they have held up nicely and I can't tell the difference between the Boulder brand and the Glad brand that I normally buy. For my next post, I'll do a better job of posting the price from our 'normal' grocery store in comparison.
** VERDICT: worth the money. I won't buy trash bags at the 'big name' grocery store again. 

My children like chicken nuggets. If I were a better crunchy mom, I'd make my own by dicing up free range chicken, coating it in non-GMO bread crumbs, and baking them myself but I have about 10,485 other things that need my attention during the day (to include Facebook. Don't judge.) so bagged nuggets once a week are my go-to. This bag was $3.99 for a 32-ounce bag. The same sized bag at our normal grocery store would run me at least $5.99.
** VERDICT: The Girl said she didn't notice a difference but she has a lousy sense of smell (and, therefore, taste) so I only give her opinion so much weight (sorry, baby!). The Boy said his tummy hurt after eating them but his tummy hurts often so I'm not sure we can attribute that to the nuggets. We will have 1/2 of a bag left so we'll try again.

We love chocolate in this house. And we love cookies. And when you combine the two, we have a happy house. So we grabbed these for $2.99 and hoped for the best. Similar cookies in either the grocery store or commissary would run easily more than $5.00 so this was an easy call. I mean, really, cookies and chocolate (dark, at that!) for under $3.00? Who can say no to that?

** VERDICT: The chocolate, as European chocolate is known to be, was wonderful - smooth, creamy, rich. The cookies themselves had an odd chemical taste but that was mostly overpowered by the wonderful chocolate. I would have just sucked the chocolate off the cookies and thrown the actual cookie in the trash but my children elbowed me out of the way (The Girl has bony elbows!) and then viciously declared that I was not allowed to touch them. Heh. They have to sleep at some point. 

We also bought a wheel of smoked Gouda but I failed to get a picture of it before it was devoured. If there is anything in this house that is devoured more quickly than chocolate, it's cheese. We like cheese on our cheese. This cheese was mild and creamy with a good, solid hint of smoke to it. Perfect. It was$2.99 for a 7 ounce wheel. A perfect price for a small indulgence. 

MacGyver hit the commissary today (soldiers who are involuntarily separated from the military maintain access to the PX and commissary for 2 years) and they had cereal on sale so we stocked up there. I'm still working my way through some stuff I have in the freezer for meals so I don't need to do a major shop just yet. I do need to go pick up some frozen veggies and the everyday stuff (bread, orange juice, peanut butter, etc.) but I'm going to put that off as long as possible. We managed to stay close to my $300 budget last month but went over a smidge so I'm trying to get closer this month. 

Still no word on the job front - still waiting for a few pieces to fall into place. If you're the praying type, we could definitely use them.

Have you shopped at Aldi? 


- hfs


Spring Break

I had grand intentions for Spring Break but we all know where that road leads. It started with a tickle in
the back of my throat and I woke up Monday with a wicked headache and the distinct need for Sudafed. So my good intentions were shelved for the day and I slept. I slept long and hard in an attempt to head this cold off and then laid low for the rest of the day. It didn't help and now I'm on day 4 of this annoying cold.

** edited for Pinch Paisley who wanted to see pictures from my Spring Break **

This week, I cooked up a batch of Greek Lentil Soup and a homemade loaf of beer bread. We have snow on the way later this week and it's still pretty chilly outside so this hit the spot and there was enough for leftovers. Delish but next time I'll add more carrots and maybe a ham bone for depth of flavor.

Hopefully, this cold will back off and I can get cracking on the things I wanted to do around here - namely tackle the basement/school area and get that all tidied up for our last quarter of school. Things have piled up and it is all kind of a mess down there right now. I'm in the middle of reassessing our curriculum choices for next year and I have some things I need to get rid of as well as getting completed schoolwork organized so that I can create end of the year portfolios for The Boy and The Girl. 

I did do one remarkable thing this week - I paid off every dime of credit card debt that we have. This is momentous - never once, in the history of our marriage (and, I'm pretty sure, not since I procured my first credit card) have we been without credit card debt. And our outstanding balances have been BIG - due in part to legal fees we incurred and in part to our decision to bulk up our cash savings in preparation for MacGyver's exit from the Army rather than pay down our debt. This was a double-edged sword - to do this, we used some of the money MacGyver received as part of his separation. Basically, we used part of his retirement savings to do this. But this was only after careful consideration and consultation with our financial advisor. It makes more sense to knock out unsecured debt that was dragging in 10+% in interest charges rather than let that cash sit in a savings account, earning a measly 1.0% (if we're lucky). 

And now, it is done. No more credit card debt. Now, the trick will be to KEEP it that way. We have several recurring charges that run through our credit card - primarily for convenience: cell phone bill, swim team payment, and our sponsorship through Compassion International. I refuse to allow our debit card to be used online in any way so we will still use our credit card for online purchases. However, I'm going to 'borrow' Teresa's idea and keep a running monthly tally of our credit card charges on the fridge so that MacGyver and I both know what we've spent and the statement won't be a surprise when it comes in the mail. 

For the past few months, we've been running our grocery purchases through our Amex card (which has a cash back bonus) but I'm finding that I'm breaking my food budget too easily that way so this month we are back to operating on a cash basis. This makes it easier for me to make sure we stay on budget. We buy raw milk, eggs, and beef (which we buy very rarely) from local suppliers so I know what my monthly expenditures there will be: about $50 per month. We also have started participating in Bountiful Baskets, which provides low-cost fresh fruits and veggies for a really great price (and they offer an organic option as well!) so that's about $50 per month. Our monthly food budget is $400 so that leaves me with $300 for everything else, which is usually plenty, especially if I am good about making snacky-type items from scratch (cookies, muffins, etc.).

Another thing that helps is Harvester's. Our church participates in this and offers distribution through Harvester's each month and we are involved in helping. It's a great way for us to give back to our community and a wonderful way for our children to do so as well. At the end of the day, the people that help are welcome to take home any of the remaining food before it is taken to a local food bank. Last time, there was a HUGE dearth of Bosc pears, cabbage, Kraft Take Fresh kits, and boxed salad so we were blessed to take some of that home as well. That definitely helped offset our food budget.

Lastly, I stumbled across Danielle over at Blissful and Domestic and found that she and I are about in the same boat - living on a very frugal budget and doing our best to make ends meet. We don't own our own home like they do but it looks like, pretty soon, we'll be living on the GIBill and, if she can do it, so can we. Or so I hope! Looks like we may very well be finding out.

I am starting to look for ways to bring in some extra income. I'm selling off some things that we no longer need, writing some freelance articles (like this one --> Getting Out), selling some advertising space on the old blog, and looking into offering tutoring services to people who need them. Every extra dollar helps. Now that the weather is *supposed* to start warming up, MacGyver is going to reinsure the motorcycle and start riding that rather than driving the truck, which should help cut our petrol bill back even further. We're still line-drying most of our clothes and keeping the thermostat nice and low so that has helped keep our electricity bill low as well.

Next up will be cutting back on the cell phone plan (we don't use enough data or enough anytime minutes to warrant unlimited plans for those items. Ditto on the texting.) and probably ditching cable. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime's streaming, and the Roku box that MacGyver scored off Craigslist for dirt cheap, we really don't need, nor do we use, cable. So that should save us about $50 per month on cable and I'm hoping we'll be able to knock $50 per month off of our cell phone bill as well.

And, if it looks like we're going to be here longer than I expected, I am going to see whether or not the swim team has room on deck for another coach. Even if they can only waive my kids' fees, that's worth it. We'll see! For now, I am off to take more Sudafed and Mucinex and see about tackling the basement. 


- hfs


365 days

An Irish Airman Forsees His Death

I Know that I shall meet my fate 

Somewhere among the clouds above; 

Those that I fight I do not hate 
Those that I guard I do not love, 
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, 
No likely end could bring them loss 
Or leave them happier than before. 
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, 
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds, 
A lonely impulse of delight 
Drove to this tumult in the clouds; 
I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind 
In balance with this life, this death.

Quote Yeates to me and you've won my heart.

It's been 365 days since this world grew darker.  My grief was overwhelming then and remains so to this day. I've just become better at hiding it. I don't talk about it much but the tears and heartache are always just below the surface. People will give lip service to the fact that there is no timetable for grief but the reality is that most people expect you to move on from the loss of a friend pretty quickly. So I do my best to compartmentalize it, put it in a pretty box on a shelf in my mind and only take it down when no one is around.

My grief stays private - no one needs to see my 'ugly cry'. 

There are a lot of Lexicans getting together to commemorate this day and I think it's wonderful. But I can't. I just can't. Being around people in general on this day is hard enough. My sadness pulls me inward, onto myself. It's not something I can comfortably share with others. This is as close as I get to sharing.

There are days like today where I wish I enjoyed alcohol. I'd hoist a Guinness (for strength!) in honor of my friend. Instead, I'll take a drive, blast some Mumford on the stereo, mail a letter to Lex's wife, and maybe sift through some old emails and wrap myself in my friend's words of wisdom, because I miss those desperately.

Untitled from Nep Lex on Vimeo.


- hfs


A check! For ME!

$105.87! Go little blog!

First, thank you to my readers - all 5 of you - for occasionally clicking the Google ad links (like the one right below this post or over to the right in the sidebar). Because of you, I got this wonderful check in the mail on Friday - MacGyver's last day in the Army. I don't believe in coincidences so this blessing was a welcome sight in an otherwise unsettling day.

And I have plans for this check - plans that I had been praying about for a week or two before this showed up, which makes it even more special. The Girl is getting to the age where we need to sit down and really discuss the physical relationship between men and women and the nitty-gritty (don't want to say 'nuts and bolts' because that would make me giggle and this is a SERIOUS topic...sort of.) as to how babies are made. Our family is choosing to use a curriculum called Passport to Purity.

It's a really nice, all-inclusive curriculum kit about relationships, dating, sex, and marriage. It has a journal for her, a guidebook for me, and it's designed for a get-away weekend for the two of us. I've taught health (and sex ed) in high school and could have gone that route with my children and that would have been ok (we actually started in on health at the beginning of this school year and have been studying puberty and the associated changes through both that and our science lessons) but I wanted something a little more special for my daughter. She loves the one-on-one time and a get-away is right up her alley. But I didn't know where I would scrounge up the money for a hotel room, meals, and gas. So I prayed about it and let it be.

Last week, I received an Ebates.com check in the mail for the shopping I did over Christmas ($31 and change). On Thursday, I sold 3 math books I had advertised on a homeschool for sale site (another $45) and Friday, this check came in the mail. That combined with a few dollars tucked away from my spending money each month should cover everything! How perfect is that? I haven't yet told her - I need to square away a few details, make reservations, etc. but I'm really excited just to have some time away with her. And it won't negatively impact our budget one bit! 


- hfs


I've been taking part in a wonderful, intelligent discussion about religion and atheism on a friend's Facebook page. Normally such discussion devolve into hate-filled name calling and accusations about affiliation with the Nazi party but this one - though challenging - is devoid of that. It's refreshing. Normally, I would shy away from such a discussion because I worry that my Biblical knowledge isn't enough to support my beliefs and opinions in such a discussion but that isn't the case in this. One of the nice things about Facebook is the ability to let a conversation hang for a moment while you gather your thoughts and articulate your beliefs. It helps that the person (whom I do not know personally...he's a friend of the person on whose FB page the conversation is taking place) is open to the discussion, willing to articulate his beliefs and how he reached them without necessarily insulting or tearing down my opinions (which run counter to his). He's challenging my beliefs but not attacking them and that is incredibly uncommon today. It's been a great conversation. 

Then today, I came across the sign (above) on Facebook. It sums up everything I think a church should embody. If you can't read it, it says:

"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, 'Dydw i ddim yn siarad Seasneg'. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rake, or could stand to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or are like our Vicar (who can't carry a note in a bucket). You're welcome here if you're 'just browsing', just woke up, or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since little Jack's christening.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems or you're down in the dumps or if you don't like 'organized religion'. We've been there too!

If you blew all your money on the horses, you're welcome here. We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or because Grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierce, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as a kid, or got lost in Builth's one way system and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts...and you!"

I think this should be read at the beginning of every church service. Goodness knows, I need the reminder! Today, in church, I sat up in the balcony (because that's my safe zone where my introverted self is comfortable) and about half way through worship, this family came in. They had 3 children, the youngest about 6. It took them a few minutes to figure out where each of them was going to sit and it kind of disrupted my enjoyment of the worship. Then the middle child started arguing with the youngest boy and the parents struggled to get them to settle down. Then the daughter couldn't see and they rearranged themselves again. Worship ended and the youngest went off to class but the middle boy continued to fidget and be kind of a pain. It was obvious he craved attention - even the negative kind. And he garnered plenty of that. Rather than ignore the boy's behavior (which really didn't seem to be that big of a deal) or take him out of the sanctuary, the dad fussed at him and it escalated from there. Needless to say, it was hard to pay attention to the sermon. And I started to get grumpy and frustrated - how dare these people come and invade my bubble and get in the way of my enjoyment of the sermon.

And then I realized what an ass I was being (in my own head, thankfully). They weren't doing any of this intentionally (well, the boy was intentionally being a pain but it wasn't directed at me) and really, all it took was a little extra focus on my part to pay attention to the sermon. So I prayed. I prayed for this family and this boy who craved attention. I prayed that God would help me fix my lousy attitude and help me 'love my neighbor' rather than stew in my grumpiness.

Someone once said to me that church is not a country club - it's not a place for people who have it all together. It's a hospital for those that are hurting or in need of something. And aren't we all?

Yes. Yes we are. 


- hfs


Dear Army,

It's been real.
It's been fun.
I can't say it's been real fun.

Peace out.


- hfs


My husband says I need help

The other day, MacGyver and I were talking. I had met (or re-met, as the case may be) a woman at swim practice that we went to college with. She had been dating one of the guys in MacGyver's ROTC battalion that  we were friends with and they later wound up getting married. Small world that the Army is, he's stationed here and one of their kids is on the same swim team as my children. It was great to run into her, catch up, see that she hasn't really changed, hear that their time in the Army is coming to an end, and so on. 

I told MacGyver that she would have been really cool to hang out with. And he looked at me like I had lost my mind. He asked me why I couldn't hang out with her and then it was my turn to look at HIM like HE had lost his mind. 

I can't take on new friends right now. We are LEAVING. And in my mind, leaving = goodbyes = pain. I wonder if he was really paying attention when we left Hawaii. I was a basket case for week (ok, months...ok, a year) after we left Hawaii. Saying goodbye to people who had become family was brutal and even the idea of having to do that again on any level has me hyperventilating into a paper bag in the bathroom. So no, I can't take on any new friends right now. And I'm not alone in this - many of my milspouse friends will tell you the same thing - the goodbyes are brutal and they wear on you. When I was younger and we were getting ready to PCS, the excitement of a new town, a new duty station, the trip itself...all of those things outweighed the sadness of leaving the friends we had made. And there was always the possibility that, thanks to the small-world nature of the military, we'd win up stationed with them again. But I know that is unlikely now. 

The ridiculous thing(s) is that I have no idea when we're leaving. Could be in 30 days. Could be in 12 months. Could be never. Our future is so murky right now that I have less of a clue now than I thought I did 6 months ago. And I'm sure that God is sitting up there thinking, "Heh. She thinks she's leaving this land-locked state. Watch this...I'll park her there another year or so while MacGyver works on his professional pilot's license. She'll lose her mind." When I explained my reasons to MacGyver, he just shook his head and told me I needed help. 

I'm sure I do. He's just not qualified to offer the kind of help I need. I'm sure a professional shrink would have a field day with me. 


- hfs


I no longer have to share my husband

It has long been said that the military is the 'other woman' in a marriage - her needs come first. 

In that order. 

And for fourteen years (and six months!) that has been the case. It was an arrangement that MacGyver and I made willingly. I may have been naive when he first enlisted right out of college but I wasn't nearly as naive when he chose to go to flight school all those years ago. It was after 9/11 and I knew what I was agreeing to when he submitted his flight school packet with my support. And it has been - for the most part - a wonderful 14 years (and six months!). Yes, there have been some low points. However, he and I have been blessed by his time in the Army and we are both quite sad to see it end. But there is most definitely a silver lining. 

I get to say goodbye to the 'other woman' in his life. (*please note: those of you who like to misread things and get your panties in a wad over what you think I said...I am not saying my husband is seeing another woman. It's an ANALOGY. The ARMY is the 'other woman'. Sheesh.) No more will the words 'needs of the Army' come into play when making vacation plans or decisions about where to live. No more will we have to plan our family time around NTC and JRTC rotations or training exercises or staff duty. No more will I have to fight with airlines to get money back for a plane ticket that cannot be used because someone up the chain of command decided that random over-water training was necessary for a Global Reaction Force rotation, even though it's not required by any reg anywhere in the entire DoD. No more will there be phone calls at 0600 for 'accountability checks' while on leave. 

Oh, wait...there won't be anymore 'leave'. I'll have to re-learn the word 'vacation'. Novel concept. 

And a bit scary too. Fourteen years (and six months!) is a long time to be with one employer. Especially when that employer is the United States Army with its own vocabulary and all-encompassing culture. I read an article the other day and there was a quote that made me nod my head in agreement: "But the thing that scares me the most after fifteen years in the [military]?"

"Civilian life."

The transition is scary. For fourteen years (and six months!), the military has taken care of basically everything: housing, transportation, health care, legalities...everything. And now, well, basically we have to grow up. In a sense, we've not really had to 'grow up' while in the military - they took care of everything. Yes, there were some tough decisions to be made but ultimately, Big Army made the final decision and we just dealt with the fallout. Now, the decisions are our own. Where to live? Which health insurance policy to purchase? How much life insurance to buy? Which job offer to accept? Which neighborhood to live in? What grocery store to shop at? What soccer league to join?

I'm sure it will be less scary once MacGyver actually has a civilian job. But we're not there yet. We're toeing the edge of a big giant precipice and we're not sure what's on the other side. The current economic circumstances in this country - specifically in the military support side of the economy where the bulk of the job possibilities exist for MacGyver right now - are less than stellar. And that murkiness lends itself to an unknown that breeds fear. 

But that fear is overshadowed by the joy at giving 'the other woman' the boot - don't let that door hit you on the way out. I get my husband back, truly, freely, and completely (minus whatever the VA decides is his disability rating)!


- hfs


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