Civilian vs. Military Life: An Observation

The Boy had a Scouting event recently and sitting there, a realization slowly dawned on me...there were men. LOTS of men. Men in Scouting uniforms. And it blew my mind.

All of the Scouting we've done until this point has been military-related and mostly run by women - wonderful women but women, nonetheless. Female Pack Masters, female den leaders, females everywhere. There were some men but they kind of came and went - field problems and deployments and 24/7 work schedules usually prevented them from fully participating so the women filled in. And that was a blessing.

But this time, there were men. Men leading the Pack. Men leading the dens. Men in the audience. Men everywhere. And it is a wonderful aspect of civilian life. As much as I miss military life, I don't miss the men being gone all the time.


- hfs



My hometown is a black hole. I've always joked about that. I have friends that made it to other countries, only to be sucked back in by the black hole that is my hometown. And I joked, thinking it would never happen to me.

Never say never.

Not only am I back in my hometown, I just went through the first round of interviews/testing for a position I held 20+ years ago. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. To say I am tired after the swim test would also be an understatement. Apparently, I am not 20 years old anymore. Who knew?

But the pay is solid, the hours are flexible and I can work them around homeschooling and MacGyver's schedule (he's looking into taking some helicopter courses here locally to work toward his private pilot's license). And it's lifeguarding! Best job in the world. Who knows? Maybe the swim team (which my daughter has considered swimming with while we're here too) will have an opening.

Being back in the pool I 'grew up' in was really cool and really weird all at the same time. Not much has changed - they took out the 3m board (liability) - but the locker rooms still smell the same and the facility is still pretty much as I left it back in the mid-90s when I left town for good. There is an odd comfort to all of this and I'm grateful.

I am doing my best to be patient (not one of my strong suits) and revel in the small blessings of being here. I've already run into several old friends and have plans to meet up with more old friends in the coming days and weeks. Our family that we are staying with have been nothing but gracious and the dogs have settled in nicely. All of this helps temper my itch to get things settled and move on to the next chapter of our lives. I'm still hoping and praying to get back to Kansas, to move back into my house at some point, and to implement many of the plans and dreams I have for the property.

I keep saying I don't do 'limbo' well but I guess I need to change that statement. I don't like it but I've had enough practice at it over the past 5 years that I can now say I do it decently. But I'm quite tired of it and would like to stop now, please. In the meantime, I'll enjoy having In-N-Out and REAL Mexican food at my disposal as well as access to many old friends and beaches. Works for me!


- 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


Going 'home' again

Have you ever gone back to your old house - the one you grew up in (assuming you're not a military child and that you haven't had 10 bedrooms like my oldest has had in her 13 years) - after having grown up and moved out? Have you ever realized that your room is smaller than you remember? A LOT smaller?

That's how I'm feeling right now. When MacGyver's contract was defunded, we couldn't stay in Korea but we also couldn't go back to Kansas - we have a renter in our house and I'm not inclined to boot the person that is paying my mortgage. Plus that would be rude. I would have loved to have gone back to Hawaii but with no income, that makes no sense either. Southern California affords us opportunities that other locations do not - family with extra bedrooms and extra space, access to many CFI (certified flight instructor) courses and other training that MacGyver can take advantage of using his GI Bill, job possibilities for me that pay decently, and activities for my children.

So here we are. 

And I feel like I just walked back into my childhood bedroom after having been out on my own for years. This place feels...familiar and yet quite alien at the same time. A lot has changed here but it's still the same little city. Only more crowded. A lot more crowded. And it feels weird. I am sure that part of it is slight culture shock (though we were only in Korea for 9 months). I wandered around Target and the local grocery store and had to leave because the 13 choices for dog food were overwhelming me a bit.

And I never planned to be back here for anything other than holidays and short visits. But this time around is shaping up to be a more extended stay. That's ok - just unplanned and it's taking some adjustment.

Story of my life. 


- hfs


안녕히 계세요

The past few days have been crazy but we're back in the states and trying to get our feet back under us. Jet-lag isn't quite as bad coming back this way than it was going TO Korea so it's only taken us a few days to get over it (as opposed to a week+ when we arrived in Korea). We are now in the hunt for a car, cell phones, and a job. We'll see which one we land first. 

One last 비빔밥 before I left. 

Longest. Bridge. Ever. Only way it could have been made worse is
if I had been sitting next to a clown on the drive over. 

Getting out of Korea was challenging but it all worked out in the end. Some good friends of ours were able to drive us to the airport - 4 people, 2 dogs in crates, 6 suitcases, 4 carry-ons, and 4 personal items (backpacks) and the process of flying with the dogs was actually pretty easy. The way things worked out, MacGyver and The Girl took the direct flight with the pups and The Boy and I flew on a cheaper airline with a layover. That all worked out nicely - it only took one car to pick each group from the airport rather than 2. 

I was an absolute basket-case but the pups did amazingly well. They show no residual effects from the flight other than an acquired distaste for their crates. But they now have a backyard to run around in and have taken full advantage of it, winding up exhausted at the end of each day. 

Pooped puppy #1.

Pooped puppy #2.

Being back is...odd. Granted, we were only in Korea for 9 months but it was long enough to become used to limited selection and signs in Korean that we cannot read. Since we've been back, I've been to Target once and the local grocery store once and each time, I found myself completely overwhelmed - NINE different options for shaving cream? Which one do I choose? 

As happy as I am to be back, I miss the friends we made and I miss being on deck with my swimmers. I've been cruising the job openings for swim coaches but so far, there is nothing that fits just yet. 

Gratuitous In-N-Out shot. Self-control is not my strong-point
so there is no picture of the burger. 

Oh, how I missed this.

And this - a venti that is actually VENTI-sized and not a grande at a venti price. 

Adding to the oddness of being back is the fact that I am back in my hometown - a place to which I never anticipated returning. In order to help bridge the unemployment gap (and help cover the cost of health insurance), I've put in with my old City for several positions. The pay is decent and I can probably work my schedule around everyone else to where the kids wouldn't be alone and we could still continue to homeschool. We'll see how that all plays out but, again, it's weird. Comfortable but weird. 

Everything is weird right now. I suspect that is actually normal...if weird can be normal. Still trying to figure out a way back to Kansas. I miss my house and can't wait to be settled. This past year has been exhausting. In the meantime, this soft landing place should keep us busy for a bit. 


- hfs


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