Friday, October 30, 2009

Death Sucks!

Our friend's death earlier this week has hit hard. I have been in a slump all week.

I think it hits harder because I also have a soldier in my life. And I never truly think about what life would be like without him. He travels a lot, and he has been to war. But all the times he's gone, I really never let myself think about the "what-ifs". We have all our paperwork in order, like any other family would, and we've talked before about what one should do if something happened to the other. I'm sure all couples do that, especially if there are children involved.

But I never really let it in - that something could happen. I'm sure my friend didn't really, either. Her soldier had already been deployed several times before this. I'm sure that, while still being totally crappy, this deployment was "old hat". She is an excellent mother, and on top of the family's dynamic. She is the epitome of a military wife - independent, strong and in-control. You watch your soldier leave, and while you miss them terribly and worry about their safety, you go on with the "normal" part of your life, counting the days until he returns home.

This week's events have made me wake up, out of the fog, and feel the reality. What it feels like to have someone you know die at war.

Wednesday, more than 24 hours later, I was still crying from the news. I laid in my bed Wednesday afternoon, sobbing. It hit harder than any death I've heard about in many years.

There are many reasons for my sadness. He was too young, he was such a cool guy, a great dad, someone fun to hang out with. He was a great soldier with many years left to lead. But I really think that the reason I was so upset was the shock of it all.

All I can think, admittedly selfishly, is that I know that her experience is one that I could be exposed to at anytime. Receiving that knock on the door, as a man in uniform comes to tell you the worst news you could ever want to hear.
As I mentioned in a previous post, he is the first fallen soldier that I have actually had human interaction with. And not just interaction, but friendship.

It sucks. And though I have gotten the sobbing under control, the sadness lingers on. And it will for some time.

I guess I just needed to talk about it. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When you lose a hero...

I received some extremely troubling news yesterday. A good friend of ours lost her soldier husband in Iraq yesterday.

These are friends we've known for over 10 years. We met them in Germany and were very close. Over the years since, our Army travels have taken us to different places, but we have stayed in close contact with them. Many good times were shared.

I don't know the details of his death - when, how, and of course we'll never know why. (If I knew, I doubt that I would post such troubling personal details.)

I haven't seen this solider in probably 4 years. But his death hit me hard.

I have to admit that I do not know anyone personally that has lost a servicemember to the war.

Not until yesterday, that is.

I don't know exactly how to handle the news. First and foremost, I wanted Jon to get the sudden urge to call me. (He's out of town this week...) I needed to hear his voice. Alas, I have no way to contact him, so I haven't been able to talk to him since I heard the news.

Then I just cried. And cried. And cried. I cried for my friend, who will have to move on without the person she loves most in the world.

I cried for her children, who love their father more than life and won't understand the reasons he gave his life for his country, at least not for many years.

And mostly I cried because I just don't understand. I mean, I'm not a fool. I know that sending our men and women in uniform to war (regardless of whether the President calls it a war) means that some of them won't come home. It's a sad reality.

But the reason that this soldier was called Home to be with God - it just doesn't compute. He was so young (35), a great officer, a personable, caring human being, and a family man. He was so funny, laughing all the time and making people feel warm and welcome.

My heart hurts today. I mean, I feel physical pain in my body. I haven't lost someone so close to me, so I don't know if that's what happens at a time like this. I feel helpless. There's nothing that I can do for my friend except to pray, and to tell her that I am here for her.

Somehow I know that's not enough. There's nothing that can make this loss easier for her.

I know she is a Christian, and that God will help her through. It won't be easy, or fast, but He will guide her. And she has a strong family that is probably already by her side.

I struggle to make sense of it, and then I realize that there is no sense. It just is.

We're not always meant to understand why things happen. We're just meant to trust that there is a reason why, and that God will guide us through the hardship that it might create.

It is a powerful lesson for me, and it brings my ridiculous job issues into focus. There are so many MUCH more important things than a job.

Now if Jon would only call, so I could hear the sound of his voice and be comforted by the person that I love the most in the world. It's selfish, in light of my friend's recent devastation, but I think it's normal to feel this way.

Please pray for my friend as she is forced to deal with what I am sure is the hardest thing she's ever had to face. Please ask God to help her navigate this territory and give her the strength she needs to get through the emotions, the Army paperwork, the sadness, the weeks of uncertainty to come.

Fallen soldier, the Heffners are thinking of you and your family today. Thank you for your selfless service to our country.

A grateful nation humbly appreciates the ultimate sacrifice you made.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alissa's new hair...

Alissa had her hair dyed yesterday. I must say, I think it's really, really pretty. (I am biased, I know...)

She loves it, it makes her feel less "white" here among all her Island friends. Her friends don't treat her differently because she's from the Mainland, but they comment all the time that her hair is blonde. (It isn't, but when your friends all have jet black hair, I guess light brown can pass for blonde.) I guess this bothers her, and she is constantly looking for fairly innocent ways to shake up her life a little bit.

Anyway, she wanted to dye her hair dark. She is a free spirit, constantly re-inventing herself. (Most of you are aware of her off-again, on-again vegetarianism...) I convinced her not to go too dark, but darker than what she currently had.

I figure that if dyeing her hair is the most rebellious thing she's into right now, I really can't say no. (Besides, I used to bleach my hair when I was her age, so I would be calling the kettle black.)

She got a semi-permanent dye, so it will wash out in 4-6 weeks. Our neighbor, and good friend, Kim, who dyes her own hair, came over to perform the procedure. (I offered, but Alissa didn't fully trust me, I don't think. And, since Kim dyes her own hair she had me in the experience department.) If Alissa likes the color she has, she can go more permanent next time...

Judge for yourself. If you like it, send her an email and let her know. She'd love to hear it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sometimes I forget how beautiful it is here...

So, I haven't been jogging in 2 weeks. I lost all my motivation. Well, most of it. I felt a pang of guilt for not being out there, but not enough for me to get up off the couch and stop watching movies with Alissa or whatever else I could find to distract me.

Yesterday I decided, things had to change. I put my sports bra on when I woke up. Determined to get back out there. And I did, but not until 2:00 pm. The younger girls are out of school this week, and they probably would be fine if I went for a jog for an hour, but they've been bickering and I didn't want to risk it.

As I turned the 3rd corner on my usual route, and started to pass the open air of the Kapolei Golf Course, I saw it.

To most it looks like a golf course view with a pretty fountain and some palm trees.

For me, it was a visual reminder of the beauty that Hawaii offers. And the inspiration I needed to just stop whining and start moving again.

Look, I still eat too much junk and I won't become a size 2 by jogging. But jogging has given me something else. It's given me something for Tiffany.

My job keeps me confined at home. While I LOVE that, working here, and don't want to jinx it, it also means that there are many, many days when I don't leave the house at all except to shuttle kids to and from school.

So jogging gets me out of the house. And with the volume that I set my iPod to, all my thoughts are drowned out. (There's no room for worries or stress when Chris Daughtry is serenading me at full volume.)

Hawaii is, in some ways, just like any other place we've ever lived. There is work and school and laundry and traffic.

But there is a majestic beauty here. (Not in all neighborhoods, but we're lucky because Kapolei is still so beautiful and clean.) It is sometimes forgotten as I sit day after day in front of this computer, wondering if I will have a job in 6 months.

It felt great when I got back. Some of my neighbors were outside, and they knew I hadn't been out in a couple weeks. What encouragement I felt when they waved and smiled. I was dripping from sweat - it's stinking hot here at 2:00! But it was a great feeling.

A feeling that I didn't even realize that I'd been missing.

And, we got the flyer for the Great Aloha Run - they've assigned a date. So now I gotta get back out there! No excuses.

I'm back.

Happy Weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The holidays are coming...

Alissa hanging the lights over the garage...

It's that time of year. A holiday every month. My favorite time of year.

I think because there is so much to celebrate.

Yesterday Alissa put up Halloween lights outside. Yes, I said Alissa. She is the official "light hanger" in the family. Last year she put up the Christmas lights both inside and outside. She had a ball doing it, and they looked fantastic.

This year we decided to put out lights for Halloween. Alissa, the brave soul, got on the ladder and hung them over the garage. Then we had the bright idea to hang some on the 2nd level. Alissa readily offered to climb up onto the roof.

(I remember doing that as a kid, at the old house, but now as an adult I would be simply terrified.)

She got up there, but the lights weren't cooperating. About that time, our neighbor came over and suggested that maybe we hang them inside, on the 2nd floor windows, because the wind is unpredictable this time of year. So, the upstairs lights went inside the house. The house looks cool all lit up - I'll see if I can get a decent picture tonight. We have more elaborate decorations, but we'll put them out on Trick-or-Treat day (so they don't get swiped). I'll post pictures after Trick-or-Treat...

Halloween is a holiday that all 5 Heffners enjoy. The costumes will be complete this weekend (I'm making 2 of them), and we're planning a party with our Hawaii Ohana. It'll be a blast!

After Halloween comes Thanksgiving, of course. Jon will be away again, so it's up to the girls and me to devise a plan for what we want to do that day. You'll recall that the plan for last year was to spend it at the beach, which we did. I'm thinking that that plan will hold for this year as well. It won't be exactly the same - Jay and Lucie won't be here, and there's no potluck - but we'll pack a cooler and make our own day.

And then there's Christmas. My favorite holiday, for so many reasons. (More posts on this in the near future...)

Enjoy these photos of Alissa's light-hanging skills. Happy Wednesday!

Alissa on the roof

Too scary for Mom to do...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Wednesday...

Haven't posted in a week. Jon's away TDY, so I haven't been sleeping well. I never do when he's gone. I hear every little noise at night, and the room seems so empty with him not here. You'd think after 15+ years of living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed, and having him gone for 1/3 of that, that I would be used to it. I should be welcoming the opportunity to:
  • choose what channel the TV is on;
  • get to sleep on more than 1/5 of the bed;
  • turn the air conditioner a little warmer at night...
I'm telling ya folks, it never gets easier to watch the person that you love most in the world board a plane. I don't care where he's going or for how long, it stinks every single time. I didn't cry this time, so at least that's something.

Guess I'd better get used to it - he'll be gone off and on for the better part of the next 4-5 months...

Anyway, the kids and I take the opportunity when Jon's gone to do some of the things that he never seems to be interested in. They're all on break from school this week, and since our trip to the Mainland fell through (don't get me started...), I decided to take a couple of days off anyway and spend some time with them. It is too apparent to me that these kids are growing way too fast and I want to make some more Hawaii memories with them.

On Saturday, I took them to the Hale Koa in town. (Hale Koa is the really nice military hotel downtown.) If you're a DoD ID card-holder, there are many amenities that you can take advantage of. One advantage is the pool.

Yes, we live by the ocean and lots of amazing beaches. But as I mentioned in a previous post, I am totally over vacuuming sand out of the van every week and stepping on sand in the laundry room and feeling the sand in my scalp and other (unmentionable) places, even after 3 days worth of showers.

The pool at the Hale Koa isn't remarkable, except for the fact that it is: (1) pretty large for a hotel pool, (2) extremely kid-friendly, (3) usually not cold, even in "winter", and (4) almost never crowded. We went last Saturday for 5 hours, and most of that time there were less than 20 families there. (That's nothing for a pool of that size.)

Monday we went to the waterpark. Again, maybe not remarkable to those who have been to The Beach in Ohio or to Blizzard Beach in Orlando. But to us it is a fabulous time every time. It's literally right down the street, less than 2 miles. And it's fun. My kids are all old enough that I don't have to worry about them not touching the bottom of the pool, and they are all brave in the water. But they know their limits. Abby LOVES the waves, and she knows exactly how far she can go before it's not safe. The girl amazes me with her intuition. This time we took a picnic lunch and tailgated in the parking lot. As boring as PB&J and juice boxes may sound, it was a memory that I hold dear. We made friends in the parking lot who shared homemade brownies, and we listened to Alissa's iPod with them and enjoyed some company.

Those annual waterpark passes have paid for themselves 10 times over...An investment I'd make again in a heartbeat...

Besides having fun with the kids, not much else is new. No news on the job front, except that it's definitely happening. The timelines keep changing and so I just pray and pray about it. That I can somehow find another position with them that will allow me to work from home a little longer, until Abby's a little older (my first choice), or that I can at least work until next summer when we move. Though I still think about it and pray about it and stress about it, I have truly come to (some) peace. That it will be OK. I like working and contributing to the family, and I have always been blessed to receive God's help when I've asked him to help me find a job. Always. So I continue to remember that. That He will help me - somehow, sometime, some way.

The kids are great. Growing like weeds. Alissa's 15 now. It astounds me. I have a 15-year old! How can that be???? Wasn't I just 15 myself last week?

I have been getting a LOT of questions lately about the next move. Believe me, it's on my mind, too. This will be the hardest move we've ever made, for lots of reasons. The kids are now all old enough to remember this place, and their friends, and their life. They'll be happy to be back on Mainland soil and closer to our Ohio Ohana (because let's face it, anywhere on the Mainland is closer to Ohio than here...) Despite that, they won't be completely happy to go.

And I won't either.

Don't get me wrong. I will be ready to go. After 2 years I am always chomping at the bit to move - it's what Army life does to you. But it will be hard to leave a place where I haven't worn jeans in 2 years and where I can sit outside and feel the ocean breeze any time of day. It will be super hard, maybe a little unbearable, to leave my Paiaha Ohana, who have become new, strong, growing branches on our military family tree. It will be hard to leave this street, where we know almost everyone and they all look out for each other. There are so many things to miss about this place.

Despite all that, it will be time to go.

When and if there is news, I will be sure to let you know. (Maybe not on the blog - depends on how private the news is.) But it's gonna be a while. I know we're all anxious to hear about what our new adventure will be, but it's gonna be at least a few more months. Especially since Jon will be in and out and not available for most of the late fall/early winter.

Happy Wednesday all. Leave me a note - I'd love to hear from you!