Thanksgiving Gratitudes

They tell me it’s Thanksgiving.  Well — almost.

They had to tell me because there are no falling leavings, no cooling of the air with threats of rain or snow on the horizon. There are no homes with fireplaces sending luscious scents of burning wood into the open air.

There were no markers that the seasons had changed and the opening salvo of the holidays were upon us.

As I sit in a local coffee shop, no decorations for Thanksgiving or Christmas for that matter, are on display.

English: Turkey (bird)

English: Turkey (bird) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am perplexed and not sure if I like the anonymity of the season or long for the days where Thanksgiving and Christmas are rammed down your throat with every step from October 31 to Jan 3.

Part of me misses my childhood where the holidays brought friends and family from all corners of the planet to celebrate the time of year and each other. It felt and smelled like home.

As I grew up and moved on, I tried to replicate those occasions as closely as I could like my mother did. I liked the smell, the camaraderie, the seasonal changes.

In the last few years, ten to be exact, I started to dread the holidays. It felt like more of a chore than a party. I was distant with my family and closest friends; due to circumstances beyond my control (and frankly some that were in my control), I fell silent. Partly, so I didn’t think of all that had been and partly because it was an easier way to weather the stormy seas I was in.

Now as I stand on the other side of the rough water, I find it is still choppy, but not threatening. I brace for the impact of Thanksgiving quickly drowned out by the worse holiday — Christmas.

I have moved on in my life, but not sure how to reclaim all that I let slip away. How does one reach back without appearing needy or mean? How does one move forward into the past?

It’s funny. I have moved into a place where I hear people talk about thanksgiving, but I don’t feel the warmth and love that used to be in the holiday. Like people are just going through the motions  — or maybe it’s just me.

I am lucky enough to have found other foreigners in my current land to spend Bird day with. I am looking forward to not working, but playing and spending time with good people and new friends.

I am grateful for my life and the direction I am heading in.

I hope this year brings back some of the old time feelings of past holidays of warmth, laughter, and good cheer.

May you have an awesome and happy thanksgiving surrounded by those you love.

The Path Traveled

As the end of the year draws near, I like many others, start to reflect over the events of the past year. The good, the bad, the ugly. This year, has superseded most years and brought me a lot of firsts.

At the beginning of 2015, I looked down a path that I could not see completely as it wound into the darkness of woods and ferns and birds.

It was with lots of thinking and over thinking, and planning and grasping at intuition that was being drowned out by sound and confusion that I made my way slowly (and in some cases — not cautiously) down the dirt road.

I packed up my little apartment and handed it off to a moving company. Then followed them a few days later in a fully packed SUV with my runt calico of 19 years (20 now). She spent the better part of 3 days bundled into a soft blanket in a small dog crate as I made my first of two solo roads trip to my new chosen home half way across the country.

phaelen_roadtripIt was the first time since I entered the Air Force that I chose to move into the unknown: no friends, no family, no certainty in which to fall back on. I chose to explore this path with no safety net using only my intuition for guidance.

My friends and family that I left back on the east coast were both perplexed and admiring of my current path. While they could not understand my decision to move half way across the country, I think they were a little jealous of my freedom and courage to do so.

This path I have chosen has been easy and difficult. There were times I was not sure I chose the correct road. I was alone, lost, hurting, and unsure of my inner thoughts. I refused to cave and I learned how to quiet my anxiety and move outside my comfort zone.

While I don’t think I’m in a sunny glen quite yet, I am positive that the trees are thinning out and letting the sun in.

I have found a great doctor who listened to me and I am finally getting healthier, stronger — I was almost convinced I would never be healthy again. Through my own due diligence to cure my thyroid disease, I have found a community of people with the same issues. Hypothyroid Mom was just the tip of the tree in moving me in the right direction. I started following one thin trail after another; it lead me to change my eating habits (giving up sugar — fructose specifically — has been a life changer for me). I Quit Sugar has literally made me better, confident, and full of energy.

As my body started to feel better and stronger, I conquered other issues. I have grown and settled back into the person I lost years ago as my thyroid played havoc with my body, mind, and spirit.

I am calmer and more focused at work. I have started to excel at my job again and it has lead to a more leadership role. I have found patience to teach people my job and the best practices.

I am putting focus on what I truly love — writing. Writing posts, writing short shorts (my friends call them poems — but that’s a debate for another time), writing short stories, writing just for the sake of seeing my thoughts on paper (or in this case — on the web). Some people even read them — who knew?

I have met a few people, who seem to have the same common interest I do. Coffee, biking, playing games on Friday night, or just in general — hanging out. They are turning out to be a great group of friends and the road is a little less scary, and a little less lonely.

With each mile I travel, I feel stronger. I can hear my inner voice a little clearer and while I still don’t know where this path will lead, I know that I chose the right one for me.

Every now and then, I can hear the clear sounds of a meadow ahead. Birds in the trees and water rippling in the stream. I am starting to enjoy the walk amoungst the trees instead of fearing the darkness between the tall redwoods.

I am enjoying this path and looking forward to the next fork in the road.

Ooooo look there’s a small trail over there — that’s 2016. That looks to be a really great path….


Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day. A day that came into existence by a proclamation from President Wilson in 1919 and became law in May 1938.

President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

There’s something to be said about a uniform. When you step into your first set of BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) — the feel and weight of the fabric. It’s like pulling on a new person.

It makes you stand taller, it makes you feel confident in everything you do, it makes you proud.

No matter when you stepped into your first uniform, regardless of branch, regardless of rank, you are forever changed. You are forever a member of a unique family.

I served along side other patriotic souls as we served our country. I’ve been stationed in several countries world wide, in times of peace and in times of war. It wasn’t always easy to serve, it wasn’t always easy to follow orders, but I like to think I went above and beyond the call of duty to complete the objectives as given to me.

  Rist, Richard (Hollywood, FL) 1-31


When I was in the service it wasn’t as recognized by civilians as it is today. Now people thank those in uniform for their service. I always smile and stand a little taller, when I hear someone thanking a person in uniform as I walk through the airport. I am  proud that 11/11 is recognized wide and far.

Once you raise your hand and take the oath, once you go through the training, once you don your first set of BDU’s and step out onto foreign soil, you are part of a

family forever more. I am honor to be part of that family — I am proud to have served my country and defended our freedom.

I am humbled and speechless to my brothers and sisters who never returned from battle. For the families that paid the ultimate sacrifice  to defend my country.

Thank you to all that have served, to all that are serving, and to all who will serve.

Aim High!!

Two US Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons conducting tactical training exercises. (Department of Defense/Jacob N. Bailey, US Air Force)

Two US Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons conducting tactical training exercises. (Department of Defense/Jacob N. Bailey, US Air Force)


Flash Backs

Memories are a funny thing. They are ever present or lost in the web of neurons. They come back quickly and in some cases, unexpectedly after years of being forgotten.

I was in the military when I met a airman who impacted my immediate future. I had come to admire her, her strength, her courage, her. She was strong and full of conviction of doing the right thing at all times, even when it was difficult. On the eve of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” she showed me how to honor yourself and be who you are.

I don’t remember her past any more, but I do remember a couple important pieces. Like the permanent scar on the side of her face courtesy of a bar fight prior to entering the military. I have the impression after all these years that her life was rather difficult prior to entering the Air Force, although the details of her past, were never known to me — or maybe just forgotten amoung all the other memories and facts cluttering the gray matter.

A-10 Warthog Alconbury England

She made me laugh, she talked me through some painful events, and unbeknownst to me at the time, helped me come into my own.

I haven’t thought about her for more than 20 years. She came crashing into my thoughts as I watched a woman in the crowd having a good time, laughing and dancing with her friends. In the blink of an eye, I was slammed back into the military talking to my friend. Sitting in camp chairs drinking cheap beer and wondering what the rest of our lives would bring us.

I don’t know how or why this dancing woman brought my friend back to me; the similarities of the way she looked or dressed or maybe it was the carefree laughing with her friends, but it left me feeling odd and unnerved for the next couple of days. Thoughts of our time in the military floated in and out of my mind at unexpected moments: playing softball, or hunkered down in the vault culling through military reports. Deep dark discussions about life, the military, and the war we were supporting, but didn’t necessarily agree with.

We had toured England together along with our friends. Driving the back roads in the cover of darkness or finding London night clubs in our down time.  She taught me how to play darts, which I still am bad at, in local pubs. We hung out together on tarmacs at day break in a hurry up and wait mode before deploying to the desert. My first adult friendship.

Back then, there were no easy ways to stay in touch. Pen and paper or corded wall phones were the only ways to communicate long distance and it was difficult to find time when working rotating shifts and deploying to combat zones, and eventually leaving the military.

We knew each other when it was safe for a brief moment in time.

I don’t know why she came to mind. Why now? What makes me think of a long lost military friend after all this time?

I wonder what happened to her. A few years after my discharge I heard a rumor that she had passed away due to a brain tumor. I would like to think it was not true, that is was just a rumor. Her life would have been too short. She was a beautiful person and the world is less bright without her in it.

Memories — they have a timeline of their own. I do still wonder, why those memories choose to come to the surface after all this time and I wonder where she is now.