I Wasn’t

I wasn’t going to write about it. I wasn’t going to speak about it — not to my friends, not to my co-workers, not to social media, not on my blog.

I wasn’t filled with hope or fear or unity. I wasn’t feeling anything.

I wasn’t going to listen anymore.

I wasn’t going to contribute to the noise.

It’s all the same, every channel, every news source. Why did it happen? Who knows. At the end of the day no one will know except the one. Only the one will ever know and maybe even then — maybe even the one didn’t know why.

So why am I writing about it? Why did I change my mind? Because of 1 news feed item.

As I scrolled through my news feed at the end of my day to decompress, barely registering the hate, the hope, the praise, and the blame, 1 post was different. It caught my attention and I found myself reading the entire lengthy article.

This post didn’t talk about blame or hate or taking something from anyone. It talked very simply about the awful long journey of one grandmother to be with family in Orlando. To attend the funeral of a grandson.

We are Orlando

She was escorted through the airport to a waiting aircraft and then escorted by aircrew to her seat. The flight attendants waited on her and gathered words of condolences from every single passenger on the plane. What started out as a simple kind gesture turned into volumes of paper that was presented to the grandmother upon landing.

I fly a lot and anytime a whole plane stops and waits for one person or a small group of people to leave first is amazing to watch. But this time, this time everyone left before the grandmother and everyone stopped to talk to her, hug her, share her grief and pain, and in the end honor her and by extension her grandson. No one was in a hurry.

This story was the only one (that I remember) where I learned about the grandson, his name, what he did and what he wanted to become. It was a story focused on a victim, a victim’s family, and the people that stopped to help the family.

It was focused on what we should never ever have to focus on — the victim.

Let’s, if we must focus on anything, focus on the 49 plus souls and their families.

It wasn’t about the one — it’s about the 49 plus surviving friends and family.

Let’s focus on supporting the 49 plus — let’s focus on not what was lost, but on who they are and should have been.

Let’s focus on the side effects of hope and strength and the 49+.


The last few months have been interesting. There was a time where I craved to have too much to do. Now,looking at my calendar for the next couple of months, I realized that I have brought that to be. I have more commitments, personal and work, than I have time.

I don’t believe in the adage, be careful what you wish for. I am a big believer that you bring into your life what you want and need, but if you’re not paying attention then what you bring into your life can be off kilter or down right bad. You plateau, you stagnate, you run into one obstacle after another.

A few years ago, more than I care to admit to, I gradually stopped paying attention. I went numb and let life push me wherever it wanted to. I didn’t focus on my internal well being, desires, or goals. Superficially, I did. Consciously, I thought the correct things, did the right things, be who society and work and life expected of me.

A couple years back, I made some radical changes in my life. I took stock of my personal and professional life and it dawned on me that I was not anywhere near where I had planned to be at this point in my life.

My life is completely different from 2 years ago — heck, it’s completely different than it was even 1 year ago.

ReflectionsJersey | Writing Rants


What changed? Me, I started paying attention again.

As I sit on my patio in the cool sunset of the evening and reflect where I was, what I have been through, where I am, and where I want to go, I realize that the major starting point to this current place is me.

My life starting evolving the moment I realized that I was content.For me content is no happy. It’s an excuse not to challenge myself to grow.

I started to meditate again. I grew calm and still and thought about all those plans I made in grade school, in high school, in the Air Force. I read books and theories and wondered where I had gone wrong. Why did I zig when clearly I should have zagged?

To me, the path was muddled because I stopped thinking, stopped dreaming, stopped mediating, stopped …

As I take a look around me, where I am, what I’m doing, it is coming together. The pieces of the puzzle are there, some are fitting together. There’s still a couple holes there, but overall the picture is getting built and becoming clear.

All I had to do was actively think about it, meditate about it, and let the universe find the scattered pieces and bring them to my table.

Salute to General PhaelenJersey | Writing Rants

Salute to General Phaelen

It was small and colorful and spikey. It ran across the floor as one big poof ball. She was cute and immediately found a place in my heart.



Her first trip to the vet informed me that she was not 8 weeks as I had been told when I rescued her, but probably closer to 4 or maybe 6.

It would take me almost 2 weeks to get the name Spike off the list. Lucky for her (or me), I waited til she showed her true colors.

The caterwauling would come from all parts of the apartment. Not the cute mewling new kittens do, but high pitch gut wrenching caterwauling. There was no rhyme or reason for it, but every time I would go running to make sure she was ok — after all her sister was a couple months older than her and Sneakers was probably trying to kill or maim the calico runt.

Luckily for the runt, the apartment was small and I could rescue her quickly. The problem was, she didn’t need rescuing — like ever.

Like all sibling rivalry — she’s touching me — took on a whole new meaning. I threatened to name her Wolf if she kept screaming for no reason.

One day, amid the most horrendous screaming a tiny spikey runt could utter, I ran into the bedroom only to find the calico on the bed on one side of the room and the small gray kitten on the floor on the other side of the room.

Sneakers is picking on me

Sneakers is picking on me

I looked at Sneakers sitting calmly on the floor and she looked at me like, “What? I’m just trying to figure out what the problem is myself?”

Well, needless to say Wolf stuck — sort of. I didn’t actually care to name her so obviously and I like unique names. A friend of mine told me that Phaelen was Gaelic for Wolf. And that is how the runt came to be named.

Over time her spikey hair grew out enough to lay flat so I was happy that I had not chosen Spike. Think of all the explaining I would have to do with Spike.

For the next 20 plus years she would be a part of my life. She would snuggle in bed, walk the banister railing of the loft (22 feet over the living room), balk at being tossed into 4 feet high snow, and literally climb the brick wall to come back inside.

Yeah, she wasn’t much of an outdoor cat. People, couches, and beds, that was her thing. Oh, and trash. She was a foodie from the git go. Maybe it had something to do with being abandoned by her mom pretty much from birth.

I learned to lock up the trash early on since she was fond of getting into the trash can — which almost resulted in her being thrown out — to eat whatever left overs she could find.

Years later, Toby (Golden Retriever) found a soul mate in Phaelen. They would often collaborate on the best way to get into the trash for tidbits. I never could tell who was the instigator and who was along for the ride, but they were foodies at heart.

PCS (permanent Change of Station) orders came down early in 2015 and Texas became our new home. It was during this acclimation period that I made friends who picked up on my military vernacular. After some recon missions the WTF Unit was formed. As the rank and file fell into place, Phaelen became the General due to her vast field experience. She lead her rag tag band into several recon missions and reaped the rewards of chicken bits, cat nip, and salmon.

Phaelen Recon

Phaelen Recon

Up until 6 months ago she was a healthy and sturdy cat. Slowly her body started to give out. Like most people, high blood pressure, hearing problems, eye problems tipped the scales and she started to show her age.

Phaelen Aim High

Phaelen Aim High

One thing always remained constant: food.

If salmon is present watch you limbs…anything between her and salmon and you would be bringing back a stub.

She helped me cope with life when I first rescued her and she made me calm as we grew older together.

In the last few years she helped me again cope with life. It was nice to come home to someone, to feel her small warm runt body curl in my lap or lay on the pillow next to mine purring. It was great to be needed and wanted and loved unconditionally when I was at some of my lowest points in life.

A few weeks ago entered the Foodie Free For All stage. She was not supposed to have salmon or tuna because of her failing organs. As life has it for all of us, there comes a point where it doesn’t matter. All you need is substance and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad.

Good night my sweet girl — I love you and will miss you, you will never be forgotten.


[media-credit name=”Photo by Kel Hinkle” link=”https://www.writingrants.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/phaelen-eyes-1024×1024.jpg” alt=”Phaelen Portrait” width=”768″ height=”768″ />[/media-credit] Phaelen Portrait

Jersey Girl in a Texas WorldJersey | Writing Rants

Jersey Girl in a Texas World

This past weekend I learned that not everything is bigger in Texas. Yes, I am aware that this statement may create a controversy, but this is my opinion and I have a few facts to back it up…so read on for my funny adventures in the Texas World.

I traveled to the biggest (the only big thing in Texas I saw this weekend) Toilet Museum on my way to camping on Mustang Island to Port Aranas Sandfest 2016. I stood side by side fighting the elements and critters with about a dozen of my friends and laughed — a lot.

Sandfest 2016

Sandfest 2016

Our journey to the beach south started out on Friday morning with a side trip to the Toilet Museum in San Antonio. No I am not joking. To be precise it is Barney Smith’s Toilet Museum.

Barney Smith's Toilet Musem

Barney Smith’s Toilet Musem

It is a must see and earned me a smiley (geocaching of course) and a TB Racer some bonus points, so it was worth the side trip. Barney Smith has been collecting and decorating toilet seats for over 50 years. At the time of our visit he had 1,226 seats and was working on 1,227. His art covers everything from colleges, to birthdays, to anniversaries to military to geocaching and I could go on.

I bet if it pops into your head, he’s got a seat for you.I never knew there were so many ways to decorate seat covers. If you are ever in the area you should call and schedule a tour of this museum, it is well worth the side trip. So much so that Montel Williams and the View have come visiting.

After we left we fought the wind for a couple of hours to Mustang Island. It’s a small island (not the smallest State Park, but the smallest I’ve visited so far) with a spit of grass for RV and tent camping (this is a loose term of camping — I grew up in the Pine Barrens and my family camped every year so my idea of camping involves trees and mountains and hiking paths).

Beyond the dunes I could hear the waves of the Gulf, but despite the seagulls indicating there was a beach around there somewhere, it did not have the same smell or feel of a coastal shore.

We wandered down the road about a quarter mile to find another small strip of something the Texans call a beach. This Jersey girl quickly realized not everything is bigger in Texas.

Feet in Gulf of Mexico in Texas World

Feet in Gulf of Mexico

The beach is little more than a strip of hard packed sand made smaller by high tide and the incoming storm system. The sand is not soft and silky white, so it was hard to mush your toes into warm soft silk, but I could let the waves cover my scantily clad feet as they mingled in the cool dark Gulf waters.

The island did have your typical red fire ants, mosquitoes, ground hogs, pelicans, seas gulls, and sand pipers so you could technically claim you were camping on the beach.

On Saturday we ventured — in wave style — to Port Aranas where once again I can say: not everything is bigger in Texas.

There was sand and there were sand sculptures. They were ornate and ranged from small to medium in size. It took about an hour to stop at each one and wander around the designs. I think two stood out as the best (based on my informal group poll). The official judging occurred after we left and you can see the winners here.

iSee Sandfest

iCastle Sandfest

I am and always will be amazed by the skill and patience these artists have creating their temporary works of art. They are amazing to watch and talk to. If you’ve never been to a sandfest, I highly recommend going — most beaches (big and small have one).

Some of us burned — some did not — some of us melted — some did not, but what we all did: we had a darn good time.

I have learned not everything is bigger in Texas, but I had fun none-the-less hanging with friends, admiring another part of Texas I had not been too, and in the end that was big.

Thanks to my friends who laughed with me and enjoyed my first journey into the south eastern part of Texas.


The Year of the Park – 109 Texas State Parks

Late last year one of my friends announced that 2016 was the Year of the Parks. So Santa, ever knowing, bestowed on her a Texas State Park pass. Unlimited access to all the Texas State Parks and up to 15 people per vehicle (now if we can get that many in her jeep, we are definitely going to look like the clown car when we unload).

Her lofty goal (weather permitting) is 2 state parks every month. That would be a total of 24 parks which mean there are 85 Texas State parks that won’t make the cut.

Please join us for the ride as we discover what Texas State Parks are all about without the blisters. Well, I already have a couple, but for you — you’re safe. Unless my awesome posts inspire you to leave the computer behind and visit the awesome parks near you; better yet, make it a road trip with friends, and visit parks far far away.

Pedernales Falls

Pedernales Falls

UPDATE: My reviews of the Texas State Parks we visited/hiked, and kinda got lost in (except I’m a geocacher so my GPS bailed us out) are being published on the Tex Hill Country Blog so pop over there and share away and comment on what you like or don’t like. This list will grow as I visit them, so check back once in a while or subscribe to my post and you’ll be notified whenever a Park review goes up.

  1. Pedernales Falls
  2. Government Canyon State Natural Area
  3. Mother Neff
  4. McKinney Falls
  5. Colorado Bend
  6. Mustang Island

Texas State Park Facts

Here are some very interesting facts that you may or may not know about the state parks in Texas. Alternatively you can check out the parks from the main source Texas State Parks with maps and up to date information on camping and hiking and all that jazz.

GeoCaching Challenge

This is a fun challenge for all us geocachers out there. The main goal is to find a particular cache all the 90+ Texas State Parks, historic sites and natural areas all over Texas. During this challenge you discover hidden items, learn exciting facts and stories about Texas State Parks, and win prizes! (Direct quote from The TSP site).

I just happen to love caching. It gives me a goal while I work to put blisters on my heels. Kind of takes the sting out of the long hikes — though some of the caches are not that far off the main path or in some cases, the visitor center.

Dark Skies

It has been rumored off and on over the years that
t due to unnecessary glare. I personally think it’s like GPS. We rely so heavily on it that we are losing our natural ability to figure out the lay of the land and how to get from point A to point B. Sometimes technology is not a good thing.


Incredibly, only 4 of the state parks have waterfalls. Considering there are over 90 state parks and natural preserves in this huge state. I recommend that you see them before the high heat shrinks them or after the fall rains have come in. Just be careful if you are hiking out to see them as any amount of rain increases the risk of flash flooding.

  1. Big Bend Ranch State Park has three waterfalls you can reach by trail. If it’s been raining there may be other “pour-offs.”
  2. McKinney Falls State Park has two falls (McKinney Falls and the Upper Falls).
  3. Pedernales Falls State Park has a gradual, cascading fall of about 300 feet on the Pedernales River.
  4. Colorado Bend State Park has Gorman Falls. This one you can hike to on your own or you can go on a guided tour.