11-13 May 2018

Time sometimes feels like a black hole. It’s amazing how fast, yet how slow, we perceive time in our lives.

We let time dictate our daily routines from waking up in the morning to falling into bed at night, and everything in between. Time can be our ally and enemy all at the same time.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s Ground Hog Day, where Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving February 2 over and over again. There are some days when we have that deja-vu kind of feeling, and I certainly felt like I had similar days early 2017, and it could easily be explained as time playing tricks on us.

I was in a very different place this time last year, but the real driving point is it’s been eight years since I lost my mother, and my siblings and family still feel the sting of such an unexpected loss. We are truly orphans, even in our adulthood. However, we don’t feel as alone because we have a super large family (both a blessing and a curse) and a large network of friends. We are surrounded by them and we keep them close.

Eight years seems like an awful long time; an eternity in fact. And we lost my mother Friday of Mother’s Day weekend, also the weekend of my father’s birthday (May 12). That was a horrendous 36-hour drive from New Mexico back to New York, making a 900-mile detour to pick up one of my mother’s sisters in Missouri because she didn’t have the money to really get home, and it was important to have her there. It was also the last major road trip I would take. It took everything out of me and challenging as I was placed in a walking boot, coming out of a minor surgery, only a few days before.

Time is also like a sinkhole. Ten years before losing my mother, I lost my father. Also, a sudden death. He’s been gone 18 years this November. It doesn’t seem possible.

It will be seven years in August since I lost my brother, and nothing puts more of a hole in the heart or a hole in the line of children as losing a sibling; the death of a child trumps any of this. My siblings and cousins I grew up with are truly my best friends. They are always answering right away. Unfortunately for me and my siblings, we are scared to answer the phone when there’s a call from any of us; we know it’s generally not good news. My poor sister-in-law felt this when she was calling in December about my brother’s 20 foot fall out of a tree. She thanked me for answering the phone. I had no intentions of ignoring the call, even though I knew something was wrong immediately.

After both of my parents’ deaths, some people would say, “This too shall pass,” or “It will get better.” I wish people wouldn’t say these things to someone experiencing a profound death, or even any type of death. The moment of grief does pass, somewhat, but more at a slow-motion kind of pace, but it doesn’t get better. I always call bullshit. This warrants repeating: it doesn’t get better; we simply learn how to deal with it, and the waves of emotions will always crash upon us during holidays, birthdays, other events, and memory triggers. My heart bled for my cousin who lost her brother in December just before the holidays. I understood her grief. I understood her singularity in the universe and all the questions she had. There are moments in life, and in time, where we have to walk it alone because we need to find a way to wrap our heads around life events.

This is where time can be kind to give us the space to do so.

Time can also surprise us: a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new beginning. For my moment in this time, I am shocked that I have been receiving gifts. They are small gifts, but one that warms the heart just the same.

In 2006, my mother sent money for me to buy a rose bush after a major surgery; one that finalized surgeries of a thousand knives. Rose is my birth flower, and the only flower I am not allergic to. I went to a nursery in Albuquerque and the rose bush was planted by my then-husband. The bush flourished, and I know I’ve included pictures of the “gifts,” as I call the flowers, in previous blog postings. The delicate flowers appear at the perfect moments: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, my birthday, and in August (the month of my parents’ anniversary, formerly my anniversary month, and the month my brother was killed).

When I had to leave the home I’ve lived in for over 16 years ─the home that stole my inheritance to turn it into a really nice place to live, and one that eventually sucked the life out of me─I refused to leave the rose bush behind. I contacted a specialist at the nursery who gave me very specific details regarding uprooting and transplanting the bush. He told me several times, “The plant will go into shock.”

My neighbor helped me, at the last hour, with the uprooting and gave me a large clay pot, with a drain tray on wheels, to keep it in until I become more established to rebury into the ground. The same week as my patio opening, that began with hosting a dinner, I woke up to find two small roses. They blossomed despite the stress of the bush. This weekend, I am gifted with two more flowers. Right on time. They’re small, but I don’t care.

Time will dictate the size and range of robust fragrance from the roses, but I am patient.

Time also slowed down to give me a chance to “soak it all in,” as Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) President, Paul LeBlanc, told my graduating class last year. I have two degrees from New Mexico Tech, and proud to say I’m a Techie, but my dream degree, that I fought and worked so hard to achieve even through a divorce while thesis writing, is from SNHU. I am a proud Penmen! What’s even better is my cousin, also known as my twin, lives 20 minutes away from campus, and I am looking forward to returning to participate in Homecoming.

Time and a calendar dictated this was graduation weekend.

I chose to ignore time after my work responsibilities were done on Friday. I spent the rest of the evening attending alumni and department receptions, then celebrating a friend’s journey to her M.S. degree. During the final evening socialization, I grabbed her and two other friends to toast my parents.

I, along with the petroleum faculty (in town), attended graduation. I don’t know of another department whose admin shows up for support…yet, is the only admin who gets ZERO recognition on Administrative Professionals Day. I grabbed a water for my friend (celebrating her degreee the night before) and stood listening/watching NMT Commencement unfold for another year. At two points I caught the face of a stranger I know as an adulterer and positioned myself to be out of his view during and after the ceremony. I wonder how many other faces judge the way I do or judge the offender as a complete asshole because he’s a narcissist: has no idea what he’s done, the damage and hurt he’s caused, and how many bridges he continues to burn.

After NMT graduation, I went to the gym to get in a hardcore 40-minute focused workout before going home to shut myself in, and away from the world the remainder of the weekend that became another roller coaster for me. BUT, I did make sure Duke got his walk before 10pm, and we had a great walk exploring different paths taken. Sunday was far too windy and vicious for allergies to survive a walk that would include grass, trees and weeds.

Time wears many hats and comes at us in different visions and appearances. Just like the silence we often need to open our ears to hear, we need to keep our eyes open to feel.

Happy Mother’s Day to my readers who are also mothers! Mothers provide a secret foundation to any child they bring into this challenging world, and they should be commended (and spoiled) often.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018 for any of my readers graduating, and those at New Mexico Tech and SNHU. It takes a tremendous amount of grit and perseverance. You’ve worked ridiculously hard to get here. My advice to you: take time off and enjoy life, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.

Photos: April and May roses.

Feeling the Silence

Feeling the Silence

26-28 April 2018

These days, I close my eyes when the lights are off, and listen to my breathing and heart beat.  Darkness void of music, text messages beeping, and other distractions. Then I tune my ears to hear Duke’s breathing. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night when I listen because it’s a reminder that I’m still alive and survived another day. And to hear puppy dog’s breathing is a wave of relief, and I am thankful he is with me for a little longer. He isn’t in any pain, but the tumor continues to grow silently in his nasal cavity, pushing into the right side.

I know I’ve come a long way since last year. The silence felt last year was like a deafening crash; powerful with a haunting echo, taking me back to a time I was in Portage, Alaska, watching a piece of a glacier calve. Phone calls, texts, messages and emails ceased while still in a marriage because someone was behaving like a 2 year old, throwing a fit for not getting everything they wanted or their own way (it was a one-way street marriage, and I was not on the receiving end).

There was the silence of friends during the last six months of grad school, but their silence was more of a supporting silence, knowing I struggled with a life turned upside down and inside out. Their fantastic support is what got me through life as I had to really grind my heels in to finish and write a thesis.

The dead, white noise that infiltrated the house Duke and I dwelled in after a forcing someone to exit (to maintain my sanity) was the next struggle. I filled it with music that spread throughout and kept Duke company while I was away. Music has always been a part of my life: I write to music, I read to music; it’s hard not to dance and sing to music; I fall asleep and wake up to music. It’s always on in my new home, in the car, at work, and it’s with me on the patio.

There is a type of silence that we embrace as writers; it’s the silence of being alone with just a keyboard and a screen. Writing is a lonely process, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because this is what I want. This is my full-time job; I work to pay the bills.

It’s interesting how life-altering events change our perceptions. Some of the silences lately in my life provoked these thoughts. I’ve also learned how to use silence as a positive light that helps to purge anything negative. People come and go from our lives for a reason. The paths we travel, those placed in front of us, even if we have to muddle or trudge through rough terrain, becomes our own.

My next transition is sort of stalled as a silent cancer takes time off of Duke’s life. I cannot move during this period because I fear the stress will be far too much and accelerate the inevitable. I use the silence to spend as much time as I can with him. Everyone loves Duke and he has become my most ambitious project. His story has begun, and I’m almost ready to share it with the world.

Meanwhile, the silences of these past two weeks has driven me to finish my November novel. From the energy harnessed to the motivation to get it done propels me to close what’s left of a book from a former life. This also means it’s time to switch gears and get back to storytelling.


Lost-Time for Patio Writing

Lost-Time for Patio Writing

22 April 2018

I’m not completely lost. Some days I do wonder. And on those days it feels like I’m wading, carefully stepping to avoid sinking deep down in the mud or dropping into a hole.  It’s not treading because that was part of last year.

I trust the timing and the path I’m supposed to be on…mostly. My impatience shines through on days I feel like it’s time to have more, do more, be more.

It’s hard to have conversations with people who seem more scattered than I am, and I try to hide so many things with walls up. I hide my heart, locked in steel vault so that nothing can hurt it; it’s already breaking from the days and months that are ticking with my dog. I remember the pain when I had to put my Bassett Hound down. Devastating.  The circle of life.

Rock bottom line is I think I’m more lost in my thoughts. Writing. Definitely losing myself in writing again, and it feels good. The story ideas just keep coming, and I keep writing them down.

So, the patio is now open for writing! After an exhausting month of work, that continues to eat at my soul, I was able to get 12 hours of intermittent sleep. It wasn’t a full 12 because Duke woke me up, but that’s all part of being a pet owner. We do what we have to for our pets because they are our family, and he is the one constant I come home to every day. It’s hard to resist a grin and tail wag after walking inside.

I am questioning some of the paths that are coming up soon, and I always think of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken;” my favorite poem. My motivation extends beyond my own wants, needs, and goals; I am inspired by writers who have found themselves in situations and rise. It’s all about the timing, but until it arrives the element of feeling lost remains.

It’s a sunny Sunday morning and the wind isn’t roaring for once. However, it’s still early and they tend to arrive in the afternoons. I have my very first dinner party in my new home this week, and excited with the simple menu that includes a couple of bottles of fine wine that’s been cellared for a while. Good wine should be shared.

I am going to take advantage of the grand opening of my new patio and get down to work for several hours before I meet a friend at the movies. There is more writing to be done, more stories to be told, and stories entering the revision stage so that they can be shared with the world someday.



Life’s Curveballs

Life’s Curveballs

14 April 2018

We had 34+ mph winds yesterday. Without the sun, the sharp wind bit through light layers of clothing, as I was not prepared for such a blistery day. When I left the house for work yesterday, I took the brush and hair dryer to my hair. I let the cold morning wind finish tousling it for me. I must say, it looked pretty good!

Spring winds are typical for New Mexico. I’m not a fan because it kicks up so much dust, aggravating my allergies. I’ve kept Duke minimally exposed from the dust, too.

I’m a summer and fall person, and I am impatient, waiting for the sun and heat to arrive. My patio is almost ready. I rinsed the fall and winter particles (webs, leaves, etc.) off my favorite reading loungers, fully equipped with a beverage shelf for those afternoons with a couple vodka and tonics. I own two loungers and a sun bathing chair my parents gave me ages ago. Maybe this summer I’ll have someone join me for afternoon cocktails and conversation on my patio.  You never know.

My depression is at the forefront again. I really can’t wait for this to be over. It’s still all tied to a life I’m still shedding while blossoming into something better. I’m still in a transition phase as I continue to job hunt and will move again in July. In addition, I received the final prognosis for Duke’s nasal adenocarcinoma and it’s not good. The vet specialist estimates I have nine months with him, but the tumor was prominent in January when my local vet treated him for a sinus infection; a second treatment, but with more antibiotics and prednisone in February. In theory, the clock has been ticking and it’s less than nine months. Despite this annoying depression, I try to remain optimistic, but I’ve had some really hard days since the call on Wednesday. So what am I doing for my depression? How am I trying to deal with this horrible news? Same thing I did while going through a divorce: focus on myself, write even more; use reading to escape to other worlds, and I’m back in the gym again. It felt good yesterday, as I sweated to my new workout playlist humming in my earbuds.

Canine cancer sucks. And it so unfair to Duke. He’s been just as stressed as I have since 2016. He is my little rock and was there for me so much last year. Now it’s my turn to be there for him.

Here comes my next writing project. Everyone loves Duke. What’s not to love about him! He has a great personality, is lovable, social, and simply the cutest dog. Friends, family, colleagues and even students who know my dog are heartbroken about the news and are giving him even more love. Yes, Duke is very loved. So, I am going to share Duke with the world: he’s going to be on social media with his own blog. The project starts this weekend because I don’t want to waste any time.

Writing my way through the depression and anxiety will help me clear my head. Moving around the house, reorganizing, and preparing to entertain (very soon) is good, too. But the gym-returning to my workouts-is critically important to me, especially as my weight continues to drop, I need to tone the muscles. I am still going to my bootcamp/Tabata class. And walking Duke on days when we don’t have strong winds. I’ll be on the golf course once again, adjusting my game to my strength.

Mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health is important to all of us. As I enjoy the time I can with my dog, I will monitor him and not let him suffer. In this current moment, he is happy and active. With that, it’s time to switch gears and introduce Duke to the rest of the world.

If you have a pet, give them a big hug. Have a great weekend.

Photo: A happy Duke enjoying his walk.

happy Duke

Wine Country Inspiration

Wine Country Inspiration

7 April 2018

Last Saturday was a late-start morning for me. It’s officially spring and my allergies have been affecting my daily life performance. The only thing I’m not allergic to is food. I get sick from molds and mildew. This is one reason I would like to stay in the Southwest; I can tolerate (for the most part) my allergies in the drier climate.

I enjoy being outdoors, especially when the weather gets warmer and I can read and write while soaking in the vitamin D, but I swear I need to be enclosed by a bubble first. I should have taken stock in Kleenex and Puffs when I was a kid.

I took a break two weekends ago for a girls’ trip to wine country. My second favorite place to be in California. Mornings are my favorite moments as the fog rolls over, in and down the hills, as if the mist is slightly kissing the vines and grapes. It’s relatively cool in the mornings and evenings in wine country; enough to warrant a light jacket or sweater. I love to look at the neatly organized rows of vines, just as the headstones are arranged in Arlington Cemetery. The gnarled vines take on their own characteristics. The more established ones have huskier stalks while the younger vines look like something out of a horror movie with their tendrils reaching out as if grasping to catch someone or something.

For several years now, I’ve been thinking about owning a winery. Because science is not my forte, I would need to hire someone. Of course, I would be proactive, hands-on during harvest because that’s part of my work ethic. And I would start small. It’s not so much a dream as it is a goal. I have other ideas for the vineyard but will just write it down in my business plan for future use.

Not only did another trip to wine country inspire me to take a deep breath, enjoy what the Napa and Sonoma regions have to offer, but also appreciate the wines; some I revisited, others were new to me. I would like to return at least once a year from here on out. There is so much to do, so many wineries, and I haven’t had a bad meal yet. In fact, I had a phenomenal meal at The Rutherford Grill and went to Fume for dessert. I am not a big sweets/dessert person any longer, but the waitress at the Grill highly recommended the dessert; when in Rome! We were not disappointed. The gelato sundae and lemon cheesecake with blueberry compote melted in our mouths. After such a heavy meal, with leftovers to cover Sunday morning breakfast, we walked down the street from our hotel Saturday night for a meal at In ‘N Out. Always a must-stop in CA.

Inspired by the regions, the people, the food, and the wine, I came up with an idea for my next novel. The setting will be in a vineyard. And since I like to write about topics that some women find hard to speak up about, I have my subject matter. I’m documenting my ideas to begin writing in 2019.  That is the current goal since I have several other writing projects for 2018 to keep me busy in between moving this summer and taking care of my dog.

Easter was fairly quiet. Has been for a long time, particularly in 2017 and 2018, but I don’t mind. My aunt is a big fan of Leon Day (June 25), and I have been home to celebrate since 2016. Decorations, paper and plasticware encompassing nearly every holiday are pulled out of storage for Leon Day. I texted her on Sunday to let her know I was prepping: I boiled some eggs set to expire this week; I never got the chance to make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day because I went to a friend’s house, so I cooked that up; and then opened the boxes of wine delivered in November that I didn’t open until Easter. It was like Christmas unpacking, labeling, and organizing in my new wine fridge to cellar. Again, more book ideas surfaced as I went through my boxes of treasure.

It’s almost patio writing season! I am ready and excited about the next round of adventures. This translates into more writing and blogging as life and writing continue to collide.

Photos:  Cover: VIP Wine Tour and Tasting at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards; Wine tasting at V. Sattui, Dinner at Rutherford Grill, Dessert at Fume Bistro Napa Valley; Wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa; November 2017 Napa and Sonoma Wines, including wine won during A Night of Writing Dangerously. Copyright 2018 Karen M. Hellinger

Photo Mar 23, 6 20 39 PM


Nov 2017 Wines

Trials of Life

Trials of Life

16 March 2018

I don’t consider myself a religious person; I’m agnostic. However, I do believe a higher power exists. I spent most of last year asking how much more are you going to throw at me? Knowing the answer would be I’m giving you all that I know you can handle. And, yet, here I am again asking the question again.

I love my dog to pieces. He’s been the best thing getting through life’s upset last year, and I was so thankful to have him; still am. He really has been my little rock. But now, it’s my turn to be there for him. I think the universe is telling me that I will go through the next transition of my life, sometime in July when I have to move again, without him, and my heart is breaking into tiny little pieces.

Our pets are part of our families. They are our family. For some of us who have never had children (not something I wanted anyways), our little furballs offer the best love there is-unconditional, and it’s a priceless gift. I can walk in the door at any minute and no matter what kind of a day I’ve had, Duke is there wagging his tail, so happy to see me, and I him. Everything melts away as I lean down to pet his forehead and give him a big hug.

He’s been my one constant through everything over the past year. Even when my phone no longer rang, texts no longer came through and Google Hangouts didn’t beep at me─as if the world went completely silent…which kind of did─I had Duke to talk to, to pet, to hug, to walk with (and we did a ton of walking!); and he was always by the couch side as I read three or more books on Mondays and Tuesdays for class (more over the weekends); did my writing from the couch and on the patio. He wasn’t comfortable being near me at all in the entertainment room, where my desk was, so I compromised. It’s always been a comfort knowing he’s always there for me.

And now it’s my turn to be there for him. He was sick in January and February. Over the past six days, I had to take him to a specialist, and he had a CT scan on Wednesday. Although the vet suspected the worst, he didn’t want to confirm anything until the radiologists had time to look at his scans. His brain and heart are fine, but my heart is breaking. The call came in today and cancer is confirmed. He doesn’t display some of the normal signs, so I’m hoping we’ve caught it early, but goddamn it, he’s supposed to be with me a little bit longer.

I’m doing all I can to give him the best. The next step is a biopsy to know how bad it is and what the next step will be. Still, my heart is breaking knowing the clock is ticking and I have a new reality approaching.  A Woman and Her Dog. What a story, but not one I can write at this time, and I do have stories. I can’t mention how many times he’s rescued me from the patio at 4:00 a.m. He makes the house seem less quiet. I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but we both noticed the absence of white noise after the ex left. We created our own white noise. We both like music to keep us company, and he continues to find ways to be near me. He has quite the personality, and I can’t help but laugh at times.

And, of course I spoil him!  How can I not!?! He’s adorable, lovable, and simply the best companion and friend a woman can ask for. He gets his own cut of filet mignon every so often; not all at once, but in small pieces to complement his food bowl. He gets some great treats; pulled and grilled chicken breast that I process separately from my food; purified water (in gallon jugs) because I lost Sadie to cancer, and I thought the local water was partially to blame. He’s never climbed on furniture, gnawed on my shoes, gone to the bathroom anywhere but outside (unless the medicine was the catalyst and he couldn’t help it); he doesn’t bark but only when he wants to be heard or wants to “tell” me he does not approve of something I’m doing or trying (like getting him to go through a dog door or walking up a new ramp to get into the car); he listens to me -I love the way he cocks his head (always) to the left as if trying to understand new words, yet occasionally tries to test me; I can walk him off the leash and he won’t go very far. He thinks skunks are menaces like cats, yet chooses to wrestle with a skunk (in the middle of the night, I might add) and has been ignoring cats as of late…probably because he thinks a cat is a skunk. HAHA

As a rescue dog, he’s a really good dog. Everyone loves him, and he’s quite the social butterfly. Yet, I recognize moments where I know he’s observing, watching to make sure nothing happens to me. I know in a moment’s notice the little love bug would attack anyone who attempted to bring harm to me.

Once he’s gone, I can’t help but think how quiet and lonely it’s going to be around the house and at nights in the room. I don’t see myself as a lonely person, but you can never be lonely when you have a pet as great as Duke. I’ll have to create a new white noise. I’ll have to keep even busier than I have been.

This also means I’ll be throwing myself deep into writing and back in the gym working out to process. I’ve been trying to process since Wednesday. I’m aware “The voice” is talking, and I’m listening.

I’m willing to spend a little more money to see what’s next. This also means that it’s also time to get my freelance writing going, to get those queries out for my short stories that are polished and ready to go. The time for all things writing is now. My business is officially established; I only need to get the new website up. My to-do list seems lengthy. I believe it’s good that I have something else I can focus on while I’m there for my dog.

The big question I’ve been asked…will I get a new dog.  No. I didn’t have plans to replace him. I want to travel, have a little bit of freedom without having to worry about a pet sitter or boarding him. There will be more living options, and I won’t necessarily have to look for a place to accommodate a pet…these thoughts sadden me.

But this is all in the future and I am not making any plans right now but to be with him, give him all sorts of love and hugs; try to take him on some walks where I know he can handle them; let the students give him even more love, and spend as much time as I can with him. No, spend even more time with him as long as I can. Sadie told me when it was her time; I know Duke will do the same.

It’s funny how pets can change our world, and how our interdependency is not complicated. In fact, it’s cozy. I grew up with dogs. Never thought I would own one because my allergies are so bad. I also know I’m not alone in this next journey; my heart isn’t the only one breaking; friends and family are also feeling this ripple effect. I’m in this alone when it comes down to the final hour, but the critical component is knowing I will reach out to friends who understand and will share my tears.

The writing has already begun to spill. I had to distance myself from him to write this, so I’m back in a Hemingway-style mentality to get this out before I go home. Aside from writing, and the business of writing, I will attempt to create a salad garden in containers. I already know how this one is going to go…not well, and it will be well documented. LOL I have more boxes to unpack and repack; boxes to toss out and relabel; a dresser to attempt to build, and a few other things. It’s going to be a busy weekend for Duke and I. There are more walks to be had. We’ll do a coffee run at some point over the weekend when I need to return a few things to the hardware store. Over the last six months, we’ve been taking more car rides together. He’s been to the dog park in Abq twice in the last six days! I think the last time he was there was in 2008??

Yep, lots to do, and I’m going to make sure I’m there for him as much as I can be for as long as it takes. Because in the end, he’s my family, my “perpetual 2 year old,” he’s all I have, and I am blessed he’s been in my life this long. I’m not going to stop spoiling him. He knows, as a dog being rescued nearly 11 years ago, that he’s in a good home and even he is grateful. He knows where he’s been, and happier where he’s at now.

It’s hard to resist the grin of a happy dog. It’s hard to not smile when the tail is wagging and there isn’t anyone else in the world as happy to see you as a dog. There’s a reason dogs are called man’s best friend. We’ve got each other right now and that simply makes everything right in this complicated world. There is a dog story buried deep in me…


a-happy-duke.jpgDuke and I

A New Piece of Life

A New Piece of Life

1 March 2018

I spent 17 ½ very long hours finishing the final chapter of a book that I closed at 5 a.m. The last pieces of my life in boxes, garbage bags, totes, and removed from one place to be on display in a garage at my new home.

Home. That sounds so nice. I have a home here. I go “home” where my family still resides.

I have a strong work ethic. Growing up I had to help on my grandparents farm over the summer; weed the garden before I could go to the local firemen’s field days with my friends or cousins; there was house work, but I had to defend myself to get my mother to reassign dusting to one of my other siblings because of my allergies; we had a couple of cats, cycled through dogs (mostly due to illness or running out in the road, getting hit by fishermen who sped down a country road), and a rabbit we had the longest time. I learned to work hard, and later in life took it upon myself to play harder.

In preparation for winter, we had to put wood in the house. I think it was my mother who built a wood chute so we could toss it inside. Taking turns, someone was inside stacking the logs. We also had to do it for my grandmother.  Before wood, we also helped with coal, but that was easier because my grandfather built a window for the coal to be dumped. During the summers, the concrete structure was empty. To the right were stairs that led into the house, and before the door was a chalkboard we used all the time. Their house was unique, and I didn’t know until my freshman year of high school, when talking to my then-boyfriend, that it was called the green and white striped house.

I was in the backyard working yesterday, cleaning up piles of tree branches, finding logs that my ex-husband left, and piling them into large totes, a bucket and a garbage can; cutting up and gathering wood for the summer. A far opposite of what I grew up doing. As sleet began to fall, I worked faster to get everything cut, piled and ready to be moved later in the evening. I was thankful for my gloves as I handled the piles. While working, these thoughts of my youth came to the forefront. I also laughed because I could only imagine what my parents would say, and my response would be, “What? Warmer weather is coming, and I need wood for the firepit.”

Writing took a significant hiatus this week as I was in the last days of moving. It feels good to be out writing tonight. I can’t write around the disorganization that currently exists. I’m looking forward to everything over the next four months. I am looking at a new book with a fresh start and new beginnings. Duke seems to enjoy the new place and has been finding new places to sleep. The one difference in this new place is that I now own a coffee table. Being the word nerd and bibliophile that I am, my table has a bookshelf underneath. Absolute joy. So me. But with the coffee table, Duke squeezes into the free space to be closer. He makes it challenging when I need to get up. Still, he’s my little rock and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

This is the first time in my life I have a space of my own. This is the first time in my life I don’t have a roommate. This is the first time I have felt the whispers of freedom, and embracing the excitement to return to patio writing, writing after dinner, writing in large chunks over the weekend, spending time on the golf course, and creating new memories.

This new temporary transition is good for me. It’s going to be fun. Especially as I continue my research for my nonfiction book. These childhood memories are also a reason I’ve been working on a memoir.

Yep, 2018 is certainly going to be a bigger writing year.


Photos by Karen M. Hellinger. Cleaning up the back yard.