Author: karenbalch

What Happens on the Road Stays on the Road

What Happens on the Road Stays on the Road

13 October 2017

I’m about ready to block anyone from Oslo, especially those on Linkedin. This is what happens when there’s a breakdown in trust.  I don’t trust anyone.  I don’t trust him. I certainly don’t trust her; she’s the one who knew very well she was messing around with a married man.  Could it bite me in the ass later?  Maybe, but there’s a reason I blocked him AND her earlier in the year, after they were going into my contacts. Trust-it’s gone. I have four walls up, carefully guarded.

Interesting things keep happening when I travel.  This last trip was long-almost too long for a conference that kept me super busy, and I was completely exhausted.  Was…am.  I meet new people no matter where I am.  What’s going to happen in San Francisco?  Australia?  New Zealand? Walt Disney World?

I’ve met some of the nicest people I know through the Society of Petroleum Engineers. I keep meeting new people. I also have the best network around the globe, and there are so many people ready to help me. The rate of daily conversations around the globe is increasing. When nice people connect and build relationships, bridges close the gap. When good people go bad, especially when they know exactly what they’re doing, those bridges catch on fire and collapse.

My eyes are still open.  I continue to observe my surroundings. While I don’t often mention some of my more striking qualities, I know my eyes are shining bright green, and people are taking notice.  Before I left for San Antonio, I was partnered with an older woman in my Tabata and boot camp class.  She said, “I notice you’re always smiling.”  I was not smiling 9 months ago, but I learned to focus on exercise, digging deep to feel the burn, sweat my ass off, and look in the mirror occasionally to see how much more weight has dropped while my muscles begin to tone. Now my friends tell me over and over again I am glowing.

What else are they noticing?

I’ve always been drawn to men with dark hair. Being exposed to other cultures, I watch, listen, and observe. I take notice of my thoughts. What’s interesting is that I’m “scanning” more now, even though I’m NOT looking for anything.  Things continue to happen: for a reason, for a purpose, for this moment in time, for this moment in my life.

So, what happens when you meet a really nice (and hot, I might add…what’s happening to me!) guy?  This is a good question. Introduce yourself.  Be straight up-because I have done nothing wrong, and I know who I am; invite him out to a social event because he’s new and didn’t have anything else planned for the night. I’m also not going into any further details.  Because, after all, what happens in San Antonio stays in San Antonio.  The new friendship may, or may not, show up in the next novel. It’s also part of being guarded.

If there’s an unpleasant experience, it doesn’t get written in; some characters aren’t worth the words or energy because they remain stagnant and won’t progress or evolve. I am being very careful in my approach to introduce people, or even characters, who can be identified. I am using my creative license, and, if asked about the identity, I will deny everything.

Eight nights and nine days. I finally had the opportunity to golf in the Quarry (featured image), although we (my team) weren’t sure the rain was going to stop, but it disappeared after an hour and we had a great time. It was the perfect beginning to three days of super hard committee work.

I wore every pair of shoes I brought with me. I even bought a pair of dress heels to a reception and a luncheon. I have significantly moderated my drinking at home, now I need to work on the public scene. Some of my newer clothes are slightly draping. I am used to the looks of utter shock when friends see me for the first time after meeting up 3/5/8 and 12 months later, and I simply nod and smile. While this is somewhat about me, it’s also research.  I am attempting to figure out who my protagonist is, what: does she want, does she desire; her secrets, fears; what motivates her.

I am observing interactions, things I hear.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I know it’s exciting.  Even a new friend advised me not to jump into anything.  I haven’t, and I won’t; he doesn’t understand this part of me yet.  He’s only recently experienced the honesty of a me, the NY’er that comes out, but I have been kind.  Honesty-all cards out on the table. I believe that the next man who wants to be a part of my life needs to understand, and not be afraid, of the strength I possess.  The previous one I was with was too afraid and bolted. What a buffoon.

Writing.  NaNoWriMo is getting closer! I am very excited to begin working on my next novel, and even more excited to be in San Francisco. I haven’t had a chance to catch up on the news, but I need to see how much the wildfires are affecting wine country. It was on my list next month. With the majority of my SPE commitments over with for a short time, I can focus more on writing. I am looking forward to writing hours on end in November; to let the words consume me, the pages, and just flow.

Something I discovered in San Antonio is I am readily available to do something fun, especially for the benefit of others.  I was scheduled for a video interview with SPE’s social media guru, Molly. I tweet under a pseudonym (for the section), and have my own Twitter account.  Once my business is underway, I will be using that too.  I interviewed, then was asked for something short for Instagram and Twitter.  I am not stranger to the camera or stage, and readily accepted.  Besides, the energy was infectious!  It went both ways, and there was a tweeting conversation about the world not being able to handle three of us (and a gif of the “Three Amigos” was inserted).  It’s true.  The world is not ready for us three: Karen, Molly and Heidi.  In fact, someone mentioned alerting a foreign country that I would be there. I make an impact on lives and vice-versa.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m a (super) volunteer and writer. I don’t have conquests, I have experiences. I don’t have an alternate agenda, I have motivation, a dynamic personality, and a ridiculous amount of energy (matching that of a 30-year old) because I refuse to let life slow me down, or be knocked down by an ex-husband who made the worst decision of his life. I refuse to let this divorce define me, and I am slowly getting there.  I’m guessing in 2 years it won’t be a topic, I try not to let it control my conversation right now. I remind myself to remain cognizant of what I say and how I act; one clarification I need to obtain is what I said about myself when asked. /facepalm.  I don’t remember. #foreheadmeetbrickwall

I am smiling more these days.  I’m happy.  I’m laughing a lot, and not afraid to laugh. It’s no small laugh by any means. It’s genuine and comes from deep within. It’s nice to feel happy, and I make sure I am doing something every day to remain happy.  Life is too short, and I know this sting too well from the loss of my parents and brother. You don’t forget, you learn how to live with it, and keep the happy memories locked tightly in your heart and mind.

And…I’m writing!

I’ll leave you with this quote from Mohadesa Najumi, “The woman who does not require any validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.”

Photo: Courtesy of Google Images

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Traveling Freedom

Traveling Freedom

5 October 2017/11 October 2017

One of the best things we have, as U.S. citizens, is freedom.  One of the greatest moments I have is being able to pack up and travel when I want.  There are too many people who still have an opinion, or expect me to stay planted, and this simply won’t work any longer. I have suffocated long enough.

I’m going to stand on my soapbox for a moment; one friend calls it a soap stage, but a stage is wide and big, and I plan for this to be short.  There are days I remind myself that the clock is ticking, and I can stick it out. Then there are other days I just want to spread my wings and get the hell out of dodge. Either way I am going to call it Operation Freedom 2017.  This also means certain details will remain extremely secretive as I move forward. #soapboxoff

How do you pack for an 8-day business trip that allows only a day and a half of time off to do something fun? Shoes has been my biggest obstacle.  In fact, I had to be strategic about the shoes that needed to be coordinated with outfits.  Welcome business casual.  Goodbye high heels. I needed clothes to fit both day and night, preparing for the warm weather in San Antonio, TX.

It’s been rather liberating packing a suitcase for short and long trips. I’ve always spent time alone flying, but this is a different kind of feeling.  I’m free.  I don’t have to entertain anyone (but myself) on the plane.  Although, I must say I have been experiencing some great moments, and I’m pretty sure I’m the one entertaining those around me; stories to tell.

This freedom.  This innate ability to come and go has been all part of my healing process.  Packing clothes for layering, for different times of the day, for various events through an 8/9 day trip; clothes for the weather, business, business casual, casual and gym. Shoes to mix and match, and ones that have low heels to tolerate walking, sitting, and standing. A blazer and two sweaters. Socks, but not a bathing suit (I won’t have time).

It’s time for more writing.  It’s time to plan “the most anticipated novel of 2018.” It’s time to begin thinking about how I want my plot to evolve; how the characters are going to take over the page; how I want to approach the entire novel, which will be a work of women’s fiction, unlike my thesis-turned-novel. I need to think about character names. I already have the setting established: a mansion on a private island.  How events begin to unfold is going to be the best part of writing this novel, and I cannot wait to begin November 1 for NaNoWriMo.

And I’m sure that’s going to be another traveling adventure story.  They keep compounding!

Aspects of Fall

Aspects of Fall

24 September 2017

Fall is officially here!  The temperatures are slightly cooler in the morning and beginning to drop more in the evening.  Here in New Mexico, the sun still keeps us toasty during the day.

I’m torn between which season is my favorite: summer or fall.  I love summer because of the dry heat; I can curl up on a chair on the lawn with a book and an icy beverage and get lost in another world, and I love to live in my tank tops, shorts and flip flops.

I love the fall because of the temperatures, which makes it easier to walk Duke early evening. There’s green chile that I will never be without in my life, and took time to package my own last weekend.  It took me the majority of the day, but was something I felt that I had to do.  Next year, I may buy it already roasted, peeled and cut, but for now, I’m happy with the 14 containers in my freezer, while also setting some aside to eat fresh last week.  I enjoy cooler nights huddled in a chair, wearing a bulky sweatshirt next to the fire pit; it’s the perfect time to play more golf, and, of course, football. I love receiving packages of apples from home, and my aunt sends me the different colors of maple leaves.

Unfortunately, the fall is also a season where every part of the environment bothers my allergies, and I suffer.  I’m not the only one; poor Duke is on allergy medicine for a few months every fall and spring now.

I created new summer traditions, and beginning to create new fall traditions, although every season and holiday now warrants a new tradition.  I am always thankful for friends and family.  I have turkey day plans now, which I am very excited about. I am off the hook for cooking (of course), but in charge of the pies and cranberry sauce. I have a new freedom in December, and plan to spend it with my sister, her husband, and my new nephew ready to enter this crazy world in a matter of days!

Fall is a great season to use for showing (not telling) in writing.  You can see it: leaves changing color, leaves falling off trees, crops being harvested; baseball winding down, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta; feel it: cooler temps; a crisp morning chill that justifies why we dress in layers in NM; hear it: leaves rustling on the sidewalk, on the lawn, being tossed up in the air or in garbage bags; the echo of high school, college, and professional football games being played across the country; taste it from foods associated with the season: apples, green chile, pumpkin; and even smell: there’s a distinct smell in the crisp air, lawns still being mowed, the first cool night that causes fireplaces to be lit and the smell of burning wood infiltrating the atmosphere; green chile being roasted; I begin to bake a little bit more, and I even change my perfume according to seasons.

I have used the seasons and weather to show my readers where characters are in a story.  Weather can certainly play an important factor, as I used the howling snowstorm in my previous (unfinished) novel, Stricken, to set up the turmoil my protagonist endures.  Finishing Stricken, followed by Women in the Library, is my early 2018 goal after I have moved and settled in to wherever my new home will be.

I begin edits on Natalie’s story in October while plotting out my next novel for NaNoWriMo.  Another sign that fall is here, and I’m excited to have another focus once my October volunteer obligations are completed.

Life is certainly exciting, and I am keeping busy.  I am also focused on ways to bring happiness into my life.  I auditioned for Socorro Sings yesterday. Although I didn’t get picked to advance to the December 1 competition, all who auditioned were invited to return to sing a group song on that day, and I just might do it.  I figured I would have a better chance being published than picked from a singing audition, and I gave it my best.  It’s really nice bringing the arts back into my life.

While I’m done watching my team today, I do have the Red Zone and NFL Mix, on the tv in the background.  This is the perfect fall day to sit on the patio and get some serious writing done!

Images below by Karen M. Hellinger, 2017.  Green chile: from roasted to cooled to peeled. This is the good stuff New Mexico has to offer!

Soaring

Soaring

18 September 2017

This is football season.  I am back to my “fall” schedule, watching my New York Giants play, while paying attention to how the other teams in the NFC East are doing, knowing the tv will be on all day Sunday, Monday and Thursday night until playoff season.  Some days I have the Red Zone displaying, so that I can watch everything.  I contemplated not renewing my Sunday Ticket this season for financial reasons, but it’s really hard to live without it.  I’ve been an avid NFL since I was a child. And now I’m adding college football to my fall repertoire. This is really going to be a fun 2017!

For the first time in 2 years, I returned to an NFL game.  I met up with friends in Dallas to watch NYG lose terribly. I am still perplexed that there wasn’t a bigger focus on offense during the draft.  Our O-line hasn’t been cohesive. I am thankful the defense is strong… Hopefully, they’ll do much better for Monday Night Football.

So, this has been quite a week.  From suffering a minor hand injury the Friday before I left for Dallas, to flying back Monday morning, then dealing with a perpetual 2 year old deciding to tango with a skunk, a concert that was temporarily stopped for 30 minutes due to thunderstorms, the NMT President’s Golf Tournament, Saturday football, preparing green chile for freezing, and Sunday football.

I mentioned going to a concert.  A friend went with me.  I had lawn seats, but I wasn’t going to complain since the tickets were free. It wasn’t one of my top picks, but I wasn’t sure I would have the chance to use my voucher before it expired.  At least it was a rock concert, and at an outdoor venue that I enjoy attending.

I was looking down on the stage, and my friend noticed I was distracted. I began talking about events over the past week.  He pointed out to me that I had always watched football and attended concerts long before I met my ex-husband.  I was claiming to take it all back, but he pointed out that it was mine all along; I was simply sharing my experiences with him.  He’s right.  He does a very good job putting things into perspective when I’m trying to juggle with my thoughts, or attempting to piece things together to make some sense of my life.

Maybe that’s why he says I’m Karen 4.0.  I skipped the phoenix cliché, by not just rising out of the ashes, but jumped straight up from the ground, not even preparing to take flight, to soar. The same friend who once reminded me to be gentle and kind to myself earlier in the year was the first to comment that I am soaring.

I am soaring because I have the support of my friends and family.  I am soaring because I still fight battles (that many don’t see or know about) and I resolved to put “fun” back into my vocabulary and life. My wingspan is wide.  Everyone has a different definition of fun.  My definition includes: being happy, laughing, enjoying time with friends as if it is the last, talking to family; doing the things I love to do, and living life.

And my imagination has gone wild, constantly creating stories and poems.  I have a large file full of story ideas.  Or, the ideas that I capture immediately. I do not like being without pen and paper most days.

The time has come for me to wrap up the story of Natalie and Adam.  This is a good story, and one that should be read. The themes between this one and the next are going to intertwine a bit, so I will need to spend time including a twist to make each one sound exciting and new. Between everything else I have going on in my life, and watching my calendar continue to fill up, I am looking forward to the finale of the story; the sigh of relief with a large smile knowing my novel is as complete as it can be.

New routines.  That’s what I’ve found with the return of the NFL season-new routines and time management. I have music to practice, a novel to write, a poetry book to wrap up, friends to hang out with, a life to declutter, and a dog who is under close supervision after the skunk incident this past week.  I have finally gotten the smell out of the house, so now I am waiting to take him to the groomers to rid of any last remaining smell.  I guess most people would be terribly upset about this type of episode, but I have found myself laughing (with tears running down my face) because there’s nothing I can do about something that is done.  I simply have to clean up the mess, fumigate the house, and watch him closely when he goes out at night. Yeah, I’m still chuckling a little.  This is my first skunk incident.

I do like fall. I look forward to my NY apples to eat and make pies. I love football.  I forgot what I was doing long before I went back to school, but the only thing that matters now is what I want to do every day. I still take things one day at a time, and thankful on the days I only manage to breathe, but the other days that are full of laughter more than makes up for the harder days. This woman is soaring, but still remembers to touch ground every so often.

Photos: Hoffman hot dogs and coneys from NY-the only food to grill while tailgating with friends. Arlington, TX, for the NYG vs Cowboys game, Sept. 2017.

Signs of Summer Ending

Signs of Summer Ending

4 September 2017

The Great New York State Fair signifies, to me, that summer is coming to an end.  It is a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day, but I created my own fashion rule because I live in a state where we can wear shorts through October, and the monsoon season has officially ended.   When I hear of the leaves beginning to change their color back “home” (NY), I’ll know summer is done here.

I have been keeping busy.  Preoccupied.  Some of my friends have made concerted efforts to keep me busy over a long weekend, and for this I am thankful.  My social calendar seems to be full 2-3 days every week.  I love the days I am with friends, and appreciative of the quiet time I have when I’m alone.

Then I wonder if I’m too busy.  I’ve been told that I haven’t wasted any time getting rid of things in my life that simply aren’t good for me; I have officially begun decluttering specific rooms, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit, and thinking seriously about packing items I won’t use over the next 5 months..  I exploded from Karen 3.0 to Karen 4.0.  In fact, it seemed like the transition happened overnight, but I wasn’t aware of it until I questioned a friend who kept repeating, “4.0.”  Overall, I am filling my days with everything that helps with the self-care program.

Writing.  I’ve had so many people ask me what is the next step, what do I want to do, where do I want to go.  I tell them writing is my full-time career.  I know what I want to do.  I think I know where I want to go (and don’t want to go), but I am being super-selective in giving information, and will be for some time.

I was left in a bad place; I am nowhere near being paid for all the work I do, that is meant for two people. I simply need a good paying job that pays the bills…and have a paycheck that is indicative of my worth. However, that’s a soapbox I’m not going to stand on at this point.  Writing is my new life, and I wonder how I let it slip away from me; a past that has become a huge life lesson. This motivates me to push myself, to find a way to get my work published.

The backstory, as much as I can provide, for Natalie and Adam is complete. I am in the final month finishing my thesis turned novel.  I’ll spend October revising and plotting out my next novel, that I plan to complete in November. NaNoWriMo 2017, here I come!  I am growing more excited about my writing projects. I am even more excited about getting back on the road, in the skies, and around cities to help feed my muse.

And in between some of my huge volunteer projects, work, writing, socializing, and spending quiet time to figure out my next plan in life, I am still working on my full-length poetry book called Broken Systems.

The world is too big to stay in one place. Metallica sings it best in “Wherever I May Roam”-“where I lay my head is home.”  I am almost ready to spread my wings even further to see just how far I can fly. In my flight pack is my trusty Surface that will keep me connected, transforming images to words. In my hand is my phone, with a notepad always available to help when I am separated from my Surface.  I am still healing, so writing is even more important to me.

It’s officially Labor Day and I hope everyone is out and about enjoying food cooked on the grill, keeping hydrated with your beverage of choice (I’m kicking off my afternoon with friends and a Manhattan before dinner), and enjoying time with anyone you’re near. If you’re alone, find something fun to do: watch a movie, read a book, get in your car, crank the music and sing at the top of your lungs.  Embrace yourself and the day you have. Life is too short; we need to make the most of every day.  Maybe next year I’ll place myself on a beach; something I miss.

Happy Labor Day to my friends and readers! I promise I won’t be so far in between posts moving forward. Cheers!

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Moving Forward

Moving Forward

13 August 2017

It’s Sunday.  I woke up rather late, but was glad to sleep in.  Even as the clock was nearing noon, I didn’t really want to get out of bed.  This is my depression.  It certainly didn’t help that the sky was overcast, but it cleared up.  So, here I am now, writing on the patio again.  I am still in a fog; I can’t remember what I did two days ago, let alone last week.  It’s been a while since I’ve been on the patio writing, with coffee and enjoying a mimosa on a Sunday.  The single serving bottles of prosecco are perfect.  Tonight might be the perfect night to sit outside, under the low lights placed below the roof trim, and to try out my new lights I have draped along the base and umbrella of the patio table.  The Perseid meteor shower should be visible in the sky, unless it’s cloudy as it was last night.

I am well aware I am still in a moderately depressed state, as I look around the house knowing I have to clean, but not getting to it.  These are the days that I evaluate my mental well-being to figure out what I need to do.  Some days the answer is get some sun, and not just to keep rocking this deep brown tan I now have, but to let the vitamin D soak into bones as I have been in a state of surgical menopause well over 11 years now. The four walls of my temporary home, now called my sanctuary, provides protection, but I have been writing, reading, studying, editing, researching, and blogging so much on the patio, it really is my favorite place to be.  Too bad that work thing gets in the way.

Writing is my new career, and now a permanent part of my life. I am in the early stages of brainstorming to figure out what I want to do in the next chapter of my life, and it appears some opportunities are already falling into my lap.  I’m approaching this new life with my eyes wide open, remaining optimistic and finding it completely okay to say “I don’t know” when asked what I’m doing next.  As the fall semester begins one week from Monday, I’m sure I’ll be barraged with more questions, and as much as I would love to say, “It’s none of your business,” I will respond, “I’m here for now.  That’s good enough.”  The student officers I work with day in and day out are extremely appreciative and are taking advantage of me while I’m still around.  Leaving is inevitable.  I cannot continue to work with my ex-husband; I want distance, and lots of it.

I begin a new workout program this week to complement the Tabata bootcamp I am taking again in the fall.  Physical activity also helps mentally, and because my mind is reeling, I am looking forward to it.  This also means I need to write more.

I have spent the past few weeks with good friends; surrounding myself with people who have experienced divorce, while connecting with current friends (married and single), writing with my major support system, and letting other friends spoil me by coming over to cook dinner (because we all know I can’t cook), and talk for hours on end; talking about my writing, or new beginnings, but not about what I have closed the door on. This has been good across so many levels. This is part of my exciting new life, and it can only get better.

Alcohol consumption is slowing down, and my social calendar is filling up 2-3 days a week. My volunteer work for SPE is kicking into high gear, and I am planning events for section, chapter, region, and committees. I am working on my short-term goals, planning vacations and trips through February 2018. August is not a pleasant month for me, so I am going to make sure I keep going with my health/self-care program.  Since writing is part of my life now, I continue to make strides towards finishing my novel.  September is now my goal because I need to spend October mapping out the next work in progress to write in November during NaNoWriMo.

The dog-days of summer is nearly behind us. This is a sign that it is time to wrap up my current novel, finish my full-length poetry book, and begin new fall projects.  Here’s to my last quiet week of work, and a week full of caring for my mental health!

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Welcome Back Old Friend: New Horizons. A New Story. A Fresh Chapter.

Welcome Back Old Friend: New Horizons. A New Story. A Fresh Chapter.

10 July-9 August 2017

This is the life.  Liberating.  Free. With no one to answer to.  I’m 100% accountable for my actions, and, did I mention, how liberated I feel? I am returning to old and new ways.

I am writing in places I’ve been, while experiencing new territories.  I’m living.  I’m laughing.  I’m happy, or as happy as I can be given each passing day.  I am in the slow process of healing, but I am nowhere out of the woods yet.  This is going to take some time.  There are going to be so many bumps, potholes, and other obstacles in my way, but if I remember the little stuff is not worth the stress, I can focus on what’s important.

I felt the moment when a connection of (still is) lust was made in January, and that was the final moment I began a long journey. However, this is neither here nor there because this is a new chapter to a new life, new beginnings.  This is the time of reinvention.  I am discovering what I want, what I don’t want; surprised by a few things I’ve done or have planned.  I am in the re-creation stage.  I am rising from a pile of ash.  My voice is stronger.  Fear has left me. I am more determined and motivated than I have ever been in my life to pursue my dreams.

So, let’s talk about fear.  The absence of fear doesn’t mean I’ll do anything.  That’s called a dare, more or less.  One of my fears was basophobia (fear of falling).  I could never get on the Tower of Terror without having a death grip on handles of the seat or against the wall.  I could never get on Soarin’.  I was petrified.  My first trip to Disneyland since my divorce was quite the experience, in a gazillion ways that I can’t even begin to discuss.  I was on the Guardians of Galaxy at least six times.  Arms were up.  With the numerous drops, I felt my butt leave the seat completely feeling the adrenaline rush.  I didn’t hang on.  My second trip, a month later, back to Disneyland was even more interesting.  My last day in California Adventure was an early morning.  Since I had done nearly everything during my June trip, I decided to try Soarin’ again.  Sure enough, I inhaled the experience without hanging on as if my life depended on it.  I watched the scenery unfold in front of me, silently saying, “Been there, done that.  Going to do that next.  That’s on my list.”  This is only one of many examples.  So much more will go into my next work-in-progress; hoping to finish November 2017.

My cousin put it perfectly. People are coming into my life for a reason.  I may not have the answers to why, but I’m not going to question it and simply take it for what it is.  I am learning to love myself, if, for nothing else, to be a better person.  I have a wide network of friends, worldwide.  I am thankful they are a part of my life, and continue to be.

I don’t need a career at this point in my life because I have made writing my career; I just need a job to pay the bills until bigger things happen.  This is my new dimension.  Welcome to my next adventures as Karen Hellinger, aka Karen 3.0.

Photo by  Karen M. Hellinger. 2017.