Tag: friends

Doesn’t Belong Here

Doesn’t Belong Here

2 September 2018

“X doesn’t belong here” was a strong opinion, recently told to me as a bunch of friends and I were on a boat along the Seine River in Paris. I need to get past this. I can do this. I am on vacation and moving forward is only going to get better.

Ah, Paris. How I’ve missed you. Between the literary scene, and inspiration of Notre Dame, used a setting in my short story, Stuck in the City of Lights, I forgot how I missed the smells of fresh baked goods and cafés along the sidewalks. During this part of my trip, I have: gotten lost along the streets for nearly two hours, trying to find my way back to the hotel (this blondie’s compass has always been broken); got my luggage stuck in a subway turnstile <facepalm>, and not gotten much sleep, as it goes when doing work on a committee. I spent five days in Paris: two and a half days working. Prior to my meeting, my primary dinner was bread, wine and cheese. The bread is so good here, I honestly don’t need anything else. Plus, I’ve had two really good dinners and some good lunches. Because Parisians eat so late and take several hours for the meal (starter, entrée/plat, dessert), breakfast is even more sustainable for me: a pastry and cappuccino. And more cappuccino. I need espresso or straight-up coffee to truly get through mornings as a human.

The third part of my trip: a Mediterranean cruise. My girlfriend had me at “balcony” and “Italy” back in February when we had our final meeting date. She mentioned she was surprised how fast I answered her email (less than 5 minutes); she wanted to do this cruise, but really didn’t Mewant to travel alone. She thought of me, and I am thankful. I thanked her for asking me. She thanked me for coming along. So far, we’re having a great time. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring more bottled water, and drank from the tap last night. I will remember water is included with my drink package.

It’s 11:37pm in my time zone. After a day of travel, taking the TGV from Paris to Marseille, and boarding the ship, it’s been a full day. Yet, here I am: without another day at the gym or getting some serious walking time in and I’m feeling my anxiety build up a little. To unwind, I’m on the balcony, writing. Writing helps to clear my mind. It’s helping me to wind down, when my mind continues to whir at an exponential rate.

The humidity has done some great and bad things to my hair. It’s made my skin glow while creating a small minefield on my chin. I tried a new drink tonight, couldn’t figure out why my nose was running until I read the ingredients; gin, and I can’t drink gin. In fact, I asked my new friend to finish the gin I had in my house (back in the US). The sun is bronzing my skin, and this blondie will return ridiculously tan.

I see another cruise ship not far on the dark horizon. In the distance I notice a coastline with lights, faint, but a city is still there. I’m unplugged from my phone until I’m in ports, while remaining plugged in to my music. I can still hear the waves over the music currently playing. This is the calmest cruise ship I’ve been on. And the water, the water is a blue I’m still trying to find words to describe it.

And all day long I’ve been saying, “I can’t believe I’m on a boat again. I can’t believe I was in Paris again. I can’t believe I’m going to return to Italy.” This trip is my way of making new memories. Could I see myself on another cruise by myself?  Perhaps, but why…it’s safer to travel in numbers. I know I can do it; I’ve proven to myself I’m capable of doing anything; I am Wonder Woman. Someone else does not belong here at all!  The most important thing to remember is this is my life and how I want to live it. I still want to do the things I spoke about…it may just take me a little longer to get there. I’m not letting anyone stop me. For those who dare to criticize me, share negative opinions, I’m done-take what you think I should and shouldn’t be doing and shove it up your ass. I’m done!  I’m done with the negativity. I’m done with the criticisms. I’m done with the drama. All of this, too, doesn’t belong here. I’m done letting it enter the space I’ve created for myself. I have no shame in blocking out those once in my life who don’t mean well or are simply too toxic.

Wonder Woman stands for strength, grace and love. She is a fighter, protecting without bias. I still have room in my heart for love, just not yet. This is my time to be selfish. This is my time to be myself or even more of myself than I thought I could become. I’m on a stepping stone (title and topic for my next blog) and only working my way up. I surround myself with people who are happy to see me smiling and laughing again; I know it’s been a long haul; I know where I came from and where I still need to go, but I’m stopping to enjoy life along the way. I’ve lost too many close to me at young ages. I need to take time out to remind myself life is short: here today, gone tomorrow.

Outside: I feel the boat turning. I see another cruise ship out on the water. The coastline lights dimly point the way to where we’re headed Sunday morning. The cool air is welcoming after a blistering NM heat. The calm sea gives me a rhythm to write along with it, slowly relaxing me so that I can sleep longer than 4-5 hours. I have a new friend whose kind, and I haven’t had that kind of kindness in a very long time. I am returning home to do more travel in September before I begin working on Plan B and C in October. The new friend won’t have a place in these plans.

Inside: I’ll sleep in a twin bed as I am sharing a room with my girlfriend; her husband didn’t want to be in Europe or on a cruise, and she has a bucket list, too. There are some attractive men on the cruise, but I don’t think there are many single ones. Maybe I can learn more in the sports bar. The food is spectacular. I was judged by a Frenchman for the amount of wine I was drinking at dinner.  Mr. Judgy Judgerson, you don’t know a thing about me…stuff it.  There are two couples at our table speaking French, not appreciating our efforts to speak the language. They claim they don’t speak English, but I’m calling out “bullshit.” Our waiter speaks Spanish…I cannot believe I came to France to speak Spanish so much!!

Removing myself from the daily life I have in New Mexico, I am really focused on enjoying a vacation I deserve and worked so hard for. I am not the same person I was in 2016 or even 2017.  There are things that don’t belong here with me, and I metaphorically just threw all of it overboard.

I am going to retreat to get, what I hope is, a good night’s rest. There’s more sun and fun to be had tomorrow and many days to follow. Even though I may be sleeping, the writing never stops. I’m writing in my mind, on my Surface, on my phone, in a special notebook and on napkins. Inspiration strikes every day. Bon soir!

Dinner Cruise along Seine River. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Eiffel Tower Background




16 August 2018

Today is a day where I feel like I’ve been here, there and somewhere in between and somewhere entirely different.

I’ve had a whirlwind of two weeks. So much has happened. I continue to live a life that I enjoy. I started a new job that I am having fun with as I learn new things and apply my writing and communication skills. As of 2pm on my first day, I was correcting grammar in documents during a team meeting. Because I didn’t have a computer yet, I was sent to a training class the remainder of the week that also involved field labs, so that I could familiarize myself with the material. After being in this town for 17 years, I finally got to see a few demonstrations of things that go boom! My new job isn’t a secret, but everything else I am doing in my position is classified for the purpose of training. I can’t go into details outside of the scope of my job.

It also feels like a fresh start. I’m working someplace where only a few people know my history. I can be myself, not have to answer questions, and continue to keep my life private without bringing up a past life. I can focus on my new job and the work I have to do, and at the end of the day focus on my environment and writing. I do mention Duke though; early morning and late nights are times he has blood trails around the house. I can’t leave for work knowing there’s a small pile of blood.

Also on my first day, I left at the end of the work day to go to another rock concert in Albuquerque.  I sang with the bands, danced in my seat, and really had a great night. A woman in front of me told the man she was with, “She knows the words to every song and is rocking out. I want to dance, too!” It was late returning home, but worth the moments being out supporting the music industry. After all, I am constantly listening to music: when I work, when I write, when I drive, when I travel, when I workout; when I walk Duke, when I am at home doing chores, when I’m falling asleep, when I wake up in the morning and prepare for the day ahead of me; nearly 95% of the time.

My week ended early and I took Duke to Albuquerque on Friday afternoon. That evening, I was at a social event and met a new friend-someone who expressed interest in hanging out with me. Before everyone gets excited, it’s not sustainable for a very specific reason I prefer to keep out of the blog, and I won’t allow it to go anywhere. Besides, I’m not exactly there yet, but it is someone who enjoys watching a movie, talking on the patio, and gives a ton of compliments.  Additionally, I’m going on vacation soon and it will be a good time to get some distance, as a close friend put it. I’m not playing games. I am simply enjoying the alone time I have come to embrace, and I still block out 7-9pm for writing, and this new friend respects this space I have for working (as I call it), and works around my schedule. It’s nice. I’ll take the kindness.

And then I hit a wall this week.

August has become one of those hard months, and today I reminded myself that I need to take care of myself, and get a therapy appointment scheduled before I go on vacation. At first August was the month I lost my brother (7 years ago). Then there was a loss of remembering today; a former anniversary. I am still struggling with ways to deal with an anniversary after divorce. This is my second one. Last year the divorce was still fresh and raw. I want to create new traditions, but don’t know where to begin. So, instead, I find myself on the patio as soon as dinner was over/dishes done, hugging a tissue box, writing and just feeling the emotions. I can’t do anything else, and it’s damaging to try and control them. I had another good friend reach out to me today; to check in on me. It was thoughtful of her, and I had to quietly leave my desk after she said they still thought about me and worried about me, whether I knew it or not. It struck a cord because it means something when it’s friends and family. They say divorce is like a death. The only difference is the other person is still alive.

And while in the heart of the emotions today, I joined other friends in celebrating the life of a good hearted professor who suddenly passed away Monday night. When I got the message that same evening, I just looked at my phone. We’re all stunned. My heart bleeds for his wife; I’ve seen what losing a husband can do to a woman. I don’t think my mother ever got over my dad’s sudden passing. During these times, the new widow is surrounded by friends, family, and a community whose lives were touched in profound ways by this man. Students stood up to say a few words, and we could hear it in their voices, see it in their faces just how much of a difference he made in their lives. The good ones are taken from us far too soon.

Once again I am reminded how short life is. I stopped taking it for granted after my dad died, then forgot until my mother followed ten years later; then it was my brother. I have to work even harder now, but I make it a point to do the things I enjoy: eating at a nice restaurant, going to the movies, going to rock concerts, going to plays, going to Disneyland/Walt Disney World, going to football games; traveling and I have zero problem doing it alone. But, I don’t have to do anything alone if I don’t want to.

Tomorrow is another day. I’ll be dealing with an emotional hangover. I’ll be thankful to see Duke wag his tail when I wake up-grateful for another day I have him with me. I’ll be talking to friends, and getting ready for another weekend; of which Sunday we have plans to gather. I’m taking a special bottle of wine to share so that we can toast our dear friend we’ve lost.

Most importantly, I’ll remind myself that we are only here for a short time. Every day, every moment, every experience makes up our being. What we do today does have an impact in the future. Our lives are full of portals, but once that door closes for the final time, that’s it. We have to embrace the best life has to offer here and now.

The Blur Called June

The Blur Called June

14 July 2018

Just before July 4, I received a text from a dear friend. She told me to stop slacking, having men chase me around and get back to my blog. After looking at my blog history, I understood what she was saying. June was a blur, which explains why I missed the remainder of the month blogging. Although I did spend some time working on novel, so not all was lost.

My birthday was weird this year. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something planned for the annual (week-long) celebration.  This year I woke up early to go to the gym, met friends early afternoon for lunch, had dinner with another friend, drinks out with a bunch of single friends, and had an absolute ball hanging out with a group of First Responders from the Bay area (CA). Since Friday mornings are quiet in my office, my assistant and I walked to the student building to get coffee there. I ran into the CA crew again. “It’s the birthday girl!” “Karen!” “We missed you at the bar last night.” Sorry guys, I was busy-it was a night I had planned to stay in and not drink. And so on went the conversations. Between hand shakes and casual side hugs, I wished them a safe trip home once their training was done for the morning.

I am going to stop here to say my birthday week was interesting and there will be a few chapters in my creative nonfiction work…on schedule to begin writing this fall.

That was a Friday. I had to make a run across campus to drop off some paperwork. As I was leaving the office I was in, I opened the door and BAM! walking in my direction was my ex-husband. Even more so, had I stepped out of the office, I would have run right into him; the steps he was taking up were in my line of traffic. I knew he saw me. He looks like hell; he hasn’t taken care of himself at all. I immediately closed the door, stepping back into the office. I prefer not to put myself in situations where a conversation might spark with this man. I waited a few more seconds, that felt like 20 minutes, before I walked back to my office, dropping f-bombs in a text to a friend and my cousin. After that unexpected encounter I was reminded I did not need any validation; my assistant had witnessed the friendly exchanges with the CA crew. A point was made.

It must be a record to avoid an ex when you both live in a very small town. I avoided any close contact with him for seven months! I do a very good job at hiding in a small town. Very good. It also took me six months to open my new home up to mutual and new friends.

I am not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not even the same person I was a year ago. 250 pounds of weight had fallen off my shoulders; 68 off my frame and a ton of muscle added. To say I can bench press my dog is an understatement. My golf game also needs a revamp.

I have two homes: here in New Mexico where my life is, and in New York where my family still lives.

I spent that weekend packing for a trip back to New York for my niece’s high school graduation. I come from a large family. I am the oldest of my siblings. They all have children; my sister now included in that category. My stepchildren used to be part of that chaos, but those days are long gone (and they’re in their early to mid-20’s now. No, I have not heard from them. The oldest wears his heart on his sleeve and struggled with details that won’t be discussed here). In my immediate family alone, there are 17 of us. 17!!!  18, if I count my aunt (mother’s youngest sister) whom we are all very close to.

I love every minute spent with 18 of us…and a reason I enjoyed a few glasses of wine in first class on my way back to NM after my trip ended.

Toss in my cousins we’re close to, and we are the ones you will find sitting around the bonfire telling stories all night long because we all grew up together. Kristin, my near twin, is my partner in crime. We have never let distance keep us away. I’ve been to NH consistently the past three years, and it’s not stopping. She’s now begging me to move there, but I dealt with the snow and storms for more than half of my life. It’s refreshing to not have to worry about white knuckle driving in the winter, and I am truly spoiled by the sun and nice weather in the Southwest. I’ve seen more sun here than I have while living in NY.

In addition to my niece’s graduation, there was a family reunion, surprise 90th birthday party for my great aunt, and a post-party bonfire…although the bonfire was merely an extension of the day’s partying.

Seven days when I generally survive four, but I had a voucher and had to work within my budget and times with the airline to maximize the voucher. With family. A chance to see some friends; I would need another four days to see other friends whom I haven’t seen in ages. Six days with my adorable 9 month old nephew, brother-in-law, and sister.

And six days of bullshit. People bitching about other people. People bitching in general. People bitching about me and at me. Three days in I had reached a saturation point once again. My sister took a moment to talk to me at one point. She got it. She was in target range, too. I told her I understood why my ex-husband would leave the room when things became more intense and the complaining increased. I also told her, “I did not come home to deal with this. I’ve been dealing with bullshit for 15 months, and this does not entice me to come home again. Not for a while.” She talked me down from the emotional rung of the ladder. It’s also the last time I will be in NY without a car. We both agreed that we might plan to stay at a hotel the next time. It’s an added cost, but some things are worth it.

I didn’t like my sister growing up. There’s five years between us, but we, like all my siblings, have grown to be the best of friends as adults. It’s a shame our father never got to see us like this, and our mother got to spend ten years watching us grow closer. We certainly aren’t the perfect family, but after nearly losing my second brother from a 20 foot fall out of a tree early December, our bonds have tightened. Not even the best diamond cutter can break this bond. We count our blessings every single day. Being home to see my brother, still recovering, made some other things in my life so much less important while placing a few other items on a high priority list. Family photos being one priority.

My aunt went through our grandmother’s photo album when we all gathered at her house for dinner the night before my sister and I were scheduled to leave. She began to dissect the album, creating four piles of pictures for us to take home.

I am the keeper of the family albums from the very first one through 1987. My sister has the albums from 1988 to whatever our mother kept current. With the age of digital technology, the point to keep photos in albums is almost moot. I learned my brother didn’t have any photos from his childhood. The time for change is now. Plus, I don’t want to move 8-10 boxes of photo albums again, so one of my priorities is to begin to distribute childhood photos to my siblings and digitize all of them while I’m at it. The glue on those old magnetic albums can eat away at the photo, especially the writing on the back if not carefully peeled away. I also have new photo albums to put the pictures into and send them off to my siblings. It helps me with my downsizing project and gives them memories.

The Syracuse International airport is a mess while under major renovations. My aunt dropped me off late Monday afternoon (my 7th day in NY had come to an end), and after a long hug, she told me, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Hah! “You do know who I am, right?” I said to her, laughing as I moved towards the doors inside.

I didn’t speak to many other passengers on the flight home. I was tired. I had suffered a minor sports injury before leaving for NY, so between that and sleeping on a pull-out couch all week, my body ached; I slept the longer leg of my trip. It took nearly two weeks to work the ache out of the muscles and be comfortable in my own bed again.

I also returned home knowing Duke’s time has shortened.

June went by in a blur: more writing was done with The Downfall, my birthday, travel to NY, then July appeared.

I love my family. Being home puts me back in the heart of my roots. The foundation from which my life began to build and grow. I am blessed to be part of such a large, close-knit family. Being home also gave me a chance to slow down (as much as a NYer can), unplug (since my cell signal doesn’t work very well), and appreciate the time given to surround myself, and be surrounded, by loved ones. I was the one who chose to move away from the daily drama 17 years ago, and thankful I can return to this home, complete with a different kind of a chaos that is quieter. The older we grow, we learn the order of our priorities change.

And in the middle of all of this, long before I went home for a short bit, Kiki (protagonist in The Downfall) and her siblings realized something similar. How they continue to grow as a (smaller than mine) family is written into the story. A story that is very close to being finished; my July priority, which means time out with friends, and meeting new people, has dwindled significantly. I can’t let the distractions pull me away. A writer can’t afford to see two hours turn into six if writing isn’t involved. It’s all about time management, and I have scheduled writing time back into my calendar again to help me with this novel goal.


Finding Purpose

Finding Purpose

10 June 2018

This past week was an emotionally heavy week for so many: those who have lost loved ones, those who spoke about losing loved ones, and those who felt the impact of another loss of life…all related to suicide.

Anthony Bourdain was a shock after hearing about Kate Spade. We, as “regular” people, aren’t in the limelight all the time, but celebrities or not we all keep our personal lives quiet. Even the most successful can be struggling and those close to them might not fully understand; especially if mental health problems aren’t discussed.

The struggle is real.

This is my pre-birthday weekend and I felt like I had tumbled to the bottom Friday night. Unlike last year when the only thing I could do was curl up into a ball and let the feelings wash over me, I knew I didn’t have to suffer alone in the dark. I knew I had friends I could count on. I only needed to ask, and that is something I am not afraid of doing.  A friend came over stayed with me until 6am, letting me talk, reminding me I am a beautiful person and an amazing woman.  Every woman needs a gay best friend and this person is just that. My two best friends checked in with me Saturday. My response, “I have coffee and picking myself back up to tackle the day. It all starts with writing to get the muddle out of my head.”

I still struggle. I am still dealing with anxiety and depression, and I continue to see my therapist twice a month. And I talk about my mental health. I have to. I have to do it for me. It’s okay to be selfish when it comes to taking care of yourself. After all, if you can’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to take care of another person. It’s really easy to forget something so basic, so simple, when we’re caught up in the daily grind of life and relationships. I know I lost a big part of myself in a marriage. It’s been a lot of fun rediscovering because that lost part of me is who I have always been since I was young.

We shouldn’t be turning our heads the other way. We shouldn’t be keeping things bottled up to a point where tragedy occurs. Suicide is not a solution. It’s a quick fix for the victim and years of pain and hurt for the living left behind. And I’m not talking about this from my own personal struggles. I’ve lost friends, a high school sweetheart, and some family members to suicide. It affects us all.

This is the point in my blog when I begin to talk about writing, as I begin to weave life around the discussion. The Downfall is coming to a conclusion after a minor setback with my pup over Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been stupidly busy with my job that I haven’t been able to work (writing) as much as I need to. Not being able to write every day also messes with my head. Writing is my therapy. I write because it’s something I have been doing most of my life. My stories have messages that are important and I want to share. There is power in storytelling.

I listen to Sirius Octane just about everywhere: in my car, at work, home and occasionally on my phone. The dj’s are really cool, but Kayla Riley is my favorite. I was driving to Albuquerque the other morning, a day or so after we learned about Kate Spade’s death, when she was on air. Papa Roach’s “Born for Greatness” finished playing and she began her commentary, “We all have a purpose in life. We just need to find that purpose.”

With time and space for reflection, as I heal and move forward, I discovered one of my purposes in life is bringing people together. I do a really good job with this.

My other purpose has always been to hope my writing makes an impact in at least one person’s life. I know that my poem, “Youth Lost,” in Mountains, Rivers and Heavens, has done this because I watched the ripples in the water wash up to my feet.

I hope to see another impact from The Downfall, Seeing in the Dark¸ and my other unfinished novels (Women in the Library, Strength).

The more I write, the better I feel. And I don’t limit myself. I’m still writing poetry, writing on this blog, helping Duke-pup with his blog; still scribbling on note pads, sticky notes, sheets of random paper, and on my phone when ideas strike me. In fact, the light came on last week when I think I finally found the right words for pitching The Downfall. What did I do? I read it to a small group of friends I had at my house on a Sunday afternoon. It worked. I’ve been trying to test-pitch it to anyone who asks me about the book and they are more interested in my spec-fic novel (Seeing in the Dark); both are equally powerful. However, the pitch made it the ears of interested men and women. My job is nearly done.

The muddle, as I call it, is a mud puddle of fog swirling in my mind that makes it hard to do anything. It’s not quite gone, so I am going to keep moving, get out to exercise and get back to The Downfall. There are several reasons this book need to be competed, but this is not the time or place.

If the weather is decent where you live, get outside, take a deep breath and smile knowing we all have a purpose in life. We’re not just here on this Earth and in time to simply live. There is more, and even raising a family is a huge purpose. Our purpose can be very small or big. We are in control of ourselves. Nobody else has that kind of power over us, even if they think they do. If we love and take care of ourselves, we’ll be a better person for those in our lives.

Have a great Sunday afternoon, dear readers.




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.

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.



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