Me and the Miracle of the Pink Bear

“Why didn’t you quit?” a young medical student recently asked me. Her eyes suggested she could relate to the med school challenges I had just shared with her. “I knew being a doctor was what I wanted to do, and that made the difficulties just bumps in the road,” I explained. Later, as I thought about it more, I realized it was also because there were people along the way who made it worth all the struggles.

One was an 8-year-old boy whose cancer was advanced by the time I met him. Hospitalized for a bone marrow transplant at the university where I was an intern, his body had rejected the treatment, and he was dying. I was the one assigned to draw his blood every morning, and I was terrible at it. My only saving grace was that he was so sick he didn’t always wake up as I stuck and re-stuck every morning. Continue reading →

Big Jim and the Great Bahama Adventure

I am a naturally cautious person and not typically enthusiastic about adventures, but one of the best days I ever had was one worthy of a reality TV show. It was winter at home, and while my sister watched our daughters, Neil and I went on our first cruise.

Although I would have been content soaking up the sun from the lido deck and watching the shows in the grand ballroom, Neil wanted to explore Nassau once we docked. The cruise ship offered several tours, and I pointed out the ones I thought would be fun. “No,” he said. “They’re for tourists. I want to see the real place, the real people.”

We piled out of the ship with everyone else, but while they headed off to ask about tour buses, Neil walked down the road to a giant Bahamian man who stood outside a long, white, limousine. “How much for a tour of the real island?” Neil asked him. “The real island? You sure, man?” They haggled over a price for a day that included a traditional show, food and a scenic drive, then shook hands, and Big Jim (yes, that was really his name) ushered us into the back of the limo.

“Isn’t this nice?” Neil asked as we turned on the air conditioning and settled in.
It was nice, for a while. Then we drove off a main road into a poor neighborhood where skinny dogs wandered around sniffing trash, and people watched us from their front porch rockers. When we stopped in front of a run-down, empty appearing grocery store, the limo looked incredibly out of place. Big Jim got out, and Neil rolled down his tinted window. “Where are you going?” Continue reading →

Exciting News: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

On October 31 the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul book will be released, and guess what? On page 54 you’ll find one of my stories!

But here’s even better news: subscribe to my blog by email, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of the book. Not only will you get my posts delivered straight to your inbox twice a month, but you might be one of three lucky winners of Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: 101 Stories About Trying New Things, Overcoming Fears and Broadening Your World.

It’s a win-win! If you already subscribe – you’re automatically entered in the contest. And if you’re curious to check it out, the book is  already available on  amazon.com.

colleen

 

 

The Ghosts of Summers Past


From the time our children were babies, we vacationed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented the same house,  No Egrets in Corolla, year after year. It felt like our own summer house, and in fact, until they were teenagers, our daughters thought we owned it.

We enjoyed visits from relatives who came to relax with us on the beach. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Neil and I sat out on the deck every night and talked about life, shared our dreams and made plans like it was New Year’s Eve. One year we came home to Virginia and remodeled our whole kitchen so it felt more open and beachy. Another year we decided to put in a pool so it felt like we were on vacation all summer. Another time we planned to bike more at home since we enjoyed it so much there. Corolla was where Neil encouraged me to write and I encouraged him to find work he enjoyed. It was truly one of our favorite places.

The first summer after he died, I could barely face our own house without him, let alone the beach house. Last summer, I started to feel a yearning for the coast and the sand, but couldn’t bring myself to go. This summer I was ready. Continue reading →

The Challenge of Sunday Rest

Relaxation is not something I do well, but lately I’ve been trying to honor the commandment for Sunday rest. I told my oldest daughter about it and she said sarcastically, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that concept, Mom; most people call it a weekend!”

It’s not that I do my doctor job on Sundays – I stopped that a long time ago – it’s that I don’t necessarily rest. Neil used to ask me regularly to sit down and relax, but there was always something that had to be done. Sometimes people ask me now, “How can you have so much to do? You live by yourself most of the time when the girls are at school.” That’s true, but there’s even more to do around the house now that I am the only one doing it!

Armed with the plan to accept Sunday rest as a gift from God, I made a list of all the things I could do to relax. I’ll read all those journals on my bedside table, take a walk, call my mom, write some letters. Then it occurred to me that making a list wasn’t really embracing the spirit of rest. Ok, I thought, no list. No plan whatsoever, I’ll just see what the day brings.
Continue reading →

Darn my stubborn streak!

Most of you know the story of how Neil and I met the first time in the Emergency Department. You may not know the rest of the story, but it’s a good reminder about how stubborn streaks can get us into trouble.

The second time Neil and I saw each other was at a wedding. His restaurant manager was marrying my daughter’s nanny. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding, the bride glowing, the groom ecstatic, and my sweet daughter having the time of her life as the flower girl. After the ceremony, while the bridal party was taking pictures, I wandered over to where Neil sat in the bright sunshine.

I said hello and asked if he remembered me, and he admitted that he didn’t. His version of the story was that next I asked, ‘Would a hypodermic needle up your nose remind you?” I don’t think I ever said the phrase “hypodermic needle’ in my life – only TV doctors do, so I am sure he was wrong. Continue reading →

Finding God in the Irish Countryside

Recently I was asked how my trip to Ireland impacted my faith and spirituality. I loved this question because it wasn’t in the Irish people or even in the Irish Churches that I felt God’s hand. It was in the land itself, three places in particular.

The first was in the Burren, an otherworldly expanse of limestone rock landscape that stretches for 150 square miles through Counties Clare and Galway, and in some places, is a half mile thick. The area gets even more rain than the rest of Ireland, and the climate is oddly temperate, so the rock is dotted with an unusual variety of plants and animals tucked into its crevices.

In the midst of this desolate appearing region is a structure called the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient portal tomb dating back to sometime around 3500 BC. This tomb wasn’t the original resting place of its inhabitants– their bodies were kept somewhere safe until only the bones remained, then the bones and special personal objects were placed into the tomb. It is atop a small hill, so it can be seen as an eerie focal point from surrounding areas.

As I climbed up that small hill, the heavy rain let up. Gusts of wind swirled around me and Irish mist kissed my face. Although not allowed past the rope that loosely surrounds the structure, I was close enough to be awestruck by beauty of those ancient stones.

My daughter wandered a few feet away on her own, and I thought about the families who once lived here. Their lives were so different from mine -different worries, different fears, different struggles, different joys. And yet, here was a sacred place where they felt a lot like I have, a place where they honored and mourned their dead, sending them on their eternal journey with personal objects to comfort them. Over five thousand years ago they cared for their dead and grieved just like we do. Throughout the whole world and throughout time, human beings all share this common experience of sorrow and loss, a fact that should make us all a bit more compassionate and charitable to each other. Continue reading →

Oh No, It’s Dark in Here!

I was finally at the writers’ conference I had anticipated all year. The first day was full of networking (which I hate) and learning (which I love). It was a long day, and coming on the heels of my trip to Ireland, I was tired. I was relaxing in my hotel room, sipping my nightly glass of wine and chewing Skittles, when the lights flickered and went out.

What’s going on? I thought. It had been incredibly hot that day – over a hundred degrees, with a high chance of thunderstorms. My first thought was a lightning strike, but then I realized it wasn’t storming. Next, the ER doctor in me thought, I wonder if a car accident hit a local transformer – I hope everyone is ok. Finally, the worrier in me thought, Oh no, what if its terrorists, or the end of the world?

I sat on the plump, comfortable hotel bed in pitch darkness, trying to decide what to do and how upset I should be. I didn’t hear any sirens or screams to suggest something serious. The bed was cozy and the wine was the perfect temperature. I could still feel the Skittles in their open bag on the bedside table. The power is probably going to come back on any second, I thought, After a few minutes it was still dark, and I knew I needed to investigate. After all, if it was the end of the world, shouldn’t I call my daughters? Continue reading →

There’s no place like home!

Hi friends!
I am back from my travels feeling renewed, refreshed and ready to write! But I need your help.

If you and I sat down for coffee together, what would you want to talk about or ask me? Head to the link below to do a very brief, simple, anonymous survey that will help me plan upcoming posts that truly interest you.

I really want to hear from all of you please?
And thanks!!
colleen

                                              https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Y75655T

Vacation!!

Hi friends! As of today, I will be off to beautiful Ireland with one of my daughters, seeing the sites and exploring our heritage. Since I will be away for most of the month on this trip and at a writers conference, I am taking the month off from blogging.
I’ll back in august with great pictures and lots more stories.
See you then!