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 →

When Your Heart Wants To Help, But Your Head Has No Idea What To Say

I recently had a request to resurrect this post from back in 2015. It’s still true…..

People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died. Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on. I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.

Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. She didn’t find it awkward or uncomfortable to be speaking about the dead and listened intently as I rambled on about how Neil and I met and fell in love. She chuckled with me over funny family stories and laughed at some of the ridiculous arguments Neil and I had over the years. She loved when I showed her my collection of the crazy little frogs that Neil drew on everything he wrote – messages in the girl’s lunch boxes, notes he left for us around the house, and especially on his signature homemade holiday cards. Continue reading →

A Tale of a Morning Miracle

clockThis is a true story about a miracle. I think miracles happen every day, but we’re too busy and distracted to notice. Every now and then, though, something marvelous catches our attention. It may not even be dramatic, but it breaks through our usual deafness.

I usually start my day with a cup of coffee. When Neil was alive, he often delivered a steaming hot mug to me in bed. Sometimes we went outside to the patio, but frequently he sat in bed with me and we chatted about the day ahead. After he died, I missed those morning moments more than anything else. Gradually, I learned to fill that time with prayer, and began to chat with God instead. (I’d love to say the miracle was that God brought me coffee in bed, but no, that’s not it.) Continue reading →

Ouch, Am I a Gossip Girl?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about gossip. I have definitely been a victim of it; haven’t you? More important though, I have been trying to pay attention to how much I participate in it, and wondering if I am a gossip girl. I don’t want to be!

Over the years there was a lot of gossip about me and Neil:
“I heard Neil didn’t go home last night. I guess Colleen made him mad – she is so bossy!”
“I heard she was pregnant before they got married. I guess she’s not that Catholic after all.”
“I heard he moved out. I guess Colleen finally had it with his drinking.”

Like all gossip there were nuggets of truth in these comments. For example, Neil struggled with alcoholism and sometimes it was safer for him not to drive home. I wasn’t pregnant for nine months since I went into preterm labor at thirty weeks instead of forty. And, our typical argument involved retreating to separate corners until we cooled off. Sometimes that was an hour, sometimes a night, sometimes weeks. But all the gossipers saw was the way things appeared  to be – not the way they really were. I loved Neil despite his faults and, thankfully, he loved me despite mine.

So what makes a conversation gossip? It isn’t simply talking about other people. In a small town and among friends, that’s how we keep up with each other, how we know who needs extra prayers and who might need a casserole. Continue reading →

Shots Fired: A Mama’s Worry

Shots fired. That was the message on my cell phone at 3:30 in the morning from the instant alert program at my daughter’s college. As I forced my  eyes to focus on the little screen, the next message came: three people injured; police on scene. It gave the address of the incident, too, and it was the corner by my daughter’s apartment building. jorden-sorensen-3aNow I was wide awake. I read the update again, and quickly called my daughter. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t unusual, so I sent a text. I waited a few minutes, and still got no answer. I said a fervent prayer for her safety, and then a miracle happened: I went back to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning there was a message from my daughter reporting she was fine and that she hadn’t even seen my text until she woke up to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t heard any police sirens or shots during the night and her roommates were also home safe. I couldn’t decide whether to be proud of myself for going back to sleep or ashamed.

Then the negative self-talk started. What kind a person goes back to sleep after a message like that? Who doesn’t get up and pace the floor worried sick about their child? Continue reading →

But is a Bad Word

I have been doing some self-reflection lately, thinking about the words I use and the things I say. I try not to use any curse words and I try to speak kindly to and about others, but….

I realized there is one bad word I use quite regularly. It seems there is often a ‘but’ in my sentence, and the way I use it generally means something bad. Continue reading →

I Can Do It All BY Myself!

The box was heavy and I dragged it awkwardly as my mother offered to help. Determined and stubborn I answered, “No, I can do it all by myself!”

Do you think this childish scene happened when I was a whiney 5 year-old? Or maybe when I was a petulant teenager? No, this incident happened just two weeks ago! A grown woman with an immature need to be independent and self-reliant, this is not a new story for me.

For example, a year or two before Neil died we had an argument and refused to speak to each other for several days. During that time I bought a new treadmill, and after the three delivery men plopped the monstrous box in the middle of the living room, I set out to unpack it and put it together. Continue reading →

Missing the Present for Seeing the Future

Neil and I had hoped to retire at age 62. I knew his death would have financial ramifications, but in the last few months I started to wonder just what they would be.

In an attempt to help, my financial advisor gave me a checklist for assessing my future plans. I have to admit, this was hard. Not just because of the detailed financial budget questions, but because I had to look to the future.

Until then I had started to adjust to my present and cherish my past, but I had not yet been able to embrace my future. Neil and I dreamed of exploring the world in a little camper. We were going to drink coffee all morning, then sit around the campfire counting stars and drinking beer or wine all evening. We were going to surprise our relatives with unexpected visits. We were going to stay with friends at the beach, and while Neil napped or read in a hammock I would explore the shoreline collecting shells. Continue reading →

You’re not the Boss of Me!

blog stethescopeMany years of being an emergency physician taught me how to quickly assess a patient and determine what needed to be done. Looking at the patient and the monitors, I could call out orders – meds, IVs, breathing treatments- and my great staff  jumped in and did them.

Many years of being a restaurant manager taught Neil how to quickly assess the dining room and determine what needed to be done. He could read his customers instantly and know who was getting impatient, who didn’t like their meal, who needed something at their table; and he too, could direct his staff to do what was required.

We were two adults used to “bossing” people around and were both very good at what we did. That was great for our jobs, but it was terrible for our marriage. Continue reading →

When your heart wants to help, but your head has no idea what to say

Blog when you want to helpPeople respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died.

Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice, and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on.

I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.

Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. Continue reading →