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 →
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!
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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 →
A baby is finally born after two days of labor as four grandparents anxiously await its arrival.
A bridal shower is celebrated with friends and family in joyful attendance, all the while knowing that in less than a month that bride will move to the other side of the country.
A student graduates from college and says goodbye to closest friends, ready to embrace the real world.
A marriage dissolves as the real world proves too difficult an obstacle.
A young driver totals a car while all involved tremble with gratitude at their safety.
All this in the span of a few days! And a mother prays, because she knows that’s all she can do. She puts all these people and situations in God’s hands.
This is life. Pain and joy happen in rapid succession, sometimes even together in the same situation. Continue reading →
My husband could see fun and adventure in everything. Years of being an ER doctor left me far more able to see danger. As he tossed each one our daughters over his head when they were just gurgling babies, I always complained, “Please stop it – you are going to drop her!” Or while he raced through the parking lot pushing them in a grocery cart, I yelled, “Neil, that’s dangerous!” barely audible over their gleeful laughter.
Once we were on a family camping trip at a local state park. Early in the afternoon we hiked around the lake, and stopped for a treat afterward at the camp store. The girls ordered ice cream cones that were far too big for their little hands, while Neil and I chugged coffee. The trail that led back to our campsite was a steep downhill path lined with gravel and dried pine needles. Powered up by their ice cream, the girls ran ahead as fast as their little feet would carry them, while Neil cheered them on. “Neil, they shouldn’t do that; someone is going to get hurt!”
I hadn’t even finished the sentence when three year old Jordan crashed face first and slid downhill on her belly for several feet. Continue reading →
Before Neil and I were married, we often talked on the phone for hours in the middle of the night. After he closed his restaurant and sent his staff home, he relaxed with his feet up and called me. Sometimes I was at work in the ER, or sometimes I was sleeping at home. Either way, the world was generally fairly quiet at three in the morning.
During one of those calls, when I was home in bed in the dark, I thought I heard a strange sound in the house. Neil insisted we hang up and call 911, but I refused. What if it was just the pets, or Gina thrashing around in her crib? It didn’t really sound like that, but with Neil still on the phone I decided to search the house.
I grabbed the flashlight from my bedside table and tiptoed out of my bedroom. From that angle, I could see the entire first floor. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and everything seemed to be in place. I stood quietly for a few seconds, waiting for another noise or flicker of movement, but there was nothing. Next, I climbed the stairs, Neil breathing in my ear on the phone, but conversation halted to minimize any noise. Continue reading →
When I went to bed on December 27, 1996, with Neil reading quietly in bed beside me, I had no idea that Jordan would be born the next day, or how much drama would be involved in her arrival. After struggling with preterm labor for two months, dealing with medicines, bedrest, and frequent doctor visits, I should have known things wouldn’t suddenly become easy.
Neil and I woke up leisurely to weather that promised to be unseasonable warm, and then sipped coffee in the living room, admiring our enormous Christmas tree. As I got up to refill our mugs, my water broke, and after the initial shock, it was a relief to know the time had really come to go to the hospital.
As we drove the hour to the medical center in Roanoke, the contractions started coming hard and strong. I distracted myself by singing along with the radio. When Celine Dion’s powerful voice noted, “It’s all coming back to me now,” I belted the words loudly right along with her, thinking it was ironic that I had forgotten until then how painful labor really was. Continue reading →
The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.
Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.
Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →
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. Now 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 →
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 →