Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meet McSnarly

Last post I offered a romantic snippet from CRITICAL CARE, where Logan Caldwell leaves a bouquet of daffodils on the hood of Claire Avery's car . . . and asks her for a date. I thought it would be fun to show a couple of new snippets from the moments they first meet--much more like war than romance. Because, you see, Dr. Logan Caldwell (Director of Sierra Mercy ER) has a reputation for being somewhat hard-nosed and controlling. In fact, behind his back, he's known as "Dr. McSnarly." Hard to imagine when you see those beautiful blue eyes, but a bouquet of daffodils (and even civil conversation) was the last thing on Logan and Claire's mind that first day. Here are the snippets, and brief setup to each:

From Chapter One: Nurse Claire Avery is paged to the ER. She has no idea why; but after her brother died in a trauma room, she's vowed to never work there again. She waits for the nursing supervisor, anxious, confused . . then meets McSnarly in the hall outside.

She whirled to catch a glimpse of a man barreling toward her with his gaze on the ambulance entrance some dozen yards away. He looked a few years older than she was, maybe thirty-five, tall and wide shouldered, with curly dark hair and faded blue scrubs. He leveled a forbidding scowl at Claire like a weapon and slowed to a jog before stopping a few paces from her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, grabbing his stethoscope before it could slide from his neck.

“I’m . . . waiting,” Claire explained, awkwardly defensive. “I was paged to the ER.”

“Good. Then don’t just stand there holding up the wall. Let’s go. The charge nurse will show you where to start.”

“But I—,” she choked, her confusion complete.

“But what?” He glanced toward sounds at the ambulance bay and then back at her.

Claire cleared her throat. “I don’t know why I’m here.”

He shook his head, his low groan sounding far too much like a smothered curse. “If that question’s existential, I don’t have time for it. But if you’re here to work, follow me. Erin Quinn will tell you everything you need to know.” He pointed toward a crew of paramedics racing through the ambulance doors with a stretcher. A toddler, his tiny, terrified face raw and blistered behind an oxygen mask, sat bolt upright partially covered by a layer of sterile sheets. “See that boy? That’s why I’m here. So either help me or get out of the way.”

Then, at the opening of Chapter Two, Claire is asked by Administration to use her training in Critical Incident Stress to counsel staff in the devastating aftermath of an explosion at a local day care. Reluctantly, and armed with self-help pamphlets, she goes to the ER. McSnarly's ER, McSnarly's staff--and he hates the whole idea:

Dr. Caldwell knelt down a split second before Claire did, and their fingers brushed as they reached for the same pamphlet. She pulled back, her face flushing. “I’ve got them, Doctor. I . . .” Her voice failed as she met his eyes.

Logan Caldwell’s eyes were impossibly blue. Intense, almost crystalline, like the still surface of Lake Tahoe after a first snow. Fringed with black lashes, they seemed mismatched with his dark brows, curly hair, olive skin, and wide-bridged nose. And now they were narrowing, with tiny crinkles forming at the edges, as he began to . . .

Claire heard him chuckle deep in his throat. He’s laughing at me? She clenched the handle of her briefcase.

“I guess you figured out why you’re here,” Dr. Caldwell said, his tone making it clear he recognized Claire from their earlier skirmish in the corridor. He glanced at the pamphlet. “‘Healing the Healers’?”

The charge nurse nodded with certainty. “I’m asking for Claire’s help with our staff. Because this day care incident’s been tough on all of us.”

“Tough?” Logan shook his head. “This is what we do. Tough comes with the territory. And death is always a factor. Do you see me crumbling here?” He smacked the pamphlets against the leg of his scrub pants and frowned. “The only kind of help we need here is more staff, more warm bodies. Real nurses. Not administration’s attempt at some . . . touchy-feely counseling.”

Touchy-feely? Real nurses? Claire dug her nails into the leather of her briefcase. She reminded herself she’d soon be back in the education department and out of here for good. Otherwise, she’d have to make this man, giant or not, eat his words.

Uh oh. Far from romantic. No bouquets in sight--and someone should probably hide the scalpels. But that's how it began. And if you want to see how McSnarly becomes a memorable (and sigh-worthy) hero--amidst plenty of pulse-pounding medical drama--well . . . you'll have to read the book!

Clock's a tickin', and I can't wait to share CRITICAL CARE with you!

I think you'll be glad you met McSnarly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Simple, Heartfelt

Even though I think of myself as a fairly practical person, I love receiving flower bouquets. I tell myself they are impractical, expensive, that the joy is fleeting-- and within a week petals will begin to fall on the table. That if I want flowers, I should plant bulbs in the ground, or select a nice rose bush and get out my shovel and garden gloves . . . and I suppose that's all true. But I don't care. I love receiving flower bouquets. Because of the way it makes me feel: like a teenager going to Prom, someone's blushing sweetheart, a bride heading down the aisle, a new mother . . . a Valentine. And, since we are approaching Valentine's Day, I thought I'd offer a romantic little snippet from CRITICAL CARE.

It includes a bouquet of flowers
. The scene comes as nurse educator Claire Avery finishes a long shift and walks across the Sierra Mercy parking lot . . . to find a surprise.

Tomorrow was her day off. She’d get up early, take a long run, maybe go to the pet store and find a consolation toy for Smokey after his raccoon scare. Claire stopped as she arrived at the SUV. What on earth?

She walked around to the front and lifted a cellophane-wrapped bouquet from the hood. Her breath caught. Daffodils? Before she could move, she heard Logan’s voice.

“Hi, Educator.”

She turned and saw him smile, the fading sunlight casting rosy warmth to his features much the same way the fire embers had that night on her deck.

Logan looked at the bouquet and then at her face, shrugging. “I was at the Jeep store. It’s next door to this flower shop. And when I saw those, they made me think of you, so . . .” His brows scrunched. “That’s not true.”

He took a step closer, and once more Claire was aware of his height, the effect he had on her breathing, and . . .
Logan sighed. His expression seemed vulnerable, his eyes sincere. “The truth is I went looking for those daffodils because I’ve been thinking about you all day. I have another day off tomorrow, and I want to spend it with you. Would that be okay?”

Claire looked down at the blooms tied with a ribbon and wrapped in paper and thought of Erin’s words, the way she’d tapped her fingers over her heart. Simple, heartfelt.

“Yes.” She smiled. “I think that would be very okay.”

Simple, heartfelt. And a promise of good things to come. No shovel or garden gloves involved. Works for me.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

RX: Hope

I'm jazzed . . . and humbled, all at the same time. Today our church welcomed 11 new lay ministers onboard, graduates of The Community of Hope Training for Lay Chaplains. And one of these fledgling ministers is (imagine a seismic rush of goosebumps) me! I graduated--even after that klutzy first attempt at meditation that . . . um, left me trapped in my wristwatch. You probably remember that one--or are trying to forget. Good thing that a huge cornerstone of this particular spiritual study is humility.

In all seriousness, the Community of Hope training was wonderful. A 12 week study based on Benedictine Spirituality, that teaches the students to provide "a non-threatening, listening and compassionate presence to those in need" or--as Benedict so beautifully put it--"to listen with the ear of your heart." For me, a compulsive "fixer" and longtime ER nurse, being still and "simply" listening, wasn't so simple. And will require ongoing practice . . . which, of course, is the point. So, in what capacity do Community of Hope lay ministers perform this service? Anywhere there are people in need . . . which is everywhere. Within a congregation, in community outreaches including hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, grade schools, food banks, homeless shelters, military hospitals. Or . . . in a grocery store line, at a bus stop, at home. Anywhere the hospitality of a caring, listening presence . . . would be a blessing. Where human connection and understanding provides hope.

No agenda, no judgment, no "fix." Just the comfort that says, "I'm here. I care."

In this busy, bustling, impersonal world of sound bytes, text messages, telemarketers, traffic jams, automated phone menus . . . being heard--really listened to--is a luxury. This is what we'll offer to the best of our abilities. And with God's help.

I'm planning to use my training by wading back into the chaos of ER. Where, instead of manning a defibrillator, brandishing needles, giving orders over the paramedic radio, I'll be offering support for patients, family, and medical staff, too. Because I've "been there and done that"--and I know the painful toll (on all sides) that crisis situations can exact. If I can help buffer that, even, a little . . . how cool is that?

As long I don't get trapped in my wristwatch.

Here's . . . hoping!