Bowel distress haunted me. At any time, it would come quickly, unpredictably, and powerfully, forcing me to get to the bathroom before the tsunami ensued.

I blamed advancing age. That seemed the only possibility given that in most every other respect I appeared in fine shape for a 58-year-old man: blood pressure normal, weight and BMI within the recommended guidelines, body parts and vital organs all functioning fine. …

Here they are, the jack-o’-lanterns that made for a fun Monsoon Sunday.

It’s funny what a sharp carving knife and a seedy goal can do for your state of mind.

I could barely contain my enthusiasm as I thrust the blade into the head of my pumpkin, working hard to cut out its crown so I could gain access to the guts within — and their wealth of pumpkin seeds.

Yes, I was having fun.

My wife, although a bit more restrained in her exuberance, shared my pleasure in the pumpkin piercing, all of which happened on a cold, wet, and gloomy Sunday afternoon in Maine just a few days removed from…

I’m learning to walk without wires — but it’s strange.

The truth is I still stumble from time to time. I’ll go out, my two dogs in tow, intending to go wireless only to grab my earbuds and plug into Spotify on my iPhone. Habits are hard to break. This is especially true when it comes to technology and the addictive power of digital media.

Those missteps are becoming less common, though. More and more, I opt to unplug, my ears fully exposed and my mind fully engaged to the world around me.

And that has been good — refreshingly…

“Very worrisome.”

That phrase, said by the person who called from the breast imagery department, confirmed what my wife had long suspected and feared: something was seriously wrong with her.

The following week a surgeon did a biopsy on both breasts and a lymph node under her right armpit. Five days later, Erica, the liaison from the hospital, called with the results. They had found cancer in all three locations.

So, the battle begins — a war to survive against an enemy whose name alone is frightening. …

Now it’s time to return to the red planet

Mars, the red planet.

I walked on Mars for the first time in 1967 — about 20 minutes after watching an F Troop rerun on the 12-inch black & white TV in the basement rec room.

My spaceship, which bore a striking resemblance to my parents’ bed, performed flawlessly in its mission to Mars, largely due to my mastery of the complex control panel and my naturally calm and fearless demeanor. I should add that the box spring performed admirably in wormholes and definitely helped ensure a soft landing on the red planet.

Unfortunately, given…

Caffeine and sugar are consuming our young people

Energy drinks are a leading source of caffeine and sugar.

Jimmy is a typical high school student. On a daily basis, he would come to my first period English class tired and armed with a 24-ounce Mega Monster energy drink, which weighs in at 240 milligrams of caffeine and a whopping 81 grams of sugar.

One morning Jimmy supplemented his Mega Monster with a handful of Swedish Fish candies from a classmate. That probably boosted his sugar total to an even 90 grams, more than three times the maximum number the American Heart Association recommends teenagers limit themselves to for an entire day.

On a positive note, Swedish Fish are caffeine free.

Jimmy is just one example of what I see, from my perspective as a high school teacher, as the latest development in an ever-growing health concern, if not crisis.

It was an ideal summer morning for a cyclist — low 70s, sunny, light breeze, low humidity — and I was nearing the end of my 20-mile route.

My beloved bike hangs motionlessly this summer.

That’s when I hit the sand.

I went down hard- really hard. Locked into my clipless pedals, I fell on my left side, and my body took the full impact of the pavement. The results were not pretty.

But I would have been fine dealing with the blood and pain from the multiple gashes and bruises I suffered. …

A tortoise flips the pet paradigm

My son Jake left Tonka, the first pet he has owned in his young adult life, in the car on the scolding July day and made sure to keep the windows up.

Tonka up close and personal.




Actually, none of the above. Tonka enjoys bathing in the heat of a 100-degree-plus enclosed car, but then he is no different than any other Sulcata tortoise, a pet that flips conventional wisdom on domesticated animals.

The Sulcata tortoise, also known as the African spurred tortoise, is a native of the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, a place…

My cushioned glider chair looked especially enticing that day at school. I was tired, and it was my prep period. I could lock my door, pull down the blinds, and nap in comfort — and not a soul would know.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. The guilt would have been overwhelming.

So, instead, I pulled out a K-Cup and walked down the hall to the library to use the nearest available Keurig. Basically, I chickened out and caffeinated up. This is the American way. We are a tough people. We are a caffeinated people. …

I debated seeing a proctologist. I mean I had dealt with hemorrhoids before and survived. But that was many years ago and now, given I am closer to 60 than 50, I thought it wise to err on the side of caution.

My reward?

Would you believe a $1,830 bill?

I didn’t at first. I thought maybe the light in the kitchen was bad or that my eyesight, already in decline, had deteriorated dramatically since my last exam.

But turns out my eyes were not the problem. The problem is a health-care system that seems bent on either putting the…

Colin Hickey

Writing is what I do. I started as a journalist, working at a daily newspaper in Maine for 20 years, and now I’m an English teacher, specializing in writing.

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