Railroad Crossing Brings Memory of Train Hopping

A train in Kazakhstan.

Driving across town I was stopped when the railroad crossing lights flashed and the red and white bars lowered to halt traffic. It was a sunny spring day and I didn’t mind being caught on the waiting side of the track. I watched with child-like anticipation for the approaching train. In the U.S., trains bring a sense of nostalgia, a reminiscent feeling of yesteryear. I found myself feeling grateful for this moment as the black steel engine rolled noisily into view, followed by a succession of box cars. I noticed how slowly it passed and thought how easy it would be to jump. Instantaneously, I found myself half a world away on a cold January day in Akkol, Kazakhstan. That was the day I had run through the snow, thrown my suitcase onto a moving passenger train, and leapt on.

Jumping a train makes for a lasting memory. Even more so because my newly adopted children were already sitting onboard. The train had been late and, unable to wait any longer, I had run back into the station to go to the bathroom. Granted I was jet lagged, but It seemed only a moment that I was gone. Yet in that moment the train rolled in, picked up the few waiting passengers, and blew its whistle. When I returned, it was already rolling down the track. Standing at the only open door, my translator waved desperately and yelled for me to run. Run, I did!

I saw the eager faces of my six-year-old twin sons staring out the window as I ran alongside the track with my luggage. It was their first time on a train and they were too deliriously excited to understand that my missing it would not have reflected well on their new mom. Instead, they laughed joyfully and yelled for me to run in their sweet Russian-speaking voices.

Just ahead my translator reached for my suitcase with one hand while holding onto the train with the other. I flung it past her effortlessly, grabbed the metal bar next to the step, and hoisted myself into her open arms. From inside the passenger car I heard cheers and applause. I will never forget how I felt in that moment; surreal, as if acting a scene from a movie. It was my first and last train hopping and no-doubt one of my most exciting adventures.

My twin sons no longer remember the day they left their orphanage. They’ve long forgotten the train ride back to Astana where they played in the ice village in the evening after dinner. Nor do they recall flying to Almaty to visit the American Consulate and then taking the next plane to Moscow to finalize paperwork through the American Embassy before the long journey home. What they do remember was walking into our house for the first time and being greeted by two big dogs excited to meet them. They screamed in fear and hid behind me. Their first memory of coming home was the fear that my beastly dogs would eat them.

Memories are amazingly powerful and can be triggered by music, smells, and in this case the slow passing of a train. I was so deeply transported to another place and time that the car behind me honked to inform me the gates had reopened for traffic to cross. When my mind found its way back into the present moment, I had jumped the Akkol train several times to the cheers of my young sons.

I love reliving cherished memories that make my heart sing. Memories like this one where I was a super-shero, racing through the snow, throwing my suitcase onboard as if it were a shoebox, and then hopping a train.

Isn’t life one grand adventure?

Twins at Akkol Train Station

My newly adopted twin sons Alex (l) and Sergei waiting with the translator at the Akkol train station, Jan. 2001.


After jumping the train, I celebrated with Sergei (l) and Alex.


Twelve years later with Sergei (l) and Alex at their high school graduation.


Ah, Spring! How I Love Thee!

Spring on Dog HillEleven days in spring is a long time to be gone when you call North Carolina home. Here trees can sprout leaves overnight and grass can grow as high as your knees. One must take spring very seriously here — especially if one is a gardener.

I returned home from my trip to find dogwoods and redbuds in bloom, their respective creamy-white and magenta buds lighting up the gray backdrop I had left behind. I scanned the yard and saw the yellow arms of forsythia swaying in the gentle breeze as the white spirea danced joyfully. All around me trees had sprouted leaves which will soon blanket the woods with a thick canvas of green, screening the house from the street.

Ah, spring! How I love thee!

Never mind that my hands will soon be calloused from all the raking of leaves and digging to move plants from one place to another. Never mind that my fingernails won’t see anything but dirt for the next six months as I weed endlessly. Besides I love the smell of the earth, her soil rich and dark, just as I adore the aroma of burning brush.

Today I saw my first hummingbird of the season, hovering where the feeder usually hangs. This little feathered beauty knows exactly what is missing from this garden landscape and he’s demanding to know why I’ve fallen down on the job. Soon butterflies will flit amongst the lavender and yellow blooms of the buddleja, and the gardens, now only showing sprouts of green, will be overflowing with day lilies, echinacea, and rudbeckia.

When the sun warms a little more, we’ll spend every evening sitting on the back deck, looking into the picturesque landscape of trees stretching up to a perfect blue Carolina sky. Below us the young chicks will peck the ground for moving insects we can’t see. And, as the night begins to fall, the songs of the tree frogs and crickets will blend perfectly into a soothing melody.

This past winter was harsh, even for North Carolina, yet we bravely managed the cold. Now on the other side, we sneeze as we hose the yellow pollen from the loblolly pine off our cars for the second time today. Looking around, it’s a joy to see mother nature waking up after her long winter’s nap and waving her paintbrush to create strokes of rainbows everywhere.

Ah, spring! How I love thee!

Accidental Discovery Leads to Rewarding Work

Christy Whitman, left, Founder, Quantum Success Coaching Academy with Sheila Callaham aboard the Disney Wonder

Christy Whitman, left, Founder, Quantum Success Coaching Academy with Sheila Callaham aboard the Disney cruise ship “Wonder”

Last week I spent five days in the Caribbean on the Disney cruise ship Wonder. I wasn’t there with my husband and kids. In their opinion, they are much too old to get excited about Mickey Mouse and friends — especially hubby. Smile. I was there, expenses paid, because of an accidental discovery that was selfishly motivated. I was there because I was a certified Quantum Success Life Coach.

When I began the Quantum Success Coaching Academy (QSCA) in the fall of 2010, it was because I hungered for a life transformation and I wanted to have all the tools and resources available to me to ensure success. I had a big career change in mind and my goal was for this transformation to go as smoothly as possible with the successful results I intended. The QSCA provided this to me in the form of richly developed content on coaching skills, the seven essential laws of the universe, business building, light body (energy work), and future visioning (facilitated meditation). This program was so insanely transformational for me that I’ve committed myself to sharing what I learned with anyone who, like me, desires to create change for themselves and others.

The learning was intense in many ways. QSCA challenged me to define exactly what I wanted in life and then stretch my goals ever bigger. Then it challenged me to use what I had learned to coach others. Mandatory coaching allowed me to experience tremendous personal fulfillment by making a positive difference in the lives of others. Clients came to me to gain self confidence in difficult life circumstances; to let go of the past so they could focus on happy futures; and to learn to love themselves for who and where they are. Client after client came to me and a pattern began to emerge. The more I coached, the more deeply the learning resonated in my spirit. Much different than the Human Resources coaching I had done previously, QSCA helped me realize I had a gift for helping clients live their dreams.

Even though I didn’t begin QSCA to become a success coach, I continued coaching clients after my certification. My own transformational journey from a high-paying corporate job to becoming an independent author and coach became a powerful testimonial inspiring others. Not only do I share my story through coaching, mentoring, and speaking, this summer I will launch a series of self-help books based on my experiences.

If you are looking for a program that will give you the tools and resources you need to live the life of your dreams, or if you desire to become a life coach and help others find joy and happiness, then I invite you to view this set of free videos to learn more about what it means to be a life coach and how the QSCA can help.

Choosing to enroll into the QSCA gave me exactly what I needed. Not only did I achieve my transformational goal to become a published author, accidentally discovering my gift for coaching gave me a powerful means to use my voice to enhance the lives of others. How can it get any better than this?

P.S. Deepest heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Christy Whitman for following her heart and sharing it so lovingly with others. The cruise was awesome!

Looking for a success coach? Check out my Success Coaching tab and sign up for a free thirty-minute consultation.

Sheila Callaham is a paid affiliate for Christy Whitman International and may receive commissions for promotional efforts. Sheila only promotes what she considers genuinely credible and worthwhile to her readers.