It’ll Make a Great Story Some Day

It’ll make a great story some day. One of my professors mentioned that I seem to be juggling a lot this semester. That’s how I responded to him. Well, at least that was the conclusion. Allow me to elaborate.

Setting: Professor’s Office. Abigail and Professor are talking. Context has already been established that Abigail is trying to reach ABD status by the end of the term and that includes mastering sixty books. At the moment, this meeting is about the final paper due at the end of the term for the professor’s class, which Abigail is trying to figure out how to fit into her schedule.

Abigail: Yes, definitely. This conversation helps me a lot to figure out what it is that I’m trying to do. At least how I can meet your expectations while also accomplishing something helpful.

Professor: Yes, well, that’s the goal. It’s good to get started now.

A: Yes, well, you see, I wasn’t planning to come back to school. So I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that I’m here. Now I’m right in the middle of all of this.

Prof: Wow. You certainly have a lot of things that you’re trying to accomplish in one semester.

A: (thinks about trying to learn a language, take this class outside her field, read 60 boxes, and TA a class) Yes, well, it’s certainly a lot. It’s going to a whirlwind and a LOT of work, but I’ll get through it. And then, it’ll make a great story!

Prof: Uhhh, yeah, I suppose that it will.

A: Oh, it most definitely will.


Yeah, so it is a ridiculous amount of work. And I’m already behind. But I’m happy (when I’m not overwhelmed). And it’s going to be a great story. Not just because I can finally laugh at the ravenous lion. But because it will be my story. And showcase who I’m becoming. And that, dear reader, is exciting!!


What Doesn’t Kill You

You know that thing that people often say to those of us with chronic illnesses??

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

I hate that expression. Why can’t we just accept that this is a terrible set of circumstances that are sent our way? Of course,

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

is certainly always an option. But I’d just as soon throw them back.

This article looked like the typical treatment of the same idea that is needlessly repeated ad nauseam. But I liked the ending. The grandmother encourages her to be like the coffee bean. She endures the boiling water and becomes something beautiful and fragrant, adding value to the world. But that’s not the point. The point is that she changed the water into something life-giving. It’s not just that she emerged different, but that the situation was altered because of her. It mattered that she was there. The world, as it were, will never be the same.

A Fresh Start

I’ve been waiting a LONG time to write this post because it just seemed all too good to be true. :::::DRUMROLL::::: I am officially a third year graduate student in history, taking classes, studying for comprehensive exams, writing a dissertation proposal, and on track to be ABD* soon.

I honestly never thought this day would come, or at least, only thought this day would come in a dream world. But it’s real. I’m here, back in the same program, picking up more or less where I left off. Of course, some things have changed. I’m doing better physically. I have much more teaching experience. I know what I want out of the program. Plus, I have a new adviser who is really smart but also generous. He’s also very excited about my project, and we’ve made a lot of progress already considering class has only been in session for 6 days.

I love studying and thinking about grand thoughts, but I honestly miss teaching already. I miss the interaction with students, seeing those lightbulb moments, and wish I had more time in the classroom organizing activities that have definite purposes instead of just marking time. But I have a first year graduate student who has requested to shadow me, so perhaps that will give me an opportunity to walk into the teacher role again. We start tomorrow with office hours!!

Grappling with the dissertation topic again is hard, mostly because I’ve been away for over two years. I haven’t thought about these issues for a long time. Reading some secondary literature last week, I stumbled across the term “millennialism”. Now I used to know not just what that meant, but also what the different schools of millennialism were and how each of them were associated with different expectations of family, responsibility, society, slavery, etc. It’s taking time to refresh everything that I do know. So part of it has been adjusting to being a student. Part of it is about adjusting to being back.

Besides that, being back has been hard. Being in graduate school at the stage I’m in is very fast paced. I’m supposed to read something like 50 books this semester, which is kind of ridiculous, especially when you pair that with the fact that I’m taking two classes and TAing and also polishing a dissertation prospectus. Add to that the fact that I also have a life outside of school, and you’ve got an Abigail pulled in seventeen directions. It’s not just the fact that I want to be active in church and have time for my hobbies or just want to sit down and read about Kate Middleton for a second. It’s also the fact that I have to get a new driver’s license and deal with my car insurance and worry about not having the proper furniture, etc. Plus, throw on top of that the fact that router decides to stop working or one of the toilets in our apartment just decided to spontaneous flood the entire bathroom for no reason, and I have to drop whatever things I’m trying to do and attend to that.

A lot of my old friends are here, which has been helpful. And I’ve been meeting new people. Timothy & Grace have moved, but Aaron’s still here. He’s married now with a baby, so that’s exciting. Joseph and Erica are still here, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time with them already. Diana’s still here; she was actually scheduled to spend a large portion of the term abroad, but those planned were nixed at the last minute, so she’s actually in my neck of the woods. I wish Tabitha was here, but her little brother just started school down the road, so he’s a pretty good substitute.** And all my doctors are still here — Drs. Mark, Leo, Samuel, Harold. It’s nice to have some grounding.

It’s definitely going to be quite the ride, but I’m excited overall.

Abigail Cashelle

*grad school has its own nicknames for everything; ABD stands for “all but dissertation”.

**hopefully that’ll be more than wishful thinking

A New Month, A New Personality Test

because why not?

I saw this on one of my friend’s facebook page. Sometimes it seems like these apps are like fortune telling, but it was pretty fun. Here’s what I got:

AbigailCashelle Molly  MiltonEeyoreEven more interesting is that when I put my real first and middle name into the personality tester, it gives me the exact same results as Eeyore (and Milton). (My last name gives me the same result as Abigail.) So either the test only has a few results OR I’m just very good at selecting pen names. You decide.

Abigail Cashelle

P.S. You can test things out for yourself also!

Milton made me a friend

In the course of the day, I interact with a lot of people, especially on days when I’m working retail. The store I work at emphasizes connecting with customers, and I do my best to try to make people feel like they matter and that they are contributing to my day. Because they really are. Part of why this job has been so good for me has been the positive energy that just comes from interacting with people.

As I was helping one customer, I noticed that her daughter was carrying a stuffed bunny. It’s different for children to be carrying stuffed animals when they’re taller than the countertop, but even I use Molly & Milton & Eeyore as security objects to survive medical settings and transit stations, so I understand that these objects have their place. Anyhow, I noticed that the bunny she had looked exactly like Milton. It was literally the same size and the same shape and the same color. I’d never seen anyone else with a bunny like that before.

So I just told this little girl that I had the exact same bunny as her. She thought that was really cool. I asked her if her bunny had a name and she said his name was Brownie. Since she was shy but obviously interested in the conversation, her mom asked what my bunny’s name was. I said Milton. That’s when I saw the big smile on her face. She told me that the Easter Bunny brought her Brownie. Did the Easter Bunny bring me Milton? I told her, No. I got Milton for Christmas (from Tabitha).*

She thought that was great. We had matching bunnies that celebrated special occasions. And it made my day. Watching her smile. Knowing that sharing something so small was so important to her. Having the time to be part of her world. And feeling cherished that it mattered to her that I shared something with her.


*Now that I check the records, it seems that Tabitha gave me Milton for my birthday. I remembered the Tabitha part, but I wasn’t too sure about the when part….

Looking Back

I’ve been doing some serious reflecting as I’m looking toward the future, and I’ve realized that I’ve come a really long way in the last 24 months. Reading through old emails and paging through my planner, I notice that I was juggling so many things and struggling with managing my healthcare all the time. Now it’s something that I only think about sometimes. Sure, some days I’m really exhausted and only feel like lying in bed all day. But still. It’s nothing like the way that things were before. And, I’m so much happier.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities and blessings that medication has brought me. Taking low doses of the muscle relaxant tizanidine has definitely changed my life. I’m also very thankful for the people that God has placed in my life who have been so generous and patient and encouraging throughout this journey. There’s been the doctors, of course, but also several therapists and my boss at my retail job and my boss at my school. I still wish that my family would be more supportive or even more aware of my existence, but I think my expectations are realistically lower.

Just thinking out loud,

For uncle Eddie

Growing up, we never gave money to anything. Not because we didn’t have any, but because money was meant to be earned and not given.

I remember that we weren’t allowed to raise money for school or for projects or whatever. Occasionally we could raise money for a church-related charity but that seemed to be about it.

I distinctly remember learning that giving money to beggars would not make a difference in the long run and if we really cared about the earth or the poor, we would hasten the second coming of Christ because He’s the real solution to all the world’s problems.

Now I follow all that logic, but as an adult, I’ve grown to disagree. So much of what we have is really a mercy from God and even if we can’t change the world, a small gesture can still mean that it meant something to someone that you were alive today.

I wonder about my uncle Eddie and what was like not to have a permanent place to live or to have to fit all of his belongings in his backpack. I wonder what it was like to have severe chest pain and still have to figure out where to spend the night. I know that there’s not really that much that distinguishs me from him. Even if I am a better person (or made better choices or had better resources), I still can’t possibly be that different.

So when I see someone on the side of the road asking for money or food, sometimes I give them something in Eddie’s memory. I can’t change the past, but I can do my part to contribute to making life a little smoother for my fellow men and women. I know that strangers helped him, and sometimes it seems that that’s all I can do – continue the legacy of caring and generosity.

Even if money or food doesn’t solve the problem, even if it contributes to it, I believe that the love shown by one human to another is priceless. (Which is why I give in person as much as possible.) That human connection, that confirmation that your existence really does matter – we human beings to programmed to require that to survive.

I know that for me, in the darkest of times, that is what has helped the most: small gestures of friendship. A book. A visit. Listening and then praying. A smile in the hallway. A wish of a good day.

There’s a reasons Scripture says that it is more blessed to give than receive. Because God rewards a cheerful giver. If we allow Him, He enlarges our hearts and also give us the opportunity to be shepherded by those we serve.