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.

Abigail

*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,
Abigail

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.

Teaching

Watching myself lecture in class today, I realized that there’s this emotional energy I get from teaching and from getting a whole class to take a journey with me that i s really amazing. Everyone keeps telling me the same thing. I seem like this quiet, subdued instructor (or kid really) until the second class starts. And then try and interrupt my class. People walk in or out of class? Yup, just fold it straight into the lecture.

I’m finally in my element. And having so much fun. It’s a great feeling to have. And such a long time in coming. So much work led to this point. And it’s finally feeling worthwhile.

Even though I get exhausted and still have to spend long periods of time in bed or just resting, it finally feels like I’m where I’m meant to be. The exciting part is that everyone can tell, too. Students and colleagues tell me all the time that they’re big doubters until the second my class starts. And then there’s no doubt in their mind. This is it. The real Abigail has arrived.

It’s an amazing feeling.

Abigail

Working Retail Plus Teaching… and other Random Thoughts

So I just finished reading tons of posts on Ludo Stories: Tales of Triumph and Tragedy after Law School. Then I penned a long letter to Ludo, which I traditionally never do, because his blog has been a big source of inspiration to me, and I like telling people that they have a positive impact on my life. After I hit send on the letter with at least three postscripts (!!), I thought of yet another thing that I wanted to tell him. And I realized that while I could send him yet another comment, it was probably worth actually updating my blog instead. This post is for Ludo and for all my loyal readers who have not abandoned me after two months of silence. Thank you.


As you may recall, I am now a part-time instructor. I teach history at a local university, and I love it! It has been extremely time-consuming and also emotionally fulfilling, so I haven’t had the need or the time to devote to this blog. Anyhow, as I was writing this evening, it suddenly dawned on me why I was so invested in my lecture content today. Allow me to invite you into my classroom:

…the Gilded Age, which spans roughly from 1870 to 1890. This time period is known for its corruption in business and politics, which resulted, among other things, in a very stark wealth inequality. As intellectuals tend to do, many intellectuals debated this social dilemma at the time and came up with several theories about the present social stratification: (1) “Survival of the fittest”. Deserving people are rich. Undeserving people are poor. To help the poor is to fight nature. (2) The rich have a responsibility to help the poor but only in the way that they see fit. This often means providing resources to the poor from a distance. (3) Good people should improve society by launching campaigns to remove vices like drinking to excess and illiteracy in order to providing the opportunity for deserving people to have a chance to rise above their circumstances.

Back to the soapbox: So the thing is that I firmly believe that not working hard and not being educated and not following the rules sets you up for failure (or at least trouble), but I don’t believe that the inverse is true. I see at my retail job good people who are stuck for working minimum wage because they have a criminal record or they don’t have a high school diploma and they feel stuck where they are. And I want (most) of these people to have the opportunity to do better because they’re good people who are my friends (at least at work.) But the rough part for me is that I work very hard, I’m very well educated, and I followed most of the rules. And it’s hard to figure out how I got to the place that I am.

One customer told me the other day that I was lying when I said that I had a degree from the neighboring university because anyone who did would not be working a job like I was. And I was floored. I just laughed at him and said, Good one! because I didn’t know what else to say. But it’s hard sometimes. Because the reality hurts. It really does. And I feel like the lion is roaring and winning all over again. Why can’t I have a job that I can be proud of and post on FB, etc?

There is a reason why I choose this particular point to emphasize to my students. It’s definitely only a part of the Gilded Age, but I think it’s important to understand the assumptions that society makes about certain outcomes and how ingrained they are in our perceptions of the world. These assumptions are not new, but looking at them from a distance can sometimes be a light-bulb moment. As hilarious as Social Darwinism sounds today, an awful lot of the time I find myself sliding into that presumption. And I want my students to pause and think about it. Because life doesn’t always turn out the way you think. And you might wind up on the receiving end of these presumptions.

The thing that I have to remind myself is that I know exactly why I’m working the retail job and I know what’s in it for me. I need to be there because I need the cash but also the somewhat flexible hours. I need the human interaction to keep me from going crazy. I need the opportunity to constantly practice interacting with people and working with panic attacks and facing tough situations with other people. This particular job is a safe space for me to do that and provides a means for me to talk through situations with management so that I can actually improve and become a better person. I’m lucky to have the manager I do who understands this. But every time someone gets promoted over me or a guest tells me that I’m not smart enough or I’m better than this or whatever, I try to remind myself that it makes sense for me right now in this particular moment. And that’s all that matters. But that personal confidence has taken a long time to come to, and it sure would be nice if more people were on board with a broader view of life and the curveballs it throws us. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Thanks Ludo!

Abigail

P.S. A followup on my last post: I wound up with over 80% participation in Operation Gratitude!! I mailed a huge box of over 100 letters and felt very accomplished. Definitely a highlight of that semester. (I tried to write at least one letter every day of the challenge and penned at least 20. If you haven’t figured it out already, I like writing letters!)

Operation Gratitude

Working three jobs has been exhausting but also illuminating. This blog has been silent because my life has been full!!


At my retail job, we’ve been writing cards to anonymous members of the armed services as part of our contribution to Operation Gratitude. I’ve been racking my brain for a good extra credit project to give my students, not only so they can earn a few more points to their final grade but also so that they can learn to be productive members of society. That’s when I realized that Operation Gratitude was the perfect fit!!!

My pitch to the students:

Boost your grade, build community, be part of America, and do a good deed: all at the same time!!

I’ve asked my students to turn in a handwritten card thanking an anonymous member of the armed services for their service & to wish them well this holiday season. If they do so, they earn 0.5 points added to their final grade. If they can get >95% of the class to participate, there’s an additional 1.0 point bonus.

It’s been exciting to watch them take on the challenge of collective action. I’ve been really impressed and encouraged by my students’ responses. Some of them are one sentence thank-you-for-letting-me-get-extra-credit-in-this-class but most of them are heartfelt letters of gratitude and admiration. A lot of my students pour their hearts out into these letters, and I can see that they’ve taken to heart the cost of the freedom and liberty we enjoy and the degree to which we are all part of a community. These men and women need our support and encouragement as much as we need their work overseas. It’s always exciting to see people applying what they learn in class to real life situations.

I’m a big believer that if you have high expectations, your students will rise to the challenge. My favorite comment by Amy Sherman-Palladino about her series Gilmore Girls was that it was so successful because she crammed so many pop references into each episode and so much dialogue into each scene. There’s no way that you can catch everything on the first watch, but you’re so intrigued by each episode that you want to watch again. She has commented that people often assume that people who watch TV are stupid and that TV shows need to be dumbed down for people to appreciate them. Instead, she challenges her viewers to have a higher standard. And it works. That’s why we love her shows.

So far, about 1/3 of my class has participated in the challenge. They have a week left, so there’s still a lot of time for them to get their act together. We’ll see how things progress.

I’ve challenged myself to also write at least one card a day for every day of the drive. I’ve written 9 cards so far (with one week to go). It’s getting more challenging to find something different to say each time, but it’s a good challenge, one that’s appropriately achievable for me.

I’m excited that I’m feeling well enough these days to do things for other people. I’m also really excited that I’ve been able to rally my students together to do something for others and to show them that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone else’s life.

That’s all for now,

Abigail