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

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In Which Molly Goes to the Clinic… and We Learn Some New Vocabulary

Alana and OceanBurning have been accompanying me to clinic all week, and I didn’t realize until yesterday how valuable a role they played. Yesterday I was by myself and had two consultations(!!) back to back at the clinic. I hadn’t asked anyone to come with me, so I took Molly with me instead. At first, I was a bit self-conscious about it, but then I figured that anything beat crying on the floor in the bathroom while throwing my cell phone at the wall because Aaron lost his phone and I don’t have any way of calling him (which is my typical recourse for crying on the floor in the bathroom.)

faithful MollySo I brought a bag big enough to fit Molly into, and then I brought Molly with me to the Clinic of St. Jude. I got some strange looks from people, but no one said anything. Most of the strange looks were people thinking, oh, that’s different rather than there goes the weirdo (fortunately.)

And it turned out that Molly was a great friend to have yesterday. I spent over one hour waiting for my PMR consult. During that time period, I would have paced the waiting room floor except that I was really exhausted, and I didn’t want everyone else in the waiting room to have to endure my nerves. Molly and I worked on browsing the internet, reading books, eavesdropping on conversations, skyping my sister who lives in Europe, and periodically bothering the receptionist and asking her random questions. We learned (from eavesdropping) that retired truckers who enjoy driving to Alaska can also be really loud and that grown men who are separated from their wives (but not yet divorced because they’re too lazy to get around to it) tend to also have mothers who are very loud and nosy and accompany them in the waiting room. We would have been more sympathetic if they had not fed our growing insecurity about being in the clinic for (seemingly) pointless consultations. Oh, and by “we”, I suppose that I actually mean “I”. Molly is pretty chill about everything and everyone.

Molly did enjoy the fact that every consultation room at this clinic has a private sofa. (Seriously, some doctors’ offices (like the XXXXL exam rooms!) should pick up on this feature. Anyhow, during the actual consultations, she just sat on the sofa, patiently waiting for everything to be over until I needed her again. The PMR doctor did ask me at the end of the consult if I bring my pink teddy bear with me everywhere. I said, Only when I’ve been in clinic for far too many days in the row and I just can’t handle it any more. He was cool with that, and we were cool with him!

We learned some interesting things in our visit to the clinic. Pieces of the puzzle started falling together yesterday. It seems like we had all the pieces already (or most of them). But we just needed the right people to all put their heads together sequentially to notice that some things actually went together. Dr. Leo was a big help with that, as St. Jude’s coordinating physician kept going back to him to review things and ask more questions about my previous care. I’m really, really grateful for his help with that.

More details in the coming days as I continue to process and think about long-term implications of new ideas. I’m driving back home on Monday, but I’ll still be on leave so I’ll have some time to think, some time to rest, some time to be on vacation, and some time to have wifi without driving around town trying to track it down! (Abigail vacationing without wifi does not a good combination make.)

Until next time,
Abigail

They Keep Saying, We’re Going to Miss You

My coworkers at my new job are warming up to the fact that beginning tomorrow I’m on leave for three weeks while I travel to the Clinic of St. Jude. Everyone says the same thing. I’m going to miss you so much. I’m counting down the days until you get back. We love having you here, and we can’t wait until you get back.

It’s so uncharacteristically different from the ravenous lion. It warms my heart. It’s nice to feel loved and needed and part of a team. I love it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
Abigail

Gearing up for a Visit

Ginger Family cookies - need we say more..?I’m getting ready to meet Timothy & Grace’s little one. I’m so excited for them and I can’t wait to meet their little daughter. She’s being christened this weekend, and this lucky “aunty” will be there!! 🙂 (weather permitting — dad wants me to add.)

I know that they don’t have space for a lot of stuff plus they don’t really need stuff, but I wanted to bring something to celebrate. I finally settled on these cookies. I got ::gasp:: five boxes of them because they were mega on sale. Grace says that she loves gingerbread, and I think it’ll be perfect for a family celebration, right?

Abigail

That time I gave him a ride

Note: I think I’m catching a cold; downside of working a job is that you come into contact with lots of germs. So I’m fleshing out unfinished posts for a change. This one should have come out last month.


In the course of spending a lot of time with Grace and at the church, I wound up giving a ride to a man that was living on the church grounds (literally.) During the course of the five minute ride, he told me his life story. This is what he said:

Yeah, I’m not actually from this area. I came up here a while ago to get medical treatment at the big hospital. I have cancer, like really bad. I was doing chemo for a long time, but now they said that it can’t be treated any more. So I’m just waiting for a few more days for my last doctor’s appointment at the clinic and then my brother is picking me up and I’m going home.

I made some comment about the fact that his doctor’s appointment was at 9 am. And he said quite simply, “That’s not early. When I was doing chemo, I had to be at the clinic at 6:30am and then had treatment from 7-7. That’s early.”

And I was humbled. I realized that here was a man who had been through much more than I had. (After all, he was much older than me. Just because I have an illness and have been through a lot doesn’t make me older and wiser than everyone!!) He was being sent home to die because the doctors “couldn’t help him any longer.” In the mean time, he was living outside in the (literally) freezing weather.

I was happy that taking one minute out of my day made a difference in this man’s life. Mostly, I was grateful that he took the time to share his story with me.

Abigail

Woefully Behind but…

I know that I’m woefully behind in posting this month’s PFAM blog roundup and just updates in general, but I have an honest-to-goodness excuse.

I interviewed for, got offered, trained, and started a cashiering job all in the past week.

I’ve already worked four days, and they have me on the schedule working 40 hour weeks. Since I already have two part-time jobs that want me to work more hours than usual, this has been kind of ridiculous. Mostly I go to work and then I go home & figure out what I need for work the next day and then I go to sleep. But it should be less crazy next week once midterms are over and no one wants to hire a tutor!!

Other exciting news is that I signed up for my first virtual quilting bee!!! I had forgotten that I had applied for that, but it should be exciting. I’m looking forward to it (and hoping that I find the time & energy to come up with an idea for my month, which is February!!)

More news soon. For now, it’s time to sleep.

Abigail

A Gift

chewy chocolate gingerbread (with recipe)
chewy chocolate gingerbread
Someone is paying me to make 5 dozen holiday cookies for them. Now they’re not paying me very much, and it’s not a full-time job or anything, but it’s a big deal for this spoonie. Why?

Because someone is paying me to get out of bed. That’s big. And, this gluten-free, dairy-free girl can just follow a recipe for once & actually just make something the way Martha Stewart intended. And I can experiment and do something wacky & sophisticated just because.

At this point, that’s a gift. And I’ll take it. I’ll take any gift someone is willing to give me. Especially if they’re willing to pay me for it. Even if it is a perfect stranger.

Taking one day at a time,
Abigail Cashelle

A Few Words of Encouragement

From last night’s Evening Prayers:

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
(Psalm 73:23-26)

This Psalm speaks much of the hardship and unfairness of life. But I was impressed by how it ends. It ends with the psalmist’s trust in Jehovah and in His promise. Even when our flesh & our heart fail, God is the strength of our heart. In the end, His people are vindicated and receive the blessing. In the meantime, He holds us by our right hands.

Abigail

you know you have a chronic illness when…

the pharmacy manager and the assistant pharmacy manager not only know you by name but remember what you’re taking and why.

I’m having a hard time finding legit doctors here in my home town. And by legit doctors, I mean someone who will see me for more than five minutes before he kicks me out the door.

Anyways, someone prescribed me a muscle relaxant for that ear pain that was bothering me. It helped a whole lot and actually gave me energy (?!?!?) But you’re not supposed to take it long term. So the next specialist was like, scrap that, take these steroids instead. They will really help bring down the inflammation.

So good patient that I am, I dutifully filled that prescription and started taking it. But it made me really lethargic and nervous and sensitive and incredibly stressed out. So it was pretty much undoing any good that it was doing and then some. So I wanted to stop taking it.

I drove to the local pharmacy and talked to the pharmacy manager. We talked through the whole thing and about how I always have the opposite of the symptoms that they tell you that you’re going to have. (Yeah, the muscle relaxant is supposed to make you tired. Hahahahaha.) We talked about options and about just stopping the steroids all together. And I have to say, it’s way easier to find a good pharmacist, someone who will actually pay attention and think for more than five seconds.

I have had my share of bad pharmacists who have said things like, uhhhh, did you read the brochure??? (yes, that’s why I’m asking this question) Or, you’re too young for menopause. (Uhhhh, okay, and how is that relevant?) And I’ve had them mix up prescriptions before. But I’ve also had some really good pharmacists.

You know they’re keepers when they remember you. And they don’t see you as that annoying girl who must be addicted to drugs because she comes in every few days. But rather than girl that we desperately want to help because she’s so nice and smart and young. Right?

Another day in the life,
Abigail

Reflections with Dr. Samuel

I met Dr. Samuel earlier today to say goodbye & to touch base with him before I leave town.

We talked about my time as his patient & came away with several conclusions. (I’ll list them here so I don’t forget later!):

  • I started graduate school with pretty bad depression that sometimes took over my life. We got that under control within the first few months, and I’ve been doing pretty well since then.
  • I need to have someone continue to monitor the depression & continue prescribing the meds. Weekly talk therapy also seems called for, just because my life (with the chronic illness) is pretty tough.
  • Depression seems much more like a symptom than a root cause. I don’t necessarily need a psychiatrist to monitor the condition as the meds seem to have it under control, therapy should continue to help, and there are other things going on here.
  • One of the major blessings of having Dr. Samuel as my physician has been that any time someone brings up psychiatric origins of my illness, I can say that I have been evaluated by a psychiatrist over a period of time and he does not believe that to be the case. Dr. Samuel says that he would be willing to continue to be that person even from afar.

It’s a fine line to walk between making things up that aren’t true and using the truth to your advantage. Both Drs. Samuel & Mark have talked to me about this. It seems counterintuitive, but for a complex situation like mine, it’s important to consider how doctors think and how to best present my case to them. I think of it as giving a compelling description of a product rather than just trying to increase sales.

water flowing & sun shining
water flowing & sun shining
In other news, Dr. Samuel has been a pretty special doctor to me. He’s been the one who has always seen me as a strong & passionate person, someone who has accomplished a lot. A lot of people in my life go about looking for the silver lining in every situation, but Dr. Samuel has a different attitude. He see me primarily as a creative & determined young woman with a sense of humor. That’s something that endures, rain or shine, something that’s not tied to the circumstances. It’s a vision that not many people have shared with me, but one which has really changed my perception of myself. If I had to pick one person who changed my life while I’ve been here, it would be him. Without a doubt.

So I made something for him. Something that would capture the sunshine, the joy, that he always sees & brought to my life. I wrote a note on the back. I gave it to him at the end of the visit. Something to hang on his office wall. Or something cheery to put in his house. He was really surprised and said that it looked really pretty!!

the note
the note
I know that I’m not a visual person. It took me quite a while to figure out how to capture his attitude toward me as a patient and as a young adult. It made me really happy to make it. And to give it to him. Because sometimes words are just not enough.

Abigail