#selfies

I took my little sister to hear a violinist solo with the local symphony orchestra. It’s something she’s really into, and it’s been a while since we had a big sister-little sister night.

During intermission, I learned that she’s much more skilled at taking self portraits than I am. Granted she’s a teenager and all that, but somehow I always have her in my head as a little baby. Well, this baby is growing up and knows all about Snapchat and “selfies” and who knows what else. It seems that I’m getting old — already.

Abigail

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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

An update

Just a quick update to give you a glimpse of my life and to ask for some prayers.

I’m settling in to life at my parents’ house. I never imagined that I would stay here, but I’m grateful to just be in one place for more than two weeks at a time. The last few months have been kind of crazy, including three week-long “visits” to friends’ houses.

I’m having a hard time transferring my medical care down here. Part of the issue is that the medical landscape here is just different and because it’s so much bigger, it’s more confusing. But another part of the problem is that I’m having a hard time explaining to someone why I’m sick and why it’s important that I need help. I’ve spent so much time and effort accepting my illness for what it is and learning to live life in spite of it that it’s hard to convince someone that I do actually need help and that there is something majorly wrong going on.

I hurt my left hip somehow in the move to my parents’ place. I’ve been in and out of chiropractic appointments, but I’m not convinced that anything besides the first visit really helped. It’s really bothering me a lot though and keeping me up at night. (It’s super painful and also kind of wobbly.)

I’ve been having pretty intense inner ear pain in my left ear. It’s been going along with headaches and toothaches, which are immensely hard. I tend to want to sleep on the left side of my face, which is tricky since I can’t sleep on my left hip. All in all, falling asleep is hard and when I wake up, my body feels all twisted. I’ve already been screened for an ear infection and for other obvious stuff. We’re not really sure what’s wrong, but now that I’m starting to hear ringing (only) in that ear, I think I’m going to have to go down the investigative route.

Good news is that the breast pain is bothering me a lot less. Part of it might have to do with the fact that I’ve been home a lot and just lounging around in sleepwear. But a former chiropractor of mine is graciously allowing me to undergo cold laser therapy at her office, and I think it’s actually helping with the pain & inflammation. I’m skeptical, but I’m fitting into more clothes now, so something is actually changing.

I’ve got some freelance work coming up, but honestly finding a job has kind of taken a second place to getting medical stuff sorted out. It would be nice to have some pseudostable though. Plus, when I’m not resting or unpacking or dealing with health stuff, I’ve had to do the whole run around of getting a new driver’s license and changing my car insurance and hassling the credit card company, etc.

Prayer requests: that I would get adjusted to living in this new place, that the medical stuff would get under control & that I would have the strength/the help/the support I need to get what I so desperately need, that things would stabilize so that I can focus on more meaningful (to me) stuff like going to church, and that somehow I’d continue to have the energy to live with my family.

Abigail

procrastinating sew much

I really should be reading my 50 books, but I don’t feel like it. It’s spring break, and I’ve been thinking about my sewing room (aka office, library, bedroom, healing room all wrapped into one). I’ve filled the wall with a ton of vintage pattern covers. It looks really awesome, although the ones over the bed keep threatening to fall down while I’m resting.

Anyhow, I saw some pretty cool ads while I was compiling my last treasury list on Etsy. So I decided to pull together another treasury list. Mostly because I love vintage ads. (But I don’t have wall space or wallet space for any of them, I don’t think.) Take a look and see what you think.

decorating the historian's sewing room

it had the coolest stitches!!
I started thinking, Where did this interest in sewing come from??? Then I remembered that my dad got me a sewing machine back in the day. I think I was probably 5 or 6 because I remember sharing it with my sister who’s a few years younger. I think my parents got it used, but I’m not really sure. 5 or 6 year olds don’t keep track of that stuff. I know that we threw it away when we moved because all the markers dried up (or were used up by future seamstresses.) Oh the childhood memories!! I think I played with this machine in between cooking at our play kitchen and while (always) playing doggie and master. (My sister had an obsession with dogs, so I learned to integrate “doggie and master” into every single one of my play activities.) I think I “sewed” stuff for my parents and for my furry friends. Yes, that love goes way back as well.

Rambling post about childhood memories and crafting…. Hope it gives you a glimpse into my personality.
Abigail Cashelle

Dreaming of the future…

I’m sitting in Tabitha’s parent’s dining room as I’m writing this. The house is quiet now, but earlier today there were the sounds of her brother playing the piano, her other two siblings frantically learning calculus from their father, mom and sister cooking, and then some guests (I think). The day before there were even more people doing even more things. Coordinating rides. planning which movie to watch. Catching up on homework. Calling the grandparents. Planning shopping excursions. It was chaos. (Well, it wasn’t exactly a well-ordered machine.) But it was good chaos. It was the chaos that meant family. Life. Friends. Community.

Tabitha and I have been thinking a lot about the future. Laughing about where we’re going to live. Who we’re going to be. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few weeks mulling over the future as well, thinking about different medical treatments and their potential impact on the rest of my life. There seem to be so many unknowns, that it’s difficult to make an informed decision. As Dr. Leo pointed out recently regarding my graduate school situation, a lot of those variables are not even up to me. I’m waiting to see what other people decide or how other things turn out.

But sitting here in the dining room, I’m sure of one thing. No matter what, Tabitha and I keep coming back to the same conclusion. We want life, full and dynamic. A life full of people we’re related to, people who love and support us, people who need us, and people we need.

Thinking over the past few days with Tabitha’s family, I’ve realized that life can be messy. It can defy the order that I like so much. It’s unpredictable. It’s composed of many moving parts. It doesn’t always work the way we imagine it.

As I sit in the living room and hear all the conversations or watch Tabitha’s three brothers fight over what song they’re going to sing next, I realize that it might not be ordered, but it’s definitely alive. These are real people. And that’s a good thing. Because as much as I love peace and quiet, I can’t live in a world where everything is inanimate. I think the stillness itself would kill me.

So I’m grateful for the time with Tabitha’s family. While I don’t know yet who I’ll marry or how many children I have, I do know that I’ll always find myself surrounded by real living people. It’ll keep life interesting. It’ll keep my own life full of life.

Abigail

with My Dad

I’m two states away… spending some time with my dad.

I got a text from my mom this afternoon asking for prayer for my dad — he’s really sad about his brother Eddie. Daughter instinct kicked in and I grabbed some clothes, all my homework for a week, and jumped in my car.

Please pray for this time and for my dad. There’s need for much healing and much comfort.

Peace,
Abigail

Remembering Uncle Eddie

My paternal uncle Eddie passed away a little over a week ago. His death was very unexpected and hit me pretty hard. This post is for him.


age 12: ready for a 50 mile hike!!

Nearly two years older than my dad, Eddie was the quintessential American boy. His parents moved across the United States to pursue the American dream and eventually opened a mom and pop business. At an early age, he joined the Cub Scouts and proceed to ascend through the ranks over the years. Ever athletic, he played water polo in secondary school (much to non-athletic little brother’s consternation!) As an adult, he traveled frequently, sending mementos of his trips to various family members.

Eddie: Grandma always told me how intelligent you were & how much potential you possessed. I look at the part of your life that I know and I see creativity, resourcefulness, and strength. You lived up to the valor of the name Edward in so many different ways.

As I mourn the loss of your life and the reality that we never really got to know each other, I am comforted that the trials you experienced are over. I’ll be telling my children about their uncle who refused to let overwhelming situations master him, the man who found meaning in his life in his own way. At future milestones of my own, I’ll be remembering you, my uncle Eddie, for who you were and who you intended to be.

Beautiful Day with Bethany

Bethany’s wedding was beautiful. The ceremony itself was a blur. I remember fixing her dress a lot for the many, many pictures they took afterwards. I remember talking to a lot of her friends & relatives. But a couple things stood out to me:

– the groom: right as I was getting ready to leave, the groom came up to me and thanked me for everything I had done to support Bethany up until this point. He said, There’s no way that Bethany and I could have gotten married without you. I’m so grateful for everything that you’ve done for her and for what a friend you’ve been to her. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. As the tears welled up in his eyes, I kept thinking of all the things Bethany and I had done together in the few years. From praying for her and her (now) husband, urging her to take pre-marital counsel seriously, walking through the various steps of wedding planning, hearing the first stories of “the boyfriend”, to flying down to be the first friend to meet the guy. It meant a lot to me that someone noticed how much I care about Bethany and want what’s best for her. But it meant even more coming from the groom.

– the bride: when I was saying my very last goodbye to my newly married best friend, she whispered these words in my ear: I’ll be praying for you health-wise. It meant so much to me to hear her say that. I know that she cares about me deeply & wants to give me something eternal, something she knows I value a lot. A lot of our conversations for the past few years have revolved around the boy & then the wedding, and it sometimes felt like our friendship fell by the wayside. But even though we talk less, I think we’re closer than ever.

– my hair: bridesmaid #4 did my hair for me, just because I asked her to. For some strange reason, I was the only girl who had her hair done on site. So it meant that I was the center of attention because the bride was in the back room doing some makeup stuff, and the photographer was hovering around me taking photos. So I had my special moment.

– best man, brother of the groom: I had the opportunity to meet the brother of the groom & his girlfriend last year over Christmas. It made it feel much more like family during the wedding since I knew many of the wedding party. As he gave me a hug goodbye, I reminded him that I’ll probably be in town again for Christmas. Looking at his face, it was almost like having a new brother-in-law when he said, I can’t wait to see you then.

So, I’m really happy. The wedding was beautiful. We wore some splendid dresses and carried lovely flowers. But mostly, that feeling of being part of family and being someone’s best friend, sister, and daughter: I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Abigail Cashelle

I Think You’re a Friendly Person

I think you’re a friendly person, easy to get along with.
(Thank you.)
I’m not trying to be nice. I’m serious. And, you’re welcome.

So said Dr. Mark this afternoon.

Today was a crazy day. I spent five hours going from Dr. Leo’s office to Dr. Mark’s office to the pharmacy. Considering that they’re all five minutes apart by car, that’s a lot of time parking and navigating the medical scene.

I was exhausted before I started. Having chest and breast pain for days on end is not fun; it’s miserable. And it sucks the energy out of you. Plus, if you have other people in your life being a pain, it only makes it worse. Now I’m more exhausted (if that’s even possible). But I’m grateful for today’s experiences. I know that even in the most vulnerable places, I’ve found ways to grow as a person.

It’s hard for me to be genuine in a doctor’s office. Half the time I feel like I need to act a certain way to get the physician to believe that I have a certain problem. So visiting the doctor becomes a role-playing exercise. Plus, being in an exam room automatically makes me feel vulnerable and very, very small. It’s taken a long time for me, but I’m finally figuring out how to face these situations without having myself hidden behind eight doors barred, chained, and deadlocked shut.


Stop 1: Dr. Leo’s exam room. We sat in the exam room and had an interesting conversation on the progression of symptoms, the development of graduate school drama, other medical treatments and interventions, and potential future directions. I made a comment about my frustration with my adviser being exacerbated by memories of similar interactions with my father. He asked me to share about my background with my family.

Talking about my family is hard. I love my parents and have a lot of amazing childhood memories. My parents put a lot of energy into their children and sacrificed a lot to make sure that we had the best opportunities. My mom left her job when she was expecting me. My dad worked from home from the time I was one year old. My parents always included us in all their church service, so we knew a lot of their friends as well. My parents supported me and my two younger sisters through various hobbies, helped us learn several languages (including languages they didn’t even speak themselves!), took us to piano lessons as far as 45 minutes away, and attended swim meet after swim meet. I was homeschooled for seven years, not just in the self-taught way, but in a way that made the most sense for me and for the family as a whole. I have grand memories of family vacations up the East Coast and to amusement parks. We’ve always been really close-knit.

So it’s hard, or near impossible, to understand why we’re barely on speaking terms these days. In full disclosure, there are tons of things involved. But, the short version is that the family cracked over my illness. It changed a lot of things when I got sick in late high school. My parents actually picked up everything, sold their house, and moved to the city where I was starting college so that I could attend school while still living at home. We each individually tried to come to terms with the presence of a chronic illness, but it was really hard to make sense of this amorphous thing that no one could pinpoint. It didn’t help that doctors kept telling me and my parents that I was “just a whiny teenager”. Eventually, my illness became the elephant in the room (especially when my sister complained that we talked about it all too often.) Over time, it became easier for each family member if it just didn’t exist. Except. That removed any explanation for why I behaved like a sick person. I did my best to be the perfect daughter and not complain or “act out”, but inevitably something would happen, I would be blamed for intentionally making people’s lives miserable. So, I turned to other people for support, even started to spend the night at other people’s houses. I started pursuing medical care behind my parents’ backs. It meant that I was finally getting the help that I needed. But it was hard and still seems so wrong. I wish my parents had been there to hold my hand or cheer me up when I was being screened for MS; I wish they had been there for me for my first invasive diagnostic procedure. But they weren’t. And they’re still not.

Anyways, I told Dr. Leo the story above. Maybe in a more convoluted order. And perhaps kind of teary too. His reaction was really helpful to me. There was a long period of silence. He had this grave expression on his face. Then he said in a quiet tone, I really appreciate that you shared that with me. And that was it. I know he could read between the lines to understand how it all fit together and how it made me who I am now. But it means so much to me that he didn’t say much. No judgment. No suggestions for how to alter things. No trite categorization. He just acknowledged how difficult it was for me to share and how it’s as much or more a part of my present as it is of my past.


Stop 2: Dr. Mark’s XXXXL exam room. (They really like putting me in there!!)

A long visit. We talked about a lot of things: specific symptoms that were bothering me a lot now; long-term treatment plans. We spent a good deal of time looking through other doctor’s chart notes and talking about how they fit into my case & current treatment plan.

Something in Dr. Samuel’s notes made him ask me if I had normal relationships with other people. Responding to my puzzled look, he said, You have friends, right? That’s when we had the opening exchange. We even reflected on Alana and how she’d come with me one time. So, yes, there are people in my life whose disbelief or unwillingness to take me seriously creates tension in my interaction with them. Family. Dr. Voluble. The lion. But, in general, Dr. Mark still wants to be my friend and says that other people should as well. (Yay!)

A bit later, as I was getting together all my stuff to leave the exam room, I looked up to see him standing in the doorway looking at me. So I asked him, Was there something else you wanted to say?

He looked at me for a long time. And then said, Abigail, don’t let people who don’t believe you weigh you down. Ok?

That was the moment today when the tears really came. Sure, the pain is miserable. Talking about my family was hard. Greeting Aaron and the others at vespers was sweet. Being supported by Gretchen is a godsend. But it’s the moment of being believed. Knowing that I’m 100% capable of being myself all the way through. The freedom to be real, to stop hiding behind different facades (including “the perfect patient” facade.) Adding that to reminiscing with Dr. Leo about family and the inherent tension between grief and love made for an amazing day at the doctors.

It’s true that we still don’t know where all the massive inflammation comes from. It would be nice if my pulse didn’t escalate every moment I was stressed. But we don’t always have control over those things. We just have to make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt and that starts with being real.

from my heart,
Abigail Cashelle