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,



Good Grief! The Interwebs have spoken

Given my penchant for personality tests, I took one that “determines” which Peanuts character you are most like. In my sixth grade class, I had a very minor part (aka “the pitcher”) in our production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It was the highlight of my senior year. I still remember that my dad had the flu and wasn’t able to come. My sister’s class only got to see a dress rehearsal (which wasn’t even in costume and didn’t have the “real” Schroeder!) And, I didn’t have any lines, so I convinced the music teacher to let me introduce the play. Yeah, it was a highlight of my elementary school performance.

Anyhow, ::drumroll:: character analysis puts me at Charlie Brown. At first I was offended because, hey, I got really good grades in school, and I don’t have a dog. But, come to think of it, I’m not very good at dating, have no idea how to actually play baseball, and probably would forget to feed my dog if I had one. This is their summary of Charlie Brown’s characteristics:

You’re a classic over-analyzer. You’re charismatic, have a core group of friends who are very loyal to you, and are highly intelligent — but that intelligence often leads you to overthink most things in life. To feel satisfied, you have to consider everything from every angle, from Christmas to crushes. This way of thinking makes you highly intuitive and emotionally aware, and also gives you a great sense of humor and ability to view situations objectively.

I have to say, I can relate to a lot of it. So maybe they do have a point.


P.S. I am actually very good at writing book reports, and I played the lead female character in my first grade class’s production of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, just in case you were wondering.

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!!!

Disney Princess Personality

I keep thinking that I’d love to be Ariel (minus the skimpy clothing), but I saw this Disney princess personality test this morning, and I took it. I was surprised by the result, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. What do you think?


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?


and Penelope the Duck

The highlight of my day was at my doctor’s appointment. I found that my doctor is not only a twin (fraternal, not identical) but that when he was young, he and his siblings had a pet duck named Penelope. (Not a furry, cuddly one, but a real live one.) Apparently, she was pretty cuddly though because she was in the sibling photo.

It might be a sign that I’ve spent too much time in doctor’s offices or that dealing with the mundanity of having a chronic illness is finally getting to me. Or I’ve just truly come to terms with the fact that doctors are human.

Anyhow, I have a new family doctor and his duck was named Penelope.


Weekend Ridiculousness

time to spin the wheel…

I spent this weekend visiting old friends from the grad school days. (I love how far in the past that makes “grad school” feel!) Anyhow, it was quite an interesting trip. Lots of funny little tidbits. Here’s a few:

  • Want a cigarette? I’ve never really grown up around people smoking. But I was at the Catholic Worker House hanging out with an old roommate. She went back into the house to get something, and I struck up a conversation with the other guys hanging out on the porch. One guy saw that I was the only one not smoking and asked if I wanted a cigarette. No but thanks?
  • More tissues? In Dr. Mark’s office, he wanted to know why I hadn’t been able to find a general practitioner. When that somehow resulted in me tearing up, we continued our conversation with him periodically handing me another tissue and me just holding it for a few seconds and then putting it in my pocket. Is a tissue guy code or professional code for I’m-sorry-you’re-hurting-and-that-this-conversation-is-hard-for-you??
  • courtesy of the-person-I-already-forgot-about
    courtesy of the-person-I-already-forgot-about

    Crush-motivated activity? I attended a wedding of an old high school friend this weekend. The wedding was beautiful and amazing. But I got seated next to this guy at the reception. He was kind of being a jerk so I was making fun of him. (He thought it would be funny to burn his place card in the votive.) Well, apparently, he helped himself to my camera while I was away talking to the bride & groom (or their parents or grandparents) and took pictures of himself and his place card. Creepy much? Fortunately I know how to use the delete key on my camera and my memory.

  • A winner!! I accepted my first mystery shopping job which was to buy a bottle of wine & see if I was carded. I don’t drink wine so that was kind of tricky but I found the cheapest wine there was and bought a flavor that was served at the wedding. But my receipt was an even $15. Apparently at this grocery store (that I shop at all the time) that means cause for celebration. All the cashiers started cheering. And I got to spin the prize wheel. I won a reusable grocery bag!!! That totally made the whole shop worth it. (Now I just have to figure out what to do with a bottle of wine.)
  • That sweater? After all that work, I didn’t end up needing the sweater for the wedding. The weather was perfect for a sleeveless dress. At least I was prepared, right?

That’s all for now!!
Abigail Cashelle

CPBC: Patient by Patient by Emily Transue

First review for Chronic Patient Book Club is finally here. ::drumroll::

Emily R. Transue, M.D. Patient by Patient: Lessons in Love, Loss, Hope, and Healing from a Doctor’s Perspective. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. R154.T673 A3 2008. 610.69’6092

Emily Transue documents her first years as a doctor of internal medicine, living in Seattle and flying back frequently to visit her aging grandparents in New Jersey. She’s honest about the difficulties she faces with the business of being a doctor (coding is a constant nightmare) and the troubles she faces as a daughter and a granddaughter. Her book gives a window into the dual world of a maturing doctor and a maturing adult, considering marriage, the needs of people she barely knows, and the finality of death.

Her first chapter includes that insight we only gain in retrospect:

I had finished the hard years of residency, the hundred-hour weeks and thirty-six hour shifts, the drama of the hospital and the emergency room. I had seen a lot of people die or nearly die in those years, and I thought I knew plenty about grief and loss and healing. I little imagined how much more and how differently I would learn in the coming years. Much of this would come from the patients I would care for, not just in the episodic crises of the hospital but in the slower, richer arc of sickness and health that a primary care doctor sees. In parallel, my first years in practice would be tumultuous ones for the people in the world I loved most, and I would see more than I ever had of medicine from the other side. (5)

It’s interesting as a chronic patient to read something from a physician’s perspective. I always hope to know a little bit more about how doctors think so that I can plan the appropriate strategy for our encounters. But Transue does much more than that. She shows us that doctors know that patients are vulnerable; for a doctor to help, to sympathize, requires as much that the patient come out from behind their hiding place as for a doctor to be willing to listen. For example, she recounts the story of Ellie, an older woman recently widowed, crying and saying, “I just want to die.” Dr. Transue wonders how she’s supposed to treat grief and decides that talking could be as much a comfort as any. When she leaves, she asks that question that so many of us think is empty: “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Ellie’s response impressed me. She asked for a watch because she never knew what time it was. And that became an opening for so much more.

There’s the story that she tells about the Catholic grandmother who insisted about learning all about Transue’s boyfriend and made her promise that they would wait at least another three years before they got married. And another one about some guys who were sharing an id and the confusion that created when one of them turned out to have tuberculosis. Mostly, it’s a different perspective, and it’s helpful to be able to laugh a little bit about the ridiculousness that comes along with any profession, those things that fall by the wayside while we’re focused on the life-threatening stuff.

Overall: Not a profound book, but very true-to-life and funny. Gives a genuine glimpse into a young woman’s life, her journeys as a primary care physician, a daughter, a granddaughter, and a girlfriend.

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.


Lift Up Your Hands

from livingachaoticlife.com

I was playing around on the piano today and kept singing this one song over and over again. For some reason, I never realized that it was a Scripture song!!

Bless Jehovah now,
All you servants of Jehovah
Who stand by night in the house of Jehovah.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless Jehovah.
May Jehovah, who made heaven and earth,
Bless you from Zion.
Psalm 134