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Sneak Peek III

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Everybody loves sequels, so here’s another sneak peek of my book. I hope you enjoy Sneak Peek III. . . .

Shaelyn retreated to her office in an effort to find reprieve from the division floor’s noise. She sat at her desk, placed her purse in a drawer, grabbed the NYPD reports from her briefcase, and set the attaché at her feet. Almost immediately, a soft rap requested her attention.

“Yes?”

Rachel opened the door and mouthed, “Casey needs you now!”

As Shaelyn stood up, Rachel signaled her to be quiet. She turned her head to the side and realized that not a sound emitted from outside her office door. She followed Rachel into the stunned squad room, and Casey motioned her to sit in a chair next to his desk.

“I said I want to talk to the doctor,” an altered voice said over Casey’s desk phone, which was on speaker. “I see you’ve brought in the big guns, detective. What’s the matter? You can’t figure this one out on your own?”

“No,” Casey said in the low, steady tone he always assumed when someone challenged him. “I can handle you. My boss brought the doctor in. He doesn’t think I’m smart enough to catch you. I think otherwise. What do you think?”

With exasperation on his face, he motioned to two men who fussed over computer equipment. They shrugged, wide-eyed, and shook their heads. They couldn’t trace the call even though Casey was keeping the caller on the line.

“I think you haven’t caught me yet, detective, that’s what I think. Nor do I think you will. Even with your new ‘forensic psychiatrist. . . .’”

 

Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Gratitid (gratitude in Haitian Creole) by Amber Lenhert

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For the final blog post in the Haiti series, I’m publishing an essay that was written by Amber after her trip. Here is the note I wrote to her once I’d read it:

“Hi Amber,

“I literally whispered out loud ‘Wow!’ when I was done reading your essay. It is beyond profound and beautiful. I would like to publish this on my blog . . . as the last installment of the Haiti series, if you are agreeable to that . . . I think it’s the perfect ending to the series . . .

“. . . Amber, you are incredibly talented. I promise you I am not just saying that. You have a way with words that I wish I had! Please keep writing, even if it’s just for fun, and know I’m cheering for you!”

So, without further adieu, I present:

Gratitid (gratitude in Haitian Creole) by Amber Lenhert

Dear Friend,

I want to share with you my gratitude for teaching me to take in every moment because time flies, for giving me the gift of hope, and for showing me how to love others.I met you the day I had to leave my mission trip to Haiti; you were my most treasured orphan (living in the mission’s orphanage) that I came to know. I learned from you to appreciate moments with people because my time with you was so short and I took advantage of it; I don’t want to go through that again, it was too joyless. Time waits for nobody, so I need to take in moments with these people I love because I don’t know what the future has in store for me. It’s not within my reach to guarantee tomorrow. I knew of the saying ‘time flies so live in the moment’ but I had never really let it sink into my heart and applied it to my life. I finally started applying it to my life when it hit me that I didn’t have more time with you. You and I grew from strangers to friends instantly, but it wasn’t until I realized I had to leave that night that this parable made its way into my heart. Coming to that realization I so passionately wanted to guarantee myself more time to be with you. Time waits for nobody, and I now have that as a reminder to live in each moment.

You gave me the virtue of hope when you showed your vulnerability to me and let me into your life so quickly. I had started to feel woeful since I hadn’t found that place where I belonged yet then I would look around and see how everybody else found their niche. I was at a place where I was feeling like a letdown because I was on this impactful mission trip and it hadn’t left a mark on my life yet, but on the last day you showed up. You showed up and reminded me that I can’t forget hope in a situation so quickly; what looked like a failure turned out to be the most notable fulfillment of my life. I was looking at the negativity in the situation, when all I needed to do was wait one more day to see your face light up when I walked over to you.

I found you four days into my trip, you were sitting there looking like the universe was against you; I could see the absence of self-worth in your eyes. You wore your heart on your sleeve because nobody looked your way but for some reason I did. I looked your way and although at the time I didn’t realize it, I wanted you to have an abundance of self-worth. I was drawn to you, I was drawn to your pain and I needed to show you how much you are loved because through my eyes it didn’t seem like anybody had before. Thank you for showing me that everybody has a story and everybody, no matter who they are, needs to be loved in some way. Because of your story, I look for ways love others where they are being crushed under the hands of life. Every person I see has a story I don’t know about so I need to love than rather give them a heavier burden.

I am not only thankful that you’re in my life but I am blessed beyond reason. You have grown my heart in a way nobody else has been able to do. To me you aren’t just an orphan from Haiti, you are a dear friend. I cannot thank you for all that you’ve taught me! Goodbye my friend, I pray I see you soon; I miss you terribly.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Amber Lenhert All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with author’s permission.

Missions Trip to Haiti Part 4:
A Little Sarcasm, A Lot of Love

“I’m determined to go back . . .” – Aimee

“I want to apply to be an intern there when I’m older . . .” – Amber

“I will continue to support what God wants to do through them . . .” – Kelly

Aimee and Amber's Posse / Photo by: Caitlin Smith
Aimee and Amber’s Posse / Photo by: Caitlin Smith

I’ve been accused of living my life through the eyes of Walt Disney (RIP, Gene), and I had this vision that the girls stepped off the bus and children came running to them in droves with open arms. I was surprised to learn that Aimee and Amber didn’t feel as if they were making a difference in these children’s lives until their last day there.

Yo, Blond!

Aimee and Amber have two brothers, so it’s no surprise that out of the 110 children at the orphanage, they bonded with a few teenage boys (it didn’t hurt that the boys developed crushes on them). Nobody paid attention to these boys, and the boys wouldn’t make the first approach. What they didn’t count on was that Aimee and Amber were quite capable of breaking through their shells.

Amber bonded with a boy I’m going to call Oscar. She thought he was much younger than he was because he was so small. During a moment in church while they were singing hymns, she took his hands into hers and clapped them along to the beat of the music. This was only one way she broke the ice with him, who ended up being her age.

Aimee also adored Oscar, but another teen, who I’ll call Dennis, really fell for her. He stared at her, and she admits it made her uncomfortable. He called the girls “blond.” I didn’t understand why; they’re brunettes. When I asked about this, the girls told me blond means “white” in Creole. What Dennis didn’t know was that the girls could dish out the teasing just as well as he could.

“I Don’t Speak Creole, and You Know That’s Not My Name!”

That’s what the girls said to the boys when they called them “Blond,” and sarcasm and joking built a quick relationship, which is what it needed to do considering they only had one day left on the island. For all, goofing off was the easy part; for the boys, the being genuine and learning to trust part was what was hard.

Aimee and Amber believe that everyone bonded because the boys knew the girls were genuine, and as such, they let their guard down, something they never did. In fact, they let their guard down so much, that they cried that night because they thought they’d never see the girls again.

The girls cried, too. They didn’t want to leave their new friends, and promised them they’d come back, but the young men didn’t believe them, which is a sad testimony to the difficulty and loneliness they must feel in their lives.

“You’ve Got Mail”

The beauty of modern technology, however, is that Aimee and Amber can email the boys at the mission, and they do. They have been able to keep in touch with these new friends who touched their lives in ways no one, not even them, could imagine.

When I set out to write this series, I wanted to focus on how this missions trip changed Aimee and Amber’s lives more than the orphans they ministered to, but I realized halfway through, I cannot do this justice. I wasn’t there.

So, for the last installment of this series, I am honored to turn the keyboard over to Amber, who wrote about her experience. I’ll post it next.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Missions Trip to Haiti Part 3:
Queue the Indiana Jones Theme

“We couldn’t drink water on the bus ride to the Mission . . .” – Aimee

“Yeah, it was an eight-hour ride and we only had one bathroom stop . . .” – Amber

“I’m sorry, what? Did you say only one?” – Sharon

Wait . . . This is Haiti?!

Okay, I’ll just say it right now: I will never be able to go on this missionary trip. Only one bathroom stop in eight hours just won’t work with my coffee-addicted, forty-[cough]-year-old bladder. In fact, I believe I said, “Oh, [I’ll just go ahead and censor myself here] no!” when they told me about the bus ride from the airport to the mission, and not having enough bathroom breaks wasn’t the worst part.

And Aimee Thought the Flight Would Be Bad . . .

I’ve never been to Haiti, so I don’t know its geography, and I was surprised to learn that the bus ride to the mission was treacherous. I pictured crystal-blue waters married with white-sand beaches and flat lands throughout the entire island, and I’ll admit I just Googled it to see if that were true. The beach part is, but according to Aimee and Amber, the flat lands part isn’t so much.

Alongside having to “hold it,” the girls told Kelly and me that they rode on narrow mountain roads that were something akin to the routes up Mount Everest (okay, I added the Everest part). They said they couldn’t even look out the windows, because they were certain they were going to plummet to their death down a steep cliff. I don’t think anyone warned them of this during the safety meetings.

Do We Really Want to Do This?

I’m not afraid of heights. In fact, I added the Everest part above because I’m going to climb her one day, but alas, I digress. As I listened to them relay the long and harrowing bus ride (and heard the Indiana Jones theme in my head), I realized that these two faced their fears head on just to make this trip. You can’t tell me a bus ride like this doesn’t exacerbate a fear of heights and constant worrying (Please read the second post in this series to see what I’m talking about).

Was it worth it to the girls in the end? Keep reading to find out. I will say this, however: These young women are braver than Indiana Jones. While most teens were frolicking in the muddied waters that marry the littered California coastline, Aimee and Amber traveled for two days, and it wasn’t first class . . . and there weren’t enough bathroom breaks! Yeah, these two rock!

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Be Gentle on Yourself

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Years ago I saw a therapist once a week to get to the root of my depression. I decided to forego the psychiatrist and medication and see a psychologist instead. I didn’t want the cushion of the meds; I wanted to get to the bottom of my issues.

Every week as she walked me out of her office after our session, she’d say to me, “Be gentle on yourself.” At the time, I thought that was contrived. I’d just spent an hour ripping myself open and pouring my guts out all over the floor, and I resented the sentiment.

Hindsight is 20/20, however, and I now say the same thing to others. One reason why is because I better understand exactly what she meant. She didn’t just mean be gentle on myself as in, “Don’t go and jump in front of a bus,” she also meant realize that what you’re going through is difficult.

If there is any time a person should give her or himself a break, it’s in the midst of a mental illness battle. It’s difficult to articulate what goes through one’s mind as one struggles to try to figure out what’s going on inside one’s mind. There is so much confusion when you’re fighting your own brain.

My therapist’s sentiment went beyond a concern for my physical well-being. I was mentally tired, too, and she helped me to see that through those four simple words. She gave me permission to allow myself to feel how I felt, and that is so important to somebody who suffers from mental illness.

I’ve said it, and I’ve heard it: “I’m so stupid,” “I’m too weak,” “I need to get over it,” “I’m overreacting . . .” I won’t go on, because I can’t. This type of verbiage, whether being spoken to oneself or spoken to another is so harmful. It can derail a depressed person immediately.

In my humble opinion, few things are worse than minimizing and/or criticizing yourself or someone else for the emotional and physical reaction that is a part of depression and other mental illnesses. No one should ever be made to feel horrible because they feel horrible.

This is why I now say to others who are struggling the very words that I had come to resent so long ago. Nothing is inane when you’re in the midst of your own battle, and I believe that you should understand and accept all of these emotions so you can then learn how to manage them.

Yes, you feel horrible, helpless, and even stupid sometimes. But you know what? There are reasons why you feel that way, so don’t beat yourself up. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Realize that what you’re going through is difficult, and enlist the help you need to get you out of this dark tunnel.

In other words: Be gentle on yourself.

 

Please note: This blog post is written from my personal experience and expresses my opinions only. I am not a medical professional, nor am I qualified to dispense medical advice. If you believe you are suffering from depression, please contact your health care professional or the emergency mental health care hotline in your area immediately.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

I Believe Mental Illness Remains Misunderstood

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Alongside animal rights, another thing that I believe in is proper mental health care. I remain stunned that in the 21st century, there is still so much stigma attached to mental illness: it’s “all in your head,” suicide is “selfish,” depressed people should just “snap out of it.”

If only it were that easy.

I suffer from mental illness—a few, actually. It’s not always fun being me. I shut down from depression, cut people out of my life, sabotage myself in ways few would understand, and listen to my brain repeat itself . . . and then deal with the resulting behaviors from that repetition.

I have hurt many because of my actions, and you know what the problem is aside from the actual hurt? I can’t tell them why. Nope. I can’t. Not even after nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts, countless prescriptions, and therapy. Why did I behave that way? I can’t tell you, because I don’t know.

The good news is that I have made many breakthroughs, and I have come a long, long, long way. Through intensive and painful therapy and a ton of self-healing and reflection, I understand better from where my mental illness and behaviors originate.

I am healing from and am successfully combating the crap I have been through and the crap I have going against me. I still can’t explain to you why I feel the way I do or behave the way I behave sometimes, but I’m working on it.

I don’t bring this up for sympathy, or even empathy. I don’t want it. I have fought to get better because that’s what I have chosen to do. It’s my battle. I bring it up because I see so many others struggling, including people I love and have loved, and few receive the care or understanding that they need.

I live in a country that has advanced medical technology that is respected worldwide. I live in a country that is built upon a constitution that affords freedoms many others do not enjoy . . . yet I live in a country that is inept, painfully, at treating people with mental illness.

I honestly don’t understand it.

Mental illness is a genuine, physical illness, and mental health care is a genuine need. Those suffering really can’t “snap out of it,” and they do stupid things to sabotage themselves and their lives for no apparent reason. They aren’t just dinking around—they can’t help it.

I had a psychologist who said it best when I held on to the stigma of mental illness myself. I refused to take my anti-depressants, and he said to me in frustration, “Why do you think this is any different than a diabetic needing insulin?” I nearly fell out of my chair. He was right. I was ill. It’s not different.

This misunderstanding, this inability to recognize and treat mental illness as a genuine, life-threatening condition is a huge injustice in my humble opinion. There are people out there who are as helpless as those battling terminal illness and yet others don’t seem to care as much.

Maybe it isn’t as glamourous to support those who feel that taking their own life is their only option, and before you see red, I’m not discounting those who fight terminal illness. Someone I love very much is in a fight right now, and I will do whatever it takes to support and help her.

What I’m saying is please understand that others don’t commit suicide because they’re being selfish. People commit suicide because in their mind, where the brain chemistry misfires, they believe it is their only option. She or he is disabled to do otherwise, much less even get out of bed at times.

We live in the beginning of the 21st century. Are we going to go back to the beginning of the 20th century and ostracize those with mental health issues, or are we going to finally reject the stigma and support proper help and care for those who suffer from the mental illness’ debilitating conditions.

I, for one, know how awful it can be, so I choose to help.

 

Please note: This blog post is written from my personal experience and expresses my opinions only. I am not a medical professional, nor am I qualified to dispense medical advice. If you believe you are suffering from depression, please contact your health care professional or the emergency mental health care hotline in your area immediately.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Another Sneak Peek . . .

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In August of last year, I published the first sneak peek of my novel, which I’m currently shopping to literary agents. You can check out that blurb by scrolling down. Here’s another excerpt from my “baby.” I hope you enjoy it . . .

Casey and Shaelyn seated themselves next to each other on a table across from the case board and swung their feet like kids. Rachel brought them coffee. Casey stared at Shaelyn while she studied the board. She felt his gaze and asked, exasperated, “What?”

He smiled. “I just can’t believe it’s you . . . and look at you. You grew up to be the most beautiful girl in the world.”

Shaelyn leaned over and bumped him. “I’m not falling for your ‘sweet talk’ buddy. Your reputation precedes you.” They laughed. Casey’s partner stood against the wall beside the whiteboard and observed them.

She motioned to the board. “So, give me some facts.”

“Fifteen dead so far and this guy works fast; kills every four or five days. He doesn’t leave anything traceable behind—nothing. The bodies are cleaned post-mortem, and there aren’t any organs. We’ve contacted our peeps on the black market but nothing’s turning up—”

“Nothing will,” Shaelyn said. “He’s eating them.”

There was a pregnant pause. “He’s hunting,” Casey concluded from Shaelyn’s lead. “He’s hunting his prey, killing it, properly cleaning it, and then consuming it.”

Very good, detective.” She bumped him a second time.

“Wait. Are you serious?” Casey’s partner said. “He’s eating people? This is way out of our league.”

Casey shot the young man a dry glare. “Yes, well, this would be why she is here.” He motioned to Shaelyn. “She’s the expert on this kind of shit, and no, Kennedy, this is not out of our league. These are homicides,” Casey waved at the case board, “and we are homicide detectives.” He waved between the two of them. . . .

 

Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Missed Memo: Only Other People’s Values Count

Black Boxing Gloves / Photo by: Airman 1st Class Kerelin Molina
Black Boxing Gloves / Photo by: Airman 1st Class Kerelin Molina

I got into my first (and hopefully last) Facebook fight over the weekend. I have a policy of never engaging in Facebook fights, and those who are my Facebook friends know that I rarely discuss politics, religion, or my personal beliefs on the platform, with the exception of the occasional uplifting quotation or petition that I hope others will sign.

One of the reasons why I keep this low profile and bore my friends with perpetual cat pictures and coffee references is because I don’t share many of my friends’ political and religious beliefs, yet I understand that they have a right to their beliefs, so I agree to disagree in my head and move on. Other people don’t show this same courtesy . . . hence, my Facebook fight.

I don’t want to draw attention to it, but a person belittled those of us who expressed continued sorrow on the year anniversary of a tragic circumstance and not only devalued the subject of our sorrow, but also told us to “get over it.” When I called this person out for the unnecessary comment, it was reiterated that we should get over it and worry about what this person felt important instead.

Hmm . . . okay . . . Let me make sure that I have this straight: I don’t have the right to express sorrow over something that I value because you don’t value it. Instead, I should get over my values and only support what you value. I see. Okay, got it, and I apologize. Apparently, I missed the memo issued that lists what I am allowed and not allowed to believe in personally.

Now, why am I bringing this up if I don’t want to draw attention to it? Because it helped me realize something that I would like to share in the hopes that it will not offend but make others think. In my humble option, this attitude is part of the reason why everything is upside down right now, and headed in the wrong direction fast.

In my second-to-last comment to this person, I agreed that are “greater problems” in this world, and that one of those problems is people who think their ideals are the only ones that count and feel it appropriate to belittle others for their ideals simply because they don’t agree with them. What makes one person’s values more important than another person’s values?

The other problem with this entire situation is that somebody chose to insult people who wanted simply to express their sorrow on the one-year anniversary of a tragic occurrence that was close to their heart. What gives anyone the right to insult people over this? It is no person’s place to tell others over who or what they should feel sorrow, much less how long they are allowed to express that sadness.

Why is everything upside down? I believe this attitude is part of the reason. Everyone, please get over your own agendas. If you don’t agree with something, that’s fine, disagree, even open up a healthy debate, but please don’t feel as if you have the right to insult others over their values, and by all means, don’t push your unrelated values on those people to defend that action.

On a separate note, I’d like to thank this person for the Facebook boxing match. It taught me something important about myself, as well, and that is that I must continue to work hard to respect the beliefs of others, even if I don’t agree with them, even if I feel that they cause more harm than good. Who am I to tell somebody else what she or he should value? Who am I to judge?

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

“Creativity” by Amber Lenhert

Creativity flows through our veins.

It grasps our thoughts.

It controls our movements.

It binds our beings.

It’s the mere reason for our existence.

We breathe it in.

It fills our lungs, and it not only fills our lungs, but it sets our hearts on fire as well.

See creativity soar through our winds.

And encompass our days.

See creativity in you and me.

And let it inspire you.

Copyright © 2016 by Amber Lenhert All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with author’s permission.

Be Thankful, and Not Just Because it Is the Holidays

CC in the Christmas Tree 2013
CC in the Christmas Tree 2013

At the grocery store today I grabbed some cheap food for lunch and ate it in the seating area outside, noticing a woman at a table down from me. She was resting her head in her arms. At first, I didn’t realize she was homeless, but once I did, I decided to cut CC and my grocery list short and buy her something to eat. Something resonated strongly within my spirit to do so.

I finished eating and went inside to do my shopping. I didn’t have any money left over to buy her food, and I really wrestled with this. After several calculations and putting things back on the shelf, I peeked outside to see if she was still there. I didn’t see her, so, ashamedly relieved and thankful, I went back inside and picked up the items I’d returned to the shelves.

When I left the store, I saw that something was terribly wrong. The woman wasn’t seated at the table anymore, and that is why I didn’t see her. She was laying on the ground, with the store manager and two young men watching over her. I heard sirens and my heart broke. I slowly walked to the end of the parking lot and waited to ensure that the sirens were from emergency vehicles arriving on this scene. They were, so I left.

This wasn’t what I’d had in mind. I didn’t want to be relieved of my own heartfelt responsibility to buy this women food and free to purchase more groceries for CC and me because something had happened to her. I thought perhaps she’d gotten up and left or maybe she wasn’t homeless after all and someone came to retrieve her. I cried and talked it out as I walked home. My spirit was, and still is, devastated. I hope that this woman is okay, or will be okay.

As I hashed it out, I realized that a shopping trip that had begun with frustration over a client not yet paying me and, consequently, being severely strapped for cash, ended in the realization that I am so fortunate. I did have money to buy food for CC and me for another day or two; this woman appeared to have nothing; not even her health anymore.

I do not know what was wrong with her, but regardless, she is in a far worse place than I am. I have loving friends who took me in, no questions asked. I am truly fortunate; this woman is not, and there is a lesson to be learned by this distressing situation.

I learned that I want to appreciate instead of grouse over the things that I have, no matter how small. I want to be thankful, not resentful. I could’ve been lying on that cold ground today, but I wasn’t, and for that I am grateful.

Yes, a client owes me money, and I’m so thankful he does. What if he didn’t? I wouldn’t have that money coming in at all. What if he hadn’t contacted me out of the blue just when I needed the work? I wouldn’t have that money coming in at all. Yes, this is good, Sharon, not bad.

I pray this woman is okay and receives the help that she needs. I suppose going to the hospital is much more helpful than a sandwich would’ve been. Although, I still would’ve been honored to have bought her the sandwich and wished her well.

Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope you and yours remain thankful, warm, and safe during the season.

Note: I will be resuming the Haiti series shortly. Forgive the delay between posts.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved