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Sharon Platz Posts

Missions Trip to Haiti Part 2:
A Case of the Giggles Equals Instant Super Glue

“I have a very distinctive laugh when I’m nervous . . .” – Aimee

“I’m a worrier, and I didn’t want to worry . . .” – Amber

On the Plane Ready to go Haiti! / Photo by: Brianne Bookout
On the Plane Ready to go Haiti! / Photo by: Brianne Bookout

Aimee and Amber’s mission trip to Haiti was the first time since 2009 that a group from their church so young had been to the North West Haiti Christian Mission. Amber was the youngest member on the fourteen to eighteen-year-old team, and Aimee was one of the many “middle children” ready to spread God’s word . . . well, sort of.

Aimee has a fear of flying, so the idea of airing it to Haiti was not one in which she relished. When I asked her what possessed her to go ahead and plan the trip, she told me that she’d prayed about it and realized the trip was God’s will in the end. Everything, including the funding and much-needed supplies fell into place, so she took that as a sign alongside her personal prayer time that this was meant to be and she’d learn something from it.

Although the group was all members of their church’s youth ministry, this was the first time they’d all hung out together for any extended period. While the girls where comfortable with the group of friends, it wasn’t until Aimee boarded the plane that they all bonded. Perfect timing considering they were on their way to minister together as a group to orphaned small children and teenagers. What sealed their bond and their fate as Haiti missionaries? Giggle snorts, of course!

A Laugh and a Prayer

I’m teasing Aimee a little bit here. I’m quite certain she wasn’t actually giggle snorting on the plane, but as they took their seats and prepared for take-off, as Aimee explains it, she began to laugh her very distinctive and nervous laugh. Everyone else broke into giggles alongside Aimee, and this not only comforted her, it also helped her remain calm throughout the flight.

The girls said the ice broke, the team bonded, and everyone started to get along. Of course, one team member mercilessly teased Aimee about the plane going down in flames, but she persevered and experienced her first take-off and air flight. Did she like it? I believe she mentioned on several occasions that she did not—nope—nada—huh-uh—no way!

The Worry Wort

Amber on the other hand wasn’t afraid of flying; she was just worried in general. I must admit I was surprised when she confessed to me that she was a worrier. To spend time with Amber you would never know this. She’s always staid, poised, and even a bit quiet at times, which translates into a subtle confidence within her aura when you’re near her.

Part of her goal during this mission trip was not to worry, and she sought the advice of a teammate whom she said she admired, because he never worries . . . ever. When she asked how it is he never frets, he explained to her that he prays and releases everything to the Lord. He just gives it up to heaven and lets it go. This helped Amber to release her own worry, and she’s continuing to work toward keeping her mind at ease so worry no longer eats away at her.

Haiti Time

One thing that helped both the girls was once they landed in Haiti—and Aimee kissed the ground (I’m kidding, Aimee)—was that they were suddenly catapulted into “Haiti Time.” What’s Haiti time? Well, it’s time by which we should all abide, and that is there’s no schedule. Apparently, in Haiti, the general feel is relaxed and you should always be chilling. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

As I’m writing this, something just occurred to me, and it’s a nice place to end this post. Aimee mentioned she’s structured, scheduled, and she purposely didn’t take her watch on the trip. This helped her keep calm, because she wasn’t worried about time. Isn’t it interesting that God says there is a “time for everything,” and it was when these girls were the least worried about time that they were able to do the most of God’s work.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Missions Trip to Haiti Part 1:
When a Missions Trip Has a Greater Effect on the Missionaries

“My heart is broken. I want to go back . . .” — Aimee

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; leave them . . .” — Amber

Aimee, Amber, and Me on Thanksgiving 2013 / Photo by: Bill Pasternak
Aimee, Amber, and Me on Thanksgiving 2013 / Photo by: Bill Pasternak

I knew when I sent a donation to sponsor Aimee and Amber’s missionary trip to Haiti that it would change their lives. What I didn’t know was how much it would change their lives. At the delicate ages of sixteen and fourteen, Aimee and Amber, respectively, put their summer vacation on hold to spend a week in Haiti ministering to local orphans. The trip was long, the bus ride treacherous, and the girls still cannot get the Haiti “smell” out of their nostrils. But what they really can’t do is get Haiti out of their hearts.

A Leap of Faith

On August 2, 2015, Steven and Kelly kissed their daughters goodbye and placed their wellbeing in God’s hands. The entire family took Aimee and Amber to Los Angeles International Airport to see them off on their first missionary trip. Kelly was understandably distressed. In fact, she didn’t attend the pre-trip safety meetings with the girls because she didn’t want to know the dangers her daughters would be facing. I don’t blame her; in this case, ignorance truly is bliss.

Nonetheless, off they went after weeks of preparation that exhausted and, to an understandable degree, agitated the girls’ younger brother, Matthew. Sure, a twelve-year-old boy wants to spend all day shopping. Who needs to build things and play video games? Right? You’re a trooper, Matthew, there’s no doubt about that.

I arrived at Steven and Kelly’s house the following Monday morning to stay for the week, and I walked in to find a mother who was beside herself, albeit calmly. The girls had landed Saturday night and taken an all-day bus trip on Sunday to the North West Haiti Christian Mission where they were to minister to local children. Kelly hadn’t heard that they’d arrived safely, and I’ll give her credit, she was much calmer than I would have ever been.

Steven emailed a contact, and we received the good news that the girls were fine about an hour later. That evening, all of the young adults on the trip wrote a message to their families, which were sent in a single email. I read Aimee and Amber’s messages aloud and we all shed happy tears. They were there safely and excited to do God’s work.

Why Did I Do This?

Kelly had signed up for notifications from the U.S. Consulate, something we unexpectedly found distressing. It seemed like a good idea at time, but as she received text messages of uprisings in Haiti, I remember her questioning her logic, as this was only compounding her worry. I think there was a message in her unexplained action, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Aside from an occasional reaction to a U.S. Consulate text message, you would’ve never known that Steven and Kelly were worrying about their girls. I was amazed as the week progressed how at peace they were with the entire situation. Even when Kelly and I sat over morning coffee, her voice was calm while she discussed the trip. I remember thinking that she was much braver than I am.

It seemed as if the week flew by, and I’m sure it seemed to fly by even more quickly to the girls. When Friday came, we all excitedly—as excitedly as you can be around 1 a.m.—piled into the SUV to go pick the girls up from the Van Nuys Flyaway. I knew Kelly was more excited than she was letting on, as she tracked the plane and then ran into the Flyaway station once we’d arrived.

A Story That Must Be Told . . .

Yes, the tears were flowing, and the girls were excited to be home. We got back to the house around two o’clock in the morning. I hugged the girls and asked that they tell me all about their trip tomorrow; I was going to bed.

The family gathered around the dining room table, sans Steven who also went to bed. I came out to do something, of which I cannot remember now, and stopped for a moment because Amber was crying. It was then that she said, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; leave them . . .”

. . . And I suddenly realized that they were the most touched by their missionary trip and not the orphans. I knew there was something here about which I had to write.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Yes, I Swear Like a Sailor, But . . .

Swearing

I need to preface this post by saying I have horrible language. I do. I can use the F-word several times in a single sentence and still be grammatically correct. I don’t pretend to be prim and proper, unless where appropriate. Foul language doesn’t necessarily offend me. That is, unless I see it in a newspaper or other professional context where it doesn’t belong. Then, I’m only left with one impression: Really?

Today I was reading an editorial in one of the nation’s top 10 newspapers, and nothing could have prepared me for the columnist’s reference to employee’s being “scared s**tless.” I read it, re-read it, re-read it again, and literally shook my head. . . . Really?

Let me get this straight. Some don’t consider me a professional writer because I’ve written for content studios. Never mind my byline has appeared several times in two of the nation’s top 25 newspapers. Never mind I’ve written and ghost written hundreds of published articles and blog posts. Never mind I’ve edited thousands of articles and blog posts, many of which appeared in three of the nation’s top 25 newspapers. Maybe I need to start including expletives in my professional writing. Apparently, that’s a criterion now for professional journalism, because I’m seeing it everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, there are mediums where profanity makes sense. I remember when I went to see The Breakfast Club for the first time. I was in high school, and even though the profanity in the movie was off-putting for many adults in the audience, that’s how teenagers talked. It was real. I used that kind of language; my friends used that kind of language. The kids cussing in the movie were real. The dialogue was appropriate.

I have cursing in my book. In fact, I have too much profanity. I likely singed my beta-readers’ eyebrows, and I’m currently editing most of it out. My main male character is an NYPD detective, however, so, yes, he’s profane in much of his dialogue. This, too, is real. We are a culture of potty-mouths. Just turn on the TV, listen to popular music, go to the movies, read a book, or walk down the street and hear how people are talking; X-rated doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So why was it akin to fingernails scratching a chalkboard when I read this columnist’s profane comment? Because I still believe we should maintain a sense of professionalism in certain professional settings. Not to mention that, in my humble opinion, if you have to use profanity in a newspaper column to get your point across, you’re not a very good writer.

Perhaps these employees were “scared s**tless,” but that was the only “adverb” you, as a professional journalist, could come up with? Really? Call me old-fashioned; call me uppity; call me a prude. Any professional journalist who litters her or his articles and commentaries with profanity is not a professional anything in my book. I mean, really . . . what the . . . fooled you!

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

Sneak Peek

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I don’t know what to write about tonight, so I’ll give you sneak peek into my book. Here’s a small excerpt; I hope you enjoy it . . .

The child crept through the stuffy jet bridge into the refreshing coolness of the air-conditioned airport terminal on that hot second day of July in 1989. She shook uncontrollably as she entered the waiting area and was clinging desperately to her new social worker. She was only nine, and she’d just traveled nearly 3,000 miles from Los Angeles to New York City. Her mind could not process her sensory overload, and terror consumed her as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Why didn’t a foster family in Southern California want her? That was where she was from.

The social worker gently prodded her toward two men: an adult and his fifteen-year-old son. The fifteen-year-old’s brown eyes and smile fixated the little girl named Shaelyn, and he had nearly waist-length, wavy, brown hair. To the nine-year-old girl he looked like a rock star, cool and rebellious, and she peeked out from behind her social worker to catch a better glimpse of him, tucking back into her hiding place the moment both men approached.

“Shaelyn, this is Mr. Bauer and his son, Casey.” The social worker gently pulled the girl out from behind her, encouraging the child to allow the introduction. “They’re going to take care of you while we try to find you a foster home back in California. Remember? We talked about this. They fostered for me before when I was working here in New York, and you’re going to live with them in Queens temporarily.”

Despite her polite efforts, Shaelyn couldn’t muster up a “hello” or anything other than more tears. She was so frightened.

Casey, who found himself oddly fixated by the child as well, slowly walked over and put his arm around her. He couldn’t believe how hard she was trembling or how fair and freckled she was. She looked like a terrified porcelain doll adorned with teal eyes, golden hair, white skin, rosy cheeks, and brown dots splashed across her nose.

He pulled her to his side gently, but not in a threatening or inappropriate manner. Rather, he simply wanted to comfort the child. It broke his heart to see her so frightened.

As the social worker had said, his family had fostered before, and he understood how traumatic the experience could be. The entire Bauer clan discussed at great length before the girl arrived whether they should foster her temporarily, and Casey expressed concerns about how difficult it would be for her to adjust, because they were flying her clear across the country and into an entirely new environment.

Even at the selfish age of fifteen, he realized that the girl would have so much more going against her than the local foster children had going against them. “I wouldn’t want to be moved all the way to California,” he’d said. It was agreed that everyone would work extra hard to ensure that this foster child felt at home, no matter how temporary her stay.

The extreme terror he now saw on her face was the terror he had imagined she—anyone—would be experiencing at this moment, and he found himself wanting even more to help her adjust. He squeezed her a little and said in his Queens accent, “Don’t worry, Little Bit. Everything is going to be okay,” and, for some reason, it worked.

Shaelyn looked up at him—he was tall at nearly six feet—and with a blink of her tear-soaked lashes she stopped crying and whispered, “Okay, Queens.” Somehow, she knew everything was going to be okay. He’d make sure of it.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

What I Learned Last Week

Heart

Last week, I stayed with friends of mine who have blessed me for 22 years. At the beginning of my stay, what I found amazing was how CC, my cat, acclimated to the sudden change. Now, at the end of my visit, I’ve come to realize that there was much more to digest. I learned a lot about myself during my stay, and I want to say thank you to my friends, six of the best people I know, and to remind us all that sometimes you just have to stop and sip the coffee, play with the dog, cry with the girls, and attempt to play video games with a twelve-year-old.

What did I learn while staying at my friends’ house? Well, I learned that:

  • Yes, my cat trusts me, and he really knows how to cute strangers into believing that he’s sweet and adorable and precious . . . and so on. (I’m on to you, CC.)
  • Yes, coffee is my life, but morning coffee coupled with an amazing conversation with my friend is icing on the caffeinated cake.
  • Yes, I can accidentally bean one of the smallest dogs in the world on the top of his head with his rubber ball without killing him . . . thank God.
  • Yes, my cat who is nearly twice his size is afraid of one of the smallest dogs in the world . . . and, yes, I’m going to tell the entire feral colony from which he came so they can laugh at him.
  • Yes, my friends’ oldest son can make me feel special by hugging me even though he is half-asleep when I arrive and leave.
  • Yes, their youngest son can make me feel special by hugging me each night before he goes to bed.
  • Yes, my friends’ daughters can reduce me to tears by simply being excited to see me when we pick them up from a missionary trip.
  • Yes, we four girls together talking over coffee and munchies about their trip is one gigantic, amazing, and blubbering cry fest.
  • Yes, indeed I cannot, no matter how many tutorials my friends’ youngest son shows me, play Star Wars Clone Wars . . . if that’s even what I was attempting to play. I think I died at least 50 times. (Take that, CC. Nine lives, ha!)
  • Yes, my friend and I can mourn together over the death of Frank Gifford even though I’m still banning football.
  • Yes, when I’m surrounded by uplifting and positive people, I actually become uplifting and positive myself—who’d a’ thunk it?
  • No, I haven’t felt as loved and blessed as I did during my stay in a very long time, which is not a negative reflection on the other people who have opened their homes to me but a testimony to the boundless love of these people.

Thank you, my friends, for housing CC and me, for loving CC and me, and most importantly for being each and every one of you. Hopefully, I can return the favor one day and open my home to you. I love you all more than words can express, and I miss you already.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

My Amazing, Resilient Baby

CC 8 Months

I don’t give my cat, CC, enough credit. At three weeks old, this little bundle of joy, along with his litter-mates, were brought to me by their feral mama. She knew I’d take care of him; it’s what I do. I began working with him and slowly built as much of a trust as you can with a semi-feral cat.

CC and I have a love/hate relationship. I call him “CC,” which stands for “Calendar Cat,” because when he was a baby, he looked like the perfect kitten featured on the cover of every annual cat calendar. He remains unbelievably gorgeous to this day; he is a “supermodel.”

If ever there were a diva, it’s CC. He’s moody, snotty, temperamental, and he must be brushed at least once a day. If he had his way, he’d get “fur and makeup” on command. Okay, whom am I kidding? He does get fur and makeup on command. He must look just so. Combine the semi-feral with the diva and you have an extremely unstable explosive.

CC will let me rub his belly; something a cat won’t do unless it trusts you. Yet, at other times, he’ll scratch me, bite me, and not let me pet him or pick him up. Last year, he scratched up my face unexpectedly. I never know what’s going to set him off. These behaviors always leave me questioning whether he really does trust me.

Over the last several years, my life has been upside down. I’ve made some poor choices and circumstances haven’t been on my side. I’m not alone; we’ve all had these patches. Yet, through all of it, CC has been with me, even if he wasn’t thrilled about it.

In his short four years, CC has moved three times. Each time, crating him has resulted in blood loss for me and another score added to his tally. Today, we had to move to my friends’ house for a week, so this morning I crated him much to his dismay. He began crying immediately. He reached through the grate, scratched me, and didn’t let up on the drive to my friends’ house.

The car stopped and he stopped meowing. I carried him into the room in which we’re staying and opened the carrier so he could go under the bed. I brought in our stuff and set up our temporary shelter. When I was done, he came out from underneath the bed, rubbed up against my ankles, and laid down on his back so I could rub his belly. What an amazing and resilient baby.

CC may tear me up for no apparent reason, but when it comes to the big stuff, he knows I have his back. He may not like a situation, but in the end, he’ll let me rub his belly. I guess he trusts me after all . . .

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved

The Most Targeted Present . . . EVER!

Almost two years ago on Sept. 1, 2013, I began a journey that I did not anticipate and that I hope will change my life. I began writing a fiction novel—my life-long dream—and I’m almost ready to shop it. The journey has been a challenging one, and I’ve poured my heart and soul into this project. As a dear friend said, “You had a baby,” and she was right. It took me nine months to write the book, and it’s taken me over another year to whip this “toddler” into shape. It’s definitely in its terrible twos, but we may finally be getting there. The experience has been cathartic and worth every single bipolar minute. One day I love my baby; the next day I hate it. I’ve been told this is normal. I sure hope so, but more on that later.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m old school, even though I’m a writer and editor of primarily online and self-published content. I didn’t pre-order “Go Set a Watchman” from an online bookstore; I excitedly pre-ordered Harper Lee’s “new” novel from the local brick-and-mortar store and proudly carried my hardback copy home once it arrived. I like my books and newspapers in my hands, with real pages to turn, and ink stains on my fingers when I’m done reading them.

As such, aside from getting my baby publish-ready, the other battle I have been fighting is to publish or self-publish, that is the question. The consensus of most of my colleagues and friends is to self-publish, but I’ll admit to still holding onto my childhood dream of being published by a publishing house, even after all these years and in our eBook era. Yep, I’m old school.

Either way, I will need to publicize my book as much as possible myself, and I fail at publicizing myself miserably, even with my freelance writing and editing business. I have a personal Facebook page with a whopping (yet wonderful) 28 friends as of today, I just set up my LinkedIn profile—no, I haven’t connected with anyone yet—, and no, I don’t “tweet”; after all, I’m a cat lover. Oh boy! How, oh how, do I promote my book.

Another dear friend has supplied me with countless information on how to build my author profile online and, yes, I still need to do that. To be honest, it’s all very overwhelming. I can build another person’s online profile; I’ve even gotten client’s websites and business profiles to the first page in the search engine results, but me? Build my own online profile? I, oddly, find it intimidating.

My friend knows me well, and she is gently prodding me in intervals with the patience of a saint. She knows that if she pushes me too hard, I’ll shut down on her, because shutting down is one area where I possess extensive expertise! So, what did she do for my birthday last month? She discreetly questioned during an instant messaging conversation whether I am writing under my real name or a pen name. I answered my real name without further thought. Her reply: “. . . as of 2 seconds ago, sharonplatz.com is yours.” What?

All of my birthday presents last month were amazing, but this one hit a mark that I had not yet accepted needed a bulls-eyed shot. My reply, after admitting I was being a blubbering idiot and typing a bunch of babble, was, “I . . . holy [expletive] . . . this is happening . . . okay . . . breathing.” My friend gently prodded me with the patience of a saint by giving me the one tool I need to promote my book and my business–my website. Thank you, Cricket, for the most targeted present EVER.

Okay, I’m diving in. Thank goodness, I can swim!

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Platz All Rights Reserved