Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You Have Been Served

On 2/22/15, I wrote, On Monday, Cam filed for divorce. Today, I was served with papers claiming irreconcilable differences. We're still being incredibly amicable.
Earlier this week, after I learned about an upcoming concert, I asked Cam, "If you were a woman in the midst of divorcing, which musician would you want to see?" He said, "I imagine there are lots." I agreed, but pushed, "If you had to choose just one..." He called it and I sang the line, "You oughta know." We laughed.
Alanis Morissette is coming to town. She'll be performing at the Nourse Theatre on Saturday, March 28. She helped me through my first divorce. We oughta go.

Starting a New Journey

On 2/14/15, I wrote, It's a weird sort of Valentine's Day. I didn't want to share this, today, but, it feels like the time to talk about it has come.

Cameron and I have been having some really hard conversations, lately. It seems that while he still likes me & still loves me, he is no longer in love with me. "The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love."

I've been sad, hurt, angry, unsettled, a whole host of gut-wrenching emotions. I've cried lots. Once we came to the realization, we've been trying to figure out what to do. We wondered, "Can this be fixed?" I said, "If you'll try, I'll try."

But, if the reality is we aren't going to try to fix it, we started talking about, "What are we going to do?" Cameron & I are thinking we will continue co-parenting Sam through his high school graduation (June 12), or maybe through his 18th birthday (July 16), but that Cam & I will separate, sometime, this summer.

We've talked about who should move out in the meantime, & where we each of us might go. But, currently, we are trying to amicably share our home, live together as friends.

If we get divorced in California, it seems I will receive some sort of alimony, which should help as I try to wrap my head around, "What's next?"

Once the wondering what was wrong, the anxiety, the confusion, the shock, & devastation were faced, we've been able to be open, honest, real, loving, supportive, & kind.

We've laughed & joked. We've thought it might be alright, felt optimistic, hopeful, liberated, even excited about the possibilities of a more autonomous future. "What does Mary want?" What an interesting question.

I appreciate all Cam has offered in terms of love & support these past 11 years as a family. I am trying to accept his interest in doing what he thinks he should do to be happy, recognizing it frees me up to do what I think I should do to be happy too.

But, today, I'm a little sad, again. Sometimes, I feel brave. Sometimes, I feel lost. It is weird. It is hard. It is us doing our best to be real.

We are all facing some big transitions, in the coming months. Your continued love, support, encouragement, ideas, suggestions, & friendship are most welcome. I think I'm gonna go for a walk...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When Cameron was offered an exciting new life opportunity in Alaska, I was fully supportive. Coming to Alaska has been a wonderful experience. It is something we are all so glad we've had the opportunity to do. We have had amazing experiences and met lovely people here. 
However, Cam has realized teaching is his calling. It is something he is passion-
ate about doing. He cares deeply about his students. The autonomy he had as an associate director at the Academy of Art University is something he greatly enjoyed. The network he had built in San Francisco (and other opportunities there) were missed. We have dear friends there.
So, when Cameron was asked to return to his old position, he decided to do so. He will start back there on April 1, with renewed enthusiasm, appreciation, & a fresh perspective. 
Sam & I will most likely stay in Anchorage through the end of Sam's school year (late May). Then, we plan to take our time exploring the 3,000 miles between here and there. We'll travel across Alaska, through Yukon, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, & California, arriving back in Marin County in late June.
We intend to make the most of the time we have left in Alaska until then, and hope we will have opportunities to return.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mary, Are You Okay?

Hey, You Guys! 
Thanks for checking in on me.  I am feeling much better.  So sorry we had to cancel... with such short notice, last weekend.  Thank you for being so understanding & kind. 

I'd been doing pretty well & hadn't had a fever/infection in January (despite my number of infection-fighting cells being critically low).  I had a fever/infection in Sept/Oct that landed me in the hospital, one in November & another in December.  We were able to treat the Nov/Dec ones w/out-patient, prescription antibiotics.  Same thing is working with this one, but my fever really spiked Friday night & was scary high on Saturday.  I was crying about it & we had to wonder if we were supposed to go to the hospital or not.  No fun.

Good news is that the doctor I saw, in early December, at the University of Washington Medical Center, in Seattle, thinks he knows what's up.  The director of hematology at UCSF (who I've only seen twice) is now in agreement.  I have an appointment back at UCSF, on Monday, with the big shot doctor, who it seems will be my new treating physician. 

We will discuss a new treatment we are all sort of in agreement about.  This one shouldn't require hospitalization or surgery (hooray) & might just involve what they've tried to call a "gentle/not bad medication" that I might only have to take once a week.  I may be able to stop giving myself shots in the stomach, of another medication, on a daily basis.  I've been having to do that lately just to keep my number of infection-fighting cells above zero. (They bottomed out w/o it, last October).  A healthy person is supposed to have a Neutrophil count of 1500.  (I have been hovering between 200-500 lately.)

I'm going to try working with some 3rd-5th graders on Friday, but I just cancelled four days of work I had lined up for next week, to focus on Monday's appointment & starting the new treatment.  I figured I should take it easy as it lists fun things like, "bloody vomit" & "seizures" as potential side effects

Wish me luck as we see how it goes.

With Warm Regards,

P.S. I guess Dr. Damon's actual title is: Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF; Director, Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant, UCSF.  (Here's a link to his profile.)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Indolent - My New Favorite Word

I just wrote a message to a friend of my friend, Michael.  In it, I included a quick health recap.  Thought I'd share it with you too, in case you were wondering where things stand.

Hello! I'm sorry to have disappeared for awhile. I knew you were going to be away until around 10/10. I wasn't feeling well then & in mid-October, I ended up in the hospital for an infection & had to have my third bone marrow biopsy.

They were saying they thought the problem w/my immune system was getting worse, moving from Neutropenia to Aplastic Anemia. In November, a specialist at Stanford said I would probably need a bone marrow biopsy. I FREAKED OUT.

We had family here for 10 days around Thanksgiving. During their visit, on 12/1, I flew to Seattle to see a hematologist who has spent 40 years studying what he called my "special hematological condition." He said even really well-trained hematologists don't understand it because it is so rare. He said he didn't think I was getting Aplastic Anemia & didn't think I would need a bone marrow transplant. We were hopeful.

Then, he sort of disappeared for awhile. We're still waiting for him to contact my local hematologist w/conclusions/recommendations. I did hear from him, about a week ago. He said he'd reviewed everything & asked which doctor he should contact.  (He also asked if he could have another doctor look at my bone marrow biopsy slides but didn't say why.  Of course, I gave consent.)

So, hopefully, things are alright. In early December, the Seattle specialist said Neutropenia still appeared to be the dominant problem.  He said he thought I may have something called LGL Syndrome (Large Granular Lymphocyte Syndrome). 

When I shared this with my local hematologist, he said, "Oh, yeah."  "They think you do have LGL."  I was surprised, as this wasn't something I remembered hearing before.  We looked back at the report from my first bone marrow biopsy, from September of 2009.  It said, these findings point to the differential diagnosis of LGL; however, these things, including the absence of large granular lymphocytes argues against this diagnosis.

My primary care physician has a called LGL a "chronic indolent blood disorder."  While I'd rather not have a chronic blood disorder at all, indolent is my new favorite word. 

The word indolent has two meanings, both related.
  1. In one sense, indolent means lazy, lethargic or idle.
  2. When applied to a medical situation, indolent can mean a problem that causes no pain, or is slow growing and not immediately problematic.
Still waiting for a definitive answer.  Still taking it one day at a time.  Feeling really good, very healthy today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Asian Noodle Broth

Last night, we tried another recipe from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  I enjoyed it very much & wanted to share it with you but couldn't find a good link to the recipe, so I decided to type it up.

Jamie calls his Asian Chicken Noodle Broth & that's what the guys had but we made two soups last night, one with veggie broth & tofu for me.  Yum.

Let me know if you try it too.

Jamie says you can make it in 17 minutes (if you can multitask).  We never work as quickly as him.

He says, "This is a really quick dish but you're going to have to multitask, cooking your veg & noodles in one pan & your chicken in another.  Read through the recipe before you start so you'll be prepared for what's going to happen.  You'll be amazed at the results - just like something you can get in a posh noodle bar."  (True.)

serves 2 (we doubled it so each version served 2)

1 Tablespoon mixed seeds (pumpkin, poppy, sunflower) - we used all three & some sesame
a small handful of raw cashew nuts
1 quart chicken broth, preferably organic (or organic veggie broth)
2 skinless chicken breast fillets, preferably free-range, organic
(We asked the butcher to slice them into strips.)
Or one 10 oz  pkg of Super Firm tofu, cut into strips (I like Wildwood.)
2 teaspoons five-spice powder (I wasn't sure how I was supposed to know which five spices he meant but the guys at the meat counter said there was a spice called five-spice powder.  Sure enough, in the spice isle, there it was.)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
1/2 - 1 fresh red chile, to your taste (We ended up sharing one.)
4 ounces rice sticks or vermicelli (We didn't see these particular noodles at our store, ended up buying something called Chinese Noodles that worked great.)
a handful of snow peas
6 thin asparagus spears or 4 regular-sized spears (We split a bunch.)
6 fresh baby corn or 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (There was no fresh corn at the store this time of year. I was going to use frozen corn kernels but then saw a can of baby corn & used that instead.)
soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
a small handful of spinach leaves

Put a medium frying pan or wok on a high head and add the seeds & cashew nuts to it straight away. (We let the cashews cook a little before adding the smaller seeds so they wouldn't burn.)  While it is heating up, put a large saucepan on high heat.  Fill the saucepan with the chicken (or veggie) broth, heat until very hot, and put a lid on it.  (Next time, we will do this step later, after cooking the chicken/tofu.)  Toss the seeds & nuts around until heated through nicely - this will take a couple of minutes.

While this is happening, slice your chicken breasts lengthways into 3 pieces & put them into a bowl.  (Or slice your tofu.)  Sprinkel the chicken (or tofu) with the five-spice powder and a good pinch of salt & pepper and stir.  When the seeds and nuts are done, transfer them to a plate.  Put the empty pan back on a high heat.  Add a little olive oil to your hot pan with your slices of chicken (or tofu) and cook for 5 minutes, until golden, tossing and turning every now and again.

While the chicken (or tofu) is cooking, peel and finely slice your ginger and slice your chile.  Take the lid off the pan with the chicken (or veggie) broth and add half the chile, all the ginger, your rice sticks (or vermicelli) (or Chinese noodles), snow peas, asparagus, and corn with 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce.  Bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stiring.  (If your noodles need to be cooked longer, add them first, adding the veggies with only 2-3 minutes of cooking time left.  Our Chinese noodles were supposed to be done in 3 minutes, so we were able to add them at the same time as the veggies.  We used a fork to separate the noodles.)

Halve the line & squeeze in the juice.  By the time the rice sticks/vermicelli/noodles & veggies are done, the chicken (or tofu) will be cooked.  Take a pice of chicken out & slice it lengthways to check it it's cooked all the way through.  When done, remove all the chicken from the pan & slice each piece in half to expose the juicy chicken inside.  Please don't be tempted to overcook it.  (I loved my sauteed tofu, seasoned w/the five spice mix, salt & pepper & kept snacking on it while working on the veggies.  I broke the strips up to show the white inside.)

To serve, divide the spinach leaves between your bowls and pour over the broth, rice sticks/vermicelli/noodles, and vegetables.  (Our asparagus sunk to the bottom.  We had to search of it.)  Divide the chicken (or tofu) pieces over and scatter with the toasted seeds, cashews, and remaining chile.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Colleen Creegan - Champion for Women's Rights

Our family's dear friend, Colleen Creegan, is a grad student at NYU, pursuing a master’s degree in Global Affairs.  (She is also Leo's sister and Linda's daughter.)

This winter, she will spend three weeks in Kigali, Rwanda, participating in a Young Leaders Human Rights Delegation, through Global Youth Connect

She will work in collaboration with Rwandan young adults to raise awareness of and advocate for Human Rights, both regionally and globally. 

Her personal area of interest is in Women’s Health and Re-
productive Rights.

She will be partnering with Health Development Initiative, a local health advocacy organization, to improve the current family-planning situation in Rwanda.   

She is interested in ending the unsafe, unregulated and illegal operations that are happening everyday worldwide by protecting every woman’s sexual sovereignty. How? In part, by decriminalizing abortions but also by promoting female education, increasing male and female contraceptive use, financially empowering women, ending sex trafficking, ending preventable maternal mortality, persecuting and convicting every genre of rapist and sexually based war criminal...

So that she may be a member of the growing movement that speaks for women worldwide, she needs a team, a team of supportersPlease consider making a donation.

If you are unable to contribute but want to be involved, she asks that you tell your friends, post on Facebook or your blog, tweet, send smoke signals and stay in touch with her at Colleeninaction@gmail.com

Colleen, I, and the women she will help thank you.

He Wasn't Having Any Fun

While we were waiting outside, for a seat to open up, in the restaurant, I was heartbroken by one panhandler who seems to be having an incredibly difficult life. 

We'd just walked through Union Square, past a giant Christmas tree.  Nearby, people were ice skating.  We'd passed a Starbucks, a Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., billboards for Niketown, and the iPad2.  Meanwhile, this man slowly shuffled along, hunched over, in his wheelchair, with an empty cup in his lap, too downtrodden even to hold up his head. 

He knows we won't meet his gaze or do anything to help.  It sickens me.  It also reminded me of another man, in a different town, on an earlier holiday.  It shouldn't be this way.

On the way back to our car, we were stopped by man who said he was with the Fun Patrol, somehow affiliated with the SF Police & that they were collecting donations for a local soup kitchen.  I was happy to be able to make a small donation but wish I could do more.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ten for Joplin - Helping Neighbors Rebuild

Proud of my dad, Bill Powell, and others from his Rotary group, who traveled to Joplin, early this morning, for their second day of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity teams there, as part of Ten for Joplin.

This home-building blitz provides an opportunity for those in surrounding communities to contribute their time and money to help their neighbors in need.

After volunteering on Thursday, 11/10/11, he traveled home to put up & take down flags, on Veteran's Day, with the Rotary group.  That night, he said, "The body is sore but the work was good...  Building houses again tomorrow." ~ Dad  

One of the people who traveled with my dad, on Thursday, wrote, "The three of us worked in Habitat House #3, at 2209 Kentucky, about three blocks west of the Joplin High School, where no clean-up has occurred.  Although we arrived on a frosty morning, prepared to work in the cold, we spent the day inside a heated house with only occasional trips outside for tools.  Bill did spend a lot of time at an outdoor saw but as least it was on the sunny side of the house."

"The Habitat people were very organized from our arrival until we departed.  Just as we were ready to leave the owner arrived for an inspection visit and we were able to meet him."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Uncle Joe - My Dad's Brother

Joseph Vernon Powell was – and still is - my brother. We shared a special relationship. While he was 16 months older than me, we both, from time to time, were called upon to help – to protect each other. When I was hurt, he felt my pain. When he was being teased at the playground at Grandview Elementary school because of his birthmark, I cried, but was too little or too afraid of the wrath of those evil bullies to do anything to ease – to end his pain.

Once, it must have been when I was 3 years old, Joe was in the hospital and I was called upon to give him my brand new, bright, red fire truck, to play with, in the hospital. At 3 years old, we don’t understand these things, but I was so glad when he came home from the hospital that I never asked about the bright, red fire engine. Having Joe home was far more important than a toy.

Joe paved the way and blazed trails for me all of our lives. In fact, I blame him for a story we’ve heard all our lives. Sometime shortly after Joe had gotten home from the hospital, we somehow moved a very large and very heavy, metal bunk bed set across the room and made a fort to play under. Years later, and often only after a few drinks, adults would add gross details about the stinky and unsanitary mess we smeared on the walls to keep the evil ones away from this, our special fort.

While Joe paved the way and blazed many a trail for me, he was not always the one that caused, or even came up with the things that we did - with the messes we made and the punishments we received. No doubt, he was purely angelic that Saturday morning when we got into a fight and managed to break both his and my brand new eyeglasses. We feared and had fully earned the punishment and mayhem that followed when our Mom and Dad saw what we had done.

Joe taught me to ride a bicycle and together we would roar down a gravel road and across an open field. We were free from parental oversight for a few minutes. We had escaped into a pretend land. Sometimes, we were mountain men exploring the Wild West on our stallions. Sometimes, we were cavalry chasing renegade Indians. Sometimes, we were soldiers charging an unseen but ever present enemy.

With Joe, being just boys was never enough. Joe had ridden these bicycle trails many times. Joe had already blazed these bike trails. He had gone down the road before and he knew where the dangers were and how to avoid them. Joe was my brother and even though we fought over little things, and sometimes we fought just for the fun of fighting, he was always ready to protect me.

When we were given large jobs to do, Joe always found ways to make work more fun. Of course, sometimes, having fun would also mean we were doing something that would get us in trouble later.

When we were sent out to pick up rotting pears, we’d dawdle around. Then, instead of picking up pears, we’d play with the toy soldiers Joe always had in his pockets. No one knew then that he’d later give his entire life to military service and to the veterans and wounded warriors about whom he cared so deeply.

But, when we were little, Joe and I couldn’t just pick up the rotting pears. Instead, we’d pick up a few, stomp on a few, and then we’d very carefully hold them in one hand and yank out the stems, as if they were the pins of hand grenades.

After we’d successfully used these rotten pears to drive off all our imaginary enemies, we'd begin pummeling each other with the most rotten pears we could find. But, due to his wisdom and experience, when we were bored with the pears, we found, nearby, even more powerful weapons. Joe taught me that rotten pears were nothing compared to the long lasting and biting stench of a rotten tomato carefully thrown to land just under a brother’s nose.

Joe was ahead of me in school. He paved the way and blazed trails for me time and time again. The teachers he had, somehow, expected me to be as smart as Joe. I never matched his intelligence, his wisdom, or the understanding he had of philosophy.

Joe excelled in high school ROTC. He paved the way, he blazed trails for me in ROTC. He taught me how to read a topographical map. He taught me how to use a lensatic compass. He showed me how to shine brass, how to iron wool uniforms, and how to do close order drill. At that age, we didn’t fight anymore, but we did practice what he’d learned about hand-to-hand combat.

Outside or inside, it didn’t matter to us. We’d practice the one man carry. We’d practice bayonet: thrusts and parries, and blocking moves. But, the most fun was taking turns with hip throws, leg sweeps, and the other moves we learned in ROTC and in Judo class.

Joe taught me about marksmanship. While we were little, he dared me to use a BB gun and shoot the buttons of shirts hanging on the clothesline. He showed me how to shoot a mud dauber with a BB gun. Joe had shown me the path to great marksmanship.

Because of Joe's teaching, before I ever heard my first screaming drill sergeant, Joe had taught me how to obtain and maintain a sharp sight picture. It was Joe who taught me that while shooting I always had to go through the process of: breathe, relax, aim, slack and, only then, gently squeeze the trigger of a rifle or pistol.

Joe left home and joined the U.S. Army, after high school. He stopped back, in his uniform, after Basic Training, and between his assignments. I would see him, from time to time, but sadly we did not keep in touch, as we should have. He served his country in foreign deployment after foreign deployment. He faced dangers and horrors about which he never told any of his family.

Joe paved the way and blazed trails. He dedicated his entire life for you and for all of us. When he finished his military career he had a burning desire to help those, who, like he, had become wounded warriors.

He knew, because of the trails he had blazed, the ways he had traveled, and the post-traumatic stress that he had endured that he could help those who followed in his footsteps. After retirement, he used his superior intellect and he quickly finished his undergraduate requirements, studied hard and earned his Master’s degree in Social Work.

Joe was special. His experience had given him a perspective and a depth of understanding those he served could just sense. Joe had faced, time and time again, the horror that is war. He had fought and learned to deal with the ever present memories of Post-Traumatic Stress. Once again, Joe was paving the way, blazing safe trails for those who came after him.

As Joe’s military career continued, he and I, for no good reason, never kept in close contact. That was my loss. Folks, we all know that when Joe was serious, we could tell. I remember him, from time to time, saying, “Listen up, and pay attention. What I am telling you is not BS."

So, folks, now that Joe is not here to say it, I’ll say it, "Listen up, pay attention. This is not BS." Let me tell you, if you have brother or sister, never, never lose touch with them. Reconnecting later in life is good, but it’s not the same. Spend time with them before they are suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness. As a trained therapist, Joe would, no doubt, challenge – dare you - to leave here, this morning, committed to face your fears, to overcome them and to embrace life and love.

Joe paved the way and blazed, for me, a trail, in Vietnam. I will never forget getting a letter from him, while we were both in Vietnam, telling me to come and see him. I will never forget walking into his supply depot, in Pleiku, Vietnam. I will never forget having coffee with First Sergeant Joseph Powell, thousands and thousands of miles away from here. I will never forget as he told me that since he had returned to Vietnam I didn’t have to stay in Vietnam any longer.

Joe’s return to danger paved for me a path to return to the good ole USA. I will never forget listening to Joe as he told me that he was much safer as a supply sergeant than I was as an Infantry Platoon leader, going out into the bush, day after day, on “search and destroy” missions.

I will never forget when Joe shoved an already signed U.S. Army form across the table, releasing his right to be transferred back to the US, to me. I will never forget when Joe stood up and said, “Now get your ass back to your unit, fill out the rest of this form and get the hell out of Vietnam."

Thank you. Thank you, Brother Joe. Once again, you prepared the way. This time, you saved my life.

Joe, I wish that I could have done the same for you, as you lay there, in that hospital bed, and at Rosewood. When you called out and said, “I am going to die. I don’t want to die. Bill, make it go away," I could do nothing but pray and cry.

As the horrible brain tumor was eating away at Joe, my brother that had always blazed trails for me and had always paved the way, I could do nothing. I could remind him of the fun and mayhem we had caused as kids. I could remind him of the rotten pears. And, yes, when he laid there in that hospital bed and asked me to pull his finger, I did. Then, a sly smile would come to his face and the odor of the room changed.

Oh, I so wish I could have done more for you, Joe. I could not blaze the trail for you, or pave the way for you. I could do nothing to save you, Joe. I could not even go with you. Joe, I am so sorry that I could not ease the struggle of this, your last and hardest, battle.

But, I know, deep down inside of my soul, when I, like you, lie on my hospital bed, when I, see the bright light, and when I see angels coming for me, you will have, once again, gone before me to prepare the way.

Thank you for being my brother. -  Brother Bill