Category Archives: being human

two stem cell and bone marrow registration drive possibilities: please share

Please share these dates:  6/28 and 7/12 when folks 18-44 can register to register to be stem cell or bone marrow donors if a match is found.  The registry needs you!

Those 45-60 can register on line. Please check out information on bethematch.org regarding what this means!  The registry needs you. A cheek swab and a willingness…

Here is the thing: 97% of whites find a partial match.  65% of African Americans do. Other ethnic groups are lower than Whites and barely higher than those of African descent.  For a full match: 75% whites and only 25-35% of those of African descent.  Others are in between. Diversity in the registry is key. The sites for the drive are because they are diverse, inclusive, and social justice minded.  Please come by.

Feel free to share the fliers

Thanks! Sharon

Matt Dobie Immaculate

Matt Dobie St T

More about skinny crazy small

Only a couple more weeks to donate to Sylvie Mae Baldwin’s skinny crazy small. Go here !  And now more about the playwright and actress, in her words:

From my eleventh birthday until the year I turned nineteen, I woke up every morning terrified – terrified that I was going to die of anorexia nervosa. This wasn’t an entirely illogical fear. I had been diagnosed with the disease the summer before I entered seventh grade. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of my parents, I was quickly weight restored and deemed “healthy” once again.

So, why was I frightened? I’ll tell you why. Anorexia is deadly. Of all mental illnesses, it claims the most deaths each year – roughly half due to suicide and the other half due to heart failure. Anorexia is particularly vicious, because the disorder compels individuals to avoid the only effective treatment. Imagine if contracting cancer drove a person to avoid chemotherapy at all costs – that is how anorexia works, but with food.

As a young girl I feared that the illness would sneak up on me once again. I felt powerless over its sneaky and coercive tactics. And, despite many therapy sessions and doctor visits, my own unwillingness to talk about my problems allowed disordered thoughts to plague me even after I appeared “recovered” from anorexia.

When I entered college, my restrictive eating habits resurfaced and spiraled out of control. The loud, boisterous voice of anorexia pounded in my ears: “Keep cutting calories! Exercise! Stay healthy! You know what happens to people who eat fat – they become ugly, unhappy, and unloved.” I would lay awake on my hard dormitory bed, counting my faint, slow heartbeats. I was confused – entirely fixated on my health and happiness, yet the captive of an illness that made me take terrible care of myself and feel desperately despondent.

It was a Friday night in early October when the realization hit me. My whole body was tingling and shaky. “I am dying. Anorexia is killing me,” I told myself.  “My own worst nightmare has become my reality.” I placed one of my hands on the wall beside my bed, the cool surface steadying my uneven pulse. I resolved not to sleep. I couldn’t. I knew that if I closed my eyes, if I drifted off, I might never wake up again. Instead, I ate – one protein bar after another, from a small stash of emergency provisions I had stored underneath my bed. I consumed the bars tentatively, not voraciously, not with any sense of joy, pleasure, or ease, but because I knew I had to.

When I reflect back on that night in October, the night I became convinced that I must and could recover from my eating disorder once and for all, I am sometimes overwhelmed with a feeling of total idiocy. Why did I ever restrict my eating? Why did anorexia consume my life and my thoughts for so many years when all I had to do was make the decision that I would eat fully and live fully?

The reality is that on that fall night, I reached a critical moment in my young life. I had to choose between life and death, between eating or anorexia. For the first time, my choice seemed simple, concrete, and clear. My eating disorder had spent years convincing me it was helpful, fooling me into the belief that excessive calorie restriction was my key to happiness and success. But I finally saw anorexia for what it was, nothing more than death. Death repackaged to look like a shiny can of diet soda and a single cup of non-fat yogurt.

If we are lucky, life is long. Seconds become minutes, minutes become hours, hours become days, and days become years. However, it is the moments that count, the moments that shape our lives and decide our fate. All it took was a moment – a moment, perfectly situated between life and death – for me to decide that anorexia would no longer rule my life. That moment, when I decided to eat, lasted no more than a heartbeat. It was short, a flash, the blink of an eye. However, that moment gave me life – years of life, for which I am eternally grateful.

Today, I no longer fear that anorexia will kill me. I no longer feel powerless against its tactics or consumed by disordered thoughts. Those days are behind me, thanks to the power of a single moment. A moment of clarity in which I realized I had to eat or I would die, a moment in which I chose life.

skinny crazy small

I have a young friend who is using theater for raising public awareness.

SCSrevisionDecPost

Actress and playwright Sylvie Mae Baldwin announces the world premier of her original one-woman play skinny crazy small.  And I am delighted to promote it.

The play chronicles the 8 year battle of a young girl with anorexia, seeking to give new voice to the discussion of this illness and to advocate for breaking down stereotypes.

She has an Indiegogo campaign for skinny crazy small that is live for just a few more weeks. Funds will allow Baldwin to pay her director and technical director a fair wage, as well as to rent rehearsal and performance venues. The Indiegogo page has a full breakdown of how funds will be allotted. Please contribute to this project at:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/skinny-crazy-small
Your donation is tax deductible, thanks to Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts organization in New York City. And if your employer matches donations, skinny crazy small can accept those as well!

Great resources to learn more about the show include their website and Facebook page: http://sylviemaebaldwin.wix.com/skinnycrazysmall

http://www.facebook.com/skinnycrazysmall

You can also purchase your skinny crazy small tickets today!: http://skinnycrazysmall.brownpapertickets.com

About Sylvie:

Sylvie Mae Baldwin is an actress, modern dancer, and musician. In May 2015 her original one-woman show, skinny crazy small, will premiere in Seattle, Washington. The play tells the story of a quirky and strong-willed girl’s struggle with anorexia and seeks to promote honest discussion about eating disorders (www.facebook.com/skinnycrazysmall). Regionally, Sylvie Mae has appeared on stage with Antaeus Company (CA), Book It Repertory Theatre (WA), Key City Public Theatre (WA), Lexington Children’s Theatre (KY), Seattle Public Theater (WA), Seattle Theatre Group (WA), and South Coast Repertory (CA). Sylvie Mae also was part of a group of young actors at the Northwest School who spent three years working in collaboration with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital tp craft short plays from the poems and journal entries of terminally ill children in the hospital’s ICU. These plays were performed at the UCSF medical facilities and the DeYoung Art Museum. Sylvie Mae trained with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company in New York. She is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association. http://www.sylviemaebaldwin.com

The Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Key Note at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Seattle

I am pleased to post this guest blog by Barbara Thomas, who I am lucky to know because about 22 years ago we started to work together as doctor and patient. Barbara is a brilliant and creative artist, writer, and so much more.  A view of what she creates and shares is on her web site here. This year, on January 16, 2015, she was the keynote speaker at the Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Seattle. It is important to note that Mt. Zion has played an important role in the Seattle civil rights movement since at least 1940 (more about that in another post).  For today, here is Barbara’s speech.

          Dream and the Dream Catcher–MLK Day—Barbara Earl Thomas –

January 16, 2015

I am humbled and amazed to be here today to speak in honor of the day and on the occasion when we all pause for a moment to consider what this day means to us and our nation. I thank first Jill Wakefield, Chancellor of the Seattle Colleges for the invitation, Earnest Phillips, Seattle Colleges Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for the great support and Senior Pastor Aaron Williams for continuing the grand tradition of having this address at the Mount Zion Baptist Church.

I am additionally honored to stand at the podium in Mount Zion Baptist Church, led so long by our very own Samuel B. McKinney, who in 1961 arranged and hosted the one and only visit to Seattle that Dr. King would ever make. They stood together two human beings—with all the other human beings stated their case, shaped the vision that has sustained us all of these years. Just imagine: the humanness of their being—mere mortals (like you and me) facing that Mount Olympus-sized dream.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a dream so eloquently that we are often left speechless in its wake.   When he told us that, “This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality—1963 is not an end but a beginning,” that is where I have to start every day. We stand, each one of us, as a link in the line from that place Dr. King called the beginning. On that day we were given a vision, hope and a star to reach, not knowing in that moment, in1963, all that would befall us as a people or nation. Even as we mourned the assassination of Medgar Evers we could not foresee the assassinations of John F. Kennedy nor take in the possibility that Dr. King would himself be mowed down, his death, killing hope in its wake.   We could not imagine the depths of Vietnam and all the wars that would bring us to September 11, 2001 when the world as we knew it stopped, stunned into the realization that it had come to this. If we didn’t know before, we know now we are in this spaceship together.

At the moment Dr. King delivered those now immortal words—“I may not get there with you,” he faced thousands of hopeful people who helped to make that particular moment possible. I do not diminish Dr. King when I say he (we) would not have gotten here without all of those who took up the seemingly small but crucial tasks. Today we must remember the John Lewises and Fredrick Reeses, the Ralph Abernathys, Ella Bakers and Bayard Ruskins who worked tirelessly off the podium, to the side, out of the spotlight. Dr. King was carrying their torch and he spoke for them. I pay homage to all of those who got on buses, on trains or in their cars to mark that moment. But I also remember the mothers and fathers who were unable to attend but kept the home fires burning, attended their children, kept the school doors open, worked their jobs, and guarded the voting booth or gave a hand to the less strong along the way.

When I think of the small steps, I start with my very own existence by way of my grandparents, Doc and Ethel Lee, and people like them, who came here in the early 1940s would eventually send for the daughters – in my case, Lula Mae who would become my mother and, her sister, Annie. They, like the grandparents and parents of so many, migrated here from Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas and all parts south to start anew.  They came looking to work hard and find that American Dream. My father would arrive by way of the military, having completed the 9th grade and my mother the 11th. One might say why did she quit? She was so close, only a year away from graduation. Ah, that was a subtle custom, a brutal dream killer. If you were Black, in that place, the 11th grade was as high as you were allowed to go. She was stopped, sure enough, but she did not quit. She simply lifted her dream and moved it forward to her children. Little did I know that I was her/their dream-catcher. I held their dream, never knowing how full I was of their hope. I, and most of my classmates, could not in our young lives appreciate or imagine the gravity of what we represented to those people who sent us out of the house everyday. We could not decipher the pride on their faces, the lilt in their voices as they spoke among themselves about us.

When we graduated it was not an individual accomplishment but a family triumph. Only years later would I understand and feel the magnitude of what now seems like such a small thing to hope for a child. I did not suffer the hardscrabble, sharecropping, cotton-picking life of my parents and grandparents. This was, by no means, luck on my part, but a well-laid plan, seeded by a grandfather’s courage when he struck out into the unknown. I did not experience the segregated south or Jim Crow trains but I understood, as many of you here do, that my small accomplishments were part of a larger hope passed onto me, not always in words, but through a look, a sigh, and the embodiment of their hard work.   It was my/our job to get the goods, grasp the knowledge, the word, and the secret of the system and bring it home and share it with whoever needed to know.

Today with the ubiquity of the Internet, Facebook, Instagrams and Tweets the big moments now come to us in an instant, cause a momentary explosion of comment, only to be replaced by another startling world event. The good news is it is ever more clear that we are bound together and responsible to each other. As we share the human spectacle no transgression is hidden for long. The bad news is that the repetition of the images can cheapen even the most fantastic human event. We stand stunned in the face of impending environmental disaster; global and local terrorism; the images and sounds of the suffering confront us. As they happen, we are dwarfed in the shadow of their enormity.

What can we in our smallness do? We who glean the fields today gather those shafts of wheat left behind. In grief from so much loss, this work may be our salvation.   Our job, in these days of “endless blogs” and “lives gone viral”, may be again to find the sacred in the mundane act of everyday living.   As ordinary as it sounds when we send our children off to school each day—we re-enact a sacred ritual for which people have risked beatings and death to achieve. It is an impulse rooted deep in our human make up to embark on this eighteen year commitment –where one day builds the week, month and years that culminates in the moment when all the small steps add up to one well-prepared life. As each educator stands in front of the classroom he or she will struggle with the inadequacies of the resources, but daunted as that teacher is he/she finds a way to connect with the student who is somebody’s child and the future of us all.   When we resonate, as we must, during brief flashes of clarity, we grasp that each and every one of us matters, because without the work, hope, love and dedication of the many, that moment in 1963 would never have happened.   Who knows, if we will in our life times, have that kind of moment again? But I say, maybe this is the time not of the one, but of the many.

I am grateful to those of you who have raised your families when you might rather have been doing something else; those of you who helped a young person who was not your own child; given money and time for the betterment of your community even when you got little or no notice—you may not be thanked but you will do it regardless. I want to thank those of you who have gone into teaching when it was clear that it was no place to make a fortune, but it remains one of the most important professions for any community who knows what is truly at stake.   Our next big challenge as a community and nation will be to reclaim higher education as an affordable right for the many, not a luxury for the few. We have to take it back from those lending institutions that would bankrupt our families and children, mortgage their futures.

My first venture into college was at what was then called Seattle Community College—as an evening student, where I took my very first English class. My mother and her best friend Viola who was also my hairdresser, dropped me off on Summit Avenue Annex at 6pm and picked me up at 9pm. I don’t know what those two young ladies did when they left. I know they didn’t sit outside and wait for me for 3 hours–but I never asked. It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t be there.

Today I ask you to remember the aspiration, the small steps needed to arrive. It’s not okay to say that because we can’t do the monumental that our individual contributions don’t matter. Who are we to say that our “one” vote means nothing? Who are we to overlook the life of even one child lost in violence or despair? In these days when we are overwhelmed by the wave of the Michael Browns, Trayvon Martins or the child who kills himself or another, none of it is okay and I say that every small thing matters.

In this light, Dr. King’s speech is a love letter sent to a future that he would not see. And, it is a message, for all of humanity. In 2015 when the gravity of poverty yet exists— and societal injustice brings no relief from the violence we heap upon each other—we wonder if we have moved the needle of progress at all. When in doubt, take the harvest from your fruit trees to the food bank—volunteer at your local school whether you have children or not.

When my grandfather decided in the 1940s to move his family from rural Shreveport, Louisiana to Seattle, it was no small move. These former sharecroppers and cotton pickers were the sons and daughter of those who passed on a direct memory of slavery. They were the many un-graduated from any high school with no diplomas offering up hands in labor and arms in defense of the only country they knew.

Today let us remember the individual stories, the small kindnesses of he who opens the door, holds the train, shares the food, the knowledge, the kind word— In 2015, I am charged with remembering the gifts of all those who came before me. These individuals were part of the raw stuff of the dream to which Martin Luther King, Jr. would refer. As I stand in Mount Zion Baptist Church, I must speak of Reverend Samuel B. McKinney, who in 1961, met with Martin Luther King Jr. right here in Seattle. He, himself a 1949 graduate of Morehouse College, was exemplary to all in his parish of the value of education, the power of voice matched with reason. As the church was one of the pivotal symbols of unity in Seattle’s Central District, the core of the African American community and continues to be that for many. We were neighbors who held a tightly knit community together and the businesses that served them and us. In 2015 we lament many of the changes but we also take heart and are charged with naming the successes of those who have caught the dream and moved it forward. We still stand for uplifting the race, community and the country. My grandfather used to say “If you live long enough you gonna see some of everything.”

Many of us have lived long enough to remember Sam Smith, the first Black City Councilman; the election of Norman B. Rice as our the first Black Mayor of Seattle; Ron Sims first King County executive; Larry Gossett, County Council; Dr. Charles Mitchell a Seattle Colleges Chancellor; Judge Charles Z Smith and Charles Johnson and Richard Jones all exemplary leaders; and Dr. Ben Danielson at Odessa Brown; Charles Johnson, author, National Book award winner and MacArthur Genius; Octavia Butler, award-winning science fiction writer; and August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright spring from our culture to live among us to tell their and our stories. And, yes there is Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States of America.

I pray, let me never be so overwhelmed or habituated to the grand gesture that miracles such as these no longer impress me. I say we are here today to engage in the “mindfulness” that recognizes these are still events for which we should and can be grateful every day. There is a place for, and merit in being the second, even third or fourth–Mayor, City or County Council person, community leader and National Book Award winner, scientist and doctor. These achievements remind us that there was a time, not so long ago, before that first, when we never thought we would live to see the day. Our job now is not just to pass the dream on, but to take it out, brush off the tarnish of any personal disappointments and pass it on as we ourselves receive it, in all its fresh wonderment. Today let’s remember to re-appreciate and re-engage and be amazed. This may not be the moment for the one—but it just might be the time for the many.

Available now! Click on the link below. (I cannot seem to import the image to show as an image). I hope you will get it, enjoy it, learn from it, celebrate with all of us authors whose stories are in this work, and share the information with your friends, family, and colleagues.  Order it from http://www.UCMedicalHumanitiesPress.com and get a 30% discount. All proceeds go to the University of California Medical Humanities Press, which allows them to publish more work in this genre.  It will be available at bn.com and amazon.com in about 6-8 weeks.

Heart Murmurs flyer

Teams, gratitude, and goodbyes

We had a lot of fun in our hours together in the Labor and Delivery Suite at Virginia Mason Hospital, Seattle, from 1983 until 1989, when I left to take my practice to the University. “We” would be the nurses, midwives, support staff, and doctors from the hospital and two community health center practice groups. There’s a lot of talk these days about teams, as if it is a new concept. It’s a great concept; it’s not new, and algorithms,mnemonics, and organizational protocols telling us to communicate or how to communicate do not make the concept come alive. Relationships are the bricks and the mortar comes from commitment to our patients and to the relationships within the team.

This spring a new patient appeared on my schedule. I recognized the name and I recognized her: big eyes, easy laugh, and organized notebook with items for us to discuss as catch up­—items she felt I would need to know if I was to become her primary care doc (PCP) and we were again to be a team. It had been 25 years since we had worked together as nurse and doctor in Labor and Delivery (L&D is what we call it), yet it could have been yesterday.

…Only this time we would not be working together with a laboring and birthing woman and her family. It was to hopefully keep her healthy, now in remission after chemotherapy for lymphoma. Her cancer care was in our institution and she and they felt a PCP in our system would add to her team that included her husband, daughter, oncologists and nurses; they hoped my joining the team might make her care coordination easier.

After she had completed chemotherapy, her first scan was negative and she and her husband and daughter were optimistic and ready to celebrate. I felt like an old friend had walked back into my life. I shared her optimism and thought, “how lucky am I? Piece of cake: reconnect with an old friend, work on her health goals now that chemo is over…”

That is what teams do if they work: they breed strong ties and create a choreography that could translate to different settings even though we don’t make those translations often. In this case, we settled in, started to work on some of her non-cancer concerns, caught up on her life and hoped for the best. I found out she had left L&D nursing and was a respected nursing educator in a local program. She and her husband had one daughter and she shared how proud they were of her. She told me how, as their daughter grew, they took frequent outings to various parts of the state and usually could be found in the summer crabbing in Puget Sound from their boat. I remember their wedding and could picture the next installments as she relayed the details. Did I go to the wedding? Or were her descriptions so vivid I feel in my memories like I was there? That is the thing about teams. We all own part of the other’s story with a connection that weaves in and out and in an out.

During these conversations I could easily transport myself back to L&D, day or night, someone in labor, sitting around with whoever was there– nurses, the midwives from the hospital midwifery group, maybe one of the family med docs from the other community health center group, maybe the obstetrician on call. If one of us needed help, there were always hands to help. If a woman came in and her on call person was not there, we would help. If my patient came in and I was not there yet, others would help.

What I remember about Linda, the name of my colleague now patient, is her voice. She could tell one of us exactly what she thought and what she thought we should do about it, always with this cadenced softness that did not hide the direct and clear opinion. She could (and would) manage a complex patient in the midst of chaos with the calm of a neurosurgeon and she could coach a reluctant woman when to breathe and how to push when I needed to take a take a deep breath break myself. And laugh…oh I can hear her laughter. She could laugh at herself and funny things she would share. Laugh a lot and laugh loudly, easily tickled by life and our work, easily finding what was important, never disrespectful, just keenly insightful to the meaning, the amusement and the delight—all of it.

Teams…they do create memories. I don’t remember a mnemonic. I do remember the people who touch me and allow me into their lives. Though I am not sure, as I remember the flurry of the nursery filled with the L&D and pediatric nurses and my absolute excitement and disbelief at the show of support, to say nothing of the import of the moment, I believe Linda was right there when my son was legally handed to me at our hospital and again at the shower the nurses had for my son and me a couple of weeks later. I know she celebrated my becoming a parent, and we all shared her meeting her Larry and her wedding a short while later. And then we lost touch.

This spring of remission was short. Her lymphoma was found again, not even hiding very far from her oncologist’s detection. Her remission had not been real. She had more chemo and prepared for stem cell transplant. During that time our biggest conversations were about how to get ready, would she have to live closer to the hospital during this treatment. And she began to accept these realities and in her usual very organized way, she set about making all the arrangements.

Just a couple of weeks ago, with her port in place for the transplant, she was admitted with a fever. We hoped it was an infection, maybe the line that had been placed. Her doctors tried to hope and did cultures and started antibiotics. Within a couple of days, it was clear. No infection. Her cancer was running wild. Her oncologist gave her the news and we expedited her return home with her daughter and husband and Hospice, her new team member.

Her bucket list got much shorter. She had a couple of good days and her family was at her side pretty much the whole time. Before her discharge she told me she worried about the strain on her husband and daughter and I told her they were strong and would be fine. She said, “but I have things to do.” I asked her where she would tell me to put my energy if I knew I was going to die the next day. She laughed. Oh how I loved her musical laugh. She said, “You give me perspective. And also, I really want my daughter to go on her trip.” I said, “That is not your choice.” She laughed. We both knew she would have said the same to me.

I thought she would live a week or three. And I hoped to visit her and maybe have the courage to say a proper good bye and to thank her for the days and nights we passed together in L&D and for trusting me with her care at this momentous time. She died quietly, 5 days after going home, with her family at her side. When there is a good team, maybe there is no good way and no need to say goodbye.

Women Authoring Change

my 2012 abode

my 2012 abode

In the past I wrote about Hedgebrook. (radical hospitality) And I shared about the women who were there when I was. women writers  And their cook book (here) is amazing, reminding me of the weight I gained during my residency in 2012. Well now it is time for YOU to apply for a residency.  Check it out here!  If granted, it is like nothing you will have ever had given to you.  One constellation of six who were there when I was are pictured below, representing several nations, multiple genres, and huge heart. Also, throughout the year, they have master’s classes as well.  For a weekend or longer, you will have your own little cottage, 5 other writers, solitude, amazing surroundings, and a master teacher. https://sharondobiedotcom1.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/post-debate.jpg An 2011 article in the Guardian   showed that in Britain and the US, male authors are reviewed 3 times more often than women. And guess what?  Who do you think the reviewers are?  Yes, similar proportions for reviewers: men: women 3:1. VIDA does an annual evaluation.  In 2013 the NY Times and The Paris Review made big progress, but check out the tables.  We still have a long way to go to have women’s voices heard in print. (VIDA) Hedgebrook supports women writers.  In particular it wants to support women authoring change.  My three weeks there in 2012 were life altering thanks to the vision of the place, the belief in the work I was/am doing, the amazing nurturing of the staff and the place, the women who were there with me, and the space to be there. Please do check it out:  Go there for a master’s class.  Apply for a residency.  Support them.  Go to their events.

Josephine Ensign wrote about Elizabeth Austen, her poetry and the event where she read. (see blogs I follow)  Elizabeth is the Washington State Poet in Residence, truly gifted and a Hedgebrook Alum. Check out her blog and her work here. Go to one of her events.

Support women authors! Our voices matter. In the farmhouse at Hedgebrook, where we gather for dinner with our amazing chefs, there is a living room with floor to ceiling and wall to wall (except for the fireplace) bookshelves, all full.  Every book in the shelves is by or includes a Hedgebrook alum.  Let us work together to publish so much that we must support Hedgebrook building a new building or modifying some of their other buildings to house all the works of the women who pass through there.