2016 Walk & Family Festival --- an $85,000 success

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 6th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

August 29, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2005. We took Mattie to another one of his favorite spots..... The George C. Page Museum, that features fossils of animals that were trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits. Pits which are still bubbling right outside the museum. Mattie was absolutely fascinated learning about how tar preserved animal bones and how these fossils are being studied today. The museum has a fabulous laboratory where you can watch scientists at work, and it truly captures the mind and imagination.

Quote of the day: When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When my parent's tree is in bloom it looks a lot like this. Though I admit this is NOT a photo of their tree. But I did want to give you a feeling for how glorious a flowering pear is. It almost looks like snow in the spring!

My parents are working hard to figure out whether the tree can be saved or needs to be replaced. In the mean time the tree will be given vitamin B and the bark will be wrapped to prevent it from being exposed to the air, while it is healing. Hopefully in a few weeks they will know if the tree can truly be salvaged.

I guess I am in amazement that the neighbor throwing this teenage party on Saturday never came over to find out if we were okay, or to even assess the damages that this car caused. It is true they aren't responsible for the driver's accident, but I think I would have felt compelled to check on my neighbor if I knew the kid headed to my party did a great deal of damage to my neighbor's property. It tells me a lot about the neighbor and to me it is a sad commentary on people today! Also what if we weren't home when this kid drove into our tree???? No one from that party (two doors down from my parent's house) came to wait with the 17 year old driver responsible for the accident. They did not offer to help and basically ignored him as if he did not exist. The police officer assisting us said this behavior is very typical for teenagers especially if they deem they could be implicated in the accident. Can you imagine? Honestly I just wanted to sit down with this 17 year old driver and tell him..... these people aren't your friends! Friends are people who you can trust and who stand by your side not just in the fun times, but the challenging times. When people deny knowing you, it is time to face the music and realize you need new dance partners!

Later this afternoon, my mom and I went out for a walk! All I can say is OH MY! We were walking in direct sun, and it was over 100 degrees. After walking 2.8 miles, I literally gave out and was feeling ill. So we headed back, thankfully in the nick of time, before both of us suffering from heat exhaustion!

Tomorrow I head back to Washington, DC. So the next time you hear from me, I will be on the other coast!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2005. Mattie was visiting my parents in Los Angeles and experiencing floating in a swimming pool. Mattie was very cautious when it came to water, which was actually wonderful. Mattie was born with common sense. I never had to explain cleaning products to him (he seemed to know to avoid them because they were dangerous), and seemed to have an innate understanding for things that could potentially harm him. Though tentative about entering the water, Peter was persistent with Mattie, and tried to make the experience fun for him, which only further encouraged Mattie.

Quote of the day: Never let the fear of striking out get in your way. ~ Babe Ruth

We saw the play today entitled, Calendar Girls. It was a screenplay by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi based on a true story of a group of Yorkshire women who produced a nude calendar to raise money for Leukemia Research under the auspices of the Women's Institutes in April 1999. In the screen play and movie the premise for these women taking off their clothes was to raise money for research. Though I have issues with that notion alone, today's play was even more ridiculous. The premise for taking off clothes was to raise money NOT for research but to purchase a couch for the family lounge in the hospital (in memory of John Clarke, the husband of one of the women in the Women's Institute which is a community based organization for women). This to me made NO SENSE!!! After all how expensive is ONE couch? They couldn't think of any other way to raise this money than to take their clothes off?!!! That to me leads me with a lot of questions.

Putting the story line aside, which was hard for me, since I work hard to raise money for childhood cancer.... I couldn't get passed the sights I was seeing before my eyes. What you see in the promotional photograph is what you see on stage and one woman in particular in this play I swear is an exhibitionist and I believe likes living without clothes more than with them on.
I have to tell you this play was so poorly executed and half of the theatre was sleeping! At the intermission, we all decided we couldn't sit through another act of this nightmare and left. We never do such a thing, so that is how bad it was. Tonight was the closing night of this show and yet from our perspective it looked like opening night in which the cast was still learning their lines.

After this show, we went out for an early dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. One I have been going to since I lived in LA. In a way we needed an escape and a nice dinner today after yesterday's very scary car accident right in our front yard. We are still recovering from this!!!

August 28, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. It is one of my favorite photos of Mattie that I took! We were visiting my parents in Los Angles and in typical Mattie fashion..... he decided to be a character! He found my sandals, put them on, and was parading around the house. Check out his smile, he was clearly proud of himself.

Quote of the day: Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. ~ Anonymous

What have we been doing for the last several hours? The answer is we have been standing outside my parents house dealing with a major accident. A teenager was driving too fast, WHILE the sun was still up, and took the corner by my parent's home too fast. He lost control of the car, almost hit a kid, and came flying onto the front lawn. Thanks to the pear tree...... it stopped the car before hitting the house and potentially killing the driver.

I have never met my parents neighbors before, but I met ALL of them including the kids. One kid who is 8 years old, was fascinated by what was going on as well as interacting with the police. So this fellow was with us most of the evening. The police did an OUTSTANDING job and managed the incident beautifully. But who expects this to happen? The scary part is my mom and I were backing out of our driveway, when we heard a car speeding and skidding out of control. So my mom stopped the car. If she was further out of the driveway, this car would have hit definitely hit me and most likely would have seriously injured me. So it does put this all into perspective.

Today, we went out to lunch in Calabasas, which is about 45 minutes West of where my parents live. The outdoor mall that we went to, is like NO mall I know of. The area is filled with ducks, fountains, turtles, birds of all kinds, and is simply a wonderful escape.

While at lunch, we had these gals waddling over to greet us. They were looking for a hand out and many people obliged the ducks!
At the other end of the outdoor shopping complex is a beautiful fountain with bronze sculptures and turtles! A ton of turtles to be exact!
I truly believe Mattie would have enjoyed this sight today! He was into any sort of water element and of course turtles!
Is this not an adorable turtle fountain?
A frog fountain! Not sure which one I like more.... the turtle or the frog.
This is an overview of the entire fountain. Which looks very pond like, doesn't it? It has statues of kids... two are in the water, one is on land trying to pull in the row boat, and one little boy is in the row boat. It is the boy in the boat that always reminds me of Mattie.
I entitle this Turtle Beach! Don't you just love the turtle line up!
I actually had to research what this turtle is doing! My mom and I watched this big turtle climb on top of the other one. Bascially what I found out was that this turtle was competing for the best basking site and this is what turtles do both in captivity and in the wild.
This is the other end of the fountain! To me just coming to see the water, the turtles, and the ducks make it worth the drive!

August 26, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. We took Mattie to an outdoor fair in Los Angeles. Literally several streets were closed down and all sorts of child friendly activities were taking place from pony rides to miniature trains. Mattie did both that day and had a great time.... as was evident with the smile and excitement captured in this photo!

Quote of the day: To know how to say what others only know how to think is what makes men poets or sages; and to dare to say what others only dare to think makes men martyrs or reformers - or both. ~ Elizabeth Charles

As a child, I can recall my maternal grandmother watching Days of Our Lives, the soap opera, while ironing clothes! Though I could hear it, it meant nothing to me until I entered high school and started watching it myself. Not unlike most things, there were years I tuned into the program and then several years when life took over and I tuned out. Yet, as a Days of Our Lives fan, and having history with the show, it is quite easy to pick it back up even if it is years later. While raising Mattie, I never watched the show. It was only recently that I tuned back in and of course was immediately glued and absorbed back into the lives of the Bradys, Hortons, and DiMeras! These are families in a way that I feel I have grown up with. One thing I have to say is that Days is a wonderful diversion for me and when I watch it I forget about my own issues and worries for the day. So I consider it my mental health break from reality!

Days of Our Lives is one of the longest-running scripted television programs in the world, airing nearly every weekday since November 8, 1965. Due to the series' success, it was expanded from 30 minutes to 60 minutes on April 21, 1975. The series focuses on its core families, the Hortons and the Bradys. Several other families have been added to the cast, and many of them still appear on the show. Frances Reid, the matriarch of the series' Horton family remained with the show from its inception to her death on February 3, 2010 (at 96 years of age!). Susan Seaforth Hayes is the only cast member to appear on Days of Our Lives in all five decades it has been on air. Days of Our Lives has been able to celebrate its 50th anniversary, because it typically covers cutting edge issues that so many of us can relate to.

My mom and I entered a clothing store to browse around today and as we were entering the store, I saw a woman who looked familiar to me leaving the store. We literally passed each other. As she began to get closer to me, I knew immediate who it was.... Susan Seaforth Hayes, who plays Julie Williams for over 40 years on Days of Our Lives.

Naturally I could have let her just walk by. But I didn't. I actually smiled at her, which caught her attention and then I said "hi." But I said it in a way that my mom assumed I knew her. Then I started chatting with her, and my mom was further perplexed because she did not recognize in any context the woman I was talking to! Then I explained to my mom that Ms. Hayes is on Days of Our Lives. Pictured here are Susan and her husband Bill. They are married in real life and on the set of Days of Our Lives.

I am sure Ms. Hayes is used to people approaching her because soap opera fans are passionate and intense about their shows. But I think what intrigued me is I felt like I knew her, and talked to her as such. Yet naturally I don't know her! I only know the character she plays, but since she has played it for almost 40 years, I wonder if there is a distinction?!
This was Susan Seaforth Hayes and her husband Bill Hayes on Days of Our Lives in 1973, when they got married. Imagine working on the set of Days of Our Lives for over 40 years? The ironic part to me is people age on the set but the magic captured in their character is timeless. Ms. Hayes is 73 years old, her husband is 91 years old, and Frances Reid (the Horton family matriarch) played on the show up until age 96! Totally impressive, which is why I feel the show appeals to a wide demographic.

August 25, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. We took Mattie to Los Angeles and on our adventures we went to Griffith Park. Another Mattie favorite. The irony is I went to high school in Los Angeles and passed Griffith Park all the time, but never ventured in, until we had Mattie. Mattie loved the pony rides, the carousel, and of course the train rides! I can't tell you how many times we all rode this miniature train!

Quote of the day: It is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today my parents and I went out to lunch together. While dining at the restaurant, this is the scene I saw outside the window. For the entire time we were at the restaurant Warner Bros was shooting a scene from their new Lethal Weapon movie. Movies seem glamourous, however, the entire time we were at the restaurant they filmed the same scene OVER and OVER again. It was literally just extras walking down the street, for hours. Same people, doing the same motion. 

In a way it felt like we were also on set for this movie, since we could see the camera man, the lighting folks, the person directing the scene and so forth.
After lunch, MIND YOU THEY WERE STILL AT IT, I decided to take close up photos of this scene. Notice two of the extras.... one was smiling at me and the other waving. Which was down right hysterical because I watched both of them walking up and down the street over the course of our entire lunch! But they were good sports! The lady in the blue shirt, seemed to be the lead extra... notice her silvery shoes which don't seem to go with the rest of her outfit!

They were also filming inside this clothing store. The store's real name is Rosemary and Sage. Yet while filming, they changed the window on the front door to a different name altogether! The real store was closed for the day so filming could take place! Things are never boring in Southern California, especially when you are so close to major movie studios.

Later on in the afternoon, my mom and I went on a 3.5 mile walk. Along the way, I found "Miss Puss." She was in someone's front yard and she came trotting on over to greet us. I clearly have an LA friend!

Along our journey today, we saw a sign up by a realtor's office for the famous Bob and Delores Hope Estate. Bob Hope made Toluca Lake famous and I was stunned to see that after 13 years since his death, his home is now on the market. The house is 15,000 square feet, on 5.2 acres of land, with an indoor and outdoor pool, and has its own putting green. The house is on the market for $22 million. I really wish there was an open house to tour this 1930s classic. To see a video tour go to..............


August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. We took Mattie to Travel Town, one of his favorite places to visit in Los Angeles. Why? Because it was a museum filled with trains that children could climb, run around in, blow their whistles, play with gears and walk on the tracks. A real find for anyone enamored with trains. LIKE MATTIE! Notice what else came along for the trip... Mr. Sippy Cup! That cup came everywhere, as Mattie loved drinking milk. I always had a cooler bag with me, so when sippy cup was needed..... there it was. Our joke was Mattie was going to have the strongest bones around..... we never imagined it would be possible for him to instead develop bone cancer.

Quote of the day: Every great work, every big achievement, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement. ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

In 2013, Animal Planet aired a TV program called, "A Wild Affair" featuring the only sign language trained orangutan in the world named Chantex. Chantex (which means lovely and beautiful) was born December 17, 1977, at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He mastered the use of a number of intellectual skills, including sign language, and was taught by American anthropologists Lyn Miles and Ann Southcombe. My parents and I happened to watch this documentary last night. It is definitely worth seeing and truly as you are watching this you are fascinated by Chantex's bright and sensitive nature.

Dr. Miles hypothesis was that nurture in a way could supersede nature. Meaning that if you raised an orangutan with humans, he would develop human communication patterns and also live life more like a human child than an ape. Remember this was the 1970s, a time where social science research was fascinated with communication, how humans communicate with each other, language acquisition skills and identifying critical periods during which humans learn to understand and use language. All great, but what was lacking in 1970s research was the ethical implications of conducting such studies on the lives of human/animal subjects. In Chantex's situation, Dr. Miles didn't consider the long term ramifications on Chantex. After all, an ape of this size couldn't possibly live with humans all his life, and yet, how do you transition such an animal back into the wild after teaching him sign language and raising him with humans? Complex questions that would need to be evaluated today before any institutional review board would allow such a study! Yet in all fairness to Dr. Miles, such review boards did not exist back then.
Chantek is now 36-year-old and lives at the Zoo Atlanta since 1997. In the years prior to his arrival at Zoo Atlanta, Chantek had a very unconventional upbringing in that he was reared by humans in a human setting (pictured with Dr. Miles). As part of a language research project, he was taught American Sign Language (ASL) as a juvenile. Chantex lived with Dr. Miles for almost 9 years and then after several incidents (breaking out of his home, scaring students, destruction of property) living on a college campus in Tennessee, the university insisted that the research stop and Chantex be sent back to Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Chantex was there for 11 years, locked in a cage and dealing with depression and other issues. Imagine living freely and amongst humans, to then living in cage and isolated.  
Chantek has a vocabulary of over 150 modified ESL signs, and he also understands spoken English. Chantek makes and uses tools and even understands the concepts of money and work-exchange.

While at the University of Tennessee, he possessed the spatial comprehension to direct a driving-route from the university to the closest Dairy Queen, and the mental comprehension to refer to events that happened years ago. He enjoys creative projects and makes paintings, necklaces, crafts and music. The photo shows Chantex with Ann, purchasing a cheeseburger at a local drive thru.

Chantex growing up and playing at the University of Tennessee. He quickly understood that if he complied with chores, he got positive feedback and rewards such as play time and all sorts of tasty treats.
Chantex grew to be 500 pounds when he was transferred to the Atlanta Zoo. No surprise since he had been eating people food consisting of ice cream, candy, soda, and so forth! As a result of living at the zoo and eating a more orangutan friendly diet, he is now 295 pounds.
I honestly think that Dr. Miles was heart broken that her research came to an end. She literally was bonded with Chantex and treated almost like her child. She still visits him today at the zoo and through his cage communicates to him by signing. This is a very deeply meaningful documentary that leaves you with many thoughts, feelings, and questions. I naturally view this from a 2016 lens, but need to remember how cutting edge research this was for the 1970s, and despite the challenges Chantex faced, I do believe Dr. Miles really loves Chantex and wants what is best for him and his life. To me this bond she had with Chantex was almost as fascinating as her language research!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 -- Mattie died 362 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2004. We took Mattie to another favorite place that he liked to visit.... Travel Town. Travel Town is located in Griffith Park, in Burbank, CA. The beauty of this park is it is a museum that has historic trains of the West. Yet it is a very child friendly museum because kids can walk the tracks, climb on the trains, ring the bells, and so forth. This was right up Mattie's alley since he loved trains.

Quote of the day: No great thing is created suddenly. ~ Epictetus

We drove today to Santa Ana, to see an exhibit at the Bowers Museum. A museum we have never visited before. In theory it should take under an hour to get to the museum, however, with traffic it took about 90 minutes each way. But the drive to the museum was a total adventure. I plugged in the address to our GPS, but given the fact that we were directed onto six different freeways along the journey, I was  worried and concluded that something was wrong. It definitely looked wrong. So I had my mom call Peter..... all the way in DC to help us. I am sure that sounds hysterical to most people, but Peter is VERY used to my "I'm lost" phone calls over the years, that it probably doesn't faze him anymore. In any case, within minutes Peter deduced where we were, and told us that we were on the right track and almost there. We concluded that the GPS rerouted us to avoid traffic on the main freeway, however, I can assure you that when we saw the museum and got out of the car, it felt like we won the lottery. If you haven't driven freeways in Southern California, then it is hard to describe. But they are six lanes typically and traffic moves FAST. You have to have your wits about you and know where you are going, because there is no wiggly room to make decisions.

A photo of my parents outside the entrance to the Bowers Museum!

"Mummies of the World" highlight the stories of the people behind the mummies through scientific methods used to study mummies, including Computed Tomography (CT), ancient DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating, all of which allow researchers to learn about the lives, history, and cultures of the mummies. Who were they? Where did they come from? And what can they teach us?

Mummies of the World portrays a once-in-a-lifetime collection of real mummies and artifacts from across the globe. This compelling collection, presented with reverence and dignity, includes ancient mummies dating back as far as 4,500 years. A fascinating mix of old and new, this captivating collection bridges the gap between past and present with contributions from 10 world-renowned Institutions and two private collectors.

Security detail when the mummies were transported to the Bowers Museum.

Because of the nature of this exhibit, each of the rooms was dark and quiet. Not unlike entering a church, or a library. People were quiet and reserved. After all we were reminded that the objects on display were REAL PEOPLE, who had REAL LIVES. When you go to a cemetery, you aren't running around and conversing. Well the same behavior occurs at this exhibit!

For the most part, people were quiet and on good behavior. But there was a somber feeling about walking through these catacomb like rooms. The Museum personnel reminded attendees that when they produced this exhibition, they were very careful to be very respectful and deferential to the cultures in which these mummies (and) artifacts originate.

One that stands (or lies) apart from the rest is MUMAB. His name stands for Mummy of the University of Maryland at Baltimore and he’s only been a mummy for 22 years.

In 1994, two researchers, Egyptologist Bob Brier and anatomist Ronn Wade, recreated ancient Egyptian mummification techniques at the University of Maryland, Baltimore to preserve the remains of a man who donated his body to science.

They made replicas of ancient tools and even gathered key ingredients from Egypt to make the process as close as possible to original practice.
Did ancient Egyptians drain blood from the bodies? Brier has studied many Egyptian mummies but hasn’t seen major incisions over arteries that would be used to drain the blood. What about the brain? Any kid can tell you ancient Egyptians used a hook to pull it through the nose, but Brier and Wade found out how it was likely done. “I realized the only way I’m going to answer these questions is I’m going to mummify a cadaver in the ancient way.” The ancient Egyptians never recorded the details of the process, Brier said. “That was kind of a trade secret.”

The process of mummification took about a day, but the legwork took a year. Brier traveled to Egypt for 600 pounds of natron from Wadi Natrun, the same place ancient Egyptians got their natron to preserve bodies. Natron is a naturally occuring compound of what we know as table salt and baking soda. Getting untreated linen, used to wrap the body, in today’s markets was a challenge, but Brier found some in Ireland. As for the draining of the blood, Brier said he and Wade opted not to do that. Instead, putting the body in natron was enough to dry it out, and shrink its weight from 180 pounds to 35.

Johannes Vac, from Hungary. Thought to have died at age one from Tuberculosis.  Because infectious diseases may evolve over time, scientists do not know whether strains of tuberculosis or TB from the past (including those appearing in Europe when it was most deadly) are related to the strains we see today. A new study suggests mixed and therefore more dangerous infections may have been common during a time when TB was near peak prevalence in Europe. Mummified bodies found in an 18th century crypt in Hungary yielded 14 separate genomic sequences of M. tuberculosis. By studying mummies, scientists can study tuberculosis in more depth and also understand if some people were immune to developing tuberculosis, and if so, whether such a gene can be scientifically engineered.

Also in this exhibit were accounts of children being sacrificed in the name of their religion. I try not to put my lens on this, but the senseless death of a child, was heard to swallow. In any case, under biochemical analysis, the children's hair yield a record of what they ate and drank during the last two years of their lives. This evidence seems to support historical accounts of a few selected children taking part in a year of sacred ceremonies—marked in their hair by changes in food, coca, and alcohol consumption—that would ultimately lead to their sacrifice. In Inca religious ideology, coca and alcohol could induce altered states associated with the sacred. But the substances likely played a more pragmatic role as well, disorienting and sedating the young victims on the high mountainside to make them more accepting of their own grim fates.

An Egyptian priest named Nes-Hor, who was determined to have arthritis and a broken left hip. 
A beloved cat, mummified to accompany his owner to the next world. The process used on people was just as meticulous for pets.