MATTIE MIRACLE VIRTUAL WALK WAS AN $110,000 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 7th 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!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was recovering from his first limb salvaging surgery, and had a hiatus from treatment. My parents and I took Mattie out to lunch at one of his favorite restaurants. What he loved about this particular restaurant is that it had a toy electric train that ran on a track above the tables. The train had multiple cars and even made noises! Mattie absolutely loved trains! However, as you can see from the picture, it was close to Halloween time. Mattie had his Halloween light up necklaces on and he also brought decorations with us to lunch. As you can see, Mattie decorated our table in a spooky fashion.

Quote of the day: If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain. ~ Emily Dickinson

Sedona, AR was absolutely beautiful this morning. In fact, during our entire week trip, we never had a bad weather day. We ate breakfast outside this morning and could see the wonderful Red Rocks of the area. Sedona is a place that is unforgettable and in many ways I have never experienced a place quite like it. The town was pristine, no litter, no graffiti, no traffic congestion, no smog, and most of all the pace of life is significantly slower than our fast paced world in Washington, DC. Many of the store owners we met in Sedona were all transplants from a bigger city, and after visiting Sedona, fell in love with it and decided to move to it for a better quality of life. I also couldn't help but notice how aesthetically pleasing the town is, in the sense that people who planned this community paid attention to details. Park benches and trash cans were not metal in color. Instead they were painted to match the color of the red rocks. In fact houses and other structures ALL blend into the landscape, and man made structures reflect the earth tones around us. I appreciated this attention to detail, and the very clear statement this was making, which is nature is to be appreciated and NOT spoiled by the things we can create. The town had NO traffic lights, and basically nothing that could interfere with one's visual sight line of the mountains and rocks. I can say that we were all saddened to leave Sedona today, and it seems easy to understand how one could retreat there to renew one's mind, body, and spirit.

Peter and I took this picture today. These rock pets were created by children at the hotel, and they were on display in the garden. As we were taking photos, these cuties caught my attention. Mattie loved googly eyes, and I know that if he were with us, he would have been checking out these rocks, and then would have wanted to make his own creation. So this picture was taken in honor of Mattie and his appreciation for creativity!






My mom and I took a walk in town today, and we got a kick out of the pig like statutes lining the street. In Washington, DC we have painted donkeys and elephants, while in Sedona they have painted Javelinas!
A peccary or a javelina are medium-sized animals, with a strong superficial resemblance to pigs. Like pigs, they have a snout ending in a cartilaginous disc, and eyes that are small relative to their head. However, Javelinas are nocturnal, have different stomach configurations, toe formations, and tusk shape. Javelinas are common backyard inhabitants in Sedona, and down the main street of the town, they had a "Javelina on Parade" sculpture display that was whimsical!

We left Sedona at 10:45am and finally arrived in Los Angeles at 7:30pm. It was a full day of driving through very desolate roads. While driving through parts of Arizona, I was captivated by the Saguaro cactus that were popping up as far as the eye could see. I felt as if I were on a Western movie set, and since this was my first time seeing and experiencing such a sight, it made an impression on me.

The drive through Arizona illustrated to me just how diverse the terrain is, from desert and barren like land to fertile and thriving farms just miles later.


As we entered California, there were wind turbines twirling around for as far as the eye could see. It was an usual sight to see, and all I can say it is has been a week of incredible and beautiful sightings.









Throughout our car trip together, we chatted about many things, and naturally we reflected on Mattie. Mattie enjoyed all of our vacations and he loved adventure. We spoke about his trips out to California and how happy we did certain things with him and did not put them off until tomorrow. Because unfortunately in our case, tomorrow never will come. This of course saddens me that Mattie is not here with us now, and who would ever believe that bad things can happen to a seven year old. But they do, and in the process Peter and I are forever changed. On Saturday evening, Peter returns to Washington, DC and I will remain in LA for another week. I wish Peter had more time away, but I am happy he was able to join us on this adventure.

October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010e

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the PICU recovering from his first limb salvaging surgery. As you can see, Mattie was surrounded by beautiful women. Going from left to right was Jenny, Jessie, and Elizabeth. Jenny and Jessie were Mattie's fabulous art therapists  and Elizabeth was interning as an art therapist in training with Jenny and  Jessie. That particular day they did various activities with Mattie. Jenny and Jessie were helping Mattie blow bubbles to get him to expand his lungs after surgery, and they were also creating fans out of popsicle sticks. Elizabeth on the other hand brought a blank journal book with her, and was encouraging Mattie to use it to draw and express himself on paper whenever he wanted a quiet moment. I will never forget the energy in Mattie's room that day. Also notice the beautiful handprints all over Mattie's hospital door. These handprints were created by Mattie's friends at school. These special gifts brightened our room, our world, and also gave Mattie something to talk to others about. This was very important, because without outside stimulation it was hard to get engaged in conversation. Confinement in a hospital can greatly impact how one physically feels as well as how one feels as a social person.

Quote of the day: There is a joy in heaven when a tear of sorrow is shed in the presence of a truly understanding heart. And heaven will never forget that joy. ~ Charles Malik


Before I tell you about our day's adventure, check out tonight's quote. Perhaps read it more than once. I know I had to! What exactly does this quote mean? It evokes many thoughts within me, but I think the one that I have come to accept is this.... feeling grief and sitting with others through their grief are very challenging. I know that finding someone to express my grief to, who has a truly understanding heart, is a very special gift. Which is why there is joy in heaven when such a connection is made. Grieving the loss of a child in and of itself is impossible, but to do this alone (or worse with others who do not understand), would make life unbearable. Having lost Mattie enables me to understand the depth of this quote.

To recap our trip, on Monday we drove from Los Angeles, CA to Williams, AR. On Tuesday, we boarded the Grand Canyon Railroad to get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We spent about a day at the Canyon, and then on Wednesday, we returned to Williams, AR. Today, we then drove from Williams to Sedona, AR. We have covered a lot of territory in a very short period of time. Williams is a true railroad town, filled with history, and a flavor of time gone by. I have never experienced the beauty of American nostalgia before, and as Peter drove us down the historic Route 66 today, I tried to imagine what life must have been like for Williams before the development of Interstate 40!
 
One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 (also known as the Mother Road or the Main Street of America) was established on November 11, 1926. Route 66 was a major path of the migrants who went west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive even with the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System. US 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System.

In 1926, U. S. Highway 66 was established through Williams, Arizona. A little over half a century later, on October 13, 1984, it became the last bypassed town along the "Mother Road," as old Highway 66 became Interstate 40. Today, all of downtown Williams is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its largely-unchanged main street evokes images of the legendary route. Williams the town is also like a slice of small-town America, a place where they still hold a local beauty queen contest, and the clerk at the local mini-mart gives out tips about where to eat. Old Route 66 runs from I-40 Exit 161 to Exit 165. Parallel one-way streets run through downtown, and the eastbound one, Bill Williams Avenue, is old Route 66.


Many of the signs on the store fronts are originals, and this particular one captured our attention today. I enjoyed this walk back through time, and Mattie would have been able to relate to this story quite well, since the essence of it (a thriving town made obsolete by the establishment of the interstate) was covered in the movie, Cars. A movie Mattie watched many, many times.

Our trip from Williams, AR to Sedona, AR was about an hour's drive. It was an adventure though through 89A, a very windy one lane canyon road. When we started our journey on this road we were at 7000 feet above sea level, and as we descended into Sedona, we ended up at around 4000 feet above sea level.

Sedona is a magnificent city, whose terrain is simply remarkable and breathtaking. Sedona is known as "red rock country." What makes these rocks their glorious red color? Iron!  Sandstone is porous, and when water carrying dissolved iron drains through the sandstone, some of the iron is left behind, and it is this iron in the form of iron oxide, which is red, that coats the grains of quartz and gives it color. The history of Sedona's formation dates back to 320 million years ago. The area of Sedona lay under water in a sea, and the first layer of Sedona's rock formation came from the shells of sea creatures. Later, rivers deposited sediment that is now red sandstone that easily erodes. About 275 million years ago, sand that was eroded from ancient mountains and carried by ancient rivers was deposited in a delta, now Sedona. In the Sedona area, sometimes a sea covered the land, and at other times the area of Sedona was a flood plain adjacent to the seacoast. Either way, sediment settled onto it. Rocks from this time constitute the most colorful rocks in the Sedona area and is commonly referred to as the Schnebly Hill Formation. Eventually, about 1900 feet of rock covered the entire Sedona area.

The story about how Sedona was named is well known. As the story goes, after Theodore Carl Schnebly and his wife, Sedona, moved to Sedona from Gorin, Missouri, the few families living here convinced T.C. to establish a post office in his large home, which already had become the community's hotel. Various interpretations of this story suggest that he asked the government to name the post office Schnebly Station or Red Rock Crossing. Subsequently, he was told the names were too long, and following a suggestion by his brother, Dorsey Ellsworth Schnebly, he submitted his wife's name, Sedona. The city was incorporated in 1988, is 19 square milies long, and has a population of 10,000 people.

We had lunch at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona today. This resort received Travel and Leisure's World's Best Award for 2009. What an incredible place, set on 70 acres of panoramic natural terrain, surrounded by red-rock formations. I am not sure when I last saw a more peaceful, beautiful, and serene setting. In fact, while having lunch, the picture below shows you what I was looking at. An incredible rock formation, birds singing and flying around, and NO noise! To see more pictures of this enchanted place, visit www.enchantmentresort.com.



At lunch, Peter ordered cactus with a prickly pear sauce! I snapped a picture of him eating it! No it doesn't taste like chicken, it tastes like zucchini!

After lunch, our waiter was kind enough to take a picture of all four of us!

Along our journey today, Peter snapped a picture of this lizard! Naturally in honor of Mattie. Mattie was in love with all things that were creepy and crawling!

I took many pictures around Sedona today, several of them I posted below. Truly incredible formations that are almost too difficult to describe. However, after seeing the Grand Canyon yesterday, I feel as if I am getting a good feeling for what it must be like to descend into the Canyon. Because to me, Sedona gives me the impression of what it must be like to be at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. To be completely surrounded by rock!



We walked through the main street of Sedona today which is filled with charming shops. The shops all feature beautiful hand crafted jewelry designed by Native American Indian tribes. The silver, turquoise, and spiny oyster shell (which looks like coral) are simply beautiful. Sedona is a charming town, of which a one day visit does not do it justice. We pack up tomorrow and drive back to Los Angeles, since Peter returns to Washington, DC on Saturday. 

October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 -- Mattie died 400 days ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008, a few days after Mattie's first limb salvaging surgery. Despite his right arm being wrapped up and in pain, he was up, moving around, and was going through his UTZ potato chip phase at the time. In fact, Mattie would only eat this brand of potato chip. Go figure! Mattie went through food cravings through treatment, some of you may remember the Dunkin Donuts vanilla frosted, rainbow sprinkled craze, or how about the McDonald's vanilla shake phase, or even the Scooby Doo mac and cheese phase. Chemotherapy impacted Mattie's appetite significantly, so whatever worked and he wanted, we were going to get it for him. Fortunately for us, we had Team Mattie behind us running all over town to make these cravings possible! I happen to like this picture very much, because to me it speaks to Mattie's strength, character, and ability to have fun.


Today, Peter let me know that Mattie has been gone from our lives for 400 days. While, yesterday marked the 57th week Mattie has been gone. Peter counts in days, I in weeks. As I stop and reflect on this tragedy, I feel this picture makes me pause and remember an amazing boy. A boy who could play, talk, and function through incredible amounts of pain and suffering.

Quote of the day: You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept. ~ Carie O'Leary

I want to thank my readers for tuning back into the blog today. I tried posting this last night, but we lost internet connectivity, and I ended up chatting with the technical support staff at midnight in Australia to try to solve this problem. The problem did not resolve itself until this morning! Being away from writing for one day was an interesting feeling, especially when I have been used to writing consistently over the past two years. Going on vacation is frought with all sorts of issues for Peter and I, and despite school being in session at this time of year, we saw plenty of children on our journey. I do think that taking the train to the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon itself attracts many families, and fascinates young boys. I remember how Mattie's face would light up when seeing a train!

On Tuesday morning we left Williams, Arizona and boarded the Grand Canyon Railway car called, "Grand View," which was going to take us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This whole adventure had Mattie's name written all over it. In fact, my parents had wanted to take Mattie on this trip years ago, but one thing lead to another and we never did this with him.

More than 100 years ago the first passenger train arrived at the South Rim. Today, the Grand Canyon Railway continues this tradition by providing daily service between Williams, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon National Park. Everyday, vintage trains leave Williams en route to the Canyon. The trip to the Canyon takes about two hours and 15 minutes, and passengers are treated to a Wild West shootout prior to boarding the train, and entertainment is provided by cowboy singers and musicians during the journey. On the return trip from the Canyon to Williams today, we experienced a fun mock train robbery aboard the train!

My mom took this picture of Peter and I inside the train on Tuesday. The four of us sat together, in seats that faced each other and we watched the wonderful scenery go passed us at only 30 miles per hour. The train went slowly so we could appreciate the countryside. We saw antelope and cows along our trip, which is fascinating considering we are 7000 foot above sea level. 
I snapped this picture while riding on the train. This was a 13 passenger car train. This train transports about 700 people to the Canyon each day!!!!



When our train arrived at the Grand Canyon, it pulled into the Santa Fe Railway Depot. This Depot was completed in 1909. It is one of the only three remaining log depots in the country and one of an estimated 14 log depots ever constructed in the US.  
Stepping onto the train and then debarking at the Santa Fe depot felt as if we were walking back through time. After all from 1909 to 1968, the main form of transportation that brought tourists to the Canyon was by TRAIN!  
We stayed on the South Rim of the Canyon in a place called The Bright Angel Lodge. Literally the hotel was feet from the rim of the Canyon! We learned that the average visitor spends a whole 45 minutes at the Grand Canyon National Park. They drive in, visit, eat, take a picture, and leave. I found this fascinating in and of itself, since this is truly a natural marvel to observe. However, I also observed that people visiting the Grand Canyon follow a sunrise to sunset routine. After the sun sets, you see very few people walking around outside!
Bright Angel Lodge, designed in 1935, has a natural, rustic character, and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. Designed by famed architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, it has always been a popular place to stay and the center of South Rim activity. As you can see from this picture, above the fireplace in the lobby a dramatic wooden thunderbird is displayed, and this thunderbird is known as the "bright angel of the sky."


This is the log cabin Peter and I stayed in at The Bright Angel. This was a true experience, and I can't recall the last time I stayed in a log cabin. Though Karen reminded me that I stayed in a very rugged one in sixth grade, when we went to sixth grade camp (a mandatory team building experience during the school year!). Outside this cabin at night were all sorts of Grand Canyon creatures, making all sorts of noises. We literally ran into five deer in the dark! I think the deer handled this better than we did!

Mary Jane Colter had a 40 year relationship with the Fred Harvey Company. Fred Harvey revolutionized the way travelers experienced the Southwest. Prior to Mr. Harvey, tourists to the Southwest experienced considerable hardships: poor food and rude service, with “highway robbery” prices. Seeing these miserable conditions, the visionary immigrant from London took the opportunity to improve the food and service offered to railway passengers in a historic partnership with the Santa Fe Railway. Together, the Santa Fe railway and the Fred Harvey Company created a legacy in the Southwest that endures to this day – a legacy of comfortable travel, elegant dining, and memorable experiences. Although Mr. Harvey died in 1901, he and his company influenced the lives of many working women by hiring thousands of women to work in his restaurants – waitresses known as Harvey Girls. The company also established a Southwestern Indian Detours (a tour company) and hired young, college-educated women to conduct tours of the Southwest. The Company hired a young, female designer, Mary Colter, who changed the course of Southwestern architecture forever.

In the lobby of the hotel is a wonderful picture and story about Mary Colter, known as the "Architect of the Southwest.” She was a school teacher in St. Paul, MN, in the 1890s, Mary Colter became an architect, designer, and decorator for the Fred Harvey company in 1902. Her designs were unique for their time because she used the cultural heritage of the region rather than imitate European styles. With style and imagination she designed and decorated many Fred Harvey hotels, restaurants, and union station facilities. It was a position of unusual power and influence for a woman. Colter designed many of the buildings at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is 277 river miles long, an average of ten miles wide and nearly one mile deep, the Canyon is widely proclaimed as one of the wonders of the natural world. It was established as a forest reserve by President Benjamin Harrison in 1893 and later set aside as a national monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. It received official national park status in 1919. The Canyon ranges from an elevation of 1100 feet along the river at the Canyon’s western end to more than 9000 feet on the North Rim. The Canyon was created through the erosion of the Colorado River, which occurred in the past 5 to 6 million years, which in all reality is a blink of the eye in geological terms, and insignificant relative to the 2 billion year old rocks at the Canyon's bottom.

The next five pictures will give you a feel for the amazing sights we saw in the Canyon. We took over 200 pictures, which I will be sharing with you over the next couple of days! However, the Grand Canyon would be the ideal subject matter for an impressionist like Monet. The beauty of the rocks is that they change in color and contrast depending upon the sunlight and the time of day. Monet would have loved to study the change in one rock formation over the course of the day, as the light changes the rocks' brilliance.



In this picture you can see the Colorado River running through the bottom of the Canyon. Typically the river is a blueish green color, but since there was a massive rain storm last week, lots of mud filled the river!!!!



Notice the Bright Angel trail where people are walking down to the bottom of the Canyon. This is a LONG hike and it is NOT recommended to walk from the top to the bottom, and back to the top of the rim in one day! Also note that mules take this same path down the Canyon. This pathway is SUPER narrow, but in all these years there has never been a mule accident with a passenger aboard. Amazing!





Peter took several pictures in honor of Mattie on this trip. The first one features a Grand Canyon chipmunk! Mattie loved chipmunks. He became acquainted with these furry creatures when visiting Peter’s parents in Massachusetts. He affectionately referred to chipmunks as “chippy.” He even wrote a kindergarten story about Chippy! So in honor of Mattie, we took a picture of a Southwestern Chippy.



The second picture is one that I love. This lone tree captured my attention today and I asked Peter to snap a picture of it. It is a small tree, growing in isolation, in a very challenging location. However, despite its odds, it is a strong tree, a vibrant tree, and a tree that leaves a lasting impression on your mind! This lone tree has all the same qualities that Mattie possessed. I couldn’t help but think of him immediately when I saw this natural composition. 

October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

NOTE: We will be traveling to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon tomorrow. We are staying at a Canyon Lodge for one night, and the lodge does not have internet access. Therefore, I will not be posting a blog entry on Tuesday, October 12. However, I will be back on line on Wednesday and I promise to share pictures with you then!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Based on the activity, I can tell it was a Friday in the PICU, when the Georgetown University chemistry club would come and do an experiment with the kids. That particular day, the Club decided to make touchable bubbles. It involved dry ice, which was why all the kids were wearing socks to protect their hands. Mattie was playing with one of these bubbles, which to me looked like a snowball, however, it was MUCH lighter than a snowball. Mattie loved science and he loved learning through hands on experiments. This picture was taken before Mattie's first limb salvaging surgery, however, he was receiving chemotherapy during that admission. The beauty of Mattie was even chemotherapy couldn't hold him down. There were days he did not feel good from the treatments and most certainly there were many days in which emotionally he was clearly altered from these drugs. But for the most part, even on tough days, Mattie wanted to engage in play and wanted others to join him in the fun.


Quote of the day: Some die without having really lived, while others continue to live, in spite of the fact that they have died. ~ unknown


We began the day by packing up the car. While doing this, Peter noticed a hummingbird sitting, of ALL things, on my parent's tree. I too went over to look, and sure enough, this tiny cutie happens to love this tree. He would buzz around from flower to flower, but would always come back to this tree to sit still. It was an amazing sight to observe since hummingbirds rarely stop moving. Peter captured this lovely sight, and I wanted to share it with you.

We began our driving adventure at 9:45am, and we did not end up at our destination, Williams, Arizona, until 5:15pm. It was a long day of car traveling for us, and fortunately we had Peter driving, because he is very good at finding the most direct routes that take the shortest amount of time to get from one place to another.

While driving, I attempted to take pictures from the backseat. We were all fascinated by the desert like terrain, and it is amazing how you can go from a more lush area in Southern California, to this landscape in a matter of an hour or so.

This picture was taken on our way to Williams, Arizona. We were still in California, but it was a very different part of California than I am used to seeing. The mountains were barren, the soil was sandy, and not to mention that there were scrub bushes in the sand that reminded me of tumble weeds in old Western films.







 
Trains were in abundance on our journey. Trains that seemed to go on for miles and miles carrying all sorts of freight.













The ironic part of this car trip was that on one side of the road the mountains could look like the picture above, while the mountains on the other side of the road could look like this. I never experienced two such different sights at the same time.








One of the places we stopped today was in Needles, Californiia. Needles sits on the border of California and Arizona. Peter took a picture of this restaurant most likely because the wagon on the roof caught his attention, the yellow color stood out to him, and because the sign above the door reads, "Best Food and Service on Rte 66." I did not even see Peter take this picture because I was getting ice cream and started chatting with the lady inside the store. While in the store, I noticed that the time on my phone went from pacific daylight time to mountain time. So I asked the store clerk if Needles, CA was on Mountain time. She began to tell me some sort of convoluted story about daylight savings time, and she lost me. But bottom line is she thought her town was on Pacific time. Well I was thoroughly confused, because my phone wouldn't have changed over if we indeed weren't changing time zones. So when I got back into the car, I did a google search of Needles, CA to find out what time zone it  follows. You can see what kinds of things bother me while we are driving! Anycase, what I found out was.........
Most of Arizona does not observe daylight saving time, and during summer months, Needles, is on the same time as Pacific Daylight Time, though it is still called Mountain Standard Time in Arizona. Is this confusing enough for you? I can see why the store clerk had a hard time explaining this!

After traversing through Needles, CA., we entered the State of Arizona and I snapped a picture of the Welcome to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, sign. Literally while snapping this picture, Peter shouted out that a road runner just ran across the road. I unfortunately did not see it, but all I could think of was that I was in a Looney Tunes cartoon, and I expected to see Wile E. Coyote next. Naturally seeing the roadrunner led to the conversation of state birds. So I googled birds and learned that the roadrunner is New Mexico's state bird while the Cactus Wren in the
Arizona's state bird. The Cactus Wren is seven to eight inches long and likes to build nests in the protection of thorny desert plants like the arms of the giant saguaro cactus. It builds many nests but lives in only one. The rest are decoys. The beauty of my blackberry is it helps to answer questions that pop into my mind while driving. Unfortunately you are the recipients to this stream of consciousness!


As we got closer to Williams, Arizona, we began climbing in elevation and the roads were winding. The rock formations were fascinating, as you can see in this picture.











The rock formations were quite memorable. The terrain changed rather suddenly and it began to look more forest like rather than desert like.












The town of Williams, Arizona is about 6500 feet above sea level. Along the road we actually saw cows and sheep. Which was a first, since the previous desert terrain we had been driving through was barren and couldn't support such animal life.









As we entered the town of Williams, this metal arch caught my attention. Williams is a city in Coconino County, Arizona, United States west of Flagstaff. Its population according to the 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city at  3,094. It lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. It is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes visitors to Grand Canyon Village. Because of its location near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Williams is a major tourist stop. Williams is named after William "Old Bill" Williams, a mountain man and trader who often trapped in the area.

When Grand Canyon sightseers and Interstate 40 motorists visit Williams they're about as close to Arizona history as they can get.  Williams, because of the variety of architecture, is like a time machine transporting visitors from the days of outlaws and steam trains to the years of Route 66, America's Mother Road. The town was named for Bill Williams who was a trapper, pathfinder and guide in the 1820's, 30's and 40's, and whose contemporaries were other famous mountain men. In June, 1882 the 250 residents of the brand new town where there was no electricity or indoor plumbing waited for construction of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad west toward them from New Mexico through northern Arizona and on to California. The rails would connect Arizona's last frontier with national markets for beef and wool. A railroad through Williams in Grand Canyon country north of the desert not only would make it much easier to transport cattle and wool to market, but would bring manufactured goods from eastern industrial centers at unheard of speed with lower transportation costs.


We are staying at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.  When I first arrived at the hotel all I could hear were trains and train whistles. For just that particular moment in time, I started laughing because it reminded me of an episode from I Love Lucy. It is an episode where Lucy and friends land up at a hotel on their way to California, but what they do not realize is that the hotel is located right by the train tracks and every time the train goes by, it causes havoc on the hotel. Thankfully our hotel is NOT like this! If you want a laugh, click on this link (Thanks Karen for finding it!!!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YMEBso9Di0&feature=related


Peter snapped this picture of my mom and I in the lobby of the hotel. Literally behind the hotel is a train depot. This train will be taking us on a two and a half hour trip to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. We will be staying at the rim of the Canyon one night and then returning to Williams by train on Wednesday afternoon. So due to the fact that I will be unable to get internet access in the Canyon on Tuesday, I will be unable to post a blog until Wednesday. So stay tuned as the adventure continues!

October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was standing on the St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School track (where both of our Mattie walks have been held for the past two years) surrounded by the entire school's football team. Mattie had begun chemotherapy at that point, but had not completed any surgeries yet. The members of the football team that year were incredible supporters of Mattie. They would send him gifts and even did a Mattie cheer on occasion at certain games. Whether these young men knew it or not, their support was greatly appreciated by us. It was through this team, that I met their head coach, Dave Holm. Dave was and continues to be an incredible member of Team Mattie, and on days when I feel as if I am struggling with my feelings alone, I try to remember the amazing team that continues to stand behind us.

Quote of the day: There are some people who, when they die, the whole world seems depopulated. ~ Alphonse de Lamartine


Mattie was indeed the kind of child, who when he died, made the world seem depopulated. Mattie had a way of filling a room, of capturing your attention, and also recruiting you to participate in his antics and activities. It was a type of energy and spirit that can never be replaced, but instead has left a deep hole in our lives.

I left DC with a migraine and it continued throughout the day. Peter, my mom, and I went on a morning walk. I brought my pedometer with me and as my lifetime friend, Karen, says, I added two more people to my walking club today. Peter and I were wearing Mattie Miracle t-shirts, so Karen would be happy to know that my team members are beginning to even match. It is a running joke that we have with each other! In many ways walking makes me feel better, and it gets me out, moving, and interacting with my environment in some way. While walking, my mom was chatting with us about the black tailed deer that roam around in her neighborhood. Literally as she was talking, almost on cue, a deer with antlers walked right in front of us. It was just too unbelievable for words. We continued laughing about this sighting throughout the day!

My parents took us to see a musical today called, Merrily We Roll Along. I had heard of this play, but never saw it before. This is a controversial play because back in 1981, the musical closed on Broadway after ONLY 16 performances. So I went into the show with a clouded perspective. However, despite its history, the play got to me within the first scene. I thoroughly appreciated the psychological and social content expressed in the story. 

Merrily We Roll Along is a musical with a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It is based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Furth and Sondheim retained the basic structure and overall theme of the play but updated it to encompass the period from 1957 to 1976. The story revolves around Franklin Shepard who, having once been a talented composer of Broadway musicals, has now abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a producer of Hollywood flicks. Like the play, the musical begins at the height of his Hollywood fame and moves backwards in time, showing snapshots of the most important moments in Frank's life that shaped the man that he is today.

Technically this is a musical, but I must admit the music (not the lyrics) itself is NOT very memorable. Nonetheless, the content of the play is very timely and very poignant. The play opens up with a scene of absolute success. The main character, Frank, appears to have everything anyone could ask for in life. A wife, a son, an amazingly successful hollywood career, is adored by his fans and the critics, and he is the life of the party who everyone wants to emulate. However, that is ONLY just at the surface. If you dig deeper, his real life isn't so peachy. His wife wants to divorce him, he is estranged from his son, he has alienated his two closest friends, he is surrounded by people who only love him for his money and fame, and worst of all, he has compromised on his true gift for writing music. With each successive scene, we go back in time, years in some cases. Through this journey, we begin to understand the man behind the character, and also see how the seeds for his self destruction were created. To me, there were MANY morals to this play. I call it a play, because to me the music was just a backdrop to the story, it was almost like theme or mood music in a movie. The play clearly illustrated to its audience that the people we meet in our lifetime can influence us in positive and negative ways, and these interactions can alter our lives and our future forever. In addition, Frank's life started out with great hope and optimism. He was blessed with great talent and two amazing and dear friends who always stood beside him regardless of the circumstances. However, over time, as Frank changed and became enamored by fame, wealth, and power, his loyalties and priorities changed. He treated the two closest people in his life poorly and in the end three people's lives (Frank's and his two friends) were destroyed. Therefore, when things supersede people in our lives, trouble arises. I also think the play illustrates the beauty of friendship, and when a deeply trusting and loving friendship gets betrayed, it has a lasting and permanent impact. Because with each form of betrayal experienced, a piece within one's self gets destroyed.

After the play, my parents took Peter out to dinner for his birthday. His birthday isn't until November, but because they won't be seeing him then they wanted to celebrate it earlier. At dinner we discussed the Foundation and the blog. There are times when having these discussions is challenging for me. I am not sure why! But there is a great deal of emotion wrapped up for me in the Foundation work and naturally to keeping Mattie's memory alive. It is not like a task that I am dispassionate about, which is most likely why there are times I can become volatile about the subject matter. As we were chatting the conversation evolved into ways that I have changed since Mattie's death and instead of this being a way of expressing myself and the difficulties surrounding our loss, it became a means for me to feel more negative about myself. When I feel overwhelmed now, my primary way of coping with things is to shut down, and to think about it internally. So tonight I am left pondering.

We are headed on a long eight hour car trip tomorrow to the Grand Canyon. So the next time you hear from me, I will be in Arizona. 

October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken on October 20, 2008. Mattie was headed to receive his first limb salvaging surgery, it was early in the morning, and we were waiting in a pre-op area until Dr. Bob was ready. Peter was sitting behind Mattie all suited up to go into the operating area with Mattie. The irony is.... look at Mattie's face! He looked relaxed and had a beaming smile on his face. All I know is if I were going into surgery to have a tumor removed from my right arm, I wouldn't be looking this good. It speaks to Mattie's strength and character! There is a great deal we can all learn from his outlook on life, and on how he handled such a crisis and amazing amounts of pain.


Quote of the day: But when God sent you to me He never said that you were mine, That I could keep you always - only borrowed for a time. Now He's called you home, I'm sad and I shed tears. Yet I'm glad He loaned you to me and we had these many years. ~ Edna Burch


I typically try to pick quotes that speak to how I am feeling or capture my thoughts. Tonight's quote does neither and I therefore posted it for this particular reason. I can not imagine any woman who carries a baby for nine months would be okay with giving this child up after a short period of time. Or better yet to admit that this child was never theirs to begin with, but only "borrowed for a time." When you have a baby, it is with an unspoken understanding that this child will out live you. But what happens if your baby develops cancer? Well I can tell you. It means that the years you thought you were going to have get erased away, and instead, as the quote implies, I am supposed to sit back and be grateful for the time we did have together. Well I can honestly say that I am NOT happy that Mattie was loaned to me for a period of time, nor do I think we shared many years together. Seven years is just not enough!

Peter and I headed to the airport together. While in the car, I felt as if I was getting motion sick. By the time I got to the airport I was ill and wasn't sure how I was going to manage a five hour flight. Fortunately however, I listened to Peter earlier in the week and bought dramamine. I took it before I got on the plane, and it helped immensely. While sitting at the airport waiting to board our flight, I walked around and went into various stores. All I could think of was Mattie. Mattie loved going on airplanes (unlike me!) and he especially loved starting out an adventure by getting a toy at the airport. Needless to say, we accumulated many airplane models and toys over the years.

Thankfully our flight was smooth and peaceful. Well peaceful until a woman in first class passed out in the aisle. The airline asked for medical personnel to report to the front, and thankfully we had an emergency medical technician aboard the flight. We arrived safely in Los Angeles and the weather is sunny and in the 80s. Right up my alley. My parents greeted us at the airport, and we have been chatting, catching up, and had dinner together. As we drove to my parent's house today, we found two wonderful sightings near their house. If you look closely, you can see a bunny by the bushes. The fur on this bunny was almost chocolate brown in color.

The other wonderful sighting we had was of a black tailed deer. It is hard to see from this picture, but this deer has antlers on it! These were two creatures Mattie would have loved to see and watch. So it was quite a greeting we received this evening.
I am signing off for the evening. I find I am still on East Coast time, and as I am writing this blog, I can feel how exhausted I am.