Mattie Miracle 10th Anniversary Walk was an $119,000 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

April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2006. As you can see, Mattie built a structure (which only got higher in height by the way!) in the middle of our living room. He was having fun with structure and color, and loved climbing through the different parts of the creation. It is funny how our living room was once lively and was transformed into all sorts of things. Things that only a child could think up and create. Now our living room is just that, a room.

Quote of day: Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow. ~Dan Rather


I think it takes great courage after the loss of a child to find the fortitude, energy, and will to go on. When I say "go on," I most certainly do not mean MOVE ON. Going on, means continuing to live, living with the loss, and with the grief. In so many ways, life as we knew it stopped on September 8, 2009, and instead we are left to pick up the shattered pieces and decide what to do next. But like any broken object, we go through life far more fragile, very more sensitive, and far more damaged.


I woke up feeling ill today. So I spent a good portion of the day in bed. As the afternoon wore on, I did get up and worked on Foundation items. In the midst of working, I received a lovely email from Donna. She wanted me to know that Mattie's school celebrated teacher appreciation day this past Thursday. Naturally all her students acknowledged her, however, to my surprise, one of her students also acknowledged me! He created this beautiful and colorful drawing for me. This little boy considered me his teacher in a way, and wanted to let me know he appreciated me too! I was very touched by this, as was his mother. When I asked Donna what the content of the drawing meant, she wasn't exactly sure. But here is my interpretation, he is say..... this is from my heart to yours. He is thanking me for sharing colors and feelings with him and to me this picture illustrates the rainbow of colors that lies within ALL our hearts!

This picture actually brightened my day. For many reasons! I no longer get colorful pictures from Mattie, and I miss those gifts of creativity. I remember at one time when Mattie was in preschool and kindergarten the stacks of creativity he would bring home. As a mom you get used to that, and when it stops you notice your world isn't as colorful anymore. But I also appreciate this gift, because what this child is telling me in his own sweet way is "THANK YOU, I learned a lot." I look forward to receiving this piece of art in person, and it will help me to always remember my time visiting Donna's class.

Many of Donna's students actually touched my heart. On the last session we had together this Wednesday, I served them a snack of fresh fruits. This seemed appropriate since they just created a still life! I served the fruit buffet style, and thanks to Donna's polling the class before hand, I brought in their three top fruit choices: apples, pineapple, and mango. In addition to the fruits, I brought in three sauces for them to dip the fruit into such as caramel, fudge, and melted marshmallow. The kids absolutely loved this snack and the whole process! I honestly should have taken pictures of this because in so many ways it was priceless. After clean up, Donna encouraged all the kids to say good-bye to me and shake my hand. Which they all did the prior two weeks. However, this last week, one little girl came up to me with a big smile, had me bend down to stare into my eyes. She put her forehead up against mine, stared into my eyes, and kept on smiling. The children do NOT know I was a mom, and they most certainly do not know I was Mattie's mom. Yet this little girl stopped me in my tracks, because this behavior of pulling me down, being forehead to forehead and staring into one another's eyes was exactly what Mattie would always do to me. For just that moment in time, I was confused. Was this little girl doing this, or was Mattie working his magic through this little girl to let me know he was there with me. Either case, after this interchange was over, she gave me a big hug. This all happened on Wednesday, and today is Saturday, but I can recall this moment as if it just happened to me. As if Mattie was sending me a signal through this sweet little girl. I won't forget that feeling or that little girl! I can see her facial expression and eyes, as if the picture of this was burnt into my memory.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message I received from my friend and colleague, Denise. Denise's daughter, Marisa was one of Mattie's caregivers when Mattie was home from the hospital between cancer treatments. Marisa is also in charge of our Walk bake, for three years in a row! Denise wrote, "I talked to Marisa this morning and she is participating in "Relay for Life" with her sorority at NYU. She told me she is going to walk tonight in remembrance of Mattie. She shared how much she missed him and how often she thinks of him. We both are holding all of you in our hearts today."

April 15, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in February of 2006. As you can see, Mattie and I were on the floor creating homemade Valentine's day cards for his preschool friends and teachers. We took this creative process seriously, and fortunately Mattie enjoyed doing this with me. I miss his face, voice, and incredible spirit.


Quote of the day: There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go. ~ Author Unknown



I spent a good portion of the day running around doing chores. As the day wore on and my headache continued to persist and get worse, I decided to stop for lunch and read my book. This forced break was very important, because I can get very absorbed and focused on a task, and forget about eating and taking care of myself.

I picked up my 11 year old friend, Katharina, from school, and for one moment in time, watching her response to seeing my car reminded me of Mattie. Katharina saw me, and started running to the car with a big smile. That is literally how Mattie would greet me everyday when I picked him up from kindergarten. I have missed seeing a child happy to see me, and I guess I did not realize that until I saw Katharina. Since Katharina lost her pet bird this week, I felt the need to let her know I too felt sad for her loss. I have learned personally that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone who is grieving is your time, patience, and a listening ear. So that was my intention today. We went out for ice cream together and then we bought a couple of marigolds to plant in her bird's honor. We had a good time chatting with each other and Katharina also showed me some of her homework. Needless to say I have learned about percentages today and the Navajo Walk. I enjoy the opportunity to learn new things and I also loved looking at Katharina's upcoming science fair project on bacteria. You would be amazed what surfaces you will find bacteria living on!

This evening, I went with Katharina and her parents to her choir concert. This concert featured students from grades fifth to twelfth. Before the event began I had the opportunity to chat with Joan Holden, the head of Mattie's school, and Bob Weiman, the head of Mattie's lower school. I very much appreciate their continued support, because they in essence make our Foundation Walk possible each year by providing us access to their wonderful campus. Both Joan and Bob mentioned how much they liked our Foundation e-newsletter that was distributed today, and I very much appreciated their feedback. Bob and I also chatted about my kindergarten art visit. Bob wrote me a lovely e-mail about a week ago about my wonderful teaching style, and he reiterated his feelings tonight. Naturally that made me happy.

The concert tonight was filled with meaningful and fun pieces, and what was VERY evident is that these music directors have their work cut out for them. Particularly when trying to focus and motivate the middle school aged student. You could see how much the elementary school students responded to the music and seemed to get into the spirit of performing. For the middle school student, it was apparent that looking "cool" and not standing out or deviating from the norm was evident. However, performing usually means having to express one's self, which seems to go against the whole middle school developmental mindset. However, the high school aged students, like the elementary school students, were wonderful to watch because by this point these students clearly chose to participate in choir because of their love for music and the arts. Watching people perform who love what they are doing makes you as an audience member simply feel good.

Somewhere during the concert, I absorbed the children on the stage and realized Mattie will never be one of them. That wasn't an easy realization, and with that I got tears in my eyes. Overall, I enjoyed hearing the music and seeing young people appreciating the arts. I commend the lower school music director for confiscating all electronic devices from her students tonight. She wanted them to focus upon the concert and show respect and decorum for the venue they were participating in. In my book this teacher gets a GOLD star. It is important to teach our children to focus, to absorb the world around them, not to multitask at every moment of the day, and more importantly to learn that entertainment can come from art and not only a computer or video game. Brava to this teacher!

April 14, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2006. As you can see Mattie had a lot going on around him. He and Peter built their own version of a train roundhouse. Mattie had train tracks set up, trucks every where, and naturally Duplos (a younger form of Legos) scattered around. At one point in our home we most likely had enough Lego bricks to construct a large Lego couch for our living room!

Quote of the day: Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.  ~Antonio Porchia


I had the wonderful opportunity today to return to the art show and to see Jill's glorious works by daylight. It was a rare occasion in DC, the SUN was actually out, and it was warm. This provided the optimal conditions to see Jill's paintings. The rooms in which the paintings were displayed were bright, airy, and open. In fact, the paintings and the surroundings seem to speak to one another, as they visually called  visitors in further to study the art.

Though this was an art show, a portion of the proceeds from sales will be going to the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation. So to me, it was important that other board members were present and showed support and our appreciation. I was happy that Ann, not only my friend but a fellow board member, was there and had an opportunity to interact with Jill. I gave Jill a few gifts on behalf of the Foundation today because I knew she would appreciate having Mattie's Mr. Sun cards, Mattie postage stamps, and several forget me not butterfly seed packets. To learn more about Jill and to see some of her amazing works, please visit her website: www.jillsteenhuis.com


I would like to share some of the pictures I captured with you!


Here is a picture of part of the room displaying the 61 pieces of art. Our friend, Tina worked diligently with Jill to set up this room. As I told Tina, she was very successful. It was a positive sensory, emotional, and mental health experience for those of us in attendance. I am not sure how you could look at these paintings and not feel peaceful and serene. Better yet in touch with nature!






Every painting was simply vibrant and breathtaking. I would be happy to own any of these paintings. I can't say that about every artist's works I see! 




















These are wonderful still life paintings and I have a feeling if Donna's kindergarten class were here today, they would be having a field day with commentary!





















Since Mattie and I both LOVE red, I felt the need to capture this still life with a photo.
















Jill is a Sweet Briar College graduate, and these scenes were painted and inspired by the campus.














If this is not a tribute to Matisse, I am not sure what is! Matisse would have LOVED this composition. The colors and patterns are wonderful, rich, and bold. It just makes you want to enter this painting and sit down and have a cup of tea.















For some reason, this painting was my favorite. I think what intrigues me is it is a painting within a painting of a still life. The sunflowers capture my attention, along with the fascinating patterned pink and red table, and the fabulous paint palette holding many of the beautiful colors we see depicted on the canvas.

To Jill and Tina, we want to say a BIG THANK YOU! What a great show, and as I told Jill today, the gift she gave me was being surrounded by her art!


During the lunch hour, I had the opportunity to dine with my friend, Diane. Diane and I became friends through cancer. Her son and Mattie attend the same school, and her son is a brain cancer survivor. Diane came to the art event last night and today, and we had a delightful lunch together talking about a topic near and dear to our hearts, childhood cancer. It is hard sometimes to have this conversation with others, but for us this defines our life, our world, and our relationships. While eating, I had the opportunity to look out the beautiful window near us and to see green grass, flowering trees, and birds. It was a very peaceful setting and the ability to talk about our cancer experiences and to share our perspectives with each other was very positive for me.


I would like to end tonight's posting with a meaningful message from Karen's mom. Naomi wrote, "Honestly, Vicki, you are an amazing art teacher. I have been painting for a few years and have taken painting courses with experienced art teachers, but none of them offered such insights and enthusiasm for the creative process. You were able to open up their minds, dispel self-consciousness and help them relish colors and shapes and express what they see/felt, Your approach gave them both freedom and knowledge with results that were astonishing. Brava!"

April 13, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2006. As you can see Mattie was holding a picture of himself when he was about a year old. The irony was that Mattie was standing in the exact same spot by the coffee table as he was in the picture. The only difference of course was how tall Mattie was in relation to the coffee table. In the held photo, the table was chest height, and in 2006, the table was practically at his knees. Mattie loved this visual comparison. 

Quote of the day: It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ~ Colette

I relate to this quote wholeheartedly, maybe because the unexpected is what produces sparks of grief. In between running around today, I came home. As I walked into our commons area, I was greeted by a big blue rubber ball. The ball seemed to come out of nowhere, and for an instant, it reminded me of Mattie and all the things we used to play together. In addition, I had to put an item away that I brought to the kindergarten class and so I went into Mattie's room and moved books on his bookshelf. The simple act of putting an item back caused me to have a moment of panic. It is a moment of sudden realization that this is your life, that Mattie was once a part of it, and yet I will never see him again. Needless to say, it isn't a good feeling. I am not sure why these realizations get me every time, because naturally I know what happened to Mattie. But there are times I think the brain shuts off certain feelings as a form of self-protection. Therefore when I am not prepared to be confronted by grief, that is when I will be most affected.

Today was my third and final visit to Donna's classroom. We covered the friendship and rivalry between Picasso and Matisse. In order to cover this topic adequately, I had to introduce the children to another person in our cast of characters, Gertrude Stein. Gertrude was an American writer, very wealthy, and lived in Paris. She used her home as a museum, and featured the works of Picasso and Matisse on her walls. However, both artists vied for her attention and naturally her patronage. It was thanks to Gertrude that this rivalry began and flourished.

The children were confused about the word rivalry. When they pictured the conflict between the artists, they imagined them literally fighting. Perhaps physically with their fists. I explained that the fighting and competition occurred in their art. One would paint a particular scene and then years later after careful studying of that art work the other artist would do his rendition of the "improved" scene. In fact, Picasso's famous quote was..... "No one has ever looked at Matisse's paintings more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he." Their rivalry actually inspired them both to be even better artists and at the end of the day, they both admired each other, and were deeply and emotionally connected. So much so that when Matisse died (he was 12 years older than Picasso), Picasso could not emotionally attend his friend's funeral. He never acknowledged Matisse's death at all, as if he couldn't and also wouldn't. He couldn't imagine life without the person who understood his life and works almost as well as himself.

As I began the last two classes, today, I also asked the children to raise their hands if they considered themselves artists. The first week, maybe 3 out of 15 students raised their hands. Over the past three weeks, I have been reminding the children that art is within all of us. That art is shape, color, and imagination. Since I know they have the capacity for all three, they are all artists. The second week after asking this question, about 7 out of 15 students raised their hands. Guess how many raised their hands today?!!!! ALL 15! Beautiful! But it got better. In fact, myself, Donna, and Christine were all in amazement. You wouldn't believe HOW much information they have absorbed and retained over these weeks. Many of them are living and breathing Matisse and Picasso. They can tell me about their lives, their personalities, their interests, and their art! There were several brilliant comments today that the students expressed. But the most memorable to me was the observation that through their friendship a cubist learned about color and a fauvist learned about form and shape!!!! What six year olds talk like this???!!! Well these six year olds do, and they captured the content of each presentation beautifully! As a former educator, I would say I was very successful, but not only successful, I am proud that I have introduced these students to the 20th century's greatest artists, I have helped them embrace art and the artist inside them, and most importantly have given them an outlet to channel feelings and emotions.

The children had the opportunity today to paint a still life scene that I created. When I asked the children if they knew what a "still life" was, I got some adorable answers. Such as if I stood very still, I would be considered a still life. I then explained to the students that a still life involved inanimate objects. Naturally I had to explain that word to them. Once I told them that an inanimate object can't breathe, feel, talk, and so forth. They got it right away!





Before the children began their still life paintings, Donna gave them a bit of a tutorial on how to begin this process. Some of the children traced a pencil outline on the canvas before they began painting their composition. We told them that there was no right or wrong way to do this and that they could focus upon one aspect of the still life scene or all the items presented on the table. That it was up to them to determine what to paint.
While the children were painting, I took each student one by one up to our "polling booth." I designed a paper ballot so students could vote for their favorite artist, Picasso or Matisse. The children handled the voting process very well and I can report that this class prefers Matisse over Picasso (10 to 5)!






I had the opportunity to capture some of the paintings today, and I wanted to share them with you. Remember these children are six years old, and in all reality it was fascinating to watch them observe the still life and then try to capture it as they perceived it. In this painting you can clearly see the green grapes, a big blueberry, an orange banana (Matisse would have been pleased, since Matisse paid no regard to the subject's natural color), and the pink colored flowers!





In this painting, clearly the flower arrangement caught the eye of this artist. Her flower is bold, strong, and towers over the blue bowl of fruit, not unlike a tree. It was an interesting composition that caught my eye.











The vibrant colors of the fruit in this painting are striking. The oranges are bold, along with the red apples. They may not be true to form, but the shapes are well defined by the brown line, which I assume represents the fruit bowl.











This painting also grabbed my attention. It did this because of the shapes and the colors. To me this painting is a beautiful representation of Picasso and Matisse. I love the big and bold RED apple, the beautifully round orange, and the orange bananas that surround the composition. As you can see, this was a painting in progress, since I captured the artist's hand in the picture.





To me this painting was all about shape. Though the colors are bold, the colors are defined by boundaries and I  love the huge green grape and the orange which are clearly defined, and the other items seem to blend into each other.









I love the colorful dots, which is clearly painting from imagination, and in the midst of this, you can see red apples, the orange, and bananas. Another fine example of the wonderful results that can occur with creativity using shapes and color.











I received a wonderful surprise today. Our friend Junko, gave me four strands of 9 praying cranes. You can see them in this picture. I attached them to the wall in our kitchen where Mattie displayed two pictures of himself and his close buddy, Zachary. Junko created these in honor of Mattie's ninth birthday which recently passed. These cranes are a labor of love, and I know the amount of time, patience, and effort such a gift entails. As I told Junko, the cranes mean a great deal to me. Junko and her mom made two different sets of cranes for Mattie when he was alive. These sets came with us on each hospital admission. They now hang from the ceiling in Mattie's room. In fact, I can't look at a praying origami crane and NOT think of my Mattie. As Junko worked hours to create these cranes, she said she "thought of every year you poured your soul, love, blood, tears and everything to raise and nurture Mattie." It was a beautiful sentiment which I have kept with me today and will remain with me each time I see these cranes.




This evening, Peter and I went to the art show that was hosted by our friend Tina. Tina met me earlier in the day and I gave her the Foundation poster I created last night along with several Mattie pieces of art. At the art show tonight, I snapped a picture of the Foundation materials and Mattie items.











A close up of the poster I generated last night. I am still in awe of the Ellison press machine that I used at Mattie's school yesterday. These cut out shapes that I glued to the poster helped bring color and life to this presentation.



















In addition to seeing the 61 works of art on display tonight, we had the wonderful opportunity to be lectured by the artist herself. Jill Steenhuis grew up in Atlanta, went to Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and then after graduation moved to France to study art. She has lived there ever since. Jill began her lecture with a poem she wrote. Typically poems are a hit or miss for me, but Jill's poem stopped me in my tracks. Why? Because when she was eight years old her mother died. The poem basically reflected on this life altering experience for such a young girl. Her words and feelings were poignant and resonated with both Peter and I. She literally said the words Peter and I use often.... "it just doesn't matter." When you have a traumatic loss, many aspects of life NO longer matter, and after seeing the worst of the worst, there really isn't much else to fear. What is VERY evident is that Jill's love for art and painting is a direct link, in my perspective, to the hardship, grief, and loss in her own life. She channeled this loss into her art. As you talk with Jill, it is like an existential experience in which she motivates you to want to reconnect with nature and your spiritual side. Aspects of our lives which we sometimes ignore because we are bogged down with the mundane and the daily tasks. Needless to say, there were many of us in the room tonight who were contemplating vacationing in France and visiting Jill.

Pictured from left to right is Vicki, Peter, Jill, and Tina

For more information about Jill, please visit: www.jillsteenhuis.com!

April 12, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 -- Mattie died 83 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006 at the Reston Zoo. At first Mattie was a bit concerned about trying to ride the pony, but as you can see, he really liked it and he was smiling so brightly that his eyes were practically closed.

Quote of the day: There's not many things in life that take us through so many emotions at the same time. This whole ordeal has taken us from horror to shock, grief, sadness, joy and happiness and then back to sadness again. ~ Graham Mulligan

Today was a happy day and a sad day all at the same time. My dad celebrated his birthday today, and though I am not a phone person, I had the opportunity to chat with both of my parents. As is typical for parents, they can always tell when something isn't right with me. As my mom could tell, I needed emotional support, which I appreciated her acknowledging and also giving! The sad part of the day happened this evening, when I learned my 11 year old friend, Katharina's bird died. Mattie loved Katharina's bird, and Mattie loved collecting his feathers. For those of us who are pet owners we know how horrible it is to lose a family pet. Especially one that you are so close to. A first major loss like this is so hard for a young child to handle, but in a way having sad feelings and being able to grow from them is an important life lesson. Some hurts we can't take away from our children, they instead have to face them with our support.

I had the opportunity to have tea this morning with my friend Mary. Mary is a fellow preschool mom and was and continues to be very supportive of us and the Foundation. Each spring, she and her girls hand deliver flyers to local stores to publicize our Foundation Walk. I handed Mary 75 flyers today, and naturally I appreciate this HUGE effort. I also learned tonight that Tina (our friend who hosted my birthday party in 2010) and Jane (another preschool friend) got together to brainstorm how to publicize the Walk. I was deeply touched by this self-initiation and their desire to make this event successful. I guess based on my mood, I really needed this piece of information. I told Tina it was like she gave me a gift tonight.


Later this afternoon, I went back to Mattie's school to set up for the final art presentation tomorrow. Tomorrow's art session will discuss the friendship and rivalry between Picasso and Matisse. As is typical with all good rivals, it can inspire competition and greatness out of both people. It certainly did in the case of these artists. The children will have the opportunity to paint a still life in their own style (perhaps taking on aspects of Picasso and Matisse)! I tried to pick vibrant colors and create an interesting composition for the children. I can't wait to see what they create, and I have to tell you the classroom is already filled with the beautiful art they created over the last two weeks. It is a museum in the making!

Our friend, Tina is hosting an art show tomorrow and Thursday. A portion of the proceeds from the show will benefit the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation. Tina's friend, Jill Steenhuis, is an impressionist artist who has studied in France and also lives there. Her show is entitled, "The Art of Provence An Exhibition of French Landscape and Still Life Paintings." At the show, Tina has asked that I provide some information about Pediatric Cancer and the Foundation as well as display some of Mattie's art work. So though we have posters we display at our Foundation Walk, I wanted to put together a different type of poster for Tina's event. So as you can see on my dining room table, the poster is becoming quite colorful. For more information about Jill, visit:  www.jillsteenhuis.com




While with Donna today, I was telling her that I needed to create a poster tonight. She brought me into the school's faculty work area and introduced me to an Ellison press machine. Well this was a sight and a match made in heaven for me. It is basically a machine that stamps out stencils. So the machine helped me make the MMCF, the child handprints, stars, and sunshines you see on this poster. In a way, Donna helped me get started with the layout, because once I had these shapes and colors, putting the content together just seemed to come naturally.


I would like to end tonight's posting with two messages. The first message is from Mattie's oncologist and our friend. Kristen wrote, "Peter, so happy to hear you are back at home....but what great stories from Africa. Vicki, today I presented at ODAC (similar to the meeting you attended last November at the FDA) 6 months of preparation..... And now...it is Tuesday and I remember your sweet Mattie...this Tuesday and everyday."

The second message is from my friend and colleague. Nancy wrote, "I am constantly amazed at the simple gifts such as meeting a new person or reconnecting with an old friend can be for a healing heart. Your writing about Ann's friend and his feelings about his two patients and Charlotte's having a prayer said as a Happy Birthday present to Mattie were special. With all of the harsh natural happenings to people and the otherwise negative reporting that goes on in the media, the blog continues to honor and remind everyone of the gentleness, generosity, and love experienced by us 'commoners.' Your writings were short on words this weekend and long on connection. Thank you, once again, for sharing."

April 11, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006 at the Reston Zoo. As you can see, Mattie loved feeding the baby lambs. He got a kick out of the fact that they drank out of a baby bottle, and he was always amazed with how fast they could consume a bottle. Within seconds. I remember this visit to the zoo as if it were yesterday.

Quote of the day: How can we put into words the loss we feel in our lives? People ask 'How are we doing?' That is the worst question you can ask us. ... We are angry. ... We are in constant grief and disbelief. ~ Melissa Cox


Tonight's quote made me pause and think. It did this for me because the worst question is NOT how are you doing? Instead, it is NOT asking us a question at all. The worst thing is to assume because time has passed that everything is fine, the healing has occurred, and we have "moved on" with our lives. Grief doesn't work like that, fairytale endings only happen in the movies. In real life, losing a child is with you forever and some days or weeks the loss seems even more profound.
In fact, today was one of those days when I had a clear understanding that Mattie is gone and not coming back. Naturally I know this cognitively, but the emotional acceptance of this takes much longer to process. In fact, I think there are days I block it out for survival purposes. Otherwise if Peter and I lived in constant grief, we would be unable to function. I went to Mattie's school today to meet up with Donna, to plan our last Picasso and Matisse presentation this Wednesday. As I was making my way into the classroom, I saw Mattie's tree, I saw lots of children, and I even saw Mattie's kindergarten teacher, Leslie. Leslie was walking down the hallway with her class in tow. It seem reminiscent of Mattie's class, accept of course, Mattie was not part of this line up. A very sad reality and realization!

While Donna's class was out visiting with their specials teachers, I had the opportunity to chat and brainstorm with her for an hour. We can cover a lot of territory in that time. Donna continues to introduce me to technology and the remarkable teaching tools out there for children. Children are savvy with technology today, making it almost imperative that such visual and auditory stimulation be in the classroom. While in the classroom, I saw a video on the internet teaching children the days of the week, which were sung to the Addam's Family TV show's theme song. I even saw a music video teaching children about teen numbers. All very clever! In fact, I think such videos would have been very effective for Mattie, since he and I both remember things through song.

My mom sent me a youtube video today about the Power of Words. It is a short clip, yet a very powerful one. In fact, the video reminded me of a man named Bob who I befriended in graduate school. Bob was homeless and lived about two blocks away from the building I worked at on the University campus. Each night as I would walk home, I would pass Bob. At first I did not acknowledge him, but as time went on, and I passed him often, we began to get to know one another. Bob was very intelligent, hosted very meaningful conversations with me, and yet it was quite sad that due to an addiction he lost his job, his family, and his livelihood. Bob kept a journal. Some days when I was passing him by, I would observe him writing things down in his book. It was only later when I got to read some of his thoughts did I realize that so many of us judge a person by one's occupation, the clothes one wears, and so forth. However, Bob had a lot to offer, and I guess I wouldn't have realized this unless I stopped to read his journals. I never gave Bob money, that is not what he wanted. What he wanted was to talk to someone and to feel like his presence mattered. On several occasions, he had me write something in his journal, as a message of hope or inspiration to him. Our friendship went on for years and I almost forgot about those interactions until I received the video below. Hope you find it as meaningful as I did!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU

April 10, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006 at one of the farms we took Mattie to one weekend. Just like in the Fall, many of the local farms also celebrate spring and Easter. As you can see here, Mattie was a most beautiful lamb!

Quote of the day: The grief of our own friends and family is almost more than we can bear on top of our own, and we don't need anyone else's on our shoulders. ~ Julie Walker


I have to admit that this quote hits home for me. There are days and even weeks when my own feelings and our grief are more than enough to contend with, and therefore taking on anyone else's issues, problems, and concerns simply can't happen. This may sound self-focused, but it really isn't, it is more a product of self-protection. Though Mattie's birthday was on Monday, it has been a week of reflection and hard realities.

Peter and I had another productive day at home, working on Foundation items and transforming our outdoor space into a garden. It was another grey day in Washington, DC, and I did not feel motivated to do much outside. Later in the day, we went over to Ann's house, she was hosting a party for a friend. Mary (Ann's mom) was over and enjoying the sights and sounds of the party. Ann's friend is a professional caregiver of two people who have significant disabilities. He described a typical day for me and shared his observations of his role. After hearing this, all I could think of was......  thank goodness for people like him, who have the patience, compassion, and willingness to help another person. Yes this may be his job, but caring for someone full time is debilitating and it can be mentally and emotionally challenging at times.

I received an email today from our friend, Leslie, who lives in Colorado. I met Leslie through a mutual friend. Leslie and her husband volunteered at our Foundation Walk and continue to be very supportive of us. Despite our geographic distance, Leslie is an avid blog reader. She sent me this fantastic video today of the assembly of a 500,000 piece Lego Tower built in Brazil (A World's Record!). Mattie would have LOVED this video! In honor of Mattie, I posted this for all of you to enjoy. Thanks Leslie!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/8441253/Brazil-builds-worlds-largest-Lego-tower.html