Tonight's picture was taken on April 2 of 2009 (2 days before Mattie's last birthday!). I remember that day vividly. For it was on this day that I learned Mattie's cancer had spread to his lungs and we now had another problem on our hands. When cancer metastasizes while on aggressive treatment, that is never a good sign. That was only part I of the problem that day. Part II was I finally confronted Mattie's oncologist and did what I should have done for months, which was give him his walking papers. It was on April 2, that Kristen officially became Mattie's oncologist. However, she truly had been helping us for many months prior! While I was in battle with Mattie's doctor, fortunately the "Magic Man" or better known as Bob Weiman (Mattie's head of the lower school) came to visit Mattie in the hospital. Bob came to teach Mattie several magic tricks and then Mattie performed for an audience of his fans (such as Linda, Jenny, and Rev. Sharon) in the Child Life playroom. I will never forget after I dismissed Mattie's doctor, I was an emotional wreck and by the time Bob saw me, I was crying in every which direction. With that said, in all the months of intensity, I never broke down in front of Mattie. My goal was for him to see me in control, managing his situation, and having hope that he was going to get better. It was Mattie in the end who basically told me he was very sick and dying. My seven year old became the adult and I was helpless to fight the inevitable.
Quote of the day: The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, because you are giving that part of your life that can never come back. ~Vaijayanti Gupte
My mom sent me tonight's quote and it resonated with me as soon as I opened it. I like this quote because I truly feel the sentiments described in it is the philosophy that runs my life. I may be lacking in many things and ways, but one thing, most people who know me realize is that I am very generous and giving of my time. Time to listen, time to connect, and time always to be a friend. But as Gupte points out, giving time away to others does mean that you will not be getting this part of your life back. So in a way, giving of one's time is a priceless gift, but one that is worth the investment. Because it is ONLY through time that the depths of a friendship and relationship can be earned and understood.
This morning, I spent 90 minutes with Donna's kindergarten class. As I did last year, I asked the students to raise their hands if they thought of themselves as an artist. Last year, maybe 5 out of 15 children raised their hands in the first session. By the third session, every child had his/her hand raised! It was a beautiful feeling to have as a teacher, because it made me understand visually the impact I had on these children. Today's class was different! When I asked the question, every child's hand raised! So as the class moved along, I began assessing the challenges and inputs I could have on this group of students. We discussed colors, and what feelings colors can evoke. I illustrated this by playing a guessing game with them, in which I taped a color to the back of their teacher. Only the children could see the color, but Donna couldn't. She had to guess the color taped on her back by the emotions the children described after seeing the color. The children were all over the map as they described the color blue for Donna. But that was exactly the point. We all have an emotional reaction to colors, but this reaction is unique for each person. While red maybe a happy and perky color for me, it may be a color that symbolizes anger in another. The children loved the game and they also loved me reading Dr. Seuss' book, My Many Colored Days.
I went through my PowerPoint presentation on Picasso. The children learned Picasso was from Spain (I gave them a Spanish flag sticker to wear), that he was the master of shapes, and painted from his imagination. The children also learned that Picasso was very influenced by his emotions, which was why he was known to have a "blue" (sad) period of painting and a "rose" (happy) period of painting. The children saw many slides of Picasso's work and had a fun time trying to decipher shapes, objects, and the meaning in his cubist paintings.
After a solid explanation of Picasso and his works, I then developed a hands on project for the children. Each table of four children was given a piece of foam core. On the foam core was a tracing of one of Picasso's more simplistic paintings. The children then had to cooperate and collaborate together as they painted in and out of the lines to create a painting. I wanted the children to use their own imaginations to develop their painting, and then once they were done, I showed them the actual Picasso painting. It is interesting that even though they were given a stencil of Picasso's painting, their ultimate works were very different.
This Picasso painting is entitled, Woman with a Hat. I took this painting and had Peter trace the outline of it onto four pieces of foam core. What the children basically saw in front of them today looked like a big coloring book page. There was an outline in black and white on the foam core, and their job was to color it in. Once the children completed their paintings, they got to compare their works to Picasso's. The irony is that I feel the children's art looks a lot like Matisse's style, who used vivid, bright, and happy colors in his pieces. We cover Matisse next week, but it seems to me that children are naturally drawn to Matisse.
This is the painting created by one of the four groups today. As you can see the colors are vibrant and the children actually used very Matisse like details to show off color, pattern, and shape. What caught my attention on this painting was the writing. It appears that there is an A and several Ts right in the center. When I first saw this at a quick glance, I swear it looked like it was spelling out Mattie. Or better yet it almost looked like how Mattie wrote his name. I actually went up to these letters to verify it wasn't Mattie. Which of course it was not.
This was the painting created by the second group. I personally love how there appears to be the start of another face at the bottom center of the creation. Keep in mind that these four groups weren't talking to each other while painting, but yet many of them decided to paint stripes and use polka dots on top of the colors already painted.
This was the painting created by the third group in the classroom. It may be hard to see this in the photograph, but when you see it in person, it almost looks like a piece painted by Van Gogh. The colors are thick and rich and simply remind me a bit of Starry Night (without all the swirls).
This was the painting created by the fourth group. The quality and texture of this painting are actually quite different from the other groups and yet its muted characteristics are charming and capture your attention. The group's use of color and patterns are so nicely done.
Once the painting portion of the class was over, we ended the session with fruit empanadas. The funny part is several of the children told me they did not want to try them, until they actually saw them. The name sounded intimidating, but it is hard to turn down a baked product with fruit in it. I stuffed the dough with cherries and apples. Last year the children did not like the cherry ones, and this year, every cherry one was gone!
After the class, I went to visit Ann's mom, Mary. Mary is quite sick with pneumonia, and I wanted to let her know I was thinking of her. When I got to her room, Mary was sleeping, but as soon as I started talking with Shayla (Mary's caregiver), Mary's eyes opened wide. Mary was unable to talk, but I could tell she was trying with her raspy voice to say something. Mary loves conversation, and I know she always enjoys hearing me talk with Shayla. This is one of the true ways I assess how Mary is doing. Her desire to want to engage and tune into conversations. Apparently in my description of my time away at the beach, I must have said something funny, and Mary cracked a smile. Which caused Shayla and I to laugh. It is the small victories, and putting a smile on someone's face who is so ill is just that!
When I got home this afternoon, Peter sent me an email with a link to a Georgetown Business School publication. Inside the publication was an article entitled, "Class Project Serves Cancer Patients and Families." This article was about Mattie Miracle and its publication date just jumped off the page to Peter....April 4, 2012 (Mattie's birthday!)
I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend and colleague. Nancy wrote, "I know that you are headed to Donna's class to give your wonderful lecture on Picasso. I know that it will be a huge success and will be a reminder of times with Mattie and others that have been missed. In just reading last night's entry, I see that the week away continued to be fraught with deep emotions and strain. It makes me sad to realize that your pain is so deep and yet you go on and accomplish so much. I do wish that you could relax a bit more and give your body time to heal. Your heart will never be the same, that I am clear about. However, to sustain your commitment to Mattie and Peter, you do need to take care of yourself physically. I am reminded that you still have no clear way to address this latest issue with your health and then there is the walk preparation...The Brown family continues to be so important to so many. One of my quirks is to check the counter of how many hits there are on the blog. It never ceases to amaze me how vital your writing has become to so many, myself included. Thinking of you everyday as Kristen stated and wanted to remind you that "I think you are so special and value you as my colleague, but, more my friend."