Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 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

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

October 26, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tonight's photos was taken during Halloween of 2003. Mattie was a year old and he really did not want to wear a costume at all. Mattie preferred clothes with soft textures and therefore for the first several years of his life, his Halloween costumes involved some sort of sweat suit material. I think Mattie made a very cute pumpkin! Did Mattie enjoy Halloween? I think the answer would be a qualified yes. He certainly enjoyed going trick or treating with a friend but Mattie did not like candy! He wasn't excited about it nor did he eat it. Mattie was the kind of kid who appreciated when people handed out chips and pretzels to trick or treaters! It was funny to watch his excitement when someone gave him a treat he actually liked. Mattie was in many ways a great friend to trick or treat with because he would gladly give away his chocolate and treats!

Quote of the day: We can not solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that created them. ~ Albert Einstein


A friend of mine emailed me today to alert me to an article in the Washington Post Parade Magazine, entitled, A grief that won't heal. Naturally the title immediately caught my attention as it probably did for my friend as well. In a nutshell the article discusses the 10 percent of our population whose grief seems to linger long after a loved one has died. In the past, the mental health profession just labeled this issue as depression. But now such long term grief has a whole new label, it is now called complicated grief. It is said that women are more susceptible than men, as are those whose loved ones die suddenly or by suicide. Parents who lose a child are at especially high risk.

I visited the Center for Complicated Grief's website to examine the criteria for this diagnosis. It stated that a person would have many of the issues listed below, six months or more after the death of a loved one:

  1. Strong feelings of yearning or longing for the person who died
  2. Feeling intensely lonely, even when other people are around
  3. Strong feelings of anger or bitterness related to the death
  4. Feeling like life is empty or meaningless without the person who died
  5. Thinking so much about the person who died that it interferes with doing things or with relationships with other people
  6. Strong feelings of disbelief about the death or finding it very difficult to accept the death
  7. Feeling shocked, stunned, dazed or emotionally numb
  8. Finding it hard to care about or to trust other people
  9. Feeling very emotionally or physically activated when confronted with reminders of the loss
  10. Avoiding people, places, or things that are reminders of the loss
  11. Strong urges to see, touch, hear, or smell things to feel close to the person who died

When I went through this list of 11 items, I literally said..... NO this doesn't describe me. I read them to Peter and to my surprise he did not share the same emphatic NO that I did. So that stuck with me all day. This evening I went back on the website (run by Columbia University), and came across this paragraph which caught my attention:

The term “complicated” refers to factors that interfere with the natural healing process. These factors might be related to characteristics of the bereaved person, to the nature of the relationship with the deceased person, the circumstances of the death, or to things that occurred after the death. People with complicated grief know their loved one is gone, but they still can’t believe it. They say that time is moving on but they are not. They often have strong feelings of yearning or longing for the person who died that don’t seem to lessen as time goes on. Thoughts, memories, or images of the deceased person frequently fill their mind, capturing their attention. They might have strong feelings of bitterness or anger related to the death. They find it hard to imagine that life without the deceased person has purpose or meaning. It can seem like joy and satisfaction are gone forever.

Unlike the 11 item checklist, the above paragraph resonated with me because I think it does capture what both Peter and I feel. We both function in society. We both work, have social interactions with people, and to most of the world we appear normal. However, internally for us we are still rather directionless and life doesn't have the same meaning for us without Mattie. So we are STUCK! To me this is what life now looks like, I do not label it as my profession LOVES to do, I just call it the reality of life after Mattie died. Nonetheless the website gives me a lot to think about and I can certainly understand why losing a child puts one at a greater risk for developing complicated grief.

In the article, a particular passage caught my attention. It stated, “I turned down invitations. And her friends, confused and frustrated that she didn’t seem to be moving on even after a year, stopped inviting her." I relate to this SO well. I think this is what makes complicated grief so complicated..... it creates inner turmoil, but this turmoil impacts how others relate to us as well. However, I would like to add that society's view point about grief and how to handle it is equally skewed and this misconception about grief only further sets off those of us who may have complicated grief.

A Grief that won't heal:
http://www.parade.com/218587/gretchenreynolds/a-grief-that-wont-heal/


Today Peter and I went for a walk on Roosevelt Island. It was a fall day, cool and crisp but the sun was shining. The trees are beginning to change colors and lose their leaves.















We came across a Woolly Bear caterpillar
walking right besides us today. Mattie would have loved this sighting! It is hard to believe that this woolly creature will eventually become a butterfly!
















In the distance I spotted a Great Blue Heron. It is sitting on the tip of the tree branch. He is so well camouflaged it is hard to see him.














I am back at it in Mattie's room. It has been months of cleaning out so far with more to go. Today I began tackling the walk in closet in Mattie's room. This closet is like my dumping ground. As I was going through boxes and bins today, I found old photo albums. Mattie used to like looking at photos of Peter and I when we were children. Mattie and I both loved this photo of me with my collie, Heidi. Heidi was the only dog we ever had while I was growing up. She was a close member of our family. We all loved her dearly and when she died, we never got another dog. Heidi was quite a companion and put up with a lot from me especially when I would insist on riding her like a horse.

Another photo Mattie got a kick out of was me and my eclectic look. I was recovering from being ill and literally it was my first time outside after days of being home bound. Needless to say I clearly was inspired to dress creatively and to blow bubbles with sunglasses on!
 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was home after his first surgery and despite having his right arm bandaged up, we still went outside to fly his dragonfly kite. This was one of Mattie's favorite kites. Our commons area was where Mattie learned to fly his first kite and ride a bicycle. It is a great enclosed space in the city and I am so happy Mattie had it to run around, meet up with JJ (our resident Jack Russell Terrier), and also where Mattie decorated with side walk chalk and played with snow.





Quote of the day: You would not ask someone with a broken arm to swim the English Channel, so you cannot demand that the broken to live as if they were whole. ~  John Eldredge


I spent the day on an airplane flying back from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. It has been a long day but I am happy to say that I am safely back home. While on the plane I started reading a book entitled, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. I realize this book has a kind of ominous title. It was given to me by a friend who felt that I would find it of interest. Basically it is about a man whose mom is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and how he connects to her during her treatment and battle through books. He goes with her to chemo treatments and they connect often by phone. Each time they chat they find themselves bonding over books. It is through story lines, plots, and characters that they share thoughts and feelings with one another. The beauty of this book is it really shows the therapeutic nature of reading.

I admire people who are glued to books and can lost within them. This is the kind of reader the author and his mom happen to be and it is through this memoir of his mom's life that we the reader received two things. The first is we literally learn about a host of all sorts of books that these two individuals read. Their description of each book can truly peak one's interest and I have a feeling by the time one finishes reading The End of Your Life Book Club, a whole reading list is established. The second thing one most likely learns is the power of bonding over books. When we are uncertain of how to connect with others, turning to books may help. Sometimes it is easier to talk about things through referring to a book rather than revealing our own thoughts and feelings, which can be scary and leave us feeling vulnerable. In fact this is how this mother and son team learned a lot about each other. Through their book choices, the characters they related to, and the feelings that these plots evoked. I love the quote from this book which states, "Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying."

October 24, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Chris was the President of the Georgetown University Chemistry Club. Chris and his team would visit the pediatric units every Friday. It was the highlight of Mattie's week. That week Mattie did not feel like leaving his room because he was recovering from surgery. So instead Chris came to Mattie. As you can see, Chris made some sort of gak (sticky jelly substance), and Mattie was staring at it and grabbed some blue gak to play with it and test its properties.


Quote of the day: I need not to be afraid of the void. The void is part of my person. I need to enter consciously into it. To try to escape from it is to try to live a lie. It is also to cease to be. My acceptance of despair and emptiness constitutes my being; to have the courage to accept despair is to be. ~ Michael Novak


I began my day by planting in my parents' garden. Each time I visit, I add something else to the property. This time it was beautiful mums. I planted them around the backyard, but snapped a photo of this one particular flower pot. Somehow the contrast of colors is just so beautiful from my perspective. There is nothing like a burgundy mum! While planting outside, I could hear the birds singing. They are just so happy here and the backyard also has a resident hummingbird who stops by to visit.








This is the view from my parents' backyard! One would think they live in a remote and rural area given that they are surrounded by mountains, have deer that meander through the neighborhood, and even the occasion coyote or bob cat. But this is the beauty of Southern California. Communities are integrated into the mountains and in all reality my parents live in the suburbs of a city. Within minutes they are close to everything from shopping to restaurants. Nonetheless this is such a peaceful sight, in which you can't hear traffic, noise, or all the things I have become used to living in the heart of Washington, DC.

This beautiful orange fruit is a persimmon. My parents have a persimmon tree in their backyard. I learned on this visit that there are different kinds of persimmon trees, some of which produce fruit that you can eat right off the tree. Not unlike an apple. Other persimmon trees produce fruit that is really only good for baking. The other day I pulled several pieces of fruit from the tree and I cut it up for all of us to try. It is definitely the same texture and crunchiness of an apple, but the taste is far more subtle. I have visited my parents throughout the years but it really wasn't until this year that the tree began to produce a plethora of fruits.

I had a nice last day in Los Angeles. We went out for a lovely lunch and walked around outside. I will miss the walking around outside and seeing greenery, flowers, and hearing the birds. Somehow in DC the birds don't sing as much in the winter time. Or at least I don't hear them. I am now packed up and heading back to DC tomorrow. Hopefully the next posting you receive from me, I will be safely back on the East Coast.
 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the child life playroom with his big buddy Brandon. Though there was a significant age difference between the two of them, they understood each other and Mattie really valued the connection he had with Brandon. As you can see here, the boys were building a storage unit out of popsicle sticks for many of Mattie's hot wheel cars. Art projects like this were very therapeutic for Mattie. They got Mattie out of his room and interacting with people. Something he refused to do quite often as his treatment progressed.


Quote of the day: So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. ~ Ellen Bass



Today we visited the Arboretum. I have been to it before as a teenager and then once with Mattie. The Arboretum is located in historic Rancho Santa Anita. The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a unique 127 acre botanical garden and historical site jointly operated by the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation and located in the city of Arcadia.  Home to plant collections from all over the world, including many rare and endangered species. The Arboretum also houses outdoor historical landmarks representative of the major phases of California history. Upon entering the Arboretum, we were all greeted by this adorable Kermit the Frog carved pumpkin. 

One of the amazing aspects of the Arboretum is its free roaming peacocks and peahens! Mattie LOVED this feature and frankly we never got that far walking wise in the gardens because Mattie was too busy following these colorful birds!







Meet the resident Guinea Hen! This hen looks like a cross between a chicken and a vulture. But very friendly and he thinks he is a peacock! He is the ONLY remaining Guinea Hen in all of the gardens. The others died off. He too is free roaming and his origin is Africa.





A simple word to describe the Arboretum is PEACEFUL. It isn't congested, you are not fighting crowds, noise, or car traffic. You can walk for miles, and my mom and I walked over 8 miles today in the park! Here is a photo of my parents by one of the amazing fountains at the Arboretum.





My photo does not do this tree justice. It is electric. This is a Pink Silk Floss tree from South America. I have never seen such a tree but it was magnificent and an eye catcher. It is hard to believe that it is the end of October and I am surrounded by such rich greenery.






One of the gardens we explored is called the African Garden filled with all sorts of palm trees. The expanse of this palm caught our attention.










Check this tree out! Look at its trunk. I think the name of the tree is SO fitting ..... The Elephant Foot Tree!


















For those of you old enough to have watched the TV show Fantasy Island, this is where it was filmed. This house was featured in the TV series for years. The official name of the house is the Queen Anne Cottage and it sits in the heart of the Arboretum. Queen Anne Cottage was constructed in 1885 and it is an ornate example of Victorian extravagance.


I showed you the pink silk floss tree above. This is a close up of the flower on a white silk floss tree. The flower almost looks and smells like a lily.










We ventured into the rose garden and it was filled with butterfly friendly plants. In fact butterflies were flying all about us. I caught one in action!









Here is an overview of the rose garden. It was simply amazing. The roses were huge, the garden was so fragrant and surrounding the roses were all sorts of citrus trees. Filled with oranges! You just wanted to pick them right off the tree. In addition to the flowers the garden was filled with lizards, bunnies, squirrels, birds, and butterflies.
Here is a close up of the Queen Anne house. Though I have visited the Arboretum before, this was my first time walking close to the house and peering inside. This house was built in the 1870s and was owned by Elias Baldwin. Nicknamed "Lucky." Lucky used this house for entertainment purposes and literally the house had NO kitchen. He lived in a nearby house on this huge piece of property but had this house constructed to entertain his guests. He purchased this property as a Mexican land grant and used it to grow citrus fruit. Fruit that was shipped all over California and eventually the US, when the transcontinental railroad was constructed. From looking through the windows, the house is beautiful inside and true to Victorian era architecture and design.

This incredible tree is a trumpet flower tree! The flowers truly look trumpet like.












This beautiful tree is a dwarf pomegranate tree. It literally stands at around five feet tall.












A family asked us to take photos of them and they were kind enough to snap a photo of us by the waterfall. Behind the waterfall are about hundred steps up. My mom and climbed up the steps to see the mountain top view. Because it was somewhat cloudy today when we got to the top, we couldn't see the mountains. But we were treated to a close encounter with a hummingbird.


I entitled this photo "The Happy Duck!" This duck was literally flapping around in the water, washing himself, and having a great old time.











Peacocks are beautiful but this particular one got the name of "The Pesky Peacock" today. He literally wouldn't leave me alone! After our long walk, we sat outside to have iced tea and something to eat. Throughout my entire meal he sat watching me, he put his head on the table, stared at me and was also making noises. Needless to say I gave him crackers because he wasn't taking NO for an answer. He occasionally would visit other tables, but for the most part he was by my side. I'm not sure what that says!!! The funny part about this is I felt like I was in the movie, Jurassic Park. You know when the dinosaurs are watching, following, and potentially attacking the park's guests. I found this peacock intimidating, especially when he was making noises at me. However after I fed him a ton of crackers he moved away from the patio and went to relax by a tree. This is an encounter I won't forget anytime soon.

October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 -- Mattie died 214 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Given Mattie's face and that he was sitting on a stretcher, I know without a doubt that he was waiting for his sedation team to take him for a scan. When Mattie first entered Georgetown to be officially diagnosed in July of 2008, his oncologist believed that Mattie could sit through grueling scans without sedation. Keep in mind that some of Mattie's MRIs were two hours long. An MRI is daunting for an adult but it is harrowing for a child who is already anxious about all the changes in his life. In the beginning Mattie was also experiencing horrific bone pain from the cancer. So in all reality, sitting for scans, which are scary and confining, was torture for him. Which was why after the first set of scans, Mattie was introduced to Debbi, his sedation nurse angel. After that point, Mattie was sedated for every scan he was required to take. Naturally that comes with certain risks, but the mental health alternative was just as costly.


Quote of the day: I am grateful for the magic, mystery and majesty of nature – my loyal friend and companion – always there, welcoming and waiting for me to come; to be healed. ~  Tom North


Have you ever heard of Joel Osteen? I know I never had until a quote by him was spotted on Facebook today. Apparently Mr. Osteen is a preacher and televangelist. So put that into perspective. I believe this fellow was quoted on Facebook today because people were looking for some inspiration and wanted to post something that would get us to think about our own decisions, actions, and interpersonal connections.

However given that the author of this quote is a preacher, I have to say that I am THOROUGHLY troubled by what he said and even more perplexed that he thought his message would be uplifting and inspiring to any of us. Here is the quote I am referring to...........

We are responsible for helping and encouraging others, for guiding them further along, but we are not responsible for their choices. If they want to live unhappy, that’s their choice. Don’t allow them to bring you down with them.

As a person in the helping profession, it would be my hope that a preacher is NOT teaching us to WALK AWAY when the going gets tough. That people are dispensable if they do not follow our advice and heed our words. Naturally I am not na├»ve, I realize there are situations in life in which we sometimes get involved with toxic people. Meaning people who may not be good for us, do not have our best interest at heart, and in fact do hurtful things to us. I am NOT talking about such circumstances here. Unfortunately when such toxicity enters our lives, I do believe that the only way to seek emotional stability is to cut out the relationship. Not unlike a surgeon who cuts away cancer from the body. But this is not the dire type of circumstances I believe this quote is referring to. Instead, when I read this quote my immediate reaction is to reflect upon those of us who lost a child to cancer. Since this is the scope of this blog and this is the lens in which I view my world, it makes sense that I would apply such a quote to my own life. When I do apply the quote to my own situation and my own context, I actually despise it!

What do I mean? Well I would have to say that within the first year after Mattie died, those around me wanted to help and wanted to encourage my daily existence. The motivation for this behavior could range from people feeling gravely sorry for my loss, to those who just couldn't handle the notion of a child dying and therefore wanted to give me diversions, things to live for, and in essence make me happy and have hope. However the loss of a child is not an easy fix and therefore I did not bounce back to who I was even a year after Mattie died. Despite how hard some may have tried! For all arguments sake, I am four years into Mattie's loss, and I am well aware of the fact that the precancerous Vicki isn't coming back. This reality scared several of my close friends and believe it or not I lost them. That is a book chapter in and of itself, so I am not elaborating on this here. But in essence Osteen's quote played out in my life. When friends couldn't make me happy and instead saw that I continued to feel guilty about the notion of ever being happy again and for continuing to live without Mattie, they walked away. It was deemed by them to be my choice to remain this way and therefore they did not want my state to further bring them down. It seems to me that Osteen is saying that it is okay for us to do this to each other. That it is okay to abandon those around us for our own happiness. I was stunned when friends of almost 15 years severed our friendship after Mattie died, and I am equally stunned to hear that a preacher of all people is spouting such a doctrine.

When I talk to people now who are trying to help parents grieve the loss of a child, my number one message is to NEVER walk away. Never give up the connection you have with your friend. Keep the dialogue open, make sure your friend knows you still care, that you know the loss of a child is a life long process, and that you are there for them now and into the future. It is only by having steadfast people by a parent's side through the grieve journey that some sort of healing, coping, and the inventing of a new self emerges.


Today my parents and I drove to the town of Calabasas. The beauty of Southern California is that it truly captures the outdoors, regardless of whether we are talking about the settings for a restaurant, shopping complex, museum, or library. We had a lovely lunch outside by a fountain and were greeted by all sorts of birds. Like I used to do with Mattie, if a bird comes near me, I usually give it bread. So I had several feathered friends with me at lunch. After lunch we strolled around at this outdoor shopping complex. The complex almost looks park like with glorious flowers, plantings and park benches. There are fountains everywhere and the complex's main fountain is filled with turtles, ducks, koi, and birds. Check out these wonderful turtles stretching their necks to the sun! There were tons of turtles to watch!

Meet the fountain's lone duck!














My mom snapped a photo of me in front of a part of the fountain. In the middle of the fountain is a statue of a little boy on a row boat. It literally reminded me of Mattie going fishing with Peter. Mattie would have LOVED this fountain and all the creatures who hung out in and around it.





Mattie would have loved this frog spouting out water into the fountain. I have a feeling if Mattie were with me, I would have experienced this fountain TOTALLY differently! He would have sat on the frog and also would have gotten soaked playing in the water.

October 21, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the child life playroom of the hospital creating with model magic. That stuff was the ideal clay, it wasn't messy or toxic. You could mold it into any shape, color it, and then it would dry into a hard structure. That day Mattie created an under water scene and designed all sorts of creatures to go into the sea. However, Mattie's under water vision also included a bridge going over the water and if you look closely the bridge was filled with many hot wheel cars! After Legos, hot wheel cars had to be one of his favorites!


Quote of the day: Healing takes place when grievances are given ample and patient space to be acknowledged, when there is transparency and honesty, when everybody is given the chance to be heard, when nobody is excluded, when people can accept the energy of the conflict and use it as a major opportunity for growth. ~ Franco Santoro


This afternoon I ventured with my mom to her line dancing class. I think people have a misconception about line dancing. Most people associate it with country music and pop culture, i.e. the electric slide, Elvira, boot scooting boogie, and so forth. However, line dancing is actually much more complicated!!! Since I was a little girl, I have always done some form of dancing from ballet, tap dancing, and even modern dance. Though I didn't do any dancing while in graduate school (which was too many years to count), I would like to think that my years of training kick in when I am on a dance floor. Not unlike riding a bicycle. 

Last year when I visited my parents, my mom took me to her line dancing class. I was expecting to like it, after all, I was familiar with pop culture line dancing. However to my dismay I HATED her class. I mean HATED it!!! So much so that I did not want to go back today. Line dancing involves dancing to all four quadrants of the room. Why this should be so disorienting, I don't know, but for me it is! I can learn any dance step you give me in one direction, but when you face me in another direction, it is like I have amnesia. 

I did go with my mom today (who dances VERY well!) which in all reality was the result of developing some courage and realizing Rome was not built in a day. No one likes to look helpless and stupid in front of others!!! Fortunately my mom has a new teacher, who I liked a lot better than the previous teacher. Though I still had great challenges, it was slightly easier this time. I have a feeling the more one does this, the more one gets used to dancing in quadrants. Since all the people in the class know each other, they clearly could tell I was the outsider. Several asked if I took line dancing classes in DC! I thought that was a hoot, since I did not have the foggiest notion what I was doing. But I can be light on my feet which helps to conceal many mistakes! Any case, one of the participants in the class was a former college dance teacher. She told me she has been dancing for over 40 years and when she first entered this line dancing class she was totally confused and disoriented. I told her I appreciated her candor because I was perplexed as to why this is so difficult for me. This teacher also told me that line dancing is excellent stimulation for the brain, and I totally believe her. I spent two hours truly concentrating tonight.

I do think the key to doing this, like everything else in life, is not to take it too seriously. I found when I wasn't wrapped up with making mistakes that my body seemed to flow better with the music. Isn't that the truth about life too!? To give you an idea of what we did tonight, I found a you tube video of the dance "Silver Lining," which was one of several dance routines we learned tonight. It will give you a feeling for the turns and quadrants that I am talking about!   

Silver Lining Dance Routine
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4bzSEmb2HE

It was another glorious weather day in Los Angeles. Sun and in the 80s! Close to 90 actually. I just can't get over how one coast can be moving into the Fall and cooler temperatures and out here things are green and lush. But people here take it for granted. On the East Coast on a day like today people would be out and about. They would want to eat lunch outside and just soak up the sunshine. It is quite different in LA. I suppose one just gets accustomed to what one has and takes it for granted. But I know that 80 degree weather in October is to be cherished and I only have a few more days of it. Whether I am on the East coast or the West coast, Mattie is gone from my life and that is a daily reality I face. But this reality combined with cold weather and greyness somehow magnifies the sadness and depression that comes from the absence of such a beautiful seven year old life force.
 

October 20, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008 after Mattie's first limb salvaging surgery. That week someone gave Mattie a book entitled, "Stinky Cheese Man." Mattie thought that was down right hysterical! So much so, that it inspired him to create his own stinky cheese man made out of blue foam! It is ironic that last week as I was cleaning out Mattie's book shelves, to donate hundreds of books, I came across "Stinky Cheese Man." It brought me right back to this moment in time.


Quote of the day: The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you're talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated. ~ Cheryl Strayed


This afternoon my parents and I went to see the play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have to admit I never read the novella or even saw the movie with Spencer Tracy. Naturally whether one is familiar with the story or not, in some shape or form, we have all used the term...... Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in our daily lexicon. Especially when we are dealing with people who appear to have two sides to them. This play is all about good versus evil and the conflict this causes inside of us. Yet from my clinical perspective this play is far more complex than this, mainly because the alter ego of our main character, Dr. Jekyll, is drug induced. As if this drug unleashed what could be potentially inside of all of us. A frightening notion really when you consider the main character brutally attacked and killed multiple people in gruesome ways. Are we all really capable of this? If that isn't frightening enough to think about, what is even more perplexing is once Dr. Jekyll stopped using drugs why didn't the evil die away? Needless to say the premise of this play bothered me intensely because what it was trying to imply is that evil is stronger than goodness and will win out every time.

Certainly in our daily lives we see aspects of evil all around us, and yet despite the evil, there are also moments of greatness, kindness, and compassion to help combat this negativity. I believe this is a philosophical difference in how each of us sees the world which is most likely why I gravitate to Disney and Hallmark movies. Goodness must always trump evil! Naturally I know this isn't true in reality, but if we do not have this hope then I frankly think day to day existence becomes impossible.

Here is a synopsis of today's play: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, from the novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. A new and shocking version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of depravity, lust, love and horror. On the fog-bound streets of Victorian-era London, Henry Jekyll's experiments with exotic "powders and tinctures" have brought forth his other self—Edward Hyde, a sensualist and villain free to commit the sins Jekyll is too civilized to comprehend. When Hyde meets a woman who stirs his interest, Jekyll fears for her life and decides to end his experiments. But Hyde has other ideas, and so the two sides battle each other in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse to determine who shall be the master and who his slave. With multiple Hydes portrayed by members of the cast.

This play was well acted but I have to say it was confusing at first. Mainly because the character of Mr. Hyde was acted out by every member of the cast. So you would see Dr. Jekyll transform, but instead of that character resuming as Mr. Hyde, another member of the cast would take over. So literally every cast member played two or three different roles in the play. With NO costume or set changes and no intermissions. So you have to really pay attention because the actors are constantly switching parts!

We all left the play feeling DOWN about life and human nature. I am not saying this is not a fact of life depicted in the play, but sometimes seeing it acted out in front of me isn't helpful. After Mattie died I prefer more uplifting stories and stories which inspire you to life not question why you are living. This evening we are meeting a friend and colleague of my dad's who lives in London. We saw John recently in August when we flew to Heathrow. So it is very unusual for me to be seeing him again so soon. Needless to say it is my hope that dinner is a change of pace from the macabre and gruesome of today's play.
 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the clinic and had been working on the cardboard box structure you see in front of him. Mattie, with the help of his art therapists (Jenny and Jessie), transformed a simple brown box to an amazing haunted house. That house was an incredible work of art and it even had a flying witch inside the house! Mattie was holding the witch for this photo. We got a lot of play time out of this box, as we did with all of Mattie's boxed creations. Mattie loved imaginative play and he also loved to create his play environments. I wish back then I kept every box and took a photo of all his creations side by side. They were an impressive collection! 


Quote of the day: Listening to one's self as well as to others is a sacred act of healing. There is a higher octave of listening that hears the wisdom within the words. ~ Cheryl Hamada


My parents had a neighborhood committee meeting at their home this morning. I met a fellow who lives in their community and my parents told me before he arrived that he is a commercial airline pilot. A made a mental note of that, but while the meeting was going on I remained in another room working on the computer. After the meeting was over, I happened to ask my mom what the pilot's last name was, I am not sure why, but I asked. I learned his last name is Cooper. Well I immediately stopped in my tracks because guess what the name of the pilot was who flew me from DC to Los Angeles? It too was Cooper and I flew on the same airline in which he is a pilot. I distinctly remember his last name because after hearing it announced, I thought of Mattie's friend Campbell Cooper! What are the chances that I would meet the pilot that flew my plane?! I am not sure why that intrigues me. Maybe because I HATE flying! Flying across the country on Monday was very turbulent. In fact, the turbulence did not show up on the radar and the pilot took to the loud speaker several times letting us know he was trying to adjust our altitude to give us a smoother ride. At one point we were at 36,000 feet and the plane felt like it was free falling to 30,000 feet to get us out of the choppiness. That is why I said..... THANK goodness for Dramamine on Monday's blog. But the pilot's voice caught my attention today. Mainly because his speech is notable. His demeanor is very calm, patient, and seems to be able to defuse tension. This is the same feeling I had while listening to the pilot over the loud speaker on Monday's flight.


This evening we went to see a community play entitled, Awake and Sing. The play premiered on Broadway on February 19, 1935. Basically in a nutshell the play is set in the Bronx (New York), and it gives us an up close and personal view of the Berger family and the first generation ideals of their matriarch Bessie. Her pursuit of the American dream, one that is reflected in community standing and keeping up appearances, could dominate her family's idealization of love with possible tragic consequences. This play may have premiered in the 1930s, but it is more than relevant today in its revolutionary portrayal of the rifts that develop between parents and children and the younger generation's struggle for independence and the freedom to choose.

Bessie's character is beyond dysfunctional as she tries to control the lives and movements of each of her family members living in her apartment. The list of family members was extensive: her husband, two children, her father, and a boarder all living under one roof. How all these people fit in such a tiny space is amazing but what the play clearly illustrated was using manipulation, control, and at times deception when raising a family not only doesn't work but it can come back and haunt you.

It was an interesting psychological profile of a family that reminds us that one dysfunctional and unstable individual can indeed pollute an entire family system. What I found particularly awful is how the play ended. In the end Bessie's daughter (Hennie, who was controlled by her mom and forced to marry a man she did not love) decides to run away with another man, leaving behind a husband who was devoted to her. The catch was to leave with this other man Hennie had to leave her baby behind. Behind to be cared for by her mother, a woman we already know reeked havoc on one generation of children. The man Hennie decided to run away with was an amputee, he lost his leg in the war. He tells Hennie that when he had to get his leg amputated his doctor said, "you just cut it off and live your life." In essence he said she had to do the same thing regarding her child (cut it out), in order to lead a happier life. Needless to say this decision and the cavalier and expendable nature of a child's life were disturbing to me.

Awake and Sing is quite telling because when you hear the play's dialogue and disagreements about politics, what families argue about, and the stresses upon individuals, couples, and families it is quite apparent that some things haven't change much since the 1930s. That alone is a scary and revealing notion!