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

March 22, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. That weekend we took Mattie to the Hospital for a special event.... the unveiling of the child life art hallway. Mattie and I had several exhibits on display. Mattie envisioned what a hospital room should look like and built a model of this room out of Legos. This model was on display and a cute description of this model, which involved a creative story, is still on display within the hospital's hallway. I occasionally get to see this story when I walk through this hallway, and every time I see it, I am transported back to March of 2009. Also still on display in this hallway is a poster I created about cancer care and the importance of our support networks within the hospital. Rather ironic, I was advocating even back then, before Mattie died. Pictured in this photo in the back row was Peter, me, Meg (Mattie's child life intern and racing buddy), Jenny (Mattie's art therapist), and Linda (Mattie's child life specialist). In the front row from left to right was Kathleen (Mattie's Hem/Onc Nurse), Mattie, and Brandon (Mattie's Big Buddy). To put things into perspective, Jenny, Kathleen, and Meg are no longer at Georgetown. So our Georgetown family has gotten much smaller since 2009. 


Quote of the day: Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people. Arthur Schopenhauer


It is hard to believe that today was in the 60s! Peter and I had all the windows and front door open. Not necessarily because I thought it was warm, but because we were painting YET again! In the Fall we started a big painting campaign of our home. We have been working slowly throughout each room and this weekend we decided to tackle our first and second floor hallways. That may sound like an easy project but our ceilings are close to 10 feet tall and our hallways haven't been painted in over a decade. So the walls and ceilings just seem to just devour the paint. We have been at it all day and have another day ahead of us tomorrow. But it has been glorious to have fresh air traversing our home. 



Peter went outside to our commons area and came back and shared the first signs of spring with me. These are our Daffodils! I have no idea how or why they have sprouted up through the snow we had recently, but they are a glorious sight!





In addition to our daffodils, we also have crocus planted in our commons area. We do not have to plant these things for others to enjoy, but it gives us pleasure to see these signs of spring. So hopefully others enjoy it too. I know our neighbor, Malcolm, who used to live above us always appreciated our plantings and Christmas lights. Though he no longer lives in our complex, he writes to me often and is a Mattie Miracle supporter. He tells me often that our kindness in the complex made some of his difficult days more manageable. Which always brings a smile to my face. There is something to be said about making one's exterior world more beautiful. It does influence one's interior world! Maybe that is why we have been painting since September! 

March 21, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. Mattie was sitting next to his head of the lower school, Bob Weiman, or as we refer to Bob.... the Magic Man. Bob isn't only a gifted educator, but he learned magic from his father. Over the course of the year in which Mattie battled cancer, Bob came to the hospital and to our home and taught Mattie one on one. Bob's methods were engaging, empowering, and really helped Mattie come out of his shell and feel good about his skills and abilities. Mattie took pride in the magic he learned and he would use his skills to impress his nurses and other hospital staff. In fact, magic helped Mattie connect with people when he wasn't open to using words and communicating. The trick Bob was teaching Mattie in this photo was the "Peanut Booger and Jelly" trick, but its unofficial name is the "Mattie Brown" magic trick. 

Quote of the day: One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. ~ Carl Jung


Today I ventured back to Georgetown University. I was just there on Tuesday as well. Tuesday I went to the Hospital, today, I went to the University part of the campus. I was asked to speak at a weekly series called "Cookie Friday" which is hosted by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. I met the Institute's academic program officer at a jewelry party of all things. Laura happens to be a friend of Ilona's, my friend in cancer. A small world no? Ilona introduced me to Laura at a Mattie Miracle jewelry fundraiser and one thing led to another, and Laura invited me to campus today. 



As I entered the campus, I paused in front of Healy Hall. This Gothic building is famous and has been photographed and filmed countless times, and is a national historic landmark. All of this maybe well and true, but to me this building holds personal memories. Because in front of this building Peter's MBA graduation ceremony occurred and I have photographs of him in front of it with his cap and gown. As I walked the grounds today, I thought in a few weeks, another MBA class will be graduating, yet I was not here to celebrate, I was here to talk about childhood cancer. It always comes back to cancer with me! 



Originally Peter was going to present with me, but he was inundated at work. So I managed this alone. Unlike other presentations, this one was much more fluid. It had to be fluid because of the nature of the audience. Cookie Fridays are open to the whole university community... undergrads, grads, med students, and other professionals. Anyone interested in bioethical issues! However, this is a diverse topic and therefore this can bring about diverse interests, so as a speaker it is hard to know how to engage such an audience. 

There is one thing I learned on day one as an adult educator...... ALWAYS learn who is in your audience. I quickly assessed that my audience was comprised of undergrads. That wasn't easy at first since people were dispersed all over the two tiered bioethics library (which is simply a gorgeous space). The med students were either on break or being matched to rotations. I was very fortunate that several of our Mattie Miracle care team at Georgetown came to support me, because they had their own professional perspectives that they could share and interject into the presentation. Sitting next to me in the above photo is Denise. Denise was Mattie's social worker. In the back row from left to right is Mary Jane (Child Life Intern), Katie (Child Life Specialist), Mary (Social Worker), and Katie (Art Therapist). 

I started out my talk today with some brief quotes from the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 2007, ground breaking report on psychosocial care. I think this really set the whole tone for why it is imperative that psychological and social services be factored into care cancer. Such support is not only important but the data indicates that these services reduce patients’ suffering, it helps them adhere to prescribed treatments, and it supports their return to health. Yet the IOM reports that:

In spite of this evidence, patients, physicians and other cancer care
providers tell us that attention to patients’ psychosocial health needs is the
exception rather than the rule in cancer care today. Many people living with
cancer report dissatisfaction with the amount and type of information they
are given about their diagnosis, available treatments, and ways to manage
their illness and health. Health care providers often fail to communicate this
information in ways that are understandable to patients. Patients also report
that their care providers do not understand their psychosocial needs; do not
consider psychosocial support an integral part of their care; are unaware of
psychosocial health care resources; and fail to recognize, adequately treat, or
refer patients to services that could help.


I included links to the shortened versions of these reports below because they are of interest. But I think they make the subject matter come alive. Which is what I tried to do for these undergraduate students today. Naturally some of them were not familiar with cancer or illness. So I had to have them visualize what it would be like for them to receive a cancer diagnosis. How would their lives change? Would they be focused on the treatment regimen and the medicines initially? Or would their initial concerns be how would this affect their life? Would they be able to go to classes? See their friends? Loss hair? Eat food? etc..... Naturally, regardless of who one is and what one's profession is, we are all human and as human beings, our first thoughts center on psychosocial concerns. I think that point got across quite well!

As is typical with all my Georgetown teaching experiences, I always find the students to be bright and engaging and today was no different. In the beginning of my talk, I asked for a show of hands regarding how many peoples' lives were touched by cancer. A few hands went up. Then I asked for a show of hands regarding how many were touched specifically by childhood cancer. Two people raised their hands. As I was talking throughout the hour, I noticed these two individuals and they seemed to be nodding in agreement with me, as if they understood and empathized with what I was saying. One young lady came up to me after class and shared with me that she lost her friend to a rare form of cancer, so she has already experienced childhood cancer and to her it isn't too rare. It only has to happen to you once, and then for you, it isn't too rare. I get it, she gets it, and as I was talking I could sense we were on the same plane. 

I typically spend a good portion of my working days alone. I haven't been in the classroom in a long time. So talking in front of people isn't as easy for me as it once was. Now writing for me is much easier than talking. Yet, what I found is after dialoguing today I felt more energized and by the time I got home, I told Peter we were going out to dinner and we were buying paint to tackle painting our front hallway tomorrow. Lucky Peter!!!

http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2007/Cancer-Care-for-the-Whole-Patient-Meeting-Psychosocial-Health-Needs/PsychosocialprovidersReportBriefFINAL3web.pdf

http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2007/Cancer-Care-for-the-Whole-Patient-Meeting-Psychosocial-Health-Needs/PsychosocialpatientsReportBriefFINAL3web.pdf

March 20, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and as Christmas gifts were coming in I was stacking them under the stair case until our tree was up and decorated. I am not sure who found the mailing boxes more intriguing Mattie, or our calico cat, Patches! These two became good buddies, but it did not start out that way at first. It took a while for Mattie to learn not to chase Patches and pull at her tail, but once he understood that he became very protective of her when his friends would come over and visit her, especially those who were not familiar with how to interact and play with a cat.



Quote of the day: A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. ~ Ernest Hemingway



Today marks the one year anniversary of Patches' death. Last year, we had to put Patches to sleep, as she was dying from Bone Cancer. Just like Mattie, what are the odds? I do not know how this year went by so quickly. I almost can't believe we have lived so long without our furry bombshell (as I called her) in our lives. Patches was such an ingrained part of daily routine! We had Patches for 16 years and we acquired her when she was a year old. Patches was abandoned on the streets of the District of Columbia and in all reality she adopted us. She roamed into our complex and was howling, and I mean howling her head off. No one seemed to pay a bit of attention to her. Except for me. I made her an outdoor bed and started feeding her. Peter knew it was the kiss of death when I actually named her! 

At the time Patches came into our lives, our complex had a no pet policy. Not even cats. But Patches was in terrible shape. She was very ill, and also very pregnant. When I brought her to the vet, the vet told me she was going to have 7 kittens. But the vet warned me these kittens were going to be severely ill, given Patches malnourished and ill health condition. I should also tell you Patches was shot in the leg with a bb gun and the bb remained lodged in her paw. So I had to decide what to do with her quickly. I tried to find someone to adopt Patches, but I had no luck. Who wanted an injured, pregnant, and sick cat!? Not many people. So I decided contrary to my building's policy, we were going to adopt Patches, but I needed to abort the kittens. That was a hard decision, but it was a medically sound decision for Patches' health. I figured I might as well save one life and restore it back to health. But I learned not every vet will perform such a surgery, so I had to find the vet who would assist Patches. I tell you all of this because Patches had quite a history at only one year of age!  

On some level I think Patches understood what we did for her, to give her a home and to restore her to health. She was as smart as a whip, but also loyal, and protective. She did not get the title, "Nurse Patches" for no reason. I learned this when I was in graduate school. One day, I spiked an 103 degree fever. Peter was working and I was home alone. Practically delusional and in bed. Patches laid on top of me and stayed by my side until Peter returned home. That is when she got her infamous title and then subsequently whenever I got sick, she always took her spot right by my side. But that was the only time she cuddled close to me. Otherwise, she really had not much else to do with me. She was Peter's buddy through and through! 

A year may have gone by, but we still miss our girl. She had multiple pet names in our home from Tiger Baby Pumpkin Patch, Patchinator, Polecat, Bean, Freanie Bean, Beaner, Jigs, and Cabbage Baby. We would like to share some classic Patches shots with you tonight!

Patches in a box! Forget the fancy Petco toys! A box did this girl just fine!













Patches did not need a fancy spot, a stroller did just fine!













A lazy day on the couch! I can picture her saying to me, "I'm too beautiful to scoot off the couch, even though my fur makes you sneeze!"











Patches felt Mattie's toys were meant to be played with by him and her!








Patches LOVED Mattie's frog sandbox!!!














"I love my window view!"



Our regal puss!

March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In March of 2009, Mattie went to the Circus. Georgetown Hospital gave Mattie special box seat tickets to see the greatest show on earth! We never took Mattie to the circus before, so the whole experience was his first and unfortunately his last. As you can see, Mattie acquired several items while there and both the sword and the whirling elephant still sit on his white memory cabinet in his bedroom today. It was a special treat to see Mattie's reaction to that event, and his best buddy (who also was battling cancer), Brandon, was at the circus that day too. Mattie was happy to meet up with him at the Verizon Center, because Brandon helped Mattie feel like a normal kid.  


Quote of the day: If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~ John Quincy Adams


At this time of year, sheer chaos starts to unfold with event planning for the Foundation Walk. I think it is ironic when people tell me each year that the "walk must run itself by now!" That gets me every time I hear it! If only people knew the effort that goes into planning such an event! The Walk doesn't run itself and as it grows, it gets more complex. Recently I have had people tell me I need to delegate more and not take on so much. That isn't my strong suit on a good day, since I do not like managing people. I love being collaborative and working as a team, but if I assess I have to manage a person, I rather just do the job myself. But managing the Foundation is a very personal job. Because we are growing and young, anything we do is a direct reflection on us. Therefore, in my opinion it has to be done right or to the best of our ability.

For me to relinquish control means I must first trust you. There are only a handful of people I give up control to on the Foundation Walk. I can do this with them, because we have worked together for five years now and I know that their role is just as important to them as it is to me. I consider myself honored to have these individuals among us! Trust takes time, experience, and most importantly an understanding for the values of Mattie Miracle, and how we do things. Coming into our fold without that understanding wont get you far with me or any of my core volunteers. 

One of these core individuals is my raffle chair, Carolyn. Some of my faithful readers and followers may not know Carolyn. Carolyn and I met when Mattie and her daughter were in preschool together! Carolyn is there for me from the Winter until the Walk is over. She tracks our progress, keeps spreadsheets on what is popular, what sells, who we solicit, how we solicit, how we sell tickets, and of course her sense of humor picks me up on grey and down days. Last week out of the blue she emailed me about how I inspire her. I certainly wasn't expecting such a message. She wanted me to know that she feels very territorial about her role and in essence what she was saying was that she wants the raffle to be successful because she believes in our cause and what Mattie Miracle does. Carolyn needs no outside prompts, she needs no oversights, and she needs no external motivations. It comes from within. As I told Carolyn, I saved her message to me, because it means a great deal to me. 

I related to what Carolyn was telling me about her raffle chair position, because that is how I feel about my walk chair position. I would love to delegate 75% of what I do, but if I assess that I can't, I won't. It is my hope that in time this will change, but for now it always perplexes me when someone thinks they know how to run something better than I do when they are not familiar with the background of the operations or the complexities behind it. If you want to invest the time with me to understand how the Walk works, then believe me, I am happy to have you strategize next steps with me!

March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 -- Mattie died 236 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. Mattie was in clinic at the Hospital and was visited by our friend Ann. Mattie had a request from her, that if she came and visited him, she had to bring him a big salted pretzel. I have no idea where on earth she found this pretzel but as you can see she did not disappoint or come empty handed. Which was why the pretzel made it into the picture!


Quote of the day: That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. Charles Dickens


Today is a Tuesday. Seems rather fitting on a day that marks Mattie's passing, that I would venture back to the Georgetown University Hospital. To be quite honest, today did not go exactly how I had planned at all. In all reality, my goal was to be supportive to my friends in cancer, but that was not what happened at all. Let me elaborate.

In June of 2013, one of Mattie's physicians at Georgetown contacted me and asked me if it would be okay for a mom who had just lost her only child to cancer to call me. The doctor explained that this mom felt the need to reach out to a parent who also lost an only child. What a smart mom! That notion never even crossed my mind in September of 2009. But this mom was absolutely right, since we do experience loss in quite a different way. In any case, we visited with each other in June, and since that time, we have been connected daily through text messages. 

My friends Ilona and Attila want to honor their son's, Chris, love for technology, by providing iPads to children and teens battling cancer. This is a wonderful electronic form of psychosocial support and over time they have reached out to Mattie Miracle to ask for our support to help them navigate the fundraising and administrative complexities of running a non-profit. So I feel very proud in a way (NOT taking credit for their hard work) for supporting a family through this horrific grief journey and being able to be at Georgetown today to jointly participate in this iPad distribution ceremony.


Mattie Miracle teamed up today with the Chris Lantos Foundation, whose co-founders are Ilona and Attila Lantos. Ilona is seated next to me and Attila is standing behind me. We reached out months ago to Linda Kim, Mattie's Child Life Specialist. Linda suggested that iPads could really be needed in the X-ray, Nuclear Medicine, MRI, and Ultrasound departments. This would enable techs to help entertain, distract, and educate children about the procedures and scans they would be experiencing. The beauty of donating iPads to departments is that the equipment would help thousands of children throughout the year.

I had no idea the crowd that would be before us this morning. Several of the people in this room, I knew! Many had worked with Mattie. This is what I wasn't prepared for! Certainly coming back to Georgetown is a sensitive issue in an of itself, but when I see people that I knew this triggers all sorts of memories for me. Then when these people talk to me about Mattie, as they did today, that provides a whole host of other emotions. I began crying in the meeting this morning and have been crying throughout the day. It was an emotional experience, which brought me right back to 2008. In fact, when Peter got home tonight, I was asleep. I was that tired. When he woke me up, I did not know what time or day it was.  



This is a photo we took with the four Pediatric Champions
in each of the departments. A Champion means someone who has trained to work with children and is committed to work with the iPad and engage children with it in their Department. The lady standing right next to me is Theresa. Theresa was Mattie's x-ray tech. Mattie called her Miss Theresa. Theresa is an AMAZING woman. Mattie was deathly afraid of any machines. He had to do x-rays conscious (without sedation) and yet getting up on the table and sitting still in awkward positions given all of his surgical sites was not easy. Any time Mattie had to do an x-ray, Linda and I always hoped he was assigned to Theresa. She was patient, calm, and worked with him to find a comfortable position for his body. She just understood what we were all up against and did not add further stress to the situation. I will never forget her, as I told her today!



In this photo from left to right is Linda, Attila, Ilona, me, Jess (the child life professional we help to support at the hospital), our friend Tim (an associate administrator at the hospital) and Katie (a child life specialist at the hospital).




I had two more special interactions at this meeting. One was with Mattie's bone scan technician, Alex. Bone scans were a pip. Because basically Mattie would get injected with a contrast and have to sit still for over an hour until the dye traveled through his body. This was very uncomfortable for Mattie, especially since he was starving and couldn't eat or drink from the night before. The scan itself took about two hours. Alex got to know Mattie and I quite well over time, since we had to do this procedure more than once. Today Alex came up to me to let me know that he visits Mattie's blog from time to time and he never forgets Mattie. That meant a lot to me.

But the real surprise came from a physician. A radiologist. Dr. Guiseppe Esposito. Who I later learned is the chief or nuclear medicine. Dr. Esposito came up to me to let me know that he remembers me and Mattie very well. He let me know that he worked with us many times. I honestly just looked at him perplexed. He kept talking. He has a beautiful accent, so one would think I would have remembered him. Chalk it up to trauma and having no sleep while living at Georgetown. As he kept on talking and he described walking me through the bone scan results, my response to him was..... "was that you!" Of course he said, "yes." Then I remembered him. But what he said next floored me. This is what separates out the good physicians from the outstanding physicians! I mean this sincerely. He said, "I remember your son Mattie and he has influenced how I practice medicine." He did not need to say that. He then hugged me. This whole interaction caught me way off guard and impacted my entire day, because what Theresa, Alex, and Dr. Esposito were saying is that almost five years later Mattie hasn't been forgotten. 

I view today's meeting as a gift that Linda set up for me. She won't admit it, but I know it as orchestrated by her. I really needed such a gift. It meant a lot to me, I just wish Peter were there to hear it. It touched my heart, and it is only within the confines of Georgetown that I feel that Mattie is alive! Rather ironic, no?

After the meeting, I then journeyed up to the inpatient pediatric cancer unit. I knew our friend Bridget was there. I follow Bridget's caringbridge site religiously. Bridget is a young adult now, but started cancer treatment around the same time Mattie was diagnosed. She is a beautiful woman, inside and out. But what I love about Bridget is her down to earth nature, her sense of humor, and her incredible spirit. When fighting cancer for five years practically you need super human strength and sometimes you have to wonder how does she manage this and how does her family endure? I don't like coming unannounced so I had Linda find out if it would be okay for me to come in. While Linda was checking, I saw our favorite nurse, Tricia and Mattie's case manager, Catherine. Seeing Tricia is always a highlight for me!

I spent some time chatting with Bridget and her mom, and I will never forget my time with Cathy (Bridget's mom). When Mattie was battling cancer, she always had the kindest words for me. Words I won't forget. I just wish I could take this family's pain away, I wish I could grant Bridget's wish to really be able to live a normal every day life just like everyone else. It is so hard to receive visitors in the hospital. I remember it well. It disturbs the order of things within the room. I know when Mattie got visitors, and then they left to go home, Mattie became very depressed, because he knew they were going back to their normal life, and he wasn't. Yet Bridget knows I get her life. To Bridget I am safe, I am acceptable. I walk both worlds. I will always feel deeply saddened to have lost Mattie, but it is through Mattie, that I can connect with my friend Bridget. I saw that today, and that was a revelation for me!

March 17, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014


Tonight's picture was taken on St. Patrick's Day of 2009. As you can see Mattie was decked out for the occasion. His friends gave him a light up necklace, sunglasses, and a headband. Mattie decided to wear all of these items to the clinic that day. Every time I see this photo, it brings a smile to my face. As I hope it does for you today. I rarely dream of Mattie, but last night not only did I dream of Mattie, I heard him talking to me. He was talking about baking something. A cake or cupcakes and was chatting up a storm about frosting and sprinkles. Seems quite fitting!



Quote of the day: Perhaps this is what the stories meant when they called somebody heartsick. Your heart and your stomach and your whole insides felt empty and hollow and aching. Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez


Washington, DC received seven inches of snow overnight. In true DC fashion that shut the city down for the day! Everything was closed, from schools to the government. Peter worked from home, but by mid-day, we decided to go out to have a late lunch and run some chores. The roads looked clean to us and we figured others would also be out and about. I was motivated to go out because my birds were looking for bird seed and we ran out! We were desperate this morning, and Peter cut up four bagels for them. Which were appreciated and devoured! 

Any case to our shock, very few people were out. I have no idea why since the roads were super clear. It seemed like the perfect day to catch up on chores and things to do. The idea of being cooped up at home doesn't sound appealing to me but then maybe being home and not rushing around are gifts in our overly programmed area of the country. It is like a forced break! 


Last night Peter and I had a very memorable evening with our friend Maria and her boyfriend Darryl. They invited us to the DC Improv
to see a comedic hypnotist  by the name of Flip Orley. Maria has seen Flip before and she had a feeling we would enjoy him. She was absolutely right. Before telling you about the show, I wanted to share a tidbit about our connection with Maria. 

Peter and I met Maria years ago when we moved to DC. Maria works in our complex's management office. Maria has known me as a student, a professional, as a pregnant woman, a mom, she knew Mattie as a baby, she knew Mattie when he battled cancer, and now is a major Mattie Miracle supporter. But the irony is I knew Maria indirectly even before we moved to DC. When I was in college, I was a biology/psychology major. In my senior year in college, I took an immunology course. This had to be my favorite course in college, for two reasons. I loved my professor, Twitty Styles. Some students found Dr. Styles intimidating. After all, he addressed his students as Mr. or Ms. so and so. He would call on you at random and also give pop quizzes. However, my friends told me this before going into the class, so I understood the ground rules. Somehow I did not find Dr. Styles intimidating, quite the opposite. I found him engaging, stimulating, and inspiring. He pushed me to ask questions and to think, and he felt I had potential. The second reason that the course was memorable was because of the textbook Dr. Styles selected. Guess what..... the textbook happened to be written by Maria's father!!! I still remember this Immunology textbook with its purplish blue front cover that had white blood cells floating across it. It wasn't your typical dry textbook. This textbook was engaging, made challenging concepts more tangible, and also made you as the student want to investigate topics further. 

When Maria suggested we go to last night's show, it immediately made Peter and I think back to our first week of college. During our freshman orientation week, our college planned a special event where all 500 of us went to a theater to see a hypnotist. Back then hypnotists were most likely considered magicians or mind manipulators. I am not sure the profession has made much progress in terms of the public's perception even today. However, I recall when my parents left me in New York (where my college was located) and they went back to California, I was not only home sick, I was a bit scared. Yet this hypnotist show we attended was so funny, it made me forget my fears that evening. I figured if the college could plan such a fun evening, that perhaps things could turn out okay. Isn't it interesting how one event can influence other events?

Though Peter went to the DC Improv last night, he wasn't feeling well. He was struggling with a head cold. Despite that, Peter was dead set on wanting to be a participant in the show. Which means he wanted to be hypnotized. For those of you who do not know me well, there is one thing that I demand at all times and that is control. I have the absolute need to be in control of my mental faculties at all times. Which is why I refuse to take anything that may alter my mental state, even for medicinal purposes and certainly anything that would alter my consciousness. So clearly hypnosis is NOT for me. I am too anxious to relax in the presence of another, much less in a room of 100s of people. 

However, with that said, I was also worried what affect this would have on Peter. Before Flip invites volunteers (about 22) up to the stage to sit, he explains hypnosis in great detail and also explains what he will and wont do. I thought he did an excellent job. He said that if you don't want to be hypnotized and if you are going up there to test him, it won't work. He won't be able to hypnotize you. You have to be open and receptive to this. So in essence not every one is a candidate and we saw this right before our eyes last night. People were eliminated periodically throughout the night. The show is about three hours long and watching the process unfold was fascinating. Watching it unfold with Peter on stage was even more intriguing. Since I know my husband, I know what to look for, and I also paid close attention to what I was hearing because as a mental health professional, if I sensed anything dangerous, you bet, I would have pulled Peter off in about a half a second. 

Prior to the show beginning, Maria and I went up to Flip to introduce ourselves to him. Maria has gone to many of his shows before and he was thrilled to meet her. Yet while interacting with him, I immediately picked up his social anxiety and then I read the article below. Not unusual for comedians to have such one on one anxieties! But clearly he had his choice of becoming a therapist or an entertainer and he chose an entertainer, and he admits, listening to people ALL day is too taxing. Smart man!

Can I explain why hypnosis works? Absolutely not! I am not a person hard wired to relax, to deep breath, and so forth. Those types of exercises don't work for me. For me, jumping around, walking, and vigorous exercise help me. So what I saw last night was perplexing! Flip Orley had all the volunteers start by closing their eyes and doing breathing exercises. He told them that when they opened their eyes, he would be asking them to state their name. However, when asked, they would literally forget their names, and be unable to state it. Seemed ridiculous to me, especially just after some brief deep breathing. But when he came to Peter on stage and asked him to state his name..... Peter looked dumb founded!!!! He tried to speak, but nothing was coming out of his mouth. The more he tried to open his mouth, the more frustrated and shocked Peter looked. As if trying to find his tongue. Dazed and confused is how he looked. Almost trance like! At which point, Flip stated, "well that one is well one his way" (to being hypnotized, was what he meant). 

The beauty of Flip's show is he doesn't have his volunteers barking like dogs or making fools of themselves. He tries to get people to relax and really captures the natural humor that lives inside all of us. That is the sheer good nature of his show, which is what makes it clean and unique! It is worth seeing. I noticed that the majority of people who were able to be hypnotized were women, and wow two of them last night stole the show. There was also another woman in the audience who did not volunteer originally but just by watching the others being hypnotized, she too became hypnotized. Fortunately people around her in the audience gave Flip a heads up and she was led onto the stage to participate. Apparently this isn't unusual, where people in the audience who are receptive to hypnosis land up becoming part of his show.

Peter made it on stage for about half of the show. Or almost half. Then he was brought back to consciousness and asked to return to the audience. He was asked to return because Flip could see that Peter wasn't in a deep enough state to participate. I think Peter tried, but I think the problem with hypnosis in this particular case is it involves entertainment and very unreal scenarios. Scenarios that don't always make sense. For a person like Peter who thrives on logic and reasoning, even in a deep state of relaxation, I am sure things were just not jiving in his head. I will give you an example. I noticed immediately a change in Peter's demeanor and consciousness when Flip moved into a skit called "ladies and gentleman." Basically in this skit Flip told his subjects that when they came to consciousness every time they heard him say "ladies and gentlemen" they would see him naked. Naturally Flip wasn't naked in reality. Watching the subjects reactions was fascinating. Several women were horrified. One was absolutely disgusted and probably would have hit him. But he is very clever and instructs these folks before bringing them to consciousness that however they feel, they can not act in out, be aggressive, harm any one, touch anyone, etc. Any case, I was watching Peter's reaction. Peter's reaction was that of being perplexed and confused. As if he did not know what to believe. The conflict was he heard what Flip told him while deep breathing about the key terms "ladies and gentlemen" and nakedness and yet Peter's logic and reasoning knew that Flip explicitly stated in the beginning of the show that at no time would clothes be coming off. So it was at that time conflict arose in Peter's head and with the conflict this drove him further and further out of his relaxed state. That is my theory and that is where the hypnosis failed for him. 

Once Peter was brought out of hypnosis and asked to sit back in the audience, he came back to the table literally like a zombie. I watched him as the show progressed. I wasn't happy with what I was watching because I could assess he wasn't processing the show. As the night moved on, slowly I could see he was coming out of it, and understanding what was happening around him and beginning to laugh and absorb content. But Peter describes this as coming out of a very deep and relaxing sleep. The best sleep he ever had. Sounds fantastic to me, a chronic headache sufferer who doesn't sleep well at all. But here is the irony in all of this. Prior to hypnosis, Peter was sick, after hypnosis, Peter felt better. He still has a head cold, but it is markedly improved. I can't explain any of this. Part of me would say it is all unbelievable, but I saw it with my very own eyes and heard it from my very own ears from Peter. 

Info about Flip: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/comedy/2011/07/14/hypnotist-flip-orley-returns-to-dc-improv/

March 16, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2015

Sunday, March 16, 2015


Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. That day we were playing in Mattie's bedroom while he was home between hospital stays. Mattie decided to put on his shield, helmet, and sword. This was not an unusual occurrence for Mattie, even in his pre-cancer days. The only difference was two fold, Mattie was in pajamas and his right leg was bent. Mattie rarely got out of pajamas once he developed cancer. This was his choice. He did not like the hassle of changing into clothes, nor did he like the sensation of clothes on his skin. Chemotherapy does affect your skin and can cause sensitivities, of which Mattie had plenty of even before cancer started. After Mattie's limb salvaging surgery of his right leg, Mattie was never able to straighten his leg again. It was a double edged sword. Mattie had three limbs operated on within a month's time. Typically kids who may have osteo in a leg, have their leg operated on but can then build strength back up in their legs by putting weight on their arms. Mattie couldn't do this because his arms were also healing from surgery. So it made it almost impossible for Mattie to do the exercises he needed to rehabilitate, and therefore the result was Mattie never walked again or straightened his leg after October of 2008. Mattie may have looked like a knight in this photo, but unfortunately our knight was unable to take a step in his outfit to play. 


Quote of the day: I didn't want to kiss you goodbye, that was the trouble; I wanted to kiss you goodnight. And there's a lot of difference. ~ Ernest Hemingway


Yesterday while driving from Hough's Neck to Braintree, Massachusetts I snapped this photo. This is the skyline of downtown Boston. Though a cold and grey day, it was still a beautiful sight!

Peter and I have been reminiscent all evening and day today about our 24 hour trip to Boston. Naturally the trip made me reflect on my time with my special 85 year old friend Mary, but also of the culture of Boston itself. As many of my faithful readers know, Peter was born and raised in Boston. I also went to graduate school for three years in Boston. So our observations yesterday are not casual ones. They are based on years of living there and then comparisons to living else where in the United States. 

After Mary's funeral was over yesterday, we had to drive from one town to the next to attend the burial service. There was about 20 cars trailing behind the hearse. We were each given a shockingly bright orange card that said "FUNERAL" on it to hang from our rear view mirror, and were told to put our bright lights on as well as our hazard lights. Literally we were a caravan of 20 cars proceeding from the church to the cemetery. That notion may sound typical to some of you depending upon your culture or what state you live in. I can assure you this whole etiquette is VERY different from my funeral experiences growing up in New York. It only got better. In Massachusetts, funeral caravans are given the right away at red lights. So literally on coming traffic is supposed to just know to automatically stop for you until you make it through the intersection. This whole notion was shocking to me, and down right frightening. Peter and I were the second to last car in the caravan. Meaning we had to be aggressive! With each red light we were passing, I was getting edgy and I made my feelings known to Peter. He didn't get me at all! We weren't on the same page about this which seemed odd to me, but what was even more amazing was for the most part, the on coming traffic seemed to comply and understood that they had to wait for all of us to pass. Well except at two intersections and in those two places it got nasty with horns and hands flying in the air and I DON'T mean by us!!!

I am quite sure that such a caravan wouldn't go so well in NY. In fact, I can picture chaos, not to mention in DC. In DC you can't block traffic without a team of police officers! Yet people in Massachusetts are conditioned and follow a code of respect for the dead and funerals. I found it down right amazing. Last night, I think Peter gave all of this a lot of thought and came up to talk to me about this. He literally said.... "I now see why you were so upset about passing the red lights." He could see how dangerous this could be and how if you did not grow up knowing this was the routine, that this could be down right daunting. To Peter this was part of his ingrained culture, but to me it most certainly wasn't. The subtle differences we can learn about our cultural differences, and literally we are all part of the same USA culture. But the United States, is comprised of very diverse states. 

At Mary's reception yesterday, I took a three leaf clover plastic ring off one of the desserts. Today I put it in my car. It hangs on Mattie's bead flower that he made for me in preschool. Both the flower and the ring hangs from my rear view mirror and every time I drive and see these items swinging at me, I will be thinking of both of them.