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

February 7, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. We took Mattie to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Griffith Park happened to be one of our favorite places to go with Mattie. It had just about everything one could want from parks, playgrounds, a Dentzel Carousel, pony rides, a wonderful town filled with historic train cars called Travel Town, the zoo, and the list goes on!!! When I moved to Los Angeles as a teenager, I really never visited Griffith Park much. But when Mattie came into my life, I had the opportunity to be introduced to this wonderful resource and in a way to become a child again. We explored Griffith Park together and all its wonders. We all went on this miniature train ride..... I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES!!!! 

Quote of the day:  If you do what you've always done, you’ll get what you've always gotten. ~ Tony Robbins


This afternoon I went out to lunch with my parents and while in the restaurant I noticed a side room of the restaurant was decorated and reserved for a baby shower. There was a big sign in the room that read..... It's a boy! For most people the announcement of a child is a happy occasion. I on the other hand am not quite sure I share this philosophy. Though I realize I am in the MINORITY. I am even in the minority with those who have also lost children to cancer. Which is why in most cases I usually keep my opinions to myself especially when out in public. As I was watching this mother-to-be flitting around the room today and greeting her guests, I remembered that excitement and thinking I had a whole future ahead of me. It never dawned on me that a child could get struck with childhood cancer and the profound impact such a disease could have on every aspect of one's life. Of course happily I realize most children do not get cancer and most families will not experience what Peter and I did, but as I observed this event today, a part of me couldn't help but be reminded of my own baby shower years ago.   



This evening I was text messaging Peter back and forth about today's baby shower and I asked him if he knew where our baby
shower photos were! Peter sent me several photos and my dear friend Mary Ann sent me this one! I told her I LOVED it because it was better than most of the ones I had! 


Peter's parents took this photo of my parents with Peter and I at the baby shower. Two of my friends from graduate school hosted the baby shower and the theme was ducks! 





In this photo, behind me in pink is Mary Ann, and next to Peter are our other dear friends, Leslie and Mike. Leslie was my freshman college roommate, and we have known each other for many years. Her daughter, Faye has done many service learning projects for Mattie Miracle over the years!





Despite the fact that there was a 10 degree temperature drop in Los Angeles today and it also rained, it was still much better weather than anything I would be experiencing in Washington, DC. I snapped a photo of this street lined with flowering pear trees. It is a beautiful sight to see in February. 




On my parent's driveway today was this snail. He was traversing from one part of the garden to the other. Mattie absolutely LOVED snails and when snails would die off, he liked to collect their shells. I have no doubt if Mattie were alive, he would have been trailing after this snail and following it, studying where he was going, and naming it too! We would have gotten a full report on the snails where abouts today! Needless to say, I took this photo in honor of Mattie. 


I end tonight's posting with a lovely photo of lavender daisies! Again, to someone in LA this is no big deal, but to me, they are a lovely sight!



February 6, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. It was taken at a restaurant in Los Angeles that my parents frequent. Each time we would go dine there Mattie would want to sit right by the lion fountain. The ironic part about this is since Mattie died, I have NEVER seen the fountain working. It is as if there is some sort of symbolic expression of grief here. Naturally I am sure there is another logical explanation, but I am sticking with the more touching one. Mattie loved fountains, the sound of water, and if he could have, he would have dumped all his hotwheel cars into the fountain at the restaurant and played in it. He knew that was off limits but he did appreciate the fact that he could sit by the fountain and look at it and though sitting still wasn't always Mattie's forte, the fountain was a great distraction and had a calming effect.

Quote of the day: Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

It is quite coincidental that tonight's blog photo of Mattie (which I preloaded into the blog when I was in DC), coincides with the restaurant my parents and I had lunch at today. This is Emilio's. Every Friday, my parents go to Emilio's for lunch with their friend John. The tradition of Emilio's goes way back for ALL of us. I remember going to Emilio's when I was in high school with my grandmother. That is how far back this tradition goes. John used to work with my dad, and though they are both retired now, their connection and camaraderie remains. So much so, that my dad, mom, and John gather each Friday religiously! When Mattie was alive, we also introduced him to Emilio's and just like all of us, Mattie enjoyed the experience. Perhaps for different reasons though. Not so much for the food, but he liked the atmosphere. He liked the outdoor patio area and the lion fountain! By the way, I looked at the fountain today too, and it still wasn't working!!! I have yet to see it running since Mattie died!!! 

Here is a photo of the outdoor patio space of the restaurant. You can see the lion fountain in the background. While we were having lunch today, I could see this Styrofoam  container of water on the ground near our table. I thought it was odd, since I saw no purpose for it, but I just let it go. When the table next to us was getting up from lunch, the container instantly started to make sense to me, because deep underneath the table emerged a helper dog. A beautiful golden Labrador. When this enormous dog got up, he brushed my dad's arm, and this startled him because he had his back to the dog and he wasn't expecting what happened to him. The whole dialogue that transpired between the sight impaired lady and my dad was down right hysterical. My dad joked and said he wasn't sure if someone was trying to get friendly with him and the sight impaired lady had a wonderful sense of humor and said that was her dog but she was also going to give him a hug. It was adorable. 

Meanwhile back in DC, Peter sent me this photo of our new dishwasher! I have been having the worst trouble with our dishwasher and practically gave us dealing with the problem. We had the dishwasher replaced about three times and each time the problem kept reoccurring, with water backing up and a terrible smell lingering. I frankly did not know how to manage it anymore and given all the other things on my plate I felt like I just couldn't fight this issue. 

There are many people within our complex that look out for us, especially our wonderful friend, Maria. I am deeply grateful to have this new appliance. To me it is the special thoughts and extra efforts like this that make me feel like people value our presence in their lives and in our Complex in general. When Peter sent me these photos tonight, I told him I was not sure it was possible.... but I am in LOVE with the look of this new dishwasher!

February 5, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. This is another favorite photo of mine! What I love about it is the simple fact that neither Peter nor Mattie were paying attention to me. They just seem to be enjoying the moment at the Huntington Museum and Gardens in Pasadena, CA. Mattie was intrigued by the bamboo and Peter was just enjoying his surroundings and the moment. It was a beautiful moment in time between a father and a son. They weren't doing anything that was orchestrated! Nothing had to be said, and yet nothing really had to be said. To me so much can be deduced by the comfort in their body language between them. They were used to spending time together. 

Quote of the day: When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. ~ Henry Ford



Today we went to visit the Skirball Cultural Center (one of the world's most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions, and among the leading cultural venues in Los Angeles) and saw an exhibit entitled, "Light & Noir." The birth of Hollywood is a Jewish and an American story alike. It is a story of immigration and innovation, beginning with the handful of visionary émigrés who founded the American film industry in the early twentieth century. Less widely known are the stories of the German-speaking actors, directors, writers, and composers—many of them Jewish—who fled Nazi persecution in Europe and went on to shape Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” The exhibition Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950 pays tribute to their lives and work, revealing the profound ways that the émigré experience left a mark on American movie-making.

Among the many émigrés highlighted were luminary directors Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann; Oscar-winning composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman; and acclaimed writers Salka Viertel and Lion Feuchtwanger. Through a never-before-assembled selection of film footage, drawings, props, costumes, posters, photographs, and memorabilia, Light & Noir examine different genres in which the émigrés were especially productive: the exile film, the anti-Nazi film, film noir, and comedy. These include such classics as Ninotchka (1939), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Casablanca (1942). On view were costumes worn by Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford, as well as one of Billy Wilder’s Academy Awards, Ernst Lubitsch’s twenty-five year anniversary album, the Max Factor Scroll of Fame, and furniture from the set of Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

Divided into eight sections, the exhibition's 370 items include footage, drawings, props, costumes, posters, photographs and memorabilia that illustrate how these emigres changed Hollywood by bringing their artistic sensibilities to such genres as comedy, the exile film, the anti-Nazi film and especially film noir, which came into being in the 1940s. "You see the German Expressionist influence in film noirs through the stark angles, the lighting methods," curator Doris Berger said. "There are so many parallels to what they did before, except for the stories are very American and, of course, the surroundings are Los Angeles or New York."

The exhibit was comprised of many little rooms, filled with all sorts of media. Including film, as you can see here! An example of the "exile film" style that the emigres applied their artistic talents to would be Casablanca. Doris Berger (the curator) said, the exhibition, casts "Casablanca" in a different light. The 1942 World War II romantic drama about refugees in Morocco attempting to get exit visas is the ultimate exile film. The cast features emigre actors including Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt and Helmut Dantine. The film's Hungarian-born director, Oscar winner Michael Curtiz, came to Hollywood in the 1920s. "It would look and sound so different if not for all the exiles and emigres that were cast in the film and the crew," Berger said. The Skirball exhibition has items from "Casablanca," including costumes worn by Ingrid Bergman and Henreid, film clips, props from Rick's cafe, lobby cards and reviews that were published when the film was released.

Light & Noir" explores how three key figures — Ernest Lubitsch (a director), Carl Laemmle (Universal Studios owner) and talent agent Paul Kohner — helped Jewish colleagues, family and friends out of Germany.  
Laemmle, who died in 1939, wanted to save his hometown of Laupheim, said one of his descendants, Rosemary Hilb. He wrote affidavits for "pretty much anybody who asked him," Hilb said. He put up money to assure the U.S. government that these people wouldn't be a burden. Paul Kohner's office on Sunset Boulevard was the home base for the European Film Fund, an organization founded in 1938 to support arriving exiles and emigres. "He would go to the studio heads and get them to commit to hire mostly writers and directors, so they would have guarantee of employment," said Kohner's son, Pancho Kohner. "Eventually there were 1,500 German Jewish refugees working for the American studios."

February 4, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. Mattie was visiting my parents for the first time in Los Angeles. Mattie took to Los Angeles like a duck to water. He loved the warm weather, all the fun outdoor activities, and the he enjoyed running around my parents property on his "tot wheels." Mattie had an East Coast and West Coast tot wheels. This was one item that he couldn't do without. It was something that gave him freedom, independence, and mobility. All things he craved at an early age. He kept all of us moving and active right from day one! In this photo my dad was trailing after Mattie and as you can see Mattie's hands were moving and pausing for a photo was borderline tolerable!


Quote of the day: The question isn't who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. ~ Ayn Rand


Today we ventured out to Calabasas, a city in Los Angeles. It is generally accepted that the city's name is derived from the Spanish word calabaza  meaning "pumpkin," "squash," or "gourd." One of the wonderful places to dine in Calabasas is at King's Restaurant. Today literally was in the upper 70s and sitting outside was a treat. The sun was glorious, the birds were singing, and literally everyone and his cousin was sitting outside at lunch time!

While eating on the terrace we were overlooking this wonderful fountain. So you can hear the sound of the water, which is therapeutic in and of itself. 

Even the birds love this spot! We were surrounded by grackles. This fellow perched himself right by our table for a good part of lunch! Of course my mom fed the birds bread, which provided them an incentive to stay!







After lunch, my dad snapped a photo of my mom and me!

















Where the restaurant is situated is within this beautiful commons space filled with stores, fountains, and restaurants. What I love about the fountains is that they are filled with turtles. Mattie loved turtles and he would have appreciated this special treat. Because how often do you find a fountain filled with turtles??!!! Another feature I love is located in the center of the fountain. If you look closely there is a statue of a boy in a row boat. Every time I see this statue, it reminds me of Mattie.

On our visit to the library today, I couldn't get over this amazing Crape Myrtle tree blooming at the entrance. To me it was noteworthy and deserved a picture. Particularly because it is FEBRUARY!!!!















This beautiful tree is a Ponderosa! Ponderosa is a large coniferous pine tree. The bark helps to distinguish it from other species. Mature to over-mature trees have yellow to orange-red bark in broad to very broad plates with black crevices.


This tree is so HUGE it seems to take over the entire parking lot and provide shade to the space. On the East Coast I know I have heard of the Ponderosa, but never saw one in person. 







This great white beauty is another Crape Myrtle. It almost looks like there is snow on this tree. If it was on the East Coast that would indeed by possible. This tree is just bursting with flowers and it can't help but capture your attention even from way across the street!



February 3, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 -- Mattie died 282 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. This is one of my favorite photos that I took of Mattie. He was 11 months old and as I was getting down at his level he really wanted to get my attention and grab the camera. Mattie was fascinated by cameras and electronic gadgets and his style in relating to the world was big and bold. 


Quote of the day: You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have. ~ Maya Angelou

This afternoon my parents took me to a restaurant called Tam O'Shanter. The restaurant has been around for 90 years and I know my parents have been to it many times, but today's was my first visit. It is an experience in many ways because people who dine there are regulars. So diners seem to know the servers (who have been there for decades), they know how one has to place an order at the restaurant, and the outfits worn by the servers are indeed memorable! The walls are lined with family tartans and other Scottish antiques, so it gives you a feeling that you have been transported across the "pond." 


The Tam O'Shanter Inn was established by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, founders of Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakeries who went on to found the Lawry's restaurant chain. They commissioned  Harry Oliver to design the building. He constructed the  Storybook Style building aided by movie studio carpenters. The Tam O' Shanter Inn opened in June 1922, and was a great success. The owner said, "Every piece of wood which was used in this structure was thrown into fire first with the result that we never had to paint it and it got more beautiful as the years went by." 

It was remodeled in 1968 and renamed the "Great Scot," but has since been brought back to the its original name "The Tam O' Shanter Inn." The restaurant's decor still features English and Scottish medieval weapons, kilts, and family Coat of Arms and Medieval Family Crests.

I felt compelled today to know exactly what a tam O'shanter is, so I looked it up! Tam O'Shanter is the bonnet that was first worn throughout northwestern Europe during the 15th century. It is made of wool and has a toorie (pom-pom) in the center. It also has as a main hallmark the clan  tartan  woven right into its woolen threads. This distinguishes it from other bonnets such as the beret. Although brimless, the Tam o'Shanter, like all Scots bonnets, has an external hatband.

My mom snapped a photo of my dad and I in the "snug." Which was the waiting area of the restaurant!



















Outside of the restaurant were these glorious cyclamen in bloom in FEBRUARY! It seems almost impossible to imagine, considering I am coming from a place where there is nothing green outside and it is frigid. Meanwhile here is it in the upper 70s. 







Today we also visited the Americana. The Americana is a large outdoor shopping community in Glendale, California. Some people may consider it a mall, but it really is so much more. It is like a small city with 75 retail shops, 100 condominiums and 238 apartments, restaurants, and a movie theater. 










Can you see the statue? This gold-leaf statue was chosen by the complex's developer, Rick Caruso. It rises from the center of the fountain's smaller pool. The statue is a replica of Donald De Lue's 1949 Spirit of American Youth sculpture in France, a memorial to Americans who fought at Normandy in World War II.



I just had to take a photo of this because this is the street entrance to the condo, which includes a valet, bellman, and of course a chandelier! Only in LA! I have never seen a glass chandelier hanging outside like this before, exposed to the weather. 














The lawn or commons area in the Americana is two acres and is a beautiful space. Here you will find people sitting on blankets, children playing, people reading, and dogs running around. It truly is a wonderful sight to see in February! This commons area is surrounded by shops, condos, and restaurants. 



Another special feature is the Waters of Americana, an animated fountain. Mattie would have loved this fountain! The musical fountain, located in the center of the Americana performs every hour. It is like watching a concert in a way. It is a water and light show, with the water moving gracefully to the music. It is a special sight to observe and almost hard to imagine especially when so many of us on the East coast are stuck dealing with grey, cold and depressing days. 

February 2, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. I remember taking this photo as if it were yesterday. Mattie was 11 months old and it was his first trip to Los Angeles. LA is three hours behind and that slight time change threw Mattie's sleeping schedule off. Mattie was a bad sleeper to begin with, so he really did not need any assistance in that department. So at 4am, he was up and ready for the day to begin. How Peter was up and smiling at that hour was beyond me, but somehow we managed through it. At that time I thought that was horrible, now of course in retrospect having contended with much worse, that was really nothing. 


Quote of the day: The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself–the invisible battles inside all of us –that’s where it’s at. ~ Jesse Owens


It was my first full day in Los Angeles and while I know it is cold, grey, and snowing on the East coast, it is truly amazing to say that it is sunny and in the 70s here. It is almost disorienting. The grass is green and things are in bloom. My mom and I went for a walk this morning and while on her neighborhood walking track, I got to meet two adorable dogs, Katie and Dabney. Dabney is a labradoodle. I know all about this breed, since my friend Tina has a labradoodle. Labradoodles are great retrievers and watching them play fetch is down right hysterical. Dabney was a true character today, because I honestly think this dog could never tire out from chasing after his favorite tennis ball. Katie on the hand is a basset hound and she proved my theory wrong. I always thought basset's were kind of lethargic dogs. Katie was far from it and despite having a low center of gravity moved like the wind. Katie and Dabney are apparently engaged, or at least this is what their owners seem to think. I have to tell you the whole dialogue was hysterical and certainly it brings the owners closer as friends. Nothing like bonding over your dogs.

My parents and I went out to lunch this afternoon and after lunch my dad and I talked about all sorts of things. We talked about Mattie Miracle, some of the struggles I experience at times managing the Foundation, and the help I feel we need in order for us to continue growing. It was a helpful dialogue, especially since my dad has years of successful experience working in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. Though I may have wonderful vision and do have the energy to work like ten people, I am realistic and very aware of the fact that I need other brain power to brainstorm and share the responsibilities of the growth of the Foundation. My dad understands my feelings, so when I share them and other candor comments, I know I do not need to sugar coat them which is refreshing. 

The wonderful thing about spending time and connecting face to face is being able to share stories and memories. Sure one could do this over email or over the phone (which anyone who knows me, knows this is not my mode of interaction!!!), but some how it isn't quite the same! I had the opportunity later on this afternoon to hear more about my dad's career, what led him to make certain decisions, the dynamics between him and some of his bosses, and his artful and clever strategies he implemented over the years which enabled him to remain and survive within the entertainment industry for as long as he did. My dad, for the most part, is a humble and quiet man about his accomplishments. Most likely because he came from modest to poor beginnings (by today's standards) and then made something of himself. As a child, I really wasn't aware of my dad's career other than perhaps his title and the company he worked for. But now as an adult I am more cognizant of the world, the struggles of human dynamics, the complexities of finding and maintaining a job, and the importance of being an invaluable member and asset to one's company and organization. I realize that there are so many stories that my dad can share with me that illustrate how he was able to survive in the business world and have such an illustrious career, but more importantly I find that it is through his stories that I get to learn more about the man who is my father. 

February 1, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2003. Mattie was 11 months old and it was his first plane trip and visit to Los Angeles to see my parents. I had a conference to attend in Anaheim and it was the perfect reason to make it a family trip. I wasn't sure how Mattie was going to handle the flight. But he was FULLY on and took it all in and was awake the whole time. This photo was taken at the LA Zoo, as you can see with my favorites.... the elephants in the background. 

Quote of the day: Limitations live only in our minds.  But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. ~ Jamie Paolinetti



Today did not go at all like I suspected. I do not like flying at all and I got up early this morning and had to get to the airport on my own since Peter was still in Boston. In many ways I rely on Peter especially in times when I get anxious. Which now a days, IS OFTEN. Though Peter wasn't physically with me, he was with me virtually. He was up with me at 4am, checking to make sure I got up and moving and then made sure my transportation picked me up in time to get me to the airport. He followed me all the way onto the plane. 

However, it was once on the plane that the unexpected happened. First off we boarded the plane late since there was a previous passenger "accident" on it that needed a professional cleaning crew to manage. Got to love that announcement, especially when they tell you the row in which the accident occurred in! All I knew was, I was happy to be twenty rows up from where it was centered! Yet as the "accident" was announced you could hear the silence among the passengers waiting to board the plane. Literally you could almost hear the wheels in their heads spinning, trying to figure out whether they should be disgusted, scared, or what about this information! The silence was pervasive, noticeable, and seemed long lasting. Eventually we all pulled out of it. 

When I finally boarded, I did not even get to sit for two seconds before a fellow passenger asked me to switch seats with him so his wife could sit next to him. So I complied and took his wife's seat two rows up. Minutes later, a young man came to sit next to me in the middle seat. I did not pay much attention to him since I was quite tired. Instead, I was reading a magazine. After the plane took off, and the flight attendant came around to offer us a beverage, I noticed my seat mate ordered a rum and coke at 8:30am. I did not say anything, but the flight attendant looked at him. His response to the flight attendant was...... "well for me it is the evening!" No one seemed interested in his response. No one I guess, other than me. So I turned to him and asked him where he was flying from. At which point he told me he was traveling from Afghanistan. Naturally my next question was, are you serving in the military? At one time he was and was deployed in Iraq but now he is a contractor. In any case, he was flying home to California today to visit his wife and two children. 

Our conversation could have stopped right there and then. But it did not. The flight from Washington, DC to Los Angeles is five hours and ten minutes. We spoke for that ENTIRE time. I learned all about his life, his upbringing, his parents, his career, his work overseas, the challenges he lives with, his living conditions, and the impact of 6 month contracts in Afghanistan on a marriage. He works six months and then comes home for a month and then repeats the cycle all over again. Coming home is of course wonderful, but it is a transition that is hard on both sides. The family at home gets used to operating without a father figure and when their dad comes home, it is an adjustment to shuffle roles. Of course for my seat mate, in a way things change and evolve over six months for his family and he has to play catch up when he comes back home and he is always afraid that he may not be accepted and fit in.




I had the wonderful opportunity to see some of the photos he took in Afghanistan and one of the creatures he introduced me to today was the Camel Spider. These things live on camels, which freely roam. These spiders are aggressive, can give a terrible sting/bite, and they have to be vigilant about keeping them out of their sleeping quarters. When I saw photos of his conditions and the dust and sand that surrounded him on a daily basis, I told him I wasn't sure how he could manage living there six months at a time. I could tell that his lungs have been affected as he has an asthmatic wheeze which he says he never had before. But after seeing photos of the Dust Devil storms, this was an eye opener to me and explained his symptoms. 

I learned a great deal about the person I sat next to today, but in the process what I found so stimulating, enriching, and beautiful was talking to him truly confirmed how I have been feeling ALL ALONG. That trauma survivors share many aspects in common. He and I have very different traumatic experiences yet we are talking the EXACT same language. THE EXACT SAME, and because I could relate to what he was saying, I had an intuitive understanding for the feelings he wasn't actually expressing which enabled him to talk more freely. In fact, he told me today that he is typically very introverted and usually doesn't open up to people. When he told me this, I then told him my professional background. But I really do not credit my background to our conversation. I credit Mattie and my experience battling childhood cancer and dealing with Mattie's loss. I explained to him that Peter and I lost Mattie to cancer and that living in the PICU was my version of Afghanistan. I don't want to equate the two, and meant no disrespect. But that to me the PICU was like a war zone. The problem with leaving the war zone however is once back on solid ground NO ONE really understands you. Which is how I imagine he feels when he returns to the United States and back to his home environment. You could see my message struck a chord, and I hit several today. I also gave him my interpretation as to why he could never sleep on a plane. Which is something I typically don't do either. He asked me for my interpretation. Again, I really did not have a concrete theory, other than he lives in a hyper alert state, and therefore coming aboard an airplane surrounded by foreign people, where threats could potentially come from any one of us around him, would prevent him from letting his guard down. The whole environment of being confined in a tight space is anxiety provoking. He related. 

As we continued talking, we shared commonalities which I absolutely loved! To know that I am NOT the only one who has these side effects after a trauma. That this is how we cope, protect ourselves, and manage in the world. We both won't watch violent movies! We prefer watching movies about grief and loss, and things that evoke sadness. Most of all we prefer having deeply meaningful conversations and avoid trite conversations. There were other aspects about our conversation that were also powerful, but this related to his story, and are not appropriate for this blog. What I do want to say however, is that I was meant to switch seats today on this airplane. I was meant to meet this former military man and to hear about his life journey. His life journey and my life journey are different, and yet something happened to us along the way that profoundly altered our lives. Certainly we could try to blunt it out as others do, drug it out, or pretend it doesn't exist and MOVE ON. We on the contrary do none of these things. What I learned is if I am with the right person, I can freely and eloquently discuss grief, my perspective on it, and how it influences my lens on life and my overall perspective.