Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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: 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

October 23, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quote of the day: Listen to a heart that is crying.... Because you can't see the tears. ~ Mabelle Pillman

Hello everyone, this is Peter filling in for the blog writing tonight.  Vicki is presently en route from LA to DC, and since she spent most of the day traveling and will not be landing in DC until 10:30pm tonight, she asked that I write something.  So do not despair, Vicki will return on Sunday to continue her blogging, and I will try not to screw this up (and keep my words short).  I don't know about anyone else, but I need the daily blog fix, so I'm looking forward to Vicki taking back the responsibility, because no one can write like she does.

Vicki spent the morning with her parents who took her out to breakfast and then to the airport.  I know they enjoyed their time with her, but as Vicki has mentioned earlier, cancer has profoundly affected us and our relationships with our families.  I don't know quite how to characterize it, but we are both very fragile and are no longer what we used to be.  Interacting with family can be very hard since for the seven and a half years that Mattie was alive, our only interaction with our families involved Mattie.  Now when we interact with our families the hole that has been left in our hearts with Mattie's passing, hurts even more.  I know it's not what our families want, but it's the situation that we find ourselves in these days.  I am not sure when it will change, but for now, it is hard.

So today, while Vicki was traveling, I ran chores this morning and then went over the Bob and Ann's house at 11am.  Bob had asked me to help him take down some trees and plant some replacements in his backyard.  So the good news is that no one got hurt and no trees hit the house.  However, although I dug three holes for the new trees, at 6:45pm we ran out of both sunlight and energy.   The picture here was taken by Ann from their back porch once we had all the trees down.  It was a physically exhausting day, but I always do well when I can take on a physical project and get outside.

Growing up, my parents involved me in a lot of projects and always let me participate.  This taught me both skills and the valuable lesson that I can do things for myself and all I need is energy, some smarts and a willingness to work hard.  Even though as a child, I bent a lot of nails trying to learn how to swing a hammer or dripped on the floor learning to paint, my parents allowed me to do that and were proud of me that I tried to do my best regardless of the outcome.  These experiences have helped me through life a great deal, which I also used when trying to be a father to Mattie. 

Vicki and I always tried to involve Mattie in projects even if it meant less efficiency, more time, or non-perfect results, because one of the goals of the project was to have Mattie experiment and learn.  Our parents are our greatest teachers and are the ones who can have the most influence on as children.  I believe that if we take the time to involve our children in what we do, no matter what the task or project or activity, they will learn a great many things, but particularly, they will have self-confidence, which is absolutely necessary in this world as well as a mentality that they too can do things for themselves (another important skill).

So, with that I will close for tonight.  Thanks for you patience and tolerance.  I know I am not Vicki (no one could ever be), but have no fear, she will return tomorrow and we'll all get our blog fix once again.

October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007, at one of the Fall festivals held at a local farm. Honestly I can't recall which farm, but I can assure you each weekend in the Fall, we visited a different farm, so that Mattie could get pumpkins, run around, and have fun on slides. In this particular picture, take notice of the structure Peter and Mattie were walking through. Mattie and I got a kick out of the fact that there was a fake rib cage coming out of the ground. I had them walk through the bones, as I snapped a picture! This picture still makes me laugh. We had visited many Fall festivals, but never saw a sight like this. I think it was an entertaining way to get people to form a line, as they waited to go down a long slide. A slide Mattie also enjoyed!  As my readers know, Mattie was an only child. I am sure this sounds ridiculous to those parents raising more than one child, but I assure you raising an only child has its own complexities and challenges. I am sure on the surface it would appear that there is less to balance and juggle. Perhaps, but keep in mind that there are no built in play networks and therefore as a parent you really do have to serve very intense and focused roles. For all intensive purposes, Peter and I were Mattie's playmates, and for those of you who knew Mattie, then you know he could play, play, and then play some more. He had an abundance of energy and even when he was well, he wanted my undivided attention. While raising Mattie there were days I was simply exhausted, pondered whether I was doing a good job, and wondered how I could balance things better. However, based upon our circumstances, I am happy that I spent ALL the time I did with Mattie. Our intense connection was clearly established for a reason, since we had to fit a lifetime together in only SEVEN short years. 

Quote of the day: There are many tears in the heart that never reach the eyes. ~ unknown

Tonight's quote is quite profound. Grief is not necessarily something you see! Crying doesn't always occur. Do not misinterpret the lack of tears, in a griever, with feeling better, moving on (a terminology I ABSOLUTELY despise, it is on par with the NEW NORMAL!), or forgetting about the departed loved one. I certainly can't speak for every person dealing with grief. I can only shed light on my own perspective, and that is, I carry my grief very close to the heart. I feel it, it has affected how I see things, how I take in my world around me, and how I feel about the future and life in general. My hunch is those who interact with me are most likely unable to tell the profound change I feel internally, unless I tell you about it. Grief is almost like a state of mind, a state that alters one's chemistry. Therefore I look at this quote in this way...... I carry grief with me each and every day. In the times when grief does make it to my eyes, then for me this means I am on overload. As if the grief has swelled up inside of me, and in that moment the only way to prevent internal drowning is to cry.

Over the course of this last year, I have had many people talk to me about my openness to share my grief experience on the blog. Naturally as I tell you on occasion, I share about 75 to 80 percent of how I am feeling and doing on the blog. Other aspects that I view as too personal or inappropriate, I refrain from writing about. I find that those going through the grief process like the blog because I am candid and by airing certain feelings and thoughts this normalizes the process for you. You feel less alone, knowing that someone else out there understands and feels the same way at times. However, for those who read the blog, who haven't experienced a significant loss in your lives yet, I find you simply thank me. You thank me for helping you understand loss, and for arming you with certain words to help and support friends and family members who have suffered a loss. In a way, helping someone grieve is like learning a new language or being introduced to a new culture. Naturally just like ANY culture, there are individual nuisances, and so understanding these subtleties is crucial. Case in point, even though Peter and I lost Mattie, we do not grieve in the same way.

This afternoon, I went out to lunch with my parents. We went to a restaurant I hadn't been to in a long while. In fact, I reflected with my parents about the time I went to this restaurant with several of my friends from college. My college roommate, Leslie, was going to be married, and I was her maid of honor. To celebrate her engagement, I had Leslie and all of her bridesmaids come to California and stay at my parent's house. We had a fun week of touring around and eating in some wonderful restaurants. In fact, that is a week I won't forget. We all seemed happy back then and life seemed simpler. Eating at this restaurant reminded me of that captured moment in time. In fact, I even remember the beautiful roses on our table that night. They caught my attention because we were the only table in the restaurant to have such a display.

I have started the packing process and will return to Washington, DC tomorrow. I arrive after 10pm, so it will be a full day of travel for me. As some of you know, I really do not like flying, and as my colleague and friend, Susan, has said to me on numerous occasions, I just need to visualize angels flying underneath the wings of my plane. In essence they are carrying the plane on their wings. Some times the plane gets too heavy, so angels need to take shifts, and as they transfer the plane from one group of wings to another, I may feel turbulence. It is a wonderful visualization!

Peter wrote to me tonight and alerted me to the fact that there is a full moon out. Which of course reminds us of Mattie. In his message he wanted me to know that Mattie was most likely going to be flying with me tomorrow in spirit. Or as Peter tells me, Mattie is never too far away from me in any given day. Well specifically Peter would say, "The Momma Lover is NEVER too far away from the Momma." My mom saw the moon through the window tonight and called me over. We both went outside and I snapped a picture of Mattie Moon in Los Angeles!

I received a lovely message this morning from Karen's mom. As many of you know, Karen is my lifetime friend, and we met each other when we were in sixth grade. Like Karen, her mom, Naomi, reads the blog each and everyday. Her note to me was very touching, and just when I think perhaps what I am writing is NO longer of interest or value, I get a message like this that gets me to stop, reflect, and to accept the  beauty within the message and my role in the lives of others. Thanks Mrs. Fischer! Naomi wrote, "As you know I follow your blog daily and am always moved, impressed and enriched by what you have to say. In it you reveal how you and Peter are making your life without Mattie worthwhile and important-- not only to yourselves but to everyone who knows you and especially to the children and their families who are struggling against cancer. You have both grown stronger and more dedicated and it seems to me more connected. I know you both are in extreme pain, but it is amazing how you rise above it! I am truly grateful that you share your experiences with us. I loved the tours of the Caribbean and Sedona you took us on-- but the photos and notes of the paintings from the Simon Museum were so fabulous, they spurred me to write. It seems that you cannot help but share your insights and appreciation of the world around you. It is a valuable gift you give your faithful blog readers. Most important, I believe you gave this same gift to Mattie. Over time, in your loving daily pictures of him we see the variety of experiences he had in his short life (way more than most of our children had), a wealth of interesting and enjoyable activities and sights. Picture after picture shows you all at every kind of farm, park, beach, museum-- in Florida, California, Maryland, Massachusetts-- looking at flowers, birds, shells, planes. And what enthralled you, I am sure, was enthusiastically imparted to him with much love and caring. You enriched him as you enrich us all. And I fervently hope you and Peter are aware of how much this helped develop Mattie into such an interesting, interested and creative kid. In between these lines please read that I hope that you keep the blog going for as long as you can. It is a powerful document and documentary...and I want to read how you will take on the medical profession."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken at the same farm featured in last night's picture, Butler's Orchard in Maryland. It was October of 2007, and as you can see Mattie loved the hay loft. He loved jumping, throwing, rolling, and having a good time in the hay. I remember snapping this picture, and it seems like only yesterday. Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays in general, but since Mattie's death, Halloween only reminds me of what is missing in our lives. The holiday is about children, seeing them pick out and wear costumes, and naturally go around collecting candy. Mattie's last Halloween (2008) was quite memorable. He went trick or treating at the Hospital and also spent the day with his good preschool buddy, Zachary. My goal is to try to find some of these photos for you and display them on the blog next week. Nonetheless, it is hard to even imagine that this will be our second Halloween without Mattie.

Quote of the day: A million times we've missed you, a million times we've cried. If love could have saved you, you never would have died. Things we feel most deeply, are the hardest things to say, our dearest one, we have loved you in a very special way. ~ unknown

I have not seen the sun in Los Angeles since last Friday. It was another rainy and gloomy day here, and after a week of this weather, I can certainly say it has impacted my mood. My understanding is the sun won't be coming back out until I leave. What are the chances of going to the Golden State without seeing the sun? Well actually the chances are high, and I know this fortunately from living here during my high school years.

My mom and I spent the day shopping together and jumping from one store to the other. One of the stores we went into was Michael's. I am working on another craft project and sometimes meandering through a craft store gives me ideas. My mom enjoyed this too and we brainstormed some interesting ways of putting some materials together. However, she did notice all the wonderful art supplies and other fun hands on activities in the aisles that Mattie would have loved if he were alive. It is hard to go through stores and see things Mattie would have liked or been drawn to, and yet be unable to buy them for him. It took me many months to learn and accept that it is okay to buy things for myself now. I was so conditioned as a mom to buy things for Mattie when I went shopping. Over time, I have given myself permission to buy items for myself. It still doesn't come easy to me, since in the back of my mind, I can hear myself saying, why am I buying this? I don't need this, no one is going to care if I have something new or not. In many ways, for Peter and I our world and life stopped on September 8, 2009, and it is very hard to enter back into the real world (a world that doesn't always understand the reality we face internally!).

My mom, dad, and I took a muffin break today. We stopped at a store and I ordered a pumpkin muffin. The irony is prior to having Mattie, I did not care for pumpkin muffins, or anything pumpkin. However, once he came along I started baking and trying to include vegetables into things (with Mattie it was all about concealing items initially in his food, and over time he became a fabulous vegetable eater!!!). So as I ate my muffin today, I thought about Mattie and all the times we made muffins together.

I connected with Peter by phone several times today. Peter went out with a friend of a colleague's last night. The man in question has a daughter who has terminal brain cancer, and she is only four years old. I admire the fact that Peter meets with this dad on a regular basis and tries to be a sounding board for him. Peter listens, offers support, and provides no judgement in his statements. This is quite an important and yet hard thing to do, because we do not all react or manage pediatric cancer the same way. I have a feeling Peter is motivated to help this dad, because he understands how difficult it is for men to find emotional outlets to discuss their child's cancer. The only problem with this of course is that Peter too is facing his own issues with pediatric cancer and sometimes it is hard to support someone else, when you need support yourself. However, I was proud of Peter's commitment to help this dad, and also impressed by his insights that he shared with me. I do believe that in helping others, a great deal of satisfaction results, and I also feel that hearing how others are handling cancer and the pending loss of life enables us to feel less isolated in our own situation.

I had the opportunity to have dinner tonight with my parents and one of my dad's colleagues, John. I met John when I was in high school, so we go back a long ways. John lives in England, but each time he is here on business he reconnects with my parents. We had a delightful dinner and I enjoyed hearing about many of the countries John has visited on his business travels. On our way home from dinner, I captured this sight in my parent's neighborhood. I actually saw this Halloween sighting on a previous night, and I found it so SPOOKY! So much so that I had my dad stop the car tonight so I could photograph it. Frankly even the picture doesn't do this house justice. There are hundreds of jack-o-lanterns around the house, and I lost track of the number glowing from inside the living room window. If this doesn't scream out........ HALLOWEEN to you, I don't know what would!!!!!

October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007. I snapped it in the middle of a pumpkin patch at Butler's Orchard in Maryland. This is a farm we would take Mattie to each October! He loved pumpkin picking, riding tractors, and playing in hay. I know my readers have seen this picture multiple times, but it is one of my favorite photos of Mattie, and I can't think of a better picture to capture the Fall. What I love about this picture is Mattie looks healthy and happy. In fact, prior to kindergarten Mattie really looked fragile and quite skinny. However, from ages five to six, Mattie was beginning to fill out and had this wonderful pink glow to his cheeks. It is hard to believe that underneath this healthy glow, his body was slowly being taken over by cancer. As Peter kids me all the time, it is apparently easy to tell which photos of Mattie were taken by me versus Peter. Peter claims that Mattie smiled or beamed when I was the photographer. I am not sure I agree with this assessment but Peter always gets me to laugh about this!

Quote of the day: Give sorrow words. ~ William Shakespeare

My parents and I visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. I have driven passed this museum many times, and have always heard wonderful things about it, but until today, I had never been inside of it. The museum was named after Norton Simon, a distinguished entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist, who also contributed to the development of this fine museum. In 1972, Norton Simon was quoted as saying ,"One of the most profound means of human communication is the visual arts. By establishing a meaningful dialogue between an artist's vision of the world and our own perceptions, art can help us to understand ourselves more fully. Moreover, art at its finest gives us a deep sense of history, tradition, and the true potentialities of man's creativity. In today's world where often scientific development is regarded as the highest goal and where the individual frequently feels alienated from himself and those around him, the role of art becomes increasingly important in keeping open the lines of communication."

The Norton Simon is a small and intimate museum, and true to Simon's vision. The museum has done a wonderful job at capturing the human condition through art. We toured through the 19th and 20th century wings and naturally spent a great deal of time with my true interests, the Impressionists! What I love about Impressionists is that they depicted and created art based on their perspective and in many cases their feelings. Impressionist art isn't exact, instead it is a marvelous expression of imagination and creativity! What I observed at this museum was the pieces selected all seemed to have a story attached to them.... a story which helps the viewer understand the circumstances in an artist's life. Such circumstances (e.g., a death of a loved one, financial hardship, illness, etc...) that influence, explain, and provide insights into the art before our eyes. Below is a sampling of some of the wonderful pieces we saw today.

Portrait of a Peasant (1888) by Vincent van Gogh 

He moved from Paris to Arles, in the South of France, to escape what he saw as the decadence of urban living in the French capital. He moved to improve his health and to return to a world less cluttered by corruption and selfishness. His move also facilitated his return to the painting of peasant life. Unlike earlier peasant portraits, this one used a spectacular range of pulsating and vibrant colors, colors which were used to express the intensification of the subject's character.

The Mulberry Tree (1899) by Vincent van Gogh

In May of 1899, van Gogh entered an asylum. He experienced a breakdown the previous December in which he severed his left earlobe. This incident left him suffering from periodic attacks of epilepsy. Between attacks, he painted this exquisite painting. The thick, curling paint used to depict autumn colored leaves lends the tree a sculptural quality, particularly against the more thinly painted, evenly brushed background. Eight months after the completion of this painting, van Gogh completed the act of suicide.  

The Artist's Garden at Vetheuil (1881) by Claude Monet

Monet painted this particular work as he was recovering from several tragedies in his life. One of the tragedies was the death of his wife, Camille, during the birth of their second son. It seems to me that this painting is a magnificent illustration of the therapeutic nature of art. Broad strokes of blues, violets, creams, and whites delineate the large swaths of sky, house, and garden path, while energetic dapples of greens, reds, and yellows brilliantly define the abundant green foliage and the profusion of sunflowers in full bloom.


The next piece illustrates pentimento. Some of you may recall that I went to a cafe yesterday by this very name. I did not know what this artistic term meant until I looked it up yesterday. It means an alteration of a painting, and van Gogh's Winter is an excellent example of pentimento!

Winter (The Vicarage Garden Under Snow, 1885)  Vincent van Gogh took an interest in painting peasants and laborers, which alienated him from his middle class community. van Gogh turned to these local characters as his subject matter, depicting them at work in the fields and at their spinning wheels and looms. In fact when this painting was x-rayed, it revealed the composition of a woman sitting at a spinning wheel (see the photo on the left). It wasn't clear if van Gogh ran out of resources to complete this work or he was simply dissatisfied. However, he literally painted right over this woman and captured this laborer tending to the garden of a vicarage (where he lived; the photo below). van Gogh wrote a letter to his brother which expressed his views on the parallels between peasant life and bleak landscape. He said, "the life and death of peasants remain forever the same, withering regularly, like the grass and flowers growing in that churchyard."
Needless to say, van Gogh was a deeply feeling person, as evidenced through his writings and paintings!

In a Villa at the Seaside (1874) by Berthe Morisot

Morisot was considered one of the most dedicated impressionists of her time. She displayed her works at 7 out of the 8 exhibitions in Europe, which in those days was unheard of for women! Many of her works featured women, children, and domestic life as her subject matter.

View at Berneval (1900) by Camille Pissarro

Pissarro painted this seaside resort community in Normandy, where he and many other French artists retreated. This painting caught my attention because of the soothing colors and the view of the sea. It was the kind of painting that made you wish you could jump right into the scene and experience it first hand.

Leaf in the Wind (1963) by Agnes Martin

It is said that this piece elicits private contemplation! I don't know, frankly I am pretty sure if you gave me a canvas, a pencil, and a ruler, I too could achieve this same look, and I wouldn't even charge you admission to see it!

The Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1838; born in Toyko, Japan) (Only 1 of the 53 stations is posted here!)

The Tokaido Road or Eastern Sea route connected Edo, the newly established center of power, and Kyoto, the traditional imperial capital of Japan. The route had 53 stopping stations, allowing weary travellers and their horses a place to rest and have a meal. Feudal lords were required to live in Edo every other year, therefore they would travel along the Tokaido in large processions. Hiroshige's series provides a visual journey along this celebrated highway. 

I had the opportunity to go out to lunch and dinner with my parents today, and we chatted about all sorts of things. Being in the same physical location enables us to connect in an important way. Losing Mattie has impacted our entire family, and time together helps us all renew our energies and feelings together.

October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 -- Mattie died 58 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007. We took Mattie to a fall festival, in which there was a slide surrounded by hay. I remember when Mattie was much smaller, and he first saw these slides. He was scared and did not want to even try them. However, with each successive year he became more adventuresome, and began to slide down these slides in Peter's lap. As you can see by age 5, Mattie was an independent fellow, and loved the thrill of it all. Despite his independence though, he always kept track of Peter and I, and made sure he could always see me and I could see him. I was the one running around with the camera, so I was hard to miss!

Quote of the day: Sweet miracle, to see how the largest burdens are carried by the smallest children. ~ Ardith James

Tonight's quote is dedicated to Mattie and all the brave and courageous children fighting cancer each and every day! I am in awe of their strength, their ability to love, laugh, and be children in the face of such adversity! On the 58th week of Mattie's passing, this quote seems most appropriate.

It was another cool and rainy day in Los Angeles. My mom and I decided to spend the day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). While going to high school in Los Angeles, I gained a great appreciation for LACMA. I loved my high school art teacher and she took us on many art excursions to LACMA and other fine museums. My mom and I decided to see Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915. This exhibit celebrates the museum's groundbreaking acquisition of a major collection of European men's, women's, and children's garments and accessories. The exhibition tells the story of fashion's aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. It examines sweeping changes in fashionable dress spanning a period of over two hundred years, and evolutions in luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings.

We spent several hours touring this exhibit and read each description and chatted about what we saw. I would like to share some highlights with you!

The French Style Gown (named for its country of origin) - 1780's
This gown was worn only on formal occasions. I AM SURE YOU CAN IMAGINE WHY!!!!! This dress is shaped to fit the wide, rectangular hooped petticoat. The width of this dress extended over five feet!

The Empire Style Dress (1800's)
The French Revolution  revived and reinterpreted the fashions and hairstyles of ancient Greece and Rome, transforming the female silhouette. Under Napoleon, this dress style, with its thin muslin white sheaths, low necklines, short sleeves, and high waistlines was named the Empire style. A style that is still a classic today!

The Three Piece Suit from 1755!
The three piece suit emerged in the seventeenth century and quickly established itself as a male uniform for the ages. There were false waist coat cuffs protruding from the coat's sleeves to create the illusion that more of the richly textured velvet had been used.

The English Suit in 1825! The tailcoat, cut to the waist at the front and tapered into long tails at the back was inspired by English riding coats. Lightweight silk crepe pantaloons exhibited the natural lines of the lower body.

My mom and I noticed several things about the men's and little boy's outfits. Though I did not capture it in these pictures for you, many of the male outfits looked very feminine. Men wore bright colors such as pinks, purples, yellows, etc. In addition, many of the patterns in their clothes had floral prints. Also we noted that the societal norm for men back then featured, men who were slender, short in stature, and feet the size of a child's. Also many of the men's shoes had bows on them.

This is NOT a dress. This is what a woman was forced to wear under her dress to give her the correct body shape. This was around 1862. Clothes, over this time period, reflected either a concentration on a particular body part, or concealed aspects of the body, or in some cases, some of the clothes worn reflected a current political statement.

In this picture, this model is wearing a crinolette. A crinolette is a type of crinoline. A crinoline is a flexible steel wire armature to replace the bulk of having to wear several petticoats (imagine layer upon layer of petticoats under your dress, in order to get the desired shape and look?!). This lightweight steel skeleton allowed skirts to widen to excessive proportions. A crinolette is a crinoline with a bustle attached to it!

So note, she is wearing a chemise (a linen weave with cotton), a corset (around her waist, tied very tight), a crinoline, and a bustle! I can only imagine how much all this weighed much less felt like!

I love this before and after picture. The model on the right is wearing all the undergarments necessary to make the dress on the left fit her appropriately!

Tennis ANYONE???!!!!!! Yes this is a tennis outfit from 1885! This dress makes small concessions to the physical rigors of playing tennis. It is made of light weight, washable cotton, with an ankle length skirt and a deep pocket for holding tennis balls. This dress had a built in bustle, so a separate understructure wasn't needed.

A pair of women's stockings 1700 - 1725

The fashionable dresses obscured women's legs completely. Feet and ankles were charged with eroticism and contemporary accounts often convey a men's excitement when they caught a furtive glance. A peek at these stockings below the knee was said to be a titillating sight!

At the museum, we ate at a cafe called Pentimento. As I was staring at this name while eating, I asked my mom what it translated to or meant. We both weren't sure, so I whipped out my trusty blackberry and googled it. Pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word derives from the Italian pentirsi, meaning to repent. I should have figured the terminology applied to art, being at an art museum, but learning by doing is about one of my most favorite ways to take in information.

After lunch, my mom and I decided to walk through one more portion of the museum. While walking, we literally bumped into La Gerbe, one of Matisse's latest works (1953)!

Some of you may recall that I will be working with Donna, one of the  wonderful kindergarten teachers at Mattie's school this semester on a Matisse and Picasso three part series for the children. Though Donna was not Mattie's teacher, she has been incredibly supportive of Mattie and I during his battle and death. I naturally do not get the chance to work and educate young minds anymore, and I appreciate Donna giving me this opportunity. When I saw this Matisse "cut out" I stopped in my tracks. Mainly because I had NEVER seen a Matisse cut out, and I remember Mattie's head of the lower school, Magic Man (Bob Weiman), telling me about these masterpieces. Needless to say, this piece inspired me today, it got my mom and I talking about my three part series, and I later emailed Donna about the ideas generated. I learned tonight, after doing some research, why Matisse chose this art form later in his life. He chose it because he had CANCER and could no longer stand on his feet and work with paint brushes. Matisse's creativity and passion shows us that with age our talents only evolve, they DO NOT die.
In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and, following surgery, he started using a wheelchair. However, Matisse's extraordinary creativity was not be dampened for long. “Une seconde vie,” a second life, was what he called the last fourteen years of his life. Following an operation he found renewed  and unexpected energies. Vast in scale (though not always in size), lush and rigorous in color, his cutouts are among the most admired and influential works of Matisse's entire career. Matisse generally cut the shapes out freehand, using a small pair of scissors and saving both the item cut out and remaining scraps of paper. With the help of Lydia Delectorskaya (his assistant) he would arrange and rearrange the colored cutouts until he was completely satisfied that the results. It took two years to complete the twenty collages and, after years of trial and error, a practical and appropriate method was agreed upon for bringing the collages to life as two-dimensional works. After having cut of the shapes, the second part of the creative process entailed pinning the cut pieces of paper to the walls of his studio, which created a paradisaical, garden-like world of organic shapes that resembled algae, leaves, seaweed, and coral, shapes recalling patterns that appeared in many of Matisse's earliest works, which floated atop brilliantly colored grounds. When the desired balance of form and color was achieved, the finished composition was glued to some type of support such as paper, canvas, or board.

I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from Mattie's oncologist and our friend, Kristen. A friend who thinks of us each and every Tuesday! Kristen wrote, "I hope you enjoyed (and Vicki are continuing to enjoy) your trip out west. The pictures on the blog are amazing! usual, Vicki, you get us all thinking about what is truly important in life. What is the definition of "struggle", "courage", "importance", "sacrifice"? Today is Tuesday. Today I reflect on the two of you and Mattie and your journey. I think of you on this Tuesday and every day."

October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007.  Mattie and I took many pictures together on this tiny hill over the years. This hill is just outside a restaurant we took Mattie to in Rockville, MD. Mattie loved this particular restaurant because of the fish, turtles, and other interesting creatures that swam or surrounded the outdoor pond. Sometimes it is hard to look at these pictures and believe that Mattie is no longer with us. It simply doesn't make sense.

Quote of the day: An old monk was once asked why he cared for ancient graves, and why he cleaned the stones to preserve the writings carved there. His reply was simple: "They still have their names. They will always have their names." A life infused with love has consequences that reach beyond time - ensuring that names, and places, and memories of what was still are, and always will be. They are not dead, can never die. ~ Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe

Tonight's quote is very meaningful, because despite Mattie's physical presence being gone from this earth, his NAME will always be with us. His name is the centerpiece of our Foundation, and clearly Mattie's life was infused with love. Love from his family and love that branched out to Team Mattie and beyond. Mattie's name and Mattie's battle with cancer are permanently imprinted in the hearts and minds of all those touched by his life. On days when I wonder if I ever was a mom, if Mattie was a part of my life, or days when I simply have doubts, I just need to look at all the people in our lives who STILL remember and whose lives have been impacted by Mattie's cancer and death. Mattie's name lives on through all of us, and his courageous fight with osteosarcoma is something not to be forgotten.

Unfortunately we live in a world where children are stricken with cancer everyday, and they and their families are forced to battle the unthinkable. We learned this week that Bridget's (a friend of Mattie's, and a teen treated at the same hospital as Mattie) cancer has returned. Peter and I are so disheartened to hear this news and know the long battle she has already fought and will now once again have to endure. In addition, we also learned that Peter's colleague, whose daughter has brain cancer, is in the end stages of her life. She is ONLY 4! My head spins when I hear this news, because children are NOT supposed to develop life threatening illness, and most of all die before they even had a chance to live.

It was another cold and gloomy day in Los Angeles, but I went to the mall with my parents and my mom and I literally walked laps around the entire mall. Sometimes moving around makes me feel better, and certainly the rain isn't helping any of our moods. Over lunch we talked about American movies, of which I no longer have the patience or interest in seeing. I am very upset or perhaps disgusted by our society's priorities. Priorities which are only reflected in today's movies. Movies without plots, story development, meaningful characters, and moral values. I went on a diatribe at lunch about how our American movie and TV stars are grossly overpaid, and for what? After two hours in a theatre, is your life really transformed? Our society undervalues what is important, which are people like teachers, nurses, doctors, therapists (of all kinds..... mental health, speech, occupational, and physical) and let's NOT FORGET mothers! I find it incomprehensible that our children can be suffering with antiquated cancer treatments and even dying, and yet we are okay with the salaries we dole out to those we deem as "stars."

The movie topic came up because my parents took me to see a foreign film this afternoon. They know I am a harsh movie critic, so they wouldn't insist on taking me to a movie if they thought I was going to pan it! Today, I had the pleasure of seeing Mao's Last Dancer. This movie was incredible, and based on a true story. It was touching, educational, and the dancing captured the heart and eye! I included the trailer to the movie (below) in case you want to see it. But the quote used to advertise the movie is, "Before you dance, you have to be free!" So well stated about dancing and life in general.

MAO'S LAST DANCER is the epic story of a young poverty stricken boy from China and his inspirational journey to international stardom as a world-class dancer.The story begins when a young Li is taken from his peasant home by the Chinese government and chosen to study ballet in Beijing.  Separated from his family and enduring countless hours of practice, Li struggles to find his place in the new life he has been given.  Gaining confidence from a kind teacher's encouraging guidance and a chance trip to America, Li finally discovers that his passion has always been dance.  MAO'S LAST DANCER weaves a moving tale about the quest for freedom and the courage it takes to live your own life.  The film poignantly captures the struggles, triumphs and the intoxicating effects of first love and celebrity amid the pain of exile.

In addition, to the dancing, which I LOVED, the cultural aspects of this story fascinated me. The movie did an excellent job at giving us a snapshot into life in communist China. A life that most of us growing up in America can't appreciate. We can't relate to having NO freedoms or our government dictating our careers, our thoughts, and how we live our lives. When this young 18 year old dancer from China comes to America in the movie for a three month internship at the Houston Ballet, you can see the cultural struggles he faces. Because, how can he be true to his traditional culture, and yet develop independence, his own thoughts, and the ability to make decisions for himself? We were able to watch this all unfold on the screen, in a very poignant and touching manner. I left the theatre today saying, US movie producers and directors could learn a lot from their Australian and English counterparts.

Movie Trailer to Mao's Last Dancer:

After the movie we went out to dinner. While eating, there was a family sitting across from us with two boys. As I was watching them eating, I couldn't help but think of Mattie and the fact that when Peter and I sit at a dinner table, we no longer look like this family. Our family has been shattered. On a more humorous note, I opened my fortune after dinner and it read.... "You are humorous and cheerful with good friends." I laughed at this fortune because I asked my parents if this meant..... I am humorous and cheerful when I am in the company of good friends, or does this mean I am humorous and cheerful, and I also have good friends!? As you can see, nothing is ever simple with me, not even a fortune!

October 17, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the PICU recovering from his limb salvaging surgery. I recall this day like it were yesterday. It was a Friday, and the Georgetown University Chemistry Club came to do an experiment with the children in the units. The experiment that day involved taking a fresh cut rose, dipping into a dry ice solution, and then seeing what would happen to the rose if it were then dropped on the floor. What happened was fascinating, because after the rose came out of the dry ice solution, it was frozen solid, and when dropped on the floor, it broke like a piece of glass. Each child that day was given a rose, and had the opportunity to dip it into the solution. Mattie refused to do this to his rose. He instead preferred to hold it and smell it, though he was thoroughly entertained watching roses break all over the floor. Mattie's preschool teacher, and our friend, Margaret was visiting us that day. Margaret snapped this charming picture, and in my opinion captured two beauties at one time.... the rose and Mattie.

Quote of the day: All the darkness in the world can not extinguish the light of a single candle. ~ Maria Gautier

Peter returned safely to Washington, DC and I am happy to report that Patches, our cat, is home and enjoying her one on one time with Peter. While we were in the Grand Canyon we received a call from Patches' vet. The vet was very concerned about her because she was refusing to eat and drink, and was becoming dehydrated. Needless to say, while we were gone, Patches spent several days in the kitty ICU unit! However, like I suspected, Patches issues were mental (at least this time!), and not a sign of her physical decline (since she has been diagnosed already with kidney failure). The vet and I argue about Patches food intake all the time. The vet wants Patches on a prescription diet that will be easier on her kidneys. I logically agree with the vet, but Patches dislikes this food! In my book it is better that she eats something than nothing at all! I have tried to tell the vet this, but she thought she could get Patches to eat this stuff while we were away. Well Patches showed her, and the conclusion is I basically know MY cat!

This afternoon, my parents and I went to see a Neil Simon play entitled, God's Favorite. God's Favorite is a modern day tale loosely based on the Book of Job (from the Bible). Joe Benjamin is a wealthy and respected businessman living with his family in suburban Long Island. God and Satan make a bet and God puts his trust in Joe to keep his faith. One night a messenger from God, Sidney Lipton (with a big G on his sweatshirt) arrives, and, as in the biblical story, goes through all manners of temptation to get Joe Benjamin to renounce God. When he refuses, he is visited by all the afflictions imaginable (physical illness, his house burns, his wife wants to leave him, and his eldest son becomes blind). Joe stands firm and the messenger has to admit defeat.

Neil Simon is quoted in the playbill by saying, "If you can go through life without experiencing pain you probably haven't been born yet." That quote caught my attention, because I share his sentiments wholeheartedly. In fact, if you dig deep into the lives of most people, you will find that they have lived through some sort of hardship, experience, or issue. There is more to most of us than what others see on the surface. We all have a story to tell, which is what makes human connections so meaningful and rich. I find it fascinating that this play was written in 1973 during a rough time in Simon's personal life, after the death of his wife. In fact, after experiencing and surviving the death of a loved one, it is not unusual to question one's belief in God. God's Favorite is a play that forces one to examine one's belief system. Do you love God only when things are working out for you and going your way? What happens when you are put through one of life's tests, if bad things happen to you, do you still love God? In essence the story is asking how deep is your faith? Is your faith conditional? All great spiritual questions, that are hard to grapple with after facing the death of someone close to you. These are questions I ask myself often.... why me? Why were Peter and I tested in this way? Can God be merciful if he allows children to develop life threatening diseases and suffer through cancer treatment? I would love to believe that we experienced this horrific event for a purpose, but some days, I do not get life's purpose or plan at ALL! As Simon says in the play, God gives us things, and God can take them away. Don't I know that the hard way!?

It has been raining in Los Angeles for two days. In addition to rain, everything was covered in a dense fog today. We are so happy that we did not experience this lovely weather while in the Grand Canyon or Sedona. I still am remembering those beautiful Red Rocks quite fondly!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the PICU, and this was clearly before his first limb salvaging surgery. You can see an ocean scene before Mattie. He had been working on this project for days in the Childlife Playroom of the Hospital. First Mattie painted the backdrop for the ocean scene, and then each day he created an ocean creature out of model magic and added it to the set. Mattie even recruited Brandon, his big buddy, to design and to create ocean creatures. Naturally with Mattie NO scene was complete without cars. So in his ocean scene, he built a bridge out of popsicle sticks and model magic, and added cars to the bridge. Mattie played with this ocean scene for days, and in fact, other children also joined in and I recall many of Mattie's nurses and the childlife staff simply fascinated and amazed by Mattie's creativity! What it came down to, was art projects were therapeutic for Mattie, they helped him at times reflect on how he was feeling, and other times, they were a marvelous distraction that gave him the opportunity to escape from his daily reality. Some days Mattie did not want to talk, he did not even want to hear noise! On those days, thankfully, we always had art as our outlet.

Quote of the day: Most people do not know how brave they really are. ~ R. E. Chambers

Though we are in Los Angeles, clear across the country from Washington, DC, we were quite aware that Mattie's school hosted its annual fall festival today. This festival is bittersweet for us. It is packed with positive memories and unfortunately very painful ones. Mattie attended his school's fall festival in October of 2007. I will never forget that day. Within one month's time (since Mattie just entered this school community in September of 2007), Mattie already made some very solid friendships. At the Festival, he ran around with this friends, got his face painted, and went on many different moon bounces. He was a child that seemed happy, healthy, and with a bright future ahead of him. In the summer of 2008, the president of the Association for Parents and Teachers at the school asked me if I would head up the coordination of the 2008 Fall Festival. I found that a daunting task to accept based on the other professional things I was juggling, but I agreed to this challenge, since I respected the president and naturally am a big proponent of supporting Mattie's school. Then of course, Mattie was diagnosed with cancer in July of 2008, and I unfortunately realized Mattie wasn't going to be able to attend school and I could no longer plan a fall festival. Thankfully for good friends, Christine (Campbell's mom) took my place and coordinated a wonderful festival two years in a row. So when I reflect on the Fall Festival, what jumps out in my mind is Mattie's cancer. To compound this loss, Ann's dad died two days after last year's fall festival. This is another death that I won't be forgetting any time soon, so unfortunately a day which should be connected with fun and happiness is instead clouded with feelings of sadness, intense loss, and an ache for what should never have happened (Mattie dying from cancer).

We spent a good portion of the day at my parent's house. We were all still weary from our very active week away, and not to mention the 9 hour car ride home yesterday. So staying still today seemed to be the right thing to do. It was also a cool and rainy day in Los Angeles, and this only seemed to accentuate my tired feeling. Peter helped my parents today with some of the issues they were having on their computers. While working with them, my mom showed Peter and I some wonderful photos she had taken of Mattie over the years. They were truly very special to see and yet painful at the same time. Seeing pictures almost floods my mind and heart with the loss of Mattie. Not that I don't feel this loss everyday, I do, but this visual cue almost forces me back to the harsh reality of what I am missing. I am sharing four pictures with you tonight that capture the many wonderful sides of Mattie.

This picture is PRICELESS and I frankly do not even remember my mom taking it! We were in the parking lot of Mattie's favorite restaurant. I recall we just finished lunch and my mom wanted to take a picture of the three of us. Mattie did NOT care for this idea, and refused to be in the picture. Little did he know that my mom caught him on camera. You can see Mattie peeking from behind a tree watching the process. He did not want to be a part of the picture, but he also did not want to disengage from what was happening altogether. Mattie always approached things on HIS own terms, not someone else's!

This is a picture of Mattie at his favorite restaurant. I love this picture because it captures Mattie's bright eyes! Looking into Mattie's eyes, you can see his life, his need for intellectual challenge, and his energy! I learned from an early age with Mattie, that I could NEVER travel anywhere without a bag full of things to keep him busy. I always had a bag of tricks filled with toy cars, Legos, puzzles, and coloring books (his LEAST favorite thing to do!). I can assure you that I needed every item to entertain Mattie at a restaurant. When I would be out with Mattie, I always was in awe of moms who did not have to bring half the house with them to keep their children stimulated. Over time, however, I began to accept that this was just who Mattie was, and to embrace his energy and need for stimulation. But I did not accept this easily at first because this meant that I too had to be always on and engaged. It was through our years together that I became Mattie's closest play companion, and like any good companion, when he is gone, you deeply miss this connection.

We took my mom for a walk on Roosevelt Island during one of her visits. Mattie and Peter were always about adventure and exploring things off the pathways. My mom and I stayed on the boardwalk, while Peter and Mattie started walking into the woods and checking out things around them. As they were walking back to rejoin us on the pathway, my mom captured these two buddies together.

This is another picture I do not remember AT ALL! However, when I saw it today, I could feel my heart ache. My mom was able to capture through this photo a habit of Mattie's. The habit was to hug me around the neck and rub cheeks. I miss those sweet cheeks and the softness of his skin. Also take note of the tinker toy structure behind me. Mattie was a builder and a creator and our living room floor always had a project underway on it, which is most likely why this is my least favorite part of our home now.

We drove Peter to the airport tonight, and as we were driving, Peter squeezed my hand and pointed out the window. I looked outside the back window and I saw Travel Town in Griffith Park. Travel Town is an incredible place, filled with train cars from various eras. The beauty of this park is that children can run around, jump on and off the trains, touch the trains, and appreciate the beauty of this form of transportation. Mattie LOVED this park, and each time he visited LA, he wanted to go back. Naturally when I saw the trains, I visually could feel Mattie's presence there, and then unfortunately had to face, yet again, the fact that he is no longer part of my life.   

Looking at pictures today, and seeing Travel Town definitely evoked various emotions. However, whether I have these physical cues or not, Mattie's loss is deeply ingrained in my body. I know that trauma research indicates how such an event can change the chemistry and composition of the brain, and I most definitely feel this is true for grief as well. Mattie's death has affected every part of me, I can't scientifically back up what I am saying, but this loss has been integrated within each of my cells. I know how I physically feel from surviving cancer and Mattie's death, and perhaps seeing pictures and reliving special places Mattie has been to, only heightens the biological responses I now have to Mattie's death.