Open Eyes

How many times do we look at a person and not actually see them? How many times do we view a picture and not know the real story behind it? There is far too much meaning in this world to take things as what they first appear.

I sat in on a Play Therapy class last night and watched a clip of a session in which a child was given a doll with no eyes to play with. The child immediately began aggresively repeating the phrase, “Open eyes, open eyes!” at the therapist and was begging for crayons to draw “open eyes” on the doll. To me this can mean a few different things. The obvious is that the child is used to seeing dolls and human beings with eyes, so one without them probably scares him a little bit and makes him feel uneasy. (There is meaning behind why children are given blank dolls during play therapy, but that would be a whole other story). Another observation could be that for children, the eyes are a very important form of communication. For infants this can be seen as true because they do not yet understand the meaning of words and so the way someone looks at them can significantly impact their level of comfort with that person. This can also hold true for toddlers, especially those in hospitals, who grow up interacting with people whose mouths are covered by masks all day long. Smiles are an easy way to reassure a child and make them feel at ease, so without them, the eyes must be used to convey this feeling. We all make fun of Tyra Banks for the number of times she tells the girls on America’s Next Top Model to “smile with your eyes,” but this is, in fact, a very important concept to learn when working with children. The child in the video clip clearly wanted to see “open eyes” in order to make the doll feel more human and more welcoming for him to play with. But, can we look at this outburst in a different way? Maybe this child was trying to tell us something? Keep your eyes open. And not in the sense that they’re physically open, but in the sense that when they are open, they are actually seeing. If we fail to look deeper into the meaning of the photographs we see, the people we meet, the stories we hear, then we are living like the faceless doll that this child was so afraid of. Don’t allow yourself to be blind when you have the ability to open your eyes.

The other day I stumbled upon a website with a list of ten famous pictures throughout history. At first glance, the photographs are impactful and it is easy to observe the obvious emotions of pain in the eyes of a hungry mother or joy in the leap of a daughter into her father’s arms upon his return home. But, after reading the descriptions that are provided with the photos and learning the true meaning behind them, your eyes will be opened to an entirely new perspective. Check it out. You will be shocked by what you find when you have the knowledge to clothe your naked eye:

Handprints on Heart Palpitations

She stays up all night and sleeps all day. Her appearance in a room makes everyone smile. Beeping and buzzing fill her ears as she bumps into others in crowded, chaotic hallways. She barely has time to eat because she is running around from place to place, meeting new people. Holding back hair while watching someone vomit is one of her specialties. No, she is not a celebrity, attending fabulous parties, making appearances and partying into the wee hours of the night. The buzzing she hears isn’t a result of leaving a loud club after bumping hips with socialites all evening, and the hair she’s holding back is not that of a friend who indulged themself in one too many vodka-sodas. When she walks into a room, she brings smiles to faces, but not because she is being paid to make an appearance and sign autographs, or is dressed to make boys ogle, in sky-high Louboutin heels. She is a nurse. And, she works at one of the most undervalued professions in our society. Kim Kardashian gets paid millions of dollars a year just to bring her big booty to special events, and yet there are people out there who work overnight, knowing far too well the weight of heavy eyelids, in order to help patients feel safe and comfortable, and they get nowhere near the credit they deserve. These are the people sacrificing their Saturday nights to change a ninety-year-old’s diaper or tend to an infant who has been screaming in pain for days. Quiet time, or downtime in general for that matter, is a rarity for them and they often spend entire days sprinting from room to room without even getting the chance to take care of their own needs and eat dinner. I’ve had nurses tell me they’ve spent entire shifts “holding it” because there just wasn’t time to take a bathroom break. Now that’s what I call selflessness. Moreover, they spend holidays away from their own families in an effort to help others recover and get back to theirs more quickly.

Working in the hospital, I have seen firsthand the effect these incredible people have on their patients. Although some of the kids I work with aren’t too thrilled to see a nurse come in to give them a shot or take their vitals for the third time that day, there is a special, unspoken bond between a nurse and its patient that cannot be overlooked. Not to mention, it is the nurses who spend the most time with the patients, getting to know their needs and doing everything they can to make them feel as comfortable as possible despite their circumstances. Not only that, but they are equipped with the knowledge and training to help them save lives, which is something they do every single day. They are the first ones there when a code occurs and know exactly what to do, which takes an immense amount of courage and mental clarity. And do they ask for anything in return for all of this? No. They make these sacrifices and bust their butts for four-plus years of intensive schooling just so that they may help people live better lives. I am blown away by the altruistic mentality of the nurse. They are truly an inspiration for all of us and deserve so much more credit than they get. Without them, our hospitals would be cold and hopeless, innumerous lives would be lost and even the simplest procedures would be dreaded by all. So, thank you. Thank you for missing a friend’s birthday party to tend to a little one who just had surgery and needs, more than anything, that laugh you give them when you visit their room. Thank you for sacrificing a trip to a baseball game on a beautiful day to be inside, caring for those who cannot be outside in the fresh air and may never feel the warmth of the sun on their backs again. You are their sunshine. Thank your for your intelligent minds and huge hearts. You have touched the lives of so many people and continue to make your mark on the world’s story simply by giving so many more individual stories the chance at a happy ending.

Happy Birthday Rachel! You are an amazing person and I have a world of respect for you and everyone else working in your field. You are an inspiration and deserve to be told every day how much of an impact you are making on the lives of others. I am so proud of the person you are and so lucky to be friends with someone like you. I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing birthday and go back to work knowing how much strength and peace you bring to each and every patient whose room you walk into. Love you.

A Page Marked in the World’s Story—Lessons from 9/11

In memory of 9/11, I want to share a piece by an anonymous author which remarks on the little things in life which help to shape our stories. Be thankful today more than ever for these things:

Lessons from 9/11: The ‘little’ Things

As you might know, the head of a major company survived the tragedy of “9/11” in New York because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One’s car wouldn’t start

One went back to answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled and didn’t get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn’t get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic…

miss an elevator…

turn back to answer a ringing telephone…

all the little things that annoy me…

I think to myself…

this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment.

The next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can’t seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light…don’t get mad or frustrated. God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless you with all those little annoying things–and may you remember and appreciate their possible purpose.

(Author Unknown)

For all those we lost, their families, friends, coworkers, dogs, neighbors, acquaintances…you are all in our thoughts today. May you find some peace knowing that there are thousands of people around you with stories of their own, who are here to support you. Today, more than ever, it is crucial to see the connection we all have to one another: offer compliments frequently, share smiles more often, and live your life because far too many people were robbed of that chance eleven years ago today. Also, be kind. The old woman you get stuck behind on the way to the grocery store may be missing that hand that used to hold her up and lead her down the crowded streets. Sure, she may be walking slowly, but will it really make a difference if you get into the deli line three minutes later than you had planned? She didn’t plan to lose her husband on this day eleven years ago. Offer her a hand with her bag or send a warm smile her way. She needs all the comforting she can get today. Is there a teenage boy kicking rocks onto the street in your neighborhood? Please don’t scold him. His mind is somewhere else. Maybe he is reminiscing about the first time he swung and hit a baseball off the plastic tee in his driveway and his dad lifted him off the ground in pure joy as if he had just won the World Series. Or, he could be wondering what it would be like to have a father to talk to about how to get up the nerve to ask the girl he likes to the next school dance. Either way, today is one rough day for him. They are just rocks. If they scrape your car, it is only a car. Let him be. Today is not the day to be a hall monitor.

Regardless of whether or not you lost someone close to you during the attacks of 9/11, this day stained its red ink all over not only our country’s, but our world’s story and therefore it can and should never be forgotten. It is a constant reminder of how much we are all connected and how important it is to join together in the fight to prevent the world’s story from ending in despair. It will not be a tragedy. We are all capable of compassion, generosity, kindness, gratitude. We all have strength, courage and perseverance in our veins. If you can’t find these qualities in yourself, look to those around you to help you. But, they all lie somewhere inside each and every one of us. The world is a beautiful place. Life is a precious gift. Treat it that way.

Always Remember 9/11.

Little Army Guy

When you think about kids you think about footsteps thumping through paved streets in order to catch the humming ice cream truck before it rounds the corner, squealing laughter projecting off the trees as a friend just misses tagging an arm during recess, macaroni necklaces, dirt cups, birthday parties, scraped knees with neon Band-Aids and bedtimes stories read cuddled up in bed. Unfortunately, not all children are lucky enough to enjoy these simple pleasures because they are confined to hospital rooms. Some may think this means that these kids are stronger than the ones who cry from a twig scratch on their arm so they don’t need things like Batman Band-Aids to make them happy, and in some cases this may be true, but the bottom line is they are still just kids. Kids who would give anything to jump out of their hospital beds and scamper out into the streets to exchange a fistful of quarters for a SpongeBob popsicle; kids who would love to feel the grass under their feet as they dodge classmates in a friendly recess game of tag; and kids who, more than anything, just want to be home, in their own beds, reading their own special books with their families.

 The other day at the hospital I had a little girl tell me, “I love everything in this world except for cancer, tumors…and vegetables.” That statement goes to show the struggle that goes on in the minds of pediatric cancer patients. They are living with such a horrible disease that it forces them to look at life from a different perspective and see and feel things that most kids their age may never even encounter. But, at the same time, they are still just kids who, indubitably so, hate vegetables. And I’m talking all vegetables. Mom tried to hide a potato under a pile of cheese for this little one and she was NOT having it. Bottom line is, kids are kids whether they have cancer or are perfectly healthy except for one small scrape on their knee. We should all learn from these children and never take for granted the little things in life. If you have children, embrace the days when little Amy uses her chubby legs to scamper away from you every time you put her down. You may be tired of chasing her around, but there are children out there who have learned by the age of two that sprinting away from their parents isn’t even an option for them because it will result in ripping the life-sustaining IV out of their chests, or getting tangled up in their “tubies.” If you don’t have kids, look back and reminisce about your favorite childhood memory. Perhaps it was going to a carnival, shooting hoops with your dad, making snow angels for hours after the first snow fall, or riding bikes to your neighbor’s house to play with their dog every day after school. Whatever it was, think about life without it. What if instead of playing Red Rover every day during recess, you were confined to a hospital bed and could only see the sunlight through a tiny window in the corner of your room? Unfortunately, this is what childhood is like for many kids battling cancer. It’s not fair. It sucks. This is why we need to learn to appreciate our lives and our stories, and use the stories of these little fighters to inspire us to help others out there who aren’t as lucky.

 One such story was highlighted in a song performed by Taylor Swift at last week’s “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon. I was happy to see so many celebrities join together to fight against the horrible disease that claims the lives of so many incredible people year in and year out. Swift’s song, “Ronan” was co-written with the mother of a child who died of Neuroblastoma after just four years of life. A picture of this child with giant sparkling blue eyes, flashed on the screen at the end of the performance and I just had to learn more about this boy’s story.

 His name was Ronan Thompson. He was and still is the light in the life of his parents and two older brothers. Mother, Maya, described him as “the missing piece to their family puzzle” and said “this spicy little spirit took over our world…(and) constantly made us laugh and love harder than we had ever done before.” Ronan’s family spent three blissful years with this little sparkplug before noticing a drooping eye in a family picture that was taken on an annual trip to Washington to visit his grandparents. Initially his pediatrician said it was nothing to worry about, but a mother’s instinct told Maya this was not the case and so she scrambled around looking for different doctors to examine her baby. Unfortunately it turned out she was correct in her concerns and something was, in fact, wrong with Ronan, very wrong. An MRI and CT scan showed a small mass above his eye and another in his abdomen. He was diagnosed with stage IV Neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid tumor cancer in children. (To learn more about Neuroblastoma and childhood cancer in general, visit The Ronan Thompson Foundation website at: Ronan used his incredible spirit to fight his cancer hard “like an army guy” (as Swift’s song relays), but unfortunately lost his battle in May of last year. His mother, Maya, along with other family members and supporters, continue to fight the war against childhood cancer by advocating to others through their foundation, The Ronan Thompson Foundation, as well as with other media outlets such as his blog, “Rockstar Ronan.” The mission statement of this blog which is written from the mother’s perspective with a voice that speaks to her “Ro baby” and to all those out there who want to listen, really stood out to me because it reminded me of why I started this blog. It says: “We want to change the world. We want to be the reason you wake up in the morning and make the most of your life. We want to be the reason that you stand up for yourself and don’t take no for an answer. We want to be the reason you are the best mommy, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt uncle, grandma, grandpa, or ROCKSTAR that you can possibly be. We want to be the reason you live your life to the fullest because that is how Ronan would have lived his. And he never got the chance. Which is f*king bullshit. You are here. You can do anything. So DO IT!” If you read through the blog you will discover just how impactful this little guy’s story can be on your life, regardless of whether or not you ever knew him, or any other child battling cancer for that matter. I am so glad that Taylor performed that song and I was able to read about his story and the dreams his mother has of changing the world in his honor. Ronan lived just four years of his life, but he was able to make his mark on our world’s universal story. His ink is smeared throughout the pages of his mother’s story and his mother is using it to form the words that will mark the pages of so many others out there fighting the same battle, as well as those who will be inspired to join in this fight and help write better childhoods for the youth of the future. #all1story

To check out Taylor Swift’s performance of “Ronan,” please go here:

“Ronan” hit number one on iTunes charts today. Looks like Ronan’s story already touched the lives of so many others around the world. Keep it going by purchasing the song on iTunes. All proceeds go to the Taylor Swift Charitable Fund.

 Become inspired by Maya Thompson’s blog at:

 To learn more about Ronan’s story, childhood cancer, or to make a donation, visit the Ronan Thompson Foundation at:

 September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer in children, and yet all twelve major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than 3% of the National Cancer Institute’s federal budget of $4.6 billion. ( Please help to change this.

 Everyone deserves a childhood.