Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Resolutions

Well, I made it. Another year and another 365 blog posts. Just like my t-shirt blog, I had a lot of help with this one. Many people scanned for me, emailed me scans, and gave me (this year and in years past) a lot of the items that I scanned. Thank you to my family and friends who helped me and all of my 2011 projects like this blog and Skating for Hope – I couldn’t have done them without you!

I hope at the very minimum people enjoyed at least one of these scan blogs. And I hope both this blog and last year’s blog show at least one person that if you put your mind to it and promise yourself to do something, it’s possible. Here are some of the things I’m going to do for 2012. The end got cut off, but it says: “Be the change I want to see in the world” (from the Gandhi quote). I also forgot to add starting the website I’ve been working on, but that will come soon enough!

Thank for reading, and I hope you check out my video blog for next year! Happy 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Into the Wild DVD

Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t sift through any piles to dig something up for today’s scan. I still have a lot to choose from, and didn’t have time to pick. I was heading out for the weekend and packed this DVD to maybe watch with my friends. With the New Year coming, I welcome inspiration. And the story of Christopher McCandless inspires me.

If you haven’t checked out the Into the Wild book, movie, or soundtrack,I highly recommend. It’s a story that teaches us what the most important things in life are. (Hint: It’s not the stuff we own) The soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is almost as inspirational as McCanless’ courageous journey.

Looking forward to another fun holiday weekend with awesome family and friends…

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blue Star Poems Book Cover

I’m pretty happy and excited right now, because I just submitted my first e-book to Amazon for publication. It’s my latest volume of poetry titled (you guessed it) Blue Star Poems, and this is the cover I came up with in about 2 seconds (can you tell?). If you want to know where I got the idea for the title, you’ll have to ask me. It should be available for download (only cost ya a buck!) in the next day or two – I’ll keep you posted!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Card (With Hope Lodge Donation)

I wrote before how I thought that homemade gifts were the best ones. Well, one like this is a very close second. When I read this card, there was a huge smile on my face – someone helping Hope Lodge is a gift to me and anyone who has stayed there. If you’ve been thinking about it, you can read more about Hope Lodge here and (if so inspired) make a donation here. Thank you to my awesome friends who made this donation and to all who support the Lodge!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pictures with Andy (1992)

Regardless of if it’s Christmas, a birthday, or any other time of the year; the true gifts in life are the people you have in yours. I am really lucky to have my friend Andy in mine. It’s hard to believe we have known each other for (ugh) over 20 years, but math doesn’t lie. Pictures don’t lie, either. We may look a lot younger in these shots, but the smiles and having fun hasn’t changed one bit (The tightness of the jeans and curve of the hat’s brim have been altered since).

Of course, Andy and I have shared more serious moments too. There was the time in college he bailed me out of a drunken beat-down and went back on the T to Harvard wearing a t-shirt stained with my blood. There were visits to the hospital and talking about our traumatic experiences with each other. And there were even times we did or said things that upset one another. But now, we look back and laugh at all of it.

Even though I only get to see Andy once or twice a year, our connection and friendship remains strong and picks up right where it left off. Looking forward to spending some time with him and his family tonight!

(L-R: brother Jon, me, Andy, cousin Matt, brother Tom)

Monday, December 26, 2011

War Horse Ticket (12/25/11)

Starting in 1998 with Patch Adams, my sister had the idea of starting a tradition of going to see a movie on Christmas night. I will add the other tickets here if I find them, but for right now I will just write about last night’s feature.

War Horse was 2 ½ hours long, but went by much more quickly – a sure sign of a great movie. Based on a play of the same name, it (not surprisingly) tells the story of a horse that makes its way through World War I.

Like every war movie I’ve ever seen, it had me wondering why we can’t figure out our differences without fighting – the scene when two soldiers helped the horse out of barbed wire was my favorite.

The best part about War Horse was that is showed the horrors of war without spattering the screen with blood and gore. It was a very touching story about love, loss, and believing in destiny. More Christmas movies to come…

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa Taking a Dump Card and Boston Tea Party Art

Leave it to my sister to pick out cards appropriate for me. Just like the Reindeer Eating Beans card she got me before, I think this one may also refer to my Crohn’s Disease. Whatever the reason, I think it’s hilarious.

In addition to making me an awesome Bruins Stanley Cup present with the sports page and decopage (and proving again that the best gifts are made), JB also gave me this artwork from The Boston Sports Company.

It was another great Christmas at the McGrath house full of smiles and laughs. Everyone is healthy and happy, and you can’t ask for more than that! Hope everyone had a very merry day!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Poem from My Nephew

The best gifts are the ones you can tell needed a lot of thought and effort. This usually translates into presents that are made instead of bought. Today, my nephew gave me this poem that he wrote, typed up, and illustrated. Thanks again, buddy. I love you, and it’s going to be hard for Santa to top this one! I’m feeling very lucky to be healthy and surrounded by such a loving family – hope everyone else is, too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Parents’ 2011 Bruins Stanley Cup Christmas Card

Last year on December 23rd, I described my family’s traditions for this day (we call “Eve Eve”) on my Charlie Brown t-shirt blog. Another tradition very important to my family is our love of the Boston Bruins. This is the card my parents sent out this year.

It’s a safe bet every year on Christmas that there will be some Bruins items exchanged in the McGrath house – the only difference this year is that it might say Stanley Cup Champions on it. Looking forward to some Christmas cartoons mixed in with the Bruins / Panthers game with my favorite people…Go B’S!!!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boston Museum of Science Star Wars Exhibit Ticket and Mistletoe Card (2005, 2011)

It’s no secret that I’m a Star Wars dork. Exhibit #241 is this ticket to the Boston Museum of Science Star Wars Magic of Myth exhibit. I had previously driven down to Washington DC with Carl to see this exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1998 and to New York in 2002 to see it at the Bronx Museum of The Art, so a trip from Westboro to Boston was easy. I was teaching at an adolescent psychiatric unit at Westboro State Hospital in 2005, and I organized a field trip for another viewing (it was actually my 4th time seeing the exhibit because I had already seen the Boston exhibit with my friend Glen). Even though not all the students were able to go, it’s always good for the ones doing well to be rewarded.

And here’s another card I gave to my friend Jen which reminds me of one of my favorite Trailer Park Boys moments:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Card for Carl (2011)

Sometimes, you find the perfect gift and card for someone. For my friend Carl, the gift was this Spaceballs T-shirt. This was the card:

Love you, man!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crohn's Poem (5/8/07)

Since today marks 23 years since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (see my medical records here), I thought this poem would be a good scan for today. It must have been a bad Crohn’s day when I wrote it, but I was trying to convince myself that there were worse diseases out there (cancer, for example?).

I’m glad to report that I feel more in control of my Crohn’s than when I wrote this. And since my diagnosis 23 years ago (when they removed 1 ½ feet of my intestines), I have not needed any more surgery and I’ve only had to be hospitalized once (in 2008).


Even though I never asked,

I accepted you in my life.

You made me rot away

And I had a hospital stay,

From before Christmas

To New Year’s Day.

The scar on my side

And toxic air I can’t hide

Remind me

You are still with me.

I turn you into a joke

As much as I can,

But your embarrassing ways

Hit me now and again.

I’ll calmly sit,

Then have to race into

My office room,

Like a cat I run

Sensing immediate doom.

The laws took away

The best medicine

I had for you,

The closest I came

To convincing this relationship

Was through.

Don’t let these chronic lines

Go to your head,

You don’t even win a medal

For all the diseases

In my bed.

In some ways

You are just a result

Of all previous conditions,

Your name needs explaining

For most who will listen.

Ironically you were and are

The easiest to digest,

You may not be

The easiest to cure,

But you will never

Be the best.

Monday, December 19, 2011

McLean Discharge Summary (5/10/95-5/17/95)

It was the end of my junior year, and the thing I cared about most was getting drunk. I usually didn’t drink during the week, but when Friday rolled around, I was salivating for my first sip – which was usually a gulp followed closely by more and more gulps. I didn’t like where my life was romantically, I was still angry about cancer (both my own and a friend who passed from leukemia that November), and I turned to drinking as my way of release. Even though drinking had led to interactions with the BC Police, ER visits, and many apologies; I wasn’t ready to stop.

Then on May 7, 1995, I started drinking to excess. I drank everything in the apartment I shared with my roommates. Drinking made me not care, and that night I didn’t care if I lived or died. Again, it landed me at McLean’s. This time, I was ready to stop.

Of course, when I got there, I had other things on my mind. The Bruins were playing the Devils in the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs and they had lost games 1 and 2. Game 3 was a must win, and I had to watch it. As you can see in the Mental Status Examination Upon Asmission, I made that crystal clear:

Then while in one of the groups at McLean’s, a man in his late 30s/early 40s said something that made my decision with alcohol final. All he said was, “Hey, my name is Mike and this is my 8th time in rehab.” I said to myself that I never want to be saying that. I wanted this to be the last. And I knew the only way it would be the last is if I never drank again.

My decision was made final when my father gave me some depressing news. My friend Justin, who I had met at UMass (he was 10 when I met him and getting treated for cancer on his brain stem) had passed away.

He was 13. When they could tell his battle was nearing the end, he asked his mother to call me so he could see me. I was in the hospital getting my stomach pumped, and my parents and the doctors agreed it would be best to keep me somewhere safe. Of course when they told me, I lashed out and was pissed that they didn’t tell me right away. But I knew the real reason I wasn’t there for him was because of my drinking. I failed being there for a friend in need, and it was because of alcohol. I don’t want that to ever happen again, so again I arrive at the decision not to drink again.

When I left McLean’s, the “experts” there were convinced that if I returned to Boston College for my senior year, I would drink again. They had known me for a week, and were that certain. I am happy to tell them they were wrong. Not only did I not drink my senior year at BC, I had the best GPA of my four years there. And I haven’t had a drink since May 7th, 1995.

My non-drinking is not because of anything any psychiatrist at McLean said to me. It’s not because I think drinking is evil and no one should do it. It’s because I know what road it leads me to: not caring for my family or friends, the ER, police, and McLean. I promised myself I wouldn’t let drinking take me there again, and I’ve lived up to that promise. But it’s easy to keep a promise like this when you have supportive family and friends like mine. Thank you to everyone who helped me get through this…I couldn’t have done it without you! And of course, GO B’S!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nine Inch Nails and Ansel Adams Tickets (11/8/05, 12/15/05)

After being a casual NiN fan since I was in college, I went to see them live for the first time six years ago. Nine Inch Nails played these songs, I was impressed, and my date (who is now married with kids) was a lot of fun. I also went with her to the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts that December, and I was impressed again. The MFA wasn’t quite as loud as the Nine Inch Nails show, but both were awesome in their own way.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

McLean Hospital Discharge Summary (1/29/94 – 2/1/94)

The summer in between high school and college, I took some of the hardest drugs a person can put into their system. The drugs made me puke, made me tired, wreaked havoc on my Crohn’s, and made my hair fall out. When I arrived at Boston College, I looked like a pale, bloated, bald junkie with needle holes and bruises up both of my arms. Although I was able to keep a positive attitude throughout my treatment, arriving at college in this condition made me more aware of the negative emotions I had been suppressing that summer.

After a semester of staying and letting my body physically recover from my cancer treatment, I decided to go to my first BC party second semester of my freshman year. I had never had alcohol, but figured if my body handled the toxicity of VP 16, carboplatin, and bleomycin; it could handle some drinks. When I felt that warm buzz after forcing those first few beers down, I pulled a Barney and asked the beer, “Where have you been all of my life?” I liked the feeling, and felt ready to unleash the sadness and anger I felt from being the only freshman I knew just coming off of a battle with cancer (Facebook and Twitter might have helped me connect with others, had it existed at the time).

My drinking continued that second half of freshman year, and I mostly limited my consumption to the weekends. A few times, after coming back from a party, I would take a chair (placed by the entrance of the hall to be used by a person checking visitors in); chuck it down the stairwell – smashing it into pieces. Drinking made me mad, sad, and violent. When I was drunk, I didn’t care about anyone else and I didn’t think of the consequences of my actions. I just wanted that feeling, and I challenged myself to be able to handle as much alcohol as I could.

When second semester of sophomore year rolled around, my drinking had escalated. And to add fuel to my cancer-anger fire, one of my high school classmates was diagnosed with leukemia. I went to visit him in the hospital and told him how staying positive and trying to laugh every day by watching something funny helped me when I was in treatment.

Now before even going to a party, I would drink shots of vodka and chase them with a bottle of Veryfine fruit punch. I then filled ½ of the fruit punch bottle with vodka, drank that, and then went to a party. I was still mostly drinking on the weekends (my way of telling myself it wasn’t a problem), but it became my #1 weekend priority. It was worrying my roommate and friends, but I didn’t care.

I continued not caring so much, that I got to the point that I drank so much I didn’t care if I lived or died. I wasn’t happy, and alcohol intensified that and helped me convince myself that my life was hopeless. As one of the doctors told me when I was checking into McLean’s: “Well, that sounds like a recipe to get you here.”

Even though it embarrassed me when doctors placed me at McLean, I know now that it was the right place for me. Like my cancer, it was a reminder that no matter what challenge I may face, my family is there to help me through it. So even though I wasn’t ready to stop drinking, I did what I had to get myself back to school. I promised my family and the kind doctors at McLean’s that I would start addressing the issues that alcohol was obviously not making better. I was still far away from letting my cancer anger go, but it was a step.

Here are some of the notes from my discharge summary. Thanks again to everyone at McLean’s who helped me and my family and friends for supporting me through this time of my life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Boston College Eagle One-Card (1993)

I remember the day I got this BC ID. I was a sophomore, and it was quite a different situation from when I got my ID as a freshman. That year, I was about to start my last round of chemo and I barely looked like myself. When I was getting my picture taken for this ID, my hair had grown back and I had been finished with treatment for an entire year. Still, I was in the middle of a self-medicating treatment that I would struggle with until the end of my junior year. Instead of chemo, I was poisoning myself with alcohol. So much so, that I didn’t care if I lived or died. More about that tomorrow…

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Define “good.” Christmas Card

I think I sent these out a few years ago.

While many religions, philosophers, and artists express what they define as “good”, I like to keep it simple.

To me, it’s the Golden Rule. If you treat others how you would like to be treated, I think that’s “good”. I don’t care what name you call God, if you even believe in God, or who you think may have been God. Like I wrote for my Coexist T-shirt, every major religion has some form of the Golden Rule in it. It’s not the easiest rule to follow, but I think it would be a “good” start.

Either way, I think this card is funny!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Frozen Fenway Ticket (1/8/10)

Even though BC lost this game, I still had a great time going with my father, brother, and nephews. And even though I love college hockey and this rivalry, I want to write about something that is far more important…

On Sunday, a BU hockey star was arrested for sexual assault. Anytime I see a story like this I get angry, frustrated, and sad. I’m angry at the scumbag who did it, frustrated because I feel helpless to do anything, and sad for the victim. Although I give credit to coach Parker for kicking Trivino off the team right away, it wasn’t until today’s Globe article that I saw any mention of the victim.

Then I found out that a UVM fraternity was suspended after they asked members “If you could rape someone, who would it be?” in a survey. I really don’t know what to think. Whenever I don’t understand something, I try to put myself in the other person’s place. Do these douche bags not have mothers, sisters, cousins, and female friends that they love? I do, and I know if anyone ever assaulted any of them I would probably end up in jail after retaliating.

If these two stories aren’t bad enough, how about a rape victim being imprisoned for having sex outside of marriage and being let out of prison only if she marries the man who raped her:

The US statistics make me sick, too: Almost 1 in 5 women say they have been sexually assaulted (compared to 1 in 71 men). Like a lot of things, I think making an improvement starts at the home and can be reinforced by education. If you live in a home where women are respected and loved, I think you will be more likely do the same when you go out into the world. If students are taught about “appropriate touching”, boundaries, and that no gender is superior to the other; I think they are less likely to think they can do whatever they want to another person’s body.

I really wish I had the answers, but I don’t. I just hope this post makes at least one person more aware of what a problem sexual assault is worldwide. Even 1 in 71 is bad enough.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hope Lodge 2nd Interview Note and Reunion Weekend Announcement (2007)

I know I keep just about everything, but I’m not sure why I kept this little scrap of paper. Maybe something inside me knew that Hope Lodge was a special place and I was meant to find it. With it, I found this announcement for a reunion weekend at Hope Lodge that my future manager gave me at that 2nd interview. I didn’t attend the reunion weekend, but I was soon hired after my second interview. And, it didn’t take me long to figure out Hope Lodge was the perfect match for me.

Tonight, I was reminded of that during our Hope Lodge holiday party. Former guests, volunteers, Hope Lodge weekend managers, my family, and friends all came and had a great time. My dad played some tunes on the piano and took turns with a group of Westboro High students who played some string instruments. St. Luke’s provided a lot of the tasty treats, and my sister brought a yummy plate of Sweetnins. Just a great night overall, and reminded me I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thank you to all the Hope Lodge guests (past and present) that inspire me, and for everyone that supports us!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reindeer Eating Beans Christmas Card

I’m not sure my younger sister sent me this card because I have Crohn’s Disease, but I think it’s hilarious anyway. Thanks for always making me laugh, Meg – in real life and with cards.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Picture of Festive Sister (1985)

When I flipped through my Polaroid photo album, I thought this would be the perfect scan for my sister’s birthday today. It was actually the YouTube video I made for her birthday last year that gave me the idea to have a scanning blog for 2011. Even though her birthday is today, I was glad I was in New York to celebrate with Megan, her friends, Tonks, and Tiger last night. It’s also very fitting that ABC Family’s The 12 Dates of Christmas starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar is premiering on her birthday night. Hope you had a great one, Meg – I love you, and I’ll see you soon!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

One Man Star Wars Show Ticket

The name of the show really says it all. When you see One Man Star Wars, you see Charlie Ross acting out just about every scene of the “Holy Trilogy”. And The Force is strong with him.

Jam-packed into one hour, Ross takes on the roles of the main characters, droids, creatures, Sith, space ships, and vehicles in Episodes IV-VI. He hummed along parts with the poignant musical scores, and provided commentary whenever his gestures might be misunderstood (X-wing vs. Y-wings, The Emperor’s big hologram eyes when he’s talking to Vader). Just like me, the audience loved it. Although he did miss a couple of quotes (that only real dorks would notice), I can’t imagine any Star Wars fan not enjoying this show. My only complaint is that I didn’t think of doing it first. May The Force be with us all.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zombie Christmas Card

I try not to let the stress of the holidays get to me. Sometimes, it’s out of my control. Yesterday and today, the NHL Online Store and its customer service reps have definitely tested my limits. First, I called to see if the order I placed could be changed to 2-day shipping because the website wouldn’t let me do it. A woman told me my order hadn’t been put into their system yet, and I had to call back. When I called back a guy told me that he could do it, but he’d have to cancel my original order and place a new one. So we attempted to do this over the phone, but one of the items I ordered had magically disappeared from the website. Still, I placed a new order minus that one item that I apparently had ordered the last of and was no longer available.

Today I got an email confirming the shipment of two of the items I ordered, including the item that I was told wasn’t available. Then, I got an email confirming my new order with standard shipping. Then, I got an email confirming a second of the two items that had shipped was also being shipped. So, I called back and “J” told me that the guy I talked to yesterday didn’t actually cancel my first order. He said he would cancel the second order I placed, but it looks like it’s not going to matter much – I just got another email confirming another duplicate item has been shipped. I’m trying to take deep breaths.

I know I’ll survive, but it’s hard not to get stressed when you’re being charged and shipped double what you want! Hope you all survive this holiday season and the stress it sometimes brings!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bruins Panthers Ticket (12/8/11)

Hey Tyler, you missed breakfast with the Bruins. Do you know how many people would pay for that? I better see some production out of you tonight!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Naughty/Nice USA Christmas Card

I thought today would be a good day to scan this card because it’s the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

This card is making a joke, but our country is definitely divided. And it’s a shame that we need attacks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 for us to be united (here are some Pearl Harbor attack facts and 9/11 facts). Even though the attack on Pearl Harbor was more clear-cut as far as who our enemy was and what our response should be, 9/11 also made us forget about things that sometimes divide us. We were a country united, and we didn’t care about red or blue states. The Daily Show did a great job of showing how long we were able to feel “united” and how long we remembered the lessons 9/11 taught:

Even though I’ve never fought in a war and I didn’t know anyone personally who was killed on 9/11, cancer is my daily reminder of how easily we could truly be states that are united. Cancer doesn’t care about your politics, sexuality, income, religion, nationality, race, or past. Can you imagine if Hope Lodge only accepted straight guests, Christian guests, or white guests? Cancer doesn’t care, and I think our country could learn a lot of things from it.

Again, thank you to all the brave men and women who served and serve in the armed forces. I hope someday we don’t have to ask you to put your life on the line in any country for any reason…

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

#3 Boston College vs. #20 Providence College Hockey Tickets (12/6/11)

Looking forward to watching this game with my older brother and nephew. I discussed the pregame meal with my nephew and his reply was, “I don’t care, as long as we eat somewhere.” I like that attitude. Go Eagles!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Notre Dame Academy West Side Story Ticket (3/23/91) and Hopkinton Middle School Our Town Program (12/5/03)

I don’t remember who went to the Notre Dame show or who was in it, but I know it was only a couple of months after I got my driver’s license. My girlfriend at the time was a sophomore at NDA, and it didn’t take a lot of convincing from her for me to visit the all-girl school for this play after a day at the all-boys Saint John’s.

I was teaching special education at the Hopkinton Middle School in 2003. I remember the day of this play vividly because the principal at the time came into my room during my prep period. My students’ 1:1 aides had taken them to the auditorium, and I was finishing something up before I headed there myself. I don’t remember what I said (“Hey, how are you doing?”), but I do remember her response: “You’re EXPECTED to go to the play, I hope you know.” There were a lot of things I wanted to say to her, but I kept my mouth shut. Full report coming in my book…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

American Red Cross Card, Gillette Stadium Blood Drive Postcard (12/10/11), and Poem from Journal Entry (6/30/10)

I won’t tell you how old she is, but today’s birthday girl really inspires me. JB was a huge part of Skating for Hope’s success, and she helped me with this blog and my t-shirt blog. Most importantly, she inspires me to be a better person and reminds me when I’m not living up to my potential.

Specifically, she has helped me make sure I donate blood every time I’m eligible to. We have gone to donation centers and big Red Cross events like the one on the postcard at Gillette Stadium this Saturday. She also had me recruit a friend to be part of a blood donation team. Our team went to the Fenway Drive and Gillette Stadium Drive last year, in addition to the “Bahstan Gahden” Drive earlier this year. I won a recliner from Bob’s Furniture at the Gillette Drive last year – they called my name just as the needle was going into my arm!

I know a lot of people don’t like needles. If you’re one of them, I just ask you to think about all the kids with cancer and other diseases that require them to be stuck with needles, IVs, and shots on a regular basis. Unless you don’t meet the Red Cross requirements, I don’t think you have an excuse. Trust me, it gets easier to do each time. And in case you forgot or didn’t know, I relied on blood donations (red blood cells and platelets) to help me beat cancer. It will make you feel good when you do it, too!

Thank you for making blood donation one of my habits, JB. You have helped a lot of people with your passion for giving to the Red Cross, and you continue to inspire me to be the best Dave that I can be. I hope your birthday was an awesome one, and I hope this year brings you everything you wish for! xoxo