Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 Success!!!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

December 31, 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. This was the photo featured on the cover of our Christmas card and in the photo Mattie also wanted his Christmas train. Mattie loved this train! The train played Christmas music, puffed out smoke, and Santa seemed to be the engineer!


Quote of the day: Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit. Robert J. Furey 


Today’s adventure started early!  We decided to take a tour of Tulum the ancient Mayan Ruins south of Cancun heading towards Belize.  We did not realize that nine hours later, after two ferry boat rides, two one hour long bus rides and a day as hot as you know what, we would be able to say that we saw Tulum!

The ship docked at Cozumel which is an island about six miles off the coast of mainland Yucatan Peninsula. Once docked and off the cruise ship, we then proceeded to board a ferry for a 40 minute rolling ride to the mainland.  Once on the mainland, we then boarded a bus with a tour guide and spent the next hour traveling south to Tulum and learning about the Mayans during the ride.
Tulum was quite pretty and although busy with a lot of people today, we did observe that a very strong civilization and culture must have been present to build Tulum.  The ruins are dated back to 4,000 BC making them very old and in generally poor shape.  There was little tree cover around the ruins and although the air temperature was only 82 today, in the baking sun it felt like it was over 100 degrees. 

We walked around the ruins and took many photos some of which you will see below, and you can tell that the people who built the temples, buildings and surrounding grounds were clearly very callable and intelligent.  Although little hard data and facts are actually known about the true history of Tulum and its people, we can only conclude what they were like based on our observations of what remains of their culture and artifacts.  For anyone planning a trip to see the ruins we strongly encourage you to get a knowledgeable and well informed guide to help explain the grounds as you traverse the site.


We finished the days getting back to the ship late, which meant the ship had to delay its departure from Cozumel by almost an hour.  We were treated with a beautiful sunset setting into the Caribbean Sea at the end of the day, which was a wonderful way to close out the last hours of sunlight in 2014.


This is the first view you see when you step through the walls that surround the ruins.









This is the entry house that greets you on the left once inside the walls of the ruins. It is suspected that this was a temple to pay for ceremonials to be performed, but researchers really do not know for sure what the building was designed to be.



This is a shot of some of the buildings on the site.











This is one of the buildings that had a number of columns in front of it.










If you looks closely you will see several iguanas sitting peacefully, soaking in the sun and the sights. Like all good Caribbean locations, the iguanas were everywhere.






This is what researchers believe to be a type of lighthouse or place to signal/watch other ships. We did not quite believe the interpretation, but it does overlook the beautiful ocean.






This is another building on the site. Its purpose is still unknown.










On one of the buildings you could still see some glyphs remaining on one of the corners. 








This is another ceremonial building of some type that is on the site. 
















This is the largest building on the site and it holds a place high on a hill overlooking the sea.  You cannot get close to it but even from afar you can see it is magnificent.






This is referred to as the birthing temple since it is believe that the figure over the doorway represents the birthing event.








One of the temples from the view of the beach.
















This is the Mayan perpetual calendar, not to be confused with the Aztec calendar that predicted the end of the world in 2012. The calendar is quite elegant and well designed, but it takes some serious learning to understand how to read it.













This is part of the beautiful beach that sits between the site and the sea. It is really quite gorgeous!









And finally, our last sunset in 2014 that greeted us after a  travel filled, nine hour long day visiting Tulum. Watching the sun drop into the sea is always a treat and something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!




December 30, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 -- Mattie died 277 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2005, and was the cover of our Christmas card that year. He was sitting in front of the pond at one of his favorite restaurants. Mattie naturally gravitated to the color red.... it fit his personality... bold and fiery.


Quote of the day: To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness - these are the gifts which money cannot buy. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is noted for its pristine coral reefs, beautiful beaches, lush tropical foliage, and friendly people. In fact every single person we interacted with was delightful, very knowledgeable about their Island, and took pride in the fact that all the items being sold were MADE by hand ON THE ISLAND! They were NOT imported from other places, which is a rarity these days in the United States. 


Christopher Columbus discovered the Islands in 1502 while on his fourth voyage and over the years Roatan has been controlled by the British and the Spanish, as well as pirates and traders. The first permanent population of Roatan originated from the Cayman Islands, arriving in the 1830s shortly after the end of slavery in British colonies. Today, the population is about 30,000. Roatan is a long, narrow island measuring 37 miles in length, located about 30 miles from the northern Honduran mainland. The island has a mountainous backbone and it has very lush scenery. 


As we docked in port this morning, I could see this amazing chair lift coming over the mountains! This is known as Roatan’s Magic Flying Beach Chair!!! It takes visitors on a thrilling fun-filled ride across 1,200 feet of cable suspended more than 67 feet in the air. One minute you are flying over a lush canopy of trees and the next you are on the sands of Mahogany Beach. 



As we disembarked off the Ship, we learned that the entire cruise terminal was built in 2008 by the Carnival Cruise Line! It is a beautiful facility that contains an outdoor complex filled with shops and restaurants. This aids Roatan tremendously with its tourism, which of course is the main economy for the Island. 




We took a 4.5 hour mini-bus tour of the Island, which gave us a flavor for the rugged, mountainous, and lush terrain of Roatan! The first stop on our tour was of the Carambola Botanical Gardens. This 40 acre Garden contained ferns, spices, and tropical plants native to Roatan and our guide described how these plants are used for medicinal purposes on the Island. We even had the opportunity to smell the leaves from different herb trees such as alspice, oregano, and cinnamon. In the United States, oregano plant leaves are small, but in Roatan and oregano leaf was the size of a golf ball in diameter. Impressive!!! 





While at the Gardens, we spotted several cats! I snapped a photo of this White Cat!!! I gave him the title…. “the White Christmas Puss.”








Along our Garden Walk, there were rows and rows of ginger! 

















Mahogany is a glorious wood and Roatan has plenty of these trees! We learned today that a Mahogany tree gets propagated from just one SEED that comes off of this pod. If you look closely, you will see that inside this pod are MANY, MANY seeds!  







Notice that the orchids are growing on the side of a tree. They are air plants and do not need dirt to grow! 












This beautiful palm is a traveler’s palm. It holds water and if desperate, one could seek refuge in this tree. The water is held where the fronds of the palm leaves meet! Almost like a pitcher of water!








Seaside Village is small in size but big in personality! The tropical atmosphere and charming streets of this village was alive with local vendors, colorful shops that were filled with unique gift items!!! I loved how everything in all of these shops was HANDMADE! Things were woven, sewn, or carved by hand. It was just too beautiful for words!!! In the States these items would be impossible to buy simply because they were made by hand!!! 

While at the Village we also had the opportunity to see a special performance by the Garifuna Dancers, as they performed their dance called the Punta, a cultural tradition. The Garifuna Dancers are descendants of the Black Carib Indians. The Punta dance depicted how the women disguised the men as women. They did this to protect the men from being persecuted as slaves. Slave owners only claimed men, not women and children. Therefore, the dance illustrated that when the men acted and dressed as women they were able to escape slavery. In the photo you can see the male dancer all the way on the right, with the head dress on, the more flowery costume, and a mask over his face. 

After our stop over at the Seaside Village, we then went to visit Stone Castle Cameo Factory. The art of carving on conch shells to produce beautiful cameos originated in ancient Greece.  The Roman Empire acquired this talent in as early at 80 BC.  Today there are only 300 cameo sculptors in the world, nearly all of whom live in Italy. However ten of these artisans live in Roatan. 
There are only certain shells used to create cameos and they are SO FAR down on the ocean floor that a robotic submarine are used to retrieve them! This is a photo of just such a machine!








This is a photo of the wonderful shells from which cameos are made. There are only two types in the world. One type is found off the coast of Honduras and the other is found off the coast of Madagascar. However, these shells can only be dug for ONCE a year. They can’t be over dug for, if that is the right terminology. Therefore there has to be a strategy for digging for shells and hopefully when one digs thousands of shells are retrieved (otherwise clearly these folks wouldn’t have a business).









The cameos these artisans made on site in Roatan are exquisite! This is just one example, but there are cases and cases of them. 








Our last stop on our tour today was to the Mayan Eden. The Eden contained a butterfly garden, which was enclosed and offered magical views of some of Honduras’ most vibrant varieties of butterflies.

















I had the opportunity to hold a very large caterpillar in my hands. Though I did not realize this, I learned some of these caterpillars can stay in this state for MONTHS before transforming into a butterfly. I frankly have never seen such a LARGE caterpillar before in my life. Mattie would have just LOVED this sighting!!!



At the Mayan Eden, there were also rare animals and birds! Peter got an up close and personal greeting with a macaw! This bird seemed to have an understanding with Peter. He was uppity with everyone else but Peter!
















The Capuchin Monkeys were freely moving about the property! I do not welcome monkeys climbing on me, but several of our tour mates did and they had their hats taken off, their water bottles bitten, and so forth by these creatures. 






The last creature I will share with you tonight is the toucan. To me he was a glorious and tropical sight!











December 29, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and the first year we were able to photograph Mattie in front of our Christmas tree! When I look back at this photo, there was something rather angelic about this photo. 




Quote of the day: Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

Last night we had our first formal evening and dinner aboard the cruise. Rarely in life is there really the opportunity to get dressed up anymore. But if you go on a cruise, you need to plan accordingly. I think packing for a cruise requires one to be strategic, because you have to pack for all contingencies! Active wear, smart casual, and formal.

We have two very lovely waiters from the Philippines and they introduced themselves to us as “Richard Gere” and “Marlon Brando.” Clearly they are not….. but Richard and Marlon have a wonderful sense of humor and they both joked with us that their mothers loved American movie stars!!! In any case, they are making our dining experience very special and accommodating every need.

After a day at sea, people were anxious to get onto land today!!! This required taking tenders (or life boats) from the Ruby Princess to the main land of Grand Cayman, since the port was too shallow to accommodate cruise ships.


Tenders were disengaged from their docking stations at 6am today and I can attest to this because this racket woke me up. I honestly had no idea what that noise was, as I thought something was coming through the wall of our room. Naturally nothing was wrong; it was only the tender’s mechanical devices which were housed right next to our cabin!!! Thrilling, a morning not to be forgotten and I am hoping there aren’t more island stops that require tenders versus docking in a port. 

On May 10, 1503, Christopher Columbus was blown off course in his fourth and final visit to the New World and stumbled upon Grand Cayman. He named them Las Tortugas – The Turtles! Apparently there were so many sea turtles in the water that it was estimated that the Caribbean was home to some 40 million of these creatures. For centuries turtle trawlers captured the creatures for their meat.  Now the Caymans are the fifth largest banking center in the world with $1.5 trillion in banking assets and nearly 300 banks. Financing provides 36 percent of the employment, 55 percent of the total economy and 40 percent of all government revenue. There are more registered businesses there than people. The Caymans are home to the several staggeringly beautiful beaches including the world-famous Seven Mile.

While walking through town, I snapped a photo of this wonderful painted Iguana sculpture. In Washington, DC we have painted Elephants and Donkeys…… obviously here in Grand Cayman they feature the Iguana! After today I KNOW WHY….. these creatures ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!






My first real iguana sighting of the day!!! Mattie would have been thrilled. He LOVED lizards and iguanas! In fact, I have two plastic ones on my car dashboard in his honor. Both of which belonged to Mattie. Mattie had one in my car and the other he kept in Peter’s car! They both now sit on my dashboard. 




The famed Cayman Turtle Farm was a commercial venture and housed more than 100,000 creatures in 1968. After being wrecked by Hurricane Michelle in 2001, volunteers from all over the world rushed to rescue the creatures. Today, the reserve is dedicated to bringing the species back from the brink of extinction. It is now a 23-acre adventure marine park with green sea turtles ranging from hand sized newborns to 600+ pound adults. We had the opportunity to tour the reserve and learn how the turtles are breed, raised until they are 18 months old, and then released!  

After the tour we had the opportunity to wash our hands and then had the opportunity to hold a green sea turtle. This turtle was HEAVY and his shell was hard. NOT slimy at all. He wasn’t moving at all for me, but when I passed him over to my mom he started getting feisty!








Roy, our guide, told us that turtles calm down if you rub the underside of their necks! A rather funny commentary, because it took two hands to hold a heavy turtle and not drop it on the ground. So how we were supposed to massage its neck in the process to calm it down was beside me, but just an FYI if you are interested!!!



It is interesting that in this religious and beautiful paradise lies a place called “Hell.” Two stories exist on how the town got its name. One is from the limestone formation that is as big as half-a-footfall field and is rough and jagged that someone quipped this is what hell must look like. The other….. If you throw a pebble into the limestone the echoes sound like the word, “hell.” This town even has its own post office!

Before entering the limestone rocks, you are greeted by this sign. 












Not only are there limestone rocks, but you are surrounded by Iguanas in Hell!!!









Growing up Catholic, I have to say, I was taught to depict Hell in my head to look a certain way. Seeing these blackish limestone rocks go on for miles….. Hell on earth seemed quite accurate and eerie. 





Here is a close up!