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

April 5, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken on April 4th of 2009. Mattie's 7th and last birthday. Mattie was in the Hospital and he celebrated it in the child life playroom with several of his close friends: Brandon, Zachary, Charlotte, Campbell, Livi, and Abbie. Pictured next to Mattie is Brandon. Brandon was Mattie's big buddy and friend in cancer. Clearly there was a difference in ages, but they were very good for each other and though Mattie did not know Brandon very long, he considered him a "best friend." Fighting cancer together can create such an instantaneous and special bond. One we will never forget. 


Quote of the day: I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is the glorious sight we had from the 14th floor of our hotel room. This is how we began our day! Rather ironic, since the ending looks quite different. We are now back in GREY DC! Back to concrete and in comparison to sunny and 80 degree Ft Lauderdale, it is cool.













On our way to the airport, we got stuck at the draw bridge. I am sure most people find this annoying, because they have to WAIT. I, on the other hand, love it! Mattie LOVED it when the bridges went up because he knew that meant a larger boat was passing through. We would walk up to these bridges on the half hour just to see them go up and to watch the boats go by. So it seems quite meaningful that on our way into Ft Lauderdale on Monday the bridge was up and the way out today, the bridge went right back up for us! Mattie would have appreciated both sightings!

While waiting the bridge go up we could also see six cruise ships in port. Ft Lauderdale is a huge port town and vacation spot. The weather was simply irresistible and it was hard to get back on a plane today and return home to more grayness. 

I do want to note that on our plane trip down to Florida and our return trip back we sat in a row of three. In both cases, the third seat was unoccupied. To me it seemed symbolic. I did not say anything to Peter, though he is the master of observation, so I am sure he made a mental note of it too. This third seat would have been the seat that Mattie would have sat in if he were with us. It caught my attention that no one sat in it on either trip, as if no one was meant to sit in it. It was unofficially reserved for Mattie.

When we returned home this evening, we found that our daffodils which Peter planted years ago in our commons area had finally bloomed! I suppose this is the sign that spring is here. 




April 4, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014 -- Mattie's 12th birthday!

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2008, during Mattie's 6th birthday party. This party was held at a bowling alley. This was Mattie's last birthday party before cancer struck. The irony was at this party Mattie started to run a fever and grew very tired. After the party was over, he literally came home and passed out on the couch. VERY unusual for Mattie, because even as a baby he rarely napped! We may have been at a bowling alley, but the theme that year was Scooby Doo!


Quote of the day: It is by suffering that human beings become angels.  ~ Victor Hugo


Twelve years ago today Mattie Brown was born into our lives. Mattie taught us many lessons about life, in only seven short years. It was a very bittersweet day for us. The one thing Peter and I have learned about special days like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, are that they only magnify the already intense feelings we already feel on a daily basis. Those who are close to me know, I am not a crier. It takes a lot to get me to cry. It is not like I sit there and say to myself..... okay, you can't cry, you have to hold it in and be strong. That isn't the case at all. I just don't usually emote that way. Now that doesn't mean I don't feel! Quite on the contrary, I feel everything internally. But when I do cry, that means, I have reached maximum overload inside, and literally an alarm bell goes off, and out it comes. Crying for me is very tiring. I began the day crying. Peter and I sat for a bit on the beach, under an umbrella and I literally fell asleep. But while I was resting, Peter took over my usual state of agitation. He couldn't shut down. I know that feeling all too well. I live it daily. To manage the agitation, the only thing to do is walk. So literally as nutty as this sounds, we walked four miles in the hot sun (it was in the 80s today!) to the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. I will share more about our day below, but first I wanted to highlight some of the wonderful and touching messages we received today. I also want to thank several of you who donated to Mattie Miracle yesterday and today in honor of Mattie's 12th birthday. This means a great deal to us! 


We received this photo from our nephew Nat. Nat is 17 years old and grew up with Mattie. He wanted us to know that he wears the initials, MJB, for Matthew Joseph Brown, on his lacrosse helmet. He said this is for his "favorite Brown cousin."











We received this beautiful message from Mattie's favorite HEM/ONC nurse, Tricia a few days ago. As our faithful readers know, Mattie told Tricia one day in the PICU that he "loved her." High praise, which he did not easily dole out! Tricia wrote, "I know as Mattie's 12th birthday approaches, bittersweet memories consume your thoughts. Once again, I just want to tell you both, from the bottom of my heart, though I can not possibly know the pain you continue to endure with Mattie's loss, my thoughts will be with you. Though I think of him regularly, I will be fondly thinking of all of you, especially our Mattie on the 4th. Life is forever changing, this we all know, but the ways in which I have witnessed the foundation change lives only brings me happiness to see that Mattie's legacy continues to live on. Just wanted you to know that on April 4th I will be reminding myself of how fortunate that myself and the rest of the world are for having known your wonderful son. Mattie clearly personified the best of both of you. He will never be forgotten. XOXOXO"

The second message is from our friend Cathy. We met Cathy and her wonderful family at Georgetown University Hospital. Her beautiful daughter began her cancer journey around the same time as Mattie. My faithful readers may recall me talking about my visits with Bridget on the blog. Bridget is Cathy's daughter. Cathy wrote, "Our hearts are with you every day but most especially today. You two created an amazing person and it was our privilege to be able to get to know Mattie, even for a short time. He continues to be an inspiration to Bridget and the rest of us as we try to match his spirit and courage. It was a shock to learn of Jocelyn's passing, she looked out for Bridget and did what she could to make the clinic more comfortable for her. I pray that she and Mattie are together and find comfort and peace with each other. I wish that I could give you comfort and peace but I can give you my total support if ever you need it, you have given us so much. Thanks to your family and your example we have also learned how to be better advocates for Bridget and to stand up for her when necessary. Many thanks. I wish you the best for today."

Lastly, I want to share the beautiful birthday message from my mom. My mom wrote, "Five years later, Mattie's spirit still burns bright and impacts the daily lives of those who knew and loved him. On the anniversary of his twelfth birthday, we honor his memory by remembering his fight to live in spite of the odds against him. His instincts were sharp and when he saw his own physical deterioration progressively diminish his abilities to function as a normal child, he had many troubled moments reconciling himself to his new life. But, he never gave up or lost his drive to fight back and go on. What inspired that intense inner drive might be hard to understand in a seven year old child but the answer lies in his determination to do whatever it would take to remain connected to his family in the bond of love that made him feel secure and happy with life. It was a precious relationship that meant so much to him that he was determined to preserve it against all odds in spite of  daily pain, anxiety, stress, isolation and depression. He was ready to embrace whatever medical advice and treatment you and Peter proposed because he believed that following your advice would make him well and keep him close to you.  If it meant exposure to the dreaded MRIs that frightened him so intensely that he needed drugs before he could submit to them or whether he was made to undergo another round of invasive chemotherapy that made him so horribly sick, no threatening procedure was ultimately rejected as long as it had your approval. If it held the promise of hope that it would kill the "bad bugs" so that he could live out his childhood dream of growing up with the two of you at his side, he resigned himself to the ugly effects of the endless cycles of treatment which in many ways were as horrendous as the disease. Those who witnessed Mattie’s long struggle of fourteen months can never forget his bravery. That is why his story is inspirational and has won over the hearts of all the people who would come to play a role in his personal battle against cancer.  His story was and is still read through Mattie’s blog that you and Peter have faithfully written every day since he was first diagnosed with cancer. In time, the drama of your little boy’s struggle with life and death became the stuff of legends. Mattie has proven himself to be the focal point of transformational energy in his short but meaningful life and remains a beacon of hope in our troubled world.

Is it only a coincidence that you and Peter, the founders of Mattie Miracle were honored the week of Mattie’s twelfth birthday by Georgetown University Hospital with the "Flame of Hope" Award that was bestowed on you at their annual Gala for your tireless efforts on behalf of children with cancer? I do not believe in coincidences!  No, you were honored because in remembering Mattie you chose to use your talents to bring a more enlightened approach to the treatment of pediatric cancer patients by addressing largely overlooked psycho-social needs that have been poorly understood. Your efforts to seek and define standards of care to deal with the mental health issues that arise when cancer strikes a child are necessary but were lacking as you discovered when Mattie was stricken with cancer. Through Mattie Miracle, you and Peter have given Mattie's light a new and worthy place to shine!

To you Mattie, on the anniversary of your 12th birthday, I am reminded of the words of Carl Sagan who said:  “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to never die.”   These words are inscribed indelibly in my heart and reside there to express my eternal love and devotion to your memory."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Peter and I walked to the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens today. The Bonnet House, named after the bonnet lily that grows there, was designed by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago, IL. The land was given to Frederic and his wife Helen by her father, Hugh Taylor Birch, as a wedding gift. Construction on the estate began in 1920 and continued for more than 20 years. Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from breast cancer. Frederic’s visits to Bonnet House then became sporadic until 1931, when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. With this marriage, a renaissance occurred on the site as Frederic and Evelyn entered a prolific period of embellishing Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day. Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter. In 1983, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Her contribution—at the time, the largest charitable gift in Florida history—ensured that the site would be preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations.

The Bonnet House and the little yellow house on the left with the rectangular windows was Evelyn's orchid greenhouse.










(A photo inside the greenhouse!) The Bonnet House grounds encompass one of the last examples in South Florida of a native barrier island habitat. Five distinct ecosystems can be found on the property including the Atlantic Ocean beach and primary dune, a fresh water slough, the secondary dune which includes the house site, mangrove wetlands, and a maritime forest. In compliment to the natural vegetation, the grounds contain a Desert Garden composed of arid plantings, a hibiscus garden, and the main courtyard planted with tropical vegetation. Evelyn Bartlett was a passionate orchid collector and the varieties she left to Bonnet House comprise one of the largest collections of orchids in the Southeast United States. Various blooming examples are rotated regularly through the estate’s Orchid Showroom.

The grounds in which the house is situated on are absolutely lovely. Lush and very mature trees line the property and this Banyan is just one of many examples to choose from. 















While touring the House gardens we came across this very large Iguana! In honor of Mattie's birthday, I figured this fellow deserved a photo. 









Along our four mile walk, we stopped for ice cream. I never looked at the name of the store while buying the ice cream. However while eating and walking, I looked down at the name of the cup, and literally as you can see it says, "Yo Mama's." This made me laugh! I could picture Mattie's reaction to this name! 



Tomorrow we head back to DC. Somehow this has been a rough five days for us. We aren't looking forward to returning, and certainly we know we can't stay. I end tonight's blog, with two beach photos. The ocean is glorious and despite how we have been feeling, it is therapeutic to know it is there and to be beside it. 


I entitle this photo, "Three on the beach." There maybe only two of us, but in our hearts, there will always be three of us on the beach. 

April 3, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2007, during Mattie's 5th birthday party. I will never forget that day! We planned Mattie's party at the National Zoo. The Zoo's policy is the party goes on whether it rains or the sun is out. But it wasn't just a light rain, it was torrential rain. Part of the party was inside, but the tour around the zoo was outside! I was sure the kids were going to have a miserable time. But guess what? They had a blast. For them it was an adventure! The zoo was virtually empty of other people, so literally it felt like the zoo was ours for the day and ironically animals like being out and frolicking in the rain.  


Quote of the day: The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross



Today, Peter and I went to Butterfly World. This is a butterfly farm and research facility that is comprised of 10 acres of aviaries and botanical gardens. It is about 30 minutes from Ft. Lauderdale and it is an attraction we used to take Mattie each time we visited Florida. It is a place that holds many memories for us. In fact when we got to Butterfly World we reflected on the countless number of times we took Mattie to the playground right off of the parking lot. As you approach the entrance to Butterfly World, you are greeted with this sign that I posed by and all this incredibly colorful bougainvillea. But the whole place is a sensory experience not just a visual one, but an auditory one as well. They pipe in music throughout the park. At the entrance you are greeted with this sign, bougainvillea, and Morricone's theme from Cinema Paradiso (the movie). If you don't know what I am referring to, I included a link below for you to listen to this piece of music. It is one of my favorites, and it is a haunting backdrop to the beauty that surrounds you and what you are about to enter into: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VclRS7x0e38. For more information on Butterfly World, go to: http://www.butterflyworld.com/start.html.


This has to be one of the largest collection of butterflies anywhere in the world. It is a large butterfly house, tent, whatever you wish to call it. The habitat inside is simply incredible. You are walking freely inside with hundreds or perhaps thousands of butterflies. It is a surreal and ethereal  experience. It almost makes you feel like you are reconnecting with someone you have lost. For me the butterfly is a very symbolic representation of Mattie, so walking into a large house of butterflies was a glorious feeling of being reconnected on some level with Mattie. Especially knowing that Mattie had visited Butterfly World many times before. I know it is hard to imagine, but picture this space filled with butterflies. The camera really can't capture these fluttering creatures too well, but they were all around us.

Wood Nymphs were all over Peter! Can you see the one that landed on his arm? Several landed on him and sat on him for several minutes. In fact, he was like a butterfly magnet today. Several women were photographing Peter, kids were intrigued and wondering if butterflies liked blue shirts, or whether they just liked Peter! It was the topic of conversation at the park! My friend Mary Ann, simply thinks it was Mattie's way of getting Peter's attention and playing.... catch me if you can!


As you can see Peter was covered in butterflies! It seemed to be a sign! When Mattie came to Butterfly World, he typically would get landed upon. I never did! 

















That is until today! Today was my FIRST butterfly landing!!! This butterfly landed right on my Mattie memory bracelet. Coincidence? I don't know! 









Within the butterfly house are all kinds of butterflies. This was an example of an owl butterfly. Has a big eye like an owl! But the butterflies are everywhere. On the trees, vegetation, flowers, walkway, and benches!






Another beauty!





















Inside the butterfly house are benches. Memorial benches dedicated to people, with beautiful quotes on them. I decided to sit for a while and watch the butterflies flutter by. It was an amazing sight. They were all around me. Hundreds of them. You can't see them in this photo, but they were everywhere. 



In addition to the butterfly house, there are also incredible aviaries at the park. Filled with the most incredible birds and hummingbirds. Frankly when I went with Mattie, I did not even really remember seeing the aviaries in great detail. Today I went through them and really had a chance to observe many of the birds. What amazing creatures, with such stunning colors and habits. 

Lady Gouldian Finches! Aren't they just stunning!??!!!












This suspension bridge sits right in the middle of the park. It connects the bug house to an aviary. Mattie loved this bridge and he particularly loved crossing it with Peter and jumping up and down on it and watching it sway and rock up and down. Maybe because he knew the motion made me queasy. Either case in Mattie's memory I snapped a photo of Peter in the middle of the bridge today! Where he would normally be with Mattie.


In honor of Mattie, I posted a photo of cockroaches. In the bug house, are indeed these horrid creatures. Peter went in today and snapped this photo. I did not even go in. I don't even like the smell of the house. To me the house has a bad smell! 
From roaches to orchids! There is something for everyone at Butterfly World. It is a remarkable park and worth visiting. I am so happy we went there today. It is a place I could literally spend an entire day just sitting and watching the butterflies, listening to the music, and reflecting upon the natural beauty that surrounds me and how it makes me feel connected to Mattie. But unfortunately that peace and tranquility doesn't last outside of the park. It is short lived and I would have to say our five day trip has been a challenging one emotionally.

April 2, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006, on Mattie's fourth birthday party. This was Mattie's first birthday party that we held for him outside of our home. We held it at the Riverbend Nature Center. Mattie loved nature and that seemed like the perfect setting to host a party. Mattie and a few of his friends went for a nature walk, got to check out reptiles (a favorite of Mattie's), and did a pretend dinosaur bone dig. The kids had a great time and just enjoyed time running around and playing with each other. A day to remember! Who knew there wouldn't be more days like this!?



Quote of the day: We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. ~ Winston Churchill


Today is April 2, two days before Mattie's birthday. The day I actually went into labor back in 2002. In many ways, I consider the whole first week of April, Mattie's birthday week, which maybe why Peter and I brace ourselves for the entire week. I will tell you about our day later, which was geared toward trying to relax, but before sharing these details, I have more important information to share.

I learned that Mattie's close friend, Jocelyn, died today. Mattie met Jocelyn while battling cancer at Georgetown. Jocelyn was older (she was a young adult) than Mattie, but she too had Osteosarcoma. Somehow the age difference did not seem to trouble Mattie in the least. Jocelyn worked wonders with Mattie. Jocelyn had been battling cancer much longer than Mattie and therefore by the time she met Mattie, she already had her leg amputated and went through physical therapy and was walking around beautifully with her prosthetic leg. Jocelyn made osteo, which is an impossible cancer, look manageable. She gave Mattie hope, courage, and really normalized many of his fears. She did not like wearing wigs and hats, neither did Mattie! There were many things they saw eye to eye on! Their candid conversation was refreshing to Mattie and they bonded over thoughts, feelings, art, and zany projects! Jocelyn had a way of helping Mattie out of his shell of depression and her 'can do' spirit was something that gave me hope. I have to admit I worried often about Mattie's future, but then I would look at Jocelyn and think..... maybe Mattie had a chance too! Jocelyn was therapeutic for all of us!!! 

I received an email today from Jocelyn's mom asking me to call her. I told her I was away and asked whether it was an emergency or whether we could wait to connect when I returned. I did not know Jocelyn's cancer was terminal, therefore, I did not expect to hear Jocelyn had died. In many ways, Jocelyn protected me from her own diagnosis because I think in her mind, she felt I lost enough already. 

When Jocelyn got married, Jocelyn did not have a bridal registry. Instead she asked her guests to make a contribution to Mattie Miracle. She has requested the same type of gifts as remembrances at her funeral. Somehow this generosity and compassion does not surprise me at all. This is who Jocelyn is and will always be. Jocelyn loved Mattie and I know she cared about me and tried to protect me from the ravages of her cancer and her terminal condition. My heart goes out to her mother, because I know all too well the lifetime of grief and agony ahead of this wonderful lady who produced a beautiful daughter. 

Jocelyn's mom wrote to me today and reminded me about a dream that Mattie shared with them one day in clinic. Mattie said that in his dream he pictured that there would be a day when he and Jocelyn would not need their bodies anymore. They would be free of pain and could have adventures together. Apparently today is just that day for Jocelyn and part of me thinks that Mattie was there to guide the way for her, two days before his birthday. Another life taken too soon, too young! A great tragedy!!! All the while, cancer organizations are beating the pavement to raise money for biological research! Good luck there! It isn't making a difference! Kids are dying daily, it may not be talked about, it may not be covered on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and the like. But don't let that fool you. It is happening, it is real, and kids are dying. I rather bury my head in the sand too, and if you have a healthy child, consider yourself blessed. But I lost Mattie and I have seen other wonderful young people get taken too soon, like Jocelyn, and it defies understanding and order. Hearing today's news upset my apple cart. Not that my cart was straight to begin with this week. But there are times when I wonder how I haven't cracked up yet. Jocelyn's death has brought me great sadness and as I told her mom today, we are devastated by this loss. 



Last night, Peter went outside and snapped a photo of Mattie Moon over The Westin! Mattie is with us and hopefully watching over his buddy Jocelyn tonight. 









We are having a very difficult time relaxing this week. So I gave Peter a forced break this morning and sent him to the hotel's spa. He had a massage. While he was there I went to sit on the beach. I snapped photos of the ocean, watched the birds, and people watched. Some of my favorite things to do. 




I love sea birds! Something about a seagull just tells you, you are at the beach!












Later in the day, Peter and I walked several miles on A1A. Which runs right along the Atlantic Ocean. The street is lined with shops and restaurants. It was bustling with people and all sorts of activities. I joked with Peter, because I told him it started to remind me a little bit of Venice Beach in California. It wasn't as colorful (with a lively cast of characters), but it was definitely working its way in that direction!
For those of you who have been following my room saga since yesterday, it was resolved today! Richard came through for us today. We are not on the 11th floor but the 14th floor. We were given the Executive Suite. I have no idea how expensive this suite is, but all I can say is the views from this room are incredible. It is floor to ceiling windows in two rooms and all I can see is ocean. It is just glorious. Bright, happy, I can't hear blaring music, and literally we are finding moments of peace in the midst of great sadness today. 


Here is the bedroom area! Again more beautiful windows!!! The blue from the ocean is simply breathtaking and fills up the entire room.










Looking down from the window of our room! 












What do you think of this view? This is from the shower!!!!













Lastly, this beautiful orchid sits in our bathroom! The attention to details in this suite are simply elegant. I feel like I have gone from the disco room (with blaring music coming in from the pool) to peace, light, and serenity! 

This evening, we went out to dinner, but the news about Jocelyn put me in a terrible mood. After dinner, we came back and walked the beach. While walking by the water, all of a sudden, I felt something sting the heel of my foot. I started screaming. Fortunately I wasn't stung. I just stepped onto some sort of piece of wood floating in the water. But literally I couldn't move or walk. Peter had to run up to the room and get tweezers to pull this wood from my foot. It has been a hard evening for us to say the least.

April 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 -- Mattie died 238 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2005, during Mattie's third birthday. Mattie was a huge Blue's Clues fan. So we hosted a Blue's Clues party for him, with a treasure hunt included! In addition, I also hired a college student who I met to come and perform a little magic show and to bring his pet bunny for the kids to meet. The bunny's name was Hobbs, and he was a huge hit! I remember that day so vividly! Mattie gravitated to bright colors, which is why the Foundation's main color is Orange!


Quote of the day: Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. ~ Khalil Gibran


I am so glad many of you wrote to me and enjoyed Peter's blog posting yesterday. Peter does have a way with words as well as capturing feelings and emotions. Neither one of us slept well last night! You would think we had something very stressful planned for today! I have been dealing with intense stress, sickness, and pain since the beginning of February. So being asked to take a break now seems almost impossible for my body to do. At 6:30am, I gave up and got out of bed. But there is a level of anxiety for me about sleeping, a task that comes easily to others, doesn't for me. Yet without sleep, everything is affected from my headaches to my mood and ability to think clearly. Later in the morning, I snapped this photo from our window. Yesterday it was overcast, so to see the sun today was a glorious treat. Today was the perfect weather day. 

My friend and colleague, Nancy, lives part of her year in Florida. She returns back home tomorrow, but fortunately our schedules overlapped today. Peter and I drove to visit her and her husband, Marv at their condo. Along our journey, we passed these lovely palms along the side of the road. Definitely NOT a Washington, DC site!!!! So naturally I had to capture it.



Nancy and Marv live in a golf course community and as such they are surrounded by lush vegetation and a great deal of wildlife. Check out this wonderful duck family. A type of duck, I am not familiar with, nonetheless the ducklings were priceless!! A sighting Mattie would have gone bananas over! I could just hear Mattie saying to me..... "look a mama and her baby, just like you and me!"


Nancy and I have known each other a long time and we have a lot in common. At the heart of our friendship is great respect for each other. It was so nice to meet today, to see Nancy's condo, to see how she has transformed it, to admire her art work and collections, and to get to know her husband better. We all had a fun time chatting and connecting.  





Right in Nancy's backyard was this wonderful White Heron!











Nancy and Marv gave us a tour around their wonderful complex. We saws their pools, theater, and all sorts of recreational areas. All these areas are lined with beautiful trees and vegetation. Even these spectacular bougainvillea
bushes! So vibrant! A glorious sight for us, since all we have seen in DC is rain, grayness, and snow!



Hiding in the bougainvillea was this amazing GREEN lizard. He was checking us out, I think he was equally fascinated by us. All I know is that Mattie would have been thoroughly intrigued by this fellow!








Nancy surprised me with several gifts today in honor of Mattie's birthday this week. This was one of the gifts Nancy made for us. A very meaningful and thoughtful gift as Nancy knows how much I love sunflowers and capture Mattie's spirit in butterflies. When I planned a trip to Florida, it never dawned on me that I would connect with a friend. Especially during the week of Mattie's birthday. But I am so happy that Nancy reached out to us and that we were able to spend this time together today. Friendship is built on time, sharing of feelings and thoughts, and understanding. Nancy and I have years of this! 


This evening Peter and I went to the Blue Moon Fish Company. It is on the Inter Coastal in Ft Lauderdale. We went to this restaurant years ago with my parents. I mean years ago, pre-Mattie days. Today we ventured back. Back then, the moon did not mean anything to me. NOW of course, it symbolizes my Mattie Moon! So I had to snap a photo of the sign. 



I captured the sun setting while having dinner! Apparently I was the only nut interested in this! I got up, went down to the dock and took a photo. 









On the car ride home, we met "Tuxedo Puss." Is this not a cutie?!!!! My first Ft Lauderdale puss sighting!!!














Though Peter did not mention this yesterday, I have been battling with the Westin since we got here. I will spare you the details. But today's issue was so over the top that it is worth mentioning. After visiting Nancy, we got back to the room and the phone rang. It was one of the hotel managers. He began telling me that another hotel guest was coming in on Friday. Note the date, April 4th, Mattie's birthday. The manager basically lost me at that point. But he kept on talking. Any case, the guest is coming in on Friday and needed an adjoining room for his entire family. The room he needed was MINE. So the manager wanted to move me out. He therefore wanted to upgrade my room. Sounded okay in theory. He agreed to show me the upgraded room and would move me today for my troubles. Again, all great in theory and would comp me $100 credit in the hotel. So I met with him at the suite that he wished to upgrade me to. I walked into the suite, and I looked out the window. Mind you I paid for an oceanfront room with a balcony. The hotel has NO balconies, yet sells their Juliet door balconies as true balconies (another issue for a travel blog)! This suite not only has no Juliet door balcony, it looks onto a roof.... a fabulous view for me! I practically lost it. To me looking at the ocean is therapeutic. That is the whole reason I paid for an ocean front room. Besides being unhappy with the current room I am in because of a major sound issue, and other problems, he now has the audacity to ask me to move during Mattie's birthday to accommodate another family. Well at that point, I let him have it. I never raised my voice. I was even toned the entire time. I was matter of fact, calm, and spoke the facts.

The facts were as such. I paid for an ocean front room. I paid for a balcony. I did not get one. I asked for the music by the pool which was blaring through our balcony door to be turned down, it wasn't. I also told him if the Westin did not demand to be pre-paid, I would have checked out the day I checked in and went to the Harbor Beach Marriott, a property that surpasses his on all levels. But the true insensitivity has come on a day that is significant to me, April 4. I explained to him why Peter and I are on this trip, and that April 4th is Mattie's birthday. Asking us to play musical chairs when we are already depressed is beyond insensitive, especially when he plans to move us to a room looking at a ROOF!!!!


By the time I finished with Richard, he was speechless. We departed from each other and when I got back to my room, he called me back. Richard was very moved by my story and said that cancer has touched his life too. He said he imagines Peter and I are going through a hard time and apologized that he put us in such a position. Therefore he wants to move us to the 11th floor and give us an executive suite. He met me a second time and showed me this suite, which is a complete 180 from the suite he showed me that overlooked the roof. So tomorrow, Peter and I are moving buildings and floors. Honestly this whole conversation today greatly upset me. I am tired of constantly having to advocate, speak up for myself and others. I most likely would have stayed in our room and minded my own business if he did not call me today specifically regarding April 4. Nonetheless, people like Richard do show me that decency exists in the world and he took the time to truly listen, care about his guests, and in the end did the right thing.