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

January 3, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2008. As you maybe able to tell, Mattie wasn't feeling well. He was running a fever and was going to be admitted to the hospital. However, that day Santa and Mrs. Claus were visiting the kids at the hospital and bringing toys. Mattie wasn't able to visit Santa, so Santa came into the clinic room to visit him and with Linda (Mattie's Child Life Specialist) and Jenny's (Mattie's Art Therapist) help, Santa picked toys that would be of interest to Mattie. The pillow in front of Mattie was where he had his head resting. But when Santa came in, Mattie made his best attempt to lift his head and take a photo!


Quote of the day: The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness. Maya Angelou

One of the major challenges of taking a cruise from my perspective is disembarkation day. Despite the fact that the cruise line is very organized and makes it go as smoothly as possible, one has to remember that 3500 people are transitioning off the ship and only a few hours later a whole new set of guests are coming aboard. It truly is a feat! It is hard enough to imagine this happening with one cruise ship, but today in port, we were ONE of EIGHT other large cruise ships. So around 24,000 people transcended on Fort Lauderdale today (that is just those like myself coming into port from a cruise today, this number doesn't account for those flying into Florida to take a cruise today) and in all reality it is almost more than their airport can handle.  


The cruise ship literally wants you up, out, and off the ship very EARLY! I was up around 5:30am, and when we looked out the window, this is what we saw. Peter captured a whole series of photos. In essence there was a caravan of cruise ships coming into port with us!!! As you can see, everything around us was pitch black except for the other ships floating around us in the distance as we were cruising into port. 


Peter captured this lone buoy, which I absolutely LOVE! I can see why such a beacon would be so vital and a welcomed sign in the dark.








On our way to Fort Lauderdale, we passed the city of Hollywood off in the distance. 









One of the ships in tow with us was Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. Which is considered one of the largest cruise ships afloat now.... holding 5400 passengers and 2400 crew. 







There were 8 other ships with us in port. These three were ahead of us this morning pulling into post. 









Peter captured our ship sailing into Fort Lauderdale and you can see the blue lights of the other cruise ships off in the distance of the horizon. 







After we docked and the sun began to rise, this is what we began to see. The glorious colors of the sky, cruise ships docked near us, and in all reality we were docked in the same berth that we had left from last week!  





In honor of Mattie, the drawbridge
right near our ship went up today. So we snapped a photo of it. I did this last week right before our sail away! It only seemed fitting to do this today too! I can almost imagine Mattie with me and his excitement over seeing these drawbridges! Mattie LOVED Fort Lauderale and every drawbridge!!! When on vacation, it was an afternoon tradition to walk to one of these bridges to watch them go up and to see the boats go by. 

Though I have aspects of my trip home to share with you, I am too exhausted from my FULL day of travel. I hope to be able to share my insights with you tomorrow. 

However, I wanted to share this photo with you! When ever Peter goes on travel, he brings me back a magnet. I have quite a magnet collection on my refrigerator. We even collect them together when we go on vacation. We added to our collection this week!!! We got a magnet from each of the places we visited: Fort Lauderdale, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Tulum, and the Bahamas. 


January 2, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2008. That year Mattie was diagnosed with cancer in July. So by Christmas Mattie had already been battling the disease for five months. He had already endured two major limb salvaging surgeries, and was dealing with high dosage chemotherapy. In addition to those medical nightmares, Mattie was contending with the psychological ramifications of childhood cancer which for the most part does not get discussed and unless the family truly advocates can go untreated! Holidays at home were not happy or special for Mattie. They were painful both physically and emotionally despite all that Peter and I did to manage those days and nights.  


Quote of the day: The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~ Mahatma Gandhi


We arrived in Eleuthera today. One of the 700 Bahamian Islands! Eleuthera gained its independence in 1973 from Britain, it is 110 miles long, 2 miles wide, and has a population of 11,000. The narrowest point of the Island is called, “the Glass Window Bridge.” This is literally a limestone formation in which cars and people can transverse it. Winslow Homer even painted the famous “Glass Window” in 1885 to depict this structure! I learned ALL this information on our tour today, and I can attest to this since our tour guide, Colleen gave us a QUIZ! If we each got the answers right, we got a prize! Among me, Peter, and my mom, we came back with LOTS of prizes! Our tour consisted of a visit to a nature preserve and then we had the opportunity to see a traditional Eleutheran dance called the Junkanoo. 

But along the way, we also learned some Bahamian catch phrases that you may find just as hysterical as I did…………………………

Here is the Bahamian way of saying, I’m doing alright, 
“Child, I'm right here between Oh Lord and Thank God.”

Here is the Bahamian way of saying, “don’t make me angry!”
“Don’t Yuck Up my Vexation.”

Here is the Bahamian way of saying “you are confused.”
“You mixed up like conch salad.”



The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve protects 25 acres of mangrove forest with the goal of conserving indigenous species and researching Bahamian bush medicine. 











The boardwalk trail took us through a wonderful ecosystem of mangrove trees. Within these mangroves was an intricate network of spider webs. The webs were catching mosquitoes. It was quite the sight!













In the 1950s the cistern provided water for an orchard and farm. Although the cistern was no longer used, it continued to hold water during the rainy season. Until recently, the cistern was transformed into this beautiful new wetland habitat for plants and animals. This is what the cistern USED TO look like.














The cistern now looks like this!!! The wetland was one of the most serene and captivating spaces in the preserve. The Preserve is the first National Park on the Island of Eleuthera and it is in thanks to the private philanthropy of the Levy family, from the United States. Leon Levy is no longer alive, but his wife commissioned this Preserve in his memory. 
















Within the Wetlands you can find Turtles!














You can also find some of my favorite things...... water lilies!!!













There are trails within this Preserve in which you can explore the traditional uses of native trees and shrubs. These trails are titled “The Medicinal Plant Trail.” I snapped a photo of the gastrointestinal part of the trail, but there literally was a section for every sort of ailment. 




Local school groups come to the Preserve to learn about bush medicine and the edible history of their culture! Meaning what fruits were native to their Island and what fruits were introduced over time by various settlers and inhabitants. Children learn that the pineapple was most likely the indigenous fruit to the Island. This photo illustrates pineapple plants growing in rows!!!




The forest of trees within the Preserve is rich with Bromeliads. Which literally are air plants, requiring NO soil. They attach to trees and catch rain water and sun. 



















Junkanoo is a cultural expression of music and dance and is said to be named in honor of a former plantation owner, “John Canoe.” It has been celebrated since the 16th and 17th centuries, especially during Christmas and New Year’s. 






While on the bus today, our tour guide, Colleen, taught us how to weave palm leaves! Literally the only one on the bus who got it was Peter! My mom and I followed her initially and then she lost us. Peter helped us along. The rest of the bus gave up! One man behind us said, he “gave at the office.” Nonetheless, we were determined and here are our finished products!





We are back on the ship after our last adventure. In fact as I was writing the blog, this was my view from the ship’s deck that I wanted to share with you. The beauty of the water color was stunning! We are packing up tonight and tomorrow morning the ship docks in Fort Lauderdale at 7am. We fly back home to Washington, DC and I will be writing the blog from home on Saturday night. It is my hope that our readers enjoyed our journey with us and as always I appreciate your emails and comments about our photos. 

January 1, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007, and was featured on the cover of our Christmas card. Mattie was five and a half years old and was in his first year in elementary school. This was the last year before cancer entered our lives, and naturally we had no idea how lucky we had it.  


Quote of the day: There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. ~ Nathaniel Branden


I wish our readers a very happy and healthy New Year.  As always I am very grateful to all of you who continue to check in on us and read my writings, thoughts, and feelings. This marks the seventh year I will be writing! Writing anything, even a blog, on a daily basis requires a great deal of discipline and to some extent love. I have had people ask me….  why do I write, when is enough enough, or at what point will I stop writing Mattie’s blog? There are NO answers to any of these questions but the one answer I do have is there isn’t a simple answer to such questions. I do know that the answer has changed or it has evolved over time. At one time I may have written for others but as time has marched on, I find I write the blog FOR ME! Time is a curse! I mean the time that has lapsed since Mattie’s death. Time plays many tricks on the mind and the worst trick is it strips the mind of the vivid beauty of what was once so real and vibrant. Writing however makes the memories much more real for me, it keeps Mattie in the forefront of my mind, and keeps some of the more intangible things that start to fade away over time present in my life. As a parent, one nurtures one’s child DAILY. When you lose your child to cancer, there is NO PHYSICAL child any more to nurture. Therefore I have been left in a quandary and very frustrated with no outlet in way, with nowhere to place the energy that I once devoted to Mattie. In some ways, some of that energy goes to the blog. The blog and the Foundation! They have become my surrogate Mattie. They represent him and I am very protective of both of them.

I am so happy that Peter wrote the blog yesterday! We had 10 hours of touring and I was beyond wiped out. Today I am not feeling much better. I am the only person who could come down with a sinus infection on a Caribbean cruise. But I am feeling miserable. I am sitting outside while writing today’s blog and despite it being most likely in the 80s, I am wearing a fleece, sitting under two blankets, and I am sure I am a sight. I just can’t take the air conditioning on the ship and moving from hot to cold!!! 

Today we are at sea the entire day! This photo was taken yesterday while we were at Tulum.  There is a story to this photo which I wanted to tell you about, and since Peter did not share it with you, I decided to tell it today! The tour of Tulum was extremely long. Our tour guide first gave us a 45 minutes tour, and I will spare you my commentary on him, his attitude, his non-factual agenda, and so forth! I will just tell you ten hours with his grating personality was draining and sucked so much energy out of me. I am USED to ALL sorts of people but he was truly noteworthy, so I will leave it at that. After his lack luster tour of something that to me should have been SO SPECIAL, he then gave us two hours to explore these ruins on our own in the blazingly HOT sun. Sun which felt like an oven! After that, we had time to explore the surrounding  town of Tulum until the bus took us back to the Ferry. While in the town, I saw these acrobats up on these wires spinning in the air! So I started to take photos! BAD, BAD idea!! Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people who were telling me I owed them money for taking photos of their comrades who were flying up in the air. Naturally I gave them some money but this is a lesson to be learned in a way about different cultures and expectations. 

I am not sure how we did it, but after touring for ten hours yesterday, we came back to the ship and got it together and got dressed in formal attire! 















Peter captured this photo of me with my parents. 











On the entrance to the dining room is this lovely display of cream puffs in the shape of a tree!















This morning we saw this beautiful cloud site over the Atlantic Ocean. We have now left the Caribbean with its blue waters behind. Tomorrow we will visit the Bahamas and then Saturday we will be land back in Fort Lauderdale and fly home. Amazing how fast a week goes by. 

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!