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 7, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007 at Butterfly World in Florida. You can see Mattie feeding the lorikeets, with my dad in the background watching. The irony is when we visited Butterfly World last week, Peter fed the lorikeets, in the same exhibit house. However, lorikeets can live twenty to thirty years. So in essence the lorikeets we fed with Mattie in 2007, are the same ones still there today. Who would have guessed that the birds would out live Mattie?! 






Quote of the day: I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. ~ Lewis Carroll


We had our first snowfall of the winter today. Watching Indie and Sunny dealing with this was a riot! Indie wanted access to a window all day. She was either in our living room, or up on Mattie's bed. She loves watching the birds! This is a photo of our living room window! I always call it my window with a view. As you can see we bring many of our delicate plants indoors for the winter. It is a special kind of greenery to see on bleak days. 

This is Indie sitting on top of Mattie's pillows! She absolutely loves this perch. Because she can directly look into our commons space and watch hundreds of birds at our feeders!
The snow coming down! My view from my deck, which is now in Mattie's room. 
This is Sunny waiting patiently to go out! He was being helpful and holding Peter's winter coat while we were both getting bundled to go outside!
We took a 2 mile walk with Sunny in very cold temperatures, around 20 degrees! Peter and I were frozen but Sunny was just great. Not even cold to the touch! 

















Meanwhile this was the view of Mattie's memorial garden. It is located in the commons space of our unit. In this space I placed large garden hooks and bird feeders. I got these hooks in 2014 for my friend Mary who was dying. I wanted her to be able to watch the birds from her bed. After Mary died, I transported these hooks into Mattie's garden space. I think Mattie and Mary would approve. In any case, since Mattie was a baby, we have been feeding the sparrows. I started this to keep Mattie entertained in the cold winter months. As watching birds flitter around is fascinating and engaging. However, I am quite sure that we have some of the same sparrows visiting us now 15 years later! They love the fact that I moved the feeders from our deck into this little garden space. The trees give them protection from our city hawks, and seeing the birds gives me and now Indie great joy. It is the only life we see outside in the winter. Yesterday I bought a forty pound bag of bird food, but by next week, I will have to buy more. You would be amazed how much these small birds consume in a day when it is cold!!! 

January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. The reason I am posting this photo is because we were just at Butterfly World last week. Standing in this very spot! I will never forget our first trip to Butterfly World, it was a surreal experience because you can't imagine what it is like walking among butterflies! A friend asked me if visiting places I had once been with Mattie was difficult. I would have to say it isn't any more difficult than living day to day without Mattie. In some ways, returning to a place we were together helps to evoke memories and conversation, which are good things!


Quote of the day: As any parent, teacher, or librarian knows, there is no richer experience than to see children's faces light up at the suspense of a new tale or the surprise of a new poem. The uninhibited joy with which they listen is surely akin to that of adult audiences of old around campfire and hearth. ~ William Jay Smith


Tonight's quote seems to capture the spirit of my day. Surprises come in all forms, and they maybe different for each of us. One of my greatest surprises however occurs when I go to the Foundation's mailbox and pull out checks that I wasn't expecting. Mattie Miracle hosts an annual drive each December in which we do a mass mailing to 500 of our most loyal supporters and of course send out an email newsletter promoting our drive to thousands of people. In the course of the last two weeks, we have had about 100 individual donations. That may not sound like a lot but it most certainly is, when you consider I am the only one who processes them and writes letters of acknowledgment. There are two periods of time in which keeping up with acknowledgment letters is challenging, one is in December and the other is Walk season. We have about three hundred letters of thanks that go out then. But I take processing these donations very seriously, because I write personal notes to each donor and make a mental note of donor names. 

But the surprise came today with over twenty additional donations awaiting me in Mattie's mailbox. One of the twenty was from the Carl M. Freeman Foundation (http://www.carlfreemanfoundation.org/ based in Delaware. They gave us a grant for $5,000. The surprise is, I did not apply for this grant nor am I familiar with this foundation. But this money is deeply appreciated because it will be added to the $5,000 the Goodwin House gave us this fall to create a wonderful psychosocial research grant. I have been wanting to establish a Mattie Miracle Research Grant application process, and we are well on our way. 

The photo above is of Carl M. Freeman. The grant was given to us by his grandson, Nicholas. I read a little bit about Carl and Nicholas' father, Joshua. Carl died in a car accident and Joshua in a helicopter accident. Such tragedy for a family. The Freemans are builders. Just look at this history.....

Carl M. Freeman began his real estate career in California in 1937, concentrating on sales and land planning activities. After six years in the business, he left California to join the Army. He served during World War II in the Army Engineers in the China-Burma-India Theater of operations. At the end of the war, he relocated to the Washington, D.C. area and resumed his career in real estate. Founded in 1947, the Carl M. Freeman Associates, Inc built its first housing community in Carole Highlands, Maryland. The award-winning development featured Mr. Freeman’s California Cottage home, creating a community of truly livable spaces. In the early 1950’s the Company expanded into apartment building development. Together with an emphasis on balconies, patios, and contemporary design, the fabulously successful Americana garden apartment became the company trademark through the 1950's and 1960's. The design, featuring the window-wall concept (such a feature can be found in my own living room today) to let the outside in, was quickly copied throughout the United States. Since the 1950s, the Carl M. Freeman Companies built planned communities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Iowa. During Mr. Freeman’s lifetime, the Company participated in the development of more than 20,000 apartment units, townhouses and single-family homes in over 50 residential communities.

Needless to say, I am deeply appreciative to all our supporters who made this year's annual drive our MOST successful to date!!! It is thanks to our individual donors that we can keep the psychosocial miracles happening. I am sharing this wonderful news about the Freeman grant with our supporters, because ultimately this will enable us to expand our program services. 

January 5, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. The last Christmas we had with Mattie, before he was diagnosed with cancer. It is amazing when I think about this, because about seven months later our lives permanently changed. In this photo, we were in Florida and it had just stopped raining. In fact, from our hotel window we could see intense winds blowing the trees around. After the storm we went for a walk and Mattie retrieved a palm frond. In true Mattie style he wanted to carry it back to the hotel and bring it to our room. Somehow we convinced him not to do this but to take a photo with the leaf instead. 


Quote of the day: Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, 
Whispering 'it will be happier'... ~ Alfred Tennyson


Naturally when one goes away for a week, you are greeted with a stack of mail when you get home. Unlike other stacks, this stack was filled with Christmas and Holiday cards. I am not in love with the holidays to begin with, but seeing card after card of family photos was no picnic today. 

Peter and I walk a fine line, because either we are a part of this world and experience other people's joys and disappointments or we could isolate ourselves from reality. Not sure which is better.  

The photo you see here is of a greeting card I received from City Wildlife. This is a local organization that rescues wounded wildlife. In fact, some of my blog readers may recall that I rescued a dove last spring and brought it to City Wildlife for rehab and release! I absolutely love the photos of the baby robins on the card and of course the positive statement on the front. It is a meaningful message because most of the animals in this shelter would never get a second chance on life if it weren't for citizens in our area picking them up and getting them medical attention. So these animals never know..... "when something wonderful is about to happen."

This morning, I was listening to the radio and heard an article from Cosmopolitan being discussed. Not a magazine I read, but after hearing the discussion I pulled up the article on-line. Mainly because the subject matter disturbed and intrigued me at the same time. The article is entitled, Why I married myself. You can read it at this link: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a8507112/marrying-yourself-wedding-trend/

The article mentions that marriage (to another person --- THEY HAD TO QUALIFY THAT because at one time that was a given) is on the decline. Barely half of all adults in the U.S. are married — a record low — according to a 2011 study from the Pew Research Center. In 1960, 72 percent of adults age 18 and older were married, while today, just 51 percent are wed. People are waiting longer to marry as well: The median age at first marriage is at a new high for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7 years). 

I honestly do not know where I am with this concept of marrying yourself, but at the moment I do not understand it. One can feel proud, confident, and satisfied with one's self without having to be married to yourself. The notion that there are wedding planners for self marriages ALL OVER THE WORLD, is also intriguing, as this isn't just a US phenomenon. Registries for gifts for self marriages, wedding rings, invitations, etc! I am quite sure this says something from a sociological standpoint about the changes in our society and culture, but overall what does this say about our mental health. Countless studies have been done that have measured the importance of sharing a life with someone, both the physical benefits (of living longer, caring for one's self better), and of course the psychological ones. As human beings, we are social creatures, and do need others in our lives. People entering our lives should be celebrated, and moving away from this concept to the unity of you with yourself to me has consequences on us individually and as a society. 

January 4, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. We took Mattie that day for a cruise in Ft. Lauderdale on a ship called the Jungle Queen. It was a neat adventure that took us to an inlet with a nature center on it. At the center, we met a man who cares for alligators and he practically did an alligator show before our eyes. None of us will ever forget it. While we were in Ft. Lauderdale last week, we passed the Jungle Queen multiple times. Each time we saw it in port we thought of Mattie and that day with the alligator man. 


Quote of the day: There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child. ~ Erma Bombeck


This is the sight we awoke to this morning. It was super foggy and pouring. I think Florida was sad that we were leaving. 
There was one lone pelican flying in the rain. It is funny how one can pay even closer attention to the ocean and beach on the day of departure. Mainly because we knew that we were going back to winter weather in DC. No more 80 degree days with greenery, birds, and the ocean. 
After the rain, the clouds opened up and the sun started to pour through!
This is a sign that greets you as you come in and out of Ft. Lauderdale. What I love about it is it says..... Hello Sunny! As if he was greeting our border collie, Sunny! 
This is a photo that one of Indie's caregiver's took of her while she was boarding. Dannell fell in love with Indie. In fact when I went today to pick her up, everyone at my vet's office commented on how much they LOVED Indie. Indie is indeed a loving and affectionate cat and unlike Patches, when Indie came back from boarding she was absolutely fine. Wanted to be loved, petted, and fed, and hung out with me. 

Sunny was a different story. Peter had to drive 75 minutes both ways to pick up Sunny (after flying back from Florida this evening). Sunny stayed with a woman we met through a mutual friend. But this woman lives over the Bay Bridge, which is a hike. Apparently Sunny jumped her backyard fence while he was staying with her and we are lucky she was able to retrieve him. We told her Sunny is a jumper and escaped his previous owner in South Carolina, by jumping over a tall fence. I think she didn't believe us, as her own dogs can't jump over her fence. But I think when Sunny isn't happy he jumps and tries to escape. Which is intriguing because, he never tries to run away from Peter or me. When Sunny saw Peter tonight, he gave Peter an incredible greeting. Peter says Sunny was jumping, very excited, and vocalizing like crazy. Peter told me to picture a war veteran coming back and being reunited with his dog.... it was that level of excitement. It was a long day, but I am happy Sunny is back in his home. He has settled in beautifully and took to the couch. Sunny obviously ate many treats while we were away, and we have a serious weight issue to now address. He begins his walking routine tomorrow!

January 3, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 -- Mattie died 381 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. For Christmas that year, we took Mattie to Florida with my parents. As you can see Mattie LOVED to build sand castles! He could spend hours doing this. Mattie and Peter would do the building and then he and I would decorate the castles with sea like items found along the beach such as shells, bottle caps, plastic pieces, and seaweed! Needless to say our sandcastles caught the attention of other children. So it wasn't unusual to have a bunch of kids working with us on a project! 


Quote of the day: If you haven't got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. ~ Bob Hope



We visited the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton today. The last time we visited this Center Mattie was alive and running all over the place. Ironically we remembered the Center to be big and fun. It is not what we experienced today. The board walk, though newly constructed, provided a most uninteresting walk and the overall exhibits could use help. We watched a fish feeding exhibit and you couldn't hear the speaker nor could you see the fish in the tanks. 

This was the 40 foot observation tower that used to exist at the Nature Center. In fact, my mom and I both remember Mattie climbing up this thing. She wasn't happy about it because back then it seemed unsteady and about to fall apart. Well NOW the tower is gone completely! We looked high and low for this tower today and learned it was demolished years ago. The tower was fun for kids but it was the only structure like this in Boca that gave tourists a 360 degree view of the city. 
This is the boardwalk at the Nature Center. It takes you on a 0.5 mile loop.
While walking we experienced torrential rain. Fortunately we had umbrellas with us. One woman on the board walk asked me if I would consider selling one of our umbrellas. She was being funny, but I could definitely have done some fundraising right on the spot. 
Along the walk, we saw countless mangroves. Mangroves are survivors. With their roots submerged in water, mangrove trees thrive in hot, muddy, salty conditions that would quickly kill most plants. Through a series of impressive adaptations—including a filtration system that keeps out much of the salt and a complex root system that holds the mangrove upright in the shifting sediments where land and water meet. Not only do mangroves manage to survive in challenging conditions, the mangrove ecosystem also supports an incredible diversity of creatures—including some species unique to mangrove forests.
How do you like this big spider we came across on our walk? There were people all around us who were freaked out by this spider. Not that I was in love with it, but Mattie got me used to creepy crawling things since they intrigued him. 
This is a gumbo limbo tree. The Florida state tree. It is nicknames the "tourist tree." Mainly because it looks like sun burnt skin. Something you see a lot of with visitors to Florida. 
A close up of the peeling bark of the Gumbo Limbo. The nature center is named after this tree, most likely because it is surrounded by these trees. 
The nature center monitors more than 800 turtle nests a year within a five mile span of beaches. They rescue injured turtles and release more than 9000 stranded hatchlings each nesting season.

In each of these blue tubs are baskets. There is only ONE turtle per basket. They say this arrangement is necessary because the loggerhead turtles are NOT social and they are confined to their own space to prevent injuries to one another. 

Today was our last day in Florida. We return home tomorrow. We had the opportunity to stroll an outdoor mall called the Mizner Park. It was a lovely walk surrounded by amazing greenery and shops. It is no surprise that Florida is so green, with its day time intermittent rains. 

January 2, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. We flew from DC to Ft. Lauderdale and were coming down the airport escalator. Mattie spied my parents (who were waiting for our flight to come in) and practically dragged Peter down to greet them. Mattie was a born traveler. He loved the experience of a new adventure and Florida provided him with many wonderful opportunities. 


Quote of the day: The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value. ~ Charles Dudley Warner


We visited Flamingo Gardens today. The last time we went to these gardens was in 2006, with Mattie. Flamingo Gardens is a 60-acre, not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary, aviary, and botanical garden 









The Gardens were originally the property of Floyd L. and Jane Wray, who in 1933 built a home and citrus grove on what was then the edge of the Everglades, where they started a botanical collection of tropical and subtropical fruit trees and shrubs. The Wray Home is now a museum illustrating a country home in the early 1930's.


The grounds contain more than 3,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, including orchids, ferns, bromeliads, 200-year-old oaks, and 300 plus species of palms. A narrated tram ride leads through the site's tropical rainforest, native hammock, wetland areas and groves. 


The gardens have a bear exhibit and right near it, was this cute cutout to take photos. I had Peter pull up a photo of our little cub, so Mattie would be included in our bear family photo!
This was Mattie's flamingo interpretation. Which I will always remember and LOVE!  
In honor of Mattie, my mom and I did a Mattie flamingo pose!
Flamingo Gardens Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary gives residence to permanently injured and non-releasable birds and animals, and is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife including alligators, bear, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacocks and flamingos.
No visit to Flamingo Gardens is complete without viewing Florida’s native alligators. Did you know that Sonny Crocket's pet alligator "Elvis" on the television show Miami Vice was from Flamingo Gardens? The original Elvis has since passed, but the name lives on with Elvis the 3rd and Priscilla, our current gators in residence.
An iguna, not far from the alligator. Mattie would have loved to see this green fellow. 
A nature wading area for the birds. Near this tree were all sorts of herons and wood storks.  
Peter with an Ibis! I love the Florida Ibis, they are so plentiful..... which is why I call them the Florida pigeon. This Ibis was pecking at Peter and was looking for a hand out of food!
This glorious tree is an African Tulip tree. Picture tulip-like flowers growing on a HUGE tree. 
A Flamingo Gardens puss. This cat has it made and seems to know it too!
On our drive home, this is what I saw. I snapped this photo while the car was moving. After seeing the rainbow, we drove into an amazing rain storm.

January 1, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2005. We took Mattie to Boston to visit Peter's parents for Christmas. While there, snow was on the ground, and Mattie got to experience sledding. Unlike me, Mattie had no problem with the cold and enjoyed the cold weather adventures. 



Quote of the day: God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it. ~ Pope Francis



 We visited Butterfly World today. One of our favorite attractions near Ft. Lauderdale. We visited it many times with Mattie (in fact this photo was taken in 2006)! Butterfly World opened in 1988, and is the largest butterfly park in the world, and the first park of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The facility houses around 5000 live butterflies.

After retiring from a career as electrical engineer, Ronald Boender started raising butterflies and their food plants in his home in Florida. In 1984 he established MetaScience to help supply farmed butterflies to zoos and universities. After having visited England in 1985, where he met Clive Farrell (founder and owner of the London Butterfly House), he decided to create his own facility in Florida. Boender and Ferrell entered into partnership and started planning the facility, which was to be a public attraction, but also a research facility and a butterfly farm.


Entering Butterfly World is a total sensory experience. Besides walking in the aviary, with thousands of butterflies fluttering around you, there is piped in music. The music is serene and tranquil and it almost feels like going on a spiritual retreat. Along the pathways are these wonderful benches. I love reading each of them! 

This bench says.... We will always have hope in our hearts. Naturally hope could mean many things here. Hope was the person this bench was dedicated to, but it could also signify the hope we all need in our lives. 


Butterflies diet on ONLY liquids. They consume the liquid of fruits and nectar of flowers through a long straw like proboscis connected to their heads. 
This beauty landed right on me! Butterflies do not land on everyone, so when it happens, it makes you feel special. To me, this is a special Mattie visitation. 
The vegetation inside the aviary!
Another bench, in which I admired the saying..... Your light now shines from above and within. With blue morpho butterfly fluttering by!
This is a birdwing butterfly. A first for me, and a true beauty. 
Peter had a visit and landing today as well. 
Glorious no? You can get so close to these beauties and for a moment in time, you feel like you are living in their world, rather than the other way around. 
These butterflies seem to be friends, as they all travel and flutter in groups. These yellow and black butterflies are called longwing zebra butterflies. 
The aviary is so beautifully designed and provides all sorts of vegetation and flowers a butterfly may need. 
My second visitation by a blue morpho butterfly! This is an incredible butterfly. Its outer/underneath side is brown for camouflage. However, when it opens its wings, it is a glorious iridescent blue! Only something this beautiful could be created by nature. 
Gouldian Finches and other birds fly amidst the butterflies. In fact, Butterfly World has the largest free flight hummingbird aviary in the United States.
More of the aviary!
Another beauty!
We visited the lorikeet area today. Lorikeets are small to medium-sized arboreal parrots characterized by their specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar of various blossoms and soft fruits, preferably berries.

Mattie loved to visit the lorikeets and to feed them. For $1, the caretaker will give you a small cup full of nectar. These birds LOVE nectar and will sit all over you to scoop some up. Peter made several friends today. 
This fellow seemed to be pecking at Peter's shoe. Another one was nipping at his face. 
This is a Honeycreeper, a type of bird. They are typically found in Mexico down to Brazil. These birds specialize in nectar feeding with their long curved bills. Their coloring is glorious, such a vibrant blue and purple. 
These long tailed finches are attracted to people and like to sit on heads. Butterfly World advises you not to swat at the birds, but instead to stand still and eventually the birds will fly off.