Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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: 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

December 24, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tonight's picture was the photo of Mattie we featured on our 2004 Christmas card. I found capturing holiday photos of Mattie during the toddler years challenging, but I always liked a challenge. Though Mattie wasn't necessarily looking directly at the camera there was something very angelic about his face in this photo. As I look at our tree in the background of this picture, it makes me recall when we used to decorate for the holidays. Many of the ornaments on our tree we bought at antique stores. Mainly because I love older ornaments. They remind me of my childhood and these ornaments seemed to have more character and capture a story. Over the years, our tree also had many new additions created by Mattie. All of which I still have packed away with my other ornaments.

Quote of the day: Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them. ~ Richard L. Evans 

The most expansive man-made project ever undertaken was the construction of the Panama Canal. It took more than 34 years to complete and cost the lives of over 25, 000 people, who died from either tropical diseases or landslides. The canal is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century, managing to do what nature forgot to do --- connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, reducing the 12,000 mile sailing distance between New York and San Francisco by more than 7000 miles.

The Panama Canal opened in 1914, fulfilling a dream 400 years in the making. The 51 mile route cuts through sheer granite and dense jungle, creating a vital trade route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More than 1 million ships have traveled through the Canal’s intricate lock system, one of the most challenging engineering projects ever undertaken. Gatun Locks are the first set of locks on the Atlantic side. The three-step process lifts a ship 85 feet above sea level and into Gatun Lake (a man- made lake, which took the United States three years to fill). A complete transit to the Pacific would include two more sets of locks. The Pedro Miguel Locks takes a ship down 26 feet and the Miraflores Locks has two more steps down, lowering a vessel another 58 feet. This set of locks is the largest and tallest due to fluctuating tides.

This morning, Peter snapped several pictures of the Island Princess going through the first set of locks (The Gatun Locks) on the Atlantic side. Each Lock is comprised of two lanes that operate as water elevators and raise the ship from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake (85 feet!), to allow the crossing through the Continental Divide, and then lowers the ship to sea level on the other side of the Isthmus.

The water used to raise and lower the ship in each set of locks is obtained from Gatun Lake by gravity and poured into the locks through a main culvert system that extends under the locks chambers from the sidewalls and the center wall. The beauty of the Lake is the water is naturally replenished from the rain forest (since it rains daily in Panama!).

Notice as a ship goes through the locks, it is attached on both sides to a silver colored train. The train sits on a track and serves to guide and stabilize the ship through the locks. You should note cruise ships today are basically Panamax Ships. This means they are at the upper most capacity to fit into the lock system. The creators of the Canal were brilliant, because back in the early 1900’s, ships as big as the Island Princess did not exist. Yet the creators had the where with all, to design locks that were 1000 feet long and 106 feet wide, to meet the capacity of ships in the future.

We went on a seven hour tour today of the Locks and the old and new towns of Panama City. In the picture, my mom and I are standing in front of the pump house of the Miraflores Locks.

The first firm effort to build an all-water route through Panama began with the French in 1880, but financial troubles and diseases made the initiative fail. After its independence in 1903 from Colombia, Panama negotiated an agreement with the US for the construction of the Canal which the US would finish on August 15, 1914 and then managed the waterway until 1999. At noon on December 31, 1999, Panama took over full operation, administration and maintenance of the Canal in compliance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties negotiated with the US in 1977.

In 2014, when the Panama Canal completes 100 years of operation, the expansion will be complete as well. This will enable the waterway to double its capacity to handle the increasing demand of worldwide trade. It is said that the excavation for this new lock system produced so much debris, that 63 Egyptian pyramids could have been developed and erected from this material.

Goethals was a US General assigned by President Theodore Roosevelt to manage the construction project of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt selected Goethals because he was a military man and therefore couldn’t leave his assignment, like John Stevens did. Stevens was instrumental to the design of the Canal. Stevens was the creator of the Transcontinental Railroad in the US, and Roosevelt selected Stevens to help with the Canal design, but after several years on the project he resigned. Stevens however was a visionary. He is the one who understood that the Canal couldn’t be a sea level canal, but instead used locks and worked with the terrain of Panama (remember Panama sits in the middle of a rain forest and rains EVERYDAY, therefore digging through dirt is virtually impossible, because the dirt is always wet and produces landslides). Stevens also was credited for allocating money to improve the living conditions of the canal workers and working with Dr. Gorgas (who was famous for eradicating yellow fever in Cuba) to eradicate yellow fever and malaria from the region.

Goethals completed the work started by Stevens. The complex where Goethals’ monument is situated is cleverly designed. Because the building behind the statue sits at 85 feet high (to commemorate the 85 feet ships must traverse from sea level to the Gatun Lake in the locks) and the distance between buildings is 1000 feet (the length of an actual lock system).

Panama is known for its beautiful Molas. Molas are made out of fabric that have intricate appliqués sewn onto them. This craft is done by women, and these women learned this skill from their mothers and grandmothers. It is how many of the women in this region support themselves. The colors are SO vibrant and happy! Shopping in Panama is not quite as aggressive as Colombia, however, you still have to haggle over prices, because what you see is not what you should be paying for any of the items!

The Old City of Panama must have been absolutely breathtaking at one time. Just like walking through a European city. This portion of the city was designed by the French, when the French were living in Panama and designing the Canal. However, the Old City has not been maintained and it is sad to see this beauty in many places falling apart and in shambles.

For the most part, the streets of Panama look like this. It truly is a sight one can’t forget, because the level of poverty is enormous. It is a form of poverty we in the US can’t possibly understand. In fact, our tour guide made it quite clear that while the US was in Panama and building the Canal the quality of life for ALL workers was GOOD! They had a safe and clean place to live and plenty to eat. In fact, seeing the Locks and ALL the infrastructure (buildings, roads, and trains) our Country built for Panama, leaves you proud of what we were able to accomplish from an engineering and quality of life standpoint. The locks are a main source of income for the Panamanians. For example, a ship like the Island Princess paid $90,000 to Panama just to traverse through the locks today!

I think these next two pictures speak for themselves.

Notice the trash everywhere and the congestion! This picture was taken in Colon, the Capital of Panama. Colon was founded by Americans in 1850 as the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Canal Railroad, which was under construction to meet the gold rush demand for a fast route to California.

This is a monument dedicated to Fernando De Lesseps. De Lesseps was French and the original engineer on the Panama Canal design. De Lesseps was chosen by France since he created the successful Suez Canal, which was a sea level canal, and he was convinced he could take his Suez Canal design and implement it in Panama. That was an IMPOSSIBILITY, which produced bankruptcy for France and also cost the lives of 20,000 workers who died from horrible working conditions and parasitic diseases. De Lesseps was said to have died a recluse with a tarnished reputation.

In the back drop of this picture is the New City of Panama. Clearly you can see that Panama has two classes, the wealthy and the poor. Two extremes!

The last picture I am sharing with you tonight, we entitled…. The Panama Puss. We are 8 degrees away from the equator and it is VERY hot. A heat that is not describable, with 100 percent humidity. This cat has the right idea, which was to find a shady spot, where she could watch all of us tourists in the HOT sun passing by.

December 23, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tonight's picture of Mattie may be our ALL time funniest one! Not because of the content but how it was taken. This was the photo on the front cover of our 2003 Christmas card. Taking a photo of Mattie at age one and a half was VIRTUALLY impossible. He wouldn't sit still at all and forget about looking at the camera. So one weekend I had the idea of taking him to Home Depot and Lowe's. We strapped him into a shopping cart and was hoping he would be stimulated by the lights, displays, and plants just long enough to snap a picture. We first went to Home Depot, but all the photos there came out blurry or did not capture Mattie well. Then we went to Lowe's and by the poinsettias we caught Mattie smiling. I look back on this picture now and laugh. I wasn't laughing at the time, but now I can see just how hysterical we were trying to capture his attention at the store to get him to smile. It was a very memorable production!

Quote of the day: You may only be someone in the world, but to someone else, you may be the world. ~ Unknown 

This morning we entered the port of Cartagena (pronounced… Carta-hay-na), Colombia. The Sea has significantly calmed down and we are seeing sun and experiencing HOT temperatures with 100 percent humidity. The entry to Colombia was quite beautiful. Though this is not Colombia’s capital (it is Bogotá), Cartagena is a large city (population of 952,024) with a rich history. Cartagena was founded in 1533 by the Spanish explorer Madrileno Don Pedro de Heredia.

Cartagena was a shipping center for gold, silver, and slaves between the Americas and Spain. Because of the rich cargos, Cartagena became a favorite target of pirates. Like many successful Spanish ports, Cartagena was a prime target for English and French pirates. One of the most notorious to venture into Cartagena’s beautiful bay was Sir Francis Drake who attacked the city in 1586. After destroying one-quarter of its buildings, including the Cartagena Cathedral, he demanded a ransom, which in today’s dollars is around $200 million. The city recovered but after repeated attacks and severe looting by both British and French invaders Spain decided to pour all its resources (around two trillion dollars) into constructing gigantic fortresses, which made Cartagena an impregnable stronghold.

Cartagena is comprised of an old city and a new city. As we were coming into port, it was VERY evident that we were passing by the new city. To me this part of the city looked just like Miami. It was a very opulent looking area, which I am most certainly not accustomed to seeing in this area of the world.

Over 80 percent of Colombians are Catholic. Therefore, being greeted in the harbor today by this statue of the Madonna and Child seems very fitting and symbolic. The harbor itself was quite beautiful and serves as a special backdrop to the architecture on the land.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about Colombia….. 1) 95% of the world’s emeralds come from Colombia, 2) South America has 13 Countries, of which Colombia is one, 3) Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, 4) Colombia is the second largest fresh cut flower exporter in the world, and 5) only Mexico and Spain have more Spanish speaking citizens than Colombia.

Majestically standing guard on a hillside overlooking the city and harbor is Castillo de San Felipe, a fortress built by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe.

A view from the top of the Fort! As you can see, from the previous picture, to get to the top of the Fort was a bit of a climb. However, you should also note that we were climbing on cobblestones, not a flat path, and the temperatures were in the 90s, with 100 percent humidity!

The Fort has an extensive tunnel system. The tunnels were designed for two purposes. The first purpose was to store gun powder and ammunition, however, the second purpose was for the Spaniards to escape their enemies. The tunnels are narrow and low in height. I basically just fit through them, which means that the Spaniard men in those days were about my stature. They specifically designed these tunnels to meet their specifications, because they knew that their British and Dutch enemies were much taller than they were and would have a very hard time running after and capturing them in these tunnels. You should also note that these tunnels are VERY, VERY dark. Some of us took out our phones or cameras to help light our paths!

After traversing through three tunnel systems, I snapped a picture of Peter standing up on one of the Fort walls!

Inside the Old City are Las Bovedas. Las Bovedas were dungeons initially built for military purposes, but now are home to boutiques and tourist shops. I am not sure I would have deduced that these stores were prison cells at one time, but once I learned about this information, I could immediately see how this was possible. It also was a bit eerie because if these dungeons could talk, I am sure they would have quite a tale to tell.

In the back drop of this photo is the Cartagena Cathedral. This Cathedral is one of the largest in a series of fortresses with a massive exterior and a simple interior.

I have travelled to many places over the course of my lifetime. However, Cartagena was an experience like no other. People of all ages were walking on the streets selling all sorts of merchandise. However, these vendors were highly aggressive and would literally hover and follow you. It was almost an intimidation tactic until you bought something from them. These vendors were everywhere in both the new and old parts of the city. In addition to vendors, there were also people holding parrots or a sloth, and charging you money to take their picture. As Peter snapped this picture of the Old City, what I noticed was the man on the left hand side of the picture with a black shirt. He is an example of one of the vendors we encountered in which he was literally walking beside our group and asking us to buy items every two minutes. I put these folks into context and realize this is how they make a living, but many of our fellow tour mates were disgusted by their persistence and felt harassed so much that they wouldn’t buy any of the items.

The inquisition that had gripped Spain during the Middle Ages expanded to all Spanish colonies and territories including Colombia. While churches were built in Cartagena to bless the faithful, “courts” were erected to seek out, try and condemn anyone viewed as a heretic. The Palacio de la Inquisicion appears to be a charming multi-storied structure and the best example of 18th century colonial Spanish architecture. But behind the ornate stone gateway is a history of misery and torture. During the colonial era, 800 people were condemned to death and executed for crimes of what the Church decreed were “magic, witchcraft and blasphemy.”

While visiting the Inquisition palace, which by the way was beyond creepy (with displays of different tortuous devices to kill people in a slow and inhumane way), there was a courtyard filled with trees as part of this complex. Right next to a banana tree was a three toed sloth. He was actually beautiful, and had a stunning tiger patterned spot on his back!

Cartagena was the center for slave trade during the colony era. Many slaves, after arriving from Africa, would be sold to work in the silver mines of Peru or Panama’s sugar cane plantations. Peter Claver is a VERY special name in Cartagena. That is because Peter was known for his compassion, kindness, refuge, and advocacy for slaves. In fact, Peter became a Saint for his deeds and a church was built in his honor. In the copula of this church, you can see beautiful stain glassed windows. The windows depict Peter’s life and his care and support of the slaves of Cartagena.

I would like to end tonight’s posting with a glorious Caribbean sight….. the sun setting into the water. The sun is another symbol that reminds us of Mattie and makes us feel as if he is with us in spirit.

December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. This was Mattie's second plane trip out to Los Angeles to see my parents. His first trip was in March of 2003, when I had to attend a conference in Anaheim, CA. On this December plane trip, Mattie was a year and a half old and was the center of attention with the flight attendants. They brought him strawberries and cookies from first class. Unfortunately they did not realize he wouldn't eat either of them, and that I was the beneficiary of their kindness. This was a VERY active plane trip in which Mattie and I did non-stop playing, singing, reading, and building (yes I travelled with Lego products even back then!).

Quote of the day: Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. ~ John Maxwell

It was a very rough night at sea, so rough that neither Peter nor I could sleep. The ship was creaking, rocking, and pitching up and down. It literally did not stop doing this until we entered the port of Aruba close to 7am. Once we docked, I opened up our curtains and this is the sight I saw…. Water with a beautiful mangrove tree growing in the sandbar.

All I can say is that I have a great respect for explorers, our military, deep sea fishermen, or anyone who spends a great time at sea. Because after 48 hours at sea on the ship, having dealt with rough weather and waves, I was thrilled to be docked and to see this mangrove out of our window this morning.

The ship made a very short stop at Aruba today, three hours to be exact. Aruba is located in the southern Caribbean. It is 20 miles long and lies north of Venezuela and east of Colombia. It has a population of 103,000. While native tribes from Venezuela flocked to Aruba as early as 1000 AD Europeans did not discover the island until 1499, with the explorations of Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda. After years of colonial rule, it was not until 1986 that Aruba became its own country, although it still remains a Dutch protectorate.

We took the three hour on land opportunity to walk around the capital of Aruba, Oranjestad. There were two large cruise ships in port today, and between us and the other ship, close to 4000 people transcended upon the Island. Yet somehow it works and naturally you can imagine that the shop keepers are thrilled to see all of us, since we are their main source of income. Peter snapped a picture of my mom and me in front of both cruise ships.

The main street of Oranjestad is called L. G. Smith Blvd and as you can see there is a definite Dutch architectural flair to the city.

This beautiful pink building is actually part of a shopping complex. It looks very different from our malls at home. Shopping in Aruba, like most Caribbean islands, is an art form. Mainly because all price tags are negotiable and really do need to be bickered and haggled over. This is not something that we are used to doing in the States, and therefore this isn’t second nature to us. However, once you get the hang of it, and also understand that everything is already significantly marked up, then it is easier to find the inner strength to advocate for a fair price. Despite what one may think, the US Dollar is still sought after and if it comes to making a sale or not making a sale, most store owners find a way to meet your price requests (assuming they are reasonable!).

While walking, this sight in a store window captured my attention. I entitled this picture…. Boston in Aruba. My theory is the Red Sox, and most Boston teams, have a way of uniting people NO MATTER where they are in the world. It is an instant commonality.

Once the ship sailed away today, we had lunch and then went to our second ballroom dancing class to learn to waltz. Though my mom and I know the basic waltz steps, we learned many more new steps to add to the basic box step. We have also gotten to know the dance instructors. The male instructor reminds me of Billy Crystal with white hair, and his significant other and I got to chatting today. I think the instructors are getting a kick out of me, since I am learning the male steps, so I can dance with my mom. In fact, I got a compliment from the female instructor letting me know that she thought I was a good “male dancer.” She meant this as a compliment since in ballroom dancing the male always leads. It is not easy learning to be the male in a dance partnership, because my natural instinct is obviously to learn the female steps.

We were involved in several other activities aboard the ship today, from bingo to watching a production show this evening. In the midst of these adventures, we are seeing a lot of children. In fact one seven year old boy was standing right besides us as we were waiting on line to enter the dining room. Observing him and what he was talking about and interested in, hit me hard. It is reality moments like this, which cause us to stop, pause, reflect, and absorb who is missing from our life, and how our world has been transformed. Naturally I can’t help but feel different from others, but I am also very aware of the fact that others can’t possibly comprehend the magnitude of this loss for us, how challenging the holidays are for us, or how painful it is to see and hear about other children. Tomorrow we head to Cartagena, Colombia, a part of the world NONE of us have ever seen before, and I look forward to sharing this new experience with you.

December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

As promised, tonight's picture of Mattie was the one we featured on our VERY first family Christmas card. In 2002, we had an early snow in November. So literally seeing the white stuff that day inspired me. I dressed Mattie up in his santa outfit, dragged out his entertainment saucer onto our deck, threw a blanket over it, and plopped Mattie right into the mix of it. Peter and I snapped dozens of photos that morning, and this particular one caught my attention! To me this was quintessential Mattie!

Quote of the day: Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble. ~ Frank Tyger

Last night was the first formal evening on the cruise. My mom snapped a picture of Peter and I. As I look around the ship, I see or at least I perceive a lot of happy people. There are plenty of children aboard as well, as they are celebrating Christmas with their families. For the most part I can tune the happiness out. However, when I am not feeling well, I am unable to redirect my thoughts and feelings away from my own grief. Sometimes I see a little boy on the ship and it makes me pause and remember Mattie and wonder what life would have been like if cancer never struck our lives. Last night the captain of the ship made quite a significant public announcement about parents and their responsibility monitoring their children while on the ship. Some of you may recall from our Alaska cruise in August, that one child was reported missing on the ship after not coming back to his parent’s cabin for 12 hours!!! This was our first experience with a missing person aboard a ship, and somehow I couldn’t help but think this frightening experience caused Princess Cruises to make a verbal statement about parental responsibility on their cruises. It is a shame that parents need to be reminded of their roles, a role that is not always guaranteed for a lifetime.

At the moment, Peter and I are sitting outside on deck 14, with about 20 other brave souls. We have been trapped indoors for two days now. Today’s weather was challenging with a Force 9 wind (which is considered a strong gale, with sustained winds of 40mph). Most decks and outside doors are shut off to passengers for our safety, the pool looks like a tidal wave (therefore it too is sealed off to passengers), and because of the intense winds the ship has been rocking and pitching ALL day. There are sea sickness bags lining all the hallways and elevators and if it weren’t on Dramamine, I would be beyond sick.

Nonetheless, despite the warm temperatures outside, I am trapped inside in air conditioning and am frigid. This is impacting my asthma and as of this evening, I am having a great deal of trouble breathing and have all the signs and symptoms that I presented to my doctor a week ago. So to take me out of the air conditioning and to change my view, Peter insisted that we go up to the outside deck to write the blog. I fought him on this, but the humid air is a God sent over the cold air inside. Though I must admit it is eerie to hear the wiping and howling wind and to see the spray of incredible waves.

While we were eating lunch today on deck 5, which means we were about 20 feet off the water, waves were reaching our window. I had Peter take a few pictures so you could get a feeling for what we were observing. We are definitely seeing fewer people out and about the corridors and public spaces today and I greatly attribute this to the rough weather. Literally it feels like being on a very turbulent plane and NO ONE can walk a straight line. We are all swaying and have to hold onto things while walking.

Despite these incredible waves and weather, we did attend the morning zumba class. The class was totally packed and though I enjoyed yesterday’s class, today’s experience left me flat. For me so much is attached to my mood. However, both my mom and I found it particularly interesting that we were both able to do zumba and keep our balance though we were swaying all over the place. We do not have an explanation for this, but perhaps since we were so focused on jumping up and down and the dance steps, that reflecting on the ship’s status was not a priority.

The ship has all sorts of art work throughout the floors of the ship, but this bubbly art has caught our attention. Actually young and old alike seem to be fascinated with it!

We attended two lectures today. The first one was GREAT! It was entitled….Ships – Where are they now? We saw fantastic pictures and heard the history of SO many classic ocean liners like the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and the France. I found it fascinating to hear how one ship could be transformed by paint, name, and purpose throughout its lifetime. For example, the Queen Mary was used as a troop transport in WWII (and painted grey) before Cunard changed its colors and used it as a luxury transatlantic cruiser. Now of course, the Queen Mary is docked near Los Angeles and is a living museum and floating hotel. I had no idea however, that one ship could be repurposed and renamed depending upon its owner and purpose. The future of the cruise industry absolutely intrigues me, mainly because in order for a cruise ship to be profitable, it needs LOTS of passengers. This explains why ships are being built to fit more and more people. We saw plans today for future cruise ships that could hold anywhere from 10 to 25,000 people. Can you get over this? I know I can’t! We are on a ship now that holds about 2000 passengers and that seems like a small city!

The second lecture we attended was about the Panama Canal. In two days we will be going through a portion of the Panama Canal on our cruise. Both my mom and Peter are enamored by the feat of building this structure and have read many books about the Canal. This lecturer however should not be allowed to present to live beings….. because he could make talking about ice cream, brownies, and cake seem disinteresting and boring. He went on for over an hour today, and I noticed he lost 50% of his audience. They literally went to SLEEP! The Panama Canal took over 30 years to build, thousands of people lost their life in this endeavor due to Yellow Fever, Malaria, and overall poor environmental conditions. The French basically went bankrupt trying to create a sea level Canal (which was impossible to build based on the terrain), and in the last decade of its development, the United States purchased the project from the French, took it over, and finished the construction of the Canal. This was NOT an easy achievement and it speaks to the ingenuity of our Country. In fact, learning about what Americans were able to successfully accomplish in Panama is beyond impressive, from engineering feats to medical advancements to prevent parasitic diseases. Naturally the commitment to build a Canal was vital for commerce and industry because by ship one can now get from San Francisco to New York much faster (compare a 5000 mile trip through the Canal versus 13,000 miles going around Cape Horn).

I am signing off tonight and I am hoping we are headed to calmer seas soon. Needless to say we are all looking forward to disembarking the ship tomorrow in Aruba even for a few hours. I appreciate those of you checking in with us and I could use your positive energy to help me pull it together to feel better and attempt to enjoy our time away.

December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 -- Mattie died 119 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. This was Mattie's first Christmas and that year he had some adorable Christmas outfits that seemed to capture his personality. This reindeer onesie was a real cutie, because on the back of it was a reindeer embroidery with an actual fluffy reindeer tail sticking out. I happen to love this picture because it seems to capture Mattie smiling. That year I took dozens and dozens of pictures of Mattie in hopes of introducing our friends and family to the essence of Mattie on our Christmas card. This wasn't the final picture chosen for our card that year, I will show you the one I selected tomorrow night.

Quote of the day: Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm ... As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. ~ Audrey Hepburn

Today was our first full day at sea. Both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea have been quite choppy, with the Sea reaching 7 to 12 foot swells. The ship is significantly rocking back and forth and if it weren’t for Dramamine, it would be a very unpleasant journey for me. Naturally Dramamine has its own draw backs, because it makes me feel very tired, lethargic, and want to sleep.

Peter started his day off very early at the ship’s gym to exercise. Peter loves the morning hours when most people are still sleeping and the ship is calm and peaceful. I am glad he is making time to do something for himself, which typically he wouldn’t do.

My mom and I started the day with an hour long high impact zumba class. This class is quite different from the one we took on the last cruise. However, this class reminded me of the class I take at home and knowing a good portion of the steps helped me significantly. Unlike the last class I took on the ship, today I was not lost.

After zumba, we moved onto a cha cha class. I stood in the line with all the men, and learned their steps while my mom, who was my partner, learned the steps for women. I was not fazed to be in line with the men, and they did not seem taken aback to have me there either. Most likely this was the case because we were all trying to learn the steps and the timing to the music.

All four of us convened for lunch, walked about the ship, and then attended a lecture series on Aruba. Aruba is our first port which we arrive at on Thursday morning. The lecture series was well attended and I am very grateful to the fact that the speaker was only given 35 minutes to present, because he simply read from his PowerPoint slides and made something that could have been rich and vibrant seem very plain and ordinary.

Being at sea provides many challenges especially when the ship has a packed schedule of activities that entice you to be ON and engaged all the time. Finding a way to relax is challenging for us in general but when we follow a schedule even on vacation, it makes unwinding impossible. We are at sea all day tomorrow as well! I am beyond frustrated with the ship’s internet service which is SO SLOW. I am lucky when I can upload a blog posting and it goes through. Because of the slow connections I have decided to forgo all email correspondence because I found I got too frustrated waiting for pages to upload. So this is a two day break from my blackberry and electronic communications, which if you know me well, this is almost impossible to ask me to do. My blackberry is equivalent to my security blanket, a tool that became vital to me when Mattie was battling cancer. So these 48 hours have been an adjustment, as Peter can attest to from watching and observing me.

December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. As you can see Mattie was in his favorite toy... Tot Wheels! Mattie NEVER crawled and desperately wanted to walk, or maybe actually run. Though there is all sorts of controversy over using child walkers, for Mattie this was a God sent. He loved zooming all over our home in it and you would be amazed how he could negotiate tight corners. On this particular day it started to snow, so I opened the door for Mattie to see it and captured his reaction. He literally stopped in his tracks to look at the white stuff and his brief pause confirmed to me his fascination and interest.

Quote of the day: What you see depends on what you're looking for. ~ Unknown

Something woke me up at 4am today and it was virtually impossible to go back to sleep. Not the best way to start our trip away. Before Mattie developed cancer, I could sleep through anything. In fact, I never had a problem sleeping anywhere and at any time of the day. However, post-cancer, sleeping has become a big issue for me. I am not used to this difficulty and the lack of solid sleep greatly impacts my headaches and my physical state.

When we opened up the curtains in our hotel room this morning, we could see a Princess ship sailing by. We assumed this wasn’t our ship since The Island Princess was scheduled to dock at 7am and therefore be able to turn around passengers and board all of us at around noon. However, what we later learned was we did see the Island Princess at 8:30am and they were running 90 minutes behind schedule because they picked up 19 refugees in the water last night and had to follow the appropriate maritime procedures as they were coming into a US port.

Before heading to the ship this morning, we took a walk to a neighboring hotel, The Marriott at Harbor Beach, to have breakfast. We had stayed at this hotel in the past as a family and our visit brought back many memories. The lobby of the Marriott was very festive and Peter and I posed by one of the Christmas trees.

In the past, the Marriott always featured a gingerbread village and train during the holidays. But this year, they had an “Under the Sea” exhibit. However, to me this is a misnomer, since it reminds me more of a winter wonderland. But here are some facts about this tasty display!

Here is a close up of the under the sea display, or perhaps a winter wonderland under the sea would be a more appropriate title!

Embarkation went so smoothly, it was almost impossible to believe. But unlike my usual frenzied self, I really wasn’t getting worked up about much today. I have to imagine this is because I was simply too tired. Peter snapped a picture of the atrium on the ship before it started to fill up, and if you look closely, you can see even Santa was greeting passengers aboard the Island Princess.

Peter, my mom, and I took a tour around the ship before lunch. The ship had a treasure hunt game, which we participated in. The game sent us to 9 specific locations around the ship. One of the locations was the ship’s spa. We actually got a tour of the spa today and we got to hear about every treatment they offer and also saw demonstrations. I was selected to be placed into a floating table. It was magnificent. I basically had to lie down on a table, the table then drops me into an impression and through the fabric I could feel and hear water and heat. Typically for the actual treatment one gets wrapped in some sort of seaweed product and is then placed in this floating table for 30 minutes. I can’t speak to the seaweed, but the table was a great experience even for 5 minutes. As we kept rotating around the spa, we then landed up meeting the acupuncturist. I must admit I am very skeptical about acupuncture, though this procedure has been recommended to me for chronic pain. The notion of needles in my skin makes me uneasy. In any case, guess who was selected to be the acupuncture guinea pig? YES ME! I rolled up my sleeve and then I told the licensed professional that if I started to scream, he was going to get it. However, I must admit I felt nothing and then after the needle was removed, that portion of my arm felt lighter and better. So today I was introduced to acupuncture. Rather funny that I have to come aboard a ship to try something that I could have easily done on land.

Sail away pete picture At around 5:15pm, we began our sail away from Ft. Lauderdale. I snapped a picture of Peter and have entitled it…. Sail away Pete! We will be at sea all day Tuesday and Wednesday, and our first port visit will be on Thursday to Aruba. I have no doubt that seeing land on Thursday will be very welcomed.

I would like to end tonight’s posting with five pictures from our sail away. Thanks for visiting the blog today and for sharing our adventure for the next ten days!