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

April 11, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2009, at Mattie's seventh and last birthday celebration. Mattie was in the child life playroom on his actual birthday. Linda, Mattie's child life specialist, arranged for us to have a party in the playroom for Mattie and we invited some of his friends from school to attend. Of course pictured next to Mattie was Brandon, Mattie's big buddy. Brandon was diagnosed with cancer around the same time as Mattie in 2008. Despite their age difference, they understood and appreciated each other as friends. Mattie had a wonderful time that day in the playroom doing all sorts of games, activities, eating Georgetown Cupcakes, and opening presents. 

Quote of the day: Life is mostly froth and bubble; Two things stand like stone: Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in our own. ~ Adam Lindsay Gordon

Peter and I had a long day of travel today but we are back home in Washington, DC tonight. I will post some of my photos I took from last night and today in Sanibel. Last night on our way to dinner we saw a rainbow.

This was our view which we said goodbye to this morning! We have enjoyed being able to look at the Gulf of Mexico every day for a week!

From our balcony we could see all sorts of action, without leaving our chairs! This morning I saw sting ray.

Of course my favorite... Pelicans!

I have enjoyed watching the white egrets hunt for fish in the morning, along with the pelicans! We also got a morning dolphin show as well! 

We drove from Sanibel back to Tampa today. We flew out of Tampa because Peter knows I do not like flying small planes. So I would prefer the 2.5 hour drive to Tampa over going to a closer airport to Sanibel Island, where I would have to fly a smaller plane. On route into Tampa, we had to cross over this beautiful Sunshine Skyway bridge. What you may not be able to tell is the bridge spires are painted a beautiful golden yellow sunshine color. It is simply lovely to look at!!! 

April 10, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2008, at Mattie's sixth birthday party. Mattie had a bowling party that year and his entire kindergarten class was invited. What you may not be able to tell from this photo was that Mattie had a fever and wasn't feeling well toward the end of the party. By the time he got home that day, he headed to the couch and fell fast asleep! Which was UNHEARD of for Mattie.

Quote of the day: Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. ~ Albert Einstein

We visited JetBlue Park today, which is considered Fenway of the South..... otherwise known as the "Nation's Southern Mecca." This is where the Boston Red Sox's train during the Spring! I did not look, but I bet there was a Dunkin Donuts somewhere in this baseball park! It seems to me those two things go hand in hand. 

JetBlue Park, the spring training ballpark for the Boston Red Sox opened Feb. 25, 2012. A number of the characteristics of the ballpark are taken from Fenway Park, including a "Green Monster" that features seating both on top of and behind the wall, as well as a manual scoreboard. JetBlue Park and the surrounding Complex capture elements that reflect its Southwest Florida location. Environmentally-sustainable features are incorporated throughout the facility and Complex, and the considerable landscaping features vegetation indigenous to the area. The facility opened in the spring of 2012 at a cost of $78 million which was paid for by tourist tax dollars collected from hotel stays. That will keep the Boston Red Sox in Lee County for the next 30 years.

While at the ballpark, we met "snowbirds" from Boston. They happily took a photo of Peter and I next to "Wally the Green Monster."

We visited the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”) Preserve today. The Preserve is over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, that measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This linear ecosystem is home to a diverse population of plants and animals, including a few considered to be endangered. The Preserve also serves as a corridor for wildlife by providing a safe route of travel.

Info on the Preserve -- What I found very interesting is that the Slough acts as a natural drainage way. Water flows through the Slough allowing sediments to settle out and pollutants to be absorbed by the plant life. This process cleans the water as it flows southwest through the Slough to deliver fresh water to the Bay. 

Throughout our entire visit to the Preserve, we walked on this lovely boardwalk for about two miles! The wonderful part about this is despite being hot out, the trees provided wonderful coverage and protection from the heat and sun. 

Along the boardwalk there were several viewing areas so we could see the water and many of the birds who fly through the area. 

To me this Preserve was the best kept secret in Fort Myers! The concierge desk at our Hotel had heard about this but did not know specifics on it! Given what I read about the Preserve on line, I felt we had to go today, on our last day in Florida. This was a MUST SEE. Especially if you are a bird lover. This Preserve did not disappoint, as our photos will show! 

We saw several Red bellied turtles.

During several parts of the boardwalk, we walked through a swamp and saw trees covered in epiphytes (an epiphyte is a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant, and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it) and bromeliads.

White herons were all around us!

This photo I want to title, "you ought to be in pictures!" A very photogenic heron.

A Night Heron, there were many of them who loved perching in the swampy areas of the Preserve. 

Green Anole-- It is also sometimes referred to as the American chameleon due to its ability to change color from several brown hues to bright green (though it is not a chameleon).

Brown Anole -- notice this lizard has an orange pouch near its neck. This pouch is called a dewlap. The dewlap only gets inflated as a mating ritual or when threatened. He clearly did not like our presence around him to take a photograph.  

I could have done without this sighting, but someone walking ahead of us pointed it out! Coiled on a log was a Cottonmouth snake, a poisonous snake. Mattie would have enjoyed this thoroughly. 

I saw this fellow fly onto a tree and started pounding away on the wood. However, at first he wasn't cooperating with my camera. But I was patient until he moved. I was able to capture a wonderful Red bellied Woodpecker

This Red Shoulder Hawk
was watching Peter moving around on the boardwalk! I captured the hawk watching Peter, who was watching the hawk!

This beautiful long winged bird is an Anhinga. A bird of southern swamps, the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water.

What I also loved about this boardwalk besides its very peaceful nature, the incredible wildlife we saw on it, was its beautiful attention to detail. Along the boardwalk were meaningful quotes posted along the way for walkers to reflect upon. What a very specially designed experience and one like I have never had before on a nature walk. This Thoreau quote said, "You learn that if you sit down in the woods and wait something happens." That is indeed true. If we moved quickly through this experience today we would have seen NOTHING. We had to meander through this two mile walk to be open to nature at its own pace and NOT ours. 

April 9, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2007, on the day of Mattie's fifth birthday party! This was quite the day! It was torrential rain and we scheduled a party at the zoo. The party entailed a walk through the zoo and the policy was birthday parties are a rain or shine event. I understand some rain, but I am talking about flooding. I was very concerned about 15 preschoolers touring the zoo in those conditions, but guess what?! THEY LOVED IT. Apparently it made it more of an adventure and NO ONE else was at the zoo, so it was as if we had the zoo to ourselves that day. The irony was all the animals were out and about in the rain. Typically when you go to the National Zoo you are looking high and low to find the animals, but not that day. They were out frolicking and happy. 

Quote of the day: Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference. ~ Kevin Heath

We visited Sanibel Island Lighthouse
today! I have to admit out of all the lighthouses I have ever seen, this one is NOT my favorite. It looks like an over sized oil can. Yet with that said, like all lighthouses, it has a history..............

This 120 year old lighthouse sits on a wildlife refuge. Residents of Sanibel Island first petitioned for a lighthouse in 1833, but no action was taken. In 1856 the Lighthouse Board recommended a lighthouse on Sanibel Island, but Congress took no action. In 1877 government workers surveyed the eastern end of the island and reserved it for a lighthouse. Congress finally appropriated funds for a lighthouse in 1883. The foundation for the new lighthouse was completed in early 1884, but the ship bringing ironwork for the tower sank two miles from Sanibel Island. A crew of hard-hat divers from Key West recovered all but two of the pieces for the tower. The lighthouse is located on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island, and was built to mark the entrance to San Carlos Bay for ships calling at the port of Punta Rassa. Punta Rassa became an important port in the 1830s and remained so up to the Spanish-American War. It was primarily used to ship cattle from Florida to Cuba. Until the railroads reached the area in the 1880s, ranchers drove their cattle from open ranges in central Florida to Punta Rassa for shipment to Cuba. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

In 1972, the Coast Guard proposed discontinuing the lighthouse, but feedback provided by local residents and mariners convinced them to keep it lit. The City of Sanibel assumed management of the lighthouse property, except the tower, in 1982, and city personnel were allowed to live in the dwellings rent-free in exchange for helping to maintain and supervise the grounds. The property was transferred from the Coast Guard to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2000. The BLM accepted an application from the City of Sanibel for custody of the property in 2004, and after a lengthy delay, the lighthouse was officially transferred to the city during a ceremony held April 21, 2010. Using a $50,000 state historic preservation grant and money from its beach parking fund, Sanibel City Council awarded a $269,563 contract to Razorback LLC in May 2013 to restore the lighthouse. During the summer of 2013, the contractors replaced sections of deteriorated steel on the tower and then sanded and painted the exterior. The City of Sanibel has certainly shown it is committed to preserving the lighthouse property.

Bailey Tract (part of the Ding Darling National Refuge) is an 100-acre tract of protected freshwater marsh containing a series of five hiking/biking trails that thoroughly explore the area. The trails are of varying length, from 0.25 mile to 1.1 miles.

This was one of the paths we walked on today. What you can't tell is that we were walking in intense heat, humidity, and sunshine. Needless to say after about 1.5 miles, we had it. I am not sure how Floridians walk or bicycle ride in this weather. We see them doing it, but either we are not accustomed to it, or we just can't do it! This is a major difference I see between the East and West coasts of Florida. Being by the Ocean provides breezes that being on the Gulf just doesn't provide.

This was one of the wonderful fresh water ponds we saw while walking around at Bailey Tract.

Of course no scene is complete without a turtle! There was plenty of sun for this fellow to bask in today!
We even saw a Little Blue Heron. A first for us, I never even knew such a bird existed! He has a beautiful blue head!

Surrounding us was this scrubby type of marsh grass!

Along our journey through Sanibel today, I came across this house! I just loved their butterfly and blue bottle display! So I had Peter pull over so I could take a photo of the house!

Can you see the coconuts on this palm? They are so tempting to just want to pick one! However, there are signs all over Sanibel about some sort of disease that has hit coconut palms. The disease has caused many of the trees to yellow and to protect the trees, they have been sprayed. However the spray has caused the coconuts to be unsafe for human consumption.

This afternoon I was so tired, I literally wanted to just go upstairs to our room and lie down! However at 3pm, our room was still not cleaned and worse when we went upstairs to our room we found the door of the room completely open and NO ONE was inside. There was no housekeeper in sight either. That was the last straw! Between other issues I have had at the hotel this week and being tired, I reached my limit. I marched down and spoke to the concierge. I have gotten to know many of these women throughout the week, as they have helped us find restaurants to dine at for dinner. I explained to them my issues with housekeeping and they said they would alert the assistant manager that I wanted to speak with him. By 4pm, I sent Peter upstairs to see if our room had been cleaned yet, and still there was NO progress. So this time I went to the front desk and I let them have it. While letting the front desk have it, the assistant manager was there listening to my rant. Needless to say I got results and someone went immediately to clean our room, but then the assistant manager came to talk with Peter and I about all the problems we had over the course of the week. We sat overlooking this view while talking to the assistant manager. Clearly he understood our concerns about safety and the fact that our room was left open, with the door propped open for anyone to enter, when no one was on duty to clean it. Safety and cleanliness are big issues for me. 

I could have let all of this go, but it is the principle of the matter. First of which is I choose Marriott resorts because I rely on their brand and product. Therefore I expect them to maintain a certain standard. Second of which, as Peter reminds me often, my complaints are always reasonable and sound. In any case, they must have been serious enough because the assistant manager reduced our room rate today and raised our Marriott membership reward status to the highest level possible. Which will help us on all of our future travel arrangements. I was very grateful to be taken seriously. 

For my fellow foodies who are interested in restaurants, here are some of the wonderful restaurants we have eaten at this week in Sanibel and Ft. Myers:

Sunday: Courtside:
Tuesday: Doc Ford's:
Wednesday: Veranda:
Thursday: Fresh Catch:
Friday: Traditions on the Beach:

April 8, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006, during Mattie's fourth birthday party. The theme that year was dinosaurs. Mattie just loved them. This was the first birthday party we actually held outside of our home (Riverbend Nature Center) and invited friends to. A naturalist introduced the children to all sorts of animals, of course Mattie was most intrigued by the slithering and creepy crawling ones! The kids even went for a walk in the woods and got to do a pretend dinosaur dig in the sandbox. It was quite the adventure for a four year old with preschool buddies in tow.     

Quote of the day: Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.  ~  William J.H. Boetcker

Today we ventured to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. What an incredible experience this was and a must see if in this location! We spent HOURS touring the museum, both estates, and the gardens. We even took an hour and 15 minute guided historical tour of the property. Our tour guide, JT, was incredibly gifted and brought Edison and Ford alive for me. As I told him as a child I strongly disliked history as a subject matter. Mostly likely because of how history was taught to me.... all facts and dates. History wasn't presented like JT's tour..... in stories, real life examples, and in context. I am quite sure if I ever had a history teacher who brought history to life, I most likely would have LOVED studying history because in essence history is truly a lot like studying psychology, but in a slightly different context. 

JT helped all of us on tour today break the myths we have about Edison and Ford. Edison did not discover the light bulb and Ford did not invent the car or the assembly line! Instead Edison should be known for the filaments within the light bulb that he invented which enabled the light bulb to burn for 1200 hours and Ford was able to study assembly lines of meat packers and apply them to the making of a car. Ford in essence made cars more affordable. More cars could be produced in a shorter period of time and therefore the cost for example of a Model T in 1926 was $200, in comparison to cars in 1908, pre-assembly line, which cost $2000 per car. 

However, that only touches the iceberg regarding the talents of either of these men. They were both inventors, entrepreneurs, and in a way were constantly working and brainstorming. Edison had 1093 patents in his lifetime on all sorts of items. Frankly there was nothing Edison did not or couldn't create, from toasters, fans, concrete, generators, talking dolls, phonographs, and rubber. What many people may not know was Edison was practically deaf. He lost his hearing from Scarlet Fever, but did not want people to know this fact. Instead he made up a story about losing his hearing in a train accident of some sort to make himself look larger than life. He did not want people's pity nor did he want them associating him with having a disability. He claimed to view his hearing loss as something that forced him to become more sensitive and heightened to his other senses, but at the same time he could tune out unhelpful distractions in his life. 

The curious part of this house tour is there are TWO ESTATES in one on this property. I have to admit I had no idea that Edison and Ford were friends, much less collaborated on projects together. But they did! Edison was 16 years older than Ford and I learned today that Edison was Ford's mentor. They eventually became friends, they established the Edison Botanical Research Corporation together in 1927 and Ford even moved into the winter house next door to Edison's in 1916.

Now what brought Edison to Florida in the first place???? Well just like anyone who lives in a cold weather climate...... he was looking to escape the winter months!! Thomas Edison purchased the land for his winter estate in 1885, when he first visited Florida, looking to escape the cold from up North. His home, was completed in 1886 (ONLY A YEAR LATER), and was nicknamed "Seminole Lodge." It served as a winter retreat and place of relaxation until Edison's death in 1931. Edison’s good friend Henry Ford purchased the adjoining property, "The Mangoes" (because of all the mango trees surrounding the property) from Robert Smith of New York in 1916. Ford's craftsman style bungalow was built in 1911 by Smith. In 1947, Mrs. Mina Edison deeded the property to the City of Fort Myers in memory of her husband for the enjoyment of the public. It was opened for public tours soon after. 

Largest Banyan Tree outside of Maui! It stands right by the entrance to the visitor's center. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone were working to find a natural source of rubber that could be grown in the United States. The banyan tree was one of over 17,000 plants sampled that were tested for Edison's rubber research. Historical documents reveal this tree was planted around 1927 and is understood to be one of the largest in the continental US. This type of tree produces a while milky sap (latex) that can be used to create rubber. There are over 13 types of ficus trees throughout the Edison and Ford Estates. 

This is the dining room of Edison's house. You may notice an electric wire hanging from the chandelier. This is where the only electrical outlet in the room was located! 

At one time this library was the family's dining room. But the Edison's decided they did not need two dining rooms. They had one in their main house and one in their guest house. So instead they kept the dining room in their guest house and transformed this space into a library. 

This is the Edison's Bedroom. This bedroom was at one time the kitchen. But when the Edison's decided to consolidate down to one kitchen and one dining room, this changed the layout of the house. Thomas Edison married twice. His first wife, whom he married when she was 16, died in her 20's. He had three children with his first wife and three with his second wife. He only lived in this winter retreat with his second wife, Mina. There was clearly a twenty year age difference between them.

The wrap around porch of the Edison's home. As JT explained so well, this house was originally made out of spruce wood from Maine. A real No No in Florida. Termites love spruce. So the exterior of the house has been restored from the original. In addition, the family only used the house in the cooler months, like the fall and maybe March at the latest, before mosquito  season took over. Back then there weren't screens and other ways to protect one's self from these bugs and the diseases they carried.

Edison had his own fire system set up in his house. Hoses were right outside the kitchens! At one time his house had two kitchens, so there was a hose at each location. He was prepared because he knew given the lack of roads and infrastructure in Fort Myers at the time, he had to be prepared to deal with such crises if they arose. 

Edison's Kitchen

Edison's study is actually located outside of his house in a separate structure. Edison's original 1886 laboratory was moved in 1928 from this site to Henry Ford's Museum, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford agreed to build this study in its place for Edison. Combined with the Moonlight Garden, for Mina Edison.

Moonlight Garden was one of Mina Edison's favorite places. Designed with fragrant white flowers and a small pool to reflect the moonlight. 

Lily ponds were added in 1929 and at one time they included Mina Edison's favorite plants such as irises, water lilies, and papyrus.

Constructed in 1910, and built from Edison Portland cement, the pool was one of the first residential pools in Southwest Florida. 

I snapped a photo of Peter in front of this enormous bougainvillea. I have never seen a bush of bougainvillea so large. This plant was added to the garden by Mina Edison. 

I love this poster because it captures how Ford and Edison started their relationship. Ford and Edison attended a conference together in Long Island, NY. At the conference, Ford was featuring his Quadicycle that he invented. Mind you at that time Ford was young, I believe JT said he was a teenager and very impressionable and a great admirer of Edison. Edison was 16 years older than Ford and when Edison told Ford that he was onto something and to continue working on his invention, Ford was inspired. After that chance encounter Ford began sending letters to Edison asking questions and seeking guidance and input. Edison wrote back and the mentorship role began. It was only years later did the relationship change and did they become colleagues and friends. 

Ford's House called Mangoes -- Ford purchased this house in 1916, so those good friends could enjoy fishing, boating and exploring Southwest Florida together. 

Unlike Edison's house, Ford's house used local woods and therefore there was never a termite problem at this house. This is a photo of the interior of Ford's house. Though the furnishings are NOT originals, the replicas are supposed to be close to what existed within the house at the time. 

Edison Botanical Research Laboratory

Edison, Ford, and Harvey Firestone were concerned about America's dependence on foreign sources for rubber for industrial use. As a result they formed the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in 1927. Under Edison's leadership, the corporation sought a source of rubber that could be grown and produced quickly in the US in the event of a shortage in the foreign supply. After testing over 17,000 plant samples, Edison eventually discovered a source in the plant goldenrod (many of us know goldenrod quite well in the spring, because it causes major allergies!!). That large framed stalk like plant on the right is goldenrod!

This laboratory, built in 1928 was the headquarters for Edison and his staff and was operational until 1936 (five years after Edison died). The layout of the interior contained a chemical processing area, machine shop, grinding room, office, and dark room.

The 1886 laboratory contained equipment for mechanical and chemical experiments. Compared to the $12,000 that was spent building and furnishing the homes, $16,000 was spent on the laboratory. Many of the elements inside the laboratory came from Edison’s various companies including the dynamo, which was powered by coal fired steam boiler and provided electricity for the estate in 1887. Which was actually 11 years before the city of Fort Myers became electrified in 1898.

There is a Museum on the grounds of the complex. One could spend HOURS in that alone. I will only highlight a few photos from the museum. This Phonograph has bite marks in the upper left hand corner. Why? Well remember Edison was mostly deaf. So he couldn't hear the sounds coming out of the phonograph he created. So instead he would bit down on it to feel its vibrations to tweak the instrumentation. Also note that when he created the phonograph it wasn't for entertainment purposes. It was for work purposes. He thought it would be used like a dictation machine at a workplace. However, he eventually determined that it would have more marketability for the public and of course through his inventions Edison was one of the wealthiest men in the US for his time.

His generators and Edison believed in solar power and advocated for it. 

Both Edison and Ford loved music, movies, and dance!

"Music next to religion is the mind's greatest solace, and also its greatest inspiration. The history of the world shows that lofty aspirations finds vent in music, and that music, in turn, helps to inspire such aspirations in others." ~ Edison

"I am not thinking so much of teaching children to dance, but of teaching children courtesy and conduct that goes with dancing." ~ Ford

Edison created the first Movie Studio in the US called the Black Maria in 1894. He created 4000 pictures and integral equipment to the movie industry. Edison became the first honorary member of the academy of motion pictures in 1929.

Ford appreciated dancing so much that he even hired instructors to teach his employees in his Dearborn laboratory. In fact, Ford felt it was important to write down music and capture dance steps on paper for posterity, since some of these folk pieces ONLY existed in the heads of the artists. 

Phonographs Edison created

Edison's Talking Doll -- he was ahead of his time. This doll recited nursery rhythms

These two displays caught our attention because Peter and I went to Union College, which is in Schenectady, NY. Anyone who knows anything about Schenectady knows that it was once the home of General Electric (when Edison Machine Works merged with Thomson-Houston it became GE). They had an enormous plant there. The plant existed there when we were in college. It was what kept Schenectady growing and thriving... which is in part to Thomas Edison who moved his operations from New York City to Schenectady after a labor strike in 1886. 

Schenectady Works -- which is what General Electric once looked like in Schenectady, NY