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 28, 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Tonight's picture was taken on December 24, 2008. Our friend's cousin dressed up as Santa and gave Mattie a surprise visit. Including gifts of course. In addition, Mattie's surgeon came over to remove the cast on his left arm. All of this should have provided joy and happiness to Mattie. It did in the moment, but these happy moments were unfortunately fleeting for Mattie and therefore of us. Which is how we learned first hand that childhood cancer is also a psychosocial disease.

Quote of the day: Oh, it was easy to see why people had whirlwind shipboard romances, for it was a temporary journey into fantasy, where dreams could come true if only for the duration of the cruise.Patricia Hagan

We arrived in Trinidad this morning. As we were coming into the Port of Spain (the capital of the island), we passed many oil rigs. Trinidad produces over 100,000 barrels of oil per day, which is a significant part of the island's industry. 

The island is 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela and is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. 
The island was once under Spanish rule. Then in 1797, the British took over. There are 1.2 million people on Trinidad, which makes it the largest populated island in the Caribbean we have visited. 

Do you see the big silver complex? You can't miss it from the harbor. It is huge. The Port of Spain Performing Arts Center is one of those iconic buildings you can't forget. Some people think it looks like the Sydney Opera House. While the Sydney Opera House was designed to resemble a ship’s sails, the Port of Spain Performing Arts Center was designed to resemble Trinidad and Tobago’s national flower, the Chaconia (a wild forest flower also known as a ”Wild Poinsettia” and the Pride of Trinidad and Tobago).
When we got off the ship, we were greeted by men walking on stilts, and women dressed in local costumes. 
Our tour guide's name was Judy and our bus driver with Keith. It was a very hot day today and the tour was about five hours long, in a bus with little to no air conditioning. 

The first stop on the tour was to the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Gardens, which were established in 1818. This is one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the world. The landscaped site occupies 61.8 acres and contains some 700 trees, of which some 13% are indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago, while others are collected from every continent of the world.

I would have to say after touring the Balata Gardens in Martinique yesterday, today's gardens were very unimpressive.

This very large tree is a Brazilian Nut tree. On the tree are objects hanging from it that look as big as coconuts. It turns out these large pods contain the nuts. 

This is an example of the large pod I am talking about. One had fallen to the ground and many of us were examining it. 

This beautiful tree is called the bootlace tree. It has long rope like things that hang from the tree. 
At the end of the ropes are these beautiful pink like flowers! It is a tree that is truly intriguing and draws you in to learn more. 
Our guide gave us a tour of the gardens but she did not know the names of many of the plants and trees we saw. Though this looked like a big lilac, it wasn't a lilac tree. 
 Another beautiful tree!
Overlooking the Royal Botanical Gardens is this huge estate. This is where the Prime Minister lives.
The famous Trinidad flower, the Chaconia. This is the flower that inspired the design of the big silver performing arts complex.

This is the Red House, the seat of Parliament in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago built in German Renaissance style. It would be equivalent to our US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. 

We drove passed the Magnificent Seven. A group of extravagant and eccentrically designed mansions lining the western side of the Queen's Park Savannah, built around the turn of the 20th century. 

Stollmeyer's Castle, also called Killarney, is a Scottish Baronial style residence. Built on land that was previously used as the government stock farm, it was the first residence built in the St Clair neighborhood. It is named for Charles Fourier Stollmeyer, who hired the Scottish architect Robert Gillies to design the house, which is said to be patterned after a wing of Balmoral Castle. The two-year construction project began in 1902. When his wife said that she preferred a simpler home, Stollmeyer gave the house to his son, Conrad. His wife named it for Killarney, Ireland.

This house is called the "gingerbread house." It is a private residence and recently sold for 1.6 million Trinidad dollars. Which is equivalent to around $266,000 (1 Trinidad dollar is worth 6 US dollars).
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain is a metropolitan diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in the Caribbean. 
White Hall - The office of the Prime Minster.
We drove up into the hills and stopped at the Lady Young Lookout for a stunning panoramic view of Port of Spain. From the lookout we could see our ship. 
The beauty of Trinidad.
While at the lookout, a man was there serenading people for money. He asked me to sing along with him, so I did! 
Next we journeyed to the edge of Trinidad's tropical forest to ascend to Mount St. Benedict's Monastery, also known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Exile, nestled peacefully in the mountains. It was so peaceful there that the tour should have allowed for some down time there. 
Once on the Abbey's property, we first stopped at the Pax Guest House, the oldest guest house in Trinidad and Tobago established in 1916 by the monks. Apparently one of the principles of the Benedictine monks, is to provide a safe retreat and hospitality to anyone who wants it. Which is why there are 'guest houses' located near all Benedictine monasteries. 

At the guest house we were treated to hot tea, coffee, orange juice and freshly baked breads.

We sat outside on a picturesque patio while having tea and breads. Frankly I could have used more time there to soak up the serene and beautiful surroundings. But the problem with being on a tour is you are on tour time. 
The dining area within the guest house where tea and breads were served. 
The Abbey of Mount St. Benedict was founded in 1912 by a small group of monks from the Abbey of San Sebastian in Brazil. These men sought refuge in Trinidad after fleeing the threat of religious persecution. Here the monks quickly set to work, building the new monastery high in the hills. They dedicated the site to the Blessed Mother under the title, Our Lady of Exile. The community rapidly grew, and within five years Mount St. Benedict had become an accepted center of Catholic life and worship in Trinidad. By 1950, the monks had established the Abbey, started a seminary (which is still in exist today), and began a boarding school for boys. 

The inside of the Abbey. The major ministry of the monks (there are only 5 left and they range from 60 to 96 years old) today is pastoral counseling. They open their doors to hundreds of people each week and make a commitment to meet with anyone who wishes to speak with one of the brethren. 
The Abbey gift shop sells candles. We bought two candles today for $3. Keep in mind that in Martinique we bought one candle for $5. 

We lit a candle for family members (white) and a red candle for Mattie. The two candles you see at the 7'o clock position are the candles we lit. 
This was the type of roads we drove on up to the mountains. It was very windy and narrow, but the bus driver handled it beautifully. 

December 27, 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2008. Mattie was in the hospital. He received Christmas stockings, a magnetic Santa and a frosted donut from friends. Technically the stockings were for hanging! But Mattie decided to put them on instead. Mattie liked to see everything around him decorated. Which was why I always decorated his hospital room (regardless of season), his IV pole, and wheelchair. 

Quote of the day: Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.  Brooks Atkinson

We arrived in Martinique around 9am today. This is our very first visit ever to the island. As we approached it by ship, it was clear that this is a very developed island in comparison to Barbados, St. Kitts, and Antigua. As of 2010, there are 402,000 people on the island. 

The French claimed this island in 1635, and it has been a French territory ever since. In fact, as our tour guide, Judy, stated today, Martinique is basically France in the Caribbean. The island follows French government and the educational and health care systems.

Martinique has a very distinguished dock. I will never forget the curving green and blue board walk from the ship to the port. 

The Island Language is French and they use the Euro as their currency! They define themselves as a mixed race, comprised of White (European), African, and Indian.

A photo of my mom and me in front of the Caribbean Princess. 
St. Louis is a Catholic cathedral. It was built in the late 19th-century in the Romanesque Revival style. The church is situated in the downtown area of the capital Fort-de-France.

The construction of the cathedral began in the mid-17th century and it opened in 1657. Due to the natural disasters that have plagued Fort-de-France over the years, the current structure dates back to 1895 and was built with an iron frame in order to withstand these calamities. It is the seventh church to be erected on the site; it was designed by Gustave Eiffel (YES the person who designed the Eiffel Tower) and built by Pierre-Henri  Picq.
The beauty of Fort-de- France, the capital of Martinique. At one time St. Pierre was the capital, but it was destroyed in 1902, by the eruption of the Pelee volcano. 
The color and vibrancy of Fort-de-France. 

It took about 25 minutes to get from the dock to our touring destination, the Balata Gardens. 

However, our drive put us on this windy and narrow mountain road, known to the locals at the Trace. The Trace is an original road carved into the landscape by 18th century Jesuit priests (according to Princess Cruises). Keep in mind that  our tour guide told us that this road was made from traces left behind by the Carib Indians. So you pick which one you believe.

The Sacre-Coeur of Balata is situated on a spectacular summit, surrounded by a tropical forest, just outside of town. The famous Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris inspired this smaller but equally impressive Roman-Byzantine structure, which was built in 1925. The views are incredible from this high vantage point, as you can see a panoramic view of Fort-de-France as well as of the surrounding countryside.
Inside the church.  
The ceilings on the church. 
In the USA, lighting candles in church is prohibited. Yet in Martinique, the tradition lives on! For a $5 donation, we received a big candle and lit it. 
The candle in the center was lit in memory of my grandparents and Mattie.

The Arawak and Carib Indians first called the blooming paradise of Martinique Madinina, which means "the island of flowers." The beautiful Balata Botanical Garden has 3,000 varieties of tropical blooms. 

Landscape architect and botanical collector Jean-Philippe Thoze developed the gardens in 1982, and they were opened to the public in 1986. Considered one of the best botanical gardens in the Caribbean, this magically serene place also features tranquil ponds punctuated with lotus blossoms and water lilies. Graceful treetop rope bridges provide aerial views of the lush foliage. Hummingbirds dart through this lovely scene, dramatically framed by beautiful mountain views. 
The garden grounds house more than 300 types of palm trees alone! They also contain impressive collections of bromeliads, cycads, anthurium, begonias, bamboo, and much more.

Judy, our tour guide, explained the clothing on display in the Grounds' house (the house belonged to the grandmother of Thoze - the garden designer). Apparently the material came from India and was very popular and fashionable with woman at one time. In fact the number of material knots found on the head scarf, could indicate if you were single, in a series relationship, or were married. The mannequin on the left is wearing BIG gold chains. It is said that you can still find women on the island wearing these large gold chains. To signify a form of rebellion, as 21st century women dictate who and what they want to wear. Whereas in the past the large gold necklace symbolized a chain, put around a woman's neck as a reminder that the master calls the shots. It apparently was an honor back then for a "slave" women to receive such a chain necklace gift. It basically meant she was the slave master's favorite and as a result other slaves would become jealous and competitive with her.   

Do you see this wonderful hummingbird? There were several of them fluttering all around us. 
Judy gave us a two hour walking tour of the gardens. A photo of my mom and me in the gardens. 
This is an Alpinias plant. One would think that the pinkish part of the plant is the flower. However, Judy educated us today and let us know that these pink rubbery leaves are actually an extension of the green plant. They are NOT the flower. Do you see the SMALL white flower at the 7 o clock location? That is the flower. She said that plants do not flower that much in the Caribbean, and that this pretty colorful extension protects the plant. She also let us know that most flowers in the Caribbean have NO fragrance. It is the spice trees instead which give the island their memorable fragrance. 
I couldn't help but snap a photo of my green friend. I also forgot to mention that while in the Armory yesterday in Barbados, two wild monkeys happened to walk in while our tour guide was lecturing us. The monkeys were smart enough to leave quickly and did not stay for the diatribe. 
Judy shared with us the story of the fern. A prehistoric plant, dating back to the dinosaurs. She says that this fern really has no roots and what keeps it alive is the moss that grows all around it. So in essence a fern is an epiphyte. An epiphyte is an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it.
The garden even has a Tree Top Trail. Which is a narrow suspension bridge hung between mahogany trees. Given the long lines and the fact that we did not have much time left at the gardens, we never ventured up top. 
The beauty of the landscape which can be seen throughout the gardens. I would say that these were probably the BEST gardens we have ever seen in the Caribbean. They are immaculate and beautifully manicured! The gardens host plants from all around the world, NOT just Martinique and the Caribbean. 
Isn't this stunning?! This plant is called the Porcelain Rose. It doesn't share any similarities with a rose, other than it has a beautiful shape and color. It isn't fragrant, and just like the Alpinias, the red part of the plant is an extension of the leaves! It isn't the flower.
Thoze even designed a zen portion of the garden. In this part of the garden you can find a pond, water lilies (a Monet favorite), and plants without much color. As the garden is supposed to instill peace and tranquility. 
No garden is complete for us without a puss sighting. This orange tabby owned the gardens. He wasn't at all bothered while Peter approached for a photo. 

We are now setting sail for Trinidad and Tobago. Another set of islands we have never visited. 

But cruising is not for the meek, especially if you want to explore each port. It means early mornings, lots of walking, following schedules, tons of people, and finding times in between to eat. I used to get frustrated in the past because there is never down time, but I have come to accept this after many many cruises.