An Interesting Coincidence……

“Okay, why would someone who is assigned to Hawaii come to Key Largo to get their scuba certification?” When Hubby is notified about an upcoming class, he’s provided as much background as is available, but in some cases, that isn’t much. In some cases, details get a bit mixed up, and when he was told there were some Navy guys from Hawaii he would be doing an Open Water Certification for, that seemed odd. Open Water is the basic step in certification and there are dive shops all over Hawaii. However, once he learned the situation, it not only made sense; it is a particularly cool  story because of a professional connection.

For starters, the individuals are in Key Largo to receive critical training for something else and the timing was right for them to dovetail scuba classes with that training. Okay, sure. The professional reason they’re taking scuba is because they are members of a unit called Joint Task Force Full Accounting. This isn’t a well-known unit in general, but they do make the news periodically. When you read or hear a story about the long lost remains of American military being located and returned home, in all likelihood, JTF Full Accounting is involved. Their mission is to follow every lead and physically go around the world investigating missing service members and recovering the remains whenever possible.

Their capability is fascinating and while military personnel of all services (that’s the Joint part) rotate through the unit, there are civilian experts who have been there for years. They are forensics and other experts such as in military equipment. Based on their experience, they can take scraps of metal or pieces of fabric and determine what type of aircraft or uniform the items came from. The teams from JTF have been up in mountains, deep in jungles, and in tiny villages where planes might have crashed or wounded servicemen might have died and been hastily buried. As technology advances and more places in the world are accessed, there are increasing discoveries of information about missing military personnel. Being scuba certified comes in since some of those missing includes personnel who perished underwater.

Neither Hubby nor I have been personally involved in a recovery, but a good friend of ours was with JTF Full Accounting while we were in Hawaii and we had the opportunity to learn details about their work. For some families, they vaguely knew where a member was lost, but the resources to pinpoint and bring the individual home did not exist at the time. For them, even decades after the loss, to have that loved one honorably returned to them is incredibly important.

Painting Parties…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of “Painting Parties” or even where it really got started, but it does appear to be a trend. It’s especially nice to see that the two great ladies of Art for Good seem to be doing well with them. Let me explain a bit if you’re not familiar with either. I’ve posted about Art for Good (https://www.artforgoodusa.org) previously and yes, they are an Affiliate Member of Homestead Center for the Arts. Suzanne Moe and Marcela Noriega are truly awesome women and to quote from their website, “Here at Art For Good we believe art can help integrate community, build self-esteem and promote mutual respect. We recognize art and creative thinking as valuable tools to find solutions to social problems in our community and to benefit society.

We invite and inspire people to be agents of positive change by staging fun art events and activities which bring community together for the common good. These events help raise awareness and funds for Art For Good projects and programs.”

Of course they accept straight out donations, but their Paint Parties are growing in popularity and they fall into the category of being what I call a, “Fundraiser with the emphasis on Fun“. The concept is remarkably simple and the party is usually held in a place where wine (or your preferred beverage) can flow along with the paint and laughter. You start with a blank canvas and an image to work toward. You don’t need to have ever held a paintbrush to be part of the fun and you might surprise yourself as Suzanne and Marcela give you pointers. They hold private and public events and three public ones are scheduled for 6, 19, and 21 July. The price is around $30 per person, but that varies depending on what food and drink are included. Pop onto their website for details.

If you’re looking for something interesting for the summer, I highly recommend checking  this option out.

Amazing Talent…..

The event has passed, but somewhere on your calendar, make a note to start checking around next April for the 3rd annual Homestead Community Concert Scholarship Showcase. Two years ago, HHC, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts,  (http://homesetadcenterforthearts.com) decided to have scholarships for music students. Although the scholarships are limited, for the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to train a talented musician, any external amount is appreciated. Last year, there was 1,2,3 place and two honorable mentions. The turnout was larger this year and the competition so close, someone stepped up and donated funding for a third honorable mention. The ages of these students (must be 18 or younger) ranged from 14 to 18 and their awards and accomplishments to date make you wonder if they ever have time to sleep.

There were three pianists, two cellists, and one violinist; most of whom played classical pieces with one modern jazz selection in the mix. Aside from their talent, their stage presence was impressive and every parent must have felt tremendous pride in watching and listening. I don’t know how many of the students will go on to have careers in music – like all the arts, it’s difficult to make a living as a musician. What I do know is it’s a performance you’ll enjoy if you like classical music. As part of the presentation, there was also a salute to the sacrifices parents make to support their children with both considerable financial requirements and an incredible amount of time with driving to lessons, competitions, etc. The applause that rose for them was well-deserved.

Events like these cannot happen without a lot of hard work and that too gets a big “Thank You” for the volunteers who devote their time.

Quietly Quilting….

I wrote routinely for our community newspaper, the South Dade News Leader for a couple of years. I met a lot of interesting people since my focus was on human interest stories and history of the area. There were plenty of uplifting stories and among them were women who made quilts to send to deployed troops. I had met some of them when doing research for the Small Town Lies quilting series and that led me to hearing about the other project for the troops. That, in turn, led me to learn of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org). It is a national foundation based in Iowa with this as their mission: “The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.” In some cases they send quilts to hospitals and at other times, make direct presentations to military members selected in special recognition.

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon where six active duty soldiers and one retired naval officer were given quilts and it was a great pleasure to do so. The woman who linked multiple organizations together had created one of the quilts. There are several different quilting groups around and in this situation, there is a “mini-group” within the larger group and they focus on the Quilts for Valor contributions. There are also different organizations that are comprised of retired military and/or those who have a connection to the military. May is Military Appreciation Month and presenting the quilts at the May meeting of the MOAA has now become a tradition. (MOAA is Military Officers Association of America). The soldiers were present (two with their wives) and the retiree was unable to attend, but his wife and daughter were there. A short paragraph was read about each individual; particularly about a combat event in which his actions were notable. The Colonel who was reading the paragraph made an interesting comment before he began about how none of the men there viewed their actions as “special” in the sense they all did what they expected each of them to do under those circumstances. And not surprisingly, none of them chose to speak, but merely to smile and say, “Thank you for this honor.”

I don’t have a photo of the individual quilts, but as you can imagine, there was definitely a “red, white, and blue” theme. Each of the quilts was carefully “packed” inside an “pillowcase” that had also been crated as a holder for it. There were all double-bed/queen size.

 

New Jersey, Day Two of Show…..

One of the things about attending these shows is indeed the people you meet, especially the legends and pioneers of scuba. Because of the age range (and there are a delightful number of children in attendance), certain men and women were in the truly early days of scuba when technology was very limited. The entrance to the show has large-size photos on display of “Legends of the Sea”, many of whom are no longer with us, yet advanced the knowledge and understanding of scuba throughout their lives.

An individual who is very much still with us is Nuno Gomes. He was in the same presentation room as we were in, but on at an earlier time. Then by chance we were at the bar together at the hotel and I did not initially recognize the name. You can Google him to see the YouTube  videos that are amazing as he has gone around the world setting a variety of depth records. From Wikapedia: “He is the holder of two world records in deep diving (independently verified and approved by Guinness World Records), the cave diving record from 1996 to 2015 and the sea water record from 2005 to 2014.” Yeah, diving below 1,000 feet will get you into the records books.

Why, you may ask? Part of it is the, “Because it’s there”, and part of it is the incredible drive of certain individuals who want to stretch themselves to whatever particular boundary they choose to engage in; to say, “I don’t know, let’s see if we can’t go beyond that.” This is not some daredevil, thinly disguised death wish, but rather a carefully thought out reasoning of how to push and demonstrate human ability supported by technology. Aside from being an amazing diver, he’s an interesting guy to have a drink with.

The 20th Anniversary Performance……

I suppose it actually has been ten years since we first watched our son in a performance with the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company (http://bmdc.org). At least the Playbill from last night said he’s in his tenth season with them. Well, them being Lucy. She is an amazing woman in so many ways. To survive in the dance world as a small performing company is difficult enough. To consistently win awards and be regarded as the best small company in the area is even tougher. She does this through absolutely tireless efforts, a complete understanding of how the arts scene functions, and forging lots of ties. I’ve written before about how she incorporates live music into her performances, but another example is she is often asked to bring a piece to an embassy. For those not familiar with D.C., “Embassy Row” is just that – many of the embassies are located in and around Dupont Circle and most are quite large. They have frequent receptions and as part of those will often have perhaps a string quartet or pianist. Because Lucy is well-established she has been invited to have a duo, trio, or quartet piece which fits well into those type of spaces.

Anyway, because last night was celebrating the 20th year (15th at the Kennedy), she had created a 3-part Ars Amatoria, based on the 2-000 year old writing by Ovid advising young men how to woo women. It was done with plenty of whimsy and multiple instruments (to include a bass clarinet) and the addition of a pink-clad Cupid dancing about to assist the humans in their efforts at love. The audience enjoyed it and I haven’t checked the Washington Post yet to see how they reacted. They usually review her performances.

Although the temperature here has dropped considerably, at least the precipitation isn’t as heavy as had initially been predicted. Today will be filled with taking the kids to lunch, then everyone coming for dinner at our friends.

Fun at the Book and Art Fair…..

Well shoot, for not posting this yesterday. The Main Street Book and Art Fair will be Sat, Jan 30 from 3-6:00 p.m. in Losner Park on Krome Ave. This will be the first year to add in artists and we have a nice group that will range from photographers to other mediums. One of the exciting new books is Robert Moehling’s story about his multi-generation family and the history of the Robert is Here fruit stand that has become such a big tourist attraction. Three of us will be giving presentations at the Veteran’s Memorial in the top left corner of the park next to the Seminole. The local writers group, the Lamplighters, released Alligator Tales last year and they’ll be on hand as a group along with Majorie Doughty who  have her books as well. Yes, the South Dade Wood Turners will be there with beautiful work that blends art with craft.

The dance performances that were planned for the December Holiday event were rained out and they’ll be on stage with a taste of their spring recitals. Once again, the Kiwanis will be doing their book give-away and then at 6:00 p.m. as the tents are folded, there will be a movie-in-the-park with a brand new Peanuts movie that will be great for families. In addition to the downtown restaurants that are open (Uncle Tom’s BBQ, Casita Tejas, El Toro Taco, Stick & Stein/Flagler’s Martini Bar), Chefs on the Run will be set up in the Park. We’ll ask Mother Nature to please be kind because it’s going to be a terrific afternoon/evening.

I can’t figure out how to post the image of the poster because it’s in PDF, so here’s the Facebook link. They’re updating with news of the event every couple of days. https://www.facebook.com/homesteadmainstreet

Please help spread the word and come out if you can. You’ll have a wonderful time.

 

 

A Range of Artistic Choices……

A small sampling of art at The Children's Art Gallery at Cauley Square

A small sampling of art at The Children’s Art Gallery at Cauley Square

All of us who knew the Children’s Art Gallery were sad to see them leave Homestead, but it was an issue of timing that couldn’t be avoided. I’ve posted before about Cauley Square, the pleasant 10-acre parcel between Homestead and Cutler Bay with cute shops and a couple of restaurants. They were happy to provide a location for the Children’s Art Gallery and if you haven’t visited Natalie and Carlos there, you are missing a treat. If you aren’t familiar with the Gallery, the name can be misleading. They do indeed provide a wonderful environment for children (to include special needs) to express themselves artistically and to learn, but their love of art extends well beyond that. Aside from their own considerable talent, they nurture artists as often and in every way they can. (http://www.childrensgalleryartscenter.org)

The gallery has a range of mediums to select from and if you need a beautiful scarf, I would look there first. Some handcrafted jewelry is almost always available and there are other small gift items if that’s what you are looking for. The array of classes in different mediums is impressive and their Art and Wine Parties can provide something new to try. Have a piece of art to restore? That is yet another service to talk to them about. Their passion for art shows through in everything they do and if you want to help support the arts, spend some time on their website or make some time to visit them. At a minimum, you will feel uplifted being in the presence of a couple whose lives are devoted to sharing their love of art.

Beautiful scarves and other wearable art

Beautiful scarves and other wearable art

Another Veteran’s Day Celebration……

Veteran's Day Ceremony Homestead, FL Nov 2015

Veteran’s Day Ceremony Homestead, FL Nov 2015

Serious and poignant content alert! Not that all Veteran’s Day Celebrations don’t have good things about them. They do, and it’s always heart-warming to see people out for more than just the cookouts and sales. The small town celebrations though have such a personal feel to them and Homestead is no exception. Part of the reason I think is that like here, as the names of those who have been lost in time of war are read, you are in the crowd with a relative or descendent in many cases. They are more than names – they are a part of the town that the crowd knows. You can often find some of the same names on streets, roads, or buildings within a few blocks of the Veteran’s Memorial. Granted, the fact that Homestead’s municipal history doesn’t date back before the late 1880s means the memorial begins at WW I. To towns where they possibly have a few of the French Indian War and certainly of the Revolutionary War veterans, they have more extensive memories to capture. It is the sentiment, however, of the recognition of these men and increasingly women who perished in time of war that is identical. It is a stirring tribute and a joined hope that perhaps one day we will cease to turn to armed conflict to resolve our differences.

I have written in Facebook posts and perhaps on the blog that few people desire peace more than members of the military. No, not the ones who embrace a culture of death, but the nations who understand, sadly,the expression, “if you want peace, prepare for war” comes from “Epitoma Rei Militaris,” by Vegetius (Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus). The Latin is: “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” (I found this on http://ancienthistory.about.com)

Although war and armed conflict does not come as quickly or as often as in the days when the words were committed to paper, it is still prevalent. Too many billions have been devastated throughout history, and I hope that somewhere in our future, our descendants will find a way to “beat swords into plowshares” in a meaningful way.

Wrapping Up the Dive Show…..

When you attend a large tradeshow, one of the points is to not only catch up with old friends, but it’s to meet new people as well. We’ve certainly done both on this trip. (Oh, dinner last night was at a near-by Italian restaurant. Ciao Italia was a good place, and the excellent part was they had wild boar which my husband loves.)

Anyway, back to the show. For me, seeing the number of women, especially when they are engaged in the type of scuba many of them are, is terrific. I finally had the chance to meet Jill Heinerth (http://www.intotheplanet.com) who does amazing diving in a highly technical capacity. I also met Evelyn Dudas, who was the first woman to dive the Andrea Doria. (http://www.dudasdiving.com/about-us) Until technical diving advanced in the 2000s, that was considered the “Mount Everest of Diving” and is still quite challenging. The array of women here range from slender, lithe twenty-somethings to pioneers in the sport who are most assuredly past that age.

On the business side, pre-sales for Mystery of the Last Olympian (http://MysteryoftheLastOlympian.com) have been brisk and I allowed myself to be talked into something I said I wouldn’t do. I guess I’ll be going to the big dive show in Chicago in February. I mean, really – Chicago in February? I do hope it will be worth it.

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.

Mystery of the Last Olympian is scheduled for a Feb 2016 release.