Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Wetlands Floor

Miss Kitty is wondering where her favorite chair that USED to be in this spot went to.

When last we spoke, my living room was empty and the floor had been stripped down to the concrete. Friend Matt came over Monday night and pulled out those nasty carpet tack strips (ouch). Frank Rao, muralist extraordinaire, arrived bright and early Tuesday morning. We vacuumed one more time to be sure all the dust was up, he fixed some of the more obvious floor flaws, I penned up the cat and the dog in my bedroom (much to the dog's disgust), and we were off to the races!
For a person like myself that thinks in terms of words, not pictures, knowing that the end result would be wonderful is a matter of trust (and having other mural and faux painting work done in my house by Frank and his father, Al).
After Frank applied a base coat, we identified "big picture - this is water, this is marsh" stuff, and he started blocking in colors.

Once the floor was taking shape, Frank started bringing the art up the walls. What fun! (Thanks to prodigiously talented friends like Charlie Corbeil, Jim Angy, Matt MacQueen, and Wayne Matchett, I had some wonderful reference photos for Frank. I pulled them into a PowerPoint presentation on my laptop that Frank could move around with him.) His first scene was a wetlands view behind the 20 foot curly willow tree that stands in one corner. After I saw that, I was hooked into more wall art, so I now have an anhinga in nuptial plumage drying his wings by the dining room table area, a great blue heron with his neck curled around a light switch by the sliding glass door, a pig frog by the guest bathroom, and a dragonfly in another corner. (We sea-bean symposium folks think that Cathie Katz comes back to us as a dragonfly, so of course there had to be a tribute dragonfly.) An alligator on the floor will peer at guests sitting on the couch. Grasses coming up the walls tie the whole thing together. (Ignore the African art - it will get moved into the Safari Room.)

Yesterday, the final clear sealer coat went on - we're done! Well, at least with the art. Furniture can go back in place mid-week, after everything cures for the appropriate amount of time. (Frank worked extra hard to come up with products that were pet-friendly in terms of limited outgassing - we kept a lot of fans going, and it was not smelly at all.) Rope lights will go along the baseboards. Artificial water lilies will be scattered on the floor. A frog statue that I've had for years will now sit on a lily pad. I gracefully turned down a friend's offer for a canoe that could be used as a couch - we certainly don't want to go over the top here :)

DONE! Matt came over yesterday and shot a short video - when that gets edited, I'll post it and you'll get a better idea of the finished product - a thing of beauty! Frank's new web site is in work - when that is up and running next week, I'll provide you with a link to it so you can see some of his other creations. Meanwhile, if you need a mural or faux art, Frank is your man!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ode to a good son

If you're lucky, your child grows up to be a happy, productive, competent person. My son Charlie is all of these things, and more. In addition, he supports my quirky ideas with minimal flack. Case in point is this last week, when he came over for a couple of days to prep my living room so that Frank Rao can paint a wetlands mural on the floor (this will be so cool). In addition to moving furniture and removing and disposing of carpet, he put in a new shower head, installed a lattice barrier along the balcony railing so the cat and dog won't jump through, cleaned the gutters, detected a backed-up overflow drain in my garage A/C and fixed that, cleaned the refrigerator coils, rescreened the screen door and put in a "butt panel", and installed a screen over my neighbor's A/C grate because she was worried about the leaves getting in the unit. Whenever we go through these "honey do" events, I continue to be impressed and delighted with the wide variety of things Charlie does well and his calm, practical approach to solving problems. The photo is a couple of years old, but a favorite of mine - shows Charlie and his wife Melea, with their rescue greyhound, Cheyenne. I got lucky with Melea, too - she and Charlie have been married for nearly 20 years. She's charming and intelligent and the perfect daughter-in-law. She's training to walk 60 miles in the Susan B. Koman 3-Day Walk for the Cure in October (20 miles a day). We'll talk more about that later, but anybody willing to train outside in August in Florida has my admiration!

Amongst their many skills and interests, Charlie and Melea are long-time volunteer puppy raisers for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), and a few weeks ago they received a new CCI puppy they have nicknamed Tank. For those of you unfamiliar with CCI, it is an organization that provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities. Charlie and Melea will care for, train, and socialize Tank for 18 months, after which time he will go off to "college" to work with his permanent owner.
A week from now, my living room floor will be a thing of beauty, and there will be pictures, of course. Meanwhile, here's to good kids everywhere!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drunk as a ...

Friend Ann, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer extraordinaire, spends a lot of time on the beach during sea turtle nesting and hatching season, but this was a first for her. She described her experience thusly:

"This morning after survey when we were dumping our trash, we heard a hiss from the trash can. When Alex looked in the can, she saw this opposum staring at her. He was quite upset to have styrofoam thrown on him. We decided to tilt the can and let him out. First, lots of cans and bottles and alcohol-smelling liquid fell out, and then out came the possom, soaking wet and reeking of beer.

He staggered over to the sea grapes and eventually climbed up on a limb. At first we thought he was sick or injured, but he seemed to recover pretty quickly. "

Well, the title would have rhymed better if it had been a skunk, but we certainly thank Ann for saving the inebriated possum and sending us the photos!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

WWII Anniversary

Today marks the 65th anniversary of V-J Day - Victory over Japan, the end of WW II. This iconic photo speaks to the jublient crowds that rushed into New York's Times Square to celebrate after President Harry S. Truman announced the victory. (Photo by Victor Jorgensen, The Associated Press File, snagged from the Orlando Sentinel.) Friend Robin Chapman has an excellent post about V-J Day in her Robin Chapman News blog, as well as a guest post by historian Steve Thompson. When you finish with those two posts, be sure to wander around her blog a little - as a former TV news anchor, Robin has a real way with words!

As always, a grateful salute to all our warfighters, past and present.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

More cabbages and kings

"The time has come,' the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- Of cabbages -- and kings -- And why the sea is boiling hot -- And whether pigs have wings." (The Walrus an the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll)

It's a lovely, rainy Sunday afternoon (and we really need the rain) - a perfect time to catch up a little.

I often use Charlie Corbeil's beautiful photos on here. Many of those photos come from the Viera Wetlands, where Charlie can be found every morning and every evening, taking pictures and checking up on things. A couple of years ago, I introduced Charlie to a friend who at the time was the editor of Viera Voice, a local monthly newspaper. Thereafter, every issue had one of Charlie's photos in it. Recently, Viera Voice took it to the next level and produced a charming video featuring Charlie in the Wetlands. It's on YouTube, and the link is in Reference Links below. I was amazed at how "un-nervous" Charlie was - and his love of the area and the inhabitants comes through loud and clear! (The photo is one I took of Charlie and the Viera Wetlands sign featuring one of his photos.)

David McRee did a terrific post about Blair Witherington on his Blog the Beach site (link is likewise in Reference Links below). As faithful readers know, Blair and Dawn have spent their summer out on boats in the Gulf rescuing oiled sea turtles. I recently sent a card featuring one of Jim Angy's sea turtle hatchling photos to Fed Ex, with a note thanking them for their generous donation of resources to transport the coolers full of eggs from the Gulf Coast to Kennedy Space Center (see last couple of posts for a description of this monumental task). There's a link below to a Fed Ex site that describes the logistics involved in the transport - a very impressive effort. And the good part is, according to a recent story in Florida Today, it's working! The story reports that since 11 July, some 2,600 hatchlings have been released from KSC beaches. The eggs are hatching at an 80 percent to 95 percent rate, better than in the wild. An added bonus is the lack of artificial lighting on the beaches where the hatchlings are being released, so there's less disorientation.

I was so touched when co-workers in another state recently made a donation in my name to the Audubon Nature Institute Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal Response Fund for "rescuing, rehabilitating and successfully releasing stranded and injured sea turtles and marine mammals." The Beatles said it well - we get by with a little help from our friends.

Friend Marilyn and I attended the third annual Tour de Turtle release at the Barrier Island Center last Sunday. This event is sponsored by the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), formerly the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC). The last two releases were over an hour after the advertised time of 8:00 a.m., so one had to hang around on a hot beach while the resin affixing the transmitter cured. So I suggested to Marilyn that we plan to arrive about 9:00. Well, wouldn't you know - as we pulled in, cars were pulling out. A quick-curing epoxy was used in place of the resin, and Hope (so named in a contest) swam out shortly after 8:00. The good news is that there was a record crowd of spectators (over 600), and we bought cool t-shirts. And ate a good breakfast at Friendly Toast on the way home. Check the STC link below for Hope's progress.

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