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March | April 2018


Apropos of Nothing | Jamie Beckett Personal style can get a little, well, hairy. Especially when it comes to men’s beards. Forget hipsters — beardsters are here.


Crossword Theme: Famous Duos. Answer key on page 17.


Polk’s Libraries by Elizabeth Morrisey With classes for all ages, modern technology, and community outreach programs, Polk’s libraries are more than book lenders.


“The Ace” Aces Aging by Cassie Jacoby

Architect Gene Leedy adds turning 90 to his list of accomplishments, including a long and distinguished design career.


Cover: Magic of Bok Tower by Donna Kelly

Now in peak bloom season, the activities at Bok Tower Gardens multiply as Edward Bok’s vision reaches across generations.


Break Through Your Threshold | Jai Maa

Creating happiness is possible by changing your thought pattern to the enlightenment paradigm of “Be, Do, Have.”




The 863 Magazine

Editor | Publisher Note


aking the effort to NOT travel in the same circles everyday takes, well, effort. Home, work, then home again, with the occasional stop at the grocery store, or other routine errands, is not just a way of life, it often becomes our life. Weekends also can become routine in the same sorts of ways… and then we remember that we live in the one of the vacation capitals of the world. There is so much to do all around us, and all pretty much within a short drive from home. Breaking from those same routines to — quite literally — stop and smell the flowers, is renewing and refreshing on many levels. Bok Tower Gardens is a perfect local getaway for an afternoon to renew and refresh. Now in peak bloom season, the gardens are ripe with local flora, and the manicured landscape with the gentle sounds of the

carillon bells hanging in the air leaves a tranquil impression on the soul. In addition, Bok has year round activities for all ages and interests. Learn more beginning page 12. Speaking of ages, the “Ace” himself has turned 90. Local architect Gene Leedy is 90 years young and still a wise-cracking truth teller. He makes an impression on all who meet him, much like his buildings and homes make impressions on all who see them, or have the privilege to work or live in them. Learn his “Leedyisms” and an overview of his architectural career beginning on page 10. Similar to Leedy’s buildings, which pay homage to their surroundings, Polk’s libraries also serve their surrounding communities. Not only books, the libraries of today are offering more than you think, including some of the latest technology (and classes

on how to use it), and surprising programs, such as seed packet distribution, yoga classes, needlework, genealogy, adult coloring, language classes, and much more. Turn to page 8 for all the good info. On page 22, more good info from enlightenment facilitator Jai Maa, who talks about creating happiness with a simple shift in one’s thinking to a “Be, Do, Have” paradigm. Happy spring, 863’ers!



Sergio Cruz |

Jamie Beckett Andrea Cruz Sergio Cruz Cassie Jacoby Donna Kelly Jai Maa Elizabeth Morrisey

Editor Andrea Cruz |

Art Director Alejandro F. Cruz |

Sergio & Andrea Cruz Publisher | Editor

Cover Designer

On the cover

Deborah Coker

The carillon tower at Bok Tower Gardens sits atop the summit of Iron Mountain, of one of the highest points in peninsular Florida. Springtime is peak bloom season at Bok but the flowers aren’t the only reason to visit... activities, plant sales, classes, and concerts are a draw as well. Read the full story beginning on page 12. Photo by Sergio Cruz of The 863 Magazine.

Ad Sales Sergio Cruz |

Publisher | Editor photo Sergio and Andrea strongly believe in supporting local businesses, and especially mom-and-pop establishments from back in the day. Here they are just before sunset and dinner at Cherry Pocket in front of Lake Pierce in Lake Wales. Watch for a different editor / publisher photo in each issue .

The 863 Magazine is a product of Polk Media, Inc., a woman- and minority-owned business. For more info visit us online: or

Visit us online at or!


The 863 Magazine

Apropos of Nothing By Jamie Beckett

Beardsters are a thing. It’s too late to stop them, don’t even try. Their facial hair is their lifestyle, their thing, their M-O. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


eard culture has taken over the nation in recent years. What was once passé is now all the rage. Other than Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, and a few random Kennys here and there, almost nobody wore a beard in the 80s or 90s. The 70s ruined that all for mankind. It took a couple decades to get the image of Mick Jagger with the lumberjack beard out of our heads. Those were dark days. Today every Ajax, Blaze, and Zander are making some sort of personal style statement via their facial hair. Long beards, braided beards, fluffy beards, spikey beards. There’s even a store at the mall now that sells beard supplies. These people are beyond hipsters, they’re beardsters. It’s getting weird out there. Now I’ll admit, I have a beard myself. Actually, I’ve had one for more than 40 years, it’s just that until a few years ago I kept cutting it off every morning. Well, not every morning. Like most young men, I fell prey to the 80s fad of only shaving every third or fourth day to get that ever so fashionable scruffy look that George Michael and Don Johnson did so well with. Somehow I never reached that level of cool. Go figure. Like Abraham Lincoln, I came to beardville later in life at the invitation of a young girl. In my case, my youngest daughter. After one of those flirtations with the scruffy look, my

little princess pleaded with me, “Oh please, Daddy. Grow a big, lush, wonderful beard.” In retrospect she may have said this in October, thinking no doubt that my Santa Claus-like powers might be accentuated by a longer, more traditional beard. I fell for it and haven’t shaved since. The idea of a traditional beard is somewhat frightening, by the way. Have you ever come across a barber’s beard trimming chart from the 19th century? They’re terrifying. The follicle artwork that can be worn on one’s face have been given specific names that defy all logic and reason. There is the Leg O’ Mutton, which describes something that looks like unruly sideburns that have gone unnoticed for far too long. The Burnsides Short and Burnsides Full go even further, connecting the sideburns via a mustache, but avoid any growth of whiskers on the chin. The short version is bad. The full version involves a veritable thicket of unrestrained growth on the cheeks and upper lip of a man who I assume lives a very lonely life, devoid of women (who have an innate sense of style, which the Burnsides Full wearer apparently does not). The Patrician evokes nothing so much as a ZZ Top festival, and the Sage Brush looks something like a mop head pasted to the chin of some poor fellow who is enduring a sad, pathetic practical joke. There are mustaches galore, too. In modern times men know to avoid a mustache

Chat and Chew... Learn about the group that meets regularly in Polk County to discuss topics on eating healthily, tours grocery stores, Skypes with expert nutritionists, and more! All the details are in the spring issue of Your Healthy Polk, on stands now with The 863 Magazine. Or visit

entirely unless they can pull off a plausible Tom Selleck, or Sam Elliot. This memo never made it through the portals of time to the late 1800s, however. Men back then were covering their upper lip with the Pennant, the Spartan (which is anything but spartan), the Vidette, and the Picador. For those who were really on the fence between a simple mustache and the full beard, they had the Imperial, which involved a mustache honed to a sharp point on each end, along with a soul patch on the lower lip that would make Greg Allman’s look positively sparse. If I had to name the beard I wear today, it would be The Lazy Shaver. My beard serves no function other than to save me a few minutes in the morning, keep my face a bit warmer on cold nights, and perhaps gives me an unearned and totally unjustified look of distinction that would be dispelled immediately if anyone actually took the time to engage me in conversation. Mine is a fine, short beard, though. It’s practical but nothing special. It’s certainly nothing to brag about. Not when you measure mine against my brother Stanley and sister Rose. They’ve both got far more lush and finely styled facial hair to work with than I ever will. I guess I got the short end of the stick, again. Oh well, I’ll just muddle along as best I can, with the third best facial hair in the family, and an old guy gray beard look that the young guys all have beat by a mile.

Jamie Beckett appears to be an average, everyday guy who just happens to hail from Arizona, Connecticut, New York City, and Central Florida. He wears many hats — pilot, mechanic, writer, politician, musician, stay-at-home dad — often an odd combination of all those things. Frankly, we don’t care. At The 863 Magazine we just keep him around because we think he’s funny. That’s that.

March | April 2018


55. Any doctrine 57. *Rogers’ tapping partner 61. Mohammed, alt. sp. 65. Having three dimensions 66. Chapter in history 68. Jeweler’s glass 69. Moves closer 70. Brownish gray horse 71. Ruhr’s industrial center 72. Does something wrong 73. Japanese capital 74. Affirmatives


ACROSS 1. Pocket bread, pl. 6. Mele Kalikimaka wreath 9. Hoofbeat 13. Not dead 14. Freddy Krueger’s street 15. Sacagawea to Lewis and Clark 16. Wrinkle-prone fabric 17. Rap sheet abbreviation 18. Tanks and such 19. *Spongebob’s pal 21. *Sullivan’s theatrical partner 23. Fa, ____, la, ti, doh 24. Daniel Defoe’s ____ Flanders

25. ____sum, mineral used in plaster and as fertilizer 28. Ready for picking 30. Right before “camera” 35. Fish eggs, pl. 37. Straight whiskey, e.g. 39. Capital of Egypt 40. Grand Theft object 41. Per ____, or yearly 43. Hidden valley 44. *Bonnie and Clyde, partners in this 46. Australian palm 47. Distinctive elegance 48. One’s net worth 50. Companion of Pinta and Santa Maria 52. Slovenly abode 53. Use a noose

Crossword solution on page 17.

Theme: Famous Duos

1. Explore with one’s hand 2. Pelvic parts 3. Typically on limo window 4. Affirms 5. Junior’s predecessor 6. Plumbing problem 7. Member of the Benevolent Order 8. Idealized image 9. “____ Your Enthusiasm” 10. Tart garnish 11. Smell 12. Chipper 15. Pertaining to Gaul 20. People’s Republic 22. Down with the flu 24. ____ of life 25. *Will’s roommate 26. Predecessor to “truly” in a letter 27. Petite, masculine 29. *____ and Teller 31. Measuring instrument 32. Higher ground, pl. 33. Yummy reward 34. *Cher’s “I Got You Babe” partner 36. “Brave New World” drug 38. South American Indian 42. Opposite of depression 45. Socrates’ concern 49. Musical gift 51. *Mary-Kate’s twin 54. Clingy one 56. *Rocky and Bullwinkle, or flying squirrel and ____ 57. Teenager’s woe 58. Plaintiff 59. Type of ski lift 60. What snob puts on 61. “Buddenbrooks” author 62. Rumple 63. “All for one, one for all” sword 64. Change for a twenty 67. *”The Murders in the ___ Morgue”


The 863 Magazine

Polk’s Libraries: More Than You Think By Elizabeth Morrisey The modern-day library isn’t just a building full of books. It’s much more, including various classes for all ages, and technology for the times.


one are the days when the library was just a place to go and check out books, quietly read and head home. Today’s libraries are relevant and keeping up with today’s technology, offering a variety of classes for adults, teens and children, and reaching out into the communities they serve. “Each library has something special about it,” says Gladys Roberts, coordinator of the Polk County Library Cooperative. “Each one is serving the community and knows its needs, but as part of the cooperative each one sees the bigger picture.” The PCLC was started in 1997 to help oversee seamless countywide library services. Each library in the county is operated autonomously through each city, however, the cooperative allows them to share resources. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Roberts says. “We serve the county and local areas. We try to make sure we are a resource for the community and

all its needs.” Here is a roundup of the different offerings of the major libraries in Polk County.

Auburndale The City of Auburndale’s library is not only focusing on books, but is helping people grow herbs, flowers and vegetables. The Auburndale Seed Library allows locals to pick out 10 seed packets per month. All one needs is a library card and it’s free. “We want to encourage locally-grown herbs, veggies and we offer some flowers,” says Head Librarian Kristal Holmes. “We try to offer what we can for the current planting season.” On Mondays, a therapy dog, Simba, visits children so they can read to him; this program is called Paws for Reading. “He’s not judging or correcting,” Holmes

Below: The award-winning SEEDLab (science, education, exploration, design) at the City of Winter Haven’s public library is equipped with the latest iMac technology, and is helping to increase the community’s digital literacy skills with classes. Photo provided to The 863 Magazine.

March | April 2018

says. “They get to enjoy reading.” Auburndale library also offers teen and adult programs, such as game days, teen fun night, and adult coloring. “We don’t have money or resources like the big libraries,” Holmes says, “but we have our knowledge and skills and we are customerservice oriented and provide different programming.”

Bartow One focus of the Bartow Library is helping people get healthy. It provides Tai Chi, yoga classes, and nutritional programs to help fight obesity. “We teach the fundamentals of nutrition and lowcost food items,” says Vic Nunez, interim head librarian. “We teach that good nutrition can be affordable.” Another popular program is Shredder Day, allowing people to come in and shred documents once a month. The library also offers bilingual story time, a teen Anime club, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program, quilting, and a master gardener program. “We try all different things,” adds Nunez. And although Bartow’s population is only about 20,000, the library


is pretty sizable at 40,000 square feet. “Our circulation goes up all the time,” he says. E-reading and video streaming are also increasing. “We feel we still have a foot in the traditional library, but also a foot in the future.”

Haines City Liz Ramos, Haines City Library’s community outreach coordinator, wants to be sure they are reaching the needs of the people in the area. “You can find your niche within the building,” she says. Whether it’s children, teens or adults, visitors can find something that fits them. There are group or one-on-one computer classes in Spanish and English, a popular needlework club, nutrition classes, book clubs, Scrabble clubs, and resume classes for adults. Teens will feel at home during Table Top Tuesdays where they can create and develop new things like robots and learn coding and animation. On Fridays, they can watch movies and play games. “It gives them their own space,” says Ramos. The library also holds a Lego Bricks Club for children and showcases their artwork in a display case in the lobby Continued on page 16

The 863 Magazine

Gene Leedy:

“The Ace” Aces Aging By Cassie Jacoby

Architect Gene Leedy Unplugged



hen it comes to aging, “The Ace” himself, Gene Leedy, has an ace up his sleeve. Ninety years “young,” his architectural genius makes Winter Haven a place like no other. Trim, soft spoken and a dapper dresser, Winter Haven’s favorite raconteur loves telling tall tales and spinning yarns that are not all tangled up with filters or sometimes even the truth. “Nothing ruins a good story like an eye witness,” says Gene, puffing on a Don Diego Lonsdale cigar. “If I had known I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself. The nice thing about growing older is that you can do whatever you want.” The outspoken rebel, born February 6, 1928, has a razor-sharp wit and refuses to compromise his style, rarely mincing words. His colorful “Leedy-isms” are legendary. A few Leedy-isms include… Developers: “Architectural terrorists raping our beautiful state.” Mobile home parks: “Cemeteries for the living.” The urge to remodel: “Stronger than the sex drive.” Why was Leedy one of the first architects to do his own interior design? In his words, ”Too many interior decorators were screwing up my buildings.” Gene’s trademark wry humor stole the show at the University of Florida’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2014) ceremony. “I should have gotten this 20 years ago.” He quotes his late friend and colleague, Frank Lloyd Wright, for being blunt. “I choose honest arrogance over hypocritical humility.” With his University of Florida architecture degree (1950), Gene hung out his shingle as Paul Rudolph’s first associate and was a founding father of the Sarasota School of Architecture, along with a group of young, avant-garde architects.

Architect Gene Leedy, a Winter Haven resident, sits on the steps of the University of Florida’s S.A.E. Fraternity House, which he designed in 1963. Photo provided to The 863 Magazine.

“We built for the climate with the honest use of local materials.” Experimental construction concepts incorporated raised floors to offset ground dampness, concrete blocks and beams, flat roofs, sliding glass doors and the use of windows, grill work and shutters to filter light. He introduced traditional Continued on page 21

The Blooming of

Bok Tower Gardens

By Donna Kelly | Photos by Sergio Cruz


he hills of Iron Mountain are still alive with the sound of Bok Tower’s carillon bells, but these days they also ring with classic rock songs, children’s laughter, and sizzling culinary creations. Seven years into the Bok Tower Gardens’ 2011 Twentyyear master plan designed to guide the growth of Edward Bok’s 1929 gift of peace and tranquility to the American people, nearly two of its three phases have been completed. Repeat visitors will note the addition of Hammock Hollow, the children’s garden; the Wild Garden; the Kitchen Garden containing edible plants; wide accessible paths, a renewed interpretive display, tower restoration, and open land preservation. As phases of the plan are completed, the Gardens’ schedule of events grows and becomes more varied. March and April programming offers a variety of experiences, including Cooking with Wine, Holistic Stress

Management, and Yoga. March brings a Family Camping Adventure, a Farm to Table Dinner with Chef Amy Freeze, and Digital Camera School and Photo Safari. “We have made the entire gardens kid friendly, offered more relevant programming that appeals to families and younger audience, make the garden more accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, and created Hammock Hollow,” says David Price, president of Bok Tower Gardens.”

Spring Sensations: Peak Bloom and Live Music “Spring at Bok Tower is a special time for families to enjoy everything that Mother Nature brings to the table as our azaleas and camellias will be in full bloom. We’ll have our flowering annuals,” says Erica Smith, director of marketing and public relations. “We’re trying to thread some of that beautiful bloom through our Pinewood Estate. We’re bringing the outside in by highlighting flowering arrangements and plants inside the estate.” Peak Bloom, the attraction’s most colorful time of year, continues through March when each week will feature a different flower arrangement and blooming plant throughout the home. “Now is peak bloom for our camellias and I encourage visitors to get off the trails and walk across the lawns to discover the more than 200 varieties of camellias we have growing,” says Price. Peak Bloom also means live carillon music one might not expect to hear from The Singing Tower. Two Bok after Dark events will be held in March, and each spotlights the carillon in a different way. First, Bok after Dark: An Epic Fantasy will be held at 7 p.m. on March 15 and will feature “everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Sci Fi – the big block buster silver screen movie anthems,” says Smith. Continued on page 14


The 863 Magazine Bok Tower Gardens, from page 13

The evening will likely include a tribute to John Williams, an Academy Award-winning composer who wrote such notable film scores as the themes from, “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” and “Schindler’s List.” The Bok after Dark season will close on March 29 with “Rock the Bok,” a classic rock concert offering well-loved classic rock anthems by groups from ACDC to Journey. “We’re trying to introduce a new generation to what we’re doing here at Bok Tower Gardens and we’re doing that by embracing our past, but showcasing it in a different way,” Smith says. “You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard Geert D’hollander do the Batman theme on the carillon.”

Hammock Hollow: Creative Play and Learning

Armed with an annual membership, Rachelle and Ben Selser of Winter Haven head to Bok Tower with their 7-year-old daughter, River, at least once a month – sometimes three times a week – to unplug and enjoy outdoor fun. They particularly enjoy Hammock Hollow, trails, the tower, ponds full of fish and the Blue Palmetto Café. Often they’ll bring one of River’s friends with them. While the Selsers enjoy all of the attraction’s areas, many times they spend the entire visit within the whimsical world of Hammock Hollow. Selser says River’s favorite area is River Walk, a system of limestone rocks with fossils and caves that include fountains, misters, foggers and spray jets of water. The youngster also has fun hunting for shark

teeth along the gravel trails of gravel material brought in from Mosaic, climbing and hanging on a giant spider web, performing on the Sabal Stage in beautiful costumes provided, and working the vintage water hand pump in the Back-in-time Garden. “I enjoy watching River explore the natural elements of water, earth, air — and fire on days when there might be a controlled burn in the natural areas surrounding Bok. We take off our shoes and get grounded to the Earth during our visits,” says Selser. “Hammock Hollow is a wonderful children’s garden to realign your priorities, gain perspective and delight in the simplicity of getting back to basics with your family, friends and children” The Selsers aren’t the only adults mesmerized by Hammock Hollow.

“When we built Hammock Hollow, we were really thinking about kids,” says Smith. “But what we’ve learned in the last yearand-a-half is that Hammock Hollow is just as exciting for adults as it is for children.” She attributes this in part to the area’s higher elevation and pockets of shade that create a cooler, more comfortable environment to enjoy watching children at play. Wildlife inhabiting the area, particularly birds and butterflies, also draws adults to Hammock Hollow. “The rock formations we have in Hammock Hollow have become a natural space for monarch butterflies. We are seeing so many of them spinning their jade green chrysalis in the rock formations,” she explains, adding that the manmade rock offers protection from the elements while lush butterfly plants provide food. “We wanted kids to get their fingers in the dirt. We wanted them to touch and feel and experience and really embrace nature,” says Smith. “We’re seeing that every day.” For families like the Selsers, Hammock Hollow offers a wholesome, low-key environment for leisure time. “It is such a welcomed departure from the “big box” theme parks while appealing to children of all ages on an elemental level,” says Selser.

Outdoor Kitchen and Kitchen Garden After visiting Bok Tower sporadically throughout her life, Winter Haven resident Laura Griffith became a member about five years ago after her work hours dwindled and her children were grown and on their own. “I finally had the time to visit and I really appreciate how well everything is maintained,” she says. “The paths are very peaceful and the gardens are beautiful any

time of year.” She makes her way to Bok Tower about six times a month to attend food and music events, enjoy nighttime programs, and “just to get away.” The Outdoor Kitchen and Kitchen Garden, where visitors can both learn and dine, are two of her favorite areas. Last fall, she attended a cooking program, “Everything Pumpkin,” which she described as a “wonderful, fun, and fact-filled time.” The demonstrations, says Griffith, included preparation of a pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pie. Wine, beer, soft drinks, and water were served along with ample samples of the soup, bread, and pie. Nuts and sunflower seeds were on each table, and after the soup, a walnut chicken was served on a bed of greens. The meal also included bread. Coffee and pie were served after the pie demonstration.  “We had plenty of time for Q&A during this very relaxed day. The Blue Palmetto’s Chef Matthew is very personable and took us through all that makes baking and cooking with fresh pumpkin so great,” Griffith says. “I love that the edible Garden is so close to the children’s area and that the food chain can be so readily seen — makes it that more delicious.” Recently, a group of elementary students sat in the outdoor kitchen pavilion and learned about fractions as the teacher cut a banana in half, and then into fourths. Later, as the students filed into Hammock Hollow, a boy rubbed his hands together, his eyes dancing with anticipation. “I love Bok Tower,” he said to his buddy. Selser agrees. “Through the eyes of the children, Hammock Hollow couldn’t be topped. But then, a stroll down the garden path continues to reveal the secrets of Bok Tower Gardens and discovery awaits!” For more info visit


The 863 Magazine Polk’s Libraries, from page 9

“We go out in the community and see how we can help each other,” Ramos says. “We get involved in the community.”

Lakeland Polk County residents may not know that Lakeland Public Library has a Lakeland History Room — a treasure for finding out about a historic home’s history, information about Lakeland’s well-known former residents and historic photos. They also host a series in which local expert researchers and historians present a variety of topics about Lakeland. “People like to reminisce about the past,” says Lisa Lilyquist, city librarian. “Most people appreciate the resources we have here. It’s great for research and discovering new things.” Along with the physical collection of maps, photos, building plans, scrapbooks and postcards, more than 6,000 images are available for viewing online. “It’s a way of telling our story without having to step foot here,” Lilyquist says. Vanished Lakeland is a virtual exhibit using images of buildings formerly standing in Lakeland but have since been demolished, removed or changed. “We have an engaged community who enjoy our

programs,” she says. From painting and crafts to adult education and story time, it’s hard to name all of the Lakeland library’s programs. A unique free program now offered is DIY Digitize. Library staff will teach people how to convert old photos, papers, slides, VHS tapes and vinyl records to a digital format. LuAnn Mims, special collections librarian, says they’ve had a good response. “It’s easy to learn and a fun thing to share.” A big focus of the library is adult education and providing tools to help the community. Microsoft certification, Excel, Twitter and Gmail basics are just a few classes offered. Lilyquist says they are focusing on teaching and helping others dive in and get hands-on experience. “We try to make everything convenient and teach them how to use the tools,” she says. “We are a guide to engage them in their interests.” Lakeland library has a strong Friends of the Library group that has a book sale area and renovations will be starting soon with new administrative offices and a coffee shop.

Lake Wales The Lake Wales Library has an average of 13,000 to 14,000 people who come through its doors each month, says Tina Peak, library director.

March | April 2018

“Outreach programs are big for us,” she explains. The library provides the community with books by mail, a book mobile service, book talks at schools and extra books in schools, community centers and nursing homes. “Everyone in the county is impacted. We are proud of the fact that you don’t always have to come to the library to take advantage of what we offer.” The library offers Gale courses, which provide online classes in finance, healthcare, technology, law and many other topics. Also, log on is offered to, an online learning platform offering 6,000 courses in business, software, technology and creative skills and they are available 24/7. The best part is they are all free. Like the other libraries, Lake Wales also has children and teen programs, such as Wiggles and Giggles story time, crafts, Excellence in Reading, a Pokémon Card club, Lego Mania and a teen book club. For adults there is yoga and adult coloring as well. Library patrons can also view work from local artists in the gallery each month. “It’s all relevant and important,” says Peak. “There are a lot of people who still love to read and it’s the best deal in town — it’s free.”

Winter Haven The award-winning SEEDLab (Science, Education, Exploration, Design) at Winter Haven’s library is helping increase the community’s digital literacy skills, says Cori Greear, public services librarian. Classes are offered regularly, such as Appy Hour, Microsoft Excel and Facebook 101. It also offers free access to the Adobe Creative Cloud and other software. In 2016, the library became the first gigabit library in the state providing lightening-fast internet via fiber optic lines. “This milestone is significant from a technological standpoint, and also in showing our city’s dedication to increasing digital literacy and accessibility for our community. We are constantly listening to our community and trying to meet their needs and expectations as far as programming at the library,” says Greear. “Our community is very social and enjoys the arts and humanities.” The library is in its third year of offering an annual lecture series. The topic this year is Florida Water Stories, which has included presentations about Boca Grande Pass, hurricanes, and the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. Some other free resources offered by the library are: Rocket Languages — a language tutorial software that includes Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Russian and many others. is a guide to antiques and collectibles that helps identify, date and value items. There are also two special libraries in Polk County: Stephen H. Grimes Law Library, and the Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library, both in Bartow. For more info on any of the libraries in Polk, visit (My Polk County Library Cooperative) and click on the “Library Information” link.

Crossword on page 7.



The 863 Magazine

863 Readers’ Art: Maria Freyenbacher: Art on Cards By Andrea Cruz


aria Freyenbacher grew up in Austria in a carpenter shop as the oldest of 11 children. Her stepfather realized her love for art and gifted her a wood burning tool when she was 9 years old. One of her first pieces was a depiction of Albrecht Duerer’s Rabbit, a famous drawing. “I loved drawing until fifth grade, where I found myself ridiculed by my art teacher and stopped,” Freyenbacher says. After this unfortunate experience, she would enjoy the random creative outburst and make gifts for people close to her, but it was not until she started community college at the age of 53 that she found the encouragement to develop her artistic side. Since then she has earned her associate’s degree in Fine Art/ Studio Art at Valencia College in Orlando, and transferred to Polk State College last year. She is now studying now graphic design at school, and in between classes and creating her art, Freyenbacher is learning many aspects of self-promotion and internet marketing.

tirely; even they need to eat. “At the very beginning of my artist career I realized that even the best and most productive artists need to be able to sell their work to make a living,” Freyenbacher says. Last year Freyenbacher was able to curate an art show at a prestigious gallery in Orlando and it was a huge success for the group of local artists that came along. She says she can see herself doing that again. Freyenbacher works with artists in Polk County, too.

“They make my heart smile,” she says.

“Tinia Clark invited me to participate at a mural project at Snively Elementary, that was one of the most rewarding community projects so far,” she says. “It matters that children are exposed to art in their everyday lives even if it is just a colorful wall mural that makes them stop and look when they walk down the school hallway.”

Her newest passion is what she calls Art on Cards: Mixed Media Collages. Images are photographed and printed on quality card stock that is ready to be mailed, or displayed in a frame. Her inspiration comes from many sources.

She also enters competitive art shows when possible. Last fall a depiction of ‘8 Red Cars’ received the Best in Category Award at the Polk State Student Show and numerous other art pieces were accepted into Central Florida Art Shows.

Currently, Freyenbacher would fall in the category of a ‘multidisciplinary’ artist; she uses many mediums. She gets excited about a number of art media, including: Collagraphs via intaglio style printmaking, painting with acrylics or oils, digital photography, and especially multimedia creations where she combines old world craftsmanship and modern technology.

“A random thought can inspire me to look for imagery in my collection of repurposed magazines and papers and new Art on a Card is born,” Freyenbacher says. But inspiration does not feed an artist en-

Freyenbacher says her Art on Card project is important because small art is more affordable and makes great gifts. “Contemporary art is a historic window into the time we live in: the here and now. By expressing what I see, and feel through art I offer others a visual story they might be able to relate to,” she says. “Also snail mail seems a thing of the past, therefore I love to encourage people to write cards, buy stamps, and mail them.” For more info visit and

March | April 2018


Gene Leedy, from page 10

walled-in courtyards and pioneered the innovative, “double-tee” long-span. At the start of the Korean War, Gene knocked on the right door at the Pentagon, landing a direct commission as an Air Force procurement officer in New York City. “That was the ‘second Manhattan Project’ and to this day I’m not allowed to discuss it,” he jokes. Gene, whose twin sister died in childbirth in Isaban, W.Va., read aloud at age 2, chose to be an engineer at 9 and started college at 16. His doting parents, Cecil and Ethyl, relocated to Gainesville before moving to Bartow where they owned a popular restaurant on Main Street. Gene moved his practice from Sarasota to Winter Haven in 1954. When Rudolph chaired Yale University’s architecture school (1958), he urged Gene to join him. “Paul thought Yale needed more Southern accents.”

The ripple effect of choosing Winter Haven over New Haven, Conn., continues to make waves with the success of his award-winning protégés, Lawrence Scarpa and Max Strang. Both were eager to learn from the master architect when they showed up in his office as teenagers.

Above: A professional portrait of architect Gene Leedy, taken some years ago. Photo printed with permission from Potthast Studios. Below: The Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce building is just one of many structures in Polk designed by Gene Leedy. Photo by Sergio Cruz.

“The Works of Brooks + Scarpa Ordinary and Extraordinary Architecture of Heightened Awareness” is on exhibit through April 14 with Larry’s book signing and lecture at 6:30 p.m. on March 16 at the Center for Architecture Sarasota.

Max features his mentor in his book, “Environmental Modernism: the Architecture of Strang.” Updating Gene’s original designs with plans to build 25 new Leedy residences, Max, designed Winter Haven’s RainGarden Apartments. “I’m proud that new generations are concerned with more energy efficient designs and embrace my design philosophy,” Gene says. “It’s an honor to see my vision for the future live on through the design of structures in harmony with nature and form.” Seven of Gene’s 10 Drexel Avenue homes (1956), where he still

resides, are meticulously maintained by friends who participate in tours of “Leedyland.” “I call myself a ‘nest builder’ because these homes are ‘nests’ where you can put down roots. We’re almost a rootless society and people need roots.” For a list of Gene Leedy’s designs and awards visit For more info on Gene Leedy, visit


The 863 Magazine

Break Through Your Threshold By Jai Maa Creating happiness is possible by changing your mindset and aligning regularly with an “enlightenment paradigm” of Be, Do, Have.


here does happiness come from? Think about it for a moment. Where does your happiness truly come from?

— If I just had the right partner, I would create the happy home I’ve always wanted, and then I would be happy.

For a long time, happiness was something that I sought and did everything to have. If I was treated with kindness and appreciation, I was happy. If I had enough money to buy the things I wanted, I was happy. If I looked and behaved a certain way that gained the world’s approval, I was happy. If I had an impressive job or did wonderful things for my community that distinguished me as important, I was happy.

— If I just had the approval or support of others, I would do my greatest calling in the world, and then I would be happy.

I was successful at chasing and catching the feelings of happiness, but they were fleeting. It was exhausting to try and control making things happen my way in order to briefly touch upon a feeling that never seemed to last. I am a native of Florida, born and raised in Polk County, and am currently in Indiana heading to Kansas on my fourth national Break Through Your Threshold book tour. I had the honor of being chosen as one of the six speakers who presented at a Ted Talk-inspired series called “Walk The Talk.” In front of more than 300 people, I shared the secret I have learned and am mastering to create and sustain true happiness. This paradigm applies to every single person on our planet, and I guarantee you, if you are willing to practice and master this internal skill, you will access the magic of being in Heaven on Earth. There are three ways to creating happiness. Once you become conscious of where you are in generating happiness, you have the choice to shift into the highest level of enlightenment. The first level of creating happiness is through a paradigm of a victim:

In this victim paradigm, your happiness is based on something happening outside of yourself in order for you to be happy. The second level of creating happiness is through a paradigm of force: Do, Have, Be — If I just work harder at my job, I will have the money I want, and then I will be happy. — If I just find the right partner or get my current partner to change, then I will have the relationship I want, and then I will be happy. — If I just do wonderful things in the world, I will have the approval and support of others, and then I will be happy. In this force paradigm, your happiness is based on you “making something happen” and manipulating results into fruition in order to be happy. The third level of creating happiness is through a paradigm of enlightenment: Be, Do, Have — I am choosing to be happy regardless of whether I have money or not, and so I do the creative things I love to do, and then I have a life of abundance and endless opportunities.

Have, Do, Be — If I just had all the money in the world, I would do the things I love to do, and I would be happy.

— I am choosing to be happy with or without a relationship, and so I interact in all of my relationships with happiness and self-satisfaction, and I have only the best, high quality relationships attracted to me.

— I am choosing to be happy whether others like me or not, and therefore I fearlessly connect with others and create my greatest dreams, and then I have a life that is abundant with prosperity. In this enlightenment paradigm, your happiness is something you connect with from within, regardless of your outside circumstances. You know that happiness never comes from other people, money, or anything external. You also know that while you are capable of “making something happen,” that positive feeling never stays from trying to control your environment. In the enlightenment paradigm of Be, Do, Have, you come into alignment with who you truly are, and you know that happiness is a way of being that is sourced from within you. The more you practice connecting with happiness from within, regardless of whether life is happening the way you’d like it to or not, the more you allow the magic of Heaven on Earth to naturally unfold for you. Enlightenment Challenge: Think of an area in your life that is not working as well as you’d like it to (relationships, finance, life purpose, health, etc.). Quiet your mind in meditation or prayer and connect with a quality of your soul that might be covered up at this time. Do you need to connect with trust, peace, surrender, curiosity, adventure, empathy, compassion, flexibility, or happiness? Connect with that quality from within (Be), make choices from that space (Do), and then watch the magic unfold (Have). Note: If you would like to see the speech on Creating Happiness through Be, Do, Have by Jai Maa, then go to and search “Walk The Talk: Jai Maa.”

Jai Maa is a touring author and enlightenment facilitator who inspires others to create their visions with no compromise. An interfaith minister and native of Polk County, she travels with her cat companions teaching others how to co-create with God and live their own version of Heaven on Earth. For more information visit

The 863 Magazine - March & April 2018  

Bok Tower Gardens - Peak Bloom Season is Here; Architect Gene Leedy - The "Ace" is 90 Years Young; Polk's Libraries - Offering More Than You...

The 863 Magazine - March & April 2018  

Bok Tower Gardens - Peak Bloom Season is Here; Architect Gene Leedy - The "Ace" is 90 Years Young; Polk's Libraries - Offering More Than You...