The 863 Magazine - September & October 2014

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S e p t. & O c t.


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Letter from the Editor Apropos of Nothing A meeting with an old friend sets Beckett’s imagination off wondering how much he’s changed. And boy was he off. Way off.

By Jamie Beckett


Create Spinning raw fiber into yarn and custom dyeing them for kaleidoscopic creations, Ann Mikeal makes yarns that are to dye for.

By Andrea Cruz


The Games We Play Letting kids sort out and make their own decisions about sports — and backing those choices — is Corbett’s advice for parents.

By Merlisa Lawrence Corbett


Savor The works of local artisans and sounds of local musicians are draws to Jackie’s Art Café in Haines City — not to mention the tasty fare.

By Mary Stein Hurst


Cover: Endeavor Lakeland’s Teresa Martinez uses language to help bridge the diversity divide while allowing all to maintain pride in their heritage.

By Donna Kelly


Smile Cheese! The top three finalists in the 863’s photo contest have been chosen. All entries are posted on

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Non-Profit Spotlight VISTE: Volunteers Helping Elderly in Polk Co.

Explore Find out what’s happening in Sept. & Oct.


Sept./Oct. 2014

From the Editor


hen I was in high school I gravitated toward the foreign exchange students. I found them interesting — and brave. The idea of leaving one’s country, family, friends, language, and basically comfort bubble, seemed so foreign to me. I admired them and continue to appreciate the diversity that people from other countries bring to our experience. Our feature story this issue is on Lakelander and “citizen of the world,” Teresa Martinez. This lovely lady is a Cubana who has spent a large part of her life working to bridge the gaps that exist in the diversity divide here between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Her story, starting page 12, is one of success and she’s only just beginning. The diversity of music and art that can be found in the 863 is also a great unifier. Jackie’s Art Caf é is a perfect place to encounter both. Find out all about this fun eatery in downtown Haines City on page 10. Where would we be without art and artisans? One Winter Haven woman has found her artful niche in custom dyeing yarns wonderful colors. She also spins raw fibers into yarns. Her work is to dye for. Ha. Okay, all joking aside, her story begins on page 7. There is no room for joking when a parent chooses to reject a child’s decisions about their participation in sports. Our writer tells her personal story about respecting her son’s decision to swap out football for rowing. Her story begins page 9. The results from the 863’s summer photo contest are in and the top three winners can be found on page 16. All the entries can be found on the 863’s website: VISTE, an organization that assists the elderly, is our Non-profit Spotlight this issue. -Andrea Cruz, editor

Publisher | SERGIO CRUZ Editor | ANDREA CRUZ Contributors | JAMIE BECKETT


Cover Designer | DEBORAH COKER Ad Sales Rep | SERGIO CRUZ 863-258-3561

Cover photo: Lakeland resident Teresa Martinez has found a niche teaching Spanish and helping bridge diversity divides within the Hispanic and American cultures. Story page 12. Photo credit: Andrea Cruz. The 863 Magazine is independently owned and produced in Winter Haven, Florida. For more info:


September / October 2014


Apropos of Nothing

An Editorial by Jamie Beckett


saw an old friend just recently. In the process I may have made a fool of myself. I’m not saying I did. I’m just saying it’s possible. The jury is still out. At least it would be if there was an actual jury involved. “The jury is out” is just an expression, you know. I think it originated with the television series, Perry Mason. Raymond Burr was the star of that show. But that was a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that Perry Mason was filmed in black and white. Really. Television — prime time television — was in black and white when I was young. Can you believe it? And by the way, does “Perry Mason” sound like such a powerful name that you’d hire the man labeled with that moniker to represent you in a murder trial? I don’t think so. If you’re in big trouble you want a lawyer with a name like Rex, or Nero, or Wolfgang. Something powerful. Something dangerous. But Perry? Nah. That’s the guy who designs your shirts. Perry isn’t going to get you out of a murder rap. Especially if you actually did it. Anyway, I digress. The old friend I


ran into is named John Davis. Now that’s a good strong name. That’s a name made of granite and steel. Sam is a good strong name, too. But when your last name is Davis you can’t name your son Sam, because people will naturally call him Sammy. And going around being called Sammy Davis just isn’t right. Not unless you can sing and dance and twirl a sixshooter like nobody’s business. If you don’t understand that reference go ask your granddad. He gets it. Older people almost always get it. I get it. But then again, I’m old. Being old and getting the reference go together like donuts and cops, or rhythm and blues. It just works that way. It’s best not to question such things. Just accept it. When I knew John he was a newspaper reporter. A young, ambitious, undeniably talented, and genuinely funny reporter. So, when he reached out suggesting we should get together, I was concerned. Where had this young man so filled with potential gone wrong? He wasn’t in Washington doggedly pursuing corrupt politicians. He wasn’t in New York battling greedy Wall Street bankers. He wasn’t in Miami exposing the dark underbelly of the fashion industry while tailing supermodels into trendy bars. Nope. John wasn’t doing any of those things. He’d become a poet. Published, but still. A poet? His second book is slated to hit the shelves this year. It’s called “Middle Class American Proverb.” That sounds to me like it could be filled with lawn care tips, maybe some advice about how to properly operate a charcoal grill, or warnings about not waxing your car in direct sunlight. I’m not sure really. I hadn’t read it at that point. John’s first book is still out there.

“Growing Moon, Growing Soil: Poems of my Native Land” is a slim volume, only about 70 pages long. But I happen to have a copy. Don’t ask why. I just do. So I slipped it into my backpack, jumped on the motorcycle, and rode down to the intended place of meeting to wait for John to arrive. Visions of his transformation rattled around my head, causing periodic twinges of pain and flashes of light. I imagined my old friend sauntering up in a beret, trailed by a thin wisp of smoke from a long slender cigarette tucked neatly into a dainty holder. Think Truman Capote, but taller. I could imagine him driving up in a pink Fiat 500, the Barbie Edition (there is such a thing, you know), throwing a scarf over one shoulder and traipsing to our table in the unique fashion of a poet. I opened the book. It begins with “Memory of Fast Eddie’s Pier, Summer 1989.” It rambles through “River Boys” and “Dream Elixirs,” “Cutting Time,” and “Bridge Fishing.” The poem “Siesta Key Clams” led me further through the pages where I found “From the Captain’s Journal,” and “Lament for a Hardee County Dirt Road.” This guy isn’t Truman Capote at all. He’s John Wayne with a pen. He’s the Marlboro Man with a knack for rhyme and meter. He’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings with a heaping helping of testosterone. Oh man, was I wrong. A pick-up truck pulled up to the curb. It’s engine rumbling ominously. Fire belching from chrome stacks. The driver scowled. A lump in his cheek suggested a large chaw of chewing tobacco. I made a mental note to avoid any reference to roses being red, violets being blue, or old men from Nantucket.

Read the words of Florida Poet John Davis Jr. on page 15. 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. www.


September / October 2014

Spinning (and Dyeing) a Yarn


n animal lover at heart, Ann Mikeal of Winter Haven says she somehow feels connected to her past as a zookeeper when she works with animal fibers, cleaning and spinning raw fibers such as fleece into yarn, and custom dyeing skeins of yarn blanks. The 28-year-old’s first exposure to fiber was learning to knit as a teenager. When she went to college in Gainesville for zoology – her dream was to catch snakes in the wild – she figured she’d never need her knitting supplies again and gave them all away. But life doesn’t always go as planned. In 2009, after nearly two years at the Naples Zoo, Mikeal’s family suffered a loss and she moved back to Polk County to help her mother run the family’s electrical business. Four months later, she found out she was pregnant with twins, boys that are now 3 years old. “I wanted to make them hats, but I wanted to learn how to crochet them,” Mikeal says, and adds she tried to learn to crochet with online tutorials. Her first attempt at a hat, she says, was terrible. So she went looking for local, inperson help, which she found at Four Purls Yarn Shop and the Polk County Fiber Guild, both in Winter Haven. Mikeal’s first encounter with the Fiber Guild was at the group’s annual hobby share, held at the Winter Haven Library in the fall. She found herself entranced with a lady spinning fiber into yarn. It wasn’t long before Mikeal bought herself a drop spindle, some fiber, and again, went online for some instruction. “I could not for the life of me figure it out,” she says. After trial and error she finally realized that she wasn’t putting


Story and Photos by Andrea Cruz her hands far enough apart for the length of the fiber – but she persisted with that handheld drop spindle, essentially a stick with a weighted end used for twisting fibers into yarns. “And I spun like that for probably four months and then got a spinning wheel for Christmas. Then I went crazy and now I have five wheels,” she says laughing. Mikeal processes much of her own raw fiber for spinning. She purchases the sheared material from shepherds and shepherdesses around the country, imports some from the UK, and does everything – boiling it and cleaning it – in her kitchen sink. The Art of Dyeing After a while Mikeal grew tired of spinning white fiber and decided to try her hand at dyeing it. Like many others, she started out with Kool-Aid and cake dyes. “Everybody kept saying, those aren’t true professional dyes,” she says. So she emptied her bank account and purchased professional dyes, already-spun yarn and fiber blanks. Her homebased business, Twin Mommy Creations, was born. Her creative process has no rhyme or reason to it. She grabs colors that pique her interest and combines them to see what happens. “And if I hate it I just dump more (color) of something else,” Mikeal says. With more

than 250 species of sheep, each fiber does something different with the dyes. Some absorb more colors than others and they are dyed using different processes – something Mikeal had to learn through trial and error. “For example, alpaca takes color, but you have to fight to get it wet by holding it down, saturating before adding color or you’ll have white spots,” she says, and explains she has to change the water if she dyes another specie’s fiber so as to not cross contaminate. To dye superwash wool she starts with either a vinegar or citric acid based water. Both chemicals help to set the dyes. “People who dye yarn with Kool-Aid don’t have to use a base because the KoolAid has citric acid in it,” she says, and adds that acid dyes will only dye animal fibers such as silk, wool, and alpaca, not plant-based fibers, such as cotton and bamboo.

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Left: Raw superwash wool yarn blanks lay in front of professional dyes and an induction stove top. Above: Finished yarn skeins and wool roving braids for spinning made by Twin Mommy Creations are for sale.


Spinning (and Dyeing) a Yarn, cont. from pg. 7 Mikeal dyes two ways: Entire skeins at a time, and dip-dyeing parts of the skeins for a hand-painted look. The exclusivity of her uniquely colored yarns is something a big box store will never be able to match. Laura Dobratz, owner of Four Purls Yarn Shop in Winter Haven, says she is proud to carry Twin Mommy yarns. “I love Twin Mommy yarns for the rich color saturation, unique exclusive colorways and quality fiber content, but mostly I like the idea of supporting a fellow fiber enthusiast,” she says. Dobratz also likes that she can offer locals and tourists a locally made product. Colors to Dye For When dyeing an entire skein at once, Mikeal lays the yarn in the water and adds small scoops of one color in different spots of the pan – a pan that is only used to dye yarn, not to cook food – to ensure even coverage of the color. She breaks up any clumps of dye and gingerly moves it, being careful not to create knots. She covers the pot and turns up the heat. Much like human hair, wool yarn


September / October 2014

has scales at microscopic levels. Heat allows the scales to open up and absorb the dye. Mikeal explains she is careful not to let the water boil, especially when not using a superwash wool as it will felt. Felting happens when wool gets too hot and shrinks to an unrecoverable size – like a sweater that never should have been washed. This won’t happen to a “superwash” wool, however. Mikeal checks the water every so often to see if it is clear and the dye has been “exhausted,” or completely absorbed. When she’s satisfied it has, she either adds a second dye for a more colorful look, or removes it from the heat to let it cool. If done dyeing, she washes the yarn with hot water and a drop of dish soap, rinses and lets it dry hanging. This final step helps the scales to close up and lock in the dye. Mikeal prefers her yarns to be “crazy and funky,” and has found a love of dyes that “split” or separate. She enjoys the unpredictable outcome. What appears to be a brown dye may have little flecks of red, yellow and orange that come out in the Continued on page 22

Owner of Twin Mommy Creations, Ann Mikeal, stretches the yarn after it’s been dyed and washed, to make sure there are no tangles. This yarn was dyed with two dyes, a “mulberry” purple and brown.

In The Games We Play: Sports The 863 By Merlisa Lawrence Corbett

Parental Encouragement:

Being a Good Sport


few months ago my 17-year-old close in proximity, took forever to get to. on the Wakefield High School Crew team. decided to quit the Winter Haven That’s because we lived in Arlington, two Every day after school he would aboard High School football team. exits from the Pentagon. Any road trip a bus that took him to practice on the He made me so proud. outside the Capital Beltway could mean Anacostia River near the Navy Yard in Not because he left football, but getting stuck in traffic for hours. Washington D.C. because of the maturity he showed in He enjoyed swimming. So I endured I was excited about attending his first arriving at his decision. the traffic. regatta, a meet on the Occoquan River. He was heading into what would be In Arlington County if a sport was Imagine my surprise when I found out that his second year of playing football. After not offered at the middle school, eighth attending regattas could be a sport in itself. going through spring practice, he came graders had the option of participating on a My casual clogs that I wore to many swim to this conclusion: “I’m a decent football high school team. My choice was lacrosse. meets lacked sufficient shock absorption player. But I think I can be an elite rower.” He chose rowing. for the one-mile hike from where the He had been a rower for three years As a sports writer, I had covered rowers camped out to the finish line. before trying football. His decision to everything from harness racing to squash. It never occurred to me that to access make the switch, so late in his high school I had no experience with rowing. the grandstand on the other side of the life, took guts. Yet here was my son, an eight-grader, Continued on page 14 When it comes to children and sports, I’ve learned this: support and encourage, but allow them to come to their own conclusions. That’s easier said than done. A certain amount of guilt and secondguessing comes with parenting. My first choice for him was tennis. I love tennis. I play tennis. I write about tennis for Bleacher Report. So of course I wanted him to be a tennis player. I enrolled him in tennis lessons at age 5. It was too soon for him. He lacked the necessary attention span. He started swimming competitively at age 8. Tall for his age, he excelled. Each summer he racked up more trophies and blue ribbons. Being a swim mom was easy. I’m a morning person and enjoyed sipping coffee poolside. However, the once laid back summer activity developed into a year-round commitment. Many of the meets, although The author’s son, Gregory, sits behind a veteran who is a double amputee. Photo taken on the Potomac River in 2011.


Image credit: Athletes Without Limits.


Jackie’s Art Café

Haines City’s Art Gallery That Happens to Serve Food Story and photos by Mary Stein Hurst


ucked away in Haines City’s downtown business district is an eclectic find that has drawn art and music lovers for more than two years now. But how it opened in the first place was quite by happenstance. Jackie’s Art Café holds a treasure trove of Florida-themed paintings and woodcrafts by local artisans. The art



September / October 2014

and photography cover the rich-colored reddish, tuck-pointed brick walls. In addition, a few antiques are for sale here and there. Vintage instrument and guitar cases are strategically placed, offering a quaint, charming ambiance. A cardboard cutout of a guitar hanging on the glass front door invites folks to bring their own instruments to play music.

What began as a Monday night jam session has turned into a regular draw for a few quite famous lretired professional musicians and amateurs. Restaurant partners Jacque Palomaki and Chip Newton are friends who happened by the location when he wanted her to take a look at the Ingraham Avenue area that is just around the corner from where the new city hall and public library were then being built. “When we saw the brick wall we knew it would be a great place for an art gallery,” says Newton, who had a long career in journalism and still takes photographs. Palomaki herself is an artist who paints mostly Florida landscapes. “Then we saw the kitchen equipment in the back,” Palomaki says. “I thought, ‘We could serve Chicago hot dogs.’” Vienna beef hotdogs are on the menu, but so are other items named in honor of

Opposite: A paper guitar greets guests at Jackie’s Art Café in downtown Haines City. Right: Jacque Palomaki and Chip Newton own and run Jackie’s Art Café. Art by local artisans. covers the walls and the sounds of local musicians can be heard live several times a week.

famous artists, like Raphael’s Renaissance Chicken Salad and Pablo Picasso Tuna Collage. Fresh soups are made daily, as are a variety of desserts. “This is an art gallery where we happened to serve food,” says Newton. During summer hours, the café is open Monday through Friday for lunch, and features daily live music of one sort or another, except on Tuesdays when patrons can master the “art of conversation.” And on Monday nights dinner is served up for those who want to play music or those who want to listen. New hours beginning Oct. 1 will include evenings on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. A weekly jazz night is in the works – most likely on Saturday nights. A guitar giveaway is slated for Oct. 13 and occasionally the owners sponsor other art contests and offer music lessons for those who’d like to learn from the experts. For local musicians it is like old home week. Professional drummer and Auburndale resident Jon Corneal plays drums with other musicians every Thursday. Corneal, a former drummer with The Legends, which featured the late Gram Parsons, jams with his friends from noon to about 2:30 p.m. Part of the old Winter Haven 1960s and 1970s music scene, which included Jim Stafford, Jim Carlton, Bobby Braddock and Gram Parsons, Corneal is thrilled to have a place to play live music. “I watched karaoke take over,” he says. “There used to be many clubs in this county. To have a place to play traditional live music is very rare here now I am a

professional in an amateur world.” Corneal says he still has fans that love his music and appreciate the chance to see him perform. Toni Brown and her husband, Ed Munson, also jam at Jackie’s when they have time. Brown, a former publicist for the Grateful Dead, says Polk County is enjoying a resurgence in its music and musicians. She coordinated the recent concert to raise funds to restore Gram Parsons’ Derry Down in downtown Winter Haven. Hundreds attended. Brown and Munson jammed on the Derry Down stage with Les Dudek, guitarist with the Steve Miller Band and Steppenwolf; Stafford, who grew up in Winter Haven and is planning to

move back; Carlton and Corneal that night. She’d like to see that happen more often. “We really enjoy it when we get over to Jackie’s,” Brown says. “You can go there for pie and coffee, or have a sandwich, and everybody knows you.” Of Corneal, she says he’s one of the original country rock veterans. “He kind of Continued on page 17

FREE CANOLI Yum! W/ Purch. of Two (2) Entrees at Il Forno Italian Restaurant.


Bridging the Diversity Divide

A citizen of the world, Teresa Martinez is a cultural role model. Story by Donna Kelly | Photos by Andrea Cruz


he warmth of Teresa Martinez’s smile reaches around the globe, fostering goodwill and understanding between people of differing ages, backgrounds and cultures. A teacher at heart, the world is not her stage, but a classroom in which she shares ideas about life and how to make the most of it. At 59, Martinez is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her business, the Institute of Spanish Communication; a start of a new motivational book for Hispanic women; and an additional focus on assimilation of immigrants into the community by providing accent reduction courses through employers. Over the years, Martinez, a native of Cuba, has been honored for her excellence in teaching, business, and community service, as well as featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles. The accolades are well-deserved, says Eileen Holden, president of Polk State College. Martinez has served on the PSC District Board of Trustees since 2009. “She’s a strong ambassador for education in our community,” says Holden. “The one thing that never wavers is her positive attitude. She really does want to help people improve the quality of their lives through education.” Martinez has, says Holden, a unique ability to draw out the best in other people. And she knows no boundaries of age, socio-economic background, race, or education. She’s worked with penniless families in need, corporate executives, students of all ages, and a host of community service organizations. “She is a teacher at heart,” says Holden. “I’ve seen her talking to high school students visiting from Spain and she has them laughing and joking, as well as helping businesses, small business owners, and entrepreneurs achieve and succeed in our community.”


Lessons From an Early Age Martinez was just 15 when she fled from Cuba to Miami with her parents, Dr. Luis J. Vazquez and Maria Teresa Garcia Vazquez, and her younger sister, Lourdes Vazquez. She was old enough to see and increasingly understand the oppression of Communism – not only the confiscation of property, but the loss of freedom to speak their minds, to work, to live the life they’d always known. Immigration wasn’t easy. They’d left family members behind in Cuba and not only had to meet new friends, but learn a new language and find jobs, too. Her physician father became a medical assistant while he studied for his state

board exams and her mother took a job in a garment factory. A year later the family moved to Bartow. Smart and articulate, the teenage Martinez felt ignorant and backwards as she struggled to learn English and keep up with her classmates at Bartow High School. She credits retired physical education teacher, Mary Jane Driesler, with getting her on the right track. “She was my mentor when I arrived in Bartow in 1971. When I came from Cuba, I told her I was stupid because I wasn’t getting good grades,” Martinez explains. “She’d tutor me every day. She’s my American mom... I call her “Momma Jane.” Martinez became active in high school and spent time at the local hang out: McDonalds, where she met her husband, Carlos. They’ve been married 39 years and have daughters, Lizette Martinez Candela and Alexis Martinez Puleio, both of Naples, and three grandchildren. Serving as a role model for others isn’t new for “Terry,” as her friends call her. She’s been mentoring others since serving as a role model for her younger sister, Lourdes Vazquez, as kids. Vazquez, an account executive for Christian Dior Perfume, lives in Weeki Wachee. “Terry’s brilliant in so many ways. She’s a beacon of light,” says Vazquez, who describes her sister as both compassionate and tenacious. “She has this magnetism, happiness, positiveness that I’ve never found in any individual. She has been my role model all my life. I have such respect for her because she does not compromise her values and she really sets an example for others.” Vazquez isn’t surprised at the number of awards – from the International Trade Association of Polk County’s 1997 International Individual of the Year to the Governor’s Point of Light Award and the Polk Community College Alumnus of Distinction in 2006 – her sister has racked up over the years. Nor is she shocked at the number of people who credit Martinez with changing their lives. “She’s done that all her life. Even when I was younger, even in Cuba, she was the one people would go to for answers,” Vazquez said. “People have always recognized she has insight, a global wisdom. She has the ability to see the forest through the trees.” The World is her Classroom After earning her bachelors of arts degree from the University of Central Florida, Martinez taught Spanish and English as a second language at Lakeland

High School from 1984 to 1995, but her circle of influence extended far beyond the school grounds. Not long after she began teaching high school, Martinez began receiving calls from businesses needing a translator or interpreter. A big break came when a representative from Marriott called to request her help as the company made plans to open a hotel in Spain. “After that, word of mouth got around and others called,” says Martinez. “I realized there was a market.” This led to a travel coordinator and interpreter position with the Miss Universe Organization, which in turn opened the door to work on website development with The Vatican. “With the exposure, growth happened very fast. I loved it. I taught for these companies after class during the week,” she says. “I was very lucky to teach for very important companies.” Soon she was spending her days in the classroom with high school students and the evenings and summers with corporate clients, as varied as GEICO, Estee Lauder, IMC Corporation, and Lakeland Regional Medical Center. “I was always doing a lot of projects in Spanish,” says Martinez. “Former students became attorneys and began calling me for translation and interpretation.” She discovered another way to teach as she watched a group of foreign exchange students tour a Florida theme park in 1992. The interaction of the students with the group leader and other park visitors enthralled her. “I said, ‘I want to do this.’” The opportunity came later that year, when Patty Murrell, then coordinator of languages for the Polk County School Board, asked Martinez to help her recruit families to host 40 exchange students. By the end of the day, she’d signed on 13 families and was appointed coordinator of the program. “I owe a lot of what I am to Patty Murrell,” Martinez says. Murrell died in June. Martinez spent two years as coordinator of the program. “It wasn’t easy,” she says of getting to know the teens. But they connected so well that she was not only invited to visit their homes in Spain, but their families sent her a plane ticket. She’s been exposing Spanish youth to Central Florida ever since, although these days the group is smaller and they visit for one month each July. Martinez says these experiences are as beneficial to the host families as to the

Continued on page 19


Being a Good Sport, cont. from pg. 9

Occoquan, I’d have to dip under tree branches and climb rocky hills. I learned my lesson. The next regatta, I wore hiking shoes. Despite the early mornings—we left at 5:30 a.m.—I loved being a rowing mom. Rowing is the ultimate team sport. Unlike football, which tolerates hotdogging, in rowing, any free styling could render the boat inoperable. Along with rowing for the high school, my son volunteered for Athletes Without Limits, a program designed to help athletes with disabilities excel in sports. He rowed with military veterans who lost legs in combat, and a pair who won bronze medals at the 2012 Paralympics in London. He embraced rowing with enthusiasm. Instead of me dragging him out of bed like I used to for tennis, he was reminding me about upcoming regattas and team activities. His face lights up when the talks about rowing. I remember when he described the rush he got while rowing on the Potomac River. He said there was nothing like viewing the monuments from the water.


September / October 2014

It’s hard to believe that last year he nearly gave it up. That’s when we moved to Winter Haven. In Winter Haven, football is king. There are no rowing teams at public schools in Polk County. I was prepared to drive him an hour away to row for the South Orlando Rowing Association (SORA). But it conflicted with football. Although he never played football, he was always intrigued. New to town, I think the peer pressure got to him. Joining the football team was a quick way to fit in. He had to quit swimming. I was not happy. He had been swimming so long and rowing was his life. Yet, his father and I decided to trust his judgment. We’d let him sort it out. He gave it shot. He enjoyed the camaraderie and wearing the jersey around school. But this spring, something changed. Perhaps it was the arrival of his senior year. One day, he came to me and said he was going to tell his football coach that he was quitting. I asked him why.

“I’m a decent football player. But I think I can be an elite rower.” I immediately signed him up SORA, which practices on Lake Nona out of Moss Park in Orange County. At first, the coaches were skeptical about this former football player from Polk County. Most of the kids who participate in SORA were from Winter Park and Celebration. But after one trip on the water, the head coach exclaimed, “Looks like we’ve got ourselves an oarsman!” This summer my son participated in a two-week rowing camp at George Washington University in D.C. He also reconnected with Athletes Without Limits. This September his first season with SORA gets underway. I have no idea of what the future holds for his rowing career. However, it’s clear, he’s committed. Merlisa Lawrence Corbett is a freelance writer who lives in Winter Haven. A former reporter for Sports Illustrated, she is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa or visit Have an idea for a local sports story? Email Merlisa@

Your Stuff :: 863 Readers’ Art

Poems for the Sunshine State and Beyond John Davis Jr., a Florida Poet sixth generation Floridian, John Davis Jr. is a Florida writer and educator. His works have appeared in literary journals internationally, and he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He holds an MFA from University of Tampa. As a creative writing teacher at Harrison School for the Arts and an adjunct professor for Polk State College, Davis uses his love and knowledge of language and literature to inspire future generations. Much of his poetry has local significance, and centers around his memories of growing up in Central Florida. Published here, “Family Album, 2004,” chronicles the three hurricanes that criss-crossed over Winter Haven in 2004, and “My Grandfather’s Glenn Miller Record” (called a “cascade” after its form) took first prize in the Florida State Poets Association Formal Verse competition. Both were “locally inspired.”

My Grandfather’s Glenn Miller Record


Innocent soundtrack of war complete with well-polished brass contained on a long-play black circle blasting bursts of smoky song through my free, peaceful living room.

Davis’ first book, “Growing Moon, Growing Soil: Poems of my Native Land” (2005) can be purchased on in both physical and e-book formats. His newest venture, a chapbook of poems about fatherhood and mentorship, “The Boys of Men,” will be available at his Sept. 30 book launch (must RSVP at his website for details) and through most other major book retailers in September. Davis will also launch his third book, “Middle Class American Proverb,” at the same time. For more info about Davis visit

Like bent spoons turned to wind chimes, we flattened and reshaped our selves in lessened bed space consumed by nature’s disturbance: that season of three hurricanes, our firstborn inside you rolled and stretched. Late into night, the neighbors’ bamboo shrieked its rubbing, bending cry through our bedroom windows’ plywood: green cylinders’ wind-pitched friction. Circular saw-blades of weather passed. After-storms’ satisfied sounds: final bands’ thick drops fell, settled into our new routines – feeding, changing, quieting. - A poem from John Davis Jr.’s book “The Boys of Men.”

863 Magazine columnist Jamie Beckett writes about his encounter with John Davis Jr.on page 6.

Family Album, 2004

“The little contradictions and minute details of everyday life, especially here in Florida, inspire me to write poems. Often in my poetry, there is some central metaphor at work that arose from simply observing unconventional relationships in nature or the world at large.” -John Davis Jr.

Ebony-barreled clarinets with gleaming silver hardware roll mellow notes like tumbling bombs across the front lines: E, G, B, innocent soundtrack of war. Trumpets and trombones break quiet, leading a charge toward finale in a shiny metallic display of bright and brilliant bravado completed by well-polished brass. Those lustrous medal days have passed, but still we feel the resonance, liberty’s tremors heard in throats of instruments contained on a long-play black circle. Scratchy percussion: vibrations measuring discordant harmonies from chambers locked and loaded with the power of human breath blasting bursts of smoky song. My young sons enter and listen to a conflict-and-victory medley that feeds their curious courage with audible history winding through my free, peaceful living room. - A poem from John Davis Jr.’s book “The Boys of Men.”

Got art? Let us know! Send your poetry or images or other art to


863 Photo Contest Winners few issues ago, we asked readers to take photos of themselves holding a copy of The 863 Magazine while on vacation and submit them to us at the end of summer. We received some really great photos, but alas, could only choose the three as the winners. Judging was on a combination of originality, distance (from Polk County), and picture composition. Congratulations to the winners who received some pretty nice gift certificates to a couple of the finest eateries in the 863: Il Forno Italian Restaurant in Lakeland and Andrea’s Family Restaurant in Winter Haven. Thanks to all who took The 863 on vacation! Visit our website to see all the entries:


Above: Elijah Bauer reads the May 2014 issue while visiting Chinatown in Washington D.C.; submitted by Thanh Bauer. Above right: Kathryn Linski displays the May 2014 issue in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia; submitted by Jay Linski. Right: Jack Gillen holds the June 2014 issue in front of the ruins of the Claregalway Franciscan Friary in County Galway, Ireland; submitted by Jack Gillen.


September / October 2014

Jackie’s Art Café, cont. from 11

Jon Corneal, left, has the distinction of being the first drummer in the countryrock genre. He performs each Thursday from 12 to 2:30 p.m. at Jackie’s Art Café in downtown Haines City. Janice Rodenbaugh plays keyboards behind Corneal. Rodenbaugh has solo gigs on Mondays and Fridays at the café.

hybridized country rock,” she says. Brown believes having a venue in the Davenport-Haines City area is welcomed because musicians have been rather fragmented around Central Florida. “Jackie’s has brought the artist

community together, bridging the art and music communities in a place we can call home,” she says. “Chip and Jacque are so welcoming. They both play, so they get it.” Palomaki says that while she never thought she’d be running a restaurant and

knew nothing about doing so before she opened the café’s doors, she and Newton are having fun and really appreciate the local people who patronize their eatery. “We wouldn’t have made it without them,” Palomaki says. “And the musicians who helped create this monster.” She says some of their customers refer to the art café as the cultural center of Northeast Polk County. “We encourage the arts and artists,” she says. “I’d like to start a music writers’ group.” The luncheon musical line-up on Monday is Janice Rodenbaugh, a former comptroller who plays keyboard; on Wednesdays Jane Rosenbohm brings her classical guitar and plays her favorites; and on Thursdays Corneal plays while Rodenbaugh is plays keyboard. For more information call 863-4210777. The menu and events can be viewed online at


Non-Profit Spotlight


magine your parent living far away from you without transportation and struggling financially. Imagine your grandparent living alone after so many years of living with a spouse, feeling lonely and without a purpose. Imagine for a moment yourself in either of those situations. Now imagine an organization that provides transportation to the elderly without charge – to the doctor, the grocery store, the dentist. Imagine a place that provides hot meals or commodity boxes to individuals aged 70 and older who need the extra food to supplement what they can afford on the income they have. Or imagine an organization that has volunteers who place weekly reassurance calls to those who might be lonely, just to make certain they are doing okay. Or one that invites the elderly to come to the offices to volunteer and to socialize with other individuals, to feel important and needed. The mission of VISTE (Volunteers


In Service To the Elderly) is to assist the elderly in remaining safe and independent in their own homes. VISTE serves nearly 4,000 clients in Lakeland, Bartow, Ft. Meade, and Mulberry with the assistance of more than 1,000 volunteers. Transportation is the primary service offered, but so many other services are also included in the whole person approach that VISTE takes. “We know that helping seniors age in place is about more than just transporting them from one place to another,” says Alice O’Reilly, VISTE president. “At VISTE, we are looking to meet the needs of the whole person.” VISTE Volunteer Coordinator, Ashley Miller, works with individuals, foundations and organizations that volunteer with VISTE to see that the organization’s programs are successful. “We really are exactly what our name implies. We are volunteers helping the elderly. Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do, and we encourage everyone to consider how they can help.” Miller explains that help can come

in various forms for VISTE. Volunteers are always needed, donors can contribute needed funding, and donors can contribute items to be used in the commodity boxes. VISTE’s main fundraiser each year is VISTEBall, which is held in February and has a golf theme. Sponsors donate prizes, silent and live auction items, and tickets are sold to the event. As always, volunteers run the games and serve the dinner. “There are so very many ways that people can be involved,” Miller says. “I encourage anyone who is interested in becoming involved with VISTE to get in touch with us.” Volunteer applications are available on the VISTE website,, and information on upcoming volunteer orientations are also listed on the website. VISTE headquarters can be reached by calling 863-284-0828. Imagine yourself making a difference in someone’s life. VISTE is doing just that. VISTE is changing lives in Polk County.

Tell Us About a Non-Profit

Advertising Sales Representatives Wanted. No quotas. No pressure. Make your own hours. Sell the magazine you love. Contact 863 Publisher Sergio Cruz at for info.


September / October 2014

Save the Date! 17th Annual Hispanic Festival October 25 at Lake Mirror Promenade in Lakeland. visiting students. “For families hosting these children, it’s an opportunity to bring another culture into the home. It gives your child a chance to experience a completely different point of view,” she says. Martinez uses her connections in the community to expose the visiting youth to cultural experiences, educational opportunities, entertainment venues, and other experiences. Alberto Bonfil, a financial advisor with Edward Jones, knows well the impact Martinez has on people, particularly the students she hosts each year. He came to Polk County with a group of students from Spain in the 1990s. “I came here as a 19-year-old kid with no level of English whatsoever and a high level of tennis. From that point, we had to figure out a way for me to actually get into school, learn the language, and be successful.” With Martinez’s help, Bonfil was able to parlay his tennis skill into a scholarship and eventually into a college degree. He describes her as a “sweet soul.” “She guided me through everything, holding my hand until I could let go and fly. She was like my American Mama,” Bonfil says. “She was a good teacher in letting me appreciate how things are done differently in other countries, putting me in different situations where I could appreciate different cultures,” says Bonfil. Martinez doesn’t take credit for her accomplishments or the lives she’s changed. She attributes her success to God. “I was an instrument from the higher power. Everywhere I went for Him, doors opened for me.” Communication and Education: The Keys to Tolerance Martinez opens her speaking engagements with two questions. “Do you know how lucky you are to live in the United States?” She hesitates and waits for the nods. She follows with, “What did you have for breakfast?” Her audiences are usually amazed when she describes how lucky they are to have had eggs, bacon, and milk for breakfast. Many are surprised to learn these food favorites aren’t available in other countries, certainly not to families in her native Cuba. Her presentations open the door for communication and education – the keys, she says, to understanding and

Teresa Martinez, cont. from pg. 13

tolerance – between people of different cultural backgrounds. Her book published in 2010, “Success in Exile,” recounts the real-life stories of Cuban immigrants in both English and Spanish, so readers of differing backgrounds could share an understanding of these human experiences. She is all about fostering relationships and tolerance between people. “Respect is the key to everything in human relationships,” says Martinez. “We all want to think – we want to be happy. We’d all be happier if we respected each other.” She’s helped students from other countries immigrate to the U.S., enabled non-Hispanic business owners and managers develop understanding of Hispanic employees, and aided immigrants in untangling red tape associated with assimilating into the local community. And more than a few folks have found jobs or been admitted to colleges with her help. Countless others learned from Martinez during her time as the host of Comunidad Viva, a Spanish talk show on PGTV, and Comunidad Viva Radio, on La X 1460 AM. Bonfil says the list just scratches the surface of Martinez’s service to others. “There are a million things she’s done that people don’t even know about,” he says. “Even though she’s been recognized tremendously, what she does is not done for recognition. She’s just a good person.” Polk State College’s Dr. Eileen Holden says Martinez’s gift is in bringing people together to communicate in a nonthreatening way. “She herself is a very tolerant person. She walks the talk. She’s earned the respect in our community because of her authenticity,” Holden explains. “She doesn’t tell people to do one thing and do something else herself. People see that. They are more likely to engage in uncomfortable conversations when they feel their opinions matter.” Holden attributes Martinez’s success to her focus on educating rather than judging people. She describes Martinez as a realist with an ability to define a situation as it is now and focus on improving it. “People see her as part of the solution. That’s why people want her on their boards and community,” says Holden. “It’s easy to identify the problem but harder to come up

with solutions.” Bonfil believes Martinez’s success lies in her sense of self, which enables her to give of herself. “She is proud of what she is – Cuban. She’s not ashamed of it, so she doesn’t have to fight it. She’s successful, so she doesn’t see that as a diminishing thing,” he says.”Her determination to not let anything stop her from achieving her goals, he adds, also adds to Martinez’s effectiveness. “That’s why she’s able to cross those boundaries. She’s just a regular lady doing her thing,” he says. She’s also a lady promoting understanding among people. “Most people are here because they are looking for a better life for their children,” Martinez explains. She shakes her head when asked about negative comments about Spanish speaking immigrants who haven’t learned English. The situation isn’t what it seems. “Some don’t have the capability. It’s not a lack of desire,” she says. “Everybody wants to know what’s said around them. Not everybody has the ability to learn the language.” She pauses. “Wouldn’t it be just great if we could just give people a chance – and not look at skin color? Not look at social class?” A smile creeps across her face when asked about her secret to fitting in among different groups of people. “It’s all in the attitude. You have to be willing to walk into a room and think everybody is equal to you – not better or worse than you because we were born in a certain place or our skin is darker because we are closer to the equator,” she says. “When you stereotype people, you’re degrading yourself.” Martinez is amused when people ask her where she’s from originally. Her stock answer? “I’m a citizen of the world.” And she cautions against judging someone by the color of his skin or sound of her voice. Lourdes Vazquez says she and her sister learned these values from their parents, particularly their father. “My father became a doctor because he wanted to help people. He really infused that passion and Terry just went with it,” says Vazquez. “She has these values and just puts them to work. She just has that humanitarian love.” Continued on page 20


Teresa Martinez, cont. from pg. 19 Opportunity and Polk State College Martinez combines her heart for helping people with a staunch believe in the power of education to change lives as a member of the District Board of Trustees for Polk State College. While her board service began in 2009, her ties with the college go back several decades. “Polk State is a love of mine because when I got here and graduated from high school, we didn’t have money for elsewhere and Polk State was here,” says Martinez. Now she’s paying it forward. She never misses an opportunity to introduce the college to potential students, possible benefactors, or the community in general. “I see it as such a gateway for people who want to study,” says Martinez. “Education is the great equalizer and this is top notch education.” A long-time member of the Hispanic Club of Lakeland and an organizer of the growing Lakeland Hispanic Festival, which draws several thousands each year, Martinez found a way to beneficially connect the two with Polk State College. Holden says Martinez brings great wisdom and knowledge to the board of trustees. “Terry gives thoughtful consideration to policy level decisions and approaches them from a viewpoint of what’s best for the students and the communities we serve. She sees it from the 30,000 feet view,” says Holden. As with everything else she does, her work at PSC is about empowering others. “My work there might be a gateway for someone to get into education,” says Martinez. The Next Classroom At an age when many people are considering winding down to retirement, Martinez is excitedly entering a new phase of her career with adding accent reduction classes for corporate clients, a new inspirational book, and ramping up her motivational speaking. She’s also reaching out to Hispanic immigrants who have the desire to build a successful career but don’t know how to do it. Taught in partnership with speakers and teachers with English as a first language, the accent reduction course teaches participants how to reduce the accent by using their mouths and throats differently, thus improving communication with others.


September / October 2014

“It’s the combination of what I know and what they know,” she explains. The class will also include instruction on idioms and body language that differ between cultures and how to understand and modify them. “Communication is the key to everything,” says Martinez. “We often don’t understand what is happening around us.” Fostering communication skills and exchanging cultural information is important to both foreign speaking immigrants and life-long English speaking Americans. Understanding and tolerance is paramount. “Hispanics come here looking for a better life. They’re willing to work, but they come with the mentality of their countries,” explains Martinez. “They really don’t know how to climb the ladder of success in the United States.” Her advice to everyone searching for success? “Networking and volunteering make you more than you can imagine,” she said. “Belong to associations.” But inspiration and motivation often comes from communicating in a native language. “I speak English very well, but I’m motivated in Spanish,” Martinez says, placing her fist over her stomach. “I’m an

American, but Spanish at heart. Spanish is my language in my gut.” This is the impetus for her upcoming motivational book for Hispanic women. “There’s so much talent out there and so much desire to do things, they need to be motivated in their own language,” says Martinez. Martinez credits her parents for giving her the mindset to succeed. Her life’s motto comes from her father. “He is always saying, ‘If you want it, then you can do it. Nothing is impossible,’” she says with a smile. “I see what I can do.” While success seems to follow Martinez wherever she goes, Bonfil may have found her Achilles heel. “The Sevillanas, a typical dance from Spain,” he announces amused, explaining the folk music and danced of Seville and the surrounding region. “I’ve been trying to teach her that for 19 years. She can do many other things, but not the Sevillanas.” But those who know her won’t count her out of learning the dance eventually. Someday the world may see her on the television show, “Dancing with the Stars.” For more info about Teresa Martinez visit

Teaching Spanish is a lifelong passion of Lakeland resident Teresa Martinez. Her company, the Institute of Spanish Communication, focuses on teaching her native language to professionals. Recently, classes are geared toward helping Spanish speakers minimize their accents, learn body language and English idioms.

Explore :: September’s & October’s Happenings in the 863 Send Your Community Event to FSept. 5 & Oct. 3: First Friday – An evening of free family-friendly entertainment, activities, live music, art receptions, a car show, more. 6-9 p.m. in downtown Lakeland. FSept. 5 & Oct. 3: Pickin’ in the Park - Come enjoy the band “Harmony Grits.” Bring blanket or lawn chair; band provides songbooks. Downtown Winter Haven, Central Park, 6-8 p.m. Info: 863-291-5656. FSept. 6 & 20/Oct. 4 & 18: 1st & 3rd Saturday Market in South Florida – Now on two weekends/month. Vendors, including produce, local artisans, food trucks, more. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. In Home Depot pkg. lot: 6335 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland. Info: 863-258-3561. FSept. 6: Family Fun Night – A free family fun night featuring games, a movie, more. At Wabash Community Center, 1230 Southern Avenue, Lakeland, 6 p.m. Info: 863-284-4223. FSept. 8 - Oct. 30: Passport to Exotic Adventure Photography - Photography by Terry Mann and Omarr Otero. Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free. PSC Lake Wales Arts Center, 1099 State Road 60 East, Lake Wales. Info: 863676-8426.. FSept. 11 & Oct. 9: Thursday Squared - Food trucks set up in downtown Lakeland, 100 N Kentucky Ave., 6-9 p.m. Info: 863-510-9723. FSept 12: Praise in the Park – Benefits The Mission and other local charities. Downtown Winter Haven, Central Park, 6:30 p.m. Info: 863291-5656. FSept. 13 & Oct. 11: 2nd Saturday Market in Haines City – Vendors, including produce, local artisans, food trucks, live music, more. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. in the pkg. lot of Tractor Supply, 35874 US 27, Haines City. Info: 863-258-3561. FSept 19: Dulcimer Night - Beautiful Dulcimer music in downtown Winter Haven, Central Park, 5:30 p.m. Info: 863-291-5656. FSept. 20: Family Fun Night – A free family fun night featuring games, a movie, more. At Mary Norma Campbell Resource Center, 2226 Karen Street, Lake Wales, 6 p.m. Info: 863-679-4335. FSept 20 & Oct. 18: Cypress Gardens Water Ski Show – A 40-minute show reminiscent of shows previously held at Cypress Gardens. Free event

held at MLK, Jr. Park on Lake Silver in Winter Haven, 6 p.m. Pre-show begins at 5:16 p.m. Snacks & drinks available for purchase. Info: 863-521-2808. FSept. 26 & Oct. 24: Music Central – Join us for a jam. Different musical instruments featured. Downtown Winter Haven, Central Park, 6:30 p.m. Info: 863-291-5656. FSept. 27 & Oct. 25: 4th Saturday Market in Downtown Winter Haven – Vendors, including produce, local artisans, food trucks, live music, more. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Across from city library. Info: 863-258-3561. FSept. 27: Hispanic Heritage Festival – A free event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. This event will feature live entertainment, music, food vendors, and more to celebrate Hispanic culture, family, and tradition. Eloise Resource Center, 710 Snively Avenue, Eloise, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Info: 863-298-4485. FOct. 10 & 11: Cracker Storytelling Festival Admission is $6 adults, $4 kids. Activities include storytellers, vendors, more. Homeland Heritage Park, 249 Church Avenue, Homeland, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Info: 863-534-3766. FOct. 10: Halloween “Boo”gie Party – A free community Halloween event for the entire family. Featuring costume contests, coloring contests, and candy. At Medulla Resource Center, 1049 Parker Road, Lakeland, 6-9 p.m. Info: 863-647-4035. FOct. 10: Ghost Stories – Part of Cracker Storytelling Festival, admission is $4 adults, $2 children. Featuring spooky stories for the entire family. Bartow Public Library, 2150 South Broadway Avenue, Bartow, 7-9 p.m. Info: 863-5343766. FOct. 11: Annual Holiday Bazaar - Collectible Christmas ornaments, not-too-scary Halloween decorations, as well as lovely things to decorate your holiday tables. Hope Presbyterian Church, 2110 Cypress Gardens Blvd. in Winter Haven, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Info: 863-324-6382. FOct. 11: Halloween Spooktacular - A free Halloween event for the community. We

provide a safe and fun environment for your goblins and ghouls, trick-or-treat village, free snacks and drinks, carnival type games, arts and crafts. Wabash Community Center, 1230 Southern Avenue, Lakeland, 5-7 p.m. Info: 863284-4223. FOct. 17: Chat ‘n Chew – Tired of worrying about what not to eat? Join us to learn what to eat to get more of the nutrients you want to meet your personal health goals. Free, bring bag lunch. Winter Haven Library 11:30 a.m.– 1:30 p.m. Info: FOct. 18: Boktoberfest Plant Sale - More than 40 plant vendors from around Florida, live entertainment, German food, craft beers, children’s activities, live carillon music, and guest garden speakers. Free admission. Bok Tower Gardens 1151 Tower Blvd Lake Wales, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Info: 863-676-1408. FOct. 18: Haunted Halloween Hayride & Happenings – Haunted hayride, carnival games, inflatable bounce houses, live entertainment, a trick-or-treat-village, and more. Loyce E. Harpe Park, 500 West Carter Road, Mulberry, 5-10 p.m. Tickets $5 each and go on sale Sept. 29. Info: 863-534-6911. FOct. 24: Trick or Treat Party – A movie, snacks, a trick-or-treat village, arts and crafts, a raffle, and more. Free. Eloise Resource Center, 710 Snively Avenue, Eloise, 5-7 p.m. Info: 863-2984485. FOct. 24: Trick or Treat Party – Halloween party for kids and families with snacks, arts and crafts, and more. Free. Wilfred Smith Resource Center, 135 Avenue Y N.E., Winter Haven, 5-7 p.m. Info: 863-298-7898. FOct. 24: Trick or Treat Party – Halloween party for kids and families with snacks, arts and crafts, and more. Free. Wilfred Smith Resource Center, 135 Avenue Y N.E., Winter Haven, 5-7 p.m. Info: 863-298-7898. FOct. 25: 17th Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival – Entertainment, authentic Hispanic food, live music, vendors, more. Lake Mirror Promenade in downtown Lakeland. Adults $5, children 14 and under free with paying adult. 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Info: 863-644-5362.

Spinning (and Dyeing) a Yarn, cont. from pg. 8 dyeing process. “You can take something from the pot and wash it and it’ll look totally different by the time it’s dry,” she says. Her favorite dye color is a chartreuse hue called “Ivy,” which splits into blues and greens with a hint of purple. “I kind of like knowing it’s not just going to be one color, that it’s a color wheel and it takes all these colors to make one color,” she says. A fearless artisan Fellow Fiber Guild member and friend, Laurie Williams, says Mikeal is an amazing and fearless artisan. “She’s always creating something new,” Williams says, “and she presents a niche that isn’t out there.” Mikeal


September / October 2014

has connections all over the world and works with fibers one might not expect, especially in Florida. “It’s really rather pleasing to be able to have that available,” Williams says. Mikeal incorporates rare items such as recycled sari silk fibers and even peacock feathers in her un-spun fibers. She works with wool, alpaca, silk, cotton, bamboo, nylon, and milk fiber, which is milkweed. She says that most anything organic can be made into fiber, and cites corn, stinging nettles (ramie), hemp, flax, rose stalks and even a “white charcoal” fiber. Working a fulltime job and taking care of her twin boys takes a toll on Mikeal who often stays awake until 2 a.m. to get everything done. Working with fiber keeps her sane, she says, and helps her to

decompress after a long day. “It’s not so much the dyeing as it is the spinning and working with the fiber, it’s very calming and relaxing for me,” she says. It also takes her back to her days at the zoo. The unclean, raw fiber that is shipped with hay and other natural materials matted in reminds her of her days at the zoo. She enjoys picking the organic material out and cleaning it well enough to be able to work with it. “Everything about fiber just makes me happy,” she says. In addition to Four Purls Yarn Shop, Mikeal sells her Twin Mommy products in her online Etsy store. For more info visit

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