Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Tale of Irma, Part 1

A surprise addition to this week's Mosaic Moments. The Citrus Singers have come up with another video, this one very much "off the cuff," as they wanted to coordinate with the Girl Scouts' current fund-raising campaign that will end in October. It's a parody of "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. No costumes, no studio with AC - just a whole day "street side" in the 90+ sun and heat following Irma's departure. (Ironically, hurricanes sweep all the moisture from the air, leaving days of bright sunshine behind.) The Hispanic couple (experienced performers) who were to play the roles of customers couldn't make it - their car wouldn't start. And when Susie (the director) still hadn't found the young man needed as another customer, the teenage deliveryman for a nearby pizza place was pressed into service, as were some of the girls' parents. My eldest granddaughter also appears as one of the "cool" customers, the one requesting food with "no calories." Anyway, you'll find a link below to another GS video, scripted by my daughter, with all three of my grandgirls performing.

The Citrus Singers meet a genuine Drill Sergeant

The "cool" crowd asks for GS items with "no calories"!

For the Citrus Singers' new video, click here.

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Grace note: Residents of Florida and Texas can stop reading. Been there, done that. But there are a lot of people who have NO idea, so . . .


Most of us spent the last week of August and the first week of September being horrified by the news out of Texas. A Cat 4 hurricane, followed by record-breaking rainfall - in one place 51.2 inches! Flooding, a Dunkirk-like fleet of private boats rushing to help local first responders, some from states as far away as Florida. Homes and normal lives destroyed, but relatively few deaths due to excellent forecasting and lessons learned about shelters from the disaster in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

But oops! There was something else brewing in the Atlantic, a storm so big it became a hurricane shortly after it was born. Here in Florida we began getting daily bulletins about Irma. Our specially trained rescue workers and their air boats came back from Texas just in time for a couple of days rest before they had to do it all over again at home.

On Monday, September 11, word came: it looked like Irma, a Cat 5, was headed straight for Florida. When I went to the grocery store the next afternoon, there was already almost no water or bread left on the shelves. The evening news said the same of generators. And of course the rush became worse as the week progressed, stores struggling to restock and not quite managing. Peanut butter, jelly, cheese vanished. Along with every kind of battery and stoppers for bathtubs! (For those who don't know the drill, bathtubs have to be filled so toilets can be flushed when the water pumps shut down.) Three tankers made it into the port of Tampa, bringing much-needed gasoline, as of course there was a huge rush to fill up.  

Weather bulletin: Irma was 500 miles wide, its "eye"winds 185, with gusts to 200. I had grave doubts about my 1970s-built villa withstanding such ferocity.

The governor made numerous appearances on television, issuing warnings: residents on the barrier islands and those living in mobile homes must evacuate. Those living below the giant dike at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee as well. (The dike was expected to hold, but it was possible excessive rain and wind would whip water over the top. All tolls were suspended, so evacuation traffic would flow as smoothly as possible. Everybody else needed to stock up on food, water, lanterns, and flashlights, and hunker down. Frankly, I've never liked Florida's governor, but in this emergency he was superb. If he hadn't reached his term limit, he'd win the next election in a landslide.

On Tuesday, I moved all the container plants on my stone-walled embankment onto the ground, counting on the rise of land behind to shelter them. I uprooted down tall wrought iron plant holders, laid them flat, and put the flowers hanging from them onto the ground. (The birdfeeder I left up - not taking it down until after Sunday afternoon.) I stripped my porch, folded up tables, took tablecloths & decorations inside. Also, the cat climber (which Squeak never uses). I damaged my big begonia getting it through the opening in the sliding glass doors (narrowed by the cat door), but it spent the storm safely on my dining room table and is now back outside, still blooming happily when all my other plants were destroyed.

Wednesday Weather bulletin: Irma destroyed 90% of the Caribbean island of Barruda and was expected to skim north of Puerto Rico. After that . . . look out, Florida.

  On Thursday, when it looked as if Miami would take the brunt of the storm, the roads north were bumper to bumper with those trying to escape. Schools were canceled, beginning Friday, even in our area - not because the storm was imminent, but many schools needed to be prepared for use as shelters. On Friday afternoon, I baked up a big batch of scones. With those and the aid of my little Sterno stove, I would at least have my morning fix of coffee and something to nibble on.

Weather bulletin: Irma was angling more west - the so-called "spaghetti models" were shifting from Miami and the east coast to a track up the center of the state. Namely, Orlando. And Longwood (where I live). Yikes!

In the midst of all this the Episcopal Diocese in Orlando announced that the convocation ceremony for new deacons in Central Florida would go ahead as planned on Saturday morning at the downtown cathedral. Most of us in our choir, who had promised to sing, had an "You've got to be kidding" moment. Sunday services had been canceled, but not the convocation?? So there we were, driving a deserted I-4 into town at 9:30 a.m. (Everyone was supposed to be off the roads by 5:00 p.m., but most sensible people were already safely shut up at home.) Really strange to have a major superhighway almost to ourselves - and to discover that every billboard between Longwood and Orlando had been stripped down to its wooden frame. To save the advertisements, or to allow wind to pass through the boards, saving the frames? Truthfully, I have no idea.

As mentioned in a previous post, the convocation ran over two hours. Two choirs never made it all - one, the choir from Okeechobee - and another choir sang without robes, because when they went to pick them up, their church had already been sandbagged and they couldn't get in. Believe me, by the time I got home around two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, I can't ever remember being so tired. The strain was getting to me.

Sunday morning. Quiet - really strange, since I live only about forty feet from a busy road. Maybe five or six cars passed by between dawn and noon. Then . . . nothing.

Weather bulletin: Irma's track kept inching west - it was beginning to look like it was going to pass over Key West and go up Florida's west coast. A little better for Orlando but not good for my many friends who live in the Naples, Fort Meyers, Venice area. 

At the last minute, shortly before the power went out - and just as our area was beginning to breathe a bit easier - it was announced that Irma had shifted back to the east. She was going to travel INLAND, up the peninsula between Orlando and Tampa; i.e., CLOSER. The only good thing—going overland would reduce the storm's strength. 

Sunday, 2:00 p.m. The deluge came, the rain descending like a waterfall on steroids, making me very glad I live on top of what passes for a hill in Central Florida. The winds came later - but at minimal hurricane force - predicted for 75-90 mph in our area. I  think we ended up on the low end of that.

At 10:30 p.m. the power failed, but that was, of course, expected. The wind continued to howl against the east side of my house for several hours, but just as I was bracing for it to come from the other way, it began to fade. Amazingly, the eye passing over land had reduced Irma to a tropical storm. 

I went to bed, still expecting the storm to worsen, but it didn't. I woke to light rain, downed trellises, the neighbor's fence leaning into my yard, minor tree debris scattered over my lawn, and that was it. There were birds waiting on the wrought iron fence near where my birdfeeder usually sits. Even before making my coffee, I put the birdfeeder back up. 

Even more incredible, by 3:30 that afternoon, my power came back. Days before I expected it. No phone, no Internet, but I had power. Wow! Which meant not only light and stove but AC, computer, and TV - which made me aware of just how lucky our area was. I also had phone & text capability on my cellphone, thanks to AT&T, just no access to Internet services from home. but I had to use it sparingly as I had no way to recharge. (When I ventured out twol days later, my cellphone was able to update email and Facebook from wifi systems that were functioning.)

Monday, September 11: the curfew was lifted in Seminole County (where I live) at 11:00 a.m. All other counties kept their curfews in place until 7:00 p.m. The main problems: debris, including huge trees down, blocking the roads and lack of stoplights. Dramatic photos paraded across the TV screen 24/7. ranging from destruction in the Caribbean islands to Key West, the south Florida coast, and our own local pockets of disaster. 

Weather bulletin: Jose, following on Irma's heels, was predicted to turn north short of the Florida coast. The Carolinas and New England, however, should keep a close eye on Jose. Local joke as Jose turned north: "They wouldn't let him in." [Told to me by one of my half-Hispanic granddaughters.]

No way, Jose! But oh-oh! - Lee and Maria were coming off the African coast . . .

To be continued 

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's Facebook Author Page - with a new post - click here.

For a link to Blair's Website (which may not have my latest book, as my web guru lives in Texas!), click here.

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, September 9, 2017


September 18, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

I just got my Internet access back after 8 days! I can't really complain because power was back at my house 15 hours after the storm, and I had relatively little damage beyond small branches and the loss of every flower in the garden. (The perennials will eventually recover - the others are already in the trash.) But there is so much debris everywhere that it will be months before all of it is picked up. But I know I am lucky. Many people here suffered much worse damage, including the results of 51 small tornados and flooding lakes and rivers, yet nothing here compares to the near total destruction in the islands and the Florida keys. 

I am hoping to be able to post a new blog by the end of this week. Perhaps the saga of what it was like to see a Category 5 hurricane aimed directly at you—the preparations, the evacuations, the "hunkering," the aftermath, which is still very much with us . . .

IRMA Bulletin

Friday, September 8, 2017:
Last week Harvey, this week Irma - and this one is headed straight for the Orlando area. Not good. I've been laying in supplies for several days and just put all my potted plants into the lee of a stone wall. I also stripped my porch - folding tables & chairs, bringing what I could inside . . . Beginning tomorrow night we hunker down and ride it out, certainly much better off than those in the Keys and South Florida and those along both of our very long east and west coasts. Most are under mandatory evacuation, with the roads north bumper to bumper. Power will likely go out everywhere - the storm is huge compared to the width of Florida, so no one will be spared. Mosaic Moments will return when my computer is up and running again. Fortunately, all should be well for my usual Saturday post.

P.S. Jose - chasing Irma through the Atlantic - just strengthened to a Cat 4. (I'm sitting here, shaking my head.) 

Saturday, September 9, 2017:
I actually went to downtown Orlando this morning with other choir members to sing for a 2-hour convocation (for Central Florida deacons) at St. Luke's Cathedral. Five choirs were scheduled to participate - two didn't make it (one from Okeechobee, which is under mandatory evacuation because of fear of water coming over the dike at the bottom of Lake Okeechobee). And one choir had no robes because when they stopped to pick them up, the church had been sandbagged, and they couldn't get in. All went well at the service, but most of us really wanted to get home for final preparations for Irma. And of course I wanted to post my blog before the power went out!

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Now live on Amazon

In a world of dashing spaceship captains, a brilliant but cynical sorcerer, princesses as deadly as they are beautiful, and the daughter of a king who has been mistress to powerful men on both sides of the rebellion, The Bastard Prince (Book 3 of my Blue Moon Rising series) features K'kadi, the Psyclid king's youngest child and only son—psychically gifted, socially inept, and mute. In this book K'kadi metamorphoses from dreamer and sometime screw-up to warrior, from stumbling boy to lover. Except, following his own path as usual, his approach to both may be a trifle unorthodox.

The Bastard Prince also continues the story of the rebellion against the Regulon Empire, with appearances by a number of old friends: Tal, Kass, Jagan, M'lani, B'aela, T;kal, and the Regulon admirals, Rand Kamal and Vander Rigel. New characters include: K'kadi's mother, a merchant rebel and his entire family (one of whom throws a monkey wrench into a number of well-laid plans), plus the entire planet of Hercula (hopefully, a new ally against the Regs).


What to do with K'kadi Amund, the youngest of four royal children—the one who doesn't talk? The young man of almost twenty-one who can still lose himself in moments of beauty, or moments of disaster. "Unreliable" and "weird" are some of the kinder things said about him. So why does S'sorrokan, leader of the rebellion against the Regulon Empire, consider him one of his most vital assets? And even when K'kadi comes into his own and gets what was once his greatest desire, he discovers that growing up comes with a price.*

[*Hint not in official blurb: a price K'kadi may not be willing to pay.]
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Because of the great popularity (world-wide) of the Citrus Singer videos, I am repeating the links below. If you haven't seen them, all I can say is, "Don't miss it!" And that's not just proud mother and grandmother talking.

So here it is: The Citrus Singers of Central Florida performing "All About That Badge," their parody of Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass."

For a link to the Citrus Singers' parody, "All About That Badge," click here.

For  "Before the Shoot" videos, click here.

For  "Day of the Shoot" backstage videos,  click here.

Grace note: For an in-depth interview with the director of The Citrus Singers, keep scrolling down to last week's post.
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And I'd be delighted if you would check out my Facebook Author Page. 

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back when Irma lets me.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Tale of a Music Video

Wednesday, August 30, 2017:
Before beginning a "feel good" post, I must acknowledge the terrible disaster this week in Texas. Those of us who live along the East Coast know something about hurricanes - I survived one in New England that killed 700. But the scope of flooding in Houston, our country's fourth largest city - an INLAND city - plus vast areas around it, is almost beyond belief. One area broke a rain record - 51.2" in 3 days, and the storm is still bringing rain, with water up to the rooflines in many areas.

The only blessing, the death toll is low, particularly compared to the 2300 killed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. The nation is rallying to help, but it will take years to recover. And untold amounts of money. And all because Nature stalled a hurricane in one place for nearly a week.

The outpouring of help has been amazing - some have likened it to Dunkirk - because in addition to Coast Guard, firemen, policemen, and National Guard, ordinary citizens have converged on southeast Texas from far and wide, towing their boats behind their pickups and plunging into day after day of house-to-house rescues. Among the many going to help from Central Florida: urban search and rescue teams, helicopters & crews, electrical linemen, National Guard, a local contingent of firefighters, complete with airboats, and a another team from Brevard County is flying in their special water purifiers (each machine - flood water to drinking water for 1000 persons a day). The First Baptist Church of Orlando has fifty specially trained members who will go to Texas after the flood to help people clean up and rebuild. (And now the weathermen tell us, we could be next. Hurricane Irma is building fast and heading our way.) 

Friday update:  72,000 rescued, 136,000 homes destroyed. Estimated damage: $100 BILLION, the highest storm damage total in U. S. history.

 Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Texas.


The "Shoot" begins

As most of my blog readers know, my daughter, Susie Reale, directs the Central Florida Girl Scout Chorus known as The Citrus Singers. They have had many videos of their performances posted to YouTube by parents, grandparents & friends, but this summer it was decided they would make a REAL video. And here is the story of how it came about. (Link to the finished product, plus some "behind the scenes" videos at the end of the post.)

To give you the "behind the scenes" scoop, I asked Susie a series of questions. I have summarized some of the answers; others are verbatim.

Susie tells me she had the idea for the video ever since she saw Meghan Trainor's original, "All About the Bass," but serious planning for a Girl Scout parody of the video didn't begin until June 2017. Here is Susie's response when I asked, "Why do it?"

"I want the country to know what Girl Scouts can do, and I wanted to have a fantastic video which would go viral and get the attention of Girl Scouts USA and perhaps even Meghan Trainor! The Girl Scout organization now wants to use this as a recruiting tool."

Susie wrote the words for the parody, trying to keep as many of the original lyrics as possible. If you watch both videos, you will see the extremes to which the Citrus Singers went to imitate the original set. (Believe me, it wasn't easy!)

Fortunately . . . Susie's husband Mike owns a production company called Millennia 3 Media Group (, and he allowed the Scouts to have audio and studio time. He also directed, which was, I quote, "sooooooo very handy!"

Grace note:  The video was very much a family affair, with Mike's mother, Gloria, giving her time to arrange the girls' hair, and Susie doing all the make-up. I confess my only contributions were gluing on badges, providing transportation on occasion, general support, and, oh yes, waiting not too patiently outside GS HQ in Orlando on my birthday while the Archivists found an old-timey GS leader uniform for Susie.

How did they create all those moves? Susie tells me they hired a choreographer from a local dance studio to help the girls who Susie describes as mostly "beginner dancers." She adds: "We copied the movements of the original dancers and made up some moves of our own."

In response to my question about how they acquired the props, the painted pink set . . .

"To get the bed, dresser, nightstand and pink chairs, all of the moms and I went to many different thrift stores in the area. We bought some things cheap and got other things donated. We then went and got paint and turned everything pink, with some blue! The biggest job was actually the painting of the studio wall and floor. We had to acid wash the virgin concrete, put down primer, then roll out the pink wall to about 14' tall, plus the entire studio floor. It took several layers and several days of drying and re-coating. One of the fathers made the pink and blue backdrop 'walls,' delivering them in the back of a pickup truck."

When I asked how long they'd been preparing the song, I was told the girls had been singing it for three years at various performances, but the audio for the YouTube video was recorded in studio in June 2017. The visuals were shot over two days in early August. (It took the time between June and August to make all the preparations.)

In response to my question, "What were your feelings as you watched it all take shape?"

"When you're directing, you already have the vision in your head of how it will turn out. But when the final edits were done and the whole thing came together, we were just beaming. Husband and I felt like we'd just given birth to a new child!"

Susie tells me only one person from the Citrus Council was liaison during this project, but when the entire Council saw the finished produce, they were "over the moon with pride" and are planning a whole slew of press releases to the media.

Final question:  Why do you volunteer to run this chorus program?

"The motto of the Citrus Singers Chorus program is to 'Instill Confidence Thru Performance.' I was bullied as a kid and didn't find my strength until I realized I could sing and that I liked to perform. As soon as people started applauding me, I was hooked. So I now give girls an opportunity to perform and find their confidence. Some have gone from whispering and hiding to out front and asking what others solos they can do! It's been amazing."

So here it is: The Citrus Singers of Central Florida performing "All About That Badge," their parody of Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass."

For a link to the Citrus Singers' parody, "All About That Badge," click here.

For a "Before the Shoot" video, click here.

For a "Day of the Shoot" video,  click here.

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,