Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Graduation Ordeal


Riley, returning from stage (after graduating, Magna Cum Laude)

Riley w/Proud Parents, Mike & Susie

Riley w/Grandmothers, Gloria & Grace



I am writing my blog on a Wednesday morning because both brain and body are too fried from the underbelly of Riley's graduation last night to do what I usually do each morning—add another scene to my latest novel. Yes, I'm really glad I was there, but the mish-mash behind the joyous occasion is mind-boggling. If I put it in a book no one would believe it. The oddest thing about it all is that everyone was attempting to the right thing. Yet, due to misinformation, misinterpretation, and plain old bad luck, disaster followed disaster, only the graduation ceremony itself going off without a hitch. (Thank goodness!)  Below, I will attempt to record the events before my horrified mind hopefully shuts them out forever and ever.

Early Tuesday morning, with a rain prediction of 80%, I told my daughter Susie that I simply could not cope with a cane and an umbrella or manage wet cement steps (at the UCF football stadium). So, regretfully, I would have to pass on Graduation. Her response: the venue had been changed to the indoor arena where UCF plays basketball, and she would pick me up at 5:30.

Okay . . . I was still not happy about getting caught in a Florida rainstorm, but I could endure it for a few steps from the car to inside. Ha!

Mike, Riley (our graduate), and her sister Hailey (a UCF student) went ahead, while Susie drove the two grandmothers and Cassidy—blessedly with only light rain instead of the predicted downpour. While we were driving, Mike called to say he had staked out great seats,  if the grandmothers could manage "four" shallow cement steps. Naturally, we said yes. (Please keep this number in mind.)

We made good time from Longwood, but came to a standstill in the interminable line of cars snaking single-file down the road to the arena. It probably took as long to go the last mile as it did to drive down from Longwood. As we finally got to the BACK of the parking garage, Susie asked the attendant where to find Handicapped Drop-off. His answer: we'd just passed it. He held up traffic (which was only inching ahead) so she could turn around and drop us off at at a barricaded street. Gloria (Mike's mother), Cassidy and I got out and made our slow way—both Gloria & I with canes—toward what we thought was the entrance. Except each canopy marked the entrance to a shop, not the arena.

About half-way down this street, which was approximately the length of TWO football fields, we stopped for breath and asked two people wearing "official" vests WHERE the elusive entrance was. Answer:  all the way to the end of the block, turn right. And to add insult to injury, we were told there was a Handicapped Drop-off at the front entrance! (We, evidently, had been dropped off at the BACK of the giant building.)

By the time we made it to the front, we were exhausted and unable to rest on any of the wrought-iron chairs there as they were all wet. Cassidy, bless her, asked for special dispensation for Gloria and me to jump the line, which was granted. And then—this definitely was not our night—as Cassidy passed under the Security scanner, red lights flashed, alarms went off. Gloria and I were waved through without so much as a bag check, but Cassidy got the complete bag search. And guess what? Our beautiful 16-year-old granddaughter, a leader in Air Force Junior ROTC and Police Explorers, was carrying a knife and pepper spray! And obviously chagrined that she had forgotten about them. They were confiscated, though with amused goodwill.

After that, we had to find the elevator . . . except Gloria could hardly stand by this time, so a wheelchair was brought forward (Mike finding us at this point). We all waited in line for an elevator and finally made it to Section 102. And then, wheelchair abandoned, Mike led us toward our seats—FORTY-FOUR steps down! For someone with a cane, a balance problem, and exhausted from the long walk, it was absolutely terrifying. But, determined to be good sports, Gloria and I settled into what were the best seats in the house and turned our attention to the stage. (It was a good 15-20 minutes before Susie joined us—it had taken that long to get a parking space in the garage attached to the arena.)

One thing I knew:  I was not repeating that walk! Ever. Except . . .

The Graduation Ceremony was very well done—the Procession of the graduates, the speeches short and well-delivered. Riley, ever-photogenic, exuberant. With Susie's help, the 44 steps up went better than the 44 steps down. In the upper lobby, a young man was holding up a big sign saying "ADA EXIT," which helped us get through the crowd where the wait for the elevator was minimal. There were even folding chairs in the lower  lobby for the large number of handicapped people to wait until their rides could maneuver out of the garage and pick them up.

And that's where things again went wrong. A number of people, in an attempt to be helpful, royally screwed up the pick-up. Mike, Gloria, and Hailey had disappeared out the door into the rain. Susie, after a long conference with a kindly arena employee in the lobby, announced that I was going to be taken by wheelchair to a side entrance, where she could pick me up. And off she went before it was discovered the wheelchair driver had no idea where the side exit was, a supervisor added an additional glitch, before, finally, the helpful employee led us down a number of back corridors, picking up a folding chair along the way. She spoke to the guard at the exit, helped me into the folding chair, warned me it could be some time before I was picked up and to keep my cell phone on. And then she was off, leaving me to watch everyone scurrying about, closing up for the night, and one by one, exiting out the side door, leaving me alone. "Behind the scenes" in this vast arena.

At long last, my phone rang. Susie was waiting! But when I went out into the rain, no sign of her car. The Security Guard immediately stepped up, took my phone, and discovered Susie was on the FAR side of the building! At which point, we began a walk nearly as long as the one it took to enter the building. (Believe me, that building is huge!) But the guard, leaving his buddy to protect the gate, escorted me the all the way out of the building, (at least I got a great look at the arena from in front of the stage), then across what felt like acres of sidewalk, artificial grass, and across a street marked by those terrifying "bumps for the blind" (in the rain), until finally, FINALLY making it to where Susie was waiting, totally blockaded from the front of the arena by a row of four patrol cars, blue lights blinking. 

That Security Guard surely earned his halo last night! There was no way I could thank him enough. At the end of our long trek, he not only opened the car door but, recognizing I was on my last legs, coached me into my seat! Nightmare ended at last. I don't think I've hiked that far since coping with the Underground in London in 2015. It will likely take me a week to recover.  Sigh.

Fortunately, we ended the evening with a lovely dinner for eight, topped by cards & presents, but I had to warn Cassidy that I would likely miss her graduation in 2024.

 ~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)







Saturday, May 20, 2023

Mother's Day Gallery

  MOTHER'S DAY - 2023

In yet another week where the world seems to be falling down around our ears, lost to both decency and sanity, I am clinging to the wonder of celebrating Mother's Day with my Orlando-area family and having the opportunity to see so many others doing the same—from a fiftyish "child" hosting her seventyish mother on our tourboat out of Merritt Island to three generations in a restaurant that evening, helping a young mother celebrate her very first Mother's Day while holding her newborn on her lap.

Before presenting some of the photos from our Mother's Day celebrations . . . here is a very special pic from the Orlando Sentinel (May 18, 2023). Brightline will start high-speed service between Miami and Orlando sometime this summer, with a brand-new multi-million dollar terminal at Orlando International Airport. Also completely new, the railroad tracks themselves, from pristine light gray trap rock to shining rails and signal boxes. And since the tracks parallel the 528, the beeline superhighway from Orlando to the coast (turning south just before the Intracoastal Waterway), we got a good look for something like thirty miles. Unfortunately, we were going too fast to take a decent photo from a side window, but it was quite a sight. So thanks to the Sentinel for providing this photo of two Brightline locomotives in the Orlando terminal. (I have always loved trains, and really enjoyed getting a sneak peek at this long-awaited new service.)

We usually celebrate Mother's Day with dinner at home—last year, Cassidy created an absolutely amazing Baked Brie event for eleven!—but this year we ventured down a new path: a boat tour on the Banana River, followed by dining out at a fancy restaurant on the Orlando/Winter Park line. Below are a few of the many photos taken by my daughter Susie and her husband Mike, plus one or two by me. (It should be noted that Riley predominates because Hailey hates to have her picture taken and Cassidy was working at Texas Steakhouse, although she was able to join us later for dinner.)

Geographical note: Merritt Island is actually a peninsula, separated from the mainland by two saltwater waterways, misnamed "rivers." The Indian River is just east of the mainland; the Banana River closer to the Atlantic. The mainland is connected to Merritt Island by a bridge over the Indian River, a causeway over the more shallow Banana River.

On board, with hats in place

Mom w/ 2 of 3 daughters (Hailey pouting)

Below, on our way from the dock to the Banana River, we passed the causeway where so many come to watch the launches from the Space Center. The view now includes this derelict boat (one of several), unsalvaged since last fall's hurricanes.

The Banana River

Visible at our turning point - NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building

Close-up by Mike

 As part of her Mother's Day celebration Susie wanted to go to the beach, so we GPS-ed it to the nearest public access, which was down a narrow street lined with summer-cottage-like homes and pulled up at a dead-end with about five parking spaces, all full. We parked in "Motorcycles only" while Susie and Riley did a 10-minute peek at the beach, which resulted in some surprisingly artistic photos. (I include only two of many.)

Walkway from beach to parking

And finally, Cassidy was able to join us. Below, all three grandgirls walking through the restaurant parking lot.

Only Riley appears to be looking where she is going.

Or maybe Riley is catching Mom taking their photo from our "roofed" outdoor table.

 ~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Mouse That Roared, Part III

 Next Mosaic Moments - Saturday, May 20, 2023


 A clever meme from Facebook (if you ignore "baited" instead of "bated"). And, yes, it's amazing how much a playwright, from four hundred years ago, no matter how talented, contributed to modern-day English.


Now, back to the nitty-gritty of our crazy, mixed-up world . . .

I had no intention of writing a Part III to the story of DisneyWorld vs. Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, but Scott Maxwell's column in this Thursday's edition of the Orlando Sentinel simply could not be ignored. Maxwell, as you may recall from Part II, is an outstanding columnist for the newspaper and someone well aware that Disney has stretched its special privileges to the limit—and past it—for the fifty years of its reign as Florida's most well-known business enterprise, as well as its biggest single-site employer. But Maxwell, unable to ignore the ludicrous shenanigans currently being enacted in the Disney-DeSantis feud, has once again addressed the absurdity of the Problem-That-Should-Never-Have-Happened.

But first, a short update:

Since I wrote Part II of "The Mouse That Roared," Disney has sued DeSantis, and the new DeSantis-appointed board has filed a countersuit against Disney. Bye-bye tax dollars for years to come, while lawyers become even fatter cats than they already are. And still more . . .

The Orlando Sentinel's front-page headline on Thursday, May 4, 2023:

Monorail Inspections approved

Grace's summary of this article:

In what the newspaper calls "the latest salvo between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the theme park giant," DeSantis has vowed to use the Florida legislature to strip DisneyWorld of its power to self-inspect the Monorail. Just the Disney Monorail, please note, not the hundreds of rides in the other theme parks in the area or the rides downtown along International Drive. (It was just a year ago on I-Drive that a 15-year-old boy lost his life in a plunge from a "thrill" tower. A tower that has just been demolished down to the last nut and bolt, but was anything said about state inspection of more than Disney's Monorail? Not a peep.) 

And in the same edition of the newspaper, Scott Maxwell offers some revelations about members of the DeSantis-appointed board:

. . . . As Exhibit A [of Florida's weird ways], I give you a story from this week where Gov. Ron DeSantis' appointees to the new DisneyWorld takeover board announced they were suing the theme park empire.

That's not the weird part. At least not by Florida's basic bonkers bar. No, the weird part was near the end of Sentinel reporter Skyler Swisher's story where he casually mentioned that one of the governor's appointees spent some of Monday's meeting stressing that he doesn't really believe tap water turns you gay.

I'm sorry ... what?

A moment ago, we were talking about the the normal Florida craziness—you know, where the governor of America's third largest state creates a new political board to hamstring a private company's business plans as punishment for saying something he didn't like. That kind of thing is our baseline.

So how did we get gay tap water?

Well, after DeSantis hand-selected five people to muck around with Disney's roads and permitting processes, media groups naturally started doing research to find out what kind of experience these five people had in government operations. That's when they learned that one of the appointees was [name deleted] a founder of the book-banning Moms for Liberty activists. [Which also railed against transgender athletes and Covid mask-wearing.] . . . . Because when you're looking for someone to be in charge of building permits and public utilities, what you really need is someone well-versed in taking on face masks and Black Lives Matter.

Summary of next section by Grace: As the national media was doing some basic background checks on the new members of the creatively named "Central Florida Tourism Oversight District" [formerly Reedy Creek], CNN discovered that another member of the board had declared homosexuality "shameful" and "evil." He had also been known to quote conspiracy theorists who alleged that estrogen in our tap water (from birth control pills) was turning people gay. This person, a pastor, insists that all that he and his fellow appointees are trying to do is pursue an "eminently sensible" agenda. (And yet, among his remarks, Maxwell quotes a conspiracist who declared there was enough estrogen in tap water to turn "the friggin' frogs gay.")

Final paragraphs of Scott Maxwell's column:

The last time the governor came to one of these board meetings, DeSantis floated the possibility of using state powers to set up competing theme parks [we already have four others in the area] or maybe a prison near Disney. So eminently sensible indeed.

Anyway, that's the long story of how we got a storyline that involves gay tap water, gay frogs, Black Lives Mater, general evil, and theme-park prisons. Maybe that all makes sense to you. If so, consider yourself an official Floridian. Because stories like these simply aren't making the daily news roundups in Wisconsin.

~ * ~

This week I'm promoting my longest book—the very first book I wrote, way back in the mid 90s. It's all of 140,000 words, and through the years I have steadfastly refused to shorten it. In fact, the only revision I did after its first incarnation (in 2000) was to make it longer by adding a Prologue! 


A very young bride finds herself married to an enigmatic British spy "for her safety." And is plunged into a seven-year, highly personal view of the Peninsular War—ending, after years of blind devotion, in discovering a betrayal of her trust so immense she can only wonder: Is she the sometime bride of a man who never existed? A discarded mistress? Or a beloved wife whose only rival is her husband's expediency in a time of war?

Author's Note: In addition to being a saga of young lovers caught up in a war, The Sometime Bride is the history of the Peninsular War, Britain's fight against Napoleon in Portugal and Spain. The story moves from France's invasion of Portugal and British troops being driven into the sea at La Coruña to the return of British troops under General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the fortified lines at Torres Vedras, and the gradual push of French troops across Spain and back to France. Plus the chaotic times in Paris after Napoleon's surrender and the Emperor's triumph as he gathers up his old troops, only to be stopped in one of the most famous and bloody battles in history—Waterloo.


Reviewers Choice Award. "Sometimes a reviewer gets a book so powerful, it's hard to know where to begin to tell about it. The Sometime Bride is such a book. . . . Bride passes every criterion for a successful book that I was given as a reviewer. Ms Bancroft weaves a most unusual love story in among the threads of history that cover eight years. . . . I highly recommend both Tarleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride as companion books. They are totally independent, but together give a vastly enlightening and entertaining view of the period through use of wonderful characters and page-turner plots—definite keepers, both." Jane Bowers, Romance Communications

"The writing talent displayed by the author is wonderful . . . Ms. Bancroft's detail for historical events is phenomenal. . . ."
April Redmon, Romantic Times

Five Stars. "Set against the bloody Napoleonic wars, The Sometime Bride is ambitious, engrossing and absolutely wonderful."
Rickey R. Mallory, Affaire de Coeur

Five Stars. "The Sometime Bride by Blair Bancroft is a riveting and well-written story. . . . The tension between the hero and heroine sizzles. . . ." Janet Lane Walters, Scribes World

 ~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)