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Sunset on the Boardwalk

Owning the Dream

I began taking photography seriously about six years ago, when I purchased my first Canon Rebel….

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By Andrea O'Connell, 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming!

The weekly photo challenge for this week is “Dreaming.”

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A Butterfly Holds A Child's Hand.  Photo by Andrea O'Connell

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

The word this week is: Hands.

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Ft. DeSoto (as seen from the East Beach shoreline)

A few pictures from my recent trip to Ft. DeSoto, Florida.

Andrea O'Connell Photography

Fort DeSoto is a sprawling, mega beach, park, wetlands, forest, sanctuary, playground and historic landmark all rolled into one ginormous (11,000 acres) Florida park.

Recently I spent a (blistering cold) morning there photographing the shoreline, and views of the famous Sunshine Skyway bridge, from the East Beach of the park. There are some seagull and Great Egret shots thrown in among some of these recent captures:

993 From the East Beach, looking at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

669 A lone beach comber travels alone the shore of the East Beach, Fort DeSoto

676 A group of Terns in the chilly shoreline. Funny how they huddle together, as if staying warm on this, the coldest day on record, at Fort DeSoto

369 I never noticed, until this day, that Terns enjoy floating like ducks in the ocean.

198 Another view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as the sun and the chilly morning converge.

679 Planet Earth, also known…

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Sunset on the Boardwalk

Owning the Dream

I began taking photography seriously about six years ago, when I purchased my first Canon Rebel…. Read more

Couples raising roses in celebration

Saying Yes to Gay Marriage in Delray Beach Florida

The dream was delivered for marriage equality in Florida…. and I was there!!!
Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller, Sharon Bock, opened the historic mass wedding by reciting these immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Clearly recognizing the significance of Dr. King’s words, the crowed erupted in cheers as marriage equality was legally ushered into the Delray Beach Courthouse at 12:01 am., Tuesday, January 6, 2015.

There were at least 70 same-sex couples married in the large ceremony.  I stood only inches away from four couples who exchanged vows, rings and tears of joy.

I will never forget the joy and the love in that room – in that huge courthouse atrium where hundreds gathered to express their love for one another while others, like myself, were there to rejoice and be a part of history.

Financial guru (and all-around wonderful human being), Suze Orman attended the event with her partner. She lives in the Delray Beach area and attended in support of her personal friends.

What a night! What a dream!

Here are a few photos:

Balloons on the steps into the Delray Beach Courthouse

Balloons on the steps into the Delray Beach Courthouse

The Joy could not be contained

The Joy could not be contained

Stickers shared with the crowd

Stickers shared with the crowd

A Super Happy Couple talks to the Media

A Super Happy Couple talks to the Media

Suze Orman and Media

Suze Orman and Media

Suze Orman and the Media

Suze Orman and the Media

The Crowd and the Couples Gather

The Crowd and the Couples Gather

Couples line up in the hallway prior to assembling for the ceremony

Couples line up in the hallway prior to assembling for the ceremony

Couples raising roses in celebration

Couples raising roses in celebration

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A National Wildlife Refuge: NOT!

I recently took part in a protest involving the decision to allow – for the first time ever – hunting in a National Wildlife Refuge, in Loxahatchee, west of Palm Beach County, Florida.

There’s something very wrong with a culture that says it protects animals but allows them to be slaughtered – poached – on the very same sacrosanct part of the earth dedicated to protect them.

To view the photographs and read the story, click here (opens a new window to my photography website):

So, are you wondering where the heck I’ve been?   I’m still here and thriving but not writing as much as I used to.

I’m following another dream of mine:  Photography.  Been working really hard at it, too. 

I hope you’ll check out my work here:

And here:

And…. I will be writing more, in the near future!

Andrea O'Connell Photography

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service, along with the State of Florida, is allowing, for the first time ever, sport hunting of alligators.  The Wildlife Service “awarded” eleven licenses to alligator sport hunters, allowing each hunter to kill two alligators each.  

The hunt kicked off last night, August 15th, 2014, and runs until the end of October, 2014

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Sharing the Outrage: An Innocent Man Executed

This morning I read this New Yorker Magazine article “Trial By Fire,” on my cell phone, as I was taking my dogs out for their first walk of the day, and my teeth are still clenched. I feel like there’s this vice-grip-like anger pounding in my neck.  It’s like this astonished and futile anger and I would just like to spit.  And curse – really loud.


But, see?  Cursing is completely pointless.  So is spitting for that matter.

And then, after reading this insanely sad article, I realize it was written in 2009!

Where the hell have I been?  Todd Willingham was murdered by the state of Texas in 2010!

Another innocent man murdered by the death penalty – murdered by our own US government.   This is the greatest country on earth, we’re so often told, and we do this?   We murder our citizens is what we do.

I sat for a while on my couch, after reading the article, with my dogs on my lap, drinking my coffee, the sun pouring in from the window behind me, and I imagine being hauled away – accused of a crime I didn’t commit.  Dudes with guns coming into my home, throwing my dogs aside and tackling me in my pajamas because they knocked on the wrong door.

And then…What if I had to go to trial with a court appointed hack as a lawyer, in a paltry town in Texas, knowing my lawyer didn’t give a rat’s ass about me because his D.U.I. cases pay his bills?  What if?

And I think – forget what if – that could be me.  I could be Todd Willingham.  It could happen to ANYONE (well, except for the very rich – they buy themselves out of those kinds of outrages).

Our justice system isn’t. Our children are being scooped up – young black children, in particular. Yes,  children, scooped up in a system that isn’t even a system anymore because it only knows quotas and profits because criminal justice is a business now.  It’s become its own criminal enterprise.

See the movie “Kids For Cash” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll understand.

Thinking about the death penalty in this country and thinking about how criminal justice is itself, criminal, is very depressing.

“The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit.”  Cameron Todd Willingham

I get so frustrated.  I want to work on this cause (to abolish the death penalty) with my whole body and soul and make it the single most important pursuit of my life.  Except I have a life with bills to pay and a mortgage that I can’t really afford because I live in Florida and got sucked into the mortgage mess.

I want to do something real.  But what?   Well, for now I can share what I read this morning – this insanely well written story in the New Yorker Magazine, by author David Grann,

Sharing the outrage.  It’s the least I can do.

The New Yorker Magazine article tells the story of how one woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, teacher and playwright, befriended Todd Willingham, while he was on Death Row, learned about his story, and fought to save his life.  She would have succeeded, too, if Rick Perry hadn’t intervened by ignoring the appeals and the new exculpatory evidence in the case (evidence which would have exonerated Todd Willingham).

Instead, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, had him killed.

Bastard. Shit-head. Fucking Lunatic.

Excuse me while I go spit.


Elizabeth Gilbert’s website:

A Movie about the case:

A CNN clip

Pompano Pier

Land and Seascapes I Love

Andrea O'Connell Photography

There’s a pier in Pompano Beach – in South Florida – that I love to visit.

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Exotic Birds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Andrea O'Connell Photography

There is a magical spot located in Delray Beach, Florida, called Wakodahatchee Wetlands, for bird-watching.

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Bridget Esposito "Big heart"

eleven tears – in memoriam to AMEX 911 victims

Update: September 11, 2013

Can it be 13 12 years?  I cannot fathom the passing of so much time, but time does march on, doesn’t it?  I decided to re-post this entry to honor the families of the American Express victims, as well as all who suffered losses unimaginable.

Original Post:

For me, September often makes for a rough landing.

There is the heartbreaking reminder of 9/11; today being one of the most poignant reminders due to the passage of ten years.

It hardly seems possible that 10 years have passed.  The memories are so vivid it seems like it was yesterday our world was shattered.

September is also the month we see an increased number of hurricanes  here in South Florida.

And, September is my birthday month, which I won’t talk about, even though I just did.  Getting older means I have to remember a new number (I often forget how old I am).

World Headquarters of American Express – The Aftermath of 911

September 11, 2001

Eleven Tears Memorial at American Express World Headquarters

It was a Tuesday.

Monday night I stayed very late at work.  It was already September 11th (after midnight) when I left work at the American Express Service Center building in Plantation, Florida.

I was working late with Wayne, an Instructional Design colleague of  mine in Operations Training, at American Express. Wayne and I were putting the finishing touches on our Diversity Appreciation Display, which was to be situated in the huge open atrium space, at the center of the building. (Note about Diversity at American Express:  The company didn’t just “talk” about the importance of diversity, it “walked the walk” in a way that I have yet to see in any other company I’ve since worked for.  They supported diverse employee networks; WIN (Women’s Industry Network, BEN (Black Employee Network), SALT &  CHAI (Christian and Jewish employee networks), and quite a few more.)

Every year, the Diversity Team would dedicate one week to spotlight the importance of diversity at American Express.  The 2001 event, however, was going to be a scaled down version of our usual diversity celebration.

This year we were going to have four smaller events (not one big yearly event).  The four small events were to focus on different sections of the globe, and the impact that American Express had on that part of the world.

The kick-off of our celebration of the Middle East region of the globe was slated to open at 11:00 a.m., on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Because I had worked so late the night before, ensuring that everything was ready for our Middle Eastern celebration, I did not plan on getting to work until 10:00 a.m.

At about 9:00 a.m. that morning, Wayne called my home and I could tell something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what.  He asked if we were going to cancel our celebration.  I didn’t understand what he meant – what he was talking about.  Then he asked if I had television or radio on.  I didn’t.  “Turn the TV on,” he urged.  I did.

American Express World Headquarters

The first plane had just hit and I watched the aftermath.  I knew American Express had a huge office in NYC, with thousands of employees.  I wasn’t certain if our Headquarters was located in one or both of the World Trade Center buildings.  Later I realized that the American Express building was a building adjacent to the towers, and every employee was accounted for.  Sadly, that turned out not to be true.

Although the American Express building stood very near the towers, it suffered damages that looked like bite marks in the side of the building, resulting from the explosions.   The building was structurally sound and could be saved.

When the first plane hit, a few American Express employees were out in the street, just getting to work and suffered serious injuries as a result of the falling debris.  These employees nearly lost their lives, but by the grace of God, survived.

There were American Express employees in one of the towers.   

September 11, 2001 is seared in my memory.  I will never forget how I felt, where I was, or how so many of us cried together as we saw the second plane hit.

The American Express company, which I worked for nearly seven years, handled the horrendous event and aftermath with incredible class.  They have done such a good job to remember the employees who were victims.

Pictured below is the stunning tribute that stands in the lobby of the Headquarters building.  I have never seen it, but have read the countless comments describing how remarkable it is.  The architect’s name is Ken Smith.

Here are additional photos of the memorial.

I was not able to find pictures of all the eleven victims, instead I used a picture of their memorial stone.

I would have loved to include all the victims who died that day.  Instead, I am honoring the 11 employees who perished that day, as well as the family members they left behind.

There were more than 4,000 American Express employees working at the corporate headquarters in NYC, these 11 worked for the American Express Corporate Travel office, located on the 94th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

The Eleven Tears – American Express Employees:

  1. Paul Zois
  2. Sigrid Wiswe
  3. Lorretta Vero
  4. Benito Valentin
  5. Karen Renda
  6. Anne Ransom
  7. Lisa Kearney-Griffin
  8. Bridget Esposito
  9. Lucy Crifasi
  10. Gennady Boyarsky
  11. Yvonne Bonomo

The Diversity celebration that was to start on September 11, 2011, was not “celebrated.”  We kept a movie that the created, available for employees, and some photos were left up, that was about it.

It was too emotionally draining to think about a celebration.  But, we also didn’t want to discount what we’d planned –  it was hardly a celebration of a culture.

We knew the terrorists were of Middle Eastern descent, as were some of our employees.  We could not very well show any distaste for that part of the world  – that was not a reasonable thing to do, obviously.  In the end, it didn’t matter, the sadness and our mourning was not about hating a counrty of people, it was about trying to understand how a small group of human beings could / would attack us as they did.

I think every American felt like they were collectively  kicked behind the knees that day.  It’s difficult to get up from the floor, though we will and we have.

Prokopios “Paul” Zois “Sense of humor”

Sigrid Wiswe “Loved NY Harbor”

Loretta Vero “Fiercely loyal” Credit: Blatherfrombrooklyn

Benito Valentin “Osito” (Little Bear)

Karen Renda “An Angel”

Ann Ransom “The heart”

Lisa Kearney-Griffin “Boisterous & friendly”

Bridget Esposito “Big heart” credit: blatherfrombrooklyn

Lucy Crifasi “Exceptionally Nurturing”

Gennady Boyarsky “No Problem” was too big

Yvonne Bonomo – “Endless Energy”

Kissing Macaws

“A dream within a dream” – Edgar Allan Poe


Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Allan Poe

For analysis of the poem:

Click the link below for the full Edgar Allan Poe message from the WOW Catcher blog.
“A dream within a dream” – Edgar Allan Poe.


Abandoned Mansion

Hello! I know I’ve been missing in action on my blog for a while – so many changes (good changes) happening in my world. In addition, I’ve decided to ramp up my photography work – learn all I can – and become a “professional” photographer! Woooweee! It’s a big change; but I’m going after my passion, at long last.
I just opened my photography website:
I hope you’ll visit.

Andrea O'Connell Photography

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Photo by Getty, courtesy Huffington Post.

“off with his (cracked) head?”

Update:  August 27th, 2013. A great deal has happened in my part of the world since the terribly sad outcome of the George Zimmerman trial. Read more »


This is a must read.

The World of Special Olympics

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

As usual, I’m busier than a bee.  But, I do want to post a picture of this week’s photo challenge.  The word is “Inside.”

Hope and Honey Bee, by Andrea O'Connell

By Andrea O'Connell, 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming!

The weekly photo challenge for this week is “Dreaming.” Read more


Loving Jazz Photo Blog

I captured this image a while back and recently came across it again when the black space jumped out at me.

I’ve wanted to learn how to add text to photos for a while now and I realized this image, with the black space, would be a nice template for a quote about flowers.  After some trial and error, here is one of my first tries at adding text on an image.  (I ended up using Snag-It to add the text.  It worked really well for me.)

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