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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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A National Wildlife Refuge: NOT!

I recently took part in a protest involving the decision to allow – for the first time – 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:


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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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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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”


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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“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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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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I’m still here!

I know, I know…. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve popped in to blog – I even missed the last two Weekly Photo Challenges…. Horrors!  I plan to do those momentarily.

I’m having this battle with myself about taking time to blog.  I feel guilty taking the time when I have so much work to do….  I’m working from home now – doing Instructional Design consulting.  Yeap.  I took the plunge to work for myself!

I’m working on a website and two business blogs right now – it’s a huge task.  I have them all set to go as far as how they look and feel, but still developing the content, which is the major task.

I haven’t been following the Casey Anthony goings-on, but have heard that a movie, based on Jeff Ashton’s book,  is in the works.  Good for him!  I’m glad he’s doing so well.

I heard through the grapevine that Jose Baez has a book out, or has one coming out – I’m not sure which it is.  I’d venture to say few people will want to read it.  What can Jose Baez say other than “I told ya’ so!” (Which no one in their right mind believed was possible at the time.)

It still floors me.  We all thought, no way can such an inexperienced trial lawyer win that case!   Hah!  He did it.  We all wore eggs on our face after that, big time.

I’m amazed that the Casey Anthony story continues to generate news!  It’s so crazy!  I get Google-Alerts on the topic of Casey Anthony and it never fails that EVERY day, somewhere – someone is talking about something related to that trial.  It seems to be a foregone conclusion that little Miss Beautiful Life is going to have a perpetual OJ Simpson-like reputation for life.

Well, life goes on, doesn’t it? It doesn’t change much, but it goes on!

Here’s a little gift from me:


Posted on my photo blog.

Loving Jazz Photo Blog

I am still going through the more than 1500 photos I took at the beach over Mother’s Day weekend.

I wanted to add these quick ones that I captured the first day.  The window with the lamp and the ocean in the background is the one of the windows from the living room area of the hotel.  The lamp was kind of a grungy plastic, but looked nice from afar.


The days were so windy, as you can see from the waves.


Seeing the ocean as a big foam brewery.  The foam was intense – intensely beautiful!


The sun plays peek-a-boo through a hole in the clouds; like a belly-button!


Oh the drama over the sea!  Some where beyond the horizon, Cuba sits.


There were several triangular areas sectioned off with crime scene tape to protect the eggs that the sea turtles lay every year…

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This is so worth the read. Enjoy!

Funnier In Writing

I am a tithing member of the Church of the Holy Crock Pot. Though I dutifully praise the Crock Pot’s glories on a regular basis, take it to all the best potlucks, and actively witness to others about how the power of the Crock Pot has changed my life, it occasionally lets me down. This was the case a few months ago when I was cooking a pot roast in the depths of my early 1990s era Crock Pot. The kind with three settings: Off, Low and Scorchingly Fucking Hot. It was a housewarming gift from my mother when I moved into my very first apartment – the one with mauve carpeting.

For readers under the age of 25, let me explain that mauve is a horrid color that infiltrated the décor of the late 1980s and early 1990s, much in the same way that a CIA mole recently infiltrated…

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Posted this evening on my Photo blog. Hope you enjoy the variety in rust!


I want to share this beautiful piece of art by Diana Alsindy…. I have fallen in love with it, I bet you will too!

Diana's Blography

This might not be a Photography post but it is a form of Art. Today the passion for drawing cliked in me and I wanted to sketch something. Well, this is what I come up with…

All I had is a pencil, watercolor paper (I know! I didn’t use any watercolors), and a water ink pen. I started drawing the tree then outlined it with the ink pen. I relaixed that I can get silhouette images for small birds like this (better than drawing them myself). Then I took my picture to Photoshop CS5. The black part of the tree was done by adding a black mask and overlaying a black color using Blending Options. I added the birds and made them completely black using the same mask idea. I added a texture and a quote to make it more live…I noticed the saying fits with the images…adding a story wouldn’t hurt. I played…

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Posted earlier on Loving Jazz. This is the building called the Miami Freedom Tower. It once was a haven for Cuban immigrants – ensuring their safe transition from Cuba to the United States via Miami, Florida. Those were kinder and gentler days.

Loving Jazz Photo Blog

Did you notice the new landscape on the Loving Jazz blog?!!!  And, how about the new logo?!!!

Well, I am determined to give this blog more attention from now on… So, I spruced up the place, big time!

Most of the posts appear in the slide-show display at the top of the blog.  You just need to click “read more” to go to that post to see the photos.  And, most of the blogs categories are in the photo-boxes right underneath the slide-show of posts.  The little photos in the boxes are live links that will bring up every post in that category when you click on them.

Cool? I think so!

I have to admit that I love the new landscape on this blog!  I hope it’s user-friendly for everyone.

Speaking of landscape, the interesting building in this photo is the Miami Freedom Tower.  Built in 1925, it was…

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