Sunday, October 31, 2010

I vant to suck your blood

Grant, 4, Palm Coast, Florida
On the suggestion that he should put his jack-o-lantern outside for Halloween, Grant said, "That way the mosquitoes will get scared!"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

That's how the cookie crumbles

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
After giving his mom a half-eaten cookie, Jackson said, "I took some bites so you didn't have to eat the whole thing."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A green, leafy substance... Basil? Parsley?

Abbey, 8, Fort Collins, Colorado
While watching the TV show, COPS, Abbey said the man was being arrested because he had "marinara" in the car.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Heckuva job

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
After his baby sister slept through the night for the first time, Jackson said, "She did such a good job, I'm going to make her an umbrella."

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Daddy does and doesn't like

Anna, 5, Marquette, Michigan
Overhearing her parents talk about breastfeeding, Anna said, "Mama, that's a privacy spot. Daddy doesn't want to hear about it."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thankings for sharing

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
"It borings me out when I have to sit there and wait."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trouble sleeping?

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
"This is another way to make your bed: you curl your blanket up like a nest, and then you can put your head down and snore quietly to yourself."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Orange you glad I didn't quit my day job?

Grant, 4, Palm Coast, Florida
Grant: Knock knock.
Dad: Who's there?
Grant: Banana.
Dad: Banana who?
Grant: Knock knock.
Dad: Who's there?
Grant: Banana.
Dad: Banana who?
Grant: Knock knock.
Dad: Who's there?
Grant: Orange.
Dad: Orange who?
Grant: Oh. Oops. I forgot to say, "Banana."

Still cool: Truth and Beauty

I wandered into Hollingsworth Gallery the other day. You should, too.

You may be lucky enough to meet an unassuming, mostly bald guy who will introduce himself as Bill. He won’t tell you the William Brant Gallery at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design is named after him. He probably won’t mention he was an art professor for 40 years, or that now he is a mentor to young painters in Palm Coast.

Brant’s work is on display through Tuesday, Nov. 2, at the latest exhibit at Hollingsworth Gallery, located at City Marketplace.

He calls himself a colorist, coming from the tradition of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse.

“There are two kinds of colors in painting,” he says. “If you paint the grass green and the trees brown and green and the house the color it’s supposed to be, it’s called local color. In normal, realistic painting, that’s what’s used. There’s another kind of color called subjective color. It comes out of your head or out of your heart.”

Brant and I sat on folding chairs in front of his artwork on the back wall of the gallery, and we were soon joined by Hollingsworth owner and curator J.J. Graham. He’s a young man with a mop of brown hair and the body language of a surfer dude.

“Color is a stimulant — one of the few that won’t rot your teeth or land you jail,” Graham says.

Pointing to “In Your Face,” Brant says first of all he hopes it’s something pleasing to look at. Second, it’s a political commentary.

“Social discourse today has lost its civility,” Brant says. “From road rage to abortion to black to white, to religious issues — there is no longer a polite, civil discourse to these things. There is a position I have and a position you have, and we’re not talking to each other, but at each other. It’s a confrontation, not a conversation.”

And the form — the way the components of the painting are executed — is meant to convey that message. The pink space may represent the tumultuous airwaves between the two arguing faces.

Brant picked bright, bold, simple colors because they’re childlike on one hand, but also because “this painting is all about contrast,” he says. “It’s one raw color coming right against the next one.”

Brant used oil paints on canvas, but he didn’t just use a brush — he also used tape to keep the edges of the shapes as sharp as possible. Again, that emphasizes the contrast.

Graham says painting is a form of alchemy. It’s just paint and canvas, but there is a unique, intangible element created in the hands of the artist with each new artwork.

“Being fortunate enough to live around it, I can see that art has an effect on my mood,” Graham says. “It elevates me, helps me to think. … Sit there, and then let me take all that work out of here, and see how empty it feels. You see? The art is giving you something. It can hold a room together.”

As I left the gallery, I couldn’t help thinking Graham and Brant are engaged in something significant — maybe more significant than the work going at the Palm Coast city offices. I’m not discounting the hard work of all the employees who help build this city, but the serious artists next door are also building the city in a different way. They’re reminding us that truth and beauty are still relevant and cool, still worthy of meditation in a busy world.

Note: This column was first published in The Palm Coast Observer.

See more at Hollingsworth Gallery.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No phone necessary

Grant, 4, Palm Coast, Florida
"If you call 911 really loud, it goes all the way to the fire station."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Smooth, dead criminal

Carter, 5, Kennewick, Washington
Upon hearing a song by the King of Pop, Carter said, "Of all the people who are dead, Michael Jackson is probably the best. And dinosaurs. Except they can't sing."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Solemn Homecoming

Sgt. Richard Estudillo was recalled from Afghanistan for his father's final days.

He figured the Red Cross message was for someone else.

Before it came, just before 1400 hours on Tuesday, Sept. 21, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Grant Estudillo was studying a model of the terrain that surrounded his office in Helmond Province, Afghanistan.

“We were getting ready to do one more disruption,” Estudillo recalls. “The mission was to establish a stronger foothold and eliminate the IED threat, to free up movement for the battalion.”

He’s partly deaf in one ear, and he thought he heard it wrong. Then he opened the note. His father was in critical condition at the Stuart F. Meyer Hospice House, in Palm Coast. He had just days to live.

Estudillo, 36, has been a soldier longer than he was a civilian, having enlisted at 17, when he was still in high school in California.

“I’ve seen it so many times,” he says. “You just hope it’s not you. No one wants to leave their brothers in arms, or, obviously, have a family member pass or get hurt.”

But, as is the policy, Estudillo was immediately relieved of his duties. Someone else would have to follow through with making sure the ammunition was prepared, the spare fuel and other provisions ready for the troops. And someone else would have to drive the lead vehicle.

“I always take point,” Estudillo says. “My VIC (vehicle) is always the one with the mine roller, an IED deterrent. It’s an attachment — a trailer, about 20 feet long in front of the VIC, and about as wide as the lane. … My VIC is the one that’s going to get hit with an IED. If any anyone is going down, I’d rather it be me.”

But not on that day. His orders were to wait for the next plane back to the U.S. In the meantime, one of the locals gave the troops a tip that an IED was planted in the road, and a crew was sent out to investigate. Sure enough, they were able to execute a controlled detonation. Based on the size of the crater, it was determined to be the largest IED — 80 pounds — found in the region in the last two or three years.

After a few days of travel, Estudillo met up with five of his seven siblings, as well as his mother, Gail, in the Stuart F. Meyer Hospice House. Having traveled from all around the country, they gathered around their father’s bed and recalled some of the highlights of the life of their father, who has suffered two strokes and kidney complications.

The room bore an American flag, as well as other red-white-and-blue decorations. The staff at the hospice house also baked a cake for the family. And jazz music played in the background.

Enrique Estudillo, who grew up in the Philippines and was a union electrical contractor in San Francisco, was also a jazz musician, having played bass guitar in churches and other places, including the Stanley Hotel, in Estes Park, Colo., where the movie, “The Shining,” was filmed. He also played many times in Palm Coast after he and Gail moved here eight years ago. Their son, Joshua, played drums.

Raquel Estudillo, the youngest sibling, traveled from New Jersey to be with the family. She stood close to her father and said, “It was a really good fight. He really pushed himself.”

Enrique Estudillo died late on the night of Monday, Oct. 4. He was 66.

Richard Estudillo reflected on his mission in Afghanistan and the IED explosion.

“That would have been a catastrophic kill to my VIC, along the route I was supposed to take,” he says. “It’s not a glorious way to come home, but I also see this as my father saved my life. … My father taught us to live life to the fullest. It’s 50-50: You never know when it’s going to be your last day.”

NOTE: This story first appeared in The Palm Coast Observer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Goes down easy

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
Reading a cereal box, Jackson said, "The fiber in oatmeal helps reduce casserole!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A brief history of time

Carter, 5, Kennewick, Washington
Carter gave another child a history lesson, illustrated with playdough: "And this was in the '80s and '70s, when there were only police officers and dinosaurs. It was Jurassic. And Jurassic Park is scary."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beware the STAR WARS nerd

Note: This video has been viewed more than 19 million times on YouTube. Yowsers.

Growth spurt

Jackson, 6, Palm Coast, Florida
As Jackson was sweeping the driveway, a neighbor told him he looks like he's getting bigger. "What are you, about 7 feet tall now?" the neighbor said. Jackson said quietly to his dad, "It's funny that he thinks I'm 7 feet tall when I'm only 6 feet."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Walking for Breezy

Six-year-old Breezy Shiflett wants to be a veterinarian some day. For now, at her home in the E-Section, she keeps an eye on the wildlife in the backyard.

“Squirrel!” she says, pointing to a bushy tail scurrying across the lanai. “Mostly, I’m at school when he comes. I’m lucky today.”

You would never know by looking at her, or by listening to her describe how she likes losing teeth because the tooth fairy once gave her 10 bucks, but Breezy is lucky every day to be alive. She has cystic fibrosis, a genetic, chronic illness that creates a mucous buildup in the lungs. As a result, the lungs can become clogged and the pancreas can be hampered in its ability to digest food. There is no known cure. Life expectancy is 37 years.

Her mother, Jessica Bear, persistently took her to doctors until they had correctly diagnosed her at 4 years old and put her on medication and other treatments.

Bear also led the effort to start a local, annual Great Strides Walk for Cystic Fibrosis, which took place Friday, Sept. 24, at Town Center. Bear said about 200 people showed up, which was a tremendous turnout even country.

“That’s my talent — watching animals,” says Breezy, wearing purple flip-flops and purple pants. “Guess what? I have a pet swimming frog. … The main thing we see sometimes is golf balls on the other side of the lake. I picked two of them up and put them in my jewelry box. Because there was room for them.”

Breezy takes three pills with every meal, and her medicine routine changes frequently, as she battles different infections. She also takes nebulizers and inhalers. Every day or two, for about 20 minutes, she wears a special vest that fills with air and then vibrates her chest to loosen the mucous. She takes another pill to help her cough it up. Physical activity helps, and so Breezy is also on the cheer squad for the Imagine School Lions.

“But I’m a Georgia Bulldogs fan,” she says. She inherited the passion for the University of Georgia from her father, Nate Shiflett. “And I do not the like the Florida Gators,” she says. “My main thing that I really like is dogs. And I do not like alligators, because they kill dogs.”

“Breezy” is a nickname; her real name is Brianna, but when she was younger, long before she was diagnosed, her parents called her “Wheezy Breezy,” because she always seemed to have a raspy voice. She also didn’t gain weight, weighing just 23 pounds at 4 years old. Thanks to the treatments, Breezy is now approaching the 50th percentile, which has been one of Bear’s goals. Bear continues to do whatever is necessary for treatments (the vest cost $16,000), and she keeps close to friends in online, cystic fibrosis groups. She finds strength in the support she has received from people like Marie Butler, of Imagine School, who helped round up about 100 people for the Great Strides Walk. And Bear convinces herself that 37 is just a number — an average.

“Many people with (cystic fibrosis) reach their mid-20s and have living lung transplants or donor transplants,” she says. “You lose people who are a lot younger than that, but then there are some of them out there who are 60 years old.”

And at the same time that she cares for Breezy, Bear also leans on her.

“Having spirit means you have a positive attitude, and doing your best,” Breezy says. “That’s our rules in class. To have, like, a smile on your face.”

Almost 90% of the money raised through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation results in real research taking place — that’s one of the best rates of any charity, according to Jessica Bear, Breezy’s mother. Bear is helping to raise money through Dec. 31. To donate, visit and click on the “Great Strides” button.

Photos courtesy of Innovative Eyes Photography.
This story first appeared in The Palm Coast Observer.