Here we are in the thick of the holiday season. It’s sometimes hard to tell that the holidays are approaching in mid-Florida. There is so much to be done this time of year that the days fly by, and it doesn’t help when the weather is in the 70s and 80s. Luckily we are in what Floridians would call a “cold spell” right now, giving us a small taste of North Pole weather.
Christmas has become my favorite time of year. My fondest holiday memories are of when I was a kid. Christmas Eve was a special night for us. It was a night for the whole family to be together. We’d enjoy the lights my dad and uncles put up and snack all night on my mom’s famous date-nut bread. I was in charge of mixing the sherbet and ginger ale, a concoction I apparently couldn’t get enough of when I was young. When it got late, mom would tuck us into bed and read us Luke’s Christmas story from the Bible until we would fall asleep. Sometimes we were too excited so she’d have to read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas as well. We’d wake up to a wonderland. I remember nothing but warmth, happiness and love. It was magical.
This is the time of year that I try to focus on the good. I give my brain a rest from the Donald Trumps and Roy Moores of the world, as much as anyone can. I skip past the angry posts and ridiculous name calling on social media to focus on what really matters: family, friends and posts about Pugs. I don’t have a long list of what I want to make my holiday dreams come true, rather I ask what others need to be happy and try to provide that for them. The older I get the less entertained I am by making a list of gifts focused on me, but rather a list of what I can provide for those close to me.
Watermark makes a different kind of list this time of year, our remarkable people list. In 2012 we started a tradition of naming one person the most remarkable person of the year in Central Florida and one remarkable person in Tampa Bay. For our 2013 issue we kept the same formula. However, we found this process too difficult and unfair to the community. How could we pinpoint just one person from each major coverage area as remarkable when there is so much good work done by our community members? Our community is extremely rich, diverse and giving. How do we compare the work of a politician over the work of a non-profit volunteer, or the work of an entertainer over the work of a business owner? For 2014, we decided not to single any one person out, but to make a list of people who had done remarkable things that year. We named 14 people, seven from each of our major coverage areas. We add one additional person to the count every year and will do so until 2020, when we will name 10 remarkable people from Central Florida and 10 from Tampa Bay.
We struggled at first with the concept of what remarkable meant. Could you be remarkably bad? If yes, was that worth recognition in our remarkable people issue? Ultimately, we decided not to reward negativity. The LGBTQ community deserves good leadership and those good leaders deserve to be recognized for their hard work.
The list really writes itself. When you start to compile the great accomplishments of those in our community, it fills up fast. The editorial team finalizes the list, with recommendations from the readership. This year, rather than have our staff write profiles of the finalists, we asked friends and colleagues of those being recognized to write why they see them as remarkable. The results couldn’t have worked out better. There are some very moving stories about what keeps Central Florida and Tampa Bay thriving.
In this issue of Watermark you will find viewpoints from our conservative columnist, Jason Leclerc, and Orlando theater guru, Michael Wanzie. Orlando news brings you coverage of Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith being recognized with the Victory Institute’s inaugural Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award. In Tampa Bay news, Liberty Counsel sues Tampa over conversion therapy ban and Bambu the Eco Salon shows how a business can go green.
We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.