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Good Reads

  1. She's not at the Olympics — yet — but this 6-year-old swimmer is learning what excellence takes (w/video)

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — She's sitting on the pool deck, chin between her knees, gazing at her feet. She peeks at the swim heats written on her arm in black Sharpie. Time for her favorite, the butterfly.

    Brinkleigh Hansen, 6, is breaking decades old records at Northshore Pool. She is pictured practicing butterfly, her favorite stroke in July at North Shore Pool. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times]
  2. Pain of communist Cuba still vivid for Tampa woman

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Isela Perez sleeps in on most days, when her only tasks are to clean the house, watch Fox News and keep up with her telenovelas.

    On Saturdays, Isela Perez, 85, of Tampa meets with others who lived through Fidel Castro’s takeover — and share her anger.
  3. True life cartoon: A ride with two dogs goes really wrong

    Pets

    It was a quiet Saturday morning until Cyrus, a German shorthaired pointer, escaped out the kitchen door. I reached into my son's car and started honking the horn.

    Don Morris rides with Omar and Cyrus.
  4. Florida Found: Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park

    Human Interest

    It would be easy to drive past Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park. Nestled in the sleepy town of Taylor Creek, a few hundred yards from the northern shore of Lake Okeechobee, this National Historic Landmark has no signs at its main entrance. On nearby U.S. 98-441, a marker points observant drivers in the right …

    Lake Okeechobee, in Taylor Creek, is a few hundred yards from Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park, which commemorates the Battle of Lake Okeechobee in 1837.
  5. Hey, Florida, show us your guns!

    Human Interest

    Over the years, a lot of people have suggested that Florida's shape resembles various objects: a frying pan, a chin, a uvula (look it up.) A handgun has become the most common comparison, which is apt because we have so many guns that some people call us "The Gunshine State."

  6. Mutant mosquitoes could fight Zika in Florida, but misinformation spreads

    Human Interest

    KEY WEST — There are many scary stories that start with a dark and stormy night, but this isn't one of them. It is the third day of summer in this island city, with its feral chickens and lemon-hued houses and women woohoo-ing by on rented motorcycles. Every bicycle has a basket, every mailbox is a manatee.

    Key West is a perfect breeding ground for the Zika virus because of its tropical climate, its huge number of international visitors and the travel associated with its naval base. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  7. At almost 300 pounds, a Lealman woman battles food addiction

    Human Interest

    LEALMAN — From a faded green recliner in her tiny mobile home, Cheryl Dixon punched a number into her phone. Behind her, kitchen cabinets burst with Hamburger Helper and ramen noodles, bags of doughnuts and Cocoa Diamonds cereal.

    As Cheryl Dixon neared 300 pounds, her doctor warned that she would likely die if she didn’t change her eating habits.
  8. A month after mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, survivors struggle to keep the dead alive

    Human Interest

    ORLANDO — They stood on the second-floor balcony of his townhouse, staring over the chain-link fence, into the parking lot of what's left of Pulse nightclub.

    Samantha Stone, left, and Brock Cornelius visit the memorial in front of Pulse on Tuesday, a month after the shooting. Stone was working the front door June 11 and ran to Cornelius’ condo next door after the shooting began. See tampabay.com/video.
  9. For these sick children, each tiny bead is a badge of courage

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — After the transplant team finished its rounds, after nurses checked her oxygen level and a doctor came to say: Yes, she would have to have surgery again today, Maddie Price asked her mom to hand her the paisley drawstring bag hanging in her hospital room.

    Maddie Price, 16, is comforted by her mother, Melanie Price, left, and child life specialist Loren Mirsky-Piatkin as she prepares to undergo another procedure Wednesday in the wake of her second heart transplant in June.
  10. Senior Melody Sister fights to stay on the stage, even if the notes aren't always right

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Sara Ann Butler puts on her '80s-style headband and tries to curl her stiff fingers around the neck of a bass guitar.

    Sara Ann Butler, 77, center, leads Susan O’Gara, 69, and Bill Houser, 64, in A Bicycle Built for Two during a Senior Medoly Sisters rehearsal recently.
  11. After a lifetime of labor and sleepless nights, a Tampa doctor decides to deliver his last baby, No. 7,357

    Human Interest

    By LANE DeGREGORY | Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA

    His pregnant patient was progressing slowly at home. So the doctor told her to head to the hospital. He would meet her there.

    Dr. Bruce Shephard, 72, delivers his last baby, the son of Elizabeth DeRocher and Antonio Davalos III, at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. Registered nurse Sandy Viliquett watches at left as DeRocher’s mother, Cheryl, takes photos.
  12. Born 100 years ago, mystery writer John D. MacDonald foresaw the risks facing Florida's beauty

    Human Interest

    I read a lot of paperback thrillers, especially in the summer. Sometimes I think it's because of something in my DNA.

    John D. MacDonald, in an undated photo, sits on the porch of his home in Sarasota.
  13. Acceptance gives dog owners clarity with end-of-life decisions

    Human Interest

    We watched our yellow labrador, Hendrix, die in slow motion.

    [Courtesy of Amber McDonald]
  14. Adventures in plane spotting in the post-9/11, social media age

    Human Interest

    Travelers stream from the covered asphalt lots to the main terminal, fussing with their luggage and monitoring check-in times on their iPhones, hardly noticing the two men.

    A Delta Airlines jet lands at Tampa International Airport on June 21. SKIP O'ROURKE | Times
  15. The aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting tests the courage of gay youth

    Human Interest

    ORLANDO — Matt Casler didn't recognize his neighborhood as he drove home last Sunday morning.

    Matt Casler, who wants to be a journalist, photographed a vigil Monday night, the day after the mass shooting at Pulse, a nightclub near his family’s home in Orlando.
  16. Tampa transgender teen graduates but hasn't found what she's looking for — yet

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The graduates sat in the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, listening to the sounds of rolling thunder, crying infants and their principal's words bounce off the metal rafters.

    Ariel Zavala smiles as she raises her mortarboard after hearing the confirmation of Alonso graduates Friday, June 10, 2016 in Tampa. Zavala, who graduated from Alonso, decided not to sit with her classmates or walk during commencement ceremonies. In the two school years Ariel has slowly transitioned from male to female. She created Alonso High School?ˆš•s first Alonso Pride Alliance, a club where students of all sexual and gender orientations talk about acceptance.
  17. Drag queen who escaped Orlando shooting calls for the music to play on

    Human Interest

    ORLANDO — The drag queen dressed in all black. For mourning. She stepped onto the stage in her long-sleeved gown, towering in her sequined heels.

    Drag queen Angelica Sanchez lip-synchs to Jennifer Hudson’s “Bring Back the Music.” Three nights earlier she was at Pulse.
  18. At report card time, kids bring their grades to 'Grandmom'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    She wasn't sure, with the rain and all, how many kids would come by. She couldn't sit out on the porch and call them over. It was still too wet.

    Marian Williams hugs Al’zaveon Harris, 11,  in her living room last week and congratulates him and his brothers, Tra’von Welch, 8, center, and Ja’Veon Harris, 9, on their report cards and stellar conduct reports from Gulfport Elementary School. 
  19. It's no sweat for a machine to fix Florida's humidity

    Human Interest

    It's maddening. One state has too much moisture. Another too little.

  20. New dad tries to keep professional soccer dream going with Rowdies

    Human Interest

    Maria Isabel Carabano watches from the stands as her husband, Juan Guerra, helplessly paces the sideline during the Rowdies' season opener. His mood gets darker with every tick of the game clock.

    Maria Isabel Carabano, left, watches as husband and Rowdies midfielder Juan Guerra kisses their son, Santiago, after a season-opening 0-0 tie with the Indy Eleven on April 2. Guerra didn’t play in the game, something that in the past would have frustrated him for days. But since the birth of Santiago, Guerra says, his mind-set has changed.