Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kipp & Maegan Reda (1), Tavernier

Maegan: We were both born and raised here in the Keys. My family goes back quite a ways down here, my mom’s family especially. My grandfather was a drag line specialist/operator and he dug almost every canal here in the Keys.
Kipp: My grandfather owned a motorcycle dealership up in Michigan. He came here on vacation, went fishing, and the next thing you know he bought a boat and a house down here.
Maegan: I knew his grandfather my whole life. My parents (the Bynum’s) were business owners down here; they owned a parts store called Tavern Stores Auto Parts in Tavernier. Kipp’s grandfather used to come into the store all the time when I was growing up. So when we got together, it was funny that I had known his grandfather since I was a little girl!
Kipp: I remember we were all at the bowling alley one year on Valentine’s Day, and I started talking to her mom and asked her to hook us up. So, her mom actually got us together!
Maegan: At that time, it was just my parents, my 7 year old son Bryce, and me. It was just the funniest connection ever. I think we both felt it and knew it. It was a cool story, but now we’re kind of sad because the bowling alley is being demolished. We wish we could go in one more time and have a date there before they tear it down.
Kipp: We’ve been together 6 years now. We bought this house in 2010 and remodeled it. We were fortunate to get it for a good price when the housing prices were kind of low.
Maegan: Things moved pretty fast for us. We got pregnant with Kaiya just about 5 months into our relationship. It was kind of crazy. Kipp had an uncle pass away and we found out we were pregnant within a week or two of that. People say that sometimes when one soul goes, another comes, you know? Then we had Irie. She was planned though! We have been on the fence about whether or not to try one more time to have a boy. But Kipp’s afraid we’ll just keep having girls.
Kipp: And I love my two girls, don’t get me wrong! But, to have three or four… I don’t know…
Maegan: If we knew it would be a boy we would definitely have another. They do keep us busy. We don’t really go out that much except for the kid’s activities. We don’t drink, so we don’t really go to bars anymore.
Kipp: We quit drinking about 4 ½ years ago, when we got married. Not because it was really an issue, but when you’re born here, by the time you’re through your 20’s you’ve done your share of drinking.
Maegan: Between our pool-cleaning business and the kids, we stay plenty busy. With Bryce especially; he is currently playing on two basketball teams. He’s playing for the school and for the community league. Last year he played baseball and also played for two different leagues. Getting to go watch him play is the highlight of my week, it doesn’t matter what sport it is. He plays golf, baseball and basketball. He played football for a while, and might play in high school.
Kipp: The high school coach is already talking to him, basically asking him to name what position he wants to play.
Maegan: He’s just special. He has that “It” factor. Some have it and some don’t. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’m watching him play, because he is just an incredible athlete in every sport. I keep telling him if he keeps his head on the right way and keeps his grades up, there’s no telling what he can do.
Kipp: He’s making straight A’s and is in two honors classes in eighth grade. Better than I did!
Maegan: He’s just a natural. He’s been playing golf since he was three. My dad got him into it and he just loved it. They really started to see his potential within months of him picking up a golf club. After my dad sold the parts store, he went to work at Napa, and he would deliver parts up to Ocean Reef. Some of the guys offered to let him come play golf there, so he would take Bryce.
One day, a pro saw them from afar and was so impressed by Bryce that he started talking to him, giving pointers and tips. Now that guy is his mentor. He has taken Bryce under his wing and he won’t let me pay him a penny. I couldn’t feel more fortunate. He just got his second hole in one a few weeks ago. His first was at Ocean Reef and they gave him the flag off the hole. His second was at the Redlands Country Club in Homestead. We’re looking to get him into some tournaments this year. He’s going to finish high school here and then we’ll see what happens.

Kipp: We are just raising our family and trying to build our business. I would love to have the kids involved and make it a family business eventually. We don’t want to live anywhere else. The Keys are our home.
(To contact Kip & Maegan about Island Time Pools, call 305-741-7375, or email

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Flat Head Ted, Key Largo

From Ted's Daughter - Melinda Lambkin, North Carolina
"Tell everyone thank you! I am proud to be a true conch! The community of Key Largo, my hometown, has shown what it means to be compassionate and helpful during a time of need and everyone of you who helped my father and me!"

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! We have amazing, giving people here in the Keys with hearts bigger than the island they live on!
It took only 1 day to get Ted's roof patched up!! A BIG THANK YOU goes out to Ken Tafoya for supplies and Ken, with the help of Neal Hoover, patched up Ted's roof. Way to go gentlemen!!
Ken and Neal, your kindness has given Ted peace of mind, which is priceless. His daughter cannot express her thanks and appreciation enough!
Shout outs also go out to:
Karen Johnson who coordinated and got the ball rolling from the middle of Florida!
Tim and Laura Maloney who have been loading Ted up with hot food.
Edith Zewadski-Bricker with Monroe County Social Services who did an amazing job helping Ted take care of some business.
Bobbi Haugen who got all of Ted's prescriptions filled and her husband who helped Ted get to town to get his house taxes paid. Bobbi is also taking Ted to the airport.
Ted is overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of kindness and help!
Ted is now packing and is expected to be with his daughter by Wednesday night.

***Ted needs our help!! ***
"Our beloved Key Largo Transit, "Flat Head Ted" has had a really rough time. He broke his pelvis and was in hospital for weeks.
He came home this week to a flooded house. He has a hole in his roof in one corner about a yard long and wide. He is asking for help in fixing it and asking for help does not come easily to Ted.
His daughter has bought him a plane ticket to come stay with her in North Carolina until he's back to his old sassy self. He doesn't want to leave until his roof is secured. His daughter is hopeful he can come to her by Wednesday of this week.
We arranged through some Key Largo angels to get Ted some food and get his prescriptions filled and some other things he needed. If you can grab some supplies and help Ted out you'd be one of those angels.
Ted lives at 201 S Bay Harbor Drive in Key Largo. Ted's number is 305-852-2763. You scan PM us here at HOK, or, you can call Ted if you can help. He's not looking for a professional new roof, just some help getting his house secured so he can go stay with his daughter for his recovery.
Ted helped so many people, so many times, for so many years, let's see what the amazing Humans of the Keys can come up with.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Doug Hattendorf – mamaOcean

I started mamaOcean after 20+ years of fishing, diving and taking pictures of the ocean. Over the years I see less and less life out there and more and more garbage. As more people come to enjoy these islands, there is more pollution to deal with.
This county brings in over $4 billion a year thanks to fishing and tourism. Somehow some of that money needs to go to keep the place the people came to see clean. It’s the ocean that brings the people here and the ocean that deserves some respect. I have written many political rants with only one response, from Florida State Representative Holly Raschein, who might join us for a clean up one day in the future.
Garbage is killing our marine life, both mammals and birds, on a daily basis, and has grown to be a big problem here in the Keys…bigger than the once a year cleanups can keep up with. Cleaning the garbage from our waters and shorelines needs to be done, and should be addressed as a matter of utmost importance, because it is only getting worse. We need crews out there four days a week in the upper, mid and lower keys. This needs to be done for a few months at least, until we know where most of the garbage congregates and can designate where the weekly or monthly clean ups are most needed and will be the most effective.
It doesn’t require that much to do this, mostly just devotion and time. But one person, or one group, cannot do it alone. It takes everyone pitching in. We have an obligation to these waters and I wish more people felt that way about this place where we live. Anyone who has lived here more than 5 years has seen the difference. It’s time for her; it’s time to help our mamaOcean. She Needs Our Love!
Whether you're a surfer, a diver, a sailor, a fisherman, or just an everyday honest ocean lover, we have all been getting something from the ocean at some point in our lives. She feeds us, she balances us, she amazes us with her beauty, day in and day out, and now it's time to give back. We have been taking for too long!
We at mamaOcean are working towards joining forces to bring awareness to all ocean-goers through action. We are dedicated to giving YOU enough reasons to believe there is hope to save our oceans and providing opportunities to HELP!
******On December 19th from 9am to 12pm there will be a shoreline clean up sponsored by mamaOcean at Curry Hammock State Park mm 56.2. It will be free admission for volunteers participating in the clean-up. Meet in the day use area of the park for sign up and instructions.
Come early to sign up and stay after to enjoy hotdogs provided by mamaOcean and Winn Dixie. For further information or questions regarding the clean up call the Ranger Station at (305)289-2690. Hope to see you there!******
For more information about mamaOcean, find us on Facebook:
or our website:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jack (Update)

HOK - "We have received numerous inquires as to how Jack is.
I stopped by to see Jack, and he is fine. He spends a lot of time in his trailer and enjoys his quiet, secluded life. Jack likes it that way, and that is ok.
Jack's a loner, which is understandable, and he enjoys his privacy, doing whatever it is that Jack does.
We will respect Jack's privacy going forward and will be content knowing that he is ok and not sleeping in the dirt under the bridge anymore.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Frank & Noah Pauly, Marathon

(HOK: I met Frank at his home in Keys RV in Marathon. It was a breezy, sunny day, so we sat outside for the interview while his 5 year old son, Noah, used the water hose to rinse a big natural sponge.)

FRANK: “It takes stamina to live on an island. Between high rent, having seasonal income and the storm season, it takes backbone to live on a beach or an island. People arrive with the dream of lazing on the beach with no cares and discover that they have to contribute to the infrastructure of a small community. The burden is too much for a lot of the dreamers. I call them "turnstile" people. They might make it for a season, and then they bail.

I've lived in Marathon for 11 years. I was living in Tybee Island, Georgia and within one week, three strangers out of the blue, told me that I would do very well in the Florida Keys. I took it as a sign. After 6 months of researching and talking with friends, (many of whom had lived in the Keys before,) I moved.”

NOAH: "Daddy I'm washing my sponge."

FRANK: "You can step on it to ring it out.

Noah found the sponge at a construction site. The guy who lived there was a sponger. It’s in good shape but it was buried in dirt. I told him he had to clean it up before he can bring it in the house.

Marathon is a nice place to live. It's expensive to live here, but I've always lived in high dollar places. I'm a property caretaker. I like knowing a property and improving it. I had a housekeeping / property management company for 8 years; four years in Georgia and four here. I am looking for a place now where I can maintain and manage the property.

Hey Noah, that's probably enough water. Have you stepped on it?"

NOAH: "No."

FRANK: "Well you need to step on it and squish the water out."

NOAH: "But, I just want to see what the sponge can do; what it will hold."

FRANK: “I got out of housekeeping after the economic crash in '08. The cleaning chemicals were getting to me anyway. I work very hard to be able to enjoy my free time. I'm not trying to get rich. Keeping life simple allows us to be able to enjoy it.

Noah, the water is for cleaning the sponge not flooding the driveway. Turn the water off and get the dish soap."

(Noah is splashing in the puddles he has created with the water hose. A couple of minutes later the sponge is covered in a froth of dish soap.)

HOK:" He's a cutie. Do you have him full time?"

FRANK: “Half time. I had to fight tooth and nail to get that. Family Court was messed up. I feel like I was being discriminated against. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be subjected to the court system in order to be able to enjoy time with my child. It sucks. His mom and I agreed to make the world a better place by having a child together. I thought I was going to see him every day of his life. That all changed just before he was born. I went to all but one of the prenatal visits, the labor and C-section surgery. It was an incredible experience. He's a Conch; born in Key West.

We like to go swimming, fishing, visit the beach and local parks. Noah has friends all through this small town. I'm homeschooling him. He's excited about learning and growing by leaps and bounds. People say that he should go to public school to be socialized. He has plenty of friends. School should be for learning. I don't want a tax subsidized babysitter. I had a child to raise my child.

I like Marathon. It still has character from being a fishing community. The people are mostly down to earth. All of the Keys have their share of "colorful" characters. The classic problem is that people move someplace and homogenize it to feel safe in a familiar environment. Then they spend the next 10 years complaining about how it isn't the same.

I want to raise Noah in the keys. I think he will probably be a pilot among other things. He has a passion for aeronautics. It's all up to him. My job is to make him aware of the opportunities that are available to him and encourage him in his interests. I want him to be a simple man who has an honest and fulfilling life.”

NOAH: "Look daddy, I made a boat. Do you think I will it will float?"

(Noah shoves a coconut husk full of twigs in his dad's face, before setting it afloat in the driveway puddles.)

FRANK: "Yeah, son. I think your passengers are light enough.

I'm grateful that I was born again 33 years ago. It gives me a very different perspective than most people. I have an assurance that a lot of people don't have. I believe things a lot of people would rather mock than believe. I believe in miracles. I see prayer as a way of interacting with God's creation. I don't know that we change anything, but it allows us to participate in God's will. I don't like religions. They cause separation. We are all part of the same body with the same basic needs. We are here to help each other. I try to make things better with the talent that God has given me. Knowing God makes life better."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lauretta Ann (“Retz”) Reeves - Islamorada

"I’ve lived in south Florida for over 30 years. My husband moved to Key West when he was 8 and he’s in his early 60’s now. I’m originally from just outside of Pittsburgh, and he is from the other side of Pennsylvania, but we met in Davie, Florida. We’ve had the house here in the Keys for about 17 years and have lived here full time for 14. We’ve beenmarried almost 25 years. Our babies are our dogs and cats. That’s one of my passions, which is why I wrote the book, “Adopted Paws.” It’s about all the animals that we have adopted from Pompano Beach to the Keys. Now we have 3 dogs and one cat.

I was the co-chief investment officer at a global investment firm in Ft. Lauderdale for 16 ½ years. The last ten years I commuted from down here. I would drive up on Tuesday morning, stay in a hotel and then drive back on Thursday night, and worked from home on Mondays and Fridays. But, I was travelling about 100,000 miles a year doing research on international companies and marketing and things like that. I was pretty much living out of a suitcase.

After I left there, I ended up starting to work with Islamorada Investment Management. Cale Smith is the general partner; he manages our US folios, and I manage the international ones. One of the reasons I wanted to work with Cale, and I’m glad he chose to work with me, is because we are both fiduciary responsibly minded. We’re not pushing products on the client’s because someone is paying us commission; we’re not paid to make those decisions, only on the assets we are managing. We use an outside financial advisor to determine how the assets are allocated. That lets us put the client’s interests first. Not everyone can afford to do that, but I’m glad I can and still live down here.

I love my work. My other book, “Advice from a Broad Abroad” is about my years of international travel. I still get to do that since I’m continuing to invest internationally, but I’m going to be very careful when I go to Europe this upcoming year. I’ve already bought my tickets back and forth to Paris in March. I probably won’t be taking trains as much as I have in the past. But, I was in Japan during the earthquake and the tsunami. I’ve been in ash clouds, and typhoons and airplane strikes, and much more. That’s what inspired me to write that book. It is especially focused on the challenges that women travelers might confront.

My other passion is helping women with financial, business and travel advice. I’ve done a lot of informal talking with woman, especially those who have never had any real financial training and don’t even know how to start to make a budget or plan for retirement. I’ve done some work with the Keys domestic abuse shelter, doing training to teach women how to raise enough money to escape from the situation they are in, and then hopefully help them get started down the line. I think that not enough women have been trained to do that and they are afraid to try. I have women ask me to just sit and talk with them because they don’t even know where to start."

(HOK: As Retz and I talked, she mentioned doing fund raising with Pam Freeser, who was featured in a recent HOK story. We are also all members of the Upper Keys Business & Professional Women, and we discussed how they are an amazing group of women. We both commented on how the Keys are such a small town.)

"It’s all interrelated and it should be down here. By definition, it’s a community and you would want people connecting, and that’s fine with me.

I love the Keys. I love the water and the people down here. We have a boat. I love to eat and drink wine. My husband is a great cook but we love to go out. We have so many great restaurants down here. That’s a lot of what we do for fun! I notice that wine tasting is coming back around here. The Green Turtle is going to start one up. That will be nice. I love it here, this is home. I travel all over the world, meeting with companies to decide if we want to invest in them. I end up at a lot of dinners seated next to the CEO’s, and once they find out where I live, you wouldn’t believe how often all they want to talk about is how they want to live in Islamorada.

Music is another of my passions. I used to take voice lessons in Ft. Lauderdale, and I’ve taken piano lessons for the past 7 years. I think it’s important to keep learning, and it’s one of the things I try to teach women especially; just because you turn 50 you should never stop learning, and never be afraid to start anything. Some people laughed at me because I started piano lessons at almost 50, but I don’t want to be almost 70 and regret not doing something. Of course, if you’re 70 you still shouldn’t stop!

Never stop learning, and always try to grow. Keep growing, no matter what you do. Sometimes, during the process you have to be true to yourself, and that might upset people. But you have to do the right thing and stay on the path. If you need help, reach out. Get involved, but don’t get over involved. Be a little bit selfish. Enjoy being here and enjoy living."

Monday, December 7, 2015

Steve Sullivan aka “Sully”

“In 1917 my grandfather, Edward M. Sullivan, was fighting in the first World War in France as a pilot. It was at the very beginning of the air war, of air travel. He had a partner and they would alternate flying; one day he would fly and his partner would throw ordnance (artillery) out of the plane, and the next day they would switch. Back then the bombs weren’t attached to the plane, they were stacked up in the cockpit.

As you can imagine, the planes were very slow, it was 1917, and they had to fly low, they had to see who they were throwing bombs at, so of course those people could see them! The people on the ground had guns and they would shoot back.

My grandfather and his partner got shot up really badly one day and by the time they got back to the base my grandfather’s partner was dead and he was shot and wounded very, very badly. In triage, the medics moved people to the left they thought they could save, and to the right the people they gave morphine to and allowed them expire as comfortably as possible. My grandfather was given a toe tag and moved to the right.

The right side was a very serious place to be, so they brought in another doctor to give a second opinion. If ever someone needed a second opinion, that was the spot! So the doctor gets to my grandfather, who is conscious, and reads the toe tag. Edward M. Sullivan, Brooklyn NY. The doctor asked my grandfather ‘Are you any relation to Iron Mike Sullivan from Brooklyn?’ My grandfather replied ‘that is my father’. The doctor told the orderly to move him to the left, they were going to save his life.

The doctor was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. The only thing more difficult than being Jewish at the turn of the century was being Irish in Brooklyn. This Jewish kid was kicking around Brooklyn looking for a job so he could pay for college. He couldn’t get a job for love nor money. He went into a riding stable, which later became Prospect Park, and the stable master gave him a job mucking out stalls. More importantly the stable master shared his tea with this kid, talked to him, asked him about what his plans were, and treated him like a human being.

This kid ended up going to medical school and became a doctor. He is sent to France in the First World War. He is the doctor that read the toe tag on my grandfather. If it wasn’t for that happenstance, that one in a million shot; of that individual who was befriended by my great grandfather and being the one to make a decision about my grandfather, I wouldn’t be here, nor would anyone else in my clan.

You could make a movie out of this story; the best part about it …it’s a true story.”

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sue Woltanski - Tavernier

We purchased a place in the Keys in 1999, right before we got married.  We bought the property next door to my in-laws, who had been coming down here since the 50’s.  They had retired and were snowbirds from Michigan.  At first we used the house as sort of a cottage.  Once we had kids, we arranged our schedules to come down one week a month.  I am (was) a pediatrician and my husband is a physician also, so we had the flexibility in our schedules to make it work.  When my kids were young, I went to part time.  No one ever said they wished they had spent less time with their children when they were young, so we made a point of taking time off to be with them.  

When my daughter turned 4, we realized that once she started school we wouldn’t be able to make it down for one week a month.  We couldn’t pull her out of school, so we would be limited to holidays which are hard for physicians.  She was used to spending time with her grandparents and we liked that relationship.  We wanted her to grow up next to her grandmother.  We made the move at that time, so she could start kindergarten down here.  That was in 2008.  

We moved here because we knew there were A-rated schools, and the people in our neighborhood liked the schools.  We are big proponents of the public schools system; my daughter is at Plantation Key School and my son is at Ocean Studies Charter School.  My daughter started kindergarten at PKS, and we could do nothing but brag. She had Spanish, music, art, and computer classes for an hour and a half each a week. They called them “specials” and we thought they were pretty special. When she moved to first grade, she had the most amazing teacher; it was all project based center work, hands on learning.  By 2nd grade she was moved into a half day gifted reading program which was a blessing for her because she loves to read.  It was perfect.

Right around that time, the housing market, property taxes, scandals and whatever led to tremendous difficulties with the schools.  They were underfunded to begin with, in my opinion, but now they were ridiculously underfunded.  So, the special programs were cut.  By the time my daughter was in 4th grade the gifted program was gone.  I wondered how you could have a high quality school system that doesn’t attend the needs of all students.  But, I also realized that the budget was tight.

That was when I got on the school advisory council.  I decided that I was going to fight to get gifted education back.  At the same time I knew I needed to fight at the state level to improve education funding across the board, because I didn’t want to fight for my child’s needs at the expense of another child with a particular need.  So, I started a letter writing campaign.  I got a lot of gifted parents together and we did advocate for the return of gifted programs.  It’s still a work in progress, but there is now more attention given to gifted students so that was a success.  

Then I started looking into what was going on in Tallahassee, and the more I looked into it the more disturbing it was.  We have a governor who says we have the highest education funding ever, but we are still 47th in the nation, and when you compare us with states that score high on national test scores, they are spending a lot more per child to educate.  Then I became aware of how the money was being spent, and the large amounts of money being spent on the standardized tests.  So I started watching education committee meetings and trying to find out how that works.  I actually met a group on Facebook and we watch these committee meetings and discuss them; we’re all trying to learn what’s going on.  I’ve met a lot of people across the state with similar concerns.

For a while I had been concerned with all the stress and all the focus placed on the FCAT.  I wasn’t happy about that because it seems all the state is concerned with is whether a child does well on the math or reading FCAT test.  My children read well above their grade level, so I know those tests aren’t going to tell me anything about my child’s progress because they are testing them at grade level.  So no information is going to come to me from that test.

Then I started learning about all these extra tests.  They are district mandated tests; sometimes the data is required by the state to monitor children’s progress.  But, what is happening is the tests are being used to see if children are prepared to take the state test.  It is a standardized system and it encourages teaching to the test.  I felt that since my child was performing above grade level, there was a potential for her to get short shifted; that a teacher would look at her and think she didn’t need to worry about her, and her needs wouldn’t be attended to.  I’m not saying that happened with any of her teachers, only that it seemed there was potential for it to happen.

I was watching one of those Tallahassee meetings, and a representative named Keith Perry was speaking.  They were talking about how disruptive the testing had become and how narrow the curriculum had become and what a mess everything was. During that debate, he described the current state of education as a period of “Creative Destruction” in which only by destroying our schools will we emerge in the future with something better.  He called it “the American Way.” Yes, he really said that, destroying public schools is the American way.  That was about 2 years ago. According to the school calendar for 2013-14, my daughter was scheduled to take 45 standardized reading tests during her time at PKS.  The amount of time and money spent on these tests could be better spent on creative things.

I spoke in front of the school board about those issues, and then people started finding me.  We put together a group called “Minimize Testing, Maximize Learning.”  It’s a grass roots effort and its goals are to inform parents about the amount of testing in the schools, and to inform tax payers about the amount of money spent on the tests.  We also advocate decreasing the amount of testing in Monroe county schools to the minimum required by law, and using the time and money that would have been spent on testing, and has been spent previously, for creative engaging learning experiences. We’ve made some progress.  

Normally if you want to know how your child is doing, you ask their teacher.  And without standardized testing, the teacher can tell you the child’s progress, because they know.   Standardized tests provide data to make the people farthest away from the classroom feel like they know what is going on in the classroom.  The closer you are to the classroom the less you need it.

The real problem I’ve learned is that the problem is really not the testing itself.  The problem is the way the state uses the tests to punish, or reward, the schools that has distorted the system.  So schools are doing things to avoid the punishment, or gain the reward, instead of just teaching the children and then testing them on what has been taught.  This is not a complaint against the teachers; it’s a complaint against the system.  The second you set the bar, and then punish those who don’t make it over that bar, the more people are going to distort the system to try and get over the bar.

My hope for Monroe County is that we can start to look beyond the test scores and look for what we think a quality education system entails.  Instead of jumping through the state hoops, let’s create our own hoops that actually serve our own children and meet their needs.  There is no reason our little schools can’t be academically stellar institutions where everyone is delighted to send their children. But the estimate last year was that a quarter of the time in classes was spent preparing for testing. That is a lot of money being spent on measuring.

I like to speak to organizations about the impact of high stakes testing because I think what’s happening in the schools is shocking but nobody wants to say anything because everybody loves their teachers.  So I like to give these talks to let people see what’s really happening and I hope people will become sceptics and stop thinking that high test scores equal quality education.  I think parents know that even at the best schools, the homework looks like test prep, and the closer they get to the FCAT the more practice tests there are.

I spoke at a testing forum recently.  Senator Bullard was there and he said that what is happening in education is outrageous and people should be outraged.  There is a suggestion that the move is to privatize the public school system.  One of the ways they will privatize them appears to be by computer based learning.  There is a new move called Competency Based Learning, and the idea is that once they get the standards, they will have the path that all children should move along. So eventually children would be able to sit at a computer and move along the path.  It’s presented as though it’s really great for your child because they will get to move at their speed, but the truth is that every child will move along the exact same path.  There will be no diverging from the path, no following a child’s interest, no engaging them.   I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but…

Right now there are teachers supervising the digital learning and that would continue for a while. It’s already happening with on-line testing.  But the worry is that eventually people will wonder why their tax dollars are paying teachers when the computers are doing the teaching.  I don’t want America’s kids to be taught by computers.  I don’t find that inspirational.  I was told that education in America is the 4th largest industry.  So that’s where this is going.  They see the money and it’s at the expense of our school children.

Parents need to be aware of what’s happening and start saying no.  They need to question the number of tests and the purpose for them.  I’m hoping that parents will go to the school board and express concern over these issues.  It is going to take people getting involved and speaking up. The state is not listening.  And if they don’t start listening, parents will rebel.  Last year, across the country, half a million parents had their children refuse the tests. Because what else can you do?  We’re getting tired of writing “Sincerely” at the end of our letters to our legislators.  Really, my kids only get one chance at an education.  This is our kid’s future, and it’s a huge battle. There isn’t a lot of money on “my side” and there are billionaires on the other side.   But, you know what?  You don’t mess with Mama Bears.  

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Scott Youngberg – Tavernier

"I’ve been in the Keys for 18 years now. I was living in Chattanooga TN, breaking into the music business up there. Then I met my lovely bride Suzi, and we both shared Caribbean Soul with a common dream of living on a beach someday. We just kicked it up a notch and moved to the islands. We didn’t know anybody; we’ve just built a life down here. I’ve been fortunate to make a living as a performing musician, playing music at bars, resorts and parties. It’s a very expensive place to live, but I don’t think I could do what I do, the way that I do it, anywhere else. I just try to get by, be happy, and stay healthy.
I fought a battle for pretty much all of 2014 with a very rare form of bone cancer that I was born with. It took some pretty cool science fiction treatment up in Boston to get rid of it. I went through two rounds of proton beam radiation and surgery to remove my coccyx and a chunk of my sacrum. It really wasn’t too bad a deal the way I look at it…giving up a year of your life to have a “rest of your life.”
As a result of that year, there have been lots of changes, now that I’m “clear.” I’ve always been very community minded, and more so than ever now. While I was up in Boston, the whole town got together to throw the “Idle Speed Benefit” and raise money for me. How do you thank a whole town, other than to be happy and healthy, and give back as much as you can?
I’ve always stepped up when asked to play at benefits. That’s just what our community does; we take care of each other. So, I’m doing as much of that as I can manage. In addition to the money raised by the town, I was helped a lot by the American Cancer Society with free lodging while in Boston. It was an incredible gift and I don’t know what we would have done without it. The town rallied and raised money so we had a life to come back to, not just bills and debt. The American Cancer Society kept us from incurring crippling debt. In one more effort to pay back, I’m the Co-Event Lead, along with my wife Suzi, for the Upper Keys Relay for Life. Trying to share my experience, give back what I can in any small way that I can, and trying to raise the tide for every single team and the whole event.
I appreciate and love this community. The connected yet disconnected part of it. I mean, we’re still part of American culture, but we have our own culture down here. It’s a good way of life. It’s always suited me. I want people to remember me as someone they could always count on; that I wasn’t someone who let people down. However, I’ve faced that place, you know…I don’t really worry about what people are going to think about me after I’m gone. I’ve faced the life and death, the pain, the consciousness and unconsciousness. I don’t see how that couldn’t change a person. Life and death situations force you to hold a mirror up. It was surprising and humbling that the town, and my friends and family, were there for me like they were. I hope to continue making music and supporting causes and being there for all of my friends for as long as I can.
During that time in Boston I was very much on an emotional “hold.” It’s like I lost time; like my internal clock stopped working during that time. Someone will mention that something happened 2 years ago, and I’ll think, no it was just one year… that’s because of the Boston time. But, because of technology like skype and facetime, it was amazing how I could stay connected while so far away. And I had so many cards come in…I had over 100 cards on the wall of my room at one time. Not to mention all the people following on Facebook and Caring Bridge. When you have that many people pulling for you, you don’t want to let them down. Hopefully involvement with local benefits and the Relay for Life will help me feel like I’m repaying some of what I was given.
Lessons I’ve learned in life are that we all go through our own life experiences and we all just live it. Concerning bad things that you go through, remember everybody has their bad things they go through and you can’t compare, judge or rate somebody else’s experiences against your own. Everybody has their own issues. I’ve learned that to worry about something you can’t do anything about, in advance, makes you go through the worry twice. The first time is unnecessary and the second time will be or won’t be.
One of my favorite things in life is humor. The only thing I like more than making people laugh is other people making me laugh. Facebook has been a wonderful platform for me. I keep a separate music page that stays more on topic, but my page is just for fun. It gives me a one liner every day. I guess everybody needs another dream in life, and I’ve always had a dream of stand-up comedy, except that when you bomb, you bomb SO bad! I’ll just stick to music instead. When I tell a joke over the microphone, people tell me I’m a real good musician! I do think humor spread throughout your life is important. It’s a social lubricant, a defense mechanism, a source of joy…I just love clever wit.
I’m a big movie buff. I’m definitely a big science fiction fan…bordering on geek. I was once in a band where my nickname was Sci-Fi. I like spending time with friends; we have game nights whenever we can all get together and that’s always fun. My favorite thing is spending time with Suzi and our cat SugarBear. He’s a rescue…well, he showed up in our backyard one day and told us he was moving in. He’s a special cat. He walks on a leash; he likes riding in the car and is a good traveler. While I was in Boston, friends in Atlanta fostered him for six months. I remember steeling myself for the possibility that he would have forgotten me, but as soon as he heard my voice he started crying and wouldn’t let me out of his sight afterwards. I’m his special boy.
I move a little slower than I used to. They took a lot out of me. Sometimes I do still succumb to fatigue. But to be cancer free and fully mobile, how can I complain? I’m just continuing to rebuild my strength and continuing to do what I do, and trying to be better and better."

For Scott's music schedule and contact info, visit his website:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Jane Tomlinson, Tavernier

My husband and I were both high school teachers in Pennsylvania. We retired and moved down here 10 years ago. We decided we wanted to get warm! They say everybody is running away from something; well, we ran from the cold!
In 2003, my husband, a wrestling coach, was “summoned” to Key West to help them with a wrestling tournament they were having. For some reason, one of the coaches wasn’t able to complete the tournament. (My husband is in the national high school wrestling hall of fame for coaching.) The assistant superintendent of schools knew us, so she asked him to come down and bail them out. It was our first time in the Keys, and both of us fell in love with Key West. It was January, and I remember saying, “You mean people live in this warm weather, this time of year?” I really had no concept, being from Pennsylvania. We had snow and ice in January. As a matter of fact, I had missed my flight due to an ice storm hitting right before we left home.
The next summer we brought our daughter down and we all vacationed in Key West. Then, a friend of ours from Pennsylvania who is now a boat captain in Islamorada, suggested that my husband come down and go fishing with him. So, we all came down and we just absolutely fell in love with Islamorada. My husband came down again in the fall and bought a house! He came home and said, “Honey, I bought a house.” I said, “That’s it then, I’m retiring!” I had planned to teach another four years, but as soon as he said he bought a house in Islamorada, I knew that was it.
We started out as snow birds. We had a five year plan. The first year we stayed a few months, the next year a little longer, until finally by the third year we looked at each other and said, “What are we doing? Let’s make up our minds. Where do we want to live?” We decided this was where we wanted to live.
We are very social and it was important to us to have a sense of community. Being school teachers, we had that back home, but we weren’t sure we would have that down here because it’s a vacation destination. It was great to vacation, but we weren’t sure about living here. But, I absolutely loved it! We both got involved with the fitness center at Mariners and met some great people. I volunteer for Marvelous Pet Rescues. I got involved with all kinds of activities and met a lot of wonderful people and we decided we were staying. It is a wonderful small town. We are in our forever home! If we eventually have to put in an elevator to get upstairs, then so be it.
I have three children and 5 grandchildren. They are all within 10 miles of each other up in PA. The grand-kids are all involved in athletics, so we go up 3 or 4 times a year to watch them do their sports. And, they come down to visit at least once a year. Our kids had a hard time adjusting to our move at first. They were not happy, and said we were “running away.” We have convinced them that we spent all our time and energy raising them, making sure that all of our attention went to them, and now it’s our time. They have come around and seem to understand now. I think maybe they were just jealous!
When I first came down here, being newly retired, I wasn’t sure how I would accept that because I’m a doer, I’m always moving. For the first couple of years I worked a few different part time jobs. I’m a photographer, so I also did some wedding photography. Then I walked into the Rain Barrel one day and I saw this artist (Stephanie Martin) making glass jewelry at Seaside Glassworks. I was fascinated and I told her I wanted to work for her. She hired me and I worked with her for 4 ½ years. I just stopped working about six months ago. I had foot surgery and needed some time off. Now I’m not sure if I’m going back to work. I’m not bored yet! She has asked me to come back and I love making the fused glass. I was a high school art teacher and had worked with stained glass, but never fused glass. It’s fun. But, I have enjoyed having more free time, and getting to play. We’ll see what happens.
I believe in staying active. Keep moving. Use it or lose it. You just have to keep moving. Every morning I wake up and watch the sunrise. It’s magical. I post a photo of a flower every morning on Facebook, and say good morning to my friends and family. Everyone seems to enjoy it. The ones up north say it helps get them through a day of nasty weather. I bought a t-shirt at the nautical flea market that says “My life is better than your vacation,” and it’s true! We have found our place here. There is a spiritual connection here to the water, to the light. Light is so important to a photographer, and the light quality down here is so clear.
For anyone wanting to move down here, I would say save your money, you’re going to need it. It’s expensive to live here. But, just do it. You’ll find your way. You have to take a chance to be happy sometimes. We love it here, and we are staying. It’s a good place to be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Jess Bush, Key Largo

I was born in Mississippi. My family moved to Alabama when I was 10 months old. My Mom was a seamstress for 32 years, and my Dad was a Truck Driver for 30 years. They worked hard and provided my brother and me with all we needed. I grew up in a small town just north of Orange Beach, Alabama, called Elsanor. Elsanor is mostly farms, fields and churches. I grew up in a Pentecostal Church. My parents love living in the country and it was their dream to own some land and have room for horses and such. Although we never owned a horse of our own, we had pigs, and dogs, and ferrets, and birds, and possums, and pretty much anything I got my hands on to bring home. I also helped out on the neighbors farm with all her goats, donkeys, horses, chickens, and such.

I grew up with a passion for music and animals. I played in the school band for 7 years learning how to play flute, oboe, trumpet, piano, harmonica and later the guitar. I also love to sing! You've probably seen me bopping along in my truck going up and down US 1. I always have a tune in my heart!

My passion for animals started young, with my pawpaw’s dog, a cocker spaniel named Penny. She was my best friend. I remember snuggling with her at the age of 2. I've had many animals over the years that I can't forget, but the one that I currently belong to is my baby girl, Rizzo! She is a chubby little dachshund, full of the best cuddles and kisses, and so much love. She rescued me about 5 years ago. She'll be 7 in December.

Somewhere along my journey of life, I lost me. I gave up what made me happy, gave up my dreams to the world. I felt like I was simply existing, instead of living. Busy with work, everyday drama and partying, I didn't feel good about myself, and my relationships were suffering. When I finally had enough, I decided to make a change. I needed to go my own way, find some peace, and find my happiness again.

Not long before I got Rizzo, I was working for an Insurance Adjusting Company. We were working claims from Hurricane Sandy. We worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for 8 months straight. I was tired and in desperate need of a vacation before the next storm hit. In March of 2013 my job was finished, and I had a few months off. I decided to take an extended vacation to the Keys, where I had only been once for a very short visit. With no plan and “iffy” on where we were going to stay, I packed up Rizzo and off we went, with just a few bags and an open mind.

I met a lady online who had a place to rent, and she also had 3 sweet little dogs. It was beautiful; right on the water and surrounded by all sorts of animals! My first morning I was greeted by a family of manatees! I have always loved manatees, and this was my first time seeing one in person!! I wept with joy and at that moment fell in love with the Keys. Every morning I had coffee on the dock with the manatees and Rizzo, with my camera in hand! I know I drove my mother crazy with all the pics I was sending her every day. She didn't mind though; she was happy because I was happy.

After 2 months I decided to get a part time job, just to have something to do and someone to talk to. I didn't know anyone and I was very lonely; I needed some human interaction. There never was another storm, so I never went back to Alabama to work and my vacation turned into a move. About a month later I met a HUGE group of amazing ladies and gentlemen who welcomed me into their circle. And almost 3 years later I'm still here!

I have worked at Berry's Paint in Key Largo for almost 3 years now. I have a beautiful home, and I've found such an amazing group of friends and family that are so very close to my heart. Rizzo has a best friend as well, his name is Kenai; he's a Blue Chihuahua and he loves his Rizzo! I attend Key Largo Baptist Church. If you are looking for an amazing church family, please come! The members of this church are so sweet, humble, and inviting. My first time here I felt like I had always been here. Everyone hugged me and talked to me and told me just how happy they were that I was there. That's how it is every visit! The services are uplifting and heartfelt. I can feel God moving through the hearts of not only me, but every person there. It's an amazing feeling to be able to attend a church that is growing and that not only hears God, but listens for Him!

But, sometimes life throws us curve balls. At some point God will test our faith. Since March of 2015, my Dad has been fighting cancer. He has to be the strongest man I know. He was diagnosed in March, and finished treatments in May only to find out it had spread. He had surgery in September, and I spent 3 weeks with him. On top of that, he has been suffering with lupus for the last 5 years. Life sometimes isn't fair and only God knows why the good ones suffer. But my Dad came out of surgery, and after we thought we would lose him, he is cancer free!! After numerous complications from surgery he is just now beginning to get better. Still on a feeding tube, but strong willed and eager to get better so they can come visit me for the first time here! I cannot wait!!!

Although I miss my Mom, Dad, brother and friends back home in Alabama terribly, and I do visit often, I couldn't trade my life here. It is beautiful! I love being able to be up close with all the different wildlife; boating, camping in the Everglades, riding horses, going fishing, visiting with friends and my Keys family and church family, seeing the beautiful water and sunsets, and being able to enjoy all the amazing things that God has blessed me with! I truly believe I was supposed to stay here. I have found my happiness again. I know that God has a plan for me and my life, and now I'm LIVING for Him!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Rev. Dr. Pamela Feeser CPC

The Rev. Dr. Pamela Feeser CPC

I’ve been in the Keys for 16 years. The Bishop sent me down here. I’m a United Methodist Pastor. In June of 1999 the Bishop sent me down to serve Burton Methodist Church. I was there for a while, but then I decided to work on my doctorate.

I have always worked in domestic violence. My dissertation was on developing an organization that was solely preventative against domestic violence, which developed into training programs for community leadership, especially clergy leadership. The church is well known for intending to give good, helpful messages but not realizing how those messages come across to abused women and abused men. Messages such as “Humble yourself” can be difficult and hurtful to someone being abused. And there is the fact that in most of the illustrations used in sermons the hero is always a male. I talk to pastors about that and try to help them learn about women that can be the heroes. And we don’t even have to make them up!

Also things like “Until death do you part.” That’s a biggie. People think that when they get married they have to put up with abuse because of their vows. But God has never supported or defended violence or abuse in any form. A vow doesn’t mean you have to stay there to be abused. The contract or covenant was broken by the abuser when they chose to abuse. You aren’t the one breaking the contract when you file for divorce; the abuser has already done that. But it’s interesting to me that even a lot of pastors miss that one.

Another big one is that sometimes the abused woman is not ready to leave. The statistics are that it takes 7 times…they will go back 7 times before they finally leave. Sometimes those of us looking in from the outside, trying to help by trying to force them to leave, are actually doing the exact same thing that the abuser is doing to them. These are the kinds of things we are trying to teach to the clergy. So far I have trained over 400 clergy, and if even a few implement changes to their ministry then I have succeeded.

The organization that I created is DOLPHINS to Stop Domestic Violence, Inc. Livings Springs Counseling is a DBA under that. And then I have another DBA called Living Waters Rx Program, helping upper Keys residents who can’t afford medication. Every penny of that money comes from this community. Last year the donations were over $5,000. This year, we barely have $1,000 going into 2016. With the cost of medications these days, that won’t go far. So, for the first time I have applied for grants. But, it’s usually around Christmas time that the donations really come in, so I’m hopeful the number will go up. I’m hoping maybe people who read this article will help. They can make checks payable to Living Waters Rx Project and send it to “34 Pirates Drive, Key Largo 33037.” It is tax deductible, so if people make sure to put their address with the donation they will immediately get something back for tax purposes. This is something I would so appreciate. We started in 2009 with $500 and each year we have added at least $1,000 to what we give out. Every penny of it is given out.

Coral Isle Church lets me run Living Springs Counseling out of their Chapel which is behind the MARC store. Most of my clients can’t afford to pay, so I don’t charge them. But what I’ve found is it does come back around. In the beginning, none of my clients made enough money to pay me. But, after working with them for a while, they were able to get better jobs and then they really wanted to start paying for their counseling. It will be a while before I actually make any income from it, but it does keep the program going and gives me enough to tithe this church for my space…my corner! For clients who can pay something, I use a generous sliding scale. I’m about to start a group called “Getting Through the Holidays.” It’s for people having a hard time dealing with the days from Thanksgiving on through the New Year every Tuesday from 6-7. Keeping mentally healthy is important. I’m also a certified pastoral counselor (CPC), so if the people are open to it, I also deal with their faith issues.

One of the things I noticed from the start of forming Living Springs Counseling was how much I love to sit with people and hear what is going on in their lives, and the honor of having them invite me to help them through difficult times. And the shock when I actually do! No, seriously, it is a blessing; because I pray for my clients, every one of them. What I do, I do in God’s name. And God blesses that and I see those blessings in my life and the lives of my clients. But sometimes it still surprises me. It makes my day!

I’ve been told that addiction is 5 times the national average in the Keys, as well as domestic violence and suicide both being higher than average down here. Many think that moving to paradise will solve their problems. The truth is that geographic solutions don’t provide healing. Our community clearly struggles with addiction and more. I love our community. I have chosen to stay here in the Keys. United Methodist pastors are known to move around, but I have chosen to stay here. The Bishop will not be moving me. I am endorsed as a CPC and the Bishop has appointed me to serve our community through Living Springs Counselor. So, here I am in my little corner! (Pam’s office is in the corner of the Chapel) The reason I got certified is because I realized that this is the way in which God is calling me. I could have gone up to the mainland and had a really nice office. But, I love this community regardless of what struggles we may be living with and working through. I feel sad. I feel sorry. And I want to be a part of the solution.

There are so many good people down here. I work with a group fighting poverty, and a group of pastors from around town helping the homeless. We are trying to help our neighbors find a way to live the lives God intended them to live without being hungry or homeless. Hunger, homelessness, addiction or anything that affects the community is a community issue. We can all do our part in working toward a solution.

On a personal note, I love the gift of music; I play flute. I’m in the community band for Key Largo and I also have the Keys Pipers which is a flute choir and we go piping around town at Christmas time. This year you’ll be able to find us all over the place on December 5. I absolutely love my husband. He is the best husband you could ask for, the one you dream of as a child. We’ve been married almost 5 years. He has turned our yard into a permaculture garden. We have 56 fruit and vegetable trees in our yard. The vegetable tree is a moringa tree, sometimes called the miracle tree. It is amazing! This year I planted sweet potatoes. They taste so good! Everything we grow is organic. The mosquito sprayer is even nice enough to stop spraying when he goes by our yard! I spray garlic juice around the yard for mosquitos, fleas and ticks. I am incredibly happy and content. This is my home.

For more information about DOLPHINS, Living Springs Counseling and Living Waters Rx Program, visit Pam’s Place at

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gary and Patty Schaum, Tavernier

“We met on We were both living in Pennsylvania at the time. It all started with a wink!”
Gary – “I tried to keep my dates short, you know, coffee, lunch. I know within 10 minutes if I am going to like someone or not. I called her and we talked for over an hour!”
Patty – “We hit it off because we both like to shop at Lowes! We like to do projects together. We are a team, we work well together.”
Gary – “Patty eventually moved in with me, and we had wonderful neighbors in our backyard that had a winter home in Ft. Myers. We would come to visit them in Florida to get away from the cold.
So, we bought a home, in our neighbor’s backyard in Ft. Myers because we just loved it down here so much, and that is how we got to Florida!
“We were married on Hollywood beach.”
Patty – “He kissed me on the beach and asked me if I thought I could live here full time. I said yes. We outgrew our little place in Ft. Myers and we moved to the Forest Country Club. We had e some neighbors there invite us for cocktails and they told us they had that house, a house in Croatia and a place in Duck Key. Where was Duck Key? Oh, it’s by Hawk’s Cay! We had to get the I-pad out and zoom in to find out where Duck Key was. You can always say you know where the Florida Keys are, but when someone starts rattling off the names of 44 different Keys, you have to figure it out!”
Gary – “I had a boat and I wanted to fish, so I said to Patty; ‘Let’s go down there and see if we can find something.’”
Patty – “We drove through Duck Key and that was just too far. It’s beautiful, but we didn’t want to travel more than 3 hours, so that is how we got to Key Largo! We wanted to be on the water, so now we are in Tavernier, where we found this great place!
We went from being Snow birds with Ft. Myers being our southern home, to now being in the Keys full time with Ft. Myers being our northern home!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kelly Randin, Key Largo

Where do I begin?
I was a bit hesitant writing a story about myself when asked; I enjoy, with a passion, helping others and the innocent (children and animals) so talking about myself is a very different subject for me. However, I am always trying to find ways to make a difference and inspire others, so, I figured I’d give this a shot!
My full name is Kelly Joyner Randin, I took on my maiden name as a middle name because, I am a Daddy’s girl to the fullest! I was born in NC, raised in Key Largo since 6 months old. That’s 29 years in the Keys for me! I am the youngest of two, my brother Wally is now living in WA as a nuclear operator.
I went to Key Largo School, then onto Coral Shores where I graduated in 2004! I wanted to be a writer as a child; I loved to write stories, I figured I could inspire others to do more for each other, help others to know they aren’t alone through stories about struggles, I felt inspired by some of my closest friend’s real lives. One day I still will, maybe when I retire! Then I thought I would become a chiropractor, but, after taking anatomy and physiology, I decided memorizing billions of body parts was not for me.
My true passion is in sales. That saying "they can sell ice to an Eskimo" has been repeated to me many times. It just comes natural, I don’t force it; I see the needs and I meet those needs; I never forget when someone wants something specific either. My best kept secret was honesty, sincerity, and genuine concern for others. Going the extra mile brings you more business and happy customers.
Since the birth of my 2nd child, I have been a busy stay at home mom with a little online consignment sales business; I list items on various websites for people that are moving or have stuff laying around that they want to sell and just don't have the time to do so. I plan on making that business grow to estate sales! I also cater wedding parties for Trinity with On The Fly & cater for Mangrove Mike, who have both always been so good to me and have always given me work when I needed it!! My next BIG adventure is about to begin, my aim is toward real estate, estate sales, and property management. I finished all the schooling and now all I need to do is sign up for my state test! I can’t wait to start working full time and build up an amazing reputation again! I miss every last customer I have had over the years, between AT&T, Sprint, and RadioShack, but, I truly have enjoyed 2 amazing years watching my two beautiful girls grow up before my eyes, not missing a second of the joys!
I met my husband in 2008, that’s when I can honestly say my life began. He was a handsome guy I met at Coconuts on a ladies night! Not like me to fall in love under the influence! I was out with my roommate at the time, and they knew each other! Oddly enough, with both of us living here our entire lives and having lots of mutual friends I had never met him. On November 17th 2008 we made it official, boyfriend and girlfriend! I waited till new years to tell him I loved him so I could ring in a perfect new year!
The following year we started rescuing animals and that’s where I truly feel I have made an impact on others. It started with my pit boxer mix, Lenny, who was "Lovey" at Miami Dade animal services. I adopted him from run by Lissette Alvarez; she saved him by walking into the euthanasia room and taking the next dog to be put down. After that adoption, I was sold; there was no way that a dog like my Lenny could fall through the cracks and be put down just because he was cage shy.
In total I have been able to rescue 78 dogs & 15 kittens (this does not include me assisting in rescues, just ones I did myself) with my boyfriend (now husband) by my side through all the craziness. There is a special love an abandoned animal shows you that I can’t explain, when you save them your heart is forever connected and they never forget you. I use to cry walking through the Miami Dade shelter; it was like a Sarah McLachlan video only more real, these animals were lonely and begging for love…dirty, tick infested, sick and often abused. I made some amazing friends whom I still keep in contact with through rescue. I also get the overwhelming joy from time to time being tagged in a picture of a happy animal I helped give a second chance to. I not only pulled from shelters, I also picked up strays, abused animals, unwanted animals, and a few puppies along the way. I found a bag of kittens once while I was at Petco; they were left outside in a trash can in the hot sun! I found them while spoiling my newest save and took them to my family, that I have adopted as my own and love like parents, the Shaffer’s, who share the same passion for animals I have! We found them all loving homes!
Moving forward, in July of 2010 Carlos Randin asked me to be his wife and spend forever with him; it was recorded by my amazing in laws and friends and it still brings tears to my eyes. My mom says that "Carlos truly thought “what would Kelly do?" when inviting all my friends and setting it all up. He made me open 15 boxes, and all the while rolling my eyes thinking "if there is a ring in here I’m going to say no to him for his cheesiness" lol. “No ring! There was a note that asked me to turn around and when I turned around there was my future, on one knee, asking me to "spend forever with him" (of course I said yes)! We set the date - 9/10/11.
On Sept 10, 2011 I conceived my first baby girl, Peyton Elizabeth. Literally one of two of the best gifts anyone has ever given me and I thank God every minute of every day for them. That’s right I got pregnant ON my wedding night! Guess who had a sober honeymoon 4 weeks later? On April 27, 2012 Peyton was born 5 weeks early ON my sister in law, Sabrina Randin’s, birthday none the less!! I have type one diabetes and was having complications with my blood pressure and extra fluid. She spent the hardest 8 days of my entire life at Jackson memorial while I waited to bring her home, and now she is the happiest, healthiest little diva ever!
In April of 2013 I found out I was pregnant again. This one felt totally different, had to be a boy I thought. At my 16 week ultrasound she was sitting legs crossed with her umbilical cord between her legs and would not show us that she was a she until 30 weeks. All the way up to delivery I swore she was a boy but on November 21 out popped a perfect blue eyed strawberry blond baby girl that looked and acted NOTHING like her older sister! And that I can truly say was the BEST day of my life; my family was complete and I could take this baby home right away to meet her big sister. My girls are now almost 2 years and 3 1/2 years old; they are 19 months apart and very good little girls! I am the luckiest mommy in the universe!
This was really nice looking back and remembering all the things that made me who I am today. One day I hope to leave the keys, only not any time soon! I know I will come running right back, my heart is here, my friends are here, and my life story was written here.”