Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Friday, July 31, 2015

Jami Leigh Burrows, Tavernier


"5 Years without your child is a very long time. It is time that you can never get back. It is a nightmare to not know where they are or if they are healthy and safe...and when you find them, it takes every bit of strength to be able to hold yourself together when you realize that they don't know who you are...
I was 18 when I got married and had my daughter here in Florida. Kyleigh's birth was the happiest moment of my life at that time, but within her first year things began to go downhill. My husband went to jail. For nearly one year, it was just the two of us, alone in the middle of nowhere in a house in Ocala, Fl. When he got out we moved to Tennessee. We had planned on staying with his parents for a little while; just long enough to work and save some money. That move ended up being one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
Shortly after moving we started having marital issues. We decided to split up, and agreed that it would be in Kyleigh's best interest to move back with me to the Keys. He decided that he would stay in Tennessee with his family. We had a verbal agreement and he signed a paper, (it wasn't notarized) giving me permission to move.
So, I moved back to where I was born and raised, the Keys, with our daughter. It was about 6 months later that I was served divorce papers...along with a petition for custody. I didn't really know what to do, or where to begin so I consulted a lawyer in Miami and they told me not to worry, it would all be fine. We counter filed in Florida (asking for equal time sharing), and were given jurisdiction over the case, but Tennessee wound up taking jurisdiction back because that's where the grounds for our divorce took place. I then had to get a lawyer in Tennessee. Immediately after Tennessee took the case, my ex husband was (by default) granted an order for pick up. Tennessee courts said my child had to physically be inside their jurisdiction. They never did an investigation, they never checked to see if I was fit or unfit, they didn't care who she knew, who was taking care of her, what she was used to, they gave no consideration whatsoever for her well being... they allowed my daughter to be ripped away from me simply because of a legality.
A few months shy of my daughter's 2nd birthday, my ex-husband came down and took her and there was nothing that I could do about it. She didn't even know who he was. She clung to me screaming as I was forced by law to strap her into their car seat. It was the most devastating thing I have ever had to do; going against my instincts as a mother, being forced to say goodbye to my daughter. I remember the day we finally packed up her things...we had to. I had spent months in her room crying into her pillow. Just looking at her pictures became too unbearable. My life revolved around her, and everything in it became a constant reminder of losing her. It was like mourning a death...except with a death there's closure.
My lawyers couldn't do anything. His lawyer kept filing motions and I had to keep traveling back to Tennessee. I spent every dime that I had. I was barely making it. I had to drop my lawyers and defend myself. I won my first hearing, representing myself! Going as far as cross examining my own ex husband on the stand. I was awarded visitation, but after 2 visits, I had exhausted all of my funds and was unable to make it to the final hearing and since I had no one to represent me, he won....everything. Before I got the chance to fight that judgment, he violated the terms; he left Tennessee and went to Georgia; cutting off his phone and blocking me from all social media. I couldn't find him or my daughter.
I spent the next 5 years looking for them; I consulted with lawyers, I wrote to Governors, DCF tried to help, I wrote Gloria Allred, talk shows, I wrote and contacted anyone that could possibly help, but to no avail. As a parent, I felt that I had failed my daughter. I could not protect her, comfort her, or nurture her. I was helpless. The thought of her growing up without her mom tormented me. I began to lose hope, but I never gave up.
Last October (2014), my ex-husband's wife reached out to me. (Now I knew that they knew how to contact me!)
She said that she felt the need to talk to me. I was so excited!! My daughter was within reach!! I wanted to build a repoire with the wife and reconnect with my daughter!! She wanted a repoire too, (as I later found out) they actually wanted it to terminate my parental rights. My gut told me something was fishy, so I had held back on the communication.
In December, I decided to reach out to the wife again. This time the response came from an attorney informing me that my ex-husband had passed away in November and his wife was filing for custody of my daughter. I was in shock.
Now I had to fight in yet another State, Georgia- and I was going to fight. I had wanted my daughter this whole time and I had never quit looking for her. This was not going to happen Twice.
This is when we reached out to the Keys community and asked for help. Anything anyone could offer. I now have 2 sons and would do anything to get my daughter home. There wasn't any legal aid available but our Island came together. Many people already knew what I was going through. They all stepped up. We started a donation page, my fiance Rob Qualls started a benefit concert called 'Fight for Family Fest' (which we will continue for other families in need) and Chris Richert started an aluminum can drive.
With my Mother by my side (to keep me company and maybe share some of the driving), I was able to travel to all of the hearings, some with only 6 days notice. I had to prove that I had been looking for my daughter, which I did, successfully. I won some visitation.
Visitation was challenging; my daughter didn't know who I was, she thought that her step mom was her biological mother- no one had told her about me. I had to really think about this; was this going to do more damage than good? Selfishly I wanted to pick her up and take her home, but I knew that wasn't the best thing for her. I had to think about her first. Ultimately I decided that getting her home would be most beneficial for her; these people took my daughter, kept her from me, didn't tell her that I existed. They certainly weren't doing what was in her best interest all along, and being the only person that loved her selflessly, I knew that I was making the right choice. I agreed to a staggered transition; she was only 7.
She went to therapy and they worked her into it. We met, her not knowing who I was, and she immediately took to me, ran up and gave me a hug. Wow, I hadn't expected that! My daughter took the news really well when they told her I was her biological mom.
All of the things that you look forward to doing with your children, teaching them, experiencing with them, memories you want to make; I never thought I would get to do with her. I had started to accept the idea that it may not be until she was an adult when I would reconnect with her. To hear her call me mommy the first time, to hear her say "I love you", Wow. It was a dream come true. I was reassured that I had been doing right by her, and that made the past five years of pain worth every moment.
The struggle was not over. I was granted custody but her step-mom was granted physical custody. The judge thought it best to do a series of visits and make the transition when school was out. I agreed. I never missed a visit and talked to my daughter every day. Our bond was as strong as ever. The guardian ad lidem and therapist agreed that she was ready to come home. It was finally almost over.
Shortly thereafter, I received papers again; my ex-in-laws were going to fight for custody. That was so scary, after all we had been through, after all we had overcome to now have another battle to fight.
Luckily my lawyer and their lawyer agreed that the decision had already been made and she was going home with me. Their petitions were eventually thrown out. I granted her step-mom and grandparents visitation; I would not do to them, to the people my daughter knew and loved, what they had done to me. I would not do to her what they had done to her. She knows how much she is loved we all love her. When I finally spoke to her grandparents I told them 'We all have the same intentions. We all love her and want what is best for her. If we were able to work together then there would never be any issues for her; she has a blended extended family and we need to come together to do what is best for her.'
June 16, 2015 I picked her up and she came home with me! It was a day I will never forget. I almost couldn't believe it was actually over. Our hearts could finally heal and our bond could fully mend. I now have full legal custody! She can talk to the other members of her family whenever she wants and they can come and visit her whenever they want. Kyleigh is doing great! She smiles and laughs and plays with her brothers. She is thriving here in the Keys again. She has been incredibly strong, and is so wise for her age. I am thankful for every moment we spend together as a family. We will never get back the time we missed but we are making new memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I will never take one second for granted.
It really was the Keys community that brought Kyleigh home. As Kyleigh gets older, I want her to know how many people love her and how many people helped in the fight to bring her home. There were people e-mailing me that I didn't even know, encouraging me and supporting me. There were a lot of people who saved cans; a young woman had her whole neighborhood saving cans and Ralph Pratt, the pastor at Key Largo Christian Center had everyone in his church saving cans, they even picked them up from the side of the road. There are no words to describe the amount of joy that I hold in my heart. Our community came to the benefits. They came together and donated, whether it was money or time or support or encouragement, it is all priceless to me and I cannot thank them enough.
The community reached out and helped to bring my baby home. They helped to make my family whole, and for that, I am forever grateful".


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lobsters Of The Keys

Two day sport lobster season, better known as "Mini Season," is this week, Wednesday and Thursday, July 29 & 30.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone the two day sport lobster season is here. 
Anyone who plans to participate catching lobster in Monroe County during the two day season on July 29th and 30th should make sure to familiarize themselves with both state law and with local ordinances in the Florida Keys.
Additionally, Sheriff Rick Ramsay would like to remind everyone who lives here and who is visiting, marine thefts are a real problem in the Florida Keys and thieves may see the two day sport season as an opportunity to target people who aren’t being careful with their valuables. Make sure you remove electronics, fishing and diving gear from your boat when you aren’t on it and store this valuable equipment somewhere secure.
During the two day sport season, the Sheriff’s Office will have extra patrols at boat ramps, bridges and on the water. Anyone caught with illegal lobster will be charged accordingly. All Sheriff’s Office boats will be on patrol, and deputies will also be operating a number of WaveRunners donated to the Sheriff’s Office by Riva South Motorsports. Riva South donates the WaveRunners each year to be used for law enforcement purposes such as this, as well as for regular patrols of hard to reach shoreline areas and residential canals.
According to state law, during the two-day sport lobster season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County. Spiny lobsters must have a carapace length greater than 3 inches to be legally taken during the open season. Divers must possess a measuring device, and lobsters must be in the water while they are measured. Harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Harvesters cannot use any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush the shell of the lobster. Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County, and all harvest of lobsters is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the two-day season. Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas in Pennekamp Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
A Monroe County ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to dive or snorkel in any manmade water body or marina, or within 300 feet of an improved residential or commercial shoreline beginning three days prior to the opening of and during the entirety of the lobster mini-season and for the first five days of commercial lobster season.” This ordinance also applies in the cities of Marathon and Islamorada. The only difference is in Marathon, the restrictions apply for four days prior to the sport lobster season and until 10 days past the beginning of the commercial season.
You must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at
Before, during and just after the two day sport season there will be more boats and trailers on the roadways, and more traffic in general. Sheriff Ramsay wants to remind everyone to drive carefully. Pay attention to those around you, be patient and don’t pass in no passing zones. Drinking and driving is, of course, illegal; drunk boating is also illegal and our officers will be watching for this dangerous behavior on the water as well as on the roadways of the county.
“We enjoy all the visitors here in the Keys during the two day sport season,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “But we want to make sure everyone is aware of the law, and is behaving in a responsible, and safe, manner.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chad and Meagan Brown, Tavernier

“I wanted to make my proposal memorable, in a way that would appeal to the things she liked. She had never been diving but was going to school to be a marine biologist.
I never really wanted to go diving, but I thought it would accomplish exactly what I wanted to do. I called Jen and Chris at Sail Fish Scuba in Key Largo and Jen was super excited and really took care of us; she even went out and bought a fake ring because she didn’t want to chance the real ring down there! They got me the underwater sign and took us to a great spot with beautiful coral reef and everything.
We took an adventure dive; took quick class, did some exercises in the pool, learned how to use the gear, and then did the one day trial dive; it is so you can see if diving is something you really are interested in and you have an instructor with you the whole time. We had never dove before so this was perfect.
I was so nervous, I had never been out on a boat. We went out about 5 miles and dove for a while. The time had come. Chris took Meagan ahead of us and kept her busy while Jen handed me the sign and the ring and gave me time to get ready. I knelt down and held up the sign; ‘Will you marry me?’ And the ring.
Chris turned Meagan around and she almost spit her regulator out of her mouth. When she finally got over to me she almost ripped mine out! We went up after that because she wanted to kiss me and she couldn’t under the water!
It was amazing.”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Suzi Youngberg, Suzi's Scribbles, Key Largo

Why Are We So Angry?

Something happened to me this morning and I can't stop thinking about it. I saw something on social media, Facebook, and I was so troubled by what I read; so disheartened by the words of a few people, that I lashed out at a whole town. A town that I call home. A town full of people that I love. A town that is reeling and hurting. I denied my hometown and I am ashamed. I worry that I offended people and I am sorry. I let a few haters color my perspective, change my mood and affect my behavior; and for that I am deeply troubled.
I've been thinking about the nature of negativity and anger. We seem to be an angry people these days. We are quick to offend and easily offended. We watch our leaders attack each other verbally, and we tune into news broadcasts which seem to thrive on keeping us angry.
I read an article a while ago titled, "I Lost My Father To Fox News."  The writer claimed that his father, a once reasonable man, had spent so many hours listening to the rhetoric of hate and anger spewed by Fox News that he had turned into an angry, frustrated man with whom it was impossible to have a logical, reasonable conversation.  If you know me very well, you know how I feel about Fox News, so you can imagine how tickled I was with that story.  I quoted it and used it as ammunition against the faux news channel.  But, this morning as I sat in my bed watching CNN and finding myself filled with righteous indignation over some teaser story or other, I realized that it's not just Fox's all of them.  Some are more blatant and obvious about it, but it does in fact seem that the media thrives on keeping us angry.
Today I watch as the newscasters debate some story of social significance, taking different sides and actually yelling and getting worked up to make their respective points.  They bring in experts who speak in circles and try to sound smarter than the other expert, they argue their points, they make sarcastic comments to and about each other and anyone who doesn't agree with them.  I watch the anchor actually pound his fist on the desk to emphasize how angry he is about the subject at hand.  With the report of the fist banging still echoing, the same anchor turns his body slightly to look into another camera, the angry grimace melting magically into an ingratiating smile as he announces, "Up next - Do you like dark or milk chocolate and what does that say about your personality?  We'll be back after the break," and the camera pans out as that same group of newscasters, so adamant just moments ago, now debate what kind of chocolate they prefer.  No wonder we are angry.
It's troubling to me how quickly people are to jump on social media to spread some message that is sure to offend or even incite, without even checking the facts.  People share and spread memes, blogs and articles without verifying the sources or confirming the truth.  Why are folks so quick to jump on the anger band wagon?  Why does it seem we are looking for a reason to get mad?  Why do our news media engines feel the need to feed and fan the fires of that anger?  Who benefits from so much anger?
Maybe it's time to try something different.  Instead of letting them get us worked up, turn them off, tune them out, and turn up the love.  Turn up positive thoughts and good deeds.  Make only positive posts and loving comments on social media.  Turn off the violent television shows and movies.  Turn on loving conversation with family and friends.  Turn off gossip.  Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.  The greatest thing in this world is to love and be loved in return.  Give and receive so much love that there is no room in your heart or your world for anger or hate.
I am making a vow right now to think more positive thoughts and kick out negativity and anger.
Won't you join me?  Let's all work together to bring more love, light, joy and peace into the world.
Turn off anger, turn on love.

To continue reading, please go to:
Read more from Suzi at Suzi'

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tamara Scharf – I walked The Florida Keys solo in October 2013

I am not really a human of The Keys so I feel honored to be here. Maybe walking The Keys qualifies? I’ve certainly done the legwork…
I had so many people ask me ‘why did you walk The Keys?’, raising an eyebrow and questioning my sanity. It may not be obvious to you, but it was pretty obvious to me:
The Keys are so beautiful and interesting, with each island so different from the others, all surrounded by these amazingly beautiful turquoise waters. I figured that walking makes it all go by much slower than driving, which would give me time to ‘stop and stare’ often and soak it all in.
Almost two years ago, in October 2013, the decision was made: I was going to walk The Florida Keys! Within two weeks and with as little preparation as possible (not recommended!), bar the purchase of a backpack, I arrived in Key Largo all by myself on a greyhound bus, suddenly questioning my sanity. I remember being extremely nervous the evening before the walk. I decided to grab some dinner and was hoping to calm my nerves. No sooner had I sat down, came an omen of what was to come in the next 6 days: before tasting the first bite of my dinner, I was already ‘dinner’ for a swarm of hungry mosquitoes.
The next morning, I had hardly walked a few miles, I lost half a toenail. However, it wasn’t all losses, there were also gains: I gained a lot of blisters and mosquito bites. I counted around 90 bites by the time I made it to Key West. Importantly, I also gained confidence in myself and my abilities. In the beginning, I was doubting whether I could even make it all the way. It was only when I had covered over half of the distance, I started to feel confident that I could make it to Key West.
It is interesting how much the mind wanders when you are alone with yourself and your thoughts, walking next to the amazing turquoise ocean. Being all by oneself in nature is very relaxing and almost spiritual. My feet might not have concurred with that assessment perhaps. By the time I had reached Key West, 105 miles later and covered in band-aids, they were ready to go on strike. In fact, I nearly had to give up three miles before Mile 0 – can you imagine? It was only the shame of giving up so close to my goal that spurred me on at the end. I literally limped the last couple of miles and they took me hours. I cried and cursed a few times on that last day – but I made it to Mile 0!
Although I walked the whole distance alone, I never really felt lonely. For one, I had lots of friends helping me with moral support on the internet, particularly on facebook. Also, I met so many wonderful people along the way - perhaps some of you remember me?
I was the short girl with the tall backpack! People would stop to chat to me, ask me what I was ‘training for’. Some cycled or walked a little while next to me. Some would stop to offer me a ride, looking slightly bewildered when I replied ‘no thanks, I am walking to Key West’. Some were so very kind to invite me - a complete stranger - to their house for dinner. I often wished I hadn’t been on such a tight schedule and could have accepted the kind invitations!
I also saw the famous Key deer and the infamous no-see-ums. I got chased down by swarms of hungry mosquitoes in the dawn and dusk hours. I saw fish, turtles, snakes, birds and all kinds of fauna and flora that you probably never see when you drive down to Key West. It was an incredible experience.
My favorite places and experiences? I loved Edgewater Lodge and the peaceful bay with its spectacular sunsets. I fell in love with Sugarloaf Key. Walking the 7 Mile Bridge, which I had feared so much, proved one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have ever done. I still get goose-bumps when I recall it. Although yes, there were trucks swerving towards me once or twice which was a little un-nerving, especially with only two feet and a little concrete barrier between you and the ocean, when the only way is down – a long way down..
Would I do it again? Most definitely! Do I have any advice for those who want to walk The Keys? Plenty! Take plenty of water, plenty of bug repellant, plenty of sunscreen, plenty of band-aids and mix with plenty of enjoyment, fun and appreciation of your surroundings and the locals you will meet!
Map out a route and decide how many miles you want to walk each day and whether you are going to be camping or staying at motels along the way. I did the latter, and I can’t tell you how good it felt to come back to a nice shower and clean bed at the end of the day. In hindsight, my schedule was a little too ambitious perhaps (6 days), and I would recommend to walk no more than 15 miles a day, leaving much more time for resting and enjoying. Oh and definitely plan in a whole day in Key West at the end because you will need some party and celebration time!! I ended up partying the night away with a bachelor party I met at Camille’s, but that’s a whole other story…
PS: I am always looking for interesting outdoor things to do in South Florida and beyond. If you are interested in ‘off the beaten track’ things to do, check out my blog and let me know what you think. I would love to connect with like-minded people. I have been toying with paddling from Key Largo to Key West in a kayak, maybe that will be my next (slightly) crazy adventure?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Aaron, The Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The Florida Keys & Key West
Aaron, the loggerhead sea turtle was released off the Florida Keys earlier today after convalescing at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. Aaron is one of 12 turtles that are being tracked via satellite at ‪#‎SeizeTheKeys‬ 
Video by Bob Care

Pastor Elwing is the minister of the First Baptist Church in Islamorada.

He's been a huge help to some of our Humans in Needs on our page, like Charlie Roberts, Dottie and others.
He works tirelessly with the homeless. He runs the food kitchen at the church and they feed the hungry and give them supplies every Tuesday night.
I know he has taken so many people to the doctor in Miami because they don't have transportation and are too ill to ride public transportation.
He will probably be mortified that we are putting his story on here. But, he needs your prayers and he needs a vehicle. See his post on his page below.
If you know of anything that would work for him please call First Baptist Church of Islamorada, and we can all pray, the most powerful gift of all.
~Jonathan Elwing~ Pastor, First Baptist Church Islamorada 81201 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036 (305) 664-4910
"Praying hard for a new car... Ours really is being held together by prayer and duct tape - multiple fluid leaks between coolant, oil, ps fluid, & freon coupled with the 225,000+ miles and balding tires makes it difficult to keep feeding the repair bills... need something 7 passenger low milage and affordable as I don't make much being a full time student and full time pastor... thanks for your prayers!"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tracy Larson, Realtor in the Florida Keys

“I was born and raised in Miami. It was on a sailboat during the Columbus Day Regatta in 1987 that I met and fell in love with the cute guy flying the spinnaker.
I moved to Key West right away to be with him. We married and had a daughter, who we named Kelsey, which means “from a ship bearing island”. I originally ran my own small advertising and graphics arts business in Key West, but I eventually moved on and became the Art Director for a large printing company. Unfortunately, the company closed and left me without a job.
Not knowing what to do next, my husband convinced me to get my real estate license and start selling real estate, which I’ve been successfully doing since May 1993. Unfortunately that marriage didn’t last long, but we still remain close friends and raised our daughter to become the beautiful woman she is today.
I moved to the Upper Keys to be closer to my family in Miami. After renting a few different places, I decided that I never wanted to leave the Keys and bought my first home in 2000, where I still live. Today, I work for Century 21 Schwartz Realty helping people make the jump to island living.
I’m very happily married to an incredible man and couldn’t be happier with where my life has taken me. It’s easy to fall in love with the Keys. It is one of the most beautiful island chains, with turquoise waters that provide us with diving, fishing and recreation. It’s my neighbors and friends that live here that make living in the Keys so wonderful. We have a bond with each other that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. We come together as a community to help each other when someone is in need.
Our island beauty is wonderful, but it’s the locals, the other Humans of the Keys, that truly make this place paradise.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

JD (John Douglas) Mulkeen

“Since high school I have been at Florida Atlantic University studying Geology. I had to take a science class in my freshman year and I really connected with the teacher; he convinced me to change my major from International Business. I am very happy with my choice.
There was a lecture being held at FAU one day, not related to any classes, but it was on paleontology. I just decided to go to it one night. They passed around a sheet of paper to join the newly founded Institute of Paleontology, so I joined it and got on the email list. I received an email saying if I wanted to get more involved to email this one guy. I did. What they were looking for was help moving fossils from one storage facility to another; they had a big U-Haul truck to move them. I went and helped move the fossils.
I had a pickup truck with me and they had a triceratops head they needed to move and they didn’t want to put it in the U-Haul truck. They asked if I would take it in the back of my pickup. I said ‘Hell yea! I will put a triceratops head that is millions of years old in the back of my truck!”
I was driving around and even went through a McDonald's drive thru with it in the bed of my truck! It was a baby triceratops and it still filled up the whole truck bed! I have a picture of it! It was the coolest thing!
It just goes to show you, sometimes even the simplest decision can lead to some great adventures!”

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ashley and Nina, FKCC Nursing students

“We are sisters and we always go places together, along with our brother. We are like hippies, we dress how we want and go where we want. We just have fun together. People think we are weird because most siblings are not like that, but we are.
Our mom called us one day and asked us where we were. We were at Disney getting ready to go on a ride. We like to be spontaneous that way. We just felt like going.
We believe in living one day at a time, stopping to smell the flowers. Don’t always run, enjoy the little things.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Katie Hamilton, Key Largo

I live in Key Largo with friends visiting from out of town. When they want to swim & see the beautiful parts of the keys I show them Islamorada.
We went to Indian key fill to go launch the jet skis, swim & snorkel; which is where we went last time they came down & they loved it. To my amazement I was appalled at the amount of trash...everywhere!!
I am completely disgusted and to be honest embarrassed! I was continually picking up glass so that our kids wouldn't step on it & cut their feet. There was everything from beer bottles, chum boxes, baby diapers & wipes, to even used tampons!! We live in this beautiful paradise & people come here & trash it! There are at least 9 trash cans in this very small stretch of area that we were at.
Just please clean up your trash!! I want to keep being proud to say that I live where you vacation!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Will Mulkeen, Key Largo

"After a long 82 days, 20 pounds lost, and countless miles walked I finally earned my Ranger Tab. Definitely the most important accomplishment of my life. Couldn't have done it without the support of my friends and family or the guys out there with me day in and day out."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Virginia Labrada, works in Tavernier

“My grand babies. I have a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a one and a half year old. A girl and 2 boys. I have two daughters.

This is the way I think about it. I am the grandmother. I am here to spoil. I am here to spoil and have fun. When I am done I give them back to their mommy and daddy. Whatever they want to do, they do with me! 

I don’t see the boys very often, so they get to do whatever they want to do with me. Even the girl here, even she gets away with murder, especially with her granddaddy!!”

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Robert, Key West

“I grew up in Poland. I started smoking when I was 8 years old; by 13 I was addicted.
I came to the states when I was in my mid-twenties, and at 44 my doctor asked me why I was still smoking. I told him I needed some reason to die!
He told me I could spend my old age at the doctor’s office or I could spend it on a cruise ship, it was my choice. I haven’t smoked since.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Michelle Abramoff, Fiesta Key

"Growing up in Miami I never once came to the Florida Keys. Why would I? My parents did not boat or fish. Come to think of it, it never crossed my mind to even visit the keys. I spent much of my younger life in Miami and South Beach. I ventured off to college at University of South Florida then finished my studies at Florida International University in 1995, studying hospitality management.
I worked in restaurants and catering since the age of 13. Little did I know that my college years would lead me to the tiny world of the Florida Keys. I met a girl who became my roommate, and was from Key Largo. I was floored, and asked "what do you do there?" So of course she said, "come and visit and I'll take you to the sandbar!" As they say, the rest is history.. That weekend I met the man I married.
I moved to the keys in 1999 and couldn't believe I left the big city. I was horrified and hated it! I was a wedding coordinator in Miami and worked many long hours. I never had time to enjoy the paradise I moved to.
In 2001, my son, Ryan was born and my world changed. I stopped working in Miami. I began a journey that would change my life forever. Being a mom was a stepping stone that would guide me through the next 10 years of my life; from being a stay at home mom, to going through a divorce, to returning to work in my beloved profession (catering, restaurants, and weddings)... Ryan helps me see things clearly.
I went back to work when Ryan was 3. I worked at Casa Morada in Islamorada for 2 years. This led me to see the wedding world in the keys. I decided to start my own business, Weddings by Michelle. This business introduced me to so many people and to the community I am now proud to call my home. In 2010 I went through my divorce, this time I almost left the Keys. My family was in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and I was ready to move back. But as I looked at my son, who only knew the Florida Keys, I decided to take a leap of faith and stay. I joined a company that would only enhance my wildest dreams. I started working for Mangrove Mike's Catering and Cafe. This opened up a community to me that I never knew even existed. The people I met here became my family and gave me the confidence to grow and become my own person.
My son is 14, & has become a strong athlete and a great student, a funny and charismatic young man. He has taught me to see people for who they are and to believe in yourself. Being a mom gives you the confidence to take on the world. There is a person who every day looks at you for guidance, how can you not smile at that face? So every day I look at Ryan and remember that being a parent is so important. Kids need us, so it's our job to not let them down. I have become athletic myself, training for triathlons, marathons, 8 mile open water swims (twice!) and 50 mile bike rides. These activities help define me as a strong individual. I have also become the president of the Conch Scramble Charity Golf Tournament. This has opened up community doors for me and introduced me to more people in our town that help locals and others. It's a great feeling to be a part of a growing and helpful community.
One of my dreams since college was to own my own restaurant. It was one of those things you put on a cocktail napkin after a few drinks. My brother and I spoke about it so many times. Anyone who knows me, knows my brother, Aaron, his wife, Erin and my parents play a huge role in my life. My friends continue to support me as well. When, my then boss and close friend, Mike Forster, mentioned to me about a vacant restaurant in Fiesta Key RV campground back in January, I was intrigued. So we took a boat trip and I knew right then that I wanted this place. The Lobster Crawl Bar and Grill was in for a surprise. I soon became the Managing Partner, along with Mike and my brother. Everything I could ever imagine! It's been 2 months and this new obstacle has been my biggest challenge and most rewarding time in my life! I'm building a future for myself and my son, something to call our own and to be proud of. Ryan will work beside me this summer in between his travels to the Bahamas. I am trying to give him the ground work to become a strong human being.
As I embark on this new journey, I am thankful every day for those who have crossed my path. They have all taught me something about life, strength, courage, love and family. Everything happens for a reason. If you believe this, anything is possible."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kayla Mauthe

"My story doesn't seem to exciting." lol.
"I'm a keys native, was born and raised here in the Keys. I went to Coral Shores High School. I am currently a waitress at lazy days restaurant in Islamorada.
I absolutely love the water! Water born for sure! Love spearfishing, lobstering, paddle boarding, boating, and just am truly blessed on living where I do. I never take it for granted.
I have been with my boyfriend for 9 years, since my sophomore year in high school. We are both almost 25 years old and expecting a baby in September.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Adaljisa Perdomo, Key Largo

"I'm just an average person. An islander who can't be far from the ocean.
The best day of my life would be when my sons were born; I have 3. They are all married, but no grand kids yet! It was important that we teach them to be hard working men, to love and respect their women. My main goal was to prepare them for the day mom is no longer around. They had to learn to be self-sufficient.
Now I watch from a distance, and, if asked for we're open to offer advice."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nathan Patrick Dell, Largo

The Bahamas 1974...
In strictly technical terms I was an unwanted bastard child. My father had two children in a previous marriage and when he met my mother was not planning on having anymore. He did not speak a single word to my mother during her pregnancy. During infancy I slept in a large Styrofoam cooler, the poor mans version of a crib.
I carry a scar over my left eye. The details are sketchy but somehow I fell out of that ice chest and smashed my temple on the corner of a coffee table. I often wonder if my father had something to do with that. Considering the levels of cruelty that I was eventually to experience it would not surprise me. My father never held me. My father never told me he loved me.
I carry a scar over my heart. These scars intermingle with the ideal and the face that still lives in my mind. It was tan, reminiscent of a Kennedy set against the turquoise waters and bright white fiberglass of sailboats and yachts. My early years were spent on the decks of the La Renard and many other boats and marinas.
The sea was my home. My father was always looking for the next destination. I, on the other hand was always searching for my fathers approval. These adventures became the only fringe benefit, my hazardous duty pay. Somehow I had confused the hedonistic pursuits of my parents with love. I thought the adventures were for me.

In order for me to survive I have made them my own.
They are preserved, the salt smell of the sea, the sound of sailboat rigging, the wind chimes of the deep ringing from every sailboat mast that ever sailed the sea, waves forever slapping the hull, the gentle, soft hand of the wind on my face.
I remember, I remember that which has been forgotten, that which has been left behind. I remember Bimini in the Bahamas, night crossings in the Florida Straights, waves as tall as the mast, shallow water reefs, navigational hazards, shipwrecks.
I remember the crisp brilliance of the water, a gin clear fantasy that took your breath away and left one in utter humility faced with the genius of nature. I remember the white sand beaches and the palm trees, the marinas, the yacht clubs. I remember the pirates, the captains and the adventures, all on the journey.

It is the journey that remains, the memories have stolen my soul, and they have ripped out my heart and left me here alone on this earth. I can only look to the horizon in order to see. It all still waits for me there.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Karen Beal of Key Largo and Diane Marshall, Upper Keys

We are co-authors - Diane Marshall and Karen Beal (me) - and have written a big, beautiful FREE guide about living in the Upper Keys for people who live here. With all the guides to the Keys aimed at visitors, this is a first. "Keys to Living, A Practical Guide to Living a Long Life in Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada" contains resources on healthcare services, wealth and ways to handle your finances, services provided by Monroe County and the State of Florida, ways to stay engaged in the community including places to volunteer, parks and recreation and how to find more help, services and support if you are finding life difficult, particularly as we grow old.
Diane and I have lived in the Keys for a long time - My husband, Ike, and me now 43 years - Diane and her husband, John, for 25 years, Obviously we love it here, but we do see some problems that could made better. Navigating the waters here can be tricky and navigating life here can be tricky too. We also have seen some good people have to leave the area to find what they need in life.
Diane and I have been friends for many years and have worked with several groups like the Mac User Group and GLEE - Green Living & Energy Education. So we enjoy learning and sharing information. We planned to write a pamphlet of information we learned over the years going through our parents and friends growing old, such as solving logistical problems and being able to age in your own home. Realizing we were heading into our 60s and would be facing similar issues a decade or so down the road, we started doing more research on retirement, staying healthy and enjoying our lives here in the Keys. The pamphlet to help seniors blossomed into a big book.
Starting June 20th, we will be giving soft-bound books away at community meetings and the libraries in Key Largo and Islamorada will have copies to give out. But the eBook is ready now and free to download. You can do that at . We think the eBook will be most popular since everyone seems to have a tablet, smart phone or computer these days. We will be adding content to the webpage written by local experts in their field. So there will always be something new to see. There is also a facebook page at where we hope people will share good deals, fun times to be had and tips to make the most of living here.
We all deserve to have a great life, a good time and share that with each other. This is our way of doing that.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Stacey Anderson- 48 years old, but still a kid at heart.

"I have to say I was really surprised when asked if I wanted to be one of the people covered here. I don't consider myself any different than anyone else or deserving of special recognition of any sort. We all have amazing stories. But I do have a message to share, so not only am I humbled to have been asked, but I'm proud to be able to say just a few words that might make a difference.
I came here to Key Largo full time in 2005. Some of you know me as the person who volunteered with Harbor Branch Oceanographic and The Marine Mammal Conservancy helping to care for and save whales and dolphins for many, many years. Some know me as the woman who was a professional makeup artist for The Tonight Show. Some know me as the lady who did sea turtle research with Ross Witham way back in the day, and then again at The Loggerhead Marine life Center. Maybe some of you are familiar with me because I work in the Entertainment Industry as a Talent Agent and Assistant Casting Director, working on shows like our beloved "Bloodline", filmed here in the Keys. Most of you know me as Mom to Miles, my amazing 16 y/o son, who is following in my footsteps and has a deep love for all animals and a passion for the ocean and all of her wonders. He is, and always will be, my greatest pride and joy.
Beyond that, I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect my environment. My parents took me deep sea fishing from the time I was able to stand. We rehabbed everything from raccoons, skunks, baby birds and fawns, to name just a few. Our house was always a nursery for the sick or abandoned. I carried those lessons with me throughout life, and no matter where I was living, I found myself helping animals, whether it be working at Zoos and Aquaria or in wildlife rehabilitative settings. I also worked with FWC to reinstate the Monofilament Recycling and Reuse Programs in Monroe and Martin Counties. I feel like I have been blessed with a life full of amazing opportunities and experiences, and to not spread the knowledge I have learned from others that guided me would be selfish of me. I spend hours out around our islands wandering the mangroves and shoreline exploring, and I always pick up so much trash left behind from others who don't respect the beauty of this big blue marble we are fortunate enough to call home. I've taught all of the neighborhood kids and their friends to do the same over the years. If I'm snorkeling, I always wind up coming out with bottles, fishing line, bottle caps, bait boxes. If I can carry it, it comes out with me. So I guess the thing I'd like to be remembered for (besides being a great Mom to my son, and a safe ear for lots of other young people who have trusted me to be there for them over the years), is a person who cares deeply about the planet and her health. We all have a responsibility to make things better for our future generations, and they learn by example. I hope my examples have been noble and I've made my son and my late parents proud. "
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."~ Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, July 3, 2015

Connie Chapell , Key Largo

Vice Principal at Treasure Village Montessori
Resides in Key Largo, FL
"I'm most proud of my family in the fact that they have impacted so many lives positively.
From an early age of 5, arriving to Miami as an immigrant from Cuba sharing our home was a natural occurrence. Both of my parents welcomed family and friends to live with us as they journeyed to the United States. My Dad was an active Lion Club member throughout his whole life so servicing others was a given. My parents taught me important life lessons of making a difference in priceless ways by dedicating their time in humanitarian service.
My husband and I met at a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents. I was a teacher and he was director of the young adult program and substance abuse. Working in mental health changed our lives. The importance of putting family first and helping others has continued to be a common theme in our lives. I am blessed that as a family we have had the opportunity to help those in crises or lend a helping hand. One of my daily joys comes from greeting students at school. My children were exposed to many challenges and frequently shared their space with others. I believe the foundation my parents have given me will continue as a legacy in our family."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Don Richards

"I was the mechanic running the Jewfish Creek Bridge when it was there. I was the one who painted all the gears red and fixed it up.
It was the weekend of the Columbus Day Regatta and this blue yacht pulls up to the bridge and they were just sitting out there. (There was a sign that said what to call on the radio for the bridge to open) They are supposed to call on the radio, or flash a light or do something to get the bridge operators attention. They sat there for about 20 minutes when they finally called.
They told me they weren't from here, they were from Europe and there were all these girls on the yacht in little bikinis. I explained to them that over here you called on the radio, blew the horn, or flashed a light to get the bridge operator's attention to let us know you need the bridge opened, but the universal language is that if the tops go up, the bridge goes up. All the tops went up!
After they passed through, all their pants went down and the captain got on the radio and asked 'so that means if you want the bridge to go down, the bottoms go down?' I said absolutely!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


HOK: "Most of us see Hickory on the stretch, traveling on his scooter, from the back, with his guitar strapped on, animal crates in tow, wondering what in the world he is doing and where he is going." 

"I ride all the time because I have to get there, that's all. I can't take a bus because they don't allow these guys on the bus! 
Traveling is a privilege, enjoying this great country, is not reserved just for the wealthy; the accommodations are just different.

They (his animals) acquired me along the way.

I just got Shirley (the black dog that looks like Toto) her 3rd heartworm shot, she would have died without it. She found me in Tennessee. I was at a park in Nashville and I found some shade in a park. She walked up to my car at 8 am and started talking to me. I petted her and gave her some food, and then she was gone. I stuck around all day and later I noticed she had had puppies recently. At 5pm she came and walked her around everywhere looking for her puppies, any cubby hole and drain pipe I could find all around the park. They weren't there. I couldn't leave her; I put her in the car and off we went. She was full of ticks and hungry. I cleaned her up and she has been with me ever since.

Heidi (the brown and white dog) was in a trailer park in Georgia; nobody wanted her. She was running around the parking lot and nobody wanted to keep her, it was winter time. I told the residents to give her to me, I would take her. One thing led to the next and when I left he came with me.

23 years I have had this cat (pictured in her crate). I knew a girl in Georgia who was a despicable person. She had invited me over to look at a staircase she had paid thousands of dollars for; she was quite wealthy. I followed her upstairs into one of the rooms with one window, 3" thick carpet and a closed door. There was a little box with a little bit of litter in it, a bowl of water, and Dorothy. She said she was getting rid of the cat because she pees. I took Dorothy and left the girl! I never went back!

Little Dog (the grey striped cat), was rescued from a kill shelter in Ohio, they wanted to put him down. They took his claws; someone decided they didn't want him. He is a doll!!

You know, once they're in you, they're in you!

If anyone has any dog or cat food they want to donate, bottled water, or temporary accommodations for these little guys, it will be appreciated. I am not looking for charity, just a little help!"