I’ve been living in the Keys for almost 15 years; I moved here in 2003. I was coming down to visit a friend, and we were going out on the boat all the time. I just fell in love with the water and wanted to live here. Living in Atlanta, across from the state capitol, I didn’t see much water! I had a great career in politics, but didn’t own a single pair of flip-flops…just suits and sling back pumps. Now I wear flip-flops or sandals every day! (Or maybe boots if it gets below 70 degrees!) I am so glad I moved here, and I have no regrets. It has really opened a lot of doors for me. I thought I would be working in government, but as it turned out I ended up working in education, and love it. I’m proud of the job I do every day.
I love where I live right now; I live on Lower Matecumbe with my husband Bill. We just got married a little over a year ago. I was trying to get married before 50, so that worked out ok! My dad still paid the dowry! We had a wonderful sunrise wedding service on the beach here in Lower Mat. It was heart swelling to have so many of our family and friends get up that early to join us for the occasion.
I love the community here, and really all of the Keys; how people come out for each other and support each other and are just one big happy family. I enjoy spending time with friends, spending time on the water, and near the water… laughing, loving, eating… we’re foodies. But, we’ve become healthy foodies, and have both lost a lot of weight.
I’m a teacher. I just love working with children. I love seeing their faces as they learn and when their brains are working. I like the school where I’m working. I’m at Stanley Switlick in Marathon now. It’s a wonderful student body; the staff and administration are really great. I worked for 9 years in Islamorada in the Montessori school system. Now, I’m working for a much bigger school and it’s different. There is more structure, I feel more sure of what I’m doing, more secure. It’s really great. I enjoy it.
Where do I see myself in 10 years? Maybe living in the Keys part time, and looking at another place on the water in another part of Florida. With some land, have some animals. Maybe do some substitute teaching. I think I would like that.
I moved to the Florida Keys on a whim after graduating from college. I went to St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, after graduation. I had a job, but didn’t like living there. So, I called my parents, said I can’t live here, too much crime, cost of living is too high... So, I flew back into the states and hurricane Elena was going on, so consequently when I got to the Miami airport, I couldn’t fly out.
I had come to the keys for years and years on diving vacations and things, so I came down, stayed at Gilberts, and picked the first dive shop in Key Largo, Spencer Slates Atlantis Dive Center. I showed up there at 7 o’clock at night and nobody was there but the door was open. So I walked in, looked at the phone and it had Captain Slate’s phone number on it, so I picked up the phone and called him. I told him I had come to dive with him and that his place was open but no one was there. He asked me to please lock the door behind me, and to come see him tomorrow! So the next day I went there. He knew that I was a dive instructor and he offered me a job. I worked there for almost a year. After a period of time, I went back to Indiana grabbed all my stuff and moved down here. The rest is history.
I had a family and raised my child here. But, I found the true love of my life in the second go round. I have my child, a new wife and a new life. We got married on July 11, 2014.
In 2013, Anne had gone to Charleston. She was upset at me because I was supposed to pick her up at the airport, but I couldn’t because I was in the emergency room of the hospital!
Seriously, I was watching the first game of the NBA playoffs; I woke up in the middle of the night after kind of passing out in my chair and started throwing up blood. I went to Mariners hospital. 40 days or so later I woke up. And, I realized that a lot of things had changed since I had gone to bed! I came out of the coma around July 11, and I exceeded their expectations for living, exceeded their expectations for the rehab. I got back home, and through friends and people around me, I made it through. I could not have not done it without all of them. Anne was there the whole time. She slept on the floor on an air mattress. She never left my side unless she had to. Fortunately, being a teacher, she was off during the summer so she could dedicate her time unselfishly to me. Everything has worked out. You get a lot better appreciation for the small things and large things in life when you go through something like that.
When I got back from Charleston, I had all these primary source documents to teach with, to teach American history, which was the purpose of my trip. I put them on a chair when I got home and that was where they stayed until school started. My stuff, you know. I just dropped everything and went to be with him. And I rewashed the same clothes, the same set of clothes, over and over. I only came home every 4 days. I would just take that same set of clothes back and forth.
But it worked out great, as he said. He exceeded all their expectations. They thought he would be on dialysis, a stomach port and feeding tube...
Yeah, that was when I knew she was the woman for me. I was kind of in and out of consciousness, but one of the doctors was talking to her saying I would have to get to Miami 3 times a week for dialysis, would probably never eat solid food again. I had a tracheotomy, a feeding tube, a catheter here, a hose up there..! At that time we were going to have to refit the house. I couldn’t live upstairs, was going to have a hospital bed in a room downstairs, would have a handicap ramp installed and all that. And I was thinking to myself, that’s not good! But, then I heard her say, “I’m in.” I remember her learning how to put the food in the feeding tube. And at that time I determined that this woman, who for the relatively short period of time we had been together, was willing to give up her life for that… I can’t let her go.
It put everything in perspective. I’ve been beaten up playing sports in high school, been through different injuries, but with something like this, you’re in someone else’s control, just a bystander, a witness to what they do. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that between the expertise of the doctors and the love of my friends and my love ones was the only thing that kept me alive. I think I would have just rolled over and died if I had to go through that by myself. I was ready to give up but knew I couldn’t, there were too many people I would have to explain to. I couldn’t let them down.
But, going through something like that really helps put things in perspective. It changes your priorities. My life has a whole new meaning now. I don’t worry about the small stuff. I get up every morning and go swim. I don’t get wrapped up in stuff anymore.
It really changes your perspective on family and work and what’s important. Make sure your priorities are in place and that you’re living happily and honestly with others around you.
Where do I see myself in 10 years? I see my wife and I purchasing another piece of property somewhere either in Florida or Georgia. I wouldn’t mind something different for half the year. I want to have dog and have room for it to run, maybe have a horse. But, still in the Keys at least part time.
There are people who work the whole year to afford to do for one week what we do every day. My life is better than most people’s vacations. It’s not a bad place to be from. I’ve been overseas, traveled all over, but here we’re still under the American flag. It’s the same scenery as the Bahamas or anywhere in the Caribbean here. But, you can still jump in your car and drive away. Don’t have to rely on airlines. Most people here are tourists. My daughter was born here, but I don’t know many people who were. Most everybody here comes from somewhere else. But they come here for a reason, as I did too. And I have a hard time leaving. Because where are you gonna go? Where are you going to go that’s better than this?