Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

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.”

Monday, November 16, 2015

Jenita Myers aka The Chicken Lady, Key West

“I dress like a chicken and I carry my chicken cart every day when I get off work and go around the island feeding the chickens, the pigeons, and the feral cats on the Island (Key West). 

They are just babies and I enjoy it. It’s unconditional love. No one hollers ‘You did this’, or ‘You did that’, it’s unconditional’ they are just absolutely happy to see me every day.When I pull in down at the other end of the lot, they fly to me. When I leave here I go to Five Guys and the pigeons will be there waiting for me.

I have been doing this for almost 4 years. Sometimes we get donations, but mostly me and my husband buy everything.

They (the birds) all have names and I can tell you who’s birthday is who’s, and who is related to who. I have seen all the generations.”

HOK – “Because the question is always asked, I did too!”
You can take or send donations to:
The Chicken Lady
324 Truman Avenue, Key West, Florida 33040.

Needed items: corn, seed, crackers. If you would like to send a gift certificate, Key West has 2 Winn Dixies, Publix, and Albertsons.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pamela “Lil' Pammy” Long - Marathon RIP 9/24/15

Pamela “Lil' Pammy” Long, 57 of Marathon, passed away September 24 after a long and courageous battle with MSA (Multiple System Atrophy.)
Pam was born August 26, 1956 and spent the last 37 years of her life with her husband, companion and soul mate, Capt. Bart Mavity. She is best known for her smile and sunny disposition, along with her work in the Keys hospitality industry. From her early years working at the Doghouse and Dockside, she went on to be the manager of the Anglers Lounge at the old Faro Blanco resort in the 80’s and 90’s. After that, she went on to oversee the food, beverage and entertainment at Zane Grey Lounge at the World Wide Sportsman before finishing her career by building the Bluewater Restaurant and Tiki at the Islander Resort from the ground up and creating one of the Keys best wedding venues.
Throughout the years, Pam mentored many who were getting their foothold in the hospitality industry and saw to it that her friends and customers always had the cold beverage of their choice in front of them. She will be fondly remembered and missed by many. Besides her husband, Bart, she is survived by her mother and stepfather Ernie and Curtis Bloodsworth and sister Janet Towers of Cambridge MD, along with her nephew Jamie Middleton of Delaware.
A celebration of Life and benefit will be held on Sunday, November 15th at 2 p.m. at the Lobster Crawl Bar & Grill located at MM 70 bayside in the Fiesta Key RV Resort. There will be food, drink, music, raffles, etc., as well as good friends and people who you haven’t seen in years all coming together to celebrate Lil’ Pammy’s life and show support for Bart. For details visit “Celebration of Life and Benefit for Lil’ Pammy Long” on Facebook or call 305-743-4152.
HOK: “I first met Pammy when she was working at Zane Grey in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. We spent a lot of time there back in the days of the Martini Club. She brought a touch of class to the place, and always had a smile.”

For more information or to make donations:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Angel Fernandez, Key Largo

Angel Fernandez, Key Largo
Scuba Tech, mm 99.1 

My biggest challenge was changing from a Miami resident to a Keys resident. I have been in the Keys 3 or 4 years now. The transition was more mentally challenging than anything else; everything else went quite easy actually. It really wasn’t that hard, I made it a mental challenge; thinking it was going to be more of a challenge than it really was.

The people in the Keys were really accepting of me, and my business. I thought opening a dive equipment maintenance shop would be really challenging because there are so many dive shops down here, but even many of the dive shops love me being here and have me maintain their equipment!

My favorite type of dive is wreck diving; it is more challenging, it takes more planning than shallow water reef diving. I enjoy the reefs but wreck diving is more interesting to me. The coolest thing I have seen was a 12’ hammerhead shark that was a little too close for comfort!

Is your dive gear ready? Your life depends on it!
For service: 305-900-0855

Monday, November 9, 2015

Anngee Quinones, Islamorada

I’ve been in the Keys for 30 years. I was pregnant when I came here, so I have a 30 year old son. He is an outstanding individual, just a great human being. I raised a good person and I’m proud of that.
I always thought the Keys were beautiful, and I had a friend with a houseboat down here. He offered to let me stay on it and pay him rent. I stayed there for a while and fell in love with the Keys and I’ve been here ever since.
The Keys have given me a lot of opportunities and I have been fortunate to have done a lot of things in this small area! That’s probably what has kept me here. Being able to think and work creatively and pull it off. For example, in the late 90’s I was working at a little radio station in Key Largo, but wasn’t very happy there. A friend owned a Mobil gas station and said, “Come work for me.” But, I didn’t want to always be just working, I wanted to be creative and have fun. So, I told her that I would work there, pump the gas, check oil, clean windshields, run the register back and forth... all while wearing roller skates. I would be a roller skating gas attendant. She loved it! It was a big hit and I had a lot of fun.
I also did promotional events on skates. I did the auto show. I’ve done some modeling. I remember I did a modeling shoot for the Manta Ray; as a matter of fact I’m on the box. On the application, I didn’t answer the question “Are you a good swimmer?” I just skipped it because I can’t swim at all. They never asked. Of course they put a life jacket on me, but with the Manta Ray, you’re in the water a lot. It goes up in the air, throws you off and the boat comes back and gets you. And all the while I’m just thinking that they have no idea I don’t know how to swim! If I had told them, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. And there I am on the box!
I spent 13 years with the Sheriff’s office as a reserve deputy. They are a great bunch of guys. I got further training in hostage negotiations, so I was on their team as the only female hostage negotiator. I also did crime scene investigation with the sheriff’s office as well as riding around with the deputies on their day to day calls. I’ve been with the volunteer fire department for about 16 years. While I’m not doing the active calls anymore, I’ve stayed on with the Upper Keys Honor Guard.
I have a funny story from back when I was active with the fire department. When the call goes out, everyone wants to get there as quickly as possible so you get to go on the truck. The truck only holds so many firefighters, and if you’re not there you don’t get to go. This one time I came running around the bend and the guys were on the truck and they were yelling at me to come on! And I slid, I kid you not, I slid like I was sliding into home plate, right up under the front of the fire truck. I was mortified! But, I got my gear and went on the truck.
I’ve done stand-up comedy and I love it. That’s a hoot, I can tell you! It is one time in life when it’s good to have an extra pair of underwear! It’s a scary thing to get up there, knowing you have to make everybody laugh at the same thing. And everybody is so diversified. It’s really something that I want to get into more. I write my own material, and that takes a lot of time. But, I love making people laugh. The world is so sad, and I just love it when people laugh.
I want to write a book. And now I’m doing artwork! I love to draw so I decided to try my hand at painting. Other than the huge mess it makes, I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s actually fairly good. There are so many art shows here in the Keys, I’m thinking of setting up a booth at an art show and trying to sell some of it.
I teach Sunday School currently at Coral Isles. I love kids. God is in my life, and I don’t mind saying it. He’s a big part of my life.
I’m happy to be married! I have a wonderful husband, Bill Bellian. He’s such a great guy. When he first called me for a date, I was so nervous. I had decided that I was happy by myself. So I didn’t go! But then the second time, I agreed to go but I met him at the place and I went packing heat. Maybe too many years with the sheriff’s office, or maybe I watch too many murder shows! But what a nice guy! He’s so consistent, in his love for me, in how he treats people. We are good for each other. I just bought us each a huge pair of clown shoes. We’re going to wear them! I’m a goof. Always have been. I was kicked out of kindergarten.
I think it’s important to be childlike. The saddest thing to me is to hear someone say they are too old for Christmas. Don’t lose that childlike magic of Christmas in your heart. I love the holidays. We keep our tree up year round. I think people should do something every day, so at the end of their days, they have a life. Don’t regret your life. So many say at the end of their life how they wish they had done this or that, well why not? It doesn’t have to be something big, do little things every day. Fill your life with memories. Treat people right. And love God.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Frank Derfler - Mariner's Hospital - Only in the Keys

Another episode of Only in the Keys...
Things you ONLY see in the FLORIDA KEYS. I was leaving the Mariners Hospital gym early Sunday AM when I saw this scene in front of the hospital. They had just done a CT scan on a sick dolphin at the hospital and it was going back to Dolphins Plus. One of the hospital staff said to me, "They are part of our community too." I do love my hospital.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Laura Maupin, Key Largo/Tavernier

I have lived in the Keys for 20 years. I came for a summer with my mom. We rented a place and when October rolled around everyone said, “You can’t leave now, seasons coming.” So I went back to southern California, got all my stuff and came back here full time. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, but my Dad was in California and my mom was here so I was a bi-coastal kid. But, Ft. Lauderdale was just so busy, and I told my mom that I didn’t want to live there. We had always loved the Keys, so we decided to move down here.
When I decided to live here, I asked the realtor what was the best restaurant in town and she said, “You have to go to Old Tavernier Restaurant. These 2 Greek guys own it and they love on everybody that comes through the door.” I actually got hired there right away. I worked there for a while, then took a break and worked at the Sheraton for a few years and Pierre’s for a few years, but in 2011 I went back to Old Tav. It was like going back home. It’s like a family.
One of the owners and I had a really close relationship and almost got married back in the beginning of 2000. But, it didn’t work out. Then in 2012, he passed away. And then another dear friend passed from pancreatic cancer. That was when I got on my knees and asked God to please show me another way of life.
Because, you know, I came here in my early 20’s and just fell into the whole Keys disease lifestyle; we were at the bars every night, and it was just life. But that was a wakeup call. So in 2012, I literally got down on my knees and prayed, and within 48 hours an old friend from Pompano called and told me about Nerium. I went to the website and immediately signed myself up. I just felt like it was a calling.
Once I got involved with Nerium, in the first year they started, I learned about personal development. I had no idea that you were in charge of your own life by the choices you make.
They call it the Slight Edge: small daily choices that will compound over time and will get you where you want to go. I became a junkie of personal development! I did build my business slowly but surely, went to all the conferences, and plugged into their “real life library” which is a plethora of positive psychology material. Nerium says they are a personal development company with a skin care product attached. I know a lot of network marketing companies are that way, but the owner and founder of this company had this passion his whole life. His philosophy is to empower people to build themselves up before they are broken at the bottom of the hill. He has actually partnered with all these psychologists from different conferences and colleges; he has spoken to the UN about happiness being a precursor to success; and started a magazine called “Live Happy.” It’s all about sharing the information that the world is negative; you have to search out the positive and find ways to filter out the negative.
I had always thought that “self-help” was kind of dorky stuff. But once I got started, I was hooked. That was 2012, and here it is 3 years later and I’ve met so many people, I found Island Community Church which I love, I joined Curves and lost 30 pounds. It took losing those two dear friends to make me realize that I wanted more from life. It’s really been miraculous. And, I’ve recently fallen in love! It’s actually someone I’ve known for 20 years, but we just started dating a few months ago and it is wonderful. I’ve had relationships before that seemed to drag me down, but now it’s like, “So this is how it’s supposed to be! Who knew?!”
But, I do love personal development. I love the little daily devotional books. You’ve probably seen where I post them on Facebook. It helps me, and I have people tell me that it’s helped them, or they just like seeing them. I’m into all the motivational stuff, Zig Ziegler, Tony Robbins... I listen to them all. That’s my past time, instead of watching TV. I just love it. Especially Zig Zeigler. He does some Christian stuff and I like that too. I like to say I’m spiritual, more than religious, because I’m not set on any one religion. I think it’s all kind of open to interpretation. But, you never go anywhere alone if you have faith, if you have hope. I know it sounds cliché, but it really works. I like Island Community Church; I call it a personal development church. I’ve tried a lot of churches, but I really like it there.
I’m currently the President Elect for the Upper Keys Business & Professional Women. That’s quite an honor. When I first went to one of their functions, I just thought it was a good way to share Nerium. After being a bartender for years down here, at first I thought that I didn’t belong there. That first year, they were looking for somebody to be the secretary, and I remember thinking I could never do that. But a year later, I started helping out a little more. I’ve gone to every event. Then Gina, the current president, said she needed a break and was ready to step down and offered me the position. I’m excited to have the opportunity to help other women who might be in the same place I was in the beginning. The BPW reminds me of the “uplifter society” from the old George & Gracie show. Everyone is so positive and encouraging; it’s a great group.
I think my happiest moments are still to come. It’s all just going up from here. I’m big on the Slight Edge…Simple daily disciplines practiced over time will compound. So many people get discouraged when things don’t happen right away, but this teaches you to be constantly working towards your goal, and not expect change to happen overnight. Even with my weight loss, it just took making small daily changes and sticking with it.
No matter where your life is right now, just start where you are and you can make it better. Whether you are an alcoholic, a drug addict, or whatever sickness or sadness is in your soul, you can turn it around. Reach out to someone who is where you want to be, and ask for help from above. Anything is possible if you want it and work for it, little by little, every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nick Whiteman, Marathon (2) Army soldier

"I turned 18 in the gas chamber.
I joined the Army when I was 17, was in basic training and in the gas chamber the day I turned 18 (happy birthday to me!), and was in Iraq on my 19th birthday. I served for 4 years, did one tour in Iraq 2004-2005.
I am closest to the guys I served with. We spent 7 days a week, 24 hours a day together, you know everything about each other, whether you want to or not! I had an Army buddy of mine visit and we went fishing, we picked up right where we left off. It was nice, really nice.
My scariest moment was every day over there. I didn’t know what it felt like to actually feel like you could die, and we lived in that state of fear every day in Iraq. It takes a toll on you emotionally, even if you weren’t injured physically, when you left, you were injured mentally. At such a young age you don’t know how to cope with it.
Time. I don’t know that there is any protocol to follow to adjust mentally when you get home; everyone deals with it their own way, some right and some wrong. You just try to get back to your life. It was hard. It’s just time.
Simple things. Eight, nine months of looking at brown. When you come back, it is amazing what the color green looks like. It was really weird. Your whole color spectrum changes. Coming back to North Carolina, the colors were so bright. It is hard to describe it.
I was married when I returned from Iraq. I don’t want to say you have to completely restart your relationship, but it is weird, you have to start over in a way. We didn’t have skype or email like they do now, we had letters, hand written letters. We had 1 phone call usually once a week on a satellite phone for 10 – 15 minutes. That marriage didn’t work out.
When you’re in Iraq, you live in a heightened sense of awareness all of the time, and when you come back, you have to try to shut it off. It takes a lot, it takes a very controlled person. It isn’t easy.
I'm glad I did it but I’ll stick with police work from here on out.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mike Quirk, Marathon

Hello Humans, My name is Mike Quirk. I am one of the many Humans of the Keys who have chosen this wonderful place to call home.
I first visited the Keys during March of 1993. I was born and raised in St. Louis and grew up on the Mississippi river and the Lake of the Ozarks. I knew from a young age that I needed to be around water and sought it out.
Back then a friend told me he was going to the Florida Keys. The Florida what? Keys? You need Keys to go there? This made no sense. He told me a story about a magical place filled with little islands surrounded by the most beautiful water found anywhere. He made it sound too good to be true. So I took a week off work and headed south.
The further passed Key Largo I got, the better it looked; then crossing the Channel 5 Bridge I had an epiphany, I was home. I had never imagined this place could really exist, but here it was. The water was turquoise, purple, green and aqua blue all at the same time. I'm really home. When my week was up I went back to St. Louis and stared packing. By July I was heading south for good in my 1963 Cadillac hearse with everything I needed. 
Now that I have been a resident for more than 20 years, I know I made the right move. I still go to sunset almost every night, on a kayak weather permitting, and soak up the environment I so love. I have made many lifelong friends with the other humans who have chosen to make the Keys their home. It takes a special breed of people to move here. It isn't the cheapest place to live, you really need to work hard to make it here, but it’s so worth it.
When you live in a town like Marathon you get to know everyone, you see them several times a week. On more than one occasion I've been able to name everyone eating lunch in Frank's Grill, it's that small of an island.
If you live in the Keys, you need to have good hobbies and great passions. My hobby is building Lego models, and my passion is sunset photography. My master piece in Lego is on display at the Hurricane Grill in Marathon. It is a 24 foot long model of Ocean Drive on Miami Beach. If you’re ever passing through stop on in and have a look, it is pretty cool. And the result of my photography passion is "Southernmost Sunset". It is a Facebook page which I post on daily.
Nothing gives me more joy than spreading the beauty I have found in this most special of places, the Fabulous Florida Keys.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Destini Waters, Key Largo Bridge Run

On November 14, 2015, runners from all over the world will come to Key Largo for the 7th annual Key Largo Bridge Run.

This community event is so much fun, and we would like you to come and experience the energy it generates! It is so much more than a race! The event begins early in the morning as the sun is rising over the bridge. You smell pancakes in the air that are being cooked and served. Key Largo Baptist Church’s forty-member choir starts the race by singing the National Anthem. Lively music plays during the race. Different organizations volunteer to attend the water stations and work hard at making them fun and entertaining. The volunteers dress like pirates or super heroes, and cheer on the runners! Whether you are a serious 5K, 10K or half-marathon runner – or just the casual runner/walker - everyone has a great time!

This race originated in 2009 at Key Largo Baptist Church with two ladies who were passionate runners, and who had a desire to serve through their area of giftedness. The new bridge had just been built and their vision was to create a run for the Upper Keys that would bring our community together and raise monies for non-profit organizations in the Keys. They organized this run with excellence for the first five years. In 2014, I had the privilege of joining the Bridge Run Team. Each year we try to improve upon the great foundation this run was given.

As a nonprofit race, it is exciting to see the KLS students play on the playground equipment the race helped to provide. Over the years the run has made donations to various organizations including: the Autism Society of the Keys, Key Largo School, Florida Keys Down Syndrome Educational Trust and Wounded Warriors. It has also given thousands of dollars in scholarships for graduating Seniors.
Although Key Largo Baptist Church is the main sponsor and organizer, we encourage our community to be involved with everything from sponsoring the race, to cooking, to volunteering, to lacing up and running! Partnering with the Key Largo Bridge Run is to partner directly with the charities to which we donate.

We have our volunteers for this year’s race in place. If you would like to partner with us through sponsorship, or by being a vendor, spaces are still available. Call me at Key Largo Baptist Church, (305) 451-1642. Come, run the bridge!”

For more information about The Key Largo Bridge Run, or to register, go to the website: