A Day With a Palm Tree: A Tribute to Kate, from Kaleidoscope Wojo

A day with a palm tree is a great day!
Stories of personal triumph, community engagement, and environmental stewardship.

About today’s story

Ever since my 2019 close call with a ruptured aneurysm while traveling in Amsterdam and my subsequent return to full life, I am keenly appreciative of the value of life. Today’s story is one that inspires me to remember to live fully every day.

Tom Rhiel, one of the three angels behind Kaleidoscope Wojo — who included my essay Surviving Amsterdam in a recent anthology — wrote a touching tribute to his niece Kate, a young woman whose life was longer than predicted but way too short for those cheering her on. Kate’s optimistic and altruistic commitment to life inspired her circle of friends throughout her life. Tom’s tribute — portions of which I’ve included here, with Tom’s permission — allows Kate to inspire those of us she never met. Tom says that Kate would have liked this idea, too.

The question of why certain things happen to people — and particularly you — isn’t as important as what you did while you were here. You taught us so much. We never stopped learning about ourselves as we watched you live your life.  

Tom Rhiel

A celebration of life

Kate was born with frailties that normally mean a very brief life, and she underwent 200 surgeries. Maybe being aware of the finality of those hours made Kate’s life mean so much to those she loved. As the Tim McGraw song goes, if you live like you were dying, you fully live. And it’s never long enough. My close encounter with death in 2019 was my own wake-up call, but it’s easy to forget. I am so glad to be reminded that this is all fleeting.

You got to know all too well the finality of death at such an early age as dozens of the children you became friends with at Children’s Hospital succumbed to their illnesses. Contained within the sadness of losing these people in your life was the celebration of life that you shared with each other.

The news of your passing hit like a hundred hammer blows to the gut. How many times had we recoiled at the possibility that this day or that day could be your last on earth? You always amazed and delighted us by pushing on, staying with us for 38 years. Except that wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.

Tom Rhiel

Putting others first

It is so easy to be inward looking. The pandemic has only reinforced our social isolation. Kate put others first, even when she had the chance to keep things for herself. During her Make-A-Wish Foundation visit to the DC Disney store she could pick out anything she wanted.

You being you wouldn’t take anything. 

Tom Rhiel

Attendants quietly bagged anything Kate seemed to like. When the shopping trip was followed a restaurant meal, Kate made sure that the limo driver was also having lunch.

And Kate’s close understanding of death even led her to want to help others through this inevitable conclusion through the study of thanatology in the Montgomery Scholar college honors program. How about that? Such maturity at such a young age, when many of us hide our heads in the sand.

You were wearing Big Girl pants long before anyone knew what that meant. 

Tom Rhiel

Letting others in

This was the ultimate gift this remarkable young woman gave her friends and family: letting them do for her. That’s grace. Inspirational.

As your world was narrowing because of ever growing health challenges you began to let more people in. You discovered just how caring people can be as the number of cheerleaders grew and a community formed around you, ready at a moment’s notice to start prayers, the sending of positive thoughts and energy and any other force they could muster for you to cling to, for you to draw strength from. You touched so many in such a powerful way.

Tom Rhiel

Blasting across the universe with Sammy the dog

We want to think of you now blasting across the universe, Sammy in your arms, as black holes come ablaze as you whiz by the two of you grinning mischievous smiles, hoping you’re causing a bit of trouble for the cosmos.

Tom Rhiel

Always and forever

And, finally, there remains the mantra of love, such an important reminder that we must tell the people we love how we feel. Since 2019, I do not leave words unsaid. Since 2020, none of us can afford to stay mute.

Every phone conversation, every in person gathering ended with the same expression: “I’ll love you always and forever.” Time is infinite, Kate. We will love you always and forever.

Always and forever.  

Tom Rhiel

You can read all of Tom’s blog here and more on Kaleidoscope’s open invitation to women writers here.

Tom Rhiel’s niece Kate
Kate and Sammy

Do you have a story of personal triumph, community engagement, or environmental stewardship that should be shared? Let me know in the comments!

Family Friday: How a Little Cheer Can Brighten Up the World

A few weeks ago, I wrote about enjoying the chance encounters with neighbors that help us connect as a community, Why Small Talk is Big Time. That piece inspired my friend N in Boynton Beach to share how she took on the challenge one morning to offset all the negative chatter in this crazy world with some happiness.

Here is what N told me.

The news is full of quarrel

Before I went out to do a few errands, I read the newspaper and saw all the now-usual stories or people rudely shouting at each other without either side listening to the other.  And as I headed to the bank, I decided to spread (as someone or other once said) sunshine and light.  

N, a reader in Boynton Beach, FL

Harassed bank teller all smiles

The customer ahead of me at the bank was absurdly slow.  When I got to the teller, she was obviously fuming and immediately began apologizing. I held up a hand and said, ” You obviously did your job efficiently, you were just being polite to a person who needed to chat. Please don’t apologize, just take a deep breath. I’ll be quick and I hope the rest of your day is better.”  

Wow! She almost jumped, before she took care of me and asked me to please come back tomorrow. (I didn’t, but oh well.)

N, a reader in Boynton Beach, FL

As if she’d gotten a new Mercedes

Then I went to the post office.  Someone was struggling with two boxes.  We were both masked.  So, I took one and helped her inside.  

She was so happy to be helped, you would have thought I had given her a new Mercedes.  

N, a reader in Boynton Beach, FL

Chiming along makes his day

Walking out I heard a postal worker loading his truck with difficulty, start to curse, pause to control himself and then continue in a totally furious voice,”Mary had a little lamb.”  

He was so mad it almost sounded obscene, but I decided (from 25 or so feet away just in case he was mad enough to attack) to keep my game going, so I sang out, “Its fleece was white as snow.”  And he started cracking up.  

N, a reader in Boynton Beach, FL

A 90 minute shower of sweetness and light

So in under 90 minutes I spread three bits of sweetness and light during a pandemic.

N, a reader in Boynton Beach, FL

Wow. How easily we ignore these opportunities to make someone’s day, or, worse yet, let others’ anxiety and anger spill over into us.

My Amsterdam nurses are still my cheerleaders

Here’s a recent photo my band of nurses in from my 2019 illness in Amsterdam who continue to make me smile. They rise to the occasion every day to help their patients deal with illness, and my heart overflows with gratitude for them.

My nurses at OLVG Hospital are STILL in my corner!
My nurses at OLVG Hospital are STILL in my corner!

What can you do this week?

So, here’s the challenge: what can you do this week to lighten a stranger’s load? And, when you do, please let me know, because it’s really so simple and so profound that I’d love to share it here.

Family Friday: How One Person Has Helped Hundreds Protect the Sea

Waves are cylinders of storm energy that displace water.

Thad Ziolkowski, The Drop: How the Most Addictive Sport Can Help Us Understand Addiction and Recovery

This quote from Tom Bissell’s New York Times book review resonated as I took in the passion of a stormy sea at our favorite South Florida beach recently. The waves smashed onto the beach, releasing some of that pent-up energy into the air and the rest onto the sand with such force that my bare feet tingled.

We are awed by the sea

We come to the sea to be awed. To take the measure of our puny selves against the enormity of nature. To understand that, as Scott Russell Sanders writes in his preface to Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World:

…human presence is only a thin film stretched over mystery.

Scott Russell Sanders

Yet we have polluted it

And yet, thin film though we are, humans are managing to meddle with nature with irrevocable results: sea level rise floods more and more of our coastal areas; warm ocean waters gin up hurricanes with wind and deluge that rend lives and livelihoods; wildfires burn out of control across the globe.

In Florida, run-off pollution is killing off seagrass and the manatees that feed on it, writes Kimberly Miller in The Palm Beach Post. Turtles and other marinelife injest plastic, and the lucky ones are brought back to health by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

We are off-handed in our support of the status quo, blaming convenience as we buy what want, toss it out when we’re done, and turn a blind eye to the results. But look at the results, plastic that I collected on this very beach.

Enter The Beach Bucket Foundation

The Beach Bucket Foundation, an inspiration of Palm Beach County resident Andy Abbott, has a bucket station conveniently located in the parking lot, making it easy to help clean human debris from the sand and keep it out of the water. I collected a bucketful. Thank you, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation!

One person’s initiative blossoms among many

By including local municipalities, businesses, and organizations and having them show their support and involvement through our buckets and encouraging them to hold multiple cleanups throughout the year, we will be creating even more awareness and cleanup events throughout our communities to get involved in. 

Andy Abbott, The Beach Bucket Foundation

Let sunlight flame in a blade of grass, let night come on, let thunder roar and tornado whirl, let the earth quake, let muscles twitch, let mind curl about the least pebble or blossom or bird, and the true wildness of this place, of all places, reveals itself.

Scott Russell Sanders, STAYING PUT: MAKING A HOME IN A RESTLESS WORLD

Family Friday: My Aunt, Jean Amerson Brookins, A Life Force

The Amersons are celebrating my Aunt Jeanie this weekend

My Amerson family is gathering this weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota, to celebrate the life of my Aunt Jeanie, who died on January 17, slipping away quietly in her sleep. My sister (in Colorado), and my daughter and I (in Florida) have been stayed by the pandemic from our mission to be with these people, our bedrock long before my father’s death.

Instead of traveling to their side, we will witness Saturday’s program on our computers. On Sunday, when my cousins continue the reunion in the beautiful lakeside home where Rog and Julie were married in 2018, we will have to settle for revisiting pictures of that happy occasion.

What we said when Jeanie left us

Here is some of what I wrote in January, along with other family remembrances, when we were all adrift in our sorrow.

A child of the prairie

Jeanie was a child of the South Dakota prairie, born at the family farm on a snowy day in early spring. The youngest of my father’s sisters, she was small, slender, blonde and cute, my Aunt Snooky wrote, and a positive force during “hard times.” She was also smart, absorbing everything from farming information to the lessons of the one-room schoolhouse, where she got straight As. She went on to become valedictorian of her high school class.

Left to right, Front: Snooky (holding Tiny), Jeanie, Elaine. Back: Clarice, Ma Bernice (my grandmother), Marie.

She was a beautiful life force who will be sorely missed.

My cousin Bob

A counter culture protester

Jeanie followed my father’s lead by attending Macalester College, paying for her year there by selling some sheep. She completed her studies in journalism and English at the University of Minnesota, where she met her husband Carl Brookins and became engaged in protests against the blacklisting of Pete Seeger. Her prairie liberalism led her through the Sixties counter culture movement.

I have a thousand Jeanie stories. I’m just so grateful to have experienced her wit, joy, love and pain. Everything was truth. She taught me about raw, full, truthful love. 

My cousin Laina

An exalted editor

Jeanie had a 32-year career at the Minnesota Historical Society and rose to become Director of the MHS Press, which she she drove to heights of academic excellence with her research, writing, and editing. Among the publications Jeanie oversaw was my father’s memoir of growing up in South Dakota, From the Hidewood.

A year ago, she carefully reviewed an early copy of my childhood memoir, giving me copious edits and an earful of very strong opinions about where I’d made poor choices in the draft. She (and Aunt Snooky, another wonderful wordsmith) helped it become a better book.

She was a life force, a sister who could harmonize, a friend, an intellectual wonder, a gifted individual.

My Aunt (Mavis) Snooky

A ready ear and all the time in the world

She and Carl discovered the pleasures of sailing in Lake Superior, Puget Sound, the Caribbean, and the Adriatic, and they traveled extensively after retirement. She became a devoted gardener, and her backyard was a favorite gathering spot for friends and family.

Jeanie and Carl flew in from the Twin Cities to my wedding in NYC and pulled my new husband into the family with one huge embrace. She waited for our visits to the Midwest with a warm welcome, a spare bedroom, and all the time in the world to listen to what we had to say.

Jean was a boon companion to her husband, a great mom, provider, and role model for her daughters, a home maker, a constant friend, a supporter of family and friends.

My Uncle Carl

This family is our strength.

Jeanie’s daughters, my cousins Shannon and Lissa
Jean Amerson Brookins

Family Friday: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend

Dog is man’s best friend, and woman’s too. Our dogs are always thrilled to see us, dinner’s exactly what they were waiting for, and they’ll do the darndest things just to earn a treat. This is the current version of the pre-dinner routine that our rescue Lab Kumba performs for a crisp crunch of cucumber.

We may think that we fully reciprocate the friendship with our dogs. We have given them room and board with sofa privileges, regular exercise, and chewy toys. But are we really doing everything we can to advocate for our pups when they really need a friend?

Trainer Alison Chambers, owner of Complete Canine Training, knows that we can be better advocates when our dogs are stressed by: 1) learning their body language, 2) recognizing signs of distress, and 3) practicing defensive handling to get our dogs safely out of potential trouble.

Learn your dog’s body language.

We may be chatting on the phone or smelling the roses while we’re walking our dog, but Fido is constantly aware of his surroundings, especially someone or something approaching. Here are some signals to watch for in your pup.

Relaxed, pensive, politeAlert, concerned, tense
Ears backEars up
Head turnedHead down, or staring
Mouth openMouth closed
Body looseBody rigid

Each dog uses his tail to express himself, too. A slow wag might mean she’s relaxed and happy, or that she’s apprehensive. Carrying her tail high might convey pleasure or concern. A tail between the legs when you’re out for a walk? “Get me out of here!”

Common canine calming signals — self-soothing actions like a human’s nail biting — are lip licking and yawning.

Mimic or otherwise acknowledge distress.

Yawning or licking your lips, too, lets your dog know you’ve “heard” her.

Trainer Alison Chambers, owner of Complete Canine Training

Make distance your friend.

Put as much distance as you can between yourselves and the source of the stress.

Trainer Alison Chambers, owner of Complete Canine Training

Use the environment.

Move behind a fence or onto a porch. Lift your dog to safety onto a truck bed or into a trash can. Use a folding chair or a hose or your leash to create a space around you.

Do NOT pick up your dog. He will instantly become prey for the other dog. And you could be seriously hurt.

Trainer Alison Chambers, owner of Complete Canine Training

Use your voice.

A loud “GO HOME!” In an aggressive tone lets the enemy know he is not welcome.

Trainer Alison Chambers, owner of Complete Canine Training

So, listen to your dog’s body language, just like she listens to yours, and you’ll both get more enjoyment out of being each other’s best friends. As always, thank you to the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, for bringing this dear boy into our lives!

Kumba, our rescue black Lab
Kumba, our rescue black Lab

You can read more of Alison’s guidance in previous posts: How to introduce your pandemic pup to a new dog, How to help your unsocialized dog say hello ,How to train your pandemic pup, and Why training your dog is not about the tricks.

Family Friday: How Public Parks Improve Wellbeing

Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens

One of our favorite days of our 2018 week in Paris was the Sunday we spent in the Luxembourg Gardens, wandering along the sandy paths with other couples, grandmothers and grandchildren, entire families, “le tout Paris.”

Amsterdam’s Vondelpark

The following week, we discovered much the same bucolic feeling in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, where pedestrians wandered the walkways, and flowers bobbed on the banks of shady streams.

Amsterdam’s Oosterpark

During my unexpected 2019 hospitalization in Amsterdam, my husband would wheel me across the street to Oosterpark. The joy of children playing, the ease of cyclists meandering the broad roads they easily shared with strollers, the green of the glades and sunshine on the meadows, were all part of getting me well.

Tampa’s Public Parks

Kodawari Studios Yoga at Armature Works
Kodawari Studios Yoga at Armature Works

And, a few weeks ago, our daughter took my husband and me to the Armature Works, a reimagined warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River that has become a family recreational destination at the northern end of Tampa’s Riverwalk.

The night we were there, so many cars were turning in to park that I assumed there was some type of special event. Nope. There was food, music, the river, and a beautiful evening, and loads of space within which to simply enjoy taking a leisurely stroll. It occurred to me that we’d have all been watching TV at home or lost in social media, or doing some other sedentary non-activity if public space planners had not built us a destination.

Tampa’s Riverwalk

Thank you, public parks!

Family Friday: Why training your dog is not about the tricks

Our rescue Lab, Kumba, can sit, lie down, stay, and come when called. He’s also a huge fan of cucumbers and will do this routine to get a piece.

I wanted some new challenges for us. So, I called dog trainer Alison Chambers of Complete Canine Training for suggestions.

I was expecting Alison to give me a list of new tricks. Instead, I learned a much better lesson.

Training is about building a relationship

Training is about building a relationship with your dog, helping him to live in the world you’ve brought him into. 

Helping your dog live in your world

The goal is to make both your lives more functional for your lifestyle. If you own a boat, you want the dog to be able to jump on and off. If you take your dog to work, you want her to lie by your side. If you’re gone all day, you want your dog to be able to be alone without destroying the house.

Learning to listen to each other

You build this relationship with your dog through communication. It’s a two-way process. He needs to learn to listen to you, and you need to learn how to listen to him.

Step one: “Watch me.”

Before a walk, have your dog sit by your side, looking up at you. Periodically during the walk, ask for that focus: “Watch me.” Work toward having your dog pay attention to you the whole time, with a goal of being able to walk through a crowd undistracted.

Step two: Be more exciting than anything else.

Be fun to be around. Toys, treats, different activities, and varied commands add variety to your time with your dog. Make it easy for her to choose you instead of anything else.

Step three: Add distraction.

Other dogs, a passing car, or a favorite toy are all opportunities to practice getting and keeping your dog’s attention. Begin with distant distractions — a dog approaching from the other end of the block — and work up to closer distractions. Ask her to “watch me” instead of her favorite toy when you are holding it overhead.

Step four: Practice, practice, practice.

Look for opportunities to train your dog to pay attention to you. Instead of avoiding the neighborhood bully — I do a u-turn when I see the dog  that Kumba really dislikes — stay the course and help your dog be successful in “watch me” even when temptation is nearby. Your goal is to replace anxiety and fear with approval-seeking: “Oh, there’s that awful dog, so now I get that wonderful treat, right?!”

Alison’s suggestions have already changed my interactions with Kumba, especially during our walks through our neighborhood. Every other dog is now an opportunity to engage our dog in paying attention, for which I reward him with a special treat, this week being tiny pieces of leftover steak. And our afternoon sit, stay, come routine has become a lot more fun now that my husband has joined the game. Nice company for me, more of a workout for Kumba, and a new habit for all three of us!

Who says human’s can’t learn new tricks?

You can read more of Alison’s guidance in previous posts: How to introduce your pandemic pup to a new dog, How to help your unsocialized dog say hello and How to train your pandemic pup.

Family Friday: How We Spent our 23-Hour Vacation

Several months ago, I was confident that my husband and I could live as pandemic hermits forever. We had gotten very good at the closed-in life, us and our rescue Lab, Kumba.

But, then came the COVID-19 vaccinations. We began to venture out. At our favorite breakfast place, the three Latin sisters who preside over the very welcoming environment greeted my husband as family: “¡Tío!” Uncle. A couple of weeks ago, we even went to the movies and the wonderfully overwhelming sensory overload kept us both awake into the wee hours of the morning.

Our biggest breakout move happened last week, when we left Kumba in the care of my best friend and drove off by ourselves for a full 23 hours, some of it masked, much of it outdoors, and all of it a long-awaited vacation in our favorite local town, Delray Beach.

Dinner al fresco

What a vacation kick-off: Delectable seafood pasta al fresco at Cafe Luna Rosa, polished off by the best slice of cheesecake either one of us had ever had, all the while enjoying the breeze off the Atlantic.

Live music at the Arts Garage

It was the first performance for the Miami Big Sound Orchestra since the pandemic, and the appreciation of the full house flowed out of us and back from them for nearly two hours. Thinking of each of the 18 musicians sitting alone in their homes for the past 16 months just waiting to perform again filled my eyes. (We kept our masks on.)

Ladies, I know you will understand when I say that I am wearing heels for the first time in a year and a half!

Lourdes Valentin, singer
Miami Big Sound Orchestra

Hotel accomodations

We have long been curious about the hotel across the street from the Arts Garage, the Hyatt Place Delray Beach, and now we’ve finally stayed there after enjoying an evening in town. We cleaned all the handles/switches and slept well in the comfortable (and quiet!) room, and we took advantage of an optional late check out and left our car in the covered garage after breakfast to enjoy our Saturday morning.

Just outside the hotel is the Delray Beach Pride Streetscape diversity rainbow, updated to include persons of color.

LGTBQ Rainbow, Delray Beach
LGTBQ Rainbow, Delray Beach

Strolling main street

We hardly ever get out for a walk without Kumba, much less on a city sidewalk. Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue is lined with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and shops, including Kilwins. We had to stop for a scoop of toasted coconut ice cream on our way back!

Lounging on the beach

Delray Beach
Delray Beach

Kumba barely missed us

Our rescue Lab’s separation anxiety used to put at risk anything not nailed down when we left him alone, so we prepare treat-filled Kongs as a special treat when we go out. We left three Kongs for our friend to give him after she’d walked and fed him, and crossed our fingers.

Well, those Kongs became games for Kumba and our friend’s rescue dog Lila, who ran and played together Saturday morning as if they’d known each other all their lives. What a change from the Kumba who was aggressive toward other dogs! Our patient training has paid off.

And when we got home, instead of the exuberant delight Kumba normally expresses at our return, he was happy but just a little disappointed that it was us instead of Lila and her human. Shades of picking our daughter up from daycare: Oh, it’s you? I’m playing with my friends.

Family Friday: What Makes Me a Third Culture Kid?

There was a letter to the editor in my newspaper this week from a Palm Beach County neighbor who was born in the United States but grew up in Asia as the result of her parents’ missionary work.

Like the children of military members, diplomats, and, in my case, missionaries, I became what is called a TCK, a Third Culture Kid. Our backgrounds are different from that of our parents’ home country and from the country where we grew up.

Angela Grant, The Palm Beach Post, 7/15/21

I’m a TCK, too. I was born in the USA to Midwesterners, but we flew into the Foreign Service when I was just six months old, and my sister (born in Caracas) and I grew up mostly in Europe and Latin America. We were professional Americans overseas, but our international experiences made us an odd fit when we moved to the States. I’ve been trying to bridge the gap my entire adult life.

Cross-cultural expert Tanya Crossman

TCK’s deal with some unique challenges in integrating that experience into what we’ve done with the rest of our lives. It’s the subject of research being conducted by Tanya Crossman, an Australian who lived in China for over a decade.

Tanya is a noted cross-cultural consultant and TCK/Cross Culture Kid advocate, and the author of Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. She writes that the term Third Culture Kid was coined by in the 1950’s by Dr. Ruth Hill Useem while studying children of American families living in India.

These children were not Indian, though they lived in India. They were American – though they weren’t experiencing that country. This childhood experience was neither that of an Indian child nor that of an American child. It was somewhere in between – in a Third Culture.

Tanya Crossman, July 2016 blog post

Legal, geographic, and relational culture

Tanya writes that culture can be defined in three ways:

  • Legal: the place in which you have a passport or permanent residency
  • Geographic: the place(s) in which you live.
  • Relational: the experiences woven together from life lived in between cultures.

Legal representative of America overseas

I had an American diplomatic passport, and, as an embassy kid, understood that I represented the USA. Sarah Mansfield Taber, whose overseas childhood as the daughter of a CIA officer is an almost exact match with mine, writes this about having a diplomatic passport:

Only representatives of foreign governments were issued these, my father told us. I could feel an American flag waving inside me.

Sarah Mansfield Taber, Born Under An Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter

But not a geographic American

I was an official American when I lived in Venezuela, Italy, Colombia, and Spain. But my identity morphed when we moved to the States.

Though I looked American, I was not; I was a sort of clandestine foreigner.

Sarah Mansfield Taber, Born Under An Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter

I am from the Third Culture

The connection I feel with Sarah Mansfield Taber is the TCK’s relational cultural identity.

The Third Culture is the childhood home of those who did not experience comprehensive connection to a single place as children.

Tanya Crossman, July 2016 blog post

My memoir, Embassy Kid (being assessed for publication by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training), looks back at where I am from. I have shared the Preface and will be sharing chapters in the coming weeks.

I cannot imagine being a citizen of any other nation. We are the freest, the most fortunate people on earth. Whether our people arrived on a recent flight or a wooden boat, and whether we choose to wear hijab or a yarmulke or spray paint our hair with the colors of the rainbow, we are all from somewhere else, and we are all here now.

Angela Grant, letter to The Palm Beach Post

Family Friday: How My Dog and I Supported Turtle Rescue

Just north of us, in the seaside town of Juno, there is a stretch of sand known for being one of the largest nesting sites in the world for sea turtles. Adjacent to that beach is Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a conservation and rehabilitation organization that each year treats nearly 100 sea turtles and 1,000 hatchlings. Through an amazing network of volunteers, LMC tracks and protects nests each season and facilitates after-dark tours. Around the Fourth of July several years ago, we participated in such a tour and witnessed a turtle actually laying her eggs and then dragging herself back across the sand to the sea.

A couple of weeks ago, our rescue Lab, Kumba, and I participated in a LMC fundraiser, a virtual four-mile race called Run 4 The Sea. We walked our own local route and were 141st out of 183 participants. The 2021 Run 4 The Sea raised about $30,000 for sea turtles!

In return for our effort, we got an adorable LMC tote bag and a set of wooden utensils (in a canvas bag from Atticus Printing) to use on our next picnic.

We also got a nifty new t-shirt which Kumba kindly modeled for me. Yeah, he was rolling his eyes in this picture.

Our black Lab, Kumba, resting on his favorite stuffed toy as he models his Race 4 the Sea t-shirt
Kumba, resting on his favorite stuffed toy as he models his Run 4 the Sea t-shirt.

Having the ability to do the distance is something Kumba and I have worked at every morning since he came to live with us in February, 2021. We were both frail when we began our morning walks, me not quite a year into my recovery from a ruptured arterial aneurysm and Kumba nearly done in by illness and trauma before being saved by the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida.

We’ve made huge strides since then. Next year, we have our eye on matching the results of the event’s oldest participant, about a decade older than me and clocking a sub-15-minute mile.

I think Kumba will be happy just NOT to wear the t-shirt. Hey, LMC, how about a doggie bandana for next year’s Run 4 the Sea?

My rescue Lab, Kumba, modeling our turtle rescue fundraising t-shirt
My rescue Lab, Kumba, modeling our turtle rescue fundraising t-shirt.