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Celebrating Meaningful Friendships

September is a good time to step back and honor those close to you

We’re all about friendships this month: honoring them, embracing them and holding dear life lessons learned from them.

Featured in this chapter is one woman’s journey to understanding as she traveled the backroads of Southwest Florida with a man who became her best friend. It was a perception-altering bond neither would have imagined.

Contact and communication, of course, are the cornerstones of friendship. Master mediator Hesha Abrams Esq. shares some of the cornerstones of good communication as certified life coach Shari Leid explains why friendships should be honored today.

September is National Organic Month, and we explore the “whys” of going organic. We invite you to explore what’s in a name, as September honors the first names of the people around us.

As it has been said, friendship can be found in the most unlikely places if you’re willing to open your heart.

Learning from Our Differences


Listen, Reflect, Repeat
Organic Matters
The Impact of Friends and Why Express It
You’re so Special! Well, sort of…


You’re so Special! Well, sort of…

“National Today” salutes September names among us

by Kathy Grey

Oh, the month of September is rife with name celebrations!

The Sabrinas, Reginas, Tatianas and Noels have had their days in the sun from Sept. 1-20. But now, National presents us with a laundry list of “name holidays” as we conclude the month of September.

If your name is Brittany, Hannah or Kristina (Sept.21), Amanda (Sept. 26) or Chris (Sept. 28), step forward. These special days are for you! We hope you’ll celebrate only as a Brittany, Hannah, Kristina, Amanda or Chris could.

What’s in a Name, You Ask?

Glad you asked.

Seeking the derivation and meaning of our names and those of the ones we love, most of us have gone down the proverbial rabbit hole — something that’s particularly alluring to expectant parents.


The Meaning of the presents scads (“scads” from 1869 American English) of information about your name, her name, his name or their names.

It’s time to honor your friends, family and associates with your encyclopedic knowledge, not only about their names and how they came to be, but their unofficial name commemoration date.

Welcome to the rabbit hole.


The Clean 15 list indicates produce with the least amount of pesticide residue and can be considered fine to purchase non-organic. That’s one way to stretch your produce dollars.

2022 Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries 

  2. Spinach 

  3. Kale, Collard & Mustard greens 

  4. Nectarines 

  5. Apples 

  6. Grapes 

  7. Bell & Hot peppers 

  8. Cherries

  9. Peaches

  10. Pears

  11. Celery 

  12. Tomatoes 


2022 Clean 15

  1. Avocados 

  2. Sweet corn 

  3. Pineapple 

  4. Onions 

  5. Papaya 

  6. Sweet peas (frozen) 

  7. Asparagus 

  8. Honeydew Melon 

  9. Kiwi 

  10. Cabbage 

  11. Mushrooms 

  12. Cantaloupe 

13. Mangoes 

14. Watermelon 

15. Sweet potatoes


The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 of 2022

Purchasing organic foods on the following Dirty Dozen list will decrease your exposure to pesticide residue, justifying the extra cost.


The Impact of Friends and Why Express It

Lawyer-turned-life-coach focuses on the importance of female friendships

by Kathy Grey

As an infant, she was orphaned, left in a cardboard box in a parking lot in South Korea. She survived a catastrophic car accident. She also survived a breast cancer diagnosis that resulted in a double mastectomy.

Still, lawyer-turned-life-coach and author Shari Leid has always taken stock of her life and her relationships. As she approached the age of 50, she says, “I made it my mission not to allow another year to go by where I did not take the time to sit down with each of my girlfriends to share the meaning she brought to my life.”

The mission’s impetus stemmed from a funeral of a close friend a year before.


“She was loved and celebrated,” Leid recalls of her friend. “There were many testimonies sharing the profound effects she’d had on all her friends. I felt an intense sadness that these beautiful words were never shared with her.”

The experience forced her to contemplate what brought meaning to her own life. It was the relationships and human connections that so many people spend their lives ignoring or taking for granted.

“… the things we never say to each other. It challenged me to do better.”

Leid made a list of 50 women with whom she wanted to meet individually over the course of one year. Some were longtime friends. Others were relatively new acquaintances.

Her aim was to reveal the positive impact each woman had made on her life. So, in that year, she met one-on-one with 50 friends of all ages, ethnicities, economic standings, religions and levels of education.

“In the process, I learned more about myself than I had in any other time of my life. The gift of giving and receiving … of being both student and teacher … of finding meaning through human connection … these were those meetings.”

Even during the pandemic’s social limitations, she orchestrated another one-on-one session, this time on Zoom, and encouraged other women, regardless of background, to take on the “50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge” to strengthen and deepen their friendships.


“Everyone’s ultimate goal in life is happiness, and the No. 1 predictor of happiness is found in cultivating relationships,” Leid believes.

“Recognizing the purpose and impact each person brings into your life allows you to live in gratitude. Everyone you meet is both your teacher and your student,” she says.

“It’s amazing what you can learn from others who are different than you.”

Five steps to launching the 50/50 Friendship Flow Challenge

  1. Set a date. One on one.

  2. Set your intention. Let go of ego.

  3. Share your admiration and your observations with your friend.

  4. Ask questions.

  5. Write it down. Take a photo. Keep a journal. Just capture the moment.


Shari Leid is author of “The 50/50 Friendship Flow: Life Lessons From and For My Girlfriends.” She received her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Washington and graduated from Seattle University School of Law. A former litigator, she now owns and operates An Imperfectly Perfect Life LLC, a professional life-coaching business serving women.


Organic Matters

Why the ‘clean food’ market continues to grow 

by Kathy Grey

September is National Organic Month, and the good news is that finding USDA-certified organic foods is more convenient than ever. In the last several years, the organic food industry has become mainstream, with organic offerings at pretty much every supermarket. And in Naples, health-conscious shoppers know that Food and Thought is fully organic, from groceries to clothing to café to juice bar.  

According to Precedence Research, the global organic food market is projected to hit $497.3 billion by 2030, poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.06%.

Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown in soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sewage sludge as fertilizer, using radiation to preserve food or to rid it of disease or pests, using genetic technology to change the genetic makeup of crops, and antibiotics or growth hormones for farm animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.


Studies indicate that organic foods may provide more vitamins, minerals or health-promoting flavonoids than those that are conventionally raised. These foods have shown the following differences:

  • Nutrients. Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. Organic produce may have more of certain antioxidants and types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. The feeding requirements for organic farm animals (livestock) usually cause higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These include feeding cattle grass and alfalfa. Omega-3 fatty acids — a kind of fat — are more heart healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meats, dairy and eggs.


Lower toxic metal. Studies have shown much lower cadmium, a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants, in organic grains, but not fruits and vegetables, when compared with crops grown using conventional methods. The lower cadmium levels in organic grains may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming.

  • Less Pesticide residue. Compared with produce grown using conventional methods, organically grown produce has lower levels of pesticide residue.

  • Reduced bacteria. Meats produced using conventional methods may have higher amounts of dangerous types of bacteria that may not be treatable with antibiotics. However, the overall risk of contamination of organic foods with bacteria is the same as conventional foods.

It is true that organic foods cost more than conventionally raised foods, but the increases are modest, particularly when fruits and vegetables are in season. (For instance, organic berries are quite reasonable in summer and organic apples are more affordable in fall.)


Learning from Our Differences

Unexpected friendship crosses barriers, teaches lifelong lessons

by Kathy Grey

Who knew that Oddfellows Friendship Month is observed every September across the world? I didn’t.

The Grand United Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society, an international fraternity established in 1730s England, has a mission of encouraging people to make friends.

Sounds simple but, in this chapter, èBella has taken the word “Oddfellows” literally, focusing on one unexpected friendship that has enhanced the perception of others. This is my story.

Joe & Me

I was between jobs in 1997. I got a well-paying temp position because I knew the DOS operating system required for the job.

If you remember the “Can You Hear Me Now?” commercials of the early 2000s, that was us. (Our work was not as whimsical as those commercials, but it was effective.)

We’d start the day in a van with a laptop running DOS in the back seat and a driver up front. When a cell tower connection dropped, each team of two would pull to the side of the road and record the coordinates.

Partnerships on these expeditions turned out to be really important. I got saddled on the first day with a retiree who complained all day that he’d had to work with people he didn’t get along with, which was basically everyone. This guy spent the day talking about what he’d packed for lunch, his misogynistic relationship with his girlfriend, how he feared his temp-job income might affect his Social Security status and about how frustrating it was to work with a guy he referred to as “Black Joe.”

We survived the day working together. When we returned to home base, I asked to be partnered with Joe.

Joe and I worked together for three months, sharing a mutual sense of humor, intellect and spiritual beliefs, which we discussed in depth during our eight-hour driving shifts.

Most profoundly, our experiences opened my eyes about what it’s like to be a Black man in America. I also realized how incredibly naïve I was at 37. And Joe’s eyes were opened to a “privileged” white woman who wasn’t really privileged at all. We became close friends.

Hands Up

Joe was running the DOS program one Tuesday as I drove the van. The “can you hear me now” call dropped, and, having nowhere else to go, I pulled onto the highway median. Minutes later, flashing lights appeared in the rearview mirror, and we were approached by a highway patrol officer.

I explained our work to the officer. He asked me if everything was all right. I assured him it was, thanked him for checking on us and promised we’d be moving along momentarily.

I looked at Joe who was sitting in the back seat behind the laptop. His hands were high in the air.

Kathy & Joe 1997_WEB.jpg

“What are you doing?” I asked him. He said he’d explain later.

When we got back on the road, Joe gave me my first lesson about how Black men survive in our society. When approached by law enforcement for whatever reason, you raise your hands to show you’re not armed. It was something he’d been brought up knowing; something our cultures didn’t share.

‘Oh No Ma’am’

Our lunches were brief and banal, mostly brown bagged, eaten in the van. Because our daily routes took us into the wilds of Southwest Florida, we’d sometimes open the side door and picnic as we marveled at Florida’s flora and fauna.

One time, our lunchtime landed us in North Fort Myers. We pulled into the parking lot of a tattered thrift store which held the promise of treasures to be found inside. The entrance was locked, but the lights were on, so I peered through one of the dirty glass windows. I saw a lady inside and waved. Joe said this wasn’t a good idea and started backing away toward the van.

The lady emerged from the shop, gun in hand. Joe was two steps from the van, but he stopped, hands held high. Although I’d been the one who’d tapped on the window, the gun was pointed at Joe, the Black man.

“You want something?” she snarled.

“Oh, no, ma’am,” Joe replied.

I piped up with an explanation: “We’re on our lunch break and just wanted to take a look inside.”

The gun remained pointed at Joe.

“Well, we’re not open,” the woman hissed, backing toward the door, gun still leveled at Joe’s chest.

Joe had told me it wasn’t a good idea, and he, my Black partner, was so right.

Finishing Up

At the end of our “can you hear me now” project in Southwest Florida, our team had a going-away celebration. Joe was destined to run the routes in the Tampa area, and I had a job offer in Fort Myers.

We took this photo — a really early selfie — as we bade each other farewell. Joe and I opened each other’s eyes to worlds we’d never expected to know or understand, had it not been for this “Oddfellow” friendship formed so many years ago.


Listen, Reflect, Repeat

Master mediator shares top communication tips


by Hesha Abrams, Esq.


Is it more important to listen or be listened to? They are equally important, but you cannot listen when you are talking.

Listening skills aren’t easy to master. They take patience and persistence, but the payoff is big when conflicts are avoided or minimized; relationships are protected and nourished, and valuable information is gathered.

Here are 19 tips for effective communication:

1. Empathize with the person’s situation.

Try to put yourself in their place and see the situation through their eyes.

2. Compliment whenever you can, but sincerely.

Let people know what their unique value is to you. Strong, self-assured people give positive strokes freely, while weak people are miserly with their compliments.

3. Ask lots of questions to gather information.

Make it your personal goal to know what people around you really think rather than forcing your opinion on an unreceptive listener.

4. Keep judgment to yourself.
Avoid “why didn’t you” or “you should have” blaming statements. You can’t listen when blaming. If you are quick to judge people as wrong or bad, then you also dismiss their strengths and wisdom. Listen to what they have to say first. There is plenty of time for judgment and decision later.

5. Use reflective feedback, repeating back what you think you heard.
This avoids our personal filter for communication through our own prejudices, biases and life experiences. Using active listening or reflective feedback will make an angry or distracted person stop and listen. More importantly, it makes them feel heard and validated. Questions such as, “Is this what you need?” or “Do I understand you correctly?” shows support, interest and reduces misunderstanding, even if you disagree with them.


6. Use good eye contact.
Besides the obvious feeling of full attention and validation, you could also miss important nonverbal cues. Subconscious feelings often come out in small gestures that are contradictory to the words being expressed. You will learn a lot and validate the person speaking, which in turn will increase their security around you.

7. Use appropriate smiles, nods and uh-huhs to indicate your full attention.
Comments like “That’s interesting” or “Tell me more about that” can go a long way toward reassuring the speaker. Be sincere and don’t overdo it!

8. Listen for ideas as well as facts.
Don’t get bogged down in the details so that you can’t see the big picture.

9. Am I being heard?

Ask your listener to describe what you just said to make sure that you are being heard. Look for distractions and stop the conversation if it’s obvious you are not being listened to or other distractions are preventing effective communication. Begin again when you have full attention.

10. Avoid hasty judgments and assumptions.
Don’t argue mentally while the other person is speaking. You can’t possibly be listening and digesting when you are arguing mentally with what the other person is saying. Even without saying a word, they feel your distraction and hostility.

11. Avoid self-negatives.
Don’t judge yourself based upon hasty assumptions of what the other person must be thinking. “He doesn’t care,” “She doesn’t understand,” etc. You can make these tragic misinterpretations into self-fulfilling prophecies.

12. Remember that insensitivity often covers up hurt.
Be careful and protect yourself so that you are not run over, but remember that defensiveness is usually the result of ego trying to stay in control.

13. Refuse to use revenge or angry comebacks that would only cause more conflict.
You can stay in control even if the other person can’t.


14. Release the chip on your shoulder.
Resentment and anger grow over time. They can destroy even the strongest relationship. To forgive means being open to change. Let go of old resentments that just get in the way of current progress. Make it your goal to give full attention. Don’t start with “Yes, but...” Your mission is not to change the person, but to understand them better so that you can manage the situation. Listen with an open attitude.

15. Resist over-talking.
If you monopolize the conversation, you will dominate the situation and not remain open to new ideas. Make sure everybody else has a chance to make his or her point.

16. Control your anger.
Try not to get angry at what the other person is saying. Your anger may prevent you from understanding the words, the meaning or the intent. Use open-ended questions to make sure you fully understand what is being said, and then express your anger using “I am annoyed at that” or “I feel angry because...”

17. Try to react to the ideas, not to the person.
Don’t let your reactions to the person influence your interpretation of what is being said. The ideas may be good, even if you don’t like the way they are being presented.

18. Listen to what is not said.
You can learn just as much by what the other person leaves out as by what he/she includes.

19. You can listen faster than a person can talk.
We speak about 100-150 words per minute and think at 250-500 words per minute. Use this difference to your advantage by doing just that: thinking!

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