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èXtra Grateful

Despite turmoil, there’s much to be thankful for

One of the many things we try to accomplish is to inspire readers. We hope that’s what this chapter, aptly called èXtra Grateful, does for you.

As those of us in Southwest Florida continue to recover from Hurricane Ian, some of our readers have shared their gratitude, miracles and silver linings for us to feature and share.

We address breaking the cycle of chaos addiction at this busiest time of year and the trauma that often lies beneath.

For the person who has everything, we give some insight on gifts that keep on giving. And we present a one-pan Thanksgiving dinner. (Yes, it exists!) 

As we begin the holiday rush, we hope you’ll take time to slow down and breathe in gratitude during this most wonderful time of year.

Gratitude, Miracles and Silver Linings


Breaking the Chaos Cycle
Gifts that Give Back
Thanksgiving Dinner Made Simple


Gifts that Give Back

Paying it forward could be the greatest gift of all

by Kathy Grey

If you’re checking off items on your holiday list, or if you’re shopping for any occasion, there’s nothing better than a gift that gives back.

Contributing to local causes your loved one supports is a great way to go. There are hundreds of nonprofits in Southwest Florida that would welcome your gift, particularly as the community rebuilds after Hurricane Ian.

Make a gift of it by slipping a note about your contribution into a fancy envelope or tuck it inside a unique box or sensational flower arrangement. It truly is the thought that counts, but the presentation can be as creative as you want it to be.

Maybe this is the year for you to initiate gifts that give back with your friends and family. Let them know the causes near and dear to your heart and ask them to do the same if they would like this type of gift as well.


If you still want to give a physical gift while also providing support, we’ve identified a few charitable gift ideas that, when purchased, support important causes around the world. Links have been provided for your convenience.

Festival of Delights

Looking for a gift that gives back to women? Give the gift of healing this year with a gift basket featuring soap, linen spray, a candle and lotion from Thistle Farms, an organization that provides jobs for American women who have escaped trafficking and addiction. Each of the products is handcrafted by survivors, and proceeds go toward programs that help women get back on their feet during and after recovery.


Do You Hear What I Hear?

This elegant and portable Zebra Wood Wireless Speaker from LSTN Sound Co. is the perfect charitable gift idea for the music lover. Proceeds from every purchase go to Starkey Hearing Foundation, which helps deliver hearing aids for people in need.


Deck the Halls
For the succulent-lover, the Jewel Garden from Lula’s Garden features hand-selected succulents that bring a piece of greenery to your home, but a portion of the proceeds from these lovely garden pieces are donated to


Dashing Through the … Rain

ROMA has rain boots in all styles and colors for every age. And when you purchase a pair of rain boots, ROMA will donate rain boots to a child in need through the Roma Foundation.


No Ugly Christmas Sweater

Apparel company BoxLunch provides a meal through Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, for every $10 spent on its products. That means when you gift someone this amazing, tie-dyed Rick & Morty sweater, you can help BoxLunch give back multiple meals for those in need.


What’s in that Sack?

FEED is an organization that works with nonprofits to eradicate hunger. Each one of the custom bags has a number with it that signifies the amount of school meals that its purchase will provide. Purchase its Market Tote and provide 25 school meals for kids around the world.



Breaking the Chaos Cycle

Addiction to chaos and the adrenaline connection

by Kathy Grey


It’s the holiday season and, as unwelcomed as the topic may be, it might be a good time to check our addictions.

Oh, there are many forms of addiction that first spring to mind: alcohol, drugs, tobacco and sex. These are physical addictions.

But behavioral addictions are trickier to pinpoint, mostly because they require the discomfort of self-reflection and a commitment to change.

At this time of year, addiction to chaos might rear its ugly head in ways we’re not willing to acknowledge, because this form of behavioral addiction is tied to its physical manifestation: addiction to the body’s production of adrenaline.

Author Diana Cannon Ragsdale says she grew up as “Mormon royalty” in a dysfunctional and abusive household. Her memoir, “Loose Cannons,”  reveals her journey through and away from the addiction to chaos.

“For most of my life, I thought chaos was just me being more productive, more high energy. I considered the chaos my friend.”

But that “friendship” is echoed in numerous forms of addiction.

“I thought the busier I was, it meant I wasn’t depressed or lazy, and that I was doing fine because I was accomplishing a lot,” Ragsdale reveals.

Those fixated on creating the perfect holiday gathering might comfortably relate to being busier than ever and accomplishing a lot. And they might unconsciously be receiving the adrenaline rush they crave from creating chaos.

Shedding the Predictability of the Unpredictable

As with any addiction, the affected person needs to acknowledge there’s a problem and get to its root cause. And that root is most often related to past trauma from chaos and dysfunction brought on by abuse, mental illness, abandonment and substance abuse, to name a few.

“I realized I had become addicted to chaos. It was all I had known,” Ragsdale confirms. She faced a succession of emotional traumas most of her life. “It was slowly robbing me of the life I knew I wanted and deserved. I vowed to distance myself from anyone or anything that would keep me from focusing on what was, and still is, most important to me,” she says. “Even now, I have to remind myself of my core beliefs. I am now 64 and happier and more content than I have ever been. And I finally feel free” of others’ opinions and expectations.

Still, she says, “sometimes I have to remind myself to remember my past and all of the hard work it took to get here.”

That hard work involved therapy, looking for gratitude and “finding the strength to live in the present, leave chaos behind and to never take my happiness for granted.”

Overcoming Addiction to Chaos

  • Start with a professional.


  • Learn how to manage anxiety.


  • Identify the contributing factors associated with chaos.


  • Treat engagement in chaotic behaviors the same as you would a relapse.


  • Set your boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate within your recovery.


~ source:


Thanksgiving Dinner Made Simple

Prepare the most wonderful meal of the year and enjoy your loved ones, too

by Kathy Grey

Ah, Thanksgiving: the mother of all feasts. She often barges into our homes like a relentless relative, demanding delectable dishes cascading one after another.

We love that many people relish the arduous task of pulling out every stop and recreating ancient family recipes passed down through the ages. But some of us would like to have the glorious food without all the fuss and fanfare, so èBella presents a simpler way to create a delectable spread that will appease your desire for a lavish Thanksgiving meal without days of preparation and the hours of cleanup.

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Chef Mareya Ibrahim

A Pan-Perfect Meal

Food Network celebrity chef and author of “Eat Like You Give A Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive,” Chef Mareya Ibrahim is a lifestyle and nutrition expert.

She also understands the stress and importance that comes with preparing a Thanksgiving feast that’s robust and delicious.

One-pot (or sheet pan in this instance) meals are easy to prepare and easy to clean up after. They also offer the same nutritional value as a more complicated dinner.

Chef Mareya has prepared this perfect one-pan Thanksgiving meal, preparing everything in one dish. It also makes it easy to ensure that several food groups are included on every guest’s plate. Here’s the recipe.

Garlic-and-Herb Roasted Young Chicken

with sides of Brussels sprouts, carrots, wild-rice-stuffed delicata squash and cinnamon spice roasted sweet potatoes

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Young chicken (4 pounds)

Fresh garlic

Fresh thyme

Sea salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Brussels sprouts 

Balsamic vinegar

Baby carrots

Delicata squash

Wild rice blend

Sweet potatoes

Ghee (clarified butter)

Cinnamon spice 



  1. Prepare the chicken by mixing fresh garlic, thyme, sea salt, oregano, pepper and olive oil. Rub it under the skin of the chicken breast and on top of the skin.

  2. Toss veggies with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

  3. Stuff delicata squash with wild rice blend. (I used a Far East packet blend and precook the squash in the microwave until al dente, then finish in the oven.)

  4. Slice sweet potatoes and pat with a small amount of ghee and a dusting of cinnamon or pumpkin spice.

  5. Place everything on a large roasting tray.

  6. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes.

  7. Turn the heat up to 450 degrees for the last 10 minutes. Let it stand 5-15 minutes before serving.


Gratitude, Miracles and Silver Linings

Readers share thoughts on the brighter side of Hurricane Ian

Juliana Meek, Naples

I did what you should never do: go out at peak storm surge to try to help my parents who live a mile from me, a half mile north and a half mile west.

Walking due north, I only encountered heavy rain and severe gusts, crouching down with my arms covering my head at the worst of the gusts and using my backpack filled with towels for added protection from projectiles.

As I turned west on Park Shore Drive, a woman was coming toward me who was half naked and pushing a recycling bin. She was frantic, saying her dog was in the bin. She said she woke up from sleeping when water reached her on her bed.

Hearing that, I was even more determined to reach my parents, so I kept going. But as I headed west, the water was rising to mid-thigh on me. I saw literal currents in the water flowing in every direction, covering every roadway and clearly flowing into the homes surrounding me. The Gulf and bay had merged.

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As the storm surge entered their Naples home, William and Barbara Meek texted family and captured this photo.

It was too dangerous. I knew this was high tide and worried that the currents would sweep me away.

I turned around, got back to higher ground again and saw a news crew who had been chased east by the storm surge along Park Shore Drive. They said the surge was beginning to recede.

Once home, I texted my parents that the storm surge should be receding. They responded it was getting worse for them because the sewage was backing up into their showers. There was nothing I could do but wait.

I ventured out again once the rain and major gusts had subsided. The storm surge had receded. But as I drew closer to my parents, I encountered the storm surge again. This time, I kept at it. The water was waist deep on me at the bottom of the entrance to my parents’ condo development.

Entering my parents’ house was a shock. They had managed to mitigate much of the damage to their belongings. Antique furniture, family heirlooms and memorabilia were hoisted up on top of beds and counters. They had been sweeping water out for two hours. I helped sweep and clean what we could.

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Barbara, William and Juliana Meek

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This eagle pair, likely displaced by Ian, is a reminder that with each other, there is hope. ~ Juliana Meek

More than a month has passed, and my parents are living with me until their place is repaired, as all the damage will be. Storms like Ian remind us of the importance of family and friends to help us through the hardest of times.

Be patient, and be kind. Every day, there is clear improvement as debris is removed and work crews are busy with the affected homes. 

One morning last week, I took a photo of a pair of eagles atop a condo on Gulf Shore Boulevard. They look to have been displaced by Ian, but they are together. And that is where there is hope.

Dana Gilligan, Community School of Naples

Jack Donlan, 87-year-old grandfather of Community School of Naples students Sophia Sinberg and her sister, Abigail, was saved from rising floodwaters by CSN students Luke Murphy and his brother Colin. Click here for the story as seen on TV.


Susan Suarez, President and CEO, Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center

It’s a miracle our boxcar exhibit was not in Fort Myers Beach. It was to go on display at the Fort Myers Beach Public Library on Oct. 1. If the schedule had changed by a few days, who knows what would have happened! Luckily, it was safe at the Naples Depot Museum instead.

Rebecca Smith, M.D., CCMS board president

The day after Ian, we learned that Lee Memorial Hospital was damaged and NCH opened its doors to our neighbors in Lee County, preparing to receive up to 400 patients. The actual number transferred was approximately 125 patients, but the NCH system was prepared to meet the needs. Outpatient primary care physicians offered to provide inpatient care, along with extra hospitalists, critical care/pulmonologists, cardiologists, emergency physicians and other specialists on medical staff providing the extra help needed to meet the demands of a census increase. Physicians Regional Medical Center experienced similar stresses on their system and their medical staff also responded gallantly, putting the community and patients first.

Submitted by Rebecca Smith, M.D., CCMS board president

Michelle Fuchs, a Collier County Medical Society Alliance board member and spouse of Dr. Scott Fuchs, recently related that with the extensive damage to their home, their struggles are how to continue to live an everyday life while acclimating themselves and their children to the tragedy that occurred.


“Life still had to continue,” she said. “We couldn’t stop because something happened. We couldn’t let the hurricane affect our careers, marriage or children.”

Michelle reached out for help that was needed. Family, friends and the community came to clean and provide food. She says the kindness and support they’re receiving are a testament to the medical community in Naples. She encourages colleagues to take care of themselves, including exercise, like the pickleball she and Dr. Fuchs continue to play each weekend, and to help others in the community who are living in precarious situations.

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John and Tonya

Army veteran John Bohanek found hope after the storm.

John’s Pine Island home of 22 years was severely damaged by Hurricane Ian. He’s currently living in an RV with everything he was able to salvage, including framed photos of his grandkids.

Many Pine Island survivors’ homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged and they now wash clothes at a community laundry trailer. Tonya, a volunteer with Cajun Navy Ground Force, noticed John had not ventured away from his badly damaged home to seek help in the weeks after the hurricane. John had lost all hope.


Tonya arranged for Cajun Navy Ground Force to help John. When volunteers arrived, John was in tears and ready to give up. Within several days, the team cleaned his home and was able to put a smile on his face.

This week, John wanted to give something back, so he presented Tonya with a bouquet to say thank you for bringing him the best gift of all: the gift of hope.

Marcy Aizenshtat, Naples

I am a Florida native. I’m proud to have orange juice flowing in my veins, but I wish I had known about sunscreen growing up. One thing we did know, however, was that between June and Thanksgiving, it was hurricane season.

It wasn’t until 1960, when I was in college at the University of Miami, that Hurricane Donna forced my mom, dad and our dog to evacuate by boat. I lived in the dorm and studied by candlelight that week. It shook my world and has shaken it every hurricane season since.

Here's what I want to say with certainty: When you look at the oversized graphic art on your super large TV and you see a large red ball hovering outside our peninsula state, round up the family and head for the hills.


I have witnessed the worst of them right up until Ian. I have been in closets crowded with my family, dogs, bird cages, fishbowls, hamster cages, water, food and flashlights. We’ve hugged mattresses and pillows while listening to our roofs sing in the wind. I’ve stood on the third floor and watched as Gulf waves flowed through the backyard and through the bottom floor during Hurricane Charley. On the second floor of our home in Miami, I watched the water rise during Hurricane Andrew and had to evacuate. Irma ravaged our Naples home and made us homeless. I now live alone in Naples with Winston, my border collie. 

My message, and hear it loud and strong, is that when the weatherperson says you need to evacuate, do it!  I did this time as Ian approached. I loaded up my seasonal safety boxes (meds, dog food and edibles; flashlights, chargers and batteries; first aid kit, blankets and some coloring books …) and Winston, of course. I gassed up the SUV and headed East with no destination or reservation. Just drive, I told myself.

I found my destination on Pine Ridge Road, just a mile or two from my home. Why leave at all if I would be holed up so close to home? Here's the answer: My little, tiny home in old Miami is still standing. Yes, it’s been rehabbed, but it’s still recognizably my old home. My grade school is still standing. These structures are made of a coral rock and concrete block.

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So is the Spinnaker Inn of Naples just off Pine Ridge Road. I could tell it was oldish (in a good way). Still standing, never any damage to the structure built nearly 40 years ago. I pulled in, got my room and lived to tell this story.  

It’s not about being new construction; it’s about what it’s made of. 

I guess it’s a lot like people. What we are made of — our courage, intuition and instincts to survive — that keep us going. Like old, sturdy buildings, we still stand tall.

There are no rewards for risking your life and that of your loved ones. Listen to the weather folks and go with your gut so you can survive like a well-built structure. And then you can tell your own hurricane story.

Nicole Panio, Marketing Director, DeRomo’s Restaurant

DeRomo’s is proud to be able to hire 35 employees who were displaced after Hurricane Ian damaged Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel. Both are managed by Columbus Hospitality Group.


Donna Barrett, Port Charlotte

When the rain slowed down after hours in the eye wall, I looked outside my sister's North Port home, and all I saw was water. When a neighbor on a four-wheeler said the block that flooded was the one we were on, I immediately left and checked on those who stayed.

So much destruction. So much damage.

I started counting the downed trees. It was a blessing to see so many trees that fell the right way: the downed trees that fell into yards and missed homes people were sheltering in; downed trees that filled parking lots and did not land on the small businesses “mom and pop” had poured their whole life into.

We learned in 2020 to find our blessings and things could be taken from us so fast. We just went through one of the most catastrophic storms in history, and so many people who chose to stay were safe. So many blessings.

We will rebuild and be stronger. And whenever the frustration sets in, I will remember how Southwest Florida celebrated “fall” this year.

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