Honoring Those Who Protect and Serve
…and tips for protecting your holiday spirit
Here in the height of holiday wonder and cheer, we thought we’d offer some tips to keeping that cheer real as we navigate the to-do lists and expectations — from others and of ourselves.
On a more poignant note, Southwest Florida communities continue to navigate the monumental task of rebuilding. Our features in this chapter honor those who protect and serve us locally, and one woman whose military service decades ago helped keep us free to be able to celebrate and to pay tribute to those we revere.
In the Line of Duty
CCSO corporal relates life-saving experiences following Ian
by Kathy Grey
There’s one thing Cpl. Jerrod Carver of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) hopes he’ll never see again: The flooding and absolute destruction caused by Hurricane Ian.
But one image is forever etched in his memory: the sight and sound of his family rushing to greet him when they were reunited.
“They were coming out the door, screaming and hugging,” he laughs.
It’s never easy for first responders to leave their families when they are deployed in the face of disaster. Still, the heroes we rely on for our protection and security must, and they must make sure their families will be as safe in their absence.
In Cpl. Carver’s case, his wife and two children, ages 13 and 5, evacuated to be with family on Florida’s East Coast. He was called to 24-hour duty the Monday before the monster storm made Southwest Florida landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
Cpl. Carver, assigned to the agricultural/marine bureau of special operations, was just one man in a well-organized body of search-and-rescue first responders. Because the aviation unit couldn’t be deployed immediately due to lingering winds, they joined the search and rescue efforts on the ground early on.
Deployed mid-afternoon Sept. 28 as the storm lessened, their assigned vehicles were airboats and swamp buggies.
These heroes entered areas of flooding, rescuing people trapped in their homes and bringing them to safety.
“We work as a team,” the corporal says. “Not one of us could do this alone. Going out on Airport-Pulling (Road), “it seemed like an apocalypse," Carver says.
The CCSO rescuers traveled by airboat, house-to-house, knocking on doors and responding to 911 calls. Their rivers were U.S. 41, Airport-Pulling Road and Davis Boulevard.
“We heard people calling for help, trapped in three, four, five feet of water.”
The responders carried children, pets and the elderly, who hauled the salvageable contents of their homes in shopping bags.
Cpl. Jerrod Carver
It wasn’t until a day later that Cpl. Carver realized the danger he faced by entering a home flooded with four feet of water whose electricity had been restored. Despite the hazardous situation, he’s grateful he got the family and himself out safely.
Aboard the airboat, the receding floodwaters were palpable to the crews.
“We could feel it in the boat,” Carver says. “The next day, we used swamp buggies where water hadn’t dissipated at all. There were thousands of 911 calls. We got to them as quickly as possible, but we had to (use safety precautions) so we could continue to help people.”
“Surreal and heartbreaking” is how Carver puts it. Dazed citizens “were walking along with bags of the only possessions they had left.”
Those rescued, and there were hundreds of them, were brought to the Home Depot parking lot, which had been outfitted with EMS stations. Those who could not return home were taken to shelters.
Entering a trailer residence, Carver met one elderly gentleman who said he had no food or water. Carver gave the man all the sustenance he had on the boat: water, crackers and his lunch. The meal sustained the man until his family arrived.
“It makes you feel good,” says the CCSO corporal with 19 years of service.
“Making a difference in people’s lives makes me proud. Helping someone means more to me than anything else.”
It requires teamwork and a well-organized plan, and Carver is grateful to have that at all times.
He’s also humbled by the gratitude of the community. In their darkest hours, people who lost everything — in Ian, in Irma and in brush fires — offer hope and help — whatever they can — to their rescuers. And they still stop to thank him and his fellow CCSO members for their service.
As for Hurricane Ian’s wrath, Cpl. Carver maintains that he’s “never seen anything like that water.” And he hopes he’ll never see it again.
Putting the ‘Happy’ Back into the Holidays
Tips to keep you sane as you navigate the season
by Kimberly Blaker
Between shopping, wrapping, baking, holiday cards, parties and many other obligations, surviving the season can get in the way of enjoying it with those closest to you. These tips might eliminate stress and allow you to be “present” during the season of giving.
Close your eyes and think back to the last few stressful years and envision eliminating stressful, season-related activities.
Next, make a list of everything you need to do during the holiday season, from which parties you’ll attend and the amount of money you’ll spend. Cross off the least necessary events and tasks and review the list again, calculating how much you’ve gained, and plan how you’ll give your regrets.
Share the Joy of Preparation
Enlist your family to help prepare for the holidays and divide the tasks without expecting perfection.
This isn’t necessarily the time to be head cook. Plan potluck gatherings and suggest dishes to bring, confirming the contributions beforehand.
Save Your Energy
Stock a large box or basket with wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, tags, tape, scissors and pens, so everything is stored in one place and set up a wrapping station in a spare space.
Keep cleaning to a minimum, cleaning only the obvious rooms guests will see, knowing that imperfections won’t be noticed amid the holiday decorations and festivities.
Make everyday meals quick and easy. Soups, sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, cottage cheese, pre-cut veggies and dip and other prepared or semi-prepared healthy foods will suffice this month.
Do your holiday shopping in the early hours while your energy is high amid smaller crowds.
Shop online or by catalog.
Gift cards to restaurants, stores, sporting-goods outlets and specialty shops are always appreciated, as are those for massage, pedicure and a round of golf.
Don’t overdo the baking, as your guests will likely have had their fill.
The gesture of visiting or contacting those you care about will be more meaningful for everyone.
Plan special family get-togethers with children on another day near the holiday.
Care for yourself
Enjoy holiday treats in moderation. High-fat and sugary foods and unhealthy meals can lead to fatigue and stress. Prepare low-fat meals that won’t bog you down and have convenient, healthy snacks such as raw vegetables and nuts on hand.
Consider keeping goodies stored in the freezer, where there’ll be less temptation.
Pace yourself, and don’t try to do everything in one day.
Take a brisk walk in the fresh air and set aside time for relaxation.
The holiday season should be a joyful time for you to join in the good cheer with family and friends, so maximize ways to ease your stress to keep the “happy” in your holidays.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com.
Things to Consider for Next Year
Start your shopping early.
Create a new tradition with a friend or family member and set a monthly shopping date for the upcoming year.
Keep the early holiday shopping fun and consider choosing a different town or shopping venue.
To save time, get a label printing software program or app early in the year and enter the addresses on your holiday card list.
Keeping the Conversation Cool at Holiday Gatherings
Five ways to keep things agreeable at festive get-togethers
Special to èBella èXtra
Preventing arguments and heated discussions around the holiday dinner table is possible, even though family holiday gatherings during can be stressful.
With people of different ages and mindsets coming together, generations and ideologies can collide, leading to communication roadblocks and misunderstandings. Here are five ways to keep things agreeable.
Redirect Problematic Topics
Many families attempt, year after year, to implement a “no politics or religion” rule for holiday conversations, but since these subjects are so personally integral to our daily lives, that rule is often broken. Who can resist talking about beliefs they hold dear?
The key to keeping the peace is redirecting the flow of conversation before it engrosses guests. At the first sign of a potentially polarizing topic, gently change the subject. If a certain guest is a repeat offender, try to involve him or her in a distracting activity. Maybe the kids need help building a gingerbread house or some after-dinner dishes need washing. If all else fails, proposing a fun game like charades or Cranium could do the trick. (Who has time to argue about the mid-terms when they’re acting out a movie scene?)
Maintain a Positive Atmosphere
Nobody’s life is perfect. Even the most upbeat, amiable guest can experience setbacks and emotional upset during the holidays. You can’t foresee problems like delayed flights, sick children, marital tensions or accidents, but you can ensure that the general vibe of your get-together is welcoming and inclusive. Offering sincere regard and gratitude for each guest goes a long way toward making everyone feel comfortable.
Reignite Happy Memories and Create New Ones
Celebrating the holidays with family and dear friends means you likely have a long history with most of the people present. A great way to boost everyone’s mood is to reminisce about the good times you’ve shared and avoid revisiting old hurts like childhood rivalries or traumatic events.
Ask loved ones to retell beloved jokes and anecdotes; congratulate them on recent achievements; and try to make this occasion one that will be remembered fondly.
Keep an Eye on the Kids
If there are children at your gathering, the potential for a ruckus is high.
Depending on their ages, it may be necessary to keep a close eye on them to ensure no one is being bullied or excluded from playtime. Not only will this make them happier and reduce disruptions like tantrums and crying, but it also mitigates the animosity parents might feel for one another when their children aren’t getting along.
Offering sincere regard and gratitude for each guest goes a long way toward making everyone feel comfortable.
Be Mindful of Hearing Difficulties
With hearing loss affecting 1.5 billion people globally, there’s a good chance that at least one of your guests lives with the condition. Whether they wear hearing aids or not, there are steps you can take to ensure they’re included in conversation and feel heard and understood:
Make sure you have the person’s attention before speaking
Use facial expressions and gestures to accentuate your message
Raise your voice slightly
Use short, simple sentences
Rephrase your words if the person is having a hard time understanding you
Originally posted Nov. 15, 2022 via Audiology & Hearing Health. Edited content used with permission.
Holiday Shopping for a Cause
Join Florida Drowning Prevention Foundation, Inc. for a Sip & Shop Charity Day at J.McLaughlin, Venetian Village
The mission of Florida Drowning Prevention Foundation, Inc. is to prevent childhood drowning by funding swim lessons, free door alarms, community water safety education and layers of protection as well as through support Florida nonprofit drowning prevention organizations and programs.
To date, there have been 82 drownings in Florida, including Collier County.
WHAT: Sip & Shop Day of Charity to benefit FLDPF and the children it serves. Enjoy curbside pickup, complimentary gift wrap and shipping.
WHERE: J.McLaughlin, Venetian Village
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bring this article to make sure a donation of 15% of sales go to Florida Drowning Prevention Foundation OR go download event invitation at https://floridadrowningpreventionfoundation.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/J-McLaughlin-Sip-and-Shop-Evite-Florida-Drowning-Prevention-12-15-22-min.jpg.
Naples female veteran looks back on her service with no regrets
by Kathy Grey
The retirement community of Bentley Village in Naples is home to a significant number of military veterans. One of the two women active in the community’s veterans’ group is Shirley Hagerson, who’s been a Bentley resident for nine years.
At 91, Hagerson is quick as a whip, feisty, personable and a self-described “tough old bird” who’s proud of her years of service in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
That service began when she was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, looking for some meaningful summer income with a few sorority sisters. They signed up as Reserve Office Candidates for two summers of paid training.
As the conflict endured the military decided that the trainees would be required to enlist full time.
“I had to go when they asked,” she says. She didn’t want to go, but her father insisted that she fulfill her military commitment. She enlisted as a U.S. Navy ensign, graduating Berkeley with her degree.
Shirley Hagerson served the U.S. Navy from 1953-56.
Her mid-1950s experience in the Navy was extraordinary. When other women in that era were relegated to secretarial, nursing or teaching careers, Hagerson became a cryptographer, decoding private internal messages for the United States Navy. She later transferred to the Norfolk, Virginia air station, where she directed air traffic. That’s where she met her husband, Larry, a supply officer. (The family has a running joke that Larry married her “for the money” because she was a lieutenant JG and he was an ensign, and Shirley outranked Larry.)
The couple were married 46 years at the time of Larry’s passing.
When she became pregnant, she was released from duty, as was the protocol at the time. That baby, named Nancy, her first of three daughters, attended Purdue University on a Navy scholarship and became a Navy captain, retiring after 20 years of service. It’s something Hagerson is proud of, quipping, “What goes around comes around.”
At 91, Hagerson lives a life of vitality, including leadership in Bentley Village’s veterans’ group.
Hagerson is quick to emphasize the extraordinary opportunities she, and then her daughter, were offered in their Naval service. In the 1950s, her own service gave her experiences that would have otherwise been unavailable to women.
“We got to do things other women didn’t,” she says, and she’s grateful for that. “I drove a truck and learned to fire a pistol. We got treated like the fellas and did all kinds of exciting and different things.”
After the Navy, Hagerson raised her three daughters, Nancy, Tracy and Laura (now in their 50s and 60s), and went on to teach for 39 years.
Especially now, her time with her daughters is precious. So, when she recently tripped into the sofa and broke two vertebrae, she still got into the car and drove to Georgia for a planned family get-together. She wouldn’t have missed that time with her girls for the world.
Here, her Naples schedule is more than full. There’s her leadership role in the Bentley community veterans’ group and lecture program. There’s her work in the Bentley library. She’s a Stephen Minister with her church, First Presbyterian Naples, which means that every day, she provides compassion to people in hospitals, nursing homes and those who are otherwise isolated.
Her military background, now a family legacy, gives her a sense of belonging. The gatherings at Bentley Village "gives us an opportunity to talk about our service: things only military people can understand," she says.
Bentley’s male veterans “accept me fully, even though I’m one of two women veterans (in the group).”
It’s not easy to pinpoint the bond and abject unity these veterans share, but Hagerson offers this: “We served our country. We honor the people who died and must be remembered. And we will always have our freedom.”
Embracing the ’bot: personal notes you can send without touching pen to paper
by Laura Baumgartner
Sending cards for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions is something many people wish they could do better, especially when the chaos of everyday life gets in the way or we don’t make it to the store to buy a card.
And sometimes we do get the card and carry it around for weeks because we don’t have a stamp nearby, or we just forget to mail it.
In this era of rapidly advancing technology, robots can be your handy helpers, writing your holiday cards, thank-you notes, birthday cards, etc., in your own hand.
The Handwrytten concept was formed in 2014, with the purpose of reigniting the art of handwritten correspondence. It’s now used by Fortune 500 companies, small retailers and independent consumers.
David Wachs, founded Handwrytten for himself and others.
“I invented and built the first Handwrytten robot because I was one of those people who wanted to send thoughtful cards to friends, family and business associates, but I never had time, or I thought of it too late,” Wachs says.
Instead of going to the store, buying a card and stamps and writing the note, in seconds, the app can send a note that recognizes an important day or milestone with a custom twist.
How it Works
• Users upload their unique handwriting style and signature, select or upload the card design and type in the message.
• The robots put pen to paper, writing the card in the individual’s handwriting and signing it with his or her unique signature.
• The handwriting on Handwrytten notes is indistinguishable from human handwriting.
There are 23 handwriting styles to choose from. Users can also upload their own handwriting and signature, which is available with a one-time fee.
Users can also select from more than 100 card designs or design their own online. And there are even options to include gift cards to more than 20 top brands, including Starbucks, Amazon, VISA, and more.
One Handwrytten note costs $3.25 to send but if you find it helps you actually get your expression of love and gratitude to others, you might want to opt for a discounted bulk order or a subscription.
To learn more, visit handwrytten.com or download the Handwrytten app for iPhone and Android.