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Is it Love?

Getting to the heart of different kinds of devotion

With National First Love Day being Sept. 18, we thought we’d give love a whirl, featuring four readers’ stories about finding true love.

We also chat with novelist Toby Dorr about breaking from others’ expectations in a most shocking way that led to her discovery of self-love and honor.

Honoring our bodies is another form of self-love, and we take a look at celiac disease and how two female entrepreneurs use their own flour magic to create baked goods that no one would guess are gluten-free.

Inside love for our community, Collier County Supervisor of Elections offers guidance for voters to navigate every step of the upcoming general election.

We love our planet and as we traverse it, we’ve come to realize that our actions have a direct impression on Earth. We present online questionnaires to help you determine your personal ecological and carbon footprint as you step into the future.

Lucille Ball left us with some eternal wisdom we can all live by: “Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Is it love? You bet.

Is it Love that I’m Feeling?


Breaking Down the Wounds 
Measuring Your Footprint
Picking Flours
Voting is Our Sacred Right
2022 General Election Dates & Deadlines
  • Voter Registration/Political Party Change Deadline – Oct. 11

  • Vote-by-Mail Request Deadline – Oct. 29 at 5 p.m.

  • Early Voting in Collier County – Oct. 27-Nov. 5 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Subject to change)

  • Election Day – Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tips to Reducing Your Footprint

• Choose local, seasonal and organic foods, or try going meatless. (A significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the use of animals for meat, causing twice the pollution of producing plant-based foods.)

• Add energy-saving features to your home, such as fluorescent bulbs or a system to regulate the thermostat, especially when you’re not at home.

• Do full loads of laundry and dishes to avoid wasting water and energy.

• Donate (don’t trash) used clothes, appliances, furniture and electronics.

We invite you to calculate your personal ecological and carbon footprints by completing the quizzes at the following sites:

Nate and Mia

Nate and I met on in September 2017. We both had been married and divorced, each of us having two kids.

Nate is the “giver” in the relationship.

Ironically, so am I.

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Before we met, we’d never experienced being with a fellow giver in a relationship but learned that when two “givers” come together to form a relationship, it’s a really beautiful thing, giving different and essential components to the relationship. 

We both go out of our way to do nice things for the other. We provide things that the other person can’t, and we appreciate one another.

Nate does all the little things that mean a lot, giving everything he has to keep our relationship happy and healthy. He leaves me little love notes in my car before work. He rubs my back while I am cooking in the kitchen. He holds my hand in the car. He is always giving random hugs and kisses as we pass in the hallway or on the stairs. He buys my favorite foods to grill on the weekends. He plans surprise dates for when we don't have the kids. He tells me how much he loves me every single day.

Likewise, I do anything that I can to make him happy. Even though we are both extremely busy people, balancing work, kids and sports/activities, we still call and text each other throughout the day to keep open communication.

We’ve been together five years, lived together for four and have been engaged for two.

I have never been happier in a relationship, and I am so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him and our family. 

Laura and Steve

Steve and I met five years ago at guitar lessons. His lesson was right after mine with the same instructor. I flirted shamelessly, not realizing he was married. He never took the bait. I would meet my friend, Andrea, for drinks after my lessons and tell her I had met the man of my dreams who he didn’t know I was alive.

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Fast forward to last year, I met newly single Steve again when he replied to my comment on a mutual friend’s Facebook post.

I knew that I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out how I knew him until we started talking about our guitar lessons history. I had a lightbulb moment, realizing that he was that guy.  

We started talking, and one thing led to another. Now, here we are, making beautiful music together. 


Is it Love that I’m Feeling?

Four readers share their profound love stories in honor of National First Love Day

Oh, no, it’s not even close to Valentine’s Day. But National First Love Day is Sept. 18, and these four stories, contributed by our readers, speak volumes about their adoration and enduring love.

Mauricio and Anne 

When my co-workers asked if I’d be open to meeting a friend of theirs, I could not refuse. I’d been actively immersed in “manifesting a husband” for six months so here it was: He was being presented! 

The last six months of “creating him” flashed through my mind. I created a vision board of what our lives would look like. I shared a word list of his attributes with family and friends to help me “create him.” I moved the bed so there would be space to get in on his side. I cleared his side of the closet. I left his parking space available for him, and on and on. 

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All I had to do now was accept. So, I said yes. Yes, I am open to meeting someone. And then they asked, “Are you open to meeting a man recently immigrated from Colombia?” 

I paused. Am I open to a non-English speaking immigrant? Is this a test? Who am I? Why am I resisting? How would my friends and family receive him or “us?” Still, my only job at this point was to accept. I had asked, believed and now must receive.

I said yes … with reservations.

They gave him my number and he called and called and called in an effort to set up a date, speaking very broken English. I didn’t feel this was a good fit, so I resisted, but I finally decided to meet him to agree we are not a good fit.

We chatted as best we could and came up with a long list of reasons we are not meant for each other:

1. We don’t speak the same language.

2. We are 10 years apart in age.

3. He has three boys living in Colombia, and I’d recently lost my only biological child, meaning, he died. (When I told him I lost my son, he stood up, looked at his watch and all around, asking what time I lost him and offering to help me find him.) Also, I raised my nephew who joined the Army. 

After 60 minutes, we parted. I thought that’s that. But no! About an hour later, he called again to tell me what he was having for dinner. (I am known for asking people what they are having for dinner, so he was answering the question.) OK, now it’s done, right? Nope!

A few days later, he called again. He’d clearly practiced reciting all the reasons we agreed to regarding why we are not a good fit. Then, he asked me, “What did you think of me?”

I was floored by his courage and thought, “Say nice things fast!”

I said, “Well, you are clearly very brave, having immigrated to a country that speaks another language. And you seem to be a very good father. You are so handsome, compassionate and thoughtful.” When I heard myself reciting all these beautiful attributes, I agreed to a real date. 

Over the next few months, we kept our relationship very quiet, yet spent every possible moment together, getting to know each other.

Was this love? Language didn’t seem to be a barrier because we communicated exactly what mattered and nothing that didn’t. 

Our libraries were filled with the same books in different languages.

We shared the same religion and prayers in different languages.

We both placed an emphasis on family, enjoyed music, cooking, humor, color, meditation, volunteering within our communities, exploring the outdoors, animals ...

None of these activities needed words.

We seemed to speak without the need to verbalize. We were, and are, so connected. We go with our intuition and allow, respect and appreciate each other’s intention. 

Over the past 16 years, we met, married, raised his three boys together in the U.S. and lost several family members, including my nephew.

We have assimilated in each other’s cultures by experiencing each other as humans that need to be loved and supported in our daily experiences. 

“We” have recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease [ovarian cancer]. I say “we” because I have never felt alone in this experience. From the moment of the diagnosis, our every decision is made by what’s the best choice for our relationship.


Yes, this is love.

I have come to believe each relationship creates its own and very intimate love language, absent of the need for words.  

Christin and David

I met David on a blind date that neither of us wanted to go on. We were both divorced and scarred by our experiences. Our lives were complex. Our hurts were deep.

It was not a fairy tale-straight-line-to-happily-ever-after, but our connection was immediate and true. 

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Twenty-three years later, we continue our shared journey with openness and vulnerability so we can continue to grow into who we are meant to be.

Our love language is self-love. David and I support one another as we ebb and flow through life, transitioning and transforming like the tides. I am most in love with my husband when he is most authentically in touch with who and why he is. He is a father, a son, a friend, a professional, a deep thinker and a husband. 

Just when I thought it was impossible, I recently fell even more in love with him. This spring, I witnessed David in his full glory, giving his “father of the bride" speech at his daughter’s wedding. He spent hours and hours in deep thought, preparing for this moment in time. What message did he want to provide this beautiful young couple? What reflections did he want to share? Did his words reflect the depth of his heart?

As I sat and listened to my quiet, kind, powerful husband share his innermost feelings with his youngest child, salty tears quietly streamed down my face. Oh, how I love authentic, deep and honest David.

He is my lover, best friend, soulmate, biggest cheerleader and sternest advocate. I am forever grateful for this loving relationship, one that is founded on knowing and loving ourselves first and coming together as two imperfect humans who are doing the best we can — together. 


Escaping Personal Prisons 

Famed jailbreak accomplice turns prison conviction into living life with conviction


by Kathy Grey


Toby Dorr dared to do the unthinkable. While running the prison dog program at Lansing Correctional Facility, she fell in love with convicted murderer John Manard and helped him escape in a dog crate. The two were on the run for two weeks before they were captured.

Since completing her time in federal prison, she has achieved two master’s degrees and rebuilt a broken life.

But back then, in 2006, she was struggling.

“I wasn’t happy in my marriage, but I never let myself believe it. It was important for me to be perfect. I wanted to present to the world what my parents hoped and expected of me,” Dorr says. “But you can’t overlook things and pretend they’re normal. You need to be honest and look at your life with a critical eye. And if you love yourself, you won’t be sidetracked by a love that isn’t right for you.”

But, at the time, Dorr’s father, “the center of my life,” was dying of cancer. She bore that heartache alone until she befriended John Manard, who cared and offered support.

She’d hung onto the illusion of the perfect life: a long marriage, solid business executive career, two grown sons in college … but like many women, she felt ignored and insignificant.

“John was the first person who opened my eyes to something I was missing in my life, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I was crazy in love with John Manard, who was demonstrative and romantic,” unlike her then-husband. “It was like a drug.”

Dorr saw this as her chance to escape a loveless, 28-year marriage. If she escaped prison with Manard, she told herself, “At least I’ll be able to get a divorce now.”

When the runaways were captured, Manard had 20 months added to his life sentence. Dorr served 27 months.

“I used my time in prison to go back over my whole life and into spaces I didn’t want to talk about. I dug up all my old feelings. Being at rock bottom made it easier. I couldn’t get any lower.”

Journaling and the Journey

“I lost everything on the surface: my house, income and stability, relationships with my sisters and sons. I got the divorce I wanted. Thank God for my mom, who was my biggest supporter.”

Dorr wrote in prison, completing 26 journals.

“Get out a pen and paper and don’t filter. Your heart has a way of pushing words to the surface. Do it by hand. There’s a connection between the heart and the hand. Later, go back and read what you wrote. You’ll get keys to what you need to work on.”

After her release from prison, she took a job in Boston, where few would recognize her. That’s where she met Chris Dorr, who would become her husband.

“We have a wonderful relationship. He’s the keel to my boat. I’m his anchor. The two of us together are unsinkable.” They’ve been married 13 years.

 They moved back to Kansas City so she could be with her younger son, who was dying of cancer. (She hasn’t reconciled with her other son to date.)

Healing by Helping Others

It took 15 years to write her third book, her memoir, “Living with Conviction: Unexpected Sisterhood, Healing and Redemption in the Wake of Life-Altering Choices,” released in June.

“The book is all about the healing process,” she says, noting that women need support: “Someone you can lean on. Someone to say, ‘Let’s get a coffee” or ‘Let’s go for a walk.’ It’s important to be that woman for someone else, to just be there with them.”

In addition to hosting “Slaying Your Shame Dragon” workshops, Dorr also is developing a podcast that centers on the stories of women who have overcome life-altering situations (including incarceration) as well as advocating for criminal justice reform. (She notes that the U.S. has 4% of the world’s population, yet 25% of world’s incarcerated population.)

“My mission is to advocate for women to stand up and be themselves; to escape their personal prisons” instead of conforming to what others expect of them.

“Do something physically different. Move. Walk. Find a hobby. Make a new friend. Take control. Live with conviction,” she urges.

“It’s time to escape your prison.”

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Picking Flours

Lifestyle choices are more palatable for those who can’t tolerate gluten

by Kathy Grey

Sept. 13 is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day in the U.S., a disease affecting an estimated one in 100 people worldwide.

When those with this disease ingest gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, barley and other grains), the body attacks, damaging the blood-vessels containing villi that line the small intestine. When the villi are damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming gluten triggers an immune response in people with celiac disease, resulting in diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, anemia and malabsorption. What’s more, the Celiac Disease Foundation says, untreated celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, itchy skin rash, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, epilepsy, migraines, heart disease and intestinal cancers.

This serious autoimmune disorder is most frequently addressed with a gluten-free (GF) diet, a departure from the traditionally gluten-laden American diet.

Thanks to greater demand for GF foods, advancements have been made in creating gluten-free flours that can be used as readily as the flours most Americans were raised on — with equally delicious results.

We recently came across a couple sources whereby even people with food allergies can have their cake and eat it, too.

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The Good Flour Co.

Much to her horror, Chef Jen Peters, who worked and trained in Michelin-star restaurants internationally, was diagnosed as gluten intolerant after being misdiagnosed for 20 years.

When a naturopath suggested she test for a gluten allergy, the chef was in disbelief but agreed to it in order to rule it out. However, the naturopath was right, and the dermatitis on her feet — the feeling of them being on fire — was related to gluten. It’s something she says she probably had since she was 16 years old.

“After three days without gluten, I could breathe thru my nose, and I wasn’t in constant need of the bathroom,” she says. “Three days! I had become comfortable with the discomfort. What I was putting in my body was doing this to me.”

She began researching and creating a line of gluten-free, all-purpose baking blends that would allow her to continue making popular kitchen staples like bread, pasta and pastries. In 2012, she launched what’s now known as The Good Flour Co., making her nutritional gluten-free, allergen-free and additive-free flours available to lovers of good food everywhere.


Now, at age 47, the Vancouver, B.C. chef proclaims that gluten-free foods are “digestively lighter,” and her flour blends remove the guesswork for home cooks who want a GF substitute for traditional wheat flour.

The benefit? “You feel alive!” Chef Jen says.

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Cak’d: Naples

Maria Trupiano, knows how hard it is to find allergen-safe treats. Hailing from a long line of bakers, she started experimenting in 2019 with the perfect recipe for the perfect cupcake, regardless of food sensitivity. Last month, she opened Cak’d, a sweet shop in Naples (304 Ninth St. N.) serving 100% vegan and gluten-free goodies that tickle the tastebuds of kids and adults alike.

“I started a two-and-a-half, three-year journey of formulating my own recipes, my own flour blend and getting it perfected to where we are now,” Trupiano says.

The business has a heart for the community, tithing 10% of its profits each month to serve area groups and individuals.

“Our goal is to help shower love to those in need in Naples,” Trupiano says. “We will also be blessing someone each week through customer-supported nominations, so keep an eye out for the jar near our register.”


Voting is Our Sacred Right

Critical information as the general election approaches

by Jennifer J. Edwards, Collier County Supervisor of Elections

One of our most sacred rights as American citizens is the right to have a voice in our government by electing the leaders who will represent us. As supervisor of elections, I am proud of the work we do to ensure the integrity of our elections while providing convenient opportunities for voters to cast their ballots, whether by mail, during early voting or on election day.

Trusted Info

With decades of experience, the Collier County Supervisor of Elections is the trusted resource for elections and voting information in Collier County. It is our priority to exhaust every resource available to ensure that our voting system and networks are secure.

Since elections were designated as a critical infrastructure in 2017, we have built partnerships with multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which keeps election officials abreast of cybersecurity threats and concerns.

Our office also continues to invest in new technology for our voting equipment, tools to help harden our networks and training for our employees who help keep our systems safe from bad actors.

We understand that confidence in elections and faithful maintenance of the voter roll are key factors in voter turnout. Collier County has repeatedly led the state in voter participation, including in 2020 when over 90% of our voters cast a ballot during the General Election. Our goal is to continue this trajectory by ensuring that every voter has a positive voting experience.


We encourage you to visit our website at for information pertaining to the upcoming elections and follow us on our verified social media channels for important announcements made about voting in Collier County.

The leaders in 2022 will be the decision-makers in our community and our voice in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. When we do not take full advantage of the right to vote, we not only give away our voice, but we also give away the ability to shape our community’s future.

In 2022, be an informed voter and use your vote to voice what is important to you.


Measuring Your Footprint

Our everyday choices have the potential to harm or help the planet

by Kathy Grey

Just as a footprint is left behind in the sand, the choices people make impact their lives and the environment around them.

This planetary impact, referred to as our ecological footprint, shows we’re utilizing the Earth’s resources at such a high a rate that it can’t be replenished. We call this ecological deficit.

People are becoming more and more aware of the impact their everyday habits have on planet Earth and are seeking solutions to mitigate negative effects.

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