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Quitters Can Win
Being the Change through Self-Acceptance
Hero Horse

in this issue

Living a Quality life

Perhaps at no other time in our existence has living a quality life been more crucial to ourselves and the world around us.

The first step toward living a quality life is shedding old concepts that no longer serve us. One experienced life coach and author offers seven steps that illustrate how “quitters” can be winners.

Self-acceptance is the foundation from which we spring to lead a quality life. Guest author Lisa Gruenloh continues her series, discussing the practice of this essential aspect of existence.

This chapter’s Hometown Hero trots through life, enhancing quality life experiences for people in need. His name is Red, and he’s a horse, of course.

Living life in wonder is easy at Everglades Wonder Gardens. And it will be twice as fun at its upcoming Masque Soirée.

Although our world may seem less accessible in many ways, the heavens open up as we shine our Entertainment Spotlight on Opera Naples’ innovative program series, Opera Under the Stars, at Baker Park.

As celebrated journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

Embrace every quality of your life.




Quitters Can Win

Seven Tips illustrate how unlearning old habits can lead to success.

It’s February, and already, many January resolutions have been abandoned.

Instead of adding to resolution lists, life and business coach Steve Cook suggests we subtract things that don’t serve us well.

“You might find you’ve bought into a cultural narrative that tells you to hustle, grind, stay busy and keep pursuing more,” Cook says.

But, he adds, blind pursuit of “the American Dream” doesn’t lead to happiness; it actively detracts from it. We need to slow down, take an honest look at our choices and stop the proverbial madness, Cook says, offering seven “quits” that might help people move beyond an instilled cultural narrative:


# 1. Quit using money as a measurement of success. 

Keep doing smart things with your money, Cook advises, but do stop measuring your success by it. Chances are, he adds, there are many people who have much more than you … and yet, they’re still not happy.

“One thing I have discovered in my years of coaching wealthy people is that they … measure their success based on how much they have.” Consequently, he says, “they never have enough. This measure itself leads to discontentment.”

# 2. Quit taking on debt. 

“Marketers will do whatever they have to in order to get you to buy their products and services; they really don’t care that you want to be debt free,” Cook says.

When we make it a point to stop borrowing money, Cooks says, we realize there are things that we can live without. And that, he says, “it is the first step toward becoming debt free.”

# 3. Quit trying to keep up with the Joneses. 

Whenever you compare yourself to someone else, you will always find someone that has something more. Learn to be grateful for and content with what you have.

“Keeping up with the Joneses often means keeping up with a pretty picture that doesn’t represent what is going on behind closed doors,” Cook notes. There, hidden stresses, finances in ruin and dysfunctional relationships might lurk in order to maintain false images.

# 4. Quit surrounding yourself with people who try too hard to impress. 

Cook says that many people share the same insecurities you may have about looks, possessions and perceived success.

He suggests surrounding yourself with people who have come to a place of contentment and aren’t trying to impress anyone.


# 5. Quit taking financial advice from people who are not better off than you. 

“The only advice you should get from those who are struggling is what NOT to do,” Cook says.

# 6. Quit working so many hours. 

“Years of conditioning have us believing that hard work means working a lot,” Cook says. “The truth is, short periods of efficient, hard work are much more productive than ‘overdrive,’ 60-hour workweeks.”

The most successful people, he says, work less, often earn more and enjoy their lives, experiencing freedom with their time, finances and choices.

#7. Quit putting off living life until you have more wealth. 

When you are trying to live life with money as the measure, you will never have enough. You will put off doing the things you could do right now in hopes that someday you have more available to enjoy life. Live it today.

If you quit doing the things above, Cook says “you will begin to have the space and time to do the things in life that really matter the most to you, which will also give you the time to grow and experience life to the fullest.”

Steve Cook is the author of “Lifeonaire: An Uncommon Approach to Wealth, Success, and Prosperity.” To learn more, visit



“It’s immoral to run a company and not encourage, expect and enable all of your people to develop their talents to the fullest.” Ralph Stayer, Former CEO of Johnsonville, LLC, shares the importance of developing your own talent along with your team.


Continue learning from world-renowned entrepreneurs and CEOs with the NextGen Speaker Series. Register now for the Feb. 26 interactive virtual event with Joel Anderson, President & CEO of the retail chain Five Below:

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Masque Soirée: Creative Genius
Opera Under the Stars
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Masque Soirée: Creative Genius

Artful ingenuity is the hallmark of first-time Wonder Gardens event

The Everglades Wonder Gardens is unveiling a new special event for 2021 that promises to be a saturation of the senses, with varied live music, interactive and experiential art, wildlife encounters with the gardens’ staff and more.

Masque Soirée is set for the evening of Saturday, March 13, featuring more than 15 local and internationally renowned artists, plein-air painters and musicians on strings, dulcimer and flute.

Famed master Italian street painter Jane Portaluppi Durand will create on site, as will renowned plein-air painter Paul Arsenault. An interactive art installation by Jackie Morelisse will be a feast for the senses in the gardens’ Robert and Karin Moe Tea House.

The evening is intended for guests to experience art “in the moment,” says Zawi Borsa, Wonder Gardens’ event and marketing manager, who is curating the happening. Borsa has worked with the presenting artists in the past and is excited to bring their multidisciplinary creative expressions to the Wonder Gardens.

Lily Hatchett’s Paper Grotto will feature artists applying layers of white paper to form a sculpture background on which images are projected. Viewers will be captivated by what is moving and what is not.

Plein-air painters will be stationed throughout the Wonder Gardens, and local artist Andrew McClure’s nature-movement installation with plants is what might be described as atmospheric composition.

Guests can experience free animal encounters with snakes, baby gators and parrots, and enjoy photo opportunities with them. Photo opps will also be available in the Paper Grotto.

“The Wonder Gardens is leading with safety in mind for the Masque Soirée, with our ‘mask required, creativity encouraged,’ one-of-a-kind event of the year,” Borsa says. Masque Soirée is a play on “masquerade” and invites attendees to decorate and have fun with their masks for this event, she adds. “This is also the first time that an evening event at the Wonder Gardens of this magnitude is accessibly priced for families to enjoy the gardens at night.

“There will be fabulous food and drinks available for purchase, including Roots to Fruits Organic Farm Food Truck and Vesuvius Wood Fired Pizza,” she says.

The 85-year-old Wonder Gardens is home to rescued and non-releasable birds and reptiles nestled among sprawling banyan trees and plantings. While preserving the best of the historic Wonder Gardens, the charitable organization is caring for more than 300 resident animals, upgrading wildlife enclosures, growing the botanical beauty of the property, adding education programs and events, and further engaging the community to enjoy this jewel in historic downtown Bonita Springs.


“A cultural icon, the Wonder Gardens stands as one of the few remaining cornerstones of Old Florida,” Borsa says. “Here, we tell a story there are few left to tell while educating our region on our important environment and wildlife.”

If You Go…

What: Masque Soirée
When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 13
Where: Everglades Wonder Gardens, 27180 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
Price: $30 for adults; $15 for children ages 3-12; free for children under 3.
Tickets: Go to tickets
Info: or 239-992-2591
Note: Virtual attendance is available to those who cannot attend in person.


Opera Under the Stars

Opera Naples presents an outdoor opera festival under the stars

When it became clear that producing operas as it had in the past would not be an option this year, Opera Naples decided now was the time to introduce a unique, out-of-the-box offering, originally included in its five-year plan. Sondra Quinn, Opera Naples executive director, and Artistic Director Ramon Tebar want to diversify how opera is presented to the public — and this was the perfect opportunity, not just to keep Opera Naples alive, but to provide the important service of art and culture when it’s needed most.

“This is an opportunity to do live opera in a safe way for everybody during this time,” Quinn says. “It’s also creating experiences not available before, in a dramatic setting — bringing in world-renowned opera singers. We’re marrying together beautiful scenery, beautiful weather and beautiful music.”

Opening the festival, which takes place March 10-13 at Baker Park, is a concert by world-renowned tenor Joseph Calleja, who was supposed to be performing at the Met Opera in New York that weekend, but the cancellation of the season cleared his schedule to perform with his friend, Tebar, a renowned maestro in his own right, who will accompany him on piano.

Next up is one of the most recognizable names in opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” to be performed twice on March 11 and 13. On Friday, March 12, “West Side Story,” by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, will be presented in operatic fashion.


One advantage to the outdoor festival is the variety of seating options available, which Tebar and Quinn see as a way to make the music accessible to a wider audience. For everyone’s safety, mask usage will be required and assigned seating and directional pathways will be used. VIP tickets include socially distanced tables arranged for them. Digital playbills will be emailed to registered attendees 24 hours before the performance begins.

If You Go…

What: Opera Naples Festival Under the Stars
When: Wednesday, March 10 through Saturday, March 13
Where: Baker Park, 50 Riverside Circle, Naples

Hero Horse

NTRC’s Red serves the community with patience and love

by Trista Meister

Hometown Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. This one happens to be a majestic, 12-year-old, 1,000-pound therapy horse named Red.

Red’s beautiful chestnut coat earned him his name, but his calm and patient demeanor and loving personality are what landed him his important and fulfilling job as a healer to children and adults with physical, social and mental health needs at Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC).

Red’s stature doesn’t intimidate his riders, who range in age from 4 to 82. He is, instead, known for being kind, affectionate and tender among the many people who consider him their hero.

Red is an appendix horse: a cross between a registered quarter horse and a registered thoroughbred. In 2015, he joined NTRC, a nonprofit organization in Naples providing therapeutic horseback riding and other equine-facilitated group services. He quickly rose in popularity among the more than 800 participants who turn to NTRC for improved strength, confidence and well-being, as well as the 400 volunteers who help care for the horses and support riders during lessons.

Prior to being donated to NTRC’s 16-horse therapy team, Red was ridden for western pleasure and as a hunter jumper. 

Being a therapy horse is a mentally and physically challenging job. NTRC therapeutic riders benefit from the horse’s movement. Therapy horses need to be sound at walk, trot and canter, with rhythmic and balanced gait. The horse must be able to work easily in hand, and tolerate one or two volunteers walking and trotting beside them.

NTRC uses assistive devices and equipment to mount riders, and the horse must be accepting of this process. Red has a unique intuition and senses each individual rider’s limitations.


“Red accepts whatever job is handed to him. Whether carrying a rider with physical challenges around the arena or helping someone deal with their grief or stress, Red stays calm, gives 110% and takes his job seriously,” says Lea Haven, NTRC’s PATH certified therapeutic riding lead instructor, an equine specialist in mental health and learning. “All of our horses do these things, but for some reason, Red’s calm, kind eye draws people to him.”  

Therapy horses need to be obedient to both voice and lead signals. They also need a good temperament, soundness and ability to serve participants with patience, kindness, and loyalty, especially those struggling with mental health challenges, such as PTSD, trauma, depression and addiction.


Lee Schoeder, volunteering as Red’s lead, with a veteran and his son in an Operation Strides session

In non-mounted equine groups, therapy horses help participants with communication skills, reducing anxiety and anger, as well as improving self-awareness and interpersonal relationships. 

“Red’s love is tenderly felt when one shares a glance with him,” says Karen Johnson, the parent of a rider with Down syndrome. “Love does not need to be expressed with words when it is silently conveyed through the eyes.” 

While all the horses at NTRC are special in their work, there is something very special about Red. He is a beloved and popular therapy horse, and many volunteers, staff and participants express that he is their favorite. 

Volunteers share that it’s his good nature that makes him so great.

“I love the way he comes to me when I see him and how hard he tries to please me and do as I ask when riding,” says NTRC volunteer Susie Newlon. “He is a loving, wonderful horse.”


Being the Change through Self-Acceptance

Part three of a four-part series on cultivating harmony in a divisive world

by Lisa Gruenloh, MPAP, CPC

The personal transformation journey can feel heavy at times, so finding ways to bring lightness to it is helpful and important. I offer a playful inspiration to focus on the second pillar of transformation: self-acceptance. It’s from the 2010 film, “Eat, Pray, Love,” in which Julia Roberts plays Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book of the same name.


The story chronicles Gilbert’s personal growth and healing journey on a trek to Italy, India and Indonesia. Each destination offers a compelling coalescing of people, experiences and revelations, including one in the film that takes place in a pizzeria in Naples, Italy.


“I’m tired of waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self-loathing to take into the shower,” Julia Roberts’ “Liz” says to her friend “Sofi.”


Roberts goes on to enjoy guilt-free, generous portions of the most delicious pizza she’s ever eaten.


Drop the Judgment

I chuckled, with discomfort, the first time I watched that scene. It was amusing and empowering. Yet, the truth of it hit me like a ton of bricks from a rustic pizza oven. “Uggghh…I do that.”


My reaction was a powerful and memorable self-awareness moment. To this day, I use my shower time as a judgment check exercise. I often ask myself mindfully, “what beliefs, thoughts or experiences could I release today?” I allow the water to metaphorically and energetically “cleanse” my thoughts of unworthiness, “not-enoughness” or other gunky stuff.  


Such mindful moments can bridge the transformation pillars of self-awareness and self-acceptance. Objective discernment (self-awareness) is a productive tool for growth, mindset shifts and behavior change, while judgment serves as a destructive indictment of self-identity.


Extend Compassion to Yourself

Self-awareness work will almost certainly reveal things about yourself that you’d rather not see. (Trust me on this!) We’ve all made bad choices that we regret. We’ve experienced disappointments that we cling to. We’ve had moments — or lifetimes — of feeling less than good enough in some way.


However, judging yourself for those things will only keep you trapped in a negative self-image. That’s not an ideal vantage point for seeing the best in yourself and embracing positive change based on your strengths, values and inherent goodness.


Instead, remind yourself that you are always doing the best you can with your current knowledge, resources, underlying belief systems and habitual thinking. And, at any moment, you have the power to extend compassion to yourself — accepting yourself as you are and forgiving yourself, while committing to do better.


Embrace Your Inherent Worth

Self-acceptance is also contingent upon embracing our sense of dignity — the recognition that each and every human being is a person of value. Everyone is born with inherent value and worth, yet not everyone experiences feeling valued externally. Inequities, discrimination and a variety of labeling continue to be prevalent in our society.

If you struggle with recognizing your worth, surround yourself with people who will remind you of how valuable and significant you are. Be willing to acknowledge any aspect of yourself that feels unlovable or unworthy and challenge that falsehood over and over again. Those are the aspects of you that most need your love, empathy and care.


Putting it into Practice!

Self-acceptance frees you from the shackles of judgment, so you can more fully embrace your value and realize all that you are capable of being, doing, having and contributing. The impact of your successful journey will be magnified as you naturally want to extend empathy and compassion to others — and maybe even share some guilt-free pizza. Buon appetito!


If you would like to try a deeper dive on this topic and to engage in some thought-provoking exercises, CLICK HERE. I encourage you to engage in this practice these next two weeks as the next article in this series (coming March 10) will further build on this foundation of personal transformation.

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Lisa Gruenloh, MPAP, CPC is a mission-driven entrepreneur, certified emotional intelligence coach, and activist dedicated to fostering collaborative problem-solving and meaningful, sustainable change. Read more about Gruenloh and her latest purpose-driven venture at


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