Loving Others AND Yourself
Valentine’s Day ushers in the love we give and receive every day
To honor Valentine’s Day, this chapter of èXtra focuses on love.
You’ll meet the Bergersons, who share the secret of their enduring love after 50 years of marriage.
Women, in particular, can fall prey to social media’s detrimental influence, which can warp a woman’s sense of self and personal authenticity. Board-certified behavior analyst Gianna Biscontini challenges women to overcome toxic narratives and explains why she has chosen to step away from her own “digital addiction” as an act of self-love.
Dr. Kiran Gill shares her perspective on how taking care of yourself — loving yourself first — is actually the best thing you can do for others.
And finally, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for grown-ups. Guest columnist Kimberly Blaker offers wonderful suggestions for making the day special for the young people in your life.
However you celebrate Valentine’s Day, remember the words of “Peanuts” comic strip legend Charles M. Schulz, who once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
in this issue
Always by Your Side
After more than 50 years, Bonita Springs residents Connie and Peter Bergerson treasure their endless love
by Kathy Grey
She was an elementary education student at Southeast Missouri State University. He was a young professor. They crossed paths on a congenial collegiate 10-cent beer night. Their first dinner date was at the The Purple Crackle, a Southern Illinois dinner and dance club.
In 1972, having dated for three years, Peter Bergerson and Connie Troll were married in St. Louis beneath the Gateway Arch.
For 34 years, they lived in nearby Cape Girardeau, raising two children as Peter led the Southeast Missouri State University’s political science department and Connie taught elementary school.
The Bergersons migrated to Bonita Springs in 2002, with Peter as a Florida Gulf Coast University professor, developing its political science curriculum and teaching public administration. Connie taught reading to Collier County Public Schools’ English language learners grades K-8.
Connie has retired after 40-plus years of teaching. And this is Peter’s last semester at FGCU. He’ll be retiring after 21 years as a Ph.D. professor who helped launch the university’s department of political science and public administration.
“I have mixed emotions about retirement. I really love the students, the political world and being able to convey the political behavior of individuals and groups to the next generation. I have 55 years of experience — not one year repeated 54 times. I hope I have encouraged my students to be informed citizens who participate in public service, the law and assume civic responsibilities.”
At a recent FGCU basketball game, a student from 15 years ago saw Peter in the stands and took the time to thank him for being his professor and for how he was treated as a student.
“That discussion,” Peter says, “encapsulates an important part of my legacy.”
Looking back, Connie summarizes the professional aspect of her and Peter’s journey: “We’ve been poor as church mice. And now — for two teachers — we’re doing pretty well!”
But back in the day, the path wasn’t always smooth.
Growth and Family
“One of the greatest personal challenges was completing my Ph.D. with two young kids at home,” Peter says.
The couple had no family living nearby and relied upon each other for the care of their young children, which might have been one of many secrets to the forever-couple’s success.
“Peter’s schedule was more flexible,” Connie remembers. “He’d take care of the oil changes and other responsibilities.” Even today, “Peter likes to cook. I make the sides. We have a cleaning lady because we both like a clean house, and neither of us likes to clean. And the last one out of bed makes it,” she says.
“It’s not a traditional marriage with defined roles,” says Peter. “But we have traditional values (of) mutual respect, understanding and trust.”
Today, their adult children, Catherine and Chris, have children of their own.
Catherine, a vice president for NewsBank Corporation, and her sixth-grade daughter, Ellie, live in North Naples and get to see the Bergersons often.
Chris, his wife and their son, Peter, now live in Guangzhou, China, where Chis is stationed as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. They plan to move to Mozambique, Africa next year.
Grace and Gratitude
The Bergersons have never considered parting ways, but if there’s trouble in paradise, Peter humorously notes what works for him, anyway: “I just make a Manhattan and go into the other room.”
Of course, the couple has faced times of despair.
“I had breast cancer and underwent two rounds of chemo. That threw us for a loop,” Connie says. Although Peter was not born to be a nurse, “He picked up the ball and did it,” she says. “And look at me now!”
Peter finishes her sentence: “…beautiful as ever.”
In 2015, Peter suffered severe pulmonary issues.
“We could have lost him,” Connie says. “But he’s good now. We’re lucky that God has made so much possible in our lives.”
Peter concurs, adding, “We like God.”
The Bergerson Relationship Recipe
Trust in each other
Share goals and values
Understand personal needs
Look for the positive when setbacks happen
Stay fascinated with each other
BEHIND THE SCREEN
Living to be ‘Like’d
Social media addiction can have a particularly negative effect on women
by Gianna Biscontini
Though we only see a small fraction of what goes on in the lives of influencers, women often regard these two-dimensional faces and the products they push as models of self-worth.
This is a trap, and it was time to end this madness.
A friend asked me, “Why are you leaving social media? Well, besides all the obvious reasons.”
“For all the obvious reasons,” I responded with a chuckle.
No one is surprised about my break from social media. They’ve all considered it, too. But when I press further as to why they haven’t yet abandoned this time and energy sapper, I realize they can’t even imagine life without social media. That is how ingrained platforms like Facebook and Instagram have gotten in our every day. Those of us who jumped on board years ago now cannot imagine life without it.
One day, I bent down to take a picture of my dog and me, and abruptly stopped. “I can’t post it, so what’s the point?” I thought.
What’s the point? What had happened to me?
It didn’t matter if I thought something was insightful or beautiful, a quick, barely there thought of “Nah, no one will get that” would pop up, meaning, “No one would like/comment/share that.”
When I occasionally checked my analytics on my professional account, my fears were confirmed.
The posts I found least interesting (an attractive picture of me) received the most attention, and the posts I found most interesting (research on well-being, insights gained from my time at Stanford) received the least. And still, my behavior continued to follow: posting when I happened to look attractive instead of when I had something interesting to say.
I had just published a book helping women live the lives they want for themselves beyond the expectations and limits of others, and here I was — just another woman conforming to what the world wants.
Now I’d like to reverse that narrative, if only in my own life.
While I’ve considered this for years (I stepped away from Facebook long ago and returned only to promote my book), this is the perfect time. When Instagram suspended my account [because of the book’s title], I reduced my use throughout the spring, summer and fall. In place of hours I spent scrolling and posting, I studied quantum physics, meditated more, played outside with my dogs, spent 12 days traveling around tiny houses on the East Coast and enjoyed my press tour. I was truly the healthiest I had been for a long time.
Months later, I felt like I was ready to return to daily posts, but within a few short weeks, my mental and physical health began to dwindle. My attention was noticeably affected. As I was scrolling mindlessly, I would think, “You’re not even enjoying this.”
I wrote my book in the service of all women, to help liberate them from generations of limiting narratives and rules on what it means to be female.
My choice to step away from the digital addiction game is a value-aligned one. Authenticity for women is not perfection; it’s learning to show up and own the messy, cracked, gorgeous-in-all-our-glory versions of ourselves.
It’s the woman we hide but know is there; the person we’ll look back on when we’re 70 and say, “I wish I hadn’t hidden that lovely, fierce girl for so long.”
Gianna Biscontini is a board-certified behavior analyst who challenges women to overcome narratives and fight for their rights to live interesting and authentic lives outside boxes created by society. Prior to publishing her book, “F~ckless: A Guide to Wild, Unencumbered Freedoms,” Biscontini founded the innovative employee well-being agency W3RKWELL. Learn more at GiannaBiscontini.com.
It’s the Season of (Self-) Love
Taking the time to do the things that help you live well
by Dr. Kiran Gill
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we reflect upon the spirit of love and selfless ways to share and express our love. Everywhere we look, ads, articles, movies and books talk about gifting, treating, caring for and enticing a special someone.
But, what about you? When was the last time you treated, cared for or loved you? If you’re like most women, you probably don’t often stop to consider your needs. Not to mention, this concept of “self-love” can feel selfish and vain. However, taking care of yourself — loving yourself first — is the best thing you can do for others.
Think in terms of when you fly: The airline attendant instructs you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Why? Because if you run out of oxygen yourself, you can’t help anyone. Think of self-love similarly. You can’t love others well when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overextended, anxious and tired. Self-love is the act of respecting yourself, acknowledging that you have needs and addressing those needs unapologetically. It means taking the time to do the things that help you live well: mentally, spiritually and physically.
What Does Self-Love Look Like?
Self-love can take the form of any act that empowers you, relaxes you, builds your confidence or improves your overall well-being. It may be prioritizing exercise or meditation, taking yourself to the spa, cooking yourself a delicious meal or reading a book, just to name a few.
Cosmetic procedures can also be a way to care for yourself. There are various studies that back the relationship between cosmetic surgery and self-confidence.
As a plastic surgeon, my patients come to me for advice and treatments, all in the name of self-love. Common motives for seeking cosmetic procedures include increasing self-confidence, improving quality of life and treating or celebrating oneself. Many patients who seek cosmetic surgery are choosing to further accentuate a feature, correct a feature or prevent a problem.
As a practice of all female physicians and plastic surgeons, we have a sensibility and keen understanding of our patients’ needs and cosmetic goals. From anti-aging education to noninvasive treatments such as injectables, fillers, lasers and skin care, we offer a broad range of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic solutions to help patients feel confident and empowered.
When patients express concern about the look and feel of their skin, we talk about active ingredients and skin care products to boost collagen levels. If they’re pointing to fine lines around the eyes, wrinkles and creases, or drooping skin around the jawline, we can explore a variety of injectable options to smooth skin, restore volume and improve facial contour.
The breasts can present potential problems for some patients. If the breasts are larger, they may cause back, shoulder and neck pain. Some patients feel self-conscious about flatness, drooping or asymmetry. In each of these instances, we can discuss breast reduction or implants as solutions.
Practicing self-love is a practice in appreciating your own uniqueness and value, doing things for yourself to maintain and enhance your confidence and to improve your outlook on life. So, in this season of love, be your own valentine. Put on your oxygen mask and do what makes you confident, comfortable and happy.
Kiran Gill, M.D., is a leading plastic surgeon in Southwest Florida and is one of the only female plastic surgeons in Naples. She is the founder of Naples Aesthetic Institute – Boutique Plastic Surgery and Skin Spa. Dr. Gill’s practice is located at 6610 Willow Park Drive, Suite 104, Naples. To learn more, call 239-596-8000 or visit www.kirangillmd.com.
RAISING IN LOVE
You’re the Best, Kiddo!
Creative ways to tell your child “I Love You”
by Kimberly Blaker
Valentine’s Day is a perfect reason to show your child just how much he or she is loved. Try these creative ideas to show how much you care on Valentine’s Day and throughout the entire year.
A Heart a Day
Add a heart-shaped candy to your child’s lunch box on Valentine’s Day and every day of the school year. Be sure to stock up after Valentine’s Day clearances so you have plenty on hand.
Use a large, heart-shaped cookie cutter to make heart-shaped sandwiches, toast and other treats. Your kids will love the shape (and that you’ve eliminated the crust).
Pick up your child from school for a surprise lunch date. Hit your child’s favorite fast-food place, go on a picnic or have lunch together in the school cafeteria.
Poet for a Day
You don’t have to be a poet to write a fun or serious poem for your child or look up simple children’s rhymes and update it especially for your child.
A Valentine’s Welcome
Welcome your child home from school with a valentine banner across your front porch or entryway. Add sayings that remind your child why he or she is the greatest.
Snail Mail Surprise
Kids love to get mail, so why not send your child a Valentine’s Day card, letter or postcard?
Say It with Email
Send your child an email with a link to a fun website or a funny animated e-greeting.
B is for...
Make a poster portraying your child’s characteristics. Put your child’s name at the top. Then list as many positive descriptive words as you can that begin with your child’s initial. (For example, B is for Brandon: busy, beautiful, brave, blossoming…) Use a thesaurus to find oodles of words.
Give your child a poetry book written especially for sons or daughters such as ”To My Son with Love…” or ”To My Daughter with Love on the Important Things in Life” by Susan Polis Schultz. Make it a forever keepsake by inscribing the book with a loving message.
The Gift of Time
Sign up for a valentine-themed class — or any class you’ll both enjoy.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Flip through photo albums or watch family videos together, and reminisce about favorite holidays, vacations and family times you’ve had together.
Make a Date
Go out for ice cream, play putt-putt golf, take in a movie, go roller-skating or spend an afternoon at the park.
Engrave Your Thoughts
Have a necklace or bracelet engraved for your child.
Van Gogh in the Making
Sift through your child’s art collection, select a piece to frame and display it for everyone to see.
Put together a memory scrapbook of your child. Use photos, locks of hair, vacation postcards and ticket stubs. Dedicate each page to a special holiday, event or theme. Include dates and any details you remember, along with sayings and stickers to fit the themes.
However you choose to make an impression, make your child feel special on this annual day of love.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online store, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com