Exploring the Dimensions of Safety
Security, protection and well-being are only a few aspects of staying out of harm’s way
Safety means so many things to us, whether it’s safety from an abusive relationship, safety in the cyber world, safety from identity theft or personal safety in the neighborhood. We present these topics and more in this Safety Matters chapter of èBella èXtra.
Dr. Kiran Gill offers expert advice on safeguarding your intentions related to breast cancer surgery, and Lynda Monk, director of the International Association for Journal Writing, explains how you can create a personal safe place by journaling throughout your life.
In all its diverse forms, safety matters to every one of us, everywhere.
Be safe. Be well.
The Agony of Identity Theft
Spammers, Scammers and Upgrading Your ‘CQ’
Security expert advocates investing time in your own cyber intelligence
Board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon says safety matters in a breast cancer survivor’s healing experience
SAFETY ON THE STREETS
Calling All Dogs
CCSO safety campaign enlists pups, owners
Walking your dog can keep your neighborhood safe and help deputies take a bite out of crime. That’s the message behind the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s Paws on Patrol safety campaign.
The campaign enlists dog owners who are out on the streets walking their dogs to serve as extra eyes and ears, reporting any suspicious activity or unusual behavior to law enforcement.
In Collier County, more than 80 percent of car burglaries are to unlocked vehicles; and most occur in the overnight hours. This is just one example of how Paws on Patrol can work in potentially reducing crime.
The campaign encourages pet owners to be cognizant of their surroundings while outside walking their pets. The idea is that pet owners know their community and can recognize suspicious people, vehicles and activity better than anyone.
Dog walkers are asked to be aware of their surroundings and carry their smartphones with them so they can call law enforcement if they see something suspicious.
If you see activity that is suspicious or a crime in progress, contact local law enforcement immediately. Gather as much information as you can, such as your location, the type of activity that is occurring and whether a person and/or a vehicle is involved, along with a description. If you can safely do so, take a picture of the person and/or vehicle. If it is not an emergency, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office nonemergency line at 239-252-9300. If the situation could be a crime in progress, call 911.
Paws on Patrol is a Collier County Sheriff’s Office public awareness campaign. There is no need to register.
Accepting Yourself with a Click of a Pen
Expert reveals the power of self-love through journaling
by Lynda Monk, Director, International Association for Journal Writing
Have you ever been too hard on yourself or pushed yourself past your limits? Have you let your perfectionism or your desire to please drive you to exhaustion? Most creative, caring and purpose-driven women can relate to some or all of these things.
This is where self-love comes in. Self-love means that you accept yourself fully, just as you are. It means you put attention and care into treating yourself with compassion and respect.
You can do this by asking yourself, “Am I treating myself the way I would treat someone I really, really love?” Self-love is about how you think about yourself and how you feel about yourself.
Journaling is a self-loving act. When you take time to pause and reflect and write about your thoughts and feelings, you are saying, “My self-care matters. Taking time for myself to write and reflect matters. I matter.”
Self-love is a nourishing energy, like a hug from within that says, “You’re OK; I’ve got you.” It is that wave of comfort and care that washes over you, reminding you of your inner strength, your beauty and your creative life force energy as a self-loving woman.
Journal writing is a powerful self-discovery tool that can help you deepen your feelings of self-love in a meaningful, nourishing way. Journaling by its nature is a process of using personal writing for self-reflection.
Most people journal to vent about their feelings or write about the events of their day. But you can use journaling to transform your thoughts and feelings — to cultivate deeper feelings of self-acceptance and self-love.
For example, you can write about things you wonder about or wish to experience. You can write about what you feel good about, moments of pride and things you are grateful for. You can journal about your hopes and dreams. You can journal to forgive yourself. You can journal to start your day with purpose and intention.
I have been journaling since I was a young girl. Now, at the age of 52, I continue to write. I have journaled through my successes and failures in life. I have journaled to grieve, to celebrate, to think, to learn, to grow, to know myself better and to care for myself through the healing power of expressive writing. I have learned to love and accept myself more fully through journaling.
Being in a self-loving and kind relationship with myself is not always easy, but it is always a worthy pursuit. Like any relationship that matters and will last through many years — through a lifetime — it takes care and attention. It needs to be a priority amidst competing priorities.
Self-love means that we do not put our relationship with ourselves and our own needs last. It means you and your needs, your well-being and your desires and joy are important and treated that way.
As the poet Rupi Kaur writes, “How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”
Self-love journaling prompts to get you started…
How would your younger self be proud of who you’ve become today?
What are three things you value about yourself?
What do you need to let go of to love yourself more?
As a self-loving woman, what brings you pleasure and joy?
Self-love fuels our well-being and sense of inner peace. The world needs us to love ourselves. The times we are living in need us well cared for and empowered from within.
May journaling support you to deepen your self-love in creative and comforting ways. Word by word, may your heart embrace your wholeness, your worthiness and your aliveness. We can express our aliveness, our self-love, through journaling, then go from the page out into the rest of our lives.
Lynda Monk is the director of the International Association for Journal Writing. She is the co-author of “Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection,” as well as co-editor of “Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Counsellors and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing.”
Click here to receive a complementary copy of “The Self-Love Journal for Creative Women,” filled with journal prompts and inspiration for your self-love journey.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
‘Dirty Secret’ No More
Domestic abuse survivor empowers others to share their stories
by Kathy Grey
She is the picture of success. Kristin Omdahl has authored more than 20 books, created thousands of patterns for knitting and crochet, has her own line of yarn, hosts a daily YouTube show and guest stars on a PBS show about her handiwork.
It’s hard to imagine that this Naples resident’s success grew from escaping an abusive marriage, something that also birthed her charity, Project Kristin Cares, devoted to helping others survive domestic violence.
“It’s not about how you fall down. It’s about how you get back up,” Omdahl says. It was hard-earned wisdom for her.
He was quick-witted, charismatic, intelligent and larger than life. He appealed to her nurturing nature. Born in Israel and a U.S. resident alien, he talked of a multi-million dollar inheritance he would receive from a distant aunt.
Who wouldn’t be smitten by him?
They married stateside and honeymooned in his Israeli homeland. Returning to the states would be multiple promises away for multiple reasons. Weeks became months, and Omdahl realized that returning to the United States might be impossible. He had control over her.
“He threatened violence and to kill me for a very long time,” Omdahl says. “I was planning on leaving the week I found out I was pregnant.”
When he learned of the pregnancy, he proclaimed, “You’re not going anywhere.”
She taught herself how to knit and crochet during her pregnancy. She found it comforting in what had become an isolated and foreign existence.
The abuse escalated.
“He’d kick me out of my home, make me pack bags and sit on the curb,” Omdahl says. A few hours later, he’d let her back in, still taunting, saying someone else would be a better mother to his child.
When their son, Marlon, was a toddler, he’d clench his fists so feverishly, his arms would shake. It was a funny little thing, she thought. It made people laugh. But during a doctor’s visit, a nurse observed, “Is he learning that from his dad at home?” It was no longer a funny little thing.
Days later, as Omdahl held her son on the sixth-floor balcony of their home, her husband threatened to push her over the railing.
“I knew there weren’t many more chances to stay alive,” Omdahl says, and that’s when, following four years of marriage, she planned her escape from Israel with 22-month-old Marlon.
She told her husband that her mother needed surgery in the U.S. so she could get a signed letter from her husband — required at the time for a married woman to leave Israel. Never a hands-on father, he didn’t mind that she took Marlon with her.
“We left with pretty much the shirts on our backs, a couple of outfits, toys and knitting and crocheting hooks and needles,” Omdahl says. “Knitting kept me calm. People liked what I made. I had this dream: If I could get back to the states, I could support us by making things and selling them.”
She stayed with her mother in Michigan for a while and began a new life with her son.
Marlon and Kristin enjoyed an Olde Naples sunset in 2020.
It was before the household advent of the internet. Her husband phoned in death threats 30 to 40 times a day. Her mother got a phone restraining order, but international communication interference was elusive.
Despite the threats, Omdahl kept channels of communication open with her ex-husband for her son’s sake, even though his father never paid child support or came to see his son when he was in the United States.
Seven years after fleeing Israel, Omdahl and Marlon moved to Florida. She thought she was emotionally ready to date. But the boyfriend she chose became abusive, resulting in his arrest.
“I hadn’t gone to counseling, and I wasn’t as healed as I had thought,” she says.
Through the court system, though, she was offered abuse counseling. There, she learned to recognize red flags in bad relationships and set boundaries.
Sharing Lessons Learned
“I find that society views domestic violence as a dirty secret. It’s not as ‘comfortable’ a story as other types of issues people have,” Omdahl says.
There’s “victim shaming or blaming, or ‘Why didn’t she leave before then or when she had a chance?’ sort of thing,” she says. “Many more people don’t come forward with their stories than those who do. I find that the ones who don’t feel they’re the only person in the world with this dirty secret. But we are more alike than different, and you are not alone. When domestic violence comes up in conversation, I hope people will trust me and feel safe that they are not alone.”
Before physical violence comes into play, she says, the victim is isolated by the aggressor, so she won’t share what’s happening. She feels she is at fault.
“People who haven’t been through it don’t understand,” Omdahl says. “It makes it harder to come forward.”
That’s why she started Project Kristin Cares about seven years ago, to nurture women who attract or are attracted to abusers. The project has been a source of healing for Omdahl, too, and she has furthered its mission by creating her Be So Helpful bags, which she donates to shelters.
Omdahl's 'Be So Helpful' bag for survivors of domestic abuse
The bags are designed for transient survivors who were financially dependent on an abuser: those who are homeless, traveling to another place or sleeping on someone’s couch. It’s “comfort and love on the go,” Omdahl says, about the bags packed with a writing journal, water bottle, lip balm, nail file and other necessities for making the journey away from abuse.
“Counseling was a game changer for me,” she says, crediting abuse counseling for helping her understand mistakes of her past: “Taking people at face value and at their word, putting on my rose-colored glasses and not seeing the signs. I would have gone back to dating the same kind of guy and getting the same results. The more I can share that, the more I can help somebody else, too.”
Her courage to press forward comes from helping survivors of abuse get through the journey not alone and making sure they don’t feel responsible for their situation.
“My courage comes from sharing that I made mistakes, sharing my humiliation and my story. We’re more alike than we are different,” she reiterates.
“Let’s do things that make us happy: caring for ourselves, getting out in nature, knowing you’re good enough on your own and that you attract positive people when you feel better about yourself and know your worth.”
Noting many studies on the positive effects of self-care, she encourages survivors of domestic abuse to journal as an act of self-love.
Her daily shows have prepared her for speaking to live audiences.
“I’d love to share my story. I know my worth, and I know how to say no when something doesn’t feel right. If I can lead by example for other people to feel better about themselves, it will impact everyone around us.”
To learn more about Kristin Omdahl, her work and Project Kristin Cares, visit www.kristinomdahl.com.
Where to Find Help in SWFL
• The Shelter for Abused Women & Children | Naples, Florida | Open 24 hours
239-775-1101 | www.naplesshelter.org
• Abuse Counseling and Treatment Inc. | Fort Myers, Florida
239-936-3112 (24-hour helpline/emergency shelter) | www.actabuse.com
• The Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies | Punta Gorda, Florida
941-627-6000 (24-hour hotline) | www.carefl.org
Prevention Tips from the Government
The official website of the United States Government (usa.gov) offers the following guidance to help prevent identity theft:
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your Social Security number when necessary.
Don’t share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number or bank account number) just because someone asks for it.
Collect your mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
Use the security features on your mobile phone.
Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public Wi-Fi network.
Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
Store personal information in a safe place.
Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess.
Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.
Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don't include accounts that you have not opened.
Spammers, Scammers and Upgrading Your ‘CQ’
Security expert advocates investing time in your own cyber intelligence
by Kathy Grey
Cyber intelligence, or “CQ,” is something Carrie Kerskie has advocated in her 15 years as a cybersecurity consultant.
Working with individuals and corporations, she emphasizes that everyone should protect themselves by having a baseline knowledge of the programs they use and the apps they download.
“There’s privacy or there’s convenience. You can’t have both,” Kerskie emphasizes.
Here, Kerskie offers advice for everyday electronics users.
• Your smartphone is a computer. Adjust privacy settings (e.g., “always,” “never” or “while in use”) for tracking, camera, microphone, etc., because “someone” is always watching or listening. There are many YouTube tutorials to help you navigate this important step.
• Avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Some public Wi-Fis have been cloned, and you can’t tell which is real and which has been cloned by internet spies ready to steal your information.
• Use a password on your phone. Avoid facial recognition or thumbprint, as biometrics technology is still relatively new and has weaknesses that need to be improved.
• If you are using an outdated system, upgrade now or buy new. For example, Windows 97 and iPhones under release 6 are no longer supported by Microsoft or Apple, leaving you wide open to fraud.
• Change your account passwords once a year or if an account or login credentials were compromised, such as with a data breach.
• If you receive unexpected emails or texts supposedly from anyone who holds your financial, credit card or social security information, verify the communication by contacting the business directly. Do not click any link unless you have authenticated the sender.
• To minimize spam or spoofed calls, major cellular carriers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released Stir/Shaken, a universal “handshake” program intended to authenticate the numbers of both calling parties. According to the FCC, “Caller ID authentication technology enables subscribers to trust that callers are who they say they are, reducing the effectiveness of fraudulently spoofed calls.” However, you should still be wary of the information in the caller ID display.
• Use password hygiene. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, and adding a number to the end of a password doesn’t change a thing. It takes infinitely more time for hackers to guess a password containing 14 characters or more. Instead of thinking of it as a password, think of it as a passphrase, something no one else can guess.
• If your browser asks if you want to save a password, don’t. If your device becomes compromised, all those passwords are available to cybercriminals. If you store your passcodes electronically, consider third-party password managers such as Dashlane or 1Password. If you save your passwords on paper, keep the list in a secure, locked location.
• For two-factor authentication — used as a second way to authenticate you when logging into an online account — authenticate via email. Text is not secure.
• DO create online accounts. “Being offline is a risk, so mark your territory,” Kerskie says, and use as many levels of authentication as possible.
• Visit a website such as www.av-test.org that ranks antivirus programs.
The pandemic forced people who were inexperienced with online transactions to embrace technology, ushering in a new wave of cyber crooks.
“It’s modern-day organized crime. There are new scams every day, and they are constantly changing.” Kerskie says. Criminals can buy your name, address and social security number online for less than 75 cents. These are sophisticated, multi-trillion-dollar operations whose only objective is to steal your money and identity.
To protect yourself and your business, it’s up to you to boost your cyber intelligence.
Carrie Kerskie is a national speaker, author and consultant on cybersecurity culture, identity theft and fraud. She is the author of two books about public identity, has been featured in numerous publications and appears regularly on NBC, ABC and FOX. To learn more, visit https://carriekerskie.com.
Tips to Guarding Your Online Identity
Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible.
Take time to read the terms of service of all apps to learn what information is collected and how it is used.
Get rid of online accounts you don’t use.
Always keep the software and security on your devices updated.
Choose multifactor authentication – via email, not text.
Don’t click on links or attachments unless you’re sure of the source.
Spend time expanding your cyber intelligence (CQ) to protect yourself.
Never feel foolish about asking questions from trusted sources.
Board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon says safety matters in a breast cancer survivor’s healing experience
by Kiran Gill, M.D.
The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, dedicated to the importance of breast cancer prevention, screening, early detection and education and support for women who are fighting — or are survivors of — breast cancer.
As a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, I am privileged to be a part of the breast cancer survivor’s healing experience.
Not every woman decides to undergo breast reconstruction. But for those who do, it is often the final stage in the healing process, helping to restore positive self-image after the emotional effects of losing one or both breasts.
The goal of breast reconstruction is to restore the breasts to a symmetrical and natural appearance. The approach used varies to meet each woman’s needs.
Be Smart About Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction can begin at the time of mastectomy or in the months following. It is generally performed in multiple stages, and it requires that the patient be aware of all surgical options and risks. That way, she can make an informed choice with expert guidance. These are some things to consider:
Which is better: implants or a flap/autologous (your own tissue taken from another part of the body) procedure to form a new breast or breasts?
What about implant size, shape and material?
What are the implant-related risks, including capsular contracture, rupture, BIA-ALCL (a type of lymphoma associated with textured implants)?
How do you choose the donor site selection for a flap procedure? What about scars?
Will I lose sensation at the donor and/or reconstructed breast site?
What if the tissue transfer fails?
There are also the standard risks that come with any surgical procedure, including those related to bleeding, infection and anesthesia.
It’s important to know that breast reconstruction does not change the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Talk to Your Plastic Surgeon
Because there are many issues to carefully consider and be aware of, be sure to talk with your medical team about breast reconstruction options before having any surgical breast cancer treatments.
A critical member of that team is a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience and expertise in this specialization. He or she can help educate and guide you in understanding the risks and benefits of all your options and which may be best for you.
While there are many sources of information available today at the push of a button, I offer this word of caution: big or small, for any treatment or procedure that is used to enhance or augment the skin or body, be sure to get information from a legitimate source.
A board-certified plastic surgeon is always a good resource to ensure you are prepared to make an informed decision and create an individualized and overall treatment plan that includes results that meet — and hopefully exceed — your expectations.
Aesthetics in Plastic Surgery by Kiran Gill, M.D., a leading plastic surgery practice in Southwest Florida, has changed its name to 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.
FYI: FOR YOUR INSPIRATION
“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
— Brené Brown
The Agony of Identity Theft
Chamber director knows it can happen to anyone because it happened to her
by Stephanie Davis
Jeanne Sweeney’s identity theft nightmare began 2½ years ago, and at first, she mistakenly ignored the signs.
Sweeney is a busy woman. She’s the founder and the director of the Above Board Chamber of Commerce, plus she’s involved with a number of charitable organizations in the Southwest Florida community. So, when she started getting phone calls from a bank about her buying a car, she dismissed them.
“I thought it was bunk,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t buying a car, and honestly, I didn’t have time to deal with it. We all get crazy spam calls. I paid no attention.”
There were even emails and letters that arrived in the mail. She either hit delete or tossed the snail mail in the trash.
Maybe it was because she was on vacation in Orlando with her husband and taking a break from her busy lifestyle, but when Sweeney got yet another call from a bank about her buying a car, something told her not to hang up.
“I was gobsmacked,” she says. “It turned out that some guy in New York had everything on me: my bank account number, my driver’s license information, even my social security number. He was trying to buy cars and insurance on cars, he was trying to take out credit cards in my name.”
Sweeney ran the Christian Chamber of Commerce and later created the Above Board Chamber. She considers herself pretty savvy.
“I work to promote and educate businesses,” she explains. “I know all the rules about changing your passwords on your devices and being safe, but identity theft is a major crime and involves shrewd criminals who make a career out of it. It’s not easy to outsmart them.”
After she learned that her identity was at risk, she checked her credit report and learned that the same person who was trying to purchase cars in her name, had bought $2,000 in Sprint phone equipment using her money.
Meanwhile, the thief tried to dupe someone who was selling a car by telling him that he was picking the vehicle up for Sweeney (the supposed buyer) as a favor. He even told the seller that Sweeney was a doctor. Something seemed suspicious to the seller, so he Googled Sweeney and realized that not only was she not a doctor, but her identity was being stolen right out from under her.
“Luckily, he got in touch with me,” Sweeney says. “But by this point, I was just in tears. The whole thing felt insane.”
She says one of the reasons it was so hard for her and the authorities to put an end to what was then spiraling out of control is that state investigators don’t necessarily communicate with each other. She’s learned that identity theft has become a huge business all over the world, and there’s a lot of red tape involved.
“As a victim, it’s almost hard to describe,” says Jeanne. “You feel violated, you feel raped.”
Although the perpetrator was eventually found and arrested, Sweeney is continuing to work with the state attorney’s office to clear her credit and recoup her losses.
“The good news is, he may have gotten away with a lot, but I learned a lot,” she says. “We often think that these criminals only attack the elderly or the vulnerable, but the truth is, it can happen to anyone.”
Below are some tips Sweeney has learned to keep your identity safe:
• Don’t ignore scam calls. Instead, ask for their number and credentials and tell them you’ll call back. Then Google their information, including the phone number.
• Never give out any personal information. These people are trained to sound legitimate. They may call to tell you that your Amazon account was hacked and they need your password — just sit back, breathe and do your research. Don’t share your passwords.
• When you’re at a gas station using your debit card, look around to see who’s watching when you enter your PIN.
Stephanie Davis is a freelance writer who has written for local, regional and national publications for 20 years.