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Spring has Sprung

Cautiously emerging from under the pandemic rock

It’s been a heck of a journey.

A year ago, we were struggling to find toilet paper. This year, we struggle to find a place in line for a vaccine.

Without digging too deep into our year-long suffering, let’s take a look at what spring has sprung in its new — albeit cautionary — renaissance.

This enlightening èXtra chapter starts with Hometown Hero Laurie Martin, who provides a calming approach to frontline caregivers and other extraordinary people.

“Extraordinary” also defines Florida Gulf Coast University’s women’s basketball team, undefeated this season from November through March. Seasoned sports writer and FGCU journalism instructor Glenn Miller takes a look at our home town college’s extraordinary accomplishments.

As spring has sprung, Dr. Niket Sonpal offers insight about things we can (and probably shouldn’t) do, even if we’re fully vaccinated.

Speaking of being fully vaccinated, readers weigh in on what they’d like to do following a year of virtual hibernation when they’re finally “sprung.”

As wanderlust ensues, Preferred Travel experts answer top questions for those who want to venture wherever their hearts may roam.

Finally, everyone can use a household hack, including this inexpensive way to scrub a tub without springing your back out of whack.

Spring is all about new beginnings. As the inimitable Lucille Ball put it, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

 
 
 
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HOME HACK

Save Your Knees and Your Money

This back-saving household hack can keep your tub clean without elbow grease

The back-breaking days of getting on your knees to scrub your tub might be over with his household hack.

Forget the expensive (and possibly toxic) soap scum cleaners. Just head to the nearest dollar store for an inexpensive broom, and you’re halfway there. The cheap broom is used for the scrubbing, saving your knees and back.

What you’ll need:

  • Cheap broom with plastic bristles

  • Blue Dawn dish soap

  • White vinegar

  • Empty water bottle

What To Do:

  • Take an empty water bottle and pour in a 50/50 solution mix of Dawn dish soap and white vinegar. Shake it up. (You’ll likely get more than one use, even from a small bottle.)

  • Pour cleaning solution into the tub.

  • Use the clean broom to swish the solution around the bottom and sides of the tub. If it’s been a while since the last cleaning, scrub the solution around the tub and let it sit.

  • Scrub the tub with the broom.

  • Rinse the tub and broom thoroughly. (It’s easiest if you have a removable shower head.)

 

Upkeep:

Swish and scrub weekly for best results.

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HOMETOWN HERO

Thirty Minutes at a Time

Laurie Martin’s programs help heal our healers

By providing 30-minute lunchtime meditations, longtime Naples yoga instructor and life coach Laurie Martin is helping nursing staff at area hospitals deal with the stress of COVID-19 and caring for patients. She also provides these services to other businesses, near and far.

Since Martin’s courses have gone online this past year, employee attendance has risen, says her Hometown Hero nominator Cindy Dobyns, who adds: “Seems many of us could use a 30-minute meditation these days.”

 

Martin, a certified life coach, yoga teacher and wellness provider (certified through the Florida Department of Nursing) offers three such programs that cover mindful living, healthy communication to resolve conflict, and letting go/reclaiming your power. In her 20 years of helping others, she knows these meditative practices build intuitive trust, self-reliance, self-love and personal empowerment.

“How to get into a state of peace to observe, not react ... connecting with your body,” Martin says, explaining that the interactive sessions involve listening and visualizing, exploring unconditional love language, reviewing belief systems, adopting healthier boundaries and ways of being to achieve a higher perspective of self.

“It’s a beautiful thing that hospitals have wellness programs and open their doors to help their staff members become more loving and mindful,” Martin says. Even in regard to their inherent roles as health care providers, those involved in her coursework learn to respond to life situations with greater balance and focus.

 

“We all have triggers. I’m really good at helping people relax,” Marin says succinctly. The intent is to build more mindful and resilient practitioners.

“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Say, ‘I see you,’ to your heart. Imagine your heart is smiling at you. Then you can see a smile in every cell of your body.”

In this two-minute exercise, her students learn to connect to the present peacefully, often bringing tears to their eyes.

“You can do it many times a day,” Martin says. It’s a practice to be more mindful. To be more loving. To observe how we attach our emotions to external things.”

Laurie Martin

Even as she served as vice president of worldwide events for a major tech company, Martin was drawn to her calling as a healer. She earned her yoga certification and wrote the first of her three books. She resigned from that high-powered job one day, and out of fear, asked to have it back the next. Ultimately, her passion for what she does now was greater than a need to hang on to a big position with a nice paycheck.

Her passion for wellness and sharing her gift was stronger than her fear of the unknown.

“That’s why I’m doing this. It touches me,” she says.

Whether she’s helping folks learn to relax, realize their impact on others, overcome rejection or recall their dreams, she reminds her students that the unconditional love of self has little to do with the outside world and its distractions. Still, self-love takes practice and self-awareness.

In hospital settings, she encourages her students to take two quiet minutes every two hours — in another room, in the car or while walking — to breathe and connect with their hearts.

“It’s a life path that feeds us,” Martin says. “It totally feeds me.”

 

To learn more, visit www.smileacrossyourheart.com.

WOMEN IN THE NEWS

A Season of Glory

Reveling in FGCU women’s basketball achievements

by Glenn Miller

Don’t focus on how the season ended for the 26-3 Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team.

Forget for the moment of that 87-66 loss to Michigan in Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21.

Instead, remember all they achieved between opening the season Nov. 25 and closing it March 21. 

Winter was a season of glory for the FGCU Eagles, who didn’t lose a game after Nov. 28 until that spring afternoon. Focus instead on how they dominated the ASUN, their conference. They were 16-0 in conference play.

If ASUN opponents were weary of the Eagles during the regular season, they had cause for more weariness in the conference tournament.

The Eagles crushed Jacksonville 87-62 in the first game of the tournament and followed that with a 59-44 victory over Lipscomb, and in the title game, defeated Liberty 84-62. That’s an average 21-point margin of victory.

If there was any doubt they deserved an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, the conference championship cleared that up, punching their ticket for what is called the Big Dance.

Focus on how they got there and not how the season ended. Focus on going nearly three months without losing a game. Focus on being nationally ranked in March in both polls for the first time in six years. The Eagles were No. 24 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and the Associated Press poll.

Coach Karl Smesko founded the program in 2002, and over the years, he has built a juggernaut.

But it wasn’t until last year that he landed a recruit as highly regarded as 6-foot-1 guard, Kierstan Bell. No player with as glittering a resume had ever before committed to the Eagles.

At Canton-McKinley High School in Ohio, she was a three-time state player of the year. An ESPN basketball rating for girls pegged her the eighth-best high school player in the country.

Bell played at Ohio State for one year before transferring to FGCU.

She did not disappoint, proving the hype was justified. She was a unanimous selection as the conference player of the year and MVP of the conference tournament. She led the Eagles in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals.

Basketball is, of course, a team sport, and Bell could not win alone.

Anybody who has seen 5-foot-3 guard, Tishara Morehouse, play has been mesmerized by her astonishing quickness, as she flits about between larger players. Morehouse was nearly always on the court, leading the team in minutes played, averaging 31.4 minutes per game. She also averaged 17.7 points per game.

The team’s third-leading scorer was 5-foot-6 guard, Aaliyah Stanley, a sophomore from Boynton Beach, who averaged 9.6 points per game.

What’s next for the Eagles? One season just ended, and it’s nearly time to focus on the 2021-2022 season, which should provide more memories, triumphs and glory.

FGCU star Kierstan Bell. Photo credit: Julia Bonivita

FROM READERS

What Does Spring Mean for You?

Readers share what they are doing and planning now

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Spring has sprung for readers who shared their thoughts about coming out — slowly — from a year in relative seclusion. Here are some of their thoughts.

 

I am hoping to climb Machu Picchu and embark on a spiritual journey. My husband and I were supposed to go in October 2020 for our anniversary, but COVID prevented it. We are now scheduled to go the first week of June. Praying we can get the two vaccine shots in time, as travel is still pretty restricted into Peru. Fingers crossed! ~ Trista Meister

 

I am looking forward to live performances. Theater, opera, symphony, all of it. ~ Susan Hughes

 

Two weeks after my second shot, I went to Fleamasters in Fort Myers. Normally an every Sunday morning event, it had been a year since I’d gone. Also, this past weekend, I participated in a Bonita historical walking tour and talk about Calusa Indians. 

I coordinated a jewelry club luncheon outdoors at DeRomo’s last Tuesday. Nine of our members attended. We were thrilled to see each other … it had been a year!

I will visit with a friend in from Colorado later this week (after) more than a year. This list goes on and on and on. ~ Joanne Hobin

 

We plan to start traveling some, visiting with family and friends in Virginia and Florida … and to enjoy and relax when eating out. Both my husband and I have missed having friends over for special occasions. We are so grateful to finally have both of our (COVID-19) immunizations. Now folks will not be afraid to enjoy our pool. ~ Kathy Ford

I had two aunts who passed away due to COVID. The family was not able to attend the funeral. I am going to visit my family and pay my respects.

 

I’m looking forward to a full spa day with my friends. 

I used to love taking short weekend getaways with my children. I am looking forward to feeling safe in a hotel again. Prior to COVID, I was planning on taking my younger son on his first plane ride. He was so excited. I am hoping that this summer we can go on a trip to the Bahamas.

A good friend of mine is getting married in December. I am hoping that once more people get vaccinated, it will be safe for us to have large gatherings. Also, last year, I had to cancel my 50th birthday celebration. This year, I am hoping to have a dinner party with 50 of my closest friends who have made an impact on my life.

COVID has forced me to start living in the moment.
~ Marie Capita

Spring is always refreshing, bright and a chance to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Even more important this year since many have been inside for the most part of a year. (I want to) have my neighbors over for a barbecue. The neighborhood has been so quiet, and I haven’t met many of them due to moving in during a pandemic.

 

I’m looking forward to being able to go more places on the spur of the moment. I plan to attend two weddings: one in May and one in June, plus visiting family and having groups of friends come visit me!

~ Mary O’Fallon

 

In March, we held Art Haven, our first community event in over a year. As our staff receives their vaccines, we are all thankful for the opportunity to reconnect and heal. We are excited to welcome our supporters and volunteers back to our growing campus. 

~ Linda Goldfield, Youth Haven Executive Director

 

I’m going to hug everyone and am making plans to see friends I haven’t seen in a year. Looking forward to lunches, dinners, charitable events, concerts…

~ Laura Coleman

 

This spring has definitely sprung me into feeling more optimistic about the end of the pandemic than I’ve felt in almost a year. Surviving this COVID era has been difficult to say the least, but I’m excited that the end is now in sight!

The first thing I’ll do when conditions are safe again, is finally go back to my favorite little coffee shop, Hello Coffee, and drink a large cold brew whilst working away on my computer. It seems silly and simple, but working from home has been a big struggle for me, and I’ve always been more productive in funky spaces like coffee shops and cafes. I’m also excited to check out a few new spots, such as Coffee Bar and Native Coffee Roasters, places I haven’t had the chance to see due to the pandemic.

I’m really looking forward to being able to hug my friends again.

I’m planning to attend the wedding of a dear friend from high school this fall, so long as things are safe. I’m also planning to attend several concerts in my area, as I have severely missed the live music scene.

I’m reinventing my relationship with my body by utilizing positive affirmations and working toward unconditional acceptance.

I’m reigniting my education by taking an online coding course!

My immediate travel plans (within Florida) include taking my mom to see the Vincent van Gogh exhibit at The Dali museum in St. Pete. The exhibit was extended to run through June 13, and the reviews have been exceptional. As far as travel further from home, I wasn’t able to take my graduation trip to Paris last summer, so I’m hoping to make that happen in the summer of 2022.

~ Trish Schranck

 

I’m hoping to attend my 50-year high school reunion in Wisconsin in September. I haven’t made it back for one yet, but recently connected with more former classmates and think it would be fun.

~ Marsha Litsinger

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POST-VAX BEST PRACTICES

You’re vaccinated. Now what?

NYC internist weighs in on truth and consequences

Following a year of COVID-19 fear, mask wearing, hand sanitizing and semi-isolation, you’ve finally been fully vaccinated. 

So, your first thoughts might be ones of relief and freedom: something akin to the Monopoly game’s “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

What freedom and safety does full vaccination “guarantee?” What precautions should you continue to take for the sake of yourself and others?

Board-certified internist Dr. Niket Sonpal served on the front lines of some of New York City’s hardest hit hospitals during the pandemic. Here, he answers pressing questions about life following full vaccination.

Q: How long after vaccination will I develop immunity to COVID-19?

This depends on which vaccine you received. There are three vaccines approved (for administration) in the United States as of this writing. Here are the timelines for each until immunity is achieved:

 

Johnson & Johnson (J&J): This is a one-shot vaccine. Data from Johnson & Johnson shows that most vaccinated trial participants had a robust immune response 15 days after getting the shot, with significant protection reached by day 29.

Pfizer and Moderna: These are both two-shot vaccines that are dosed several weeks apart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it takes about two weeks after the second shot of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for them to be effective.

Dr. Niket Sonpal

Q: If my partner and I have been fully vaccinated, is it safe for us to be unmasked with another couple who have also been fully vaccinated?

The answer is yes, if you are doing so in a relatively private setting, such as at home, in a backyard or a restaurant table limited to just the four of you. In other words, fully vaccinated people can mingle safely only with each other without having masks on.

What would not be as safe for the four of you would be to enter an elevator, a crowded indoor event or an office boardroom without wearing masks.

 

Q: If I have been fully vaccinated, can I transmit COVID-19 to someone who has not had the vaccine?

Concrete data hasn’t been released yet on whether the vaccines offer “sterilizing immunity,” which means vaccinated people can’t contract or pass on the virus at all. Epidemiologists feel that the level of risk of transmissibility, though greatly diminished, cannot be eliminated. 

The clinical trials that looked at the vaccines authorized for emergency use were based on the prevention of symptomatic disease. They weren’t looking at asymptomatic disease.

Early data shows vaccines help to keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID, but “we are learning more as people get vaccinated,” the CDC has pronounced on its website.

 

Can I stop wearing my face mask?

Be considerate of the health of others who have not been vaccinated, even if you have. You should only stop wearing your mask in private settings with others who have been fully vaccinated for reasons described above.

On commercial airlines, no exceptions have been made for fully vaccinated people to be excluded from wearing masks.

Depending on your state, the same holds true for ride-sharing services (Uber, Lyft, etc.), certain residential buildings and government and commercial facilities.   

 

Dr. Niket Sonpal is a New York City area internist and faculty member at Touro College of Medicine and Clinical instructor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Brooklyn. Learn more at www.niketsonpal.com.

TRAVEL

Travel in a Post-COVID-19 World

By Karen Pickrum and Gretchen Berger, Preferred Travel of Naples

You have been stuck in one location for over a year. Except, now that you secured your vaccinations and waited your two weeks for immunity, you’re ready to travel, but there are so many questions. Is it safe? What is open? How do I get there? If I leave the country, will I be able to get back into the U.S.? What if I test positive while traveling?

No vacation is too big or small to dream about and plan. Perhaps you’re interested in a local staycation or something a little farther away.

Destinations across the globe continue to open as vaccinations roll out. Countries like Kenya, Mexico, Costa Rica and some Caribbean islands are already open and ready for tourism, with only a negative COVID-19 test required. Other countries, such as Iceland, Greece and Peru are planning their reopening to visitors this summer.

 

Flying

Since these destinations will require traveling by air, be prepared for some changes. Currently, masks are required at all times in airports and on flights, except when eating or drinking. If food is served on a flight, it is usually an all-in-one snack bag with wrapped sanitizer wipe and water. This varies with each airline, depending on the length of the flight. Even though airplanes are wiped down and sanitized between each flight, a great tip is to travel with your own sanitizing wipes. You never know when you will need them.

 

Cruising

Some major cruise lines are scheduled to launch select ships beginning this June. Strict safety and health protocols have been implemented and are continually evaluated and updated as needed. All guests 18 and over must be fully vaccinated, and masks will be required in public areas. The popular self-serve buffets will no longer be available. For the time being, on some cruise lines, if guests want to go ashore on an excursion, they must use the line’s excursions, which reflect social distancing and local health requirements.

Royal Caribbean International will have a ship sailing roundtrip from the Bahamas and another from Bermuda. Celebrity Cruises will be sail roundtrip from St. Maarten and will debut its new Celebrity Apex out of Athens, Greece. Crystal Cruises will sail roundtrip from the Bahamas. 

If you’re looking to stay closer to home, domestic cruise lines such as American Cruise Line and American Queen Steamboat Company are navigating America’s rivers, like the Columbia and Snake or the mighty Mississippi, for vaccinated travelers. Lindblad Expeditions will be sailing in Galapagos and Alaska starting in June.

These lines operate small ships under 250 passengers and do not fall under the CDC sailing guidelines. Like the major cruise lines, they have all implemented new health and safety protocols.

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National parks, luxury ranch resorts, private homes and villa vacation rentals are open and more popular than ever. But you should know that, with more people getting their vaccinations and planning getaways, space is at a premium, not only for 2021 but even 2022 and 2023. And there are many more factors that will affect your decision than before.

Rather than leave things to chance, we encourage you to turn to the experts to navigate the complexities of today’s travel. Due to the plethora of changes in the past year, working with an agency that has stayed open and informed is important.

Expect them to ask the typical questions of you — not only where you want to go, but why you want to go. Questions like:

  • What is important when you travel?

  • Do you prefer five-star accommodations and private experiences or eco lodges and ziplining?

 

Newer, atypical questions might include:

  • Are you willing to wear a mask?

  • Are you willing to take a COVID-19 test?

  • Are you fully vaccinated?

 

Plus, the fun questions:

  • What are your personal travel goals?

  • What do you expect to get out of your dream vacation?

 

This new world is constantly changing, and today’s travelers will have to be flexible and willing to make changes or concessions needed.

The world is waiting. So, dust off your luggage, find your passport, and start planning today!

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