in this issue
Katie & Nelson (Credit: Mariah Lacy Photography)
LOOKING FOR LOVE
Love Under Lockdown
Survey shows a spike in people looking for long-term love in the wake of COVID-19
by Julia Browning
COVID-19 particles aren’t the only things in the air this Valentine’s season. According to a survey conducted by MTN Matchmaking, love is in the air, too.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 77% of singles now report that they are looking to settle down with a significant other, compared to 55% before the pandemic.
So, what is it about a worldwide pandemic that makes people want to find love? To find out, èBella spoke with Maureen Tara Nelson, an experienced relationship coach and professional matchmaker. [Nelson’s responses have been edited for space consideration.]
èB: What is it about the pandemic that caused more singles to look for long-term love?
MTN: During the pandemic, people were lonely (and) confined to their homes.
People were calling us up, saying, “I don’t want to die alone.”
It’s heartbreaking, but it makes sense. So many people have passed from this horrific pandemic, changing single people’s mindsets about procrastinating their love life. They don’t want to be alone anymore.
èB: The number of people looking for love was even higher among millennials. Why is that?
MTN: Millennials always had the mindset toward love of, “It’ll happen when it happens.” But now, everyone has suffered because we’ve lost someone or know someone who has. Millennials are now saying they want to be proactive. They want to raise the bar, rather than just going out with someone they are not compatible with.
Now, millennials are focused on finding love. Even though so many horrific things happened during the pandemic, when it comes to love and finding love, so many positive things have happened.
èB: What should people look for in a long-term partner?
Make sure you’re compatible and you have chemistry. If you find (someone who’s) good looking, you have chemistry. (But) compatibility is important, and it usually takes six months to determine. So, keep trying it with someone.
Maureen Tara Nelson
èB: With social distancing in mind, how do you recommend meeting someone?
Meet people anywhere that you are allowed to, and need to, go. The supermarket is one place. Years ago, there was a stigma of creepy people going up to people in the market and giving them pickup lines. But that’s not the case anymore. Now, double the amount of people are looking for love.
When you’re in the supermarket, there’s a little trick you can do. Always keep a bottle of water. If you see someone that you find attractive, who is in good shape and has healthy items in their cart, just put down your mask for a second, take your water out for a drink and smile at them.
People are friendlier now, so it’s the easiest time for singles to meet. Smiling is the No. 1 way to meet someone.
Even if it doesn’t pan out, it will make you and that person feel good. (When) you go in with that smile and a mindset of positivity, that makes you approachable, which is the key ingredient to finding somebody.
To get more tips on dating during the pandemic, visit www.MTNmatchmaking.com.
JUST FOR FUN
Move over, Valentine’s Day
February is chock full of dates to remember
by Kathy Grey
Here we are in February, the month of love. We all know (or try to remember) that Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day.
But according to National Day Calendar (Celebrate Every Day | National Day Calendar), we’ve got scads of reasons to celebrate in the shortest month of the year.
Of course, National Day Calendar honors traditional holidays, but it’s also the source of things like National White Shirt Day (Feb. 11) and other “holidays” that make you go, “Hmm…”
Let’s start with Feb. 10, which features National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, only to be followed by National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day (Feb. 11), which, when you think about it, could really put a damper on your cream cheese brownie.
One of our favorite February mashups is National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day, which coincides with Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. We think National Discount Chocolate Day should follow on Feb. 15, but that’s not on the list. Instead, Feb. 15 is National Singles Awareness Day. Trust us, singles are very aware of their singleness, especially if they didn’t get their cream-filled chocolates the day before and are relegated to the 50% off aisle of foil hearts at CVS. Ouch.
We like February, though, especially for our oenophile friends. For them, Feb. 18 is National Drink Wine Day, to which we ask, “Why should this day be different than any other day?”
For those who imbibe differently, there’s National Margarita Day on Feb. 22 and National Kahlua Day on Feb. 27. And there’s Skip the Straw Day on Feb. 26, which could be interpreted as tossing back shots, but we kind of don’t think so.
The month wraps up on Feb. 28 with both National Public Sleeping Day and National Tooth Fairy Day. (Just don’t sleep on the beach with your mouth open. The Tooth Fairy’s a notorious kleptomaniac.)
To Wed or to Wait
Do you have to postpone your wedding because of COVID-19? Newlyweds say no
by Julia Browning and Kathy Grey
When little girls imagined their dream weddings 20 or more years ago, it probably didn’t include their guests wearing face masks and standing six feet apart.
Certainly, no one could have foreseen a pandemic and imagined how COVID-19 would impact so many areas of our lives. That’s especially true for brides- and grooms-to-be, who started planning their big days a year or two ago.
Sadly, many couples postponed their nuptials, hoping to tie the knot during other-than-unprecedented times. But others are left wondering: Do we really have to delay our special day because of the pandemic?
Elopement expert Sam Starns advises couples not to postpone, emphasizing that a dream-worthy wedding is still possible with a few central changes, including limiting the guest list and livestreaming the event.
Katie & Nelson
When it came to cutting the guest list, Katie Armes (soon to be Taylor) simply had no choice. Her wedding was scheduled for April 25, 2020, during the area’s first pandemic peak. Armes and her fiancé, Nelson Taylor, did make the decision to postpone the celebration, but they would not be postponing the wedding. They received their marriage license in March. Shortly after, the state went into shut down.
As the wedding day approached, Katie secured a work associate, who was also a notary public, to marry them. She arranged for her future sister-in-law, a florist, to create and ship artificial bouquets from out of state.
But luck continued to rule against them. Their officiant was exposed to COVID-19 and had to quarantine, and their flowers were stuck at the post office in Illinois.
Still, they were determined to have this wedding. Only a couple of days before the wedding, Armes’ best friend, Chelsea Middleton, took a quick online course to become an ordained minister, and found a florist to promptly create new bouquets.
On their wedding day, the bride, groom, officiant//best friend, photographer, Armes’ parents — and the rest of the couple’s families via Zoom — gathered at Snell Family Park in Fort Myers to have the little wedding that could.
“We went there really quick, got the wedding done and took photos,” Nelson says. “It wasn't what I envisioned, but it ended up being perfect.”
The pair will have a grand reception in November, which will then mark their one-year anniversary. The fact that the two are already married takes a lot of pressure off of planning the event, says Katie.
“I’m not stressed because I’ll just be seeing our loved ones and having fun,” she says. “We’ve already had the picture-perfect day.”
Bernie & Tyler
On Jan. 23, Bernadette and Tyler Tracy got married on Barefoot Beach. Throughout the stressful planning process, they reassured themselves that everything would work out; that they would have their wedding.
Ultimately, they cut their guest list by 75%, with only 20 people in attendance.
“Our family and friends were surprisingly all very understanding,” Bernie says. “We were stressed that people would be upset that we had to ‘uninvite’ them, but no one was. Additionally, because of this, we decided to Zoom our ceremony to allow the family and friends that couldn’t come to still watch us get married.”
Her advice for upcoming brides and grooms: You can still have a special, meaningful wedding day without the crowd of people.
“Livestream your ceremony!” she says. “We had so many family and friends unable to attend that could still attend virtually, and everyone loved the idea.”
Maureen & Will
It was to be a lavish, three-day dream wedding with the whole family at the Fairmont Orchid Resort in Hawaii. But when July 2020 approached, Maureen Green and Will Prather made the decision to keep their nuptials much, much closer to home.
Though their dream wedding world had been turned upside-down, Green and Prather (owner of The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre) knew quite well that the show must go on.
They were married in their living room on July 1, 2020, with a total of 10 people in attendance. Green’s daughter, Lauren, and Prather’s son, TJ, served as maid of honor and best man. Prather’s mom officiated.
“It was a completely different plan, but it was just perfect. So sweet. So intimate. I planned this small wedding in two-and-a-half weeks, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Green says.
“At the end of day, we wanted to prove that our love is stronger than the virus.”
Maureen & Will
Sweetheart Success: Slim Down Together
Couples and pairs offered financial incentives for losing weight
“It’s been well-proven that ‘social dieting’ makes weight loss more fun and successful,” says HealthyWage CEO, David Roddenberry.
Roddenberry cites a Harvard study, as published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which researchers found that social networks play a significant role in the incidence of obesity, including both its proliferation and its remediation. In other words, people with obese partners and family members are more likely to be obese themselves.
The researchers also found that, “weight loss interventions that provide peer support — that is, that modify the person’s social network — are more successful than those that do not. People are connected, and so their health is connected.”
HealthyWage offers three reasons why teamwork, money motivation and peer support can lead to weight loss success.
In addition to making a couple’s weight loss effort more successful, teamwork makes it more fun to work toward a common goal. It’s also more likely, because of mutual accountability, that each person has a stake in the other’s success.
Cash-based challenges help couples commit to a specific starting point (eliminating pre-diet procrastination) and avoid quitting before goals have been accomplished.
Weight gain — and loss — is contagious. People are influenced by the appearance and behaviors of those around them.
Ultimately, couples working together in weight-loss scenarios can benefit. This includes each participant’s individual health and the well-being of relationship, as emotional bonds of respect, admiration, pride and appreciation are made stronger through the process.
Making hard work into a game tends to engage participants, positively impacting their success, and programs like HealthyWage, which follow academic and industry research on gamification, provide users with challenges that remove pre-diet procrastination and helps prevent co-dieters from giving up.
Now you can turn losing weight together into a game — and possibly win $5,000 too! HeathyWage is launching its "It Takes 2" Jackpot Challenge on February 14, 2021, through which it will pay couples, and other pairs of two, a sweet $5,000 cash for losing a combined 6% of unwanted weight together, as a team.
To learn more about the HealthyWage “It Takes 2” challenge, visit www.HealthyWage.com. Good luck!
Welcome to the Month of Love
Love never dies, they say.
In this chapter of èBella èXtra, we take a look at marriage … as well as singles seeking long-term love … in these pandemic times.
Lisa Gruenloh gives us inspiration about self-awareness and its practice, something that contributes to love of self.
Speaking of love of self, we share how duos find greater dieting success employing intrapersonal challenges and incentives and direct you to a financially incentivized contest you can still sign up for.
Our Hometown Heroes are a couple of restaurateurs who reveal what they do in their 100-hour work weeks, all for the selfless love of foster kids.
Save the date! (Well, maybe not.) Just for fun, we present our take on some of National Day Calendar’s February gems.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
~ Maya Angelou
Being the Change through Self-Awareness
Part two of a four-part series on cultivating harmony in a divisive world
by Lisa Gruenloh, MPAP, CPC
As part of my practice to listen to, and learn from, multiple perspectives, I consume a very broad scope of media. These days, it’s not difficult to find perspectives are just that – broadly different. Recently, as I turned down the volume on one particularly lively exchange, I had a lighted-hearted moment recalling a scene from a rom-com starring the legendary Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
They are seemingly incompatible love interests who look at values, commitment, communication and trust in strikingly different ways. At one point, Erica (Keaton) confronts Harry (Nicholson) about his habit of creatively evading the topic of other women and withholding information Erica would consider important.
Harry rebuts, “I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.”
A disgusted Erica replies, “The truth doesn't have versions, okay?”
Versions of the Truth
Hollywood screenwriting aside, each of us actually does have our own version of the truth, whether we realize it or not. By now, you’ve likely become familiar with the concept of a “worldview,” the unique lens through which we perceive the world, based on our unique life experiences. All kinds of things can shape our worldview – the people we grew up around; our educational, religious and socio-economic background; and our gender, race, ethnicity and culture.
All of those things, and so much more, have helped construct perceptions, attitudes and beliefs that we apply to ourselves, others and how the world works...or should work. I think of our individual worldview as a sort of unconscious operating system built on millions of random inputs over a long period of time, without the benefit of regular, virus-free software updates.
Your Authentic Truth
If you don’t do your own scanning and upgrades, your brain can get trapped in a fixed mindset that makes it difficult for you to see, understand and appreciate other perspectives. You become more prone to thinking your way of living and looking at the world is “right,” while judging others way of living and looking at the world is “wrong.”
The key to getting out of this pattern is to get more curious about the origin of worldviews, starting with your own. That kind of self-awareness helps you embrace the beliefs and attitudes that align with your values, while shining light on those that might contribute to unconscious biases, limited perspectives, or an outdated reflection of who you are.
No one wants to feel controlled or out of control, yet your own thoughts and feelings can be hijacked when your unconscious belief systems are left unchecked and unexplored.
Lisa Gruenloh, MPAP, CPC
Something’s Gotta Give
If you’ve seen the film I mentioned above, you may recall it’s titled “Something’s Gotta Give.” As worn out as many of us feel under the weight of division, that could be our collective theme this year! But here’s the rub: it’s not productive to hold the view that “yes, something’s gotta give and, by the way, it’s not me.” Even our protagonist, Erica — as “in the right” as she believed she was — realized, upon reflection, that she had changes to make as well.
Your worldview can expand when you are confronted with new life experiences that inspire or require you to think differently.
You also can expand your worldview by deliberately exploring your own belief systems, how you’ve developed them and if they are truly aligned with your values and the person you seek to be. When it’s difficult to get to the truth, knowing your own authentic truth becomes essential.
Putting it into Practice!
There is nothing more empowering than knowing who you are, what you aspire to be, and that you can cultivate mindset shifts that bring out your absolute best, while also bringing you peace.
If you would like a deeper dive on this topic, engage in the thought-provoking exercises in this link: https://www.ebellamage.com/self-awareness-exercise. I encourage you to engage in this practice these next two weeks as the next article in this series (coming Feb. 24) will further build on this foundation for personal transformation.
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 Lisa and her latest purpose-driven venture at www.purposejournal.com.
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Big Dishes and Foster Kids’ Wishes
Restaurant owners Eldridge and Miller give all for the good
By Kathy Grey
When he learns he’s been nominated as a Hometown Hero, Doug Miller replies, “Wow! Do I get a cape or something?”
This would-be Superman is a funny, giving and kind guy, who defers to his life and business partner, Amy Eldridge, as the founder of three Florida restaurants opened in the past three years.
What first captures everyone’s attention is the restaurant’s head-turning name: FK Your Diet. But the substance beneath the name is that since its inception, Eldridge and Miller have contributed more than $1 million in support of local foster care initiatives.
“FK,” you see, stands for foster kids.
Miller grew up in a dozen or more foster homes until his high school graduation. He then partnered in Garbage Guys Who Care, a successful Ohio business in which he continues to be involved. The success of that venture afforded the couple an early retirement in Southwest Florida.
And then, Miller quips, “Amy wanted to go into the restaurant business and give away our money. We live off our ‘trash’ income. FK Your Diet is our charity vehicle for what we do for foster kids.”
It was Miller’s passion for cooking, Eldridge says, that inspired the idea. As a foster kid who grew up eating too many sub-par meals, he mastered the best of them. Later, as a father himself, he served those dishes to the rave reviews of his three boys and their friends. (Miller and Eldridge have five grown sons between them, three who work in the FK Your Diet family business.)
“We always had kids in our house. They loved my food,” Miller says.
“Doug is an amazing cook,” Eldridge says. “It’s all comfort food.”
And now, the couple gives back to foster kids, “a segment of our population that is misunderstood and underserved,” Eldridge says.
Foster Kids and More
“People don’t understand what it’s like to be foster kid,” Miller says. But because he lived the life, he knows.
“There’s no sort of lobbyist out there advocating for (foster kids). With FK Your Diet, we have hundreds of opportunities a day to put a bug in customers’ ears … to hire a foster kid … to support foster parents ... just making that known …” Those customers, and more than 30,000 FK Your Diet Facebook followers, read about and share foster kids’ stories.
“We also hire people who need second, third … fifth chances,” Eldridge says, including foster kids, people with disabilities and senior workers.
“We run a hefty payroll we don’t need to run to help them out,” Miller says.
Doug Miller & Amy Eldridge
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, their outreach has extended to first responders, medical professionals and the homeless, some who are children attending elementary school nearby.
“We never turn anyone away if they need something to eat. We use every square inch of the restaurant to give back to the community,” Miller says. “So, the community owns (the restaurant), versus Amy and Doug owning it.”
That Southwest Florida community includes Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, Lutheran Services Florida, group homes and Summit Church, which facilitates relationships between foster kids and supportive foster homes.
The FK Your Diet team also makes gifts of laptops, game stations, NIKE shoes, field trips and movie tickets possible and hosts celebrations, like Thanksgiving and a high school graduation for foster kids. It’s all part of the $1 million FK Your Diet has given the past three years.
COVID-19 and Beyond
Hard hit by the onslaught of the pandemic, the Fort Myers operation’s numbers have climbed from $35,000 in March 2020 to $90,000 in January 2021.
With three operations to oversee, Eldridge and Miller say they continue to contribute locally, as they look to what they foresee as a national movement.
“Every community should have an FK Your Diet,” Miller says. “We’re not the people to take it there, but we’re the people who have gotten it this far, and we can add to that growth. As a small business, we’ve done a lot.”
Ultimately, the couple would like to see lobbyists in Washington, D.C., affecting change to laws that govern the foster care system.
“Social workers don’t get enough. Foster parents don’t get enough,” Miller says. He and Eldridge will advocate for school guidance programs specific to students in the foster care system.
“Money solves the problem. We can’t afford to let a kid’s life fall through the cracks,” Miller says.
Miller and Eldridge don’t need capes to be Hometown Heroes.
As Miller says, everything they do “is not for us. It’s for them.”