Pensacola Bella Magazine April 2024

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Photo by Barrett McClean

from the editor

The idea of indulgence is both enticing and elusive to me. As a working mom of three children, I never had a lot of time to even stop and think about indulging in anything apart from a quick piece of dark chocolate on a rare moment alone in the kitchen when no one was looking. Ah, those moments were sweet, but short-lived. Now that my kids are grown, I still struggle to indulge — to splurge — on myself. I think I need to blame my grandmother for this. While she instilled many important life lessons about manners and society — “Always dress to travel, dear. You never know who you’ll meet.” — she also left an indelible mark of the nononsense variety. She was the byproduct of a lost family fortune in her teens and the Great Depression in her 30s, so the woman I knew was relentlessly frugal.

She scraped the last bit of mayonnaise out of every jar, then repurposed it, had a drawer full of used, smoothed and folded tin foil squares and wore the same belted Talbot’s shirt dress for 30 years. To her, indulging was eating two of her favorite shortbread cookies instead of just one.

To me, those were unnecessary sacrifices. She had worked hard and had money in the bank. Why not live a little? But now I realize that I confused wastefulness with indulgence. She was just being smart and thoughtful in her choices, sustainable before it was cool.

Now that I can indulge myself a little more, sometimes I do. A new outfit for no reason, a fantastic meal out with friends, a little spa time — all these are sweet treats to me. But I have enough of my grandmother in me to enjoy the excesses rarely, because that’s what makes them special.

When I do indulge, I try to be mindful of the experience, to sit in the moment and breathe it in, fully engaging all my senses and feeling grateful.

And if it’s a great meal I’m enjoying, I’ll take the leftovers in a doggie bag, thank you very much.

4 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
VOLUME 19 / ISSUE 4 BELLAMAGAZINE.COM FIND PENSACOLA BELLA MAGAZINE ON FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM Bella Staff PUBLISHER / Kelly MacLeod EDITOR / Lisa Player ART DIRECTOR / Elizabeth Meyer CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Liz Biggs, Alice Crann Good, Sharla Gorder, Allison McCrory, Chelsea Owens, Leslie Peck, Lisa Player, Magi Thomley Williams, Sonshine CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Toni Sparks, Kate Treick ADVERTISING Jennifer Harrison, Magi Thomley Williams Bella is published the last week of each month and distributed free throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in Florida. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the editor. EMAIL SALES @BELLAMAGAZINE.COM OR CALL (833) 358-4486 To Advertise SEND EDITORIAL INQUIRIES AND STORY IDEAS TO KELLY@BELLAMAGAZINE.COM

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for Buying or Building

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 5

inside this issue

66 HER PERSPECTIVE: Walk a mile in my shoes COVER STORY Indulge me, baby, at home! Page 25



10 FASHION: Less is much more this spring

20 BEAUTY: The evolution of self-care

22 CAUSES: Gulf Coast Kid’s House celebrates 20 years

34 PRO TIPS: Self-indulgence for busy women

38 PROFILE: The lasting luxury of Pandora de Balthazár

42 PROFILE: A journey of empowerment with Erica Lanes

46 LOCAL FARE: Weber & Weekley’s second-half success

48 WORTH THE TRIP: Dubai on a billion dollars a day

52 GNO: Get ‘board’ in a good way with Salt + Olive Board Co.

56 OUT & ABOUT: Krewe of Aphrodite Mardi Gras Ball

58 OUT & ABOUT: Pensacola Opera’s Rock the Runway

60 OUT & ABOUT: Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Gala

62 OUT & ABOUT: Pensacola Chamber’s AlltogetHer Conference

64 HER PERSPECTIVE: Buy the shoes already

6 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
PROFILE Cat Country’s Mary Hoxeng Page 36 LOCAL FARE Cordova Skin & Body Page 44 On the cover: Model Taylor Ashley indulges in spring fashion from The Women’s Shop at Duh for Garden and Home. Story on Page 10.
Photo by Kate Treick Photography
8 5 0 5 7 2 0 5 9 7 8 5 0 6 8 6 6 5 8 8 8 5 0 6 8 6 6 5 8 8 4 B D | 3 B A | 2 , 5 5 6 S F L O R R A I N E B R A C K I N 3 B D | 3 5 B A | 2 , 4 7 4 B D | 3 5 B A | 4 , 8 9 8 5 0 . 7 3 6 . 1 1 8 1 8 5 0 4 8 5 2 6 6 5 8 5 0 . 6 3 7 . 5 7 2 8 3 B D | 2 5 B A | 2 , 2 1 5 S F $ 1 8 9 0 0 0 0 T H E A T E A M $ 1 , 2 5 0 , 0 0 0 $ 3 , 9 5 0 , 0 0 0 $ 6 1 5 , 0 0 0 8 5 0 4 4 9 4 2 4 2 4 B D | 3 B A | 2 , 9 3 6 S F 3 B D | 2 B A | 1 , 8 5 0 S F 2 B D | 2 B A | 1 , 2 4 0 S F 8 5 0 4 4 9 4 2 4 2 9 2 0 5 4 0 3 9 5 6 $ 4 4 9 , 9 0 0 C A R R I E C A R V E R 2 0 5 4 1 2 8 4 3 8 $ 4 1 5 , 0 0 0 $ 3 7 5 , 0 0 0 $ 4 3 5 , 0 0 0 8 B D | 5 B A | 4 , 2 5 T H E A T E A M $ 1 , 3 7 5 , 0 0 0 8 5 0 4 4 9 4 2 4 2 S H E R L Y N W A G H A L T E R $ 3 9 9 , 9 0 0 B H H S P e n F e d . c o m
PORT ROYAL WAY, PENSACOLA 8 5 0 . 7 7 6 . 2 9 5 9 J E N N Y R U S H I N G 3 B D | 2 5 B A | 2 , 2 5 0 S F F R A S I E R P H E L P S JENNY RUSHING 5 B D | 3 B A | 3 , 0 8 5 S F M I C H E L L E C A R L S O N 8 5 0 6 8 6 6 5 8 8 $ 2 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 $ 1 , 2 9 9 , 0 0 0 $ 6 7 5 , 0 0 0 8 5 0 6 8 6 6 5 8 8 S H E R L Y N W A G H A L T E R 8 5 0 . 7 3 6 . 1 1 8 1 M I C H E L L E C A R L S O N 8 B D | 6 B A | 4 , 0 4 3 S F M I C H E L L E C A R L S O N S H E R L Y N W A G H A L T E R L O R R A I N E B R A C K I N T E A M 4 B D | 3 B A | 2 , 7 3 2 S F 3 B D | 2 B A | 1 , 7 9 6 S F P E G G Y B R A U N 4 B D | 2 . 5 B A | 2 , 2 9 0 S F $ 5 6 9 , 9 0 0 $ 4 8 5 , 0 0 0 $ 7 9 9 , 9 0 0 7213 FLOOD
3 B D | 2 . 5 B A | 2 1 4 2 S F 5 B D | 3 B A | 3 5 5 2 S F
REEF, PENSACOLA 836 Gulf Breeze Pwky. Gulf Breeze Fl. 32561 850.932.6278 17 W Cedar St. Pensacola Fl. 32502 850.434.2244 4003 BAY POINTE DR , GULF BREEZE 1071 LIONSGATE LN., GULF BREEZE 8661 SALT GRASS DR , PENSACOLA 1410 E HERNANDEZ ST , PENSACOLA

• Pleated midi skirt in polka-dot silk Georgette, $7,390,

• Medium Dior book tote, $3,700,

• Nina flat ballerina, $1,090,

• Maeve ruched side-slit midi skirt, $118,

• Destination Tote handbag, $30,

• Ballet flats, $19.99,

8 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
where to shop H&M: Cordova Mall; 855-466-7467; Target: Multiple area locations;

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Shopping list: Monochromatic. Wide legs. Casual yet overthe-top classy. This blush trio by LA Made checks all the boxes! Satin cargo pants, $203; ribbed scoop neck tank, $66; cropped satin bomber jacket, $194.

10 • Bella Magazine • April 2024


Less is much more Indulge big in classy, comfy, monochromatic style

Oversized, black, white, grey, monochromatic, gender fluid.

Those are a few adjectives that come to mind when summing up spring style, noted Diletta Rosasco of Duh in downtown Pensacola.

“The cuts are oversized everything, from denim jeans to suits for work,” she said. “The ‘outs’ are definitely formal, dressy outfits. We are all in for comfort this year.”

While easy-on-the-eye neutrals dominate, look for a few spring blooms to join the mix — very sparsely.

“The few prints that are showing this year are the floral blooms, but not too much of it, mixed with the monochromatic looks,” said Rosasco.

Accessorize with big metals from earrings to chunky cuffs.

With moderate April Panhandle temps that can swing warmer or cooler, light layers in neutral colors are a smart fashion option this month.

“The Duh suggestions for the month of April are use layers, monochromatic, more basics to mix and match, that can take you from a casual lunch with girlfriends, to a dressy dinner, to your favorite restaurant,” said Rosasco.

Allison McCrory is almost a Pensacola native who studied journalism and has worked in writing and editing since beginning her career in 1984 with Pensacola’s afternoon newspaper, The News, before moving to the Pensacola News-Journal when morning and afternoon papers merged. The mother of two adult children, she suffers from a tennis addiction, practices yoga regularly, likes to get creative in the kitchen and has worked with children through mentoring and fostering.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 11

Shopping list: “Learn from flowers — always angle towards the Sun,” advised poet Maureen Joyce Connolly. This ochre long-sleeved drop waist dress by Velvet, $249, will go the distance when celebrating sunny spring days.

Taylor Ashley

Everyone has a favorite way to indulge. For April model Taylor Ashley, the mother of two young daughters, that is stretching and strengthening through Pilates.

“I love my time at Club Pilates in Pensacola. I take two classes a week, and I look forward every week to my classes. It’s giving me so much strength and motivation. I get so much peace and joy from every class! It helps shape my confidence. I’ve never had muscle strength like I do now,” said the Orange Beach resident. “I’ll never stop doing Pilates. It’s a part of my life forever.”

Ashley grew up in tiny Fort Valley, Georgia, “where they grow the yummiest peaches,” before playing collegiate soccer at Georgia Military Collegiate. Love disrupted that path and she transferred to a college in Nashville, married her husband, Jared, and became an orthodontic assistant.

After becoming a mom, Ashley stayed home with her daughters but also pursued a new path: training in makeup artistry and deep diving into skin care knowledge. In 2020, Taylor accomplished a long-time dream and became a medical esthetician.

“Now I’m hoping in 2024 to open my own med spa in Orange Beach called The Coastal Skin Co.,” she said.

Taylor has a takeaway from these successes as well as venturing into modeling at age 30.

“I’m so thankful for having the confidence to take that initial step. I always tell everyone and my girls to never ever doubt yourself. When you put yourself out there you never know what beautiful opportunities await you.”

14 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Shopping list: Go monochromatic in this Anne Mashburn khaki set featuring retro vibes. Khaki shirt sleeve blouse, $250, and khaki flare cropped pants, $250.
April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 15

Shopping list: It’s the season of understated neutrals. This classic and classy black and white Max Mara outfit will go the distance for years to come. White button-down chemise, $295; black leather leggings, $195.

Shopping list: Tennis core is having a moment and what’s not to LOVE?

Comfort and mix and match potential SCORE! (Puns intended!) Black tank top, $54; grey heather tennis skirt, $68; green heather crew neck sweatshirt, $96, all by Vuori.

About the Location

Duh for Garden and Home

501 N. Ninth Ave., Pensacola; 850-4390640;

Hair Compliments of

Dakota DellaFera, BloWave Hair Bar 720 N. V St., Pensacola; 850-748-5008 (text preferred);

Clothes Compliments of Duh for Garden and Home/ The Women’s Shop

Model Compliments of

Izon Models & Talent LLC

301 N. Barcelona St., Suite E, Pensacola; 850-433-2099;

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 17

stylingthe shoot

Photography: Kate Treick / Fashion styling: Allison McCrory

Where to shop: Duh for Graden and Home / The Women’s Shop

18 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Ann Mashburn camel suede buckle shoes, $295 Nacre Designs natural horn dangle earrings, $36 Sun ‘N Sand large-brimmed sun hat, $58 Kent Stetson Art History clutch, $175 Uno de 50 gold pearl pendant necklace, $235 Sarah Stewart white komodo skin belt bag, $275 CxC rectangle hoop earrings, $190 Uno de 50 long gold chain necklace, $230 Sugar Designs side dish, $16


April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 19
United States Pearl Co. golden South Sea pearl necklace, $6,800 & freshwater pearl necklace, $3,600 Uno de 50 gold drop hoops, $125 leather handles, $89
RS Eyewear sunglasses, $22
(850) 855-0597 500 N. 9th Ave. Pensacola n e s t i n t e r i o r s i n c b y k r i s t i n b o u c h a r d
MIA multi-color woven tote, $165
20 • Bella Magazine • April 2024

The evolution of SELF-CARE

Self-care encompasses several aspects of overall well-being. Most of the time when we think of self-care, we think of massage, facials and cosmetic services. There are many pieces to self-care to maintain a healthy mind and body. Nutrition, fitness, medical needs, relationships, spirituality, mental health and personal and general hygiene are all equally important. You are the only one who can decide to carve out the time needed and become the very best version of you.

In ancient times, the ritual of self-care began with the Greeks and Romans. Elaborate bath houses were built over natural hot springs, creating a sanctuary of healing, wellness and social gathering. The elite patrons made these first spas a frequent destination. Europeans would travel to different countries that had natural hot springs and were known as “spa towns.” Only the who’s who of this era were welcome in the first generation of bath houses.

Do you ever wonder where the word spa came from? It derives from the Latin phrase “sanita per aquam” or “health through water.” Water has always been a source of tranquility, relaxation and healing. During the evolution of the original bath houses, any facilities offering water-based treatments soon became known as spas and the name stuck.

Throughout the 19th century, spas were still only available to the wealthy. Over the last several decades, self-care has become more accessible to everyone of all walks of life and many different services are available for relaxation, beauty, health and wellness. Finding a balance in our fast-paced world is a necessary part of our lives today. Stress and anxiety plague our population more than ever before. Technology makes it hard to turn our brains off and unplug. There is something about human contact through pampering that nothing can ever duplicate. We will always have a need to find rejuvenation.

Wellness tourism and luxury retreats are more popular than ever. Social media has given all of us a front row seat to sneak peeks of everything from unique facials, makeup techniques, lash and brow services, lasers and injectables. The options in today’s services go far beyond the mineral baths with which they began. Children and adults of all ages are intrigued with extravagant leisure, comfort and beauty services and products.

Although spas have evolved greatly through the centuries, the reason we go has stayed the same — to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. Do you have your next spa service booked?

Leslie Peck is a local makeup artist, esthetician and lash artist with almost two decades of experience. She has worked 11 seasons of NYC Fashion Week as well as several beauty shoots while living in New York City. Leslie also has experience in TV, film, print and celebrity makeup in Los Angeles. She specializes in bridal makeup, skincare education and was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2007.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 21 beauty

celebrates 20 years

“Seventy-five percent of our support comes from individuals and organizations locally. This enables over 13,000 children a year to learn about protecting themselves from abuse. It funds a full-time mental health therapist to help stabilize children and families quickly after reported abuse.”
— Randi Lawrence


• When: 3-5 p.m., April 3

• Where: 3401 N. 12th Ave., Pensacola

• Info: or 850-595-0007

Gulf Coast Kid’s House is celebrating 20 years of life-saving work with an anniversary party on April 3.

“We welcome our community to come and join our celebration of 20 years of protecting children in Escambia County,” said Amy Stamey, GCKH prevention coordinator.

“At GKCH, we work collaboratively with government and community agencies for the investigation, intervention, prosecution of offenders and healing for victims of child abuse and neglect,” Stamey said.

GCKH’s 20th birthday celebration promises food, fun and an open house for tours to see the community’s investments at work for the children in Escambia County.

GCKH opened its doors at the Marilyn Kapner Levin Center for Children’s Advocacy and Child Abuse Prevention and the Allen R. Levin Family Advocacy and Education Wing in 2004. GCKH serves as Escambia County’s only children’s advocacy center and a beacon of hope for abused children. As a children’s advocacy center,

22 • Bella Magazine • April 2024

they combine all the professionals and resources needed in one child-friendly facility. Child victims and their families receive mental health counseling at GCKH, and because the only hope to end child abuse is education, GCKH also offers a variety of child abuse prevention courses in the community.

Powerful statistics show the effective impact of GKCH’s efforts in Escambia County, where one in 13 kids is abused before they turn 18.

Because of the effectiveness of a collaborative approach, the prosecution rate of child abuse offenders has jumped from under 20% before 2004 to over 90% today.

They had 100% successful prosecution at jury trials last fiscal year.

They were able to train over 13,000 students on protecting themselves from child abuse.

Counselors provided 2,400 sessions to children healing from abuse and neglect, free of charge.

Over 2,200 adults took the Know Child Abuse training online at

According to Randi Lawrence, manager of philanthropy at GCKH, community partnerships are vital to the success of GCKH.

“Seventy-five percent of our support comes from individuals and organizations locally,” Lawrence said. “This enables over 13,000 children a year to learn about protecting themselves from abuse. It funds a fulltime mental health therapist to help stabilize children and families quickly after reported abuse.”

Generous community support funds the services and programs GCKH offers to strengthen the community and make it a safer place for children.

If you would like to partner with GCKH by donating or learning more, visit or call 850595-0007.

Liz Biggs is a Pensacola native and mother of four. Once upon a time, she had a high-pressure career but now she has a pension and is a freelance writer for Bella Magazine. Liz enjoys music, dancing, tennis and travel and tries to find humor in everything.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 23

cover story

Indulge me, baby,


In the wake of the shelter-in-place COVID saga, new consumer trends have been popping up like spring flowers from the dead of winter.

Pick up a magazine such as International Luxury Lifestyle Magazine and peruse online articles, including ones at clevergirlfinance. com, and you’ll learn all about “stealth wealth” — more casually called “quiet luxury.”

“Instead of trying to keep up with everyone else, those who practice stealth wealth spend their money on things they truly enjoy,” according to Clever Girl Finance writer Marissa Geannette. “Whether that’s experiences or material possessions they actually want, it doesn’t matter.

“What matters is that spending money on what you want, rather than what you think will make you look good in front of others, leads to a more relaxed and happy life,” Geannette wrote.

And the “quiet luxury” trend is fueling yet another movement.

Given the opportunity to reassess their priorities while they were shut down or isolated, a growing profusion of consumers now desire to live differently than before, spurring growth in a variety of at-home services that provide the most indulgent and luxurious of luxuries: quality time and experiences!

And we’re not talking about traditional services such as auto detailing and landscaping. Check out how some busy women choose to indulge.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 25
By Good | Photos by Getty Images and Kate Treick Photography

“People are using personal chefs because they are looking for new experiences. The private dinner experience I present is an authentic way of enjoying a restaurant in your house with fresh organic ingredients cooked and prepared by someone who learned from her mom and grandma.” — Laura Bernardi Piovesana, personal chef, cooking instructor and owner of The Wooden Spoon

26 • Bella Magazine • April 2024


For the ultra-swamped professional woman with children, a spouse and many community obligations, who can’t always carve out time to prepare family dinners, cuisine for parties or family gatherings, no worries.

Laura Bernardi Piovesana, personal chef/cooking instructor and owner of The Wooden Spoon, turns timeconsuming cooking nightmares into carefree kitchen dreams, all with her Northern Italian accent and authentic Italian recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother.

“I do in-house dinners, simple or upscale,” said Piovesana, who hails from Conegliano, Italy, a small town near Venice. “I come with all of the groceries, sometimes bringing my own pot for risotto, and even often set the table.

“What I am most excited about is sharing my enthusiasm for real Italian food,” Piovesana said. “Everything I

do is authentic with fresh products. You can get all of my information from my website”

Piovesana extremely values her Italian heritage, so much so, that she returns to her homeland twice a year. And, for this July, she arranged a group to join her, an experience that will include visiting Venice, vineyards and her family farm.

Lindsey Lacz of Gulf Breeze, who is going on the July trip, said booking Piovesana to cook a meal at her home is one of the best decisions she’s ever made. The wife of a physician’s assistant, and mother of two children, ages 10 and 13, Lacz said she and other moms wanted to thank two third-grade teachers in a special way.

“Instead of buying them something, we wanted the gift to be a quality experience,” Lacz said. “Laura came to my house and made gnocchi. She brought all of the ingredients and talked to us, explaining why she chose

the ingredients she brought, what she was doing, why she was doing it, every step of the way. It was almost scientific!

“It was so much fun,” said Lacz, who enjoyed the authentic Italian cuisine with nine others in her home. “And that’s what it’s about today. COVID woke up a lot of people. Experiences are more desirable than things. We should be improving our daily lives, enjoying life every day.”

That life philosophy is a staple on Piovesana’s menu. She’s married to heart surgeon Dr. Giovanni Piovesana and is the mother of 10-year-old twins who fill her afternoons with ballet, karate and sailing.

“I enjoy cooking at another person’s house so they can see what I am doing, and maybe, just maybe, they can do it themselves the next time,” she said.

Well, let’s think about that while we enjoy a massage at home. Arrivederci, Piovesana!

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 27 Indulge in elegant, custom craftsmanship CUSTOM CABINETRY FOR HOME REMODELS AND NEW CONSTRUCTION Visit our showroom & design studio at 4109 N. Davis Hwy, Pensacola


It’s not unusual to find the owner of Pensacola’s Coastal Vibes Massage Therapy, Chris Kuhn, packing his auto with tools of his trade to work at a client’s home.

Kuhn has been a practicing massage therapist since 2015. His official title is licensed massage therapist LMC-MLDC. He works in conjunction with Kim Martin at Result Medical Aesthetics in East Hill.

“We are a luxury medical spa that offers massage therapy, skin care, lash services, acupuncture and more,” Kuhn said.

He has several years of experience in the spa industry and tailors each massage to the individual needs of the client.

“The trend for at-home massage therapy has been growing and will continue to grow for many reasons,” he said. “One of the main reasons that receiving a massage in your home is beneficial is because it saves you time and energy. You don’t have to sit in traffic or take time out of your day, and you still get all the therapeutic benefits of having a massage in the spa.”

There are other perks as well.

“If you have a busy schedule, or issues with childcare, or you just feel more comfortable in the privacy of your own setting, then in-home massage is a great alternative,” Kuhn said.

Some of Coastal Vibes’ in-home choices: Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Prenatal Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Florida Salt Glow, Seaside CBD Massage, Bamboo Renewal, Coastal Signature, Couples Massage and Manual Lymph Drainage. You can book various lengths of time, and prices vary. All info is available on the website,

“Oh, I have booked my Deep Tissue Massage for every two weeks,” said disabled U.S. Air Force veteran Pamela Smith of Gulf Breeze. “I am blessed to have Chris come to my home because as a veteran I have many, many Veterans Affairs appointments.”

Smith feels it is convenient and more comfortable and calming in her home setting,

“I don’t have to do anything, to worry about anything. He brings everything he needs. Chris is very professional, focused and respectful,” she said.

Kuhn’s in-home services benefit people with various challenges.

“Some clients have mobility issues,” he said. “Whether it be age or physical ailments or not having transportation, that should not prevent anyone from receiving quality therapeutic massage care!”

There are so many benefits to at-home care.

“The practitioner can come to you; you can even set a monthly or bi-weekly schedule so that you literally have nothing to do but relax and let go of your stress,” Kuhn said.

And, he added, “It leaves you more of your valuable time.”

“The trend for at-home massage therapy has been growing and will continue to grow for many reasons. One of the main reasons that receiving a massage in your home is beneficial is because it saves you time and energy. You don’t have to sit in traffic or take time out of your day, and you still get all the therapeutic benefits of having a massage in the spa.” — Chris Kuhn, owner of Coastal Vibes Massage Therapy

28 • Bella Magazine • April 2024


or during exercise

Urinary urgency or frequency

Inability to empty bladder completely

Frequent trips to the restroom at night

Pain during or after intercourse

Persistent low back or hip pain

Postpartum weakness & discomfort

Rectal pain

Abdominal separation or weakness

Recurrent abdominal pelvic symptoms after surgery

Pubic bone pain during pregnancy

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 29
or fecal leakage throughout the day
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Kristan Brinkley immensely values the concept of “quiet luxury” for herself and family to such an extent that she created a life system using a variety of delivery services to handle the competing demands on a precious commodity — her time.

Why is time such a big deal to Brinkley? Let’s see. For starters, she’s a wealth management advisor, managing director of the Pensacola/Destin region, and partner of Vaughn Brinkley Wealth Strategies Group. She’s a wife and mother of two children, ages 3 and 5, and an elder at her church, First Presbyterian Church of Pensacola.

“Since I have a finite amount of time to spend with my children every week, I don’t want to spend four hours on a Saturday morning doing all of the shopping,” Brinkley said. “I also love cooking; it brings me amazing joy. It’s about finding what brings joy to your life and leaning into that service to help you.”

Today, she manages to pull it off,

and then some, with the use of delivery services. Brinkley’s list, which changes with her needs, family needs and running a household, includes Blue Apron, Hungryroot, Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, Instacart, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Stitch Fix, Walmart Plus, Amazon Subscribe & Save and more. She uses Walmart Plus probably the most because she can simply add what’s needed to the list — such as that oftforgotten fridge water filter.

“My use of delivery services started during COVID when I was pregnant with my son,” Brinkley shared.

It was a high-risk pregnancy, so she was advised to not go into stores.

“Now, almost every store has a delivery app that fits into every season of your life and lets you order ahead. For instance, when I had a newborn and a 2-year-old, I was in survival mode,” she said.

Carrying on with her delivery plan also makes economical common sense, Brinkley said.

“I am a person who was raised by a coupon mom, a person who likes to understand my own spending habits,” she said.

A successful delivery services plan perpetuates mindful shopping and prevents impulse buying and overspending on items you don’t need, Brinkley said.

“There is a privilege associated with shopping in general, but when you stick to a list and order, you don’t just pick up this and that. I actually spend much less money by using delivery services, trying to use ones without upcharges. But I always tip the drivers because to me that is a matter of supporting a small business owner.”

And she price shops, meaning every now and then you’ll find Brinkley in a grocery store looking for valuable BOGO items.

So, what’s Brinkley’s idea of a serendipitous splurge?

“When I forget my lunch, I’ll order from Uber Eats,” she said laughing.

30 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
850.432.1264 | @bluetique_pensacola 125 PALAFOX STREET | DOWNTOWN PENSACOLA

According to Kristan Brinkley, wealth management advisor, managing director of the Pensacola/Destin region, and partner of Vaughn Brinkley Wealth Strategies Group, a successful delivery services plan perpetuates mindful shopping and prevents impulse buying and overspending on items you don’t need.

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Self-indulgence for busy women

Bella readers are known for being Beautiful Women, possessing a Sassy Attitude, who read a Smart Magazine. They are also busy! So, Bella took an informal and unscientific survey to ask some of our readers how they manage to incorporate self-indulgence into their busy lives in ways large or small. Here is what they had to say:

• “A day to myself to be pampered with spa treatments, beautiful music, peace and tranquility.” — Lucy Antonetti, owner/broker, Antonetti Investment Realty LLC and certified designer staging professional, Staged & reDesigned

• “Put on my headphones and close my eyes while listening to Zen music. It takes me into meditation.”— Debbie Tullos, retired property manager, happy Gigi

• “Fresh flowers to brighten my space.” — Kathy Hubbard, entrepreneur and community volunteer

• “Really good chocolate or donuts with my work crew at Lakeview.” — Cynthia Kelsey Knifer, Lakeview Center

• “Walking on my treadmill at my standup-desk while working actually does relieve stress for me.” —Teresa Bryan, mortgage loan officer, Gershman Mortgage

• “Pedicure!” — Barbara MacNeil, community liaison, Loyalty Credit Union

• “Sewing or reading. Sometimes I watch YouTube videos about sewing.” — Gloria Hadley, healthcare clerk

• “Getting my nails done during lunch break.” — Phebe Gaines, controller, Gum Tree Property Management

• “Pick a sunny window and curl up like a cat with a cup of hot tea and a book.” — Shelby Johnson, wife, mother and busy Nanna

• “Dinner out. I don’t have to cook or clean up.” — Gina Dickinson, CEO and owner, LURE Media Group

Bella would love to hear from you. Visit our Facebook page and tell us your favorite self-indulgences.!

Magi Thomley Williams, ACB, ALB is a corporate consultant, writer, speaker, and trainer at Thomley Consulting. She can be reached at

34 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
pro tips
36 • Bella Magazine • April 2024


Meet the matriarch of Cat Country 98.7

Mary Hoxeng

Leading two decades of success for Pensacola’s country music radio family

Mary Hoxeng and her husband, Dave, launched Cat Country 98.7 in 2003. Meet the force behind the waves, the woman who helped bring Cat Country 98.7 to life and build a family of radio stations that resonate with Pensacolians.

Recently, she reflected on the changes witnessed, both personally and professionally. Before conquering the airwaves, Hoxeng’s career began in the bustling world of advertising in New York. A media buyer for giants like Bristol Myers and Proctor & Gamble, she then transitioned to television advertising, making her mark as the national sales manager for FOX TV in San Antonio.

Then, life took a different path. The quest for a new frequency in Pensacola led the Hoxengs all the way to the Supreme Court to get their application approved. In 2003, Cat Country 98.7 was finally born. As she reminisces about the early days, Hoxeng acknowledges the seismic shifts in the industry. With streaming, Alexa and websites, radio has evolved, yet the Hoxengs’ broadcasts remain a local powerhouse of live, local talent in an era of consolidation.

But the story is not just about Hoxeng — it’s about the family at the heart of the radio domain. Starting with Cat Country 98.7, the station group expanded to include NewsRadio 92.3, ESPN Pensacola and Pensacola’s Playlist 94.5. The network of stations has earned many prestigious awards and recognition on the national country music scene. These include the Academy of Country Music Awards Station of the Year, Country Music Association Station of the Year and National Association of Broadcasters Crystal Award for superb community service.

The key to their success? An incredible team of passionate individuals dedicated to community service.

“I look at everyone on our team as part of our family,” Hoxeng said.

Each team member is involved in community service, while the Hoxengs support numerous nonprofits, attend countless fundraisers and donate thousands of hours of airtime to promote worthy causes throughout their listening area.

Hoxeng shares a unique partnership — not just in business, but in life. Working alongside Dave, they navigate the challenges of business 24/7. As she leads the day-to-day operations, he focuses on engineering and technology, creating a dynamic balance that turns their differences into strengths. Their ability to complement each other’s work style is the secret behind their success.

“We include each other in anything of importance,” she said.

Running a business isn’t just about numbers and frequencies; it’s about community support, grit and facing the fears of being the ones in charge every single day. With no corporate office to lean on, they stand as captains of their own destiny.

Yet, amid the chaos of frequencies and business decisions, the Hoxengs have forged a unique family — each member playing a vital role, many of them for over a decade. In unison they move with determination, passion, the support of a community that embraces the entire Cat Country 98.7 family and the careful orchestration of a skilled matriarch.

Magi Thomley Williams, ACB, ALB is a corporate consultant, writer, speaker, and trainer at Thomley Consulting. She can be reached at Magi@

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 37


The lasting luxury of Pandora de Balthazár

Stepping into Pandora de Balthazár’s Navarre home, admiration and respect follow. It takes only seconds to appreciate the immeasurable effort it must have taken Balthazár to save her precious stock of centuries-old linens and laces she collected from Italy, France, Hungary, Austria and beyond.

Near the entrance, a large, gilded gold frame showcases Austrian linen and cotton stocking design samples about 150 years old. An adaptation she designed of a 17th century Florentine bed cover drapes over a hanger on a French door. Next to it sits a tall 18th century linen press, from France or Italy. She’s not certain of its origin.

A few steps away you learn why she is called a “premier collector of antique textiles in the country.” Enter Balthazár’s antique linen room — home to about 400 pillow shams, 1,000 dinner napkins, and 2,000-plus lace and embroidered pieces including tablecloths, duvets, sheets, window covers, christening blankets and more.

Her business of 35 years, Pandora de Balthazár’s Fine Linens, was located in downtown Pensacola for many years. It temporarily closed when the building was sold. She moved to a new Pensacola location, but unfortunately that building flooded. Hence, the colossal move to Navarre.

Balthazár now does business by appointment and via her website catalog. Long-time clients and new customers spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on her luxurious European linens and bedding — antique and contemporary.

38 • Bella Magazine • April 2024


Pandora de Balthazár’s Fine Linens are available from the website/ catalog,, and by appointment. Call or text 850-450-4634.

“Luxury is not about money. It’s about understanding, choice, dreams, creating a path to build on that dream with long-term enjoyment, comfort and creation. It’s about an investment in your own life that continues to give back!” — Pandora de Balthazár

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 39

For instance, you cand spend from $180 on an American Eleganza pillowcase (600 thread count) made in Italy to $9,600 on a Queen Sheet Set (1,000 thread count) made in Italy.

“No, I am not a boutique store and running a huge showroom anymore, but I still service clients, about 55,000 around the world,” Balthazár said. “My clients range from the wealthy to the famous to the schoolteacher.”

Balthazár’s inventory is vast. All textiles are one-of-a-kind artwork in linen, mohair, cotton and silk — from centuries-old European laces to Art Deco, Bohemian and more modern Primitives. Plus, her textile services include custom design, restoration and expert care and laundering of heirloom-quality pieces “that last many lifetimes.”

Walking into her bedroom, Balthazár presents her pride-andjoy: a king-size, upholstered, 38-inch-high bed, which represents

her “revolutionary European Sleep System.” The bed is Hungarian goose down heaven from top to bottom and piled high with specially sized pillows and neckroll. It’s all custom-designed to cradle and support her body, and provide an ergonomically correct, healthy and restful sleep. The custom design system is available online.

“You see, my luxury is a necessity,” Balthazár explained. “I began my professional life as a financial planner in Pensacola, but I ended up going to Budapest, Hungary, after I broke my neck in a car accident in 1986. I was in constant pain.”

This move changed the course of her life in unimaginable ways, she said.

As part of her recovery from spinal microsurgery performed in Budapest, Balthazár was confined to constant bed rest for six months, surrounded by beautiful textiles. As a result, she said she discovered the important role

that luxurious bedding, especially supportive pillows and high-quality linens, plays in attaining quality rest.

While in Hungary, she also met aristocrat Emil de Balthazár, who became her husband. And it was at this time in her life that she became an avid collector of Austro-Hungarian Empire textiles.

“Up until then, I had been a collector of what I thought were the most beautiful textiles ever produced,” Balthazár said. “Once I saw the quality and delicacy of the handwork of the textiles from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I found an intricacy I’d never seen. These deep primitives of woven jacquard whites and eyelet have an age and depth to them that moved me beyond my former definition of fine linens.”

So, following her recovery and discovery of luxury linens, Balthazár returned to the States, sharing her knowledge with friends and clients.

40 • Bella Magazine • April 2024 • 3603 N. PALAFOX, PENSACOLA (850) 860-6119 • Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday Where Inspired Days Begin

The positive word-of-mouth reviews initiated her boutique luxury linen and bedding business. Balthazár introduced her European Sleep System to interior designers and merchants in High Point, North Carolina, in 1995. The system included custom embroidery and antique linens as well as the ultra-supportive pillows.

Today, the company also manufactures American-size pillows, designer squares, down beds and duvets, baby bedding and down-filled chairs and ottomans. A wide range of antique, new and custom bed linens are offered for all down products.

Balthazár’s passion overflows as she shares her personal understanding of the importance of rest and the unique company that she created within the luxury market so many years ago.

The mother and grandmother thanks God, her family and upbringing for her extraordinary life and entrepreneurial success.

“I grew up with a large family in Dalton, Georgia, an historic textile center,” said Balthazár, whose maiden name was Pandora Elizabeth Morgan. “I started collecting antique textiles when I was 5 and got my first sewing machine when I was 7. I spent a great deal of time with my grandmothers, aunts, and, of course, my mother, who sewed my clothes and taught me to sew.”

She said she was taught to value all things and appreciate beauty.

“My grandmother’s beds were amazing even then. No one in my family was rich, wealthy in money. But they were rich in wisdom, knowing the value of character, hard work, plus the enjoyment of family, food, gatherings, natural beauty and the assembly of a life well lived.”

Balthazár still cherishes her mother’s lasting advice.

“My mother taught me that it’s best to have one great dress, well made,

than to have 10 poorly made ones, or trendy ones,” Balthazár said.

And it’s this life philosophy that enriched Balthazár’s appreciation for people who still create fabrics, weave and embroider for themselves.

“In Hungary, every family creates beds full of luxurious pillows, bedding and handmade art. They have no money to speak of in the villages, but they lovingly create dowries of useful, comfortable beauty, handed down for a very long time,” Balthazár said.

“They are a gift to me to share, and that’s what I do.”

Award-winning writer Alice Crann Good spent about 20 years as a journalist for Gannett’s USA Today and Pensacola News Journal; accolades include the Scripps Howard Foundation| National Journalism Award. Alice spent seven years as a communications specialist for Pensacola State College and is author of Betsy the Bookworm children’s book series, available worldwide.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 41
Love your windows again Schedule a FREE consultation! Our showroom is open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 698 W. Garden St., Pensacola | (850) 332-2100 | Based in Pensacola, our team of window treatment experts have over 20 years’ experience helping our customers select the best custom shades, shutters, or blinds for their homes and businesses.


A journey of empowerment with Erica Lanes

My selfie needs no filter

Erica Lanes has a mantra: “My Selfie Needs No Filter.”

As the owner and CEO of an education and training company, she has turned that mantra into both a book and a movement. This has become a beacon of empowerment for countless individuals. Lanes has had an extraordinary journey and is making a profound impact on the lives of young girls.

Her accomplishments transcend conventional narratives. The title “My Selfie Needs No Filter” emerges as a powerful declaration that extends beyond mere aesthetics, diving deep into the realms of self-esteem, confidence, respect, care and love.


Lanes traces the roots of her powerful message back to a life-altering head-on collision in 2015 that left her wheelchair-bound. In those moments of despair, a simple yet profound remark from her 5-year-old son sparked a revolution.

“Mommy, just stand up,” he said.

This became a metaphor for standing up against challenges and rediscovering oneself. This pivotal moment inspired Lanes to share her journey and become a voice for authenticity.


Then came the enchanting moment when Lanes embodied Disney’s Princess Tiana at a Black History Month event, Princess Tiana Live, where she encouraged little princesses by reminding them their beauty is “not only on the outside,” and that “the most important selfie you can take is on the inside.”

She reminded the girls that they should look out for their sisters, too.

“If you see your sister’s crown is tilted or falling, guess what you should do?” she asked.

“Fix it!” the girls exclaimed.

“That’s right. Help her straighten her crown.”

Beyond the external glamour, she redefines what it means to be a princess — embodying leadership, kindness and mutual support. The impact on young girls is profound, creating a platform for reimagining their aspirations.


Lanes spearheaded other initiatives as well. She has created a transformative summer camp for teen girls. STEM-centric and multifaceted, the camp not only imparts knowledge but also instills leadership qualities. Real success stories, such as one girl’s transformation from a camper to an executive assistant, exemplify the camp’s impact.

The My Selfie Needs No Filter Summer Camp will offer four free one-week sessions in Pensacola between June 12 and July 28 for girls aged 13 to 19.


Others can get involved and stay informed about Lanes’ initiatives. She has a website, ericalanes. com, and can be found on Facebook and other social media platforms where she offers avenues for connection and information dissemination, showcasing the breadth of her work.


“My Selfie Needs No Filter” stands not only as a mantra, but also as a testament to the transformative power of self-love, authenticity and empowering the next generation. Lanes has an unwavering commitment to empowering individuals, particularly young girls, in their journey toward self-discovery and leadership.

Sonshine is a Northwest Florida media personality, business consultant, author, motivational speaker, and fitness consultant. She can be reached at Sonshinemoorer@gmail. com.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 43
“Mention that you ‘met’ me by seeing this copy of Bella and book for 15% off your next service with Cordova Skin & Body!”
— Jennifer Walden, Cordova Skin & Body
44 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Bayou Blvd. Suite 1, Pensacola; 850-741-2495;

local fare

Disconnect to recharge at Cordova Skin & Body

Imagine it’s your day off and you are treating yourself to a much-needed spa day. You walk in the door to soothing music, the smell of a Tyler candle slowly burning, a warm smile and greeting from the receptionist checking you in for your Ultimate Facial with hydro dermabrasion and dermaplane followed by an 80-minute Hot Stone Massage. She then offers you hot tea and champagne — yes, please. All of the above. Give me my robe and let me unplug. Ahhhhhhh …

Cordova Skin & Body is new to Pensacola but most of the friendly faces inside are well known practitioners in town. Jennifer Walden recently opened this cozy, inviting gem in the heart of Pensacola. Located on Bayou Boulevard, it is easy to get to, easy to park and the services are some of the best in town.

“Our service providers are all very seasoned, experienced and trained. We are all givers by nature. Most of our staff have been in the spa industry for over a decade or more, and we have a comfortable, welcoming, not stuffy, relaxed space,” she said.

Walden is a born and raised Pensacola native. She traveled as a Delta flight attendant for over a decade and then became a licensed skin care specialist (esthetician) in 2010. She previously owned another local spa that she grew to 30 employees and sold in 2021 to focus on taking care of her family.

“While I am very proud of the first spa I opened, I realized I was spread way too thin and the constant contact of staff, vendors and running the business was taking away my peace. I am happier now to have a more intimate spa with a staff of nine,” Walden said.

She has always had a passion for skincare and is happy to have a smaller setting to be able to get back in the treatment room and spend one-on-one time helping clients look and feel their best. She enjoys teaching and has helped train estheticians from other practices in town. Walden has grown up with family members who have special needs, which has given her a deep sense of caring and empathy for others.

“We live in a time where we are connected to these devices in front of us. We wake up and grab them. Go to sleep with them beside us. Run kids nonstop to competitive sports. Miss family dinners at the table together,” she said. “Gone are the days that we go home and leave work until tomorrow. Gone are the days that our children get to be alone with their

thoughts and make shapes out of clouds or wonder who will be at the dance or the party. They already know!”

This is why she thinks disconnecting is so important.

“I don’t believe a spa day, or hour of massage or a facial is indulgence. I believe it is in fact a necessity!”

Creating time to decompress and relax is more important than ever. It helps to clear the mind but also relieves stress, tension and anxiety. Feeling and looking good are very important to aid in overall well-being.

“A facial is a necessary indulgence to help promote cellular turnover, clean congested pores, teach teens how to properly care for their skin, help us age gracefully, check for skin irregularities and feel better about our appearance, which in turn makes us feel more confident,” she explained.

There’s another perk as well.

“Bonus: They also feel ahhhhmazing!”

Walden doesn’t think massages are just luxury either.

“A massage is a necessary indulgence to help with chronic pain, lymphatic drainage, stretching, muscle tension, proper alignment and so much more,” she said.

Cordova Skin & Body offers a wide range of services that you can find on their website. Memberships are available that you can share with a friend or spouse if you are not able to make your service that month. Along with your membership, you are free to come and relax in the lounge anytime you want to unwind, even if you are not having a service that day.

“People are EXHAUSTED. There is so much go go go. I’m happy to be able to provide a place where clients can feel comfortable with stopping. This is a place where people can come and turn off their phones and hopefully disconnect, meditate or relax,” Walden said.

In her spare time, you’ll find Walden laughing with her kids (ages 26, 16, and 14), boating, doing yoga, spending time with best friends and family, traveling as much as possible, dancing (and cooking) in her kitchen or playing with the best dog in the world, Otis! You may even find her indulging in some muchneeded and necessary spa time.

Leslie Peck is a local makeup artist, esthetician and lash artist with almost two decades of experience. She has worked 11 seasons of NYC Fashion Week as well as several beauty shoots while living in New York City. Leslie also has experience in TV, film, print and celebrity makeup in Los Angeles. She specializes in bridal makeup, skincare education and was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2007.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 45

Weber & Weekley Second-half success

local fare
• Photos by Kate
46 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Lavishing clients with attention, a commitment to education and giving back to their community are top priorities for Melody Weber (left) and Lorie Weekley, owners of Weber & Weekley Makeup & Skincare.

The rhythm used to be predictable: Work, raise a family and retire by Medicare age.

Lorie Weekley and Melody Weber are mixing up that rhythm and having a blast doing it! Last August the duo moved their thriving salon from Spanish Trail into a downtown location on the corner of Tarragona and Government streets in the bustling heart of historic Pensacola.

A lush courtyard anchored by a popular Acai food truck and vintage brick give the 125-year-old building an Old South ambience. When trains still ran through downtown Pensacola, Tarragona was known as Railroad Street and the site Weber & Weekley Salon shares with several businesses was a brewery.

“They would stop where the courtyard is on the Tarragona side and they would load and unload beer,” mused Weber, a grandmother of two. “That was back in horse and buggy days.”

Weekley, who is expecting her first grandchild in August, noted that underneath sheetrock are arched brick passageways where wagons once passed. Mixed metals, an industrial vibe, touches of sparkle and stateof-the-art makeup lighting fill the two-story salon, where skincare and makeup reign.

Despite all the perks, it was the adjoining parking lot that sealed the deal for the duo who didn’t want clients to walk from a parking garage or wrangle for street parking.


Like most of their 11-year-old business partnership, the new venture unfolded organically.

After raising their children and working in other fields, the friends went into business together in 2012 as makeup artists.

“My daughter was getting close to high school, and I was ready to do something but I didn’t really want to do a regular 9-to-5 that would pull me away,” explained Weekley.

Both women trained with the same makeup artist in Texas as well as airbrush training with Dinair and aesthetic school.

“We did makeup together and separately and we were always each other’s go-to when we needed help with makeup,” Weber explained, noting that both women are committed to extensive education.

“Everything Lori and I do, we get trained in. There’s a lot you don’t learn in aesthetic school.”

As business increased, Weber distinctly remembers Weekley calling her one day with news that a Spanish Trail location was available.

“I remember sitting there and thinking. I think I finally said, ‘Are we going to sit in park or are we going to drive this thing?’”

Drive they did, moving into the Spanish Trail location in 2015.

A renovation and more continuing educating ensued. And a whole new venture with a percentage of their earnings returned to the community was in full force.

“We are team players. We like being on a team. I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else but Lori,” said Weber. “We complement each other. It’s like a marriage. You don’t always agree with everything, but you work it out.”

“You know what each other’s strengths are,” said Weekley, who brings her tool bag to work and is adept with a drill and a saw.

While skin care and makeup are the obvious goals of Weber & Weekley, a lot of soul care transpires as the estheticians are working their magic.


“When you’re working on someone’s face, especially when you’re doing a facial, their guard is just let down. You can tell when people want to talk or when they just want to be quiet. Sometimes people come and say, ‘I don’t want to talk today,’ and that’s fine,” explained Weber.

“And sometimes I’ve had people

and I’m sure Lori has too, and they’ll start crying — the tears will start leaking out. I know it has to do with the physical touch. There’s just something about that.”

Weekley agreed.

“When you go to do the facial work you can feel the person’s tension and you can see when they release it.”

That pampering as well as improved skin are the goals of the team.

“We are about creating an experience for them when they come. We want them to be relaxed, we want them to be pampered. But we also will provide results. We are about making a change in their skin if that’s what they want,” Weekley said.

In addition to seeing skin care and makeup clients, the duo rents out space to freelance makeup artists as well as bridal and other groups. They sell several skincare and makeup lines, including customized eye palettes.

“We work by appointment. We don’t sit here all day every day. The reason we do that is because we want to block out the necessary time to spend with clients. Most places are in and out. You’ve got a 45-minute facial,” explained Weber. “We want to give them a lot of time and attention. We want to make it a memorable experience so they’ll come back. This is a big deal to us.”

Clearly, the ladies relish their work as well as their clientele.

“It’s not work for us because we love what we do. We love our clients. We have great clients and it’s so fun to see them. I always look forward to my clients coming in and I know Lorie does with hers. It’s just a joy,” said Weber. “We literally pinch ourselves because we remember where we started.”

Allison McCrory is almost a Pensacola native who studied journalism and has worked in writing and editing since beginning her career in 1984 with Pensacola’s afternoon newspaper, The News, before moving to the Pensacola News-Journal when morning and afternoon papers merged. The mother of two adult children, she suffers from a tennis addiction, practices yoga regularly, likes to get creative in the kitchen and has worked with children through mentoring and fostering.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 47
48 • Bella Magazine • April 2024 worth the trip
on a billion dollars a day

Icould get used to these digs, I thought. Just look at this place! So sumptuous, so perfectly appointed. I’ve got my own little vanity, entertainment center, minibar, desk/ dining table and recliner/bed. There are fresh orchids and a basket of gourmet snacks on the console. A soft pair of pajamas (infused with shea butter and argon oil) is folded neatly atop a fluffy down comforter. Nice.

And we haven’t even left the ground. Emirates Airlines flight 214 is ready for takeoff, and I’m ready for an adventure. The flight attendant brings me a pretty mocktail — with cucumber and mint and a flower. I raise my glass and get the attention of the cute guy in the “suite” next to me.

Cheers, my love! Happy anniversary/retirement/birthday

My husband and I had been planning this trip for ages. COVID had forced us to change our plans so many times that our special events had accumulated. We were celebrating everything!

We had left our hiking boots and backpacks and river shoes at home and packed the fancy stuff — shoes with high heels and little black dresses for me, and collared shirts and sparkly cufflinks for Ted.

And in a mere 14 hours, we would arrive in one of the glitziest cities on the planet — the City of Gold, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

If Dubai isn’t on your bucket list, you might need a bigger bucket. The city is a marvel of futuristic technology and extravagant indulgences. It is like no city I have ever visited — and I visited hundreds during my 20-year career as an international flight attendant with Pan Am and United.

Dubai is the capital and most populous city of the UAE, though a mere 60 years ago, before the discovery of oil in 1966, the city-state more resembled a sleepy fishing village than a Jetson’s montage. And while oil riches did indeed build the city, it is the tourism industry that sustains it. Dubai is remarkably hospitable, spotlessly clean and extravagantly indulgent.

Ted and I had had nearly two years to plan this trip. We also had a surplus in our travel budget due to canceled trips during COVID. And with so much to celebrate, we decided to pull out all the stops and glam it up like we had never glammed before — and probably never will again!


1. Atlantis, the Palm, resort — crown jewel of Palm Island

2. Lagoon bartender, Anatara Resort, Palm Island

3. Solid gold window display, Dubai Gold Souk (market)

4. Dubai Marina

5. Our camel caravan, Dubai desert

6. Oryxes, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

7. Our Bedouin-styled villa at Al Maja Resort in the Dubai desert

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 49

Hence the first-class suite on Emirates Airlines, and, upon landing, the Armani Hotel in the tallest building on Planet Earth, the Burj Khalifa, in the downtown district of the city.


Early on while planning this trip, I was surprised and delighted to find that we could actually stay in this iconic landmark; it felt like I was booking a room on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or in a fortress on the Great Wall of China.

There are only two Armani Hotels in the world (the other is in Milan), and it may be the ritziest accommodation I have ever enjoyed — made more so by the unexpected complimentary upgrade we were given.

Our spacious four-room suite, one of only two in the hotel, opened up to a massive terrace — literally half the size of my house — that overlooked the world-famous Dubai Fountains. The spectacular water, music and light

shows are among the most extravagant in the world.

One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new place is to book a private or semi-private tour of the city’s highlights on the first or second day, to get the lay of the land. Our guide, a pretty Russian expat named Natalia (resident of Dubai for 11 years, with no intention of ever leaving), had a full day planned for us, and in our bleary jet-lagged state, it was great to turn the reins over to a competent, enthusiastic insider.

We visited or viewed many of the touristy must-sees: the tranquil Al Seef recreated village on Dubai Creek (by “dhow,” a quaint wooden taxi boat), the massive Atlantis resort, the oh-so-chichi Dubai Marina and Smoky Beach, the towering sail-shaped Burj Al Arab (the only 7-star hotel in the world) and the bustling gold, spice and textile “souks,” or markets — where we accidentally spent not $63, but $630 on spices. Oops. We made Hassan’s day. (I blame this costly inability to do basic

math on jetlag.)

But perhaps the most interesting stop we experienced was not on foot, but on our knees. Of the more than 9,000 mosques in the UAE, only two allow non-Muslims to enter the prayer hall. Natalia, who had converted to Islam a decade before, helped us don proper prayer attire (an abaya for me, a kandura for Ted) and we knelt on the floor of the Jumeirah Mosque prayer hall and learned all about her faith and love of God.


Checking out of the Armani was bittersweet — but we had a couple of other unique hotel experiences to look forward to.

I never would have believed, leaving the turbo-charged downtown area, that we would soon be enjoying a tropical paradise on Dubai’s famed Palm Island. The Anatara Beach Resort was a whole other world of indulgence, with a delightful twist.

50 • Bella Magazine • April 2024

I’ve stayed in hotels with swim-up bars, but never in one with swim-up rooms! (And, incidentally, the bar came to us, by kayak, right up to our lanai.) We floated in our lagoon, swam in the Arabian Sea, then took a taxi to the St. Regis hotel at the base of Palm Jumeirah, for a bird’s eye view of the amazing man-made archipelago.

These artificial islands, shaped like fronds of a palm tree can actually be viewed from space — and yet, in typical Dubai style, they took a mere six years to complete.


As fascinating as the glitz and glam of metropolitan Dubai was for us, our experience in the Dubai desert was perhaps the highlight of the trip.

Our first glimpse of this vast sandbox was from on high, in the spacious wicker basket of a hot-air balloon. We watched, awestruck, as the sun rose into an azure sky while gazelles, oryxes, camels and even giraffes

(imported) roamed the desert sands below.

Our accommodation in the desert was just as “bespoke” as the previous two. We stayed at the remote and luxurious Al Maha resort. The 42 villas on the property — all with private infinity pools overlooking the desert — were designed like Bedouin tents, adorned with sumptuous Arabian furnishings and genuine tribal artifacts.

Upon check-in, we were assigned our very own “Field Guide,” an adorable Aussie named Liam, who arranged for all our activities. Among them: dune bashing, camel caravanning, falconry demos, nature walks, archery lessons, spa indulgences and our final — and my favorite — “Dinner for Two in the Desert.”

I never know, when I’m booking these things in advance, what I’m gonna get. It’s a leap of faith. I suspected they might just throw a blanket on the sand 100 feet from the lobby, toss a picnic basket at us and call it good.

Oh, no, this is Dubai — and absolutely everything is over the top! Liam picked us up at our villa at sundown and drove us deeper into the dark desert — where, lit by flickering torches — a spread fit for royalty was laid out on a plush Persian rug. Liam tossed us a “burner” phone.

“Give me a bell when you’re ready to be picked up,” and off he drove.

Our six-course meal required eight pieces of cutlery each. We dined like Sultans and then lay happily under soft pashminas — luxuriously alone and blessedly together — beneath a billion stars.

Cheers my love! Happy anniversary/ retirement/birthday. I think we have celebrated adequately, don’t you?

Sharla Dawn Gorder is a Pensacola Beach resident and columnist for the Island Times newspaper. She is the author of “My Vices Collide; a Celebration of Being a Little Messed Up,” and is currently working on her next book, entitled “Crayon Dawn,” due out in October 2024.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 51 A T L A S O Y S T E R H O U S E . C O M 6 0 0 S O U T H B A R R A C K S S T

in a good way with Salt + Olive Board Co. Get ‘Board’ girls night out

I’m not sure which I love more, gathering with friends over good food and wine or learning new things, so recently I decided to combine the two by inviting a group over to learn art of building a beautiful charcuterie board. Zo Vanselow and Michelle Lee Metz are the proprietors of Salt + Olive Board Co., and they were the perfect teachers and companions for the evening.

Charcuterie is all the rage and can satisfy so many food preferences like Keto, Paleo and gluten-free. The word’s origins come from the French “chair,” or flesh, and “cuit,” or cooked, and that explains the prevalence of cured meat on any board.

That was just one of many things these two gregarious and fun women taught us. More on that to come, but first, their story.

These two friends began their journey in business when they realized that every time they got together to hang out was around a charcuterie board.

“We found out pretty quickly that we enjoy sitting around and chatting,” Vanselow said in her lively British accent. “Both of our families growing up were big foodies. We both have a relationship with food and friendship.”

Indeed. Vanselow’s earliest childhood memories are of being in her dad’s Polish delicatessen, watching him slice cured meats, kielbasas and specialty cheeses.

“Growing up in a Polish household in London, pickles, herring, canapés and platters of meats and cheese were the norm,” she explained. “Our house always had a revolving door.”

Vanselow said she loves entertaining, getting friends together, arranging a board and opening a great bottle of wine.

“I guess that’s where it all started, watching my dad hang the meats in the window, arrange the cheeses in the fridge and use the strange cheese cutting wire that fascinated me.”

Family traditions learned from those early days continued.

“When the kids were little, we had a ‘picky bits’ board for New Year’s Eve. I guess it’s been a part of me for a long while. Salt + Olive felt like a very natural progression,” Vanselow said.

Partner Metz has similar fond memories that fuel her passion for sharing delicious food. She grew up near Nashville with hard-working parents who both embedded the value of home-cooked meals.

“They both worked full time jobs but yet still found the time to fix a full breakfast, lunch and dinner every day,” she explained. “Every year we had a garden full of fresh vegetables and fruit. Their passion for growing their own food and using it to feed their kids is where my passion to provide that for my own family comes from.”

Metz truly loves cooking for family and friends.

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1. Know your crowd and go for a board vibe based on what they like.

2. Make sure to clean and fully season (oil) your board before use.

3. Include three meats and three cheeses.

4. Use a grid system.

5. Decide whether the event is a gatheraround-the-board style or has more of an assembly line feel. If guests will make a plate and go sit somewhere, then you want it to be as easy to assemble as possible.

6. Start with placing your “spread” bowls on the board, like a mustard and an organic jam. Then place your olive and nuts bowls so that you can assemble around them and use them as anchors.

7. Place the grapes. If you can get a large cluster, put it in the corner or on the side of the board.

8. Add a show-stopping cheese such as a small brie wheel or a merlot- or espressodipped cheddar. Make it the center of attention. It’s nice to make a winding cheddar river with the beautiful rind showing in the center.

9. Try to include a hard salami and a soft salami on each board. The hard salami is nice to use as an anchor and the soft salami can be used as rivers or fill-ins.

10. Next, add soft cheeses like blue crumble, a vintage cheddar crumble, cubes of semisoft gouda, cute triangle-cut cheddar or a manchego that is cracker-sized and pretty.

11. Baguettes, crackers and any other breads can be stuffed in and around the board. Leave extra in a bowl as well.

12. Then fill around that with dried fruits, extra nuts and loose fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.

13. Drizzle honey, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top of the desired items.

14. Make sure to put out utensils! Include a knife, spoon, fork and tongs on each board.

15. Enjoy!


• What: Salt + Olive Board Co. charcuterie catering, to-go and classes

• Contact: Response time is typically within an hour at;; or Facebook message.

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 53

“As I have aged, gracefully of course,” she said with a wink, “I have used cooking as my happy place, my meditation. I love cooking a meal and sitting around with my husband and two kids and watching them enjoy themselves. It’s the best four hours of my day!”

Once the two conceived the notion of going into business together, they decided to do it right. They searched and searched until they found a proper place to do their prep.

“In order to be licensed and insured in Florida you have to have a commissary,” Vanselow said.

Once that was out of the way, they began to perfect their craft and take on more custom assignments.

The pair has created a wide range of offerings for every need. For example, they offer disposable boards wrapped in organic boxes as small as for one or two people to enjoy, up to boards that will feed 10-12 people.

“We try to make each box a little

different so that we are not giving someone the same things each time,” Metz said. “And we always capitalize on seasonal items! These are great for girls’ nights, date nights, office break rooms, open houses, teacher appreciation, etc.!”

The benefit of being a small outfit is that they don’t have to give up on quality by buying and storing in bulk.

“The biggest thing for us is right now we’re able to buy fresh. The day of, the day before. We didn’t want to have a ton of overhead. We wanted to be able to feel that we could be as creative as we wanted,” Vanselow said.

They have found a wide range of sources for their ingredients as well, from Trader Joe’s in Tallahassee to Merefa grocery on N. Davis Highway. in Pensacola, which features food from Russia, Poland, Germany and more faraway places.

So what did we learn about building a perfect charcuterie board? Well, as Metz and Vanselow said, there are as

many guidelines as there are types of cheese. If it works for you and you like it, it’s fine.

“The beauty is…it’s whatever you like,” Metz said.

Most modern boards include three each of cheeses, meats, accoutrements and starches. They demonstrated building a gorgeous board for us step by step (see sidebar on page 53). Along the way, they peppered the fun conversation with trivia about the items they were using.

“Zo makes the best pickled onions,” Metz said. And she was right!

“Grapes are on everything we do. They are a great little palate cleanser. They will cut the creamy cheeses and are a great statement piece,” Vanselow explained.

Some surprises we loved were the bit of honeycomb left in the bowl of honey (gorgeous), dried apricots with blue cheese and homemade jam they advised enjoying with the cheddar –pure heaven!

Operazzi is back and more elegant than ever. Join us on Friday, April 12th for a sparkling evening of glamour, elegance, and fun. Enjoy free-flowing wine, hors d’oeuvres and dancing during cocktail hour before the program begins. Operazzi hosts a live auction and paddle raise to support Pensacola Opera’s Jan Miller Studio Artist program and education initiatives. Help us bring the magic of opera to even more children in our 2024-25 season by joining us for Operazzi in Black and White! Tickets and more information at or 850.433.6737

54 • Bella Magazine • April 2024

We learned how to fold prosciutto like a napkin and pinch — the fat holds it together in a little fan shape. And we practiced layering slices of salami around a shot glass to create the classic “salami rose.”

Vanselow and Metz showed us you can elevate any board by knowing some of the secrets of visual feasting. White cheeses look beautiful next to dark berries. If you can get blood oranges, put slices on your board; they are stunning. Negative space on a board is really pretty, as is a sprig or two of fresh thyme.

One reason for the popularity of a charcuterie board is that it’s the perfect opportunity for someone to try something in a small amount and see if they like it.

Whether you’re looking to add to a party, wedding or business event, or you’d like to add a new skill to your repertoire, the experts at Salt + Olive Board Co. have something for you.

For catering, they offer entire

grazing tables. The Classic Grazing Table is an arrangement on butcher paper that is easy to just throw away at the end of event. The Elevated Grazing Table is displayed at multiple levels for a more dramatic display. They require five to seven days’ notice for these to determine the layout and get fresh produce.

They can also do gluten free boards, holiday boards and dessert boards.

“We were doing some research and found that more and more folks are choosing to stay home and have family and friends over rather than going out as much,” Metz said. “We thought it would be pretty cool to offer the ability to not only cater but have an activity for your group, in your own home. So now we offer our ‘girls’ night in’ to learn how to make a board. It doesn’t have to be just girls, though.”

They like to keep classes at about six people just to make sure everyone is able to participate. They are $45

a person. For one type of class, Vanselow and Metz explain and demonstrate while each person builds their own mini board that they can take with them. They also do classes for the holidays at $65 a person.

Another option is how we did it, where the two explain and demonstrate techniques while building a big board as the group watches and learns. Then the group can enjoy the board together at the end. It was so fun and informative — a perfect girls’ night!

For classes, expect about two hours of learning time with an hour setup beforehand and cleanup time afterward.

Bella editor Lisa Player is a freelance writer and editor as well as a middle school teacher, wife and mother of three grown children. Long ago, she was a magician’s assistant and a community theatre actor, too. She has lived in seven states and two countries and loves to travel. You can reach her at lisa@

April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 55 TO ADVERTISE: EMAIL SALES @BELLAMAGAZINE.COM OR CALL (833) 358-4486 Beautiful Women. Sassy Attitude. Smart Magazine.


Pensacola Chamber’s AlltogetHer Conference

On Jan. 23, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce presented the AlltogetHer women’s conference at Echo Life Church. Hosted by Carol Carlan, this allday event focused on regeneration and included presentations by several local influenceHERS aimed at inspiring professional women. All the presenters shared intimate stories of setbacks and rebounding to find purpose and excellence both personally and professionally. Attendees enjoyed small-group breakout sessions with lively conversation and left feeling inspired and motivated.

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Photos by Toni Sparks Carol Carlan, event host
April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 57
Tabitha Christopher, Willa Licata, Darra Flanagan Keynote speaker Davina Ware Tonya Zimmern Jennifer Walden, Leslie Peck Kerry Anne Schultz Whitney Lucas


Krewe of Aphrodite

The annual Krewe of Aphrodite ball was held at the Hadji Shrine Temple on Feb. 3. Guests enjoyed the grandeur of ceremonious unmasking presentations and live music. The court, who are meticulously chosen by the board each year, embodies characters of Greek mythology, adding a layer of mystique and splendor to the festivities, as they dance through the night, weaving tales of gods and goddesses into the fabric of the celebration.

Photos by Toni Sparks

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Cindy Shephard, Julia Thomas, Angie Brown, Holly Spot, Judy Martinson, Liz Murray
April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 59
Donna Pipkins, Sherry Green, Brooke Butler, Laura Jadro, Beverly Sullivan, Tia Spear, Lyndsie Stacey, Chae Kyle, Michelle Hedman, Connie Bednar (in front) Michelle Tronu, Debbie Sapp, April Jordon, Cameron Pyle, Latrell Tronu-Ard Cristi Dee’s BAD JUJU band Connie Benar, Nekola Harrison Dawn Wilson, Eva-Marie Logan, Michelle Tronu Scott Thomas, Charla Palmer


Pensacola Opera’s Rock the Runway

What do you get when you combine the ground-breaking fusion of rock and opera known as Rock Me Amadeus Live with fashions from five of Pensacola’s most beloved boutiques? You get a mesmerizing evening that captivated the sold-out audience at Vinyl Music Hall on Feb. 22 and a truly exceptional event benefiting the Pensacola Opera. From start to finish, it was an evening to remember. Thirty fabulous local models rocked fashions from Dillard’s, S&K Boutique, Jen’s Designer Deals, SoBo Boutique and Randall’s Formal Wear, with opera divas styled by Wardrobe Witchery and makeup by Jo Rich Beauty. Led by co-founder and internationally renowned soprano Alyson Cambridge, the members of Rock Me Amadeus Live brought down the house. This inaugural event left everyone wanting more, and we can’t wait to see what this team brings next year!

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Chelsea Frantz, Yasmin Nanne, Nancy Clark, Eva Maloney, Victoria Corman
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Sherry Franklin, Elise Gordon, Brooke Fleming Mallory Studer, Jessica Ethridge Marlee Bruno Adam Schrock, Heather Dammeyer, Jed Richards Alicia Tappan Tina Bosso, Stacie Hammer, Tammy Lynn Barr Terri Ramos Rachael Gillette Bethany Lauren


Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Gala

This year’s annual Big Gala benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida was held on Feb. 24 at the Pensacola Beach Hilton and was truly out of this world! With the theme “Cosmic Connections,” the evening celebrated the matches that are making such a big difference in the lives of local kids. Guests enjoyed exciting auctions, wonderful dinner and dancing and meaningful stories about the impact that these matches are making in our community.

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Russ Ronson, Tiffany Buccella, Catie Ronson, Melissa Wright, Jay Wright
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Courtney & Kasey Feltner Kelly & Rique Gwin Maleek Howard, Susie Gaian, Willie Blankenship, Micca Nary, Jean Graves, Wilkins Tiburcio Ben & Kristina Zimmern Angela & Brent Lane Aaron & Olesya Chatraw Brian & Cristina Williams Jason & Casey Richards

Buy the shoes already her perspective

I think it’s genetic. Really, I do. Mom had about 80 pairs, 75 more than I ever saw her wear. I only have about half that number. But I’m not dead yet — and there’s still about nine square inches of floor visible in my closet just begging to be filled. I need more shoes.

Shoe shopping is my favorite retail sport. Unlike shopping for jeans — or heaven forbid, swimsuits — the shape of my body is irrelevant as I slip on those baby blue Manolos. I can be packing a few extra pounds or have just eaten the whole pile of rosemary fries at George Bistro, and still look cute in those Jimmy Choos.

Though to be honest, it’s a bargain that really floats my boat when it comes to buying footwear. And what better time to snag a deal than Black Friday at Dillard’s?

Yes, I love shoes that much. I braved the manic masses at the mall in pursuit of the perfect pair of fancy “sneakers.” I wanted something fun and funky. And preferably, on sale.

Imagine my delight when I spied with my little eye, another little eye. A darling pair of Kurt Geiger platform sneakers winked up at me. Yes, a glittering-green, luscious-lashed eye embellished the side of each shoe. So cute.

into the tendon on the top of my foot. I got as far as my bedroom door before I yanked them off. Damn!

Back to Dillard’s I went. The sales guy was not friendly. In fact, he pulled the left shoe out of the box, scrutinized the sole, and declared the shoes unreturnable, and me a liar.

“These shoes show a wear pattern on the heel,” he accused.

“I did not take 10 steps in these shoes,” I defended.

We went round and round until finally the manager got involved.

Fun — check! Funky — double check! On sale…

I picked up the shoe and turned it over to look at the sticker and, OMG! Sixty-eight dollars. Unbelievable! My lucky day.

They had my size! I hurriedly tried them on and then rushed up to the counter to make them mine before my good shoe-juju ran out.

“That’ll be $168,” the salesgirl said with a smile.

“What?” said I with a frown.

She showed me the price on the box. I showed her the price on the shoe. Alas, the left corner of the sticker was frayed, missing the “one.”

Did I politely demur at this point? Hell no. I was invested. I needed those shoes.

Until I didn’t. A couple of days later, excited to wear them to a party, I pulled them out of the box, slipped them on, and took three steps.

“Ouch!” The tongue of the rigid leather jammed painfully

The surly salesguy was obliged to refund my money and I, still on the search for fun and funky footwear, continued to shop.

And there they were! The second most perfect sneakers ever. And on the sale shelf!

Less than 100 bucks. I took them up to the counter to pay.

“That’ll be $160,” Mr. Personality declared. I marched him over to the 40% off display.

“Someone put it on the wrong shelf,” he said without apology.

Did I walk away? Oh, nay. I am my mother’s daughter. I needed those shoes.

I put them on and pranced out of the store to my car. They really were cute — but $160? For sneakers? Right before Christmas?

On my way home I stopped at the adorable gift shop on 12th Avenue, Angel’s Garden, in search of stocking stuffers. The proprietor greeted me and exclaimed, “Don’t I know you?”

“Yes, I think so,” I replied. “You carried my first book here back in 2016 — thank you by the way.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. I think I owe you some money,” she said.

She pulled out her ledger while I shopped.

I was browsing windchimes when she tapped me on the shoulder.

“Here,” she said, and handed me a check. A check for…

You guessed it. $160.

I showed her my shoes and thanked her for them.

Fun! Funky! Free!

Mom would be so proud.

64 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Sharla Dawn Gorder is a Pensacola Beach resident and columnist for the Island Times newspaper. She is the author of “My Vices Collide; a Celebration of Being a Little Messed Up,” and is currently working on her next book, entitled “Crayon Dawn,” due out in October 2024.
April 2024 • Bella Magazine • 65 EMAIL SALES @BELLAMAGAZINE.COM OR CALL (833) 358-4486 Beautiful Women. Sassy Attitude. Smart Magazine.

Walk a mile in my shoes her perspective

I’ve never suffered from anxiety disorder or clinical depression. Lucky for me, the brain I was born with is wired to be happy-go-lucky and positive-vibey. Joy can be found just looking out the window at a pretty cloud or tree. I’m not one to worry about things — I do my best, then move forward to the next situation, day, month, year. If I feel stress, I play some uplifting music or go outside and find something less stressful to think about, lalalala.

Recently, I’ve had a few friends and family members dealing with anxiety. It’s been hard for me to understand. I did some research — Siri says anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses. According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of anxiety include feeling restless or tense, a sense of impending doom, increased heart rate/ shortness of breath, feeling weak or tired, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal problems and trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

Mel Brooks film. Zero appetite, zero energy, a terrible stomachache, and I only listened to sad songs — my mindset was total doom and gloom. As soon as I got the call that the test result was not cancer, mysteriously and almost instantly I felt better. It is so strange where your mind goes when you are given bad news as opposed to good news, especially when it is life-threatening. My fog lifted quickly, but for others it’s not so simple. I will never belittle anyone who suffers from anxiety again. I only had it for a short time, but it was awful. I’ve never had a panic attack but suddenly I feel empathy for Ted Lasso. I want to re-watch that fantastic show knowing what I now know about anxiety. I think it will give me new perspective.

We should all listen to these words from Joe South’s 1968 song:

Walk a mile in my shoes

Hey, before you criticize and accuse Walk a mile in my shoes

Wow. Researching these symptoms makes me feel bad for the out-of-touch, flippant advice I’ve given my friends and family members: “You’ll be fine; think positive; try not to think about it; you gotta eat — you’re too skinny; this too shall pass; it’ll all work out in the end…” Geez, my words sound so careless. But until you’ve walked in someone’s shoes, you can’t know how they feel. You can’t relate.

For the first time in my life, I walked in those shoes. Lalalala me was recovering from cancer and a total hysterectomy when I got an unrelated abnormal/no bueno medical test result. Which required more testing. And needles. I hate needles.

Guess who didn’t take her own advice? Waiting weeks for the results, I had high anxiety, but it wasn’t a funny

To those of you out there suffering from this illness, I hope to be a better friend/relative. In the words of Tedd Lasso himself, I appreciate you.

P. S. Dang, this month’s theme is “Indulge” and I went off-roading about anxiety. Well maybe I can tie this up with a bow. During my worst anxiety-ridden week we impulsively bought a beach condo. I don’t know where the super-frugal, save-your-pennies-for-a-rainy-day me was. When the agent showed us the sunset view from the balcony, I was channeling my inner Eeyore — thinking how many sunsets do I have left? No regrets. One never knows when one’s number is up. Enjoy every sunset. Indulge. Also, frugal me is thankful our fourth child got into an in-state university. Cheers to Bright Futures!

66 • Bella Magazine • April 2024
Liz Biggs is a Pensacola native and mother of four. Once upon a time, she had a high-pressure career but now she has a pension and is a freelance writer for Bella Magazine. Liz enjoys music, dancing, tennis and travel and tries to find humor in everything.
5033 North 12th Ave Pensacola FL 32504 (850) 477-6818 |
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