JOHN SOTOMAYOR Embrace: Taking a Stand
ANGELA BOONE Feeling the Rhythm of a Dance Filled Life
Little Things: Finding the Good After Witnessing the Devastation of War
Volume 01, Issue No. 05 • OCTOBER 2021
October 15 – December 7 YOUR PLACE INSURANCE • 2320 NE 2ND STREET, UNIT 5 • OCALA, FLORIDA 34470
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LOCALA DIVERSITY COMMITTEE ANGELA BOONE ESMIRNA CARABALLO MANAL FAKHOURY R.J. JENKINS DAVID LUGO REBECCA POOLE HERB SILVERMAN
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LISA ANDERSON MEDIA, LLC chief executive officer LISA ANDERSON website LISAANDERSONMEDIA.COM © Lisa Anderson Media, LLC and Locala. All rights reserved. October 2021, Volume 01, Issue Number 05. Locala is a monthly publication, which is published by Lisa Anderson Media, LLC, 2320 NE 2nd Street, Unit 5, Ocala, FL 34470. Nothing may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. For reprint or reuse permission, email email@example.com.
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
Dear Ocala Surviving with Hope
BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS
Heart-to-Heart: Encouraging Business Owners To Connect On a Deeper Level
Intentional Giving: The Conclusion of R.J. Jenkins’ Story
Feeling the Rhythm Of a Dance Filled Life
FROM THE EXPERTS
ON THE COVER
Knowledge is Power: Tips to Help You Through the Insurance Season
Professional Presence In a Pandemic World
THE CHEWS LETTER
Creative Outlet: Stay-at-Home Mom Sells Delicious Indulgences
Dan McCarthy: Visions by Dan McCarthy
Melissa A. Taricic: The Potters Daughter
Little Things: Finding the Good after Witnessing the Devastation of War
Through Adversity, There Were Victories
Plot Twist: TV Production Teacher Recalls Her Fight with Cancer
F E AT U R E
Embrace: Taking a Stand
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LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
LISA ANDERSON DEAR OCALA,
hat do you think of when you hear the word survivor? Do you think of the reality TV show or someone who beat the odds at cancer? For me, a survivor is someone who has beaten the odds, but also the person who stepped out of a bad situation, is battling addiction (and winning), or has come back from military deployment. In truth, many of us are survivors, but in different degrees: The mother who must continue to live after a miscarriage, the family who has to move on after the loss of a loved one, the city rebuilding after a natural disaster. Survivor stories can be the hardest to tell, because they bring people back into a painful time. I also think they are some of the most important ones to pass onto others. They show our humanity and our frailty, but they also show our strength and ability to fight. It’s not easy to admit to the general public that you are battling with addiction—how you have fallen down time and time again. For someone like John Sotomayor—whose business is winning awards and breaking new ground for the LGBTQ+ community—to sit down and say, “Share my story, if it will help one person struggling,” takes courage and faith. Find his story on page 28. Reliving moments of pain and heartbreak, like veteran David Tozzo and domestic abuse survivor Marianne Gennaro, is exceptionally brave. These types of events definitely come with their own forms of PTSD, but telling the story to help another human being overcome their trauma or to become a survivor is definitely noble. You can find David’s story on page 9 and Marianne’s story on page 12. Of course, a survivor issue in October would not be complete without a story about someone thriving while living with the scars of breast cancer. The story we chose is about Marcia Daubinmire, a teacher from Vanguard High School, who trusted her gut
and God, when she was originally told she did not have cancer. Read her story on page 14. Let’s not forget the other amazing people who stepped forward to share their stories: Angela Boone dances her way through life, Jessica Schultz gets to the heart of marketing, and Chad Taylor and Manal Fakhoury are our experts this month. Finally, we conclude R.J. Jenkins’ Follow Me story. So, grab the tissues. And then some hope. Most Sincerely,
SHAMELESS We are shamed, bullied and gaslit. But we are more than our experiences, and it’s never too late to rewrite the narrative. This book serves as proof. It is a powerful and engaging collection of essays from forty women who wrestled with hardship, addiction, divorce, discrimination, body image, and more—women who rose above their circumstances, took the message life gave them and handed it back. These women found their power, their purpose and their place. Do you believe in your own potential? If you are a woman in search of your tribe, in need of a blueprint for empowered living, or looking for a way to shift your fears to focus, this book will help you understand how your failures can serve as momentum for a positive life. Journey with the forty women who turned their shame into shamelessness and found the courage to be leaders of light, shining the truth on the path for us all.
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BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS
JESSICA SCHULTZ 8
BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS
Heart-to-Heart ENCOURAGING BUSINESS OWNERS TO CONNECT ON A DEEPER LEVEL Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON
Jessica (Jess) Schultz is a tall, confident woman, who wears her heart on her sleeve… on purpose. “I really try and expose my heart as much as I possibly can, and it hurts. I hurt all the time. I want people to feel more confident [about] not ‘hiding’ because of their interactions with me. I want them to be okay with [emotional] pain and nervousness.” She’s always had a pull towards people and a desire to connect with them. “Even as a kid, I would cry about stuff on the news. I am just so tender,” Jess confesses. “I just got so lost in my emotions as a young person. We emotional types, we just have to learn how to manage.”
We’re so busy trying to cover up our insecurities. You can be vulnerable without looking like you can’t get yourself together. — Jess Schultz
Because of the desire to connect her love of music and literature, Jess started her career as an English teacher. After five years, she reached her burnout point and began looking at a career in fitness. She became a yoga instructor and a certified trainer—basically, a “fitness professional.” After 12 years in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, Jess and family moved to Ocala, where she joined her parents, sister, brother-in-law, and her husband in opening the Pulse Center of Ocala, a Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) facility. To market their business, Jess joined Business Network International (BNI), where she learned about the importance of strategic marketing. “Being a people-person and being comfortable being vulnerable are not marketing skills. They’re great people skills to have, but that does not make you a marketer.” Jess later joined the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP). They soon noticed her unique marketing abilities. She is now the CEP’s
Director of Partner Engagement. “At this point in my career, I feel like I have come to a place where I’m fully in my purpose.” Her smile illuminates the room. She wants business owners to understand how connecting on a deeper level can help your business grow and showing some of your insecurities doesn’t make you look less professional. “I’ve pretty much got myself together. I’m a professional. I’m smart. I keep up with a lot of stuff. I raise two kids. I’m married to an amazing man, but I’m also kind of a disaster 100 percent of the time. “I’ve experienced a lot of hurt and pain, but I always feel like there is room for growth, and that transformation comes from pain. This is what I am supposed to be doing.”
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Photo (top left) from Wikimedia (Public domain as a work of the United States Marine Corps by SSgt Randy Gaddo, USMC, Rescue & Clean-up, Marine Barracks, Beirut, October 23, 1983) Photos (top right and bottom) submitted by Shae and David Tozzo
FINDING THE GOOD AFTER WITNESSING THE DEVASTATION OF WAR
DAVID TOZZO Story by LISA ANDERSON
SURVIVORS “Let peace take root. This cedar of Lebanon tree grows in living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attack and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.” – Beirut Barracks Memorial, placed October 23, 1984, Arlington Cemetery “Sunday morning. 7 A.M. A truck comes in, and the building comes down over 200 Marines,” David Tozzo recalls, as his voice cracks and his eyes tear up. It was October 23, 1983, when a truck loaded with explosives barreled into a four-story, concrete building, housing 350 sleeping American servicemen. Two-hundred fortyone U.S. military personel were killed in the bombing, and over 100 were injured.
ROUND PEG, ROUND HOLE
David grew up in Miami, Florida. His parents moved to the Ocala area just before he joined the Marines. “In all honesty, I had no clue what I wanted to do growing up,” he laughs. “Most of the things in my life I’ve just kind of stumbled into.” He loved animals and considered being a veterinarian, leaving the idea of being in the military as a backup plan. “As I got older, it just seemed like [the military] would be a good fit for me, and it was! You know, the round peg in the round hole. The whole structure of it fit very well for me.” David enjoyed working out and the early mornings. He had come from a loving
You can help with the little things, whenever you can. — David Tozzo
but disciplined home, so he found the structure the military provided almost comforting. His body and carriage reveal his story: The years of fitness, military discipline, over 31 years as a fire fighter/first responder, and nearly 11 years as the coowner of CrossFit Zoo. However, that hard exterior has a gooey center. In the world of Harry Potter, David would be a Hufflepuff. “They are the caregivers. You look at the things I’ve done and that’s me to a T. Helping people really clicked for me. I got a lot of satisfaction from that.”
Photo by Lisa Anderson
He spent four years in the Marine Corps and left as a Sergeant E-5. During his time, he completed one tour, extended to eight months due to the delay of their replacements. His post was in Beirut, Lebanon. “We went over there as part of the multinational peace-keeping force. We were stationed right in the city of Beirut, which, at one time, to my understanding, had been a beautiful city. At that time, it was not a beautiful city. It had been destroyed by fighting. “I think [the experience] was difficult but bearable and survivable simply because of the people I was with. I don’t think I could have done it without them. I have found that to be very true in the military, in the fire service, and those kinds of things. Sadly, back then, there was not nearly the support structure that there is now, regarding PTSD [etc.]. It was the strength of those other people that, I think, probably carried us all through.” David was posted about a half mile away from the barracks, but it was common for his unit to rotate out for mess (kitchen) and other duties. He was not in the building that morning in October, but a friend of his was on the top floor and wound up riding the building down as it collapsed. He miraculously survived. “There is a picture that you see a lot in the newspaper. They’re carrying out a young man of color on a stretcher, belly down because he had been injured on his backside.” David pauses before continuing, “That was my friend.” The iconic image was taken by journalist Bill Foley, and it depicts the devastation, confusion, and horror of the situation. “For days, you could hear the jackhammers.” David’s voice drops to a whisper, as he fights back the emotions. “I’ve never felt as useless in my life as I did then. You know when you join up, you’re writing a check up
to and including your life. That’s something you try to be prepared for.” Those types of situations are not something anyone wants to be in, according to David, even when you volunteer for it. His parents and siblings didn’t know if he was alive or dead for three days. “That was before the days of texts and emails, so they truly didn’t know. Eventually, we got to make a phone call. Here’s a carbon copy of every phone call made: ‘Hi, Mom! I’m okay. No, I’m okay! You don’t need to cry. I’m okay. I have to go now. Bye.’ That was it, and it was repeated hundreds of times for everyone.”
FINDING THE GOOD
David’s life has been a series of helping others. It has been his purpose and still motivates him to this day. “You can look at all the ugliness in the world, and it can overwhelm you. But you can help with the little things, whenever you can. For me, those little things were big things, and that’s what helped me see some sort of purpose, some sort of reason, in the insanity that is conflict, war, death.” He retired as a fire fighter/first responder two years ago and has been managing CrossFit Zoo with his wife of 20 years, Shae Tozzo. David may have stumbled into many of the things he has done in life, but finding the good and helping other people have always been, and will continue to be, a common thread.
Through Adversity, THERE WERE VICTORIES Story by LISA ANDERSON
what was happening, they would say to me, ‘Take it to court.’ This abuser was my husband, and I had four children,” she recalls.
MARIANNE GENNARO “I became a prisoner. I wasn’t allowed out of the house. I wasn’t allowed to see friends. I was allowed to see family members only when he allowed it. He cut my hair and told me how to dress. It was a nightmare. Any dignity I had was somewhere under my shoes, because I had no say in anything that was happening to me anymore.” Before Marianne Gennaro started a new life in Ocala in 1994, she lived a nightmare. “No matter how I tried to get out of that situation by running to shelters that were just deplorable or running to the police, who would put blinders on to
“When you’re brought into this world, you don’t get to choose your parents or family. I was brought up in a home with verbal abuse, lying, cheating, and there was always drama. So, when you’re fed that, you grow into a co-dependent adult making poor choices,” Marianne explains. “My poor choices led me to a domestic violence situation. Now, knowing my spirituality, those choices led me to be the woman I am today.” For a time in the 1970s and early 1980s, her path led her to an impossible situation and life support. “I would get beat up and be in the hospital. One time, the children were picked up by the police, and they didn’t want to bring them to the police station. They brought them to my parents’ house. The kids were in the back [of the squad car]. The boys were old enough to understand that my father and step-mother turned them away. Back to the police station they went.
Photos submitted by Marianne Gennaro
FROM CHOICES TO HOSPITAL BEDS
When I got out of the hospital, limping and internally bleeding, I would go pick them up.” Her husband would threaten to effectively end her life with an overdose, if she ever left him. In those days, domestic abuse was not acknowledged, and Marianne felt as though she didn’t have any choices. She eventually found herself back in the hospital, on life support with organ failure. Her doctors did not believe she was going to make it. “That was the doctor’s version, but not God’s. He had grace on my life, and life support was removed.”
Through adversity, I had victories. Through my mess, I created a message.
know] God will get them through this, and he has grace on their life. There are way more options now than in 1970. “If you think your only choice is to stay in that abusive situation, it’s not. Just keep alert to what little signs are being given to you, and take those opportunities. Never say no. Say yes, even if you think you can’t do it, because, through that, you can find an opening.” Marianne has become a motivational speaker
and has spent many hours talking with both female and male inmates (or as she calls them, “men in blue”) about her story. Her message continues to help others. “I always had the desire to help individuals, even as a child,” she says fondly. Her biggest message: Knowing you have the strength within you and allowing the littlest of opportunities to turn into the key to freedom. Hear more of Marianne’s story at bit.ly/Marianne-YouTube.
— Marianne Gennaro
Marianne awoke to find a priest by her bedside. He professed his joy in her recovery and told her how he had prayed for it. “Honestly, all I could say was, ‘Even God didn’t want me, and he sent me back.’ But I looked over and saw a picture of my children. I don’t know what came over me. That woman who didn’t think she had any options became this strong, confident woman. “Through adversity, I had victories. Through my mess, I created a message.”
FINDING HER MESSAGE
She still doesn’t know how, but Marianne found the strength to fight back and escape her situation. Completely free, she began to think of a new life. Marianne had been sending her kids to her father’s house in Ocala over the summer months so she could work. While on a visit herself, she was told, “You could start a whole new life here.” Marianne heard the message. “I packed up everything and moved here on very little money and hope. I was able to start a whole new life. Was it easy raising four children by myself? There were a great deal of obstacles in the way.” She did not let anything stop her. In fact, she landed a position through sheer grit, a bit of prayer, and saying yes to opportunities, and she has been with the company for 25 years. “I have a lot of respect in the industry for my work, and I was able to support my kids and myself. God has been good to me.” Unfortunately, her past came to find her in October 2000 when she began having seizures. “Going through a windshield [during a car accident], the beatings, the coma, and all the things I went through in my life is now affecting me this way, but I refuse to give up. I know there are things he wants me to do. There’s more to the story, and there are many women out there that, if they only stepped into their strength, [would
TV PRODUCTION TEACHER RECALLS HER FIGHT WITH CANCER
MARCIA DAUBENMIRE Story by JODI ANDERSON
Photo by LISA ANDERSON
“I’m a good producer. I can see things, and I can direct. And I can say, ‘I don’t like that. Do this. Do that. Make it like this.’ I’m very good at that.” – Marcia Daubenmire
eteran science teacher Marcia Daubenmire was not looking for a change, when she walked into her principal’s office at Howard Middle School one fateful day in 2013. “I was so excited, because I had been to FSU [Florida State University]. They had this convention for teachers, and we wrote lesson plans for CPALMS [a resource for Florida teachers]. We learned about climatology and how to teach the lesson and these cool things. I was like, ‘Ooh! I’m so excited!’” But her principal had something else on his mind. He asked her if she knew anyone who would be interested in the video production teaching position. “No, but who wouldn’t want that job?” she enthused. As she began listing all the cool things that the prospective teacher could do, he interrupted with a question: Did she want the job? “I thought it was going to be a cake walk! I jumped. Three days before school started, I went from one subject to the next.” She now laughs at her naiveté.
SETTING THE SCENE
As a teenager, Marcia attended A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Because of her dyslexia, she was drawn to video as a medium for storytelling. “I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I wanted to travel the world and meet dignitaries and cultures and meet people and tell their stories.” She left—to her regret—after her sophomore year. She spent her first decade out of high school working her way up the ladder at Burdine’s department store, eventually managing cosmetics, fragrances, and shoes. She got married and had her first daughter. She decided family life was not
I just can’t thank Marion County enough. — Marcia Daubenmire
compatible with her crazy work hours. Inspired by her husband, a math teacher in Fort McCoy, Marcia went back to school for teaching. A few years later, she accepted the TV production teaching position at Vanguard High School. “I was very nervous coming in, because they didn’t have a great program. I was very happy where I was at. I enjoyed what I did, but the program needed somebody to come in and just love it and say, ‘We can do this. Let’s make it better.’” She began to build the Digital Video Production program from the ground up. “I wasn’t the kind of teacher who taught out of a textbook. I was a researcher and a digger.” It has taken time, but she’s pleased with how the program has grown. “So far, my greatest accomplishment is my student [earned] second place in the nation, as a documentarian for National History Day. And he got to meet Ken Burns—virtually, because of COVID.”
Marcia’s trajectory has not been straight up. “I did have a whole year that I was out because of breast cancer.” In 2015, her mammogram showed a tiny spot, but the doctors were not worried. Two years later, she had clear results. That was May. In July, she noticed swelling in her breast, and it itched. She credits her faith for prompting her to get checked again. The diagnosis was metastatic breast cancer. She was 40. “The Holy Spirit came back one more time and said, ‘It’s going to be rough, but it’s going to be OK.’” Her doctor in Ocala initially told her she had one tumor in one lymph node, but something did not feel right. Marcia decided to seek a second opinion at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “After the MRI, I didn’t have one tumor, I had three. I was misdiagnosed.” Ten years ago, her diagnosis would have been a death sentence. The good news was that the cancer was localized. She was immediately put on chemo,
then several rounds of immunotherapy. Her breast was removed, along with some lymph nodes. During this time, Marcia’s mom had been nursing her through the side effects of her treatment. At the end of the summer, she and her mom went on a trip to Tennessee. Marcia returned to school in 2018, burned from 25 rounds of radiation. Just days later, she received a call that her mother had a lemon-sized tumor in her brain. Through all her care of Marcia, she would complain only of the occasional bad headache. After a 10-month battle with central nervous system lymphoma, Marcia’s mother passed in June 2019.
Marcia credits the connections she made with getting her through the darkest moments. “I think the worst thing about cancer is you meet people and develop these relationships, and some of them make it and some of them don’t. I know many of my friends that I met at Moffitt, I have a couple of friends who didn’t make it and a couple who are still fighting. It is a terrible disease, but we gotta fight.” Marcia is incredibly grateful to her community for helping her family survive the tough times. Their church group kept them fed. Teachers donated sick time to ensure that Marcia never missed a paycheck. “I just can’t thank Marion County enough.”
Thank you to my family, friends, businesses, and community who supported my campaign to serve ALL of Ocala.
Fakhoury MAYOR FOR
Serving ALL of Ocala ManalForMayor.com Paid for and approved by Manal Fakhoury for Mayor of Ocala.
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THE CONCLUSION OF R.J. JENKINS’ STORY
“When I came to Ocala, I had no friends, which was odd, because I’m the type of person to have friends,” R.J. Jenkins explains. “I’m a very social person.” He teases his partner Todd that they had four months of “absolute bliss,” when R.J. first moved to Ocala. They had been keeping up a longdistance relationship, and their reunion felt like a honeymoon. As most couples do, they finally had a big disagreement. “I stormed out of the kitchen and got into my car. I realized I had nowhere to go. I had no friends.” When R.J. started thinking of finding people with whom he’d get along, he felt volunteering his time was a great place to start. “I think we have an incredible non-profit community here. ‘I’d like to help,’ is a real door-opener—especially when people sense that you want to help with no real agenda, other than really trying to help.” He kept offering his time for things that he had a genuine interest in. “I tried to be really intentional about my time and think seriously about where my values aligned with the values of the organization. Through that work, I have found my people. I went from not knowing anyone five years ago to
being very evangelical about Ocala.” R.J.’s passion for language, reading, and the Ocala community are palpable, as he talks, and the community has embraced him in return. “I think one of the things that worked out well for me is that I really tried to be thoughtful about what I was doing in the beginning. Once the community starts to see you in these sorts of roles, they start to see you as that [type] of person.”
THE FULL STORY
To read part 1 and social media posts of this story, visit localamag.com/category/follow-me.
Story by LISA ANDERSON
Photo by Lisa Anderson
Photo submitted by R.J. Jenkins (with GED student, London Volpe, at Marion County Literacy Council)
Feeling the Rhythm OF A DANCE-FILLED LIFE
ANGELA BOONE Story & Photos by LISA ANDERSON
FOLLOW ME “When the marimba rhythms start to play, dance with me, make me sway,” Michael Bublé sings. It’s a song that gets me moving and dancing in a poorly-timed shoulder sway, as I wash the dishes. I clumsily glide across the kitchen floor, imagining I’m gracefully following my dance partner across a beautiful ballroom, sparkling in lights and sequins. For AVP of Branch Delivery Experience (Insight Credit Union) and podcaster Angela Boone, dancing has long been a part of her life, and she is far better at it than I could possibly be. “I started dancing when I was in middle school—you know, your typical jazz, ballet, and tap. I’ve always loved to dance,” Angela emphatically states. She danced her way through high school, and while in college, she joined the Caribbean Student Association, a community dance program. “When I went to college, I went for business, and it’s very analytical, for the most part.” A part of her loves creating lists and checking off the boxes, but Angela is drawn to dance, because it doesn’t involve analytical thinking. “I get to be free. I get to create. I get to have fun, and with ballroom, as a lady, you’re not a leader. So, all you have to do is follow. That’s it. That’s all you have to do, and that’s the beautiful part about it.”
MOVING WITHOUT MOVEMENT
Although Angela spent most of her youth in Ocala and considers it her hometown, she had no plans to return to the area, once she moved to attend Florida State
University. Through a series of events, she and her husband bought a home in Ocala in 2013. The transition back to her hometown wasn’t an easy one, and Angela didn’t even have dance to help get her through it.
FOLLOW HER STORY
This story continues through our Social Media Channels on Instagram and Facebook every Wednesday in October. Be sure to follow us @localamag to find out more about Angela’s dancing journey. #localafollowme
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MYTHS ABOUT TITLE INSURANCE Buying a new home is one of life’s most gratifying experiences. Making sure your right to own the property is protected can be just as rewarding. During the process of purchasing your dream home, you’ll hear two words you’ve probably never given much thought – title insurance. As with the rest of the home buying process, title insurance can be difficult to comprehend. To complicate matters, the topic is often surrounded by misconceptions that keep home buyers from recognizing its importance. Let Your Place Insurance help dispel some of those myths and put you on the path to protection.
1. TITLE INSURANCE OFFERS ONLY MINIMAL PROTECTION
When you purchase a home, you receive “title” to the property. Title is your legal right to own it. Title defects can remain undiscovered for months or even years after you purchase the home, but Title Insurance can protect your home from unforeseen dangers.
2. THERE IS ONLY ONE TYPE OF TITLE INSURANCE
There are two types of title insurance policies: an owner’s policy and a loan policy. An owner’s policy protects you, the property owner, and a loan policy protects the lender’s interest in the property until the mortgage loan is paid in full. The loan policy provides no coverage to the homeowner.
3. TITLE INSURANCE REQUIRES A MONTHLY OR ANNUAL PREMIUM
Unlike most insurance policies, there is no monthly or annual premium. Title insurance is a one-time cost you pay at closing when you purchase or refinance real property, and lasts until you sell it again.
4. HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE AND TITLE INSURANCE OFFER THE SAME PROTECTION
Title insurance protects a buyer’s right to ownership and a lender’s investment. On the other hand, homeowner’s insurance is a policy that protects you against potential losses or damage you can experience to the structure of your home or its contents during an insurable incident.
5. HOME BUYERS DO NOT GET TO CHOOSE THE TITLE COMPANY
Under the terms of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), the buyer generally has the right to choose the title company when the property is purchased with the assistance of a federally related mortgage loan. The property seller may not require the buyer to purchase title insurance from any specific title company, unless it has been instructed that the seller will pay for both the owner’s and loan policies associated with the real estate transaction.
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Knowledge is Power TIPS TO HELP YOU THROUGH THE INSURANCE SEASON
FROM THE EXPERTS
Story by LISA ANDERSON
had Taylor is no stranger to the insurance world. His father was the founder of Combined Insurance Services, an employee benefits company. Chad spent almost 20 years with his dad’s company, but, “As I got older, I realized that I enjoyed the face-to-face of individual insurance.” His dad passed away in 2020, and Chad set out to fulfill his father’s last wish: For Chad to start his own individual insurance agency. “I love knowing that I’m actually helping people. If someone has a need, and I have a product that can help, it feels good to know that they are a little more protected in life because of something I did.” Chad admits there is a stressful side to insurance, and he attributes that to a lack of education about it. “It’s nice to know the people I deal with are more informed and happier when they walk out the door than when they walked in.” Here are his top five tips about insurance to help you navigate open enrollment and other crucial insurance plans:
Insurance agents come in two types: Captive and independent. Captive agents are agents who can represent only one insurance company. Chad believes they have their place—especially if something you need falls into their niche. However, independent agents can shop multiple carriers. This can result in better benefits and bigger savings.
TIP 3: LEARN THE BASICS
“A good agent will take the time to educate you on what you’re looking for. Knowing basic terms, like ‘deductible’ and ‘co-
Health, homeowner’s, general liability—it doesn’t matter the type of insurance you have. Your rate will likely change year to year, and this includes premiums and benefits. “What may not work one year may turn into something great the next year,” Chad explains, referring to tip one.
TIP 5: ONLINE RATERS ARE GREAT, BUT…
“There are a lot of insurance raters online: Websites and apps that let you shop for different products. Sometimes, they have great rates. In my opinion, they will never beat an actual insurance agent. A good agent will be there for you during and even after the sale. If you have a problem, you can just call them, and they’ll work to get the issue fixed. As fun as online raters are, they’ll never match a real person in terms of service.”
ABOUT CHAD TAYLOR Chad is the President and lead agent of Your Place Insurance and the President of Creating Forward, a new nonprofit organization.
Visit: yourplaceocala.com FB: @yourplaceinsurance
Photo by Lisa Anderson
TIP 2: DIFFERENT INSURANCE CARRIERS HAVE DIFFERENT SPECIALTIES
TIP 4: INSURANCE IS CYCLICAL
“Like most things, never settle for the first thing you find. Whether it’s a new product or you’re renewing a plan you already have, shop around every year to make sure [that] what you are getting fills the needs you have at that moment,” Chad emphasizes. “You’d be amazed how much money you can save by taking a little time to see what’s out there.”
insurance,’ can help you a lot in the long run. When it comes to insurance products, there are no stupid questions. Agents are specialists in their fields. Don’t be afraid to learn more.”
Photo by monkeybusiness/DepositPhotos.com
TIP 1: SHOP AROUND
FROM THE EXPERTS
Professional PRESENCE IN A PANDEMIC WORLD Story by MANAL FAKHOURY
To communicate effectively, it’s important to regulate your reactions, recognize emotions in others, and manage your responses. What does having a professional presence look like in a world full of Zoom calls, masks, and working at home?
Photo by thelivephotos/DepositPhotos.com
Photo submitted by Manal Fakhoury
Let’s start with presence. Presence is letting the most powerful version of yourself shine through. I like to cite the renowned leadership expert Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who defines “presence” as a combination of gravitas, communication, and appearance. Together, these elements form an impression of trustworthiness, competence, and authenticity.
Now let’s look at professionalism. Many people tie this to how one dresses. But it is more than that. It is confidence, communication, and how you dress.
If you want to learn how to be more confident, you must be willing to change your state. Your state is essentially your mood at any given time of day. Your mood is influenced by how you feel about yourself at that point in time. The great news is you are in full control of your choice. Confidence is a matter of choice. You can let go of the stories you hold at any moment and create a new experience within yourself that will directly affect your state of mind and, thus, your confidence.
To communicate effectively, it’s important to regulate your reactions, recognize emotions in others, and
manage your responses. Let other people speak first. Ask questions and make them feel understood. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and lean forward. By staying in the moment and maintaining focus on the conversation, you can ask the right questions and lay the foundation for trust and openness to your influence.
DRESS YOUR PART
There should be a strong connection between who you are, who you want to be, and how you look. If you want to be successful in the financial sector, for instance, you need to look like someone who understands and can be trusted with money. Identify the people who are successful where you work, and study how they put themselves together. Focusing on your appearance can also go a long way toward boosting your internal confidence.
ABOUT MANAL FAKHOURY
For the past 35 years, Manal has been making a difference in Ocala with hard work, generosity and outstanding leadership. Visit: manalformayor.com
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Embrace Taking a Stand Story & Photos by LISA ANDERSON
“I have a revolving door history. As much as some people may respect me for my work, there are some people out there who are a little skeptical. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve struggled with addiction for a good part of my life. It stems from early on and not believing in myself. Well, that’s changing because of all of this.” John Sotomayer points to printed issues of Embrace magazine scattered on the desk. “There’s still something there that holds me back. One of the key things I’m working on is identifying those factors, working through them, and then having a full recovery—which is a never-ending thing.”
John is the publisher and mastermind behind the LGBTQ+ magazine Embrace, which launched in May 2020. It’s a quarterly publication that has broken barriers, made history, and won numerous awards in its first year alone.
The magazine could have been “dead on arrival,” due to the shutdowns that occurred right before its premier issue. However, with the hard work John had put into planning over the last year, financial aid programs, and the support from his contributors, the dream he had seven years ago came to fruition. He began his career in legal services, working for a prestigious law firm in New York, but when John made the move to Ocala with his parents in 2005, he decided to become a freelance writer. This led to many open doors, including time at Ocala Magazine (OM) as a freelancer, associate editor, and executive editor. It was during his tenure at OM that the right opportunity presented itself to publicly take a stand as a gay man in 2012. There was some trepidation with releasing the article that featured a photo of John with a rainbow on his hand, but when the series of articles was released, the support was astounding. “It was so well received, not a single negative letter.”
In fact, John and the magazine received over 3,000 emails and texts congratulating him on taking a stand. “I thought right then and there, if I ever have the opportunity to do my own magazine, I want it to be LGBTQ-based.” As Embrace took shape in 2019, John knew he wanted it to be entirely inclusive. “There [are] too many barriers, too many walls separating people. The whole idea is not just diversity in terms of LGBTQ inclusion, but also allies. We wanted to see how the gay and straight communities work together. That’s why we chose the premier cover as the metal band, APEX. Two of the band members are gay, and two are straight. I thought they best represented what the mission of the magazine is all about.” Through the magazine, John has found a passion for publishing in the LGBTQ+ genre and a purpose to giving back. “I found myself within this. Within all the different work I’ve done in the past to this point, I found what I think is my purpose and calling in life.”
“I had a very good start in my life. My parents were very supportive,” John begins his story about his alcohol addiction. “I had my first drink when I was at Cornell University at 16-years-old. My parents
thought I was too young to go to college, but I wanted to go to the summer program.” He attended the program at Cornell for two summers in 1984 and 1985, giving him an early introduction to the full college experience. When he attended college after his graduation in 1986, John was already wellversed in navigating the party life. “I had the idea in my head to work hard/play hard. Unfortunately, that came with consequences.” The consequences included his employment and some financial difficulties, but for John, those were “minor problems.” In the light
of day, he was living a life of privilege and not fully understanding the benefits he had. At night, he flipped the switch to party mode. “Most people can’t even tell I’m drunk. They’re surprised to learn later that I was that drunk. I go through blackout. I have no memory or recollection, because my brain is not recording, and I also get sleep-deprived. So, basically, a night out would mean two nights of recovery.” In the beginning, he would feel the effects of the alcohol, such as getting “the spins,” but his body began to adapt. John took it as a sign to drink more. He couldn’t see he was
doing his body a disservice, until his world came crashing down. “The first obstacle was leaving law school without a plan. It’s the first time I ever walked home without a plan.” John left school after his roommates searched his bedroom and found evidence he was gay. It was 1992. HIV was still considered the “gay disease,” and Ellen was five years away from her public reveal. His roommates’ discovery led to blackmail and gay bashing. When the news made its way to fellow students’ ears, the anti-gay behavior continued. “I felt defeated, like I destroyed myself. That led to more spiraling out of control. It got to the point where I thought I was never going to get anywhere in life.” That’s when he started dating a man who believed in him and set him on the path to recovery. While in rehab, John had an “aha” moment when was told, “You can always start over with a clean slate.” It was in this moment he first had the idea to become a writer, and it was with the strong support of friends and family that he made the transition of working as a paralegal to a freelance writer and “putting the free in freelance.” John’s addiction has brought with it emotional pain, financial troubles, and medical problems, due to beatings he received over the years. “These are things I prefer people not to know, but if it helps somebody else with the struggle...” He pauses to collect his thoughts. “You don’t have to do that to yourself, anymore, and life would be so much better. Even if I never got any of this,” he says, gesturing to the magazines and the awards they’ve won, “life would be so much better without where I was [headed]. “I’m not out of the woods. I don’t want to present to the public that I’m a beacon, the guy you need to go to for this, but at least I’m sharing my story with where I’m at.”
Through his work on Embrace, John has learned to be adaptable and how supportive his community can be. “I think when people see something happening that is going to be a game-changer, they will let it happen. They want it to happen, I think. Don’t allow yourself to set your own boundaries; try to always go beyond them.” The awards Embrace won this year are on a corner table, and John looks at them every night. He is grateful for everything he has achieved. “To me, it is still freakin’ unbelievable. Why me? I was literally down in the gutter before. If my parents hadn’t taken me back in, in New York, I would have been homeless. And I probably would have been gone by now. I was spared all of that.” Looking ahead to the future for himself and the magazine, John hopes it will endure. “I see this as my legacy. I want to see this survive me.” He also plans to share more of his personal journey in a book.
John and his team are working hard to expand the circulation and distribution of Embrace. This includes creating the Embrace Lifestyle Network to bring all their social media networks onto a website where there will be video and podcast content. Website: embracemagazine.us Social Media: @sotomayormedia Coming Soon: embracelifestylenetwork.com
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THE CHEWS LETTER
Creative Outlet STAY-AT-HOME MOM SELLS DELICIOUS INDULGENCES
THE CHEWS LETTER
GIVING SWEET JOY
STEPHANIE CUDNIK Story & Photos by LISA ANDERSON
West Palm Beach native Stephanie Cudnik moved to Ocala, Florida with her parents in 2008. She eventually met her husband and is now a busy mom of two singletons and twins. Her twins are two years old, and Stephanie bustles around, shifting babies on her lap, as the interview commences. She offers me a sample of a beautiful macaron, and the lemon flavor bursts open in my mouth. It is absolutely delightful and not at all what I imagined a macaron would taste. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the delicious flavor, because Stephanie has been baking since she was in high school. “We had bible studies at our house every week. [There was a] lady that was the baker of our group, and she had brought this chocolate cake that had vanilla icing, chocolate chips, toffee, and caramel drizzle. I was obsessed with it.” Her obsession grew, and Stephanie began making cupcakes, finding that she enjoyed the process. She made a few cookies, but she wasn’t as big of a fan of that process. Later, she found macarons to be fun and simple to make. Several years later, her cousin’s wife had a baby. “She was really depressed. It was a rough birth. I wanted to send her something to cheer her up. Macarons were too hard to ship, so I sent cookies instead. That’s what started Steph’s Sweets Boutique.”
In truth, Stephanie had been making cupcakes and cookies for friends and family for years. They often told her she should start a business, and looking back now, she wishes she had listened to them. The business fully manifested when Stephanie became pregnant with the twins. Between feeling ill during her pregnancy and the cost of daycare, she knew working outside the home would not be a viable option. Even before she quit her job, Stephanie told her husband, “I’m going to lose my mind. I like working. I like being around adults,” which was a motivating factor in starting her business. During the 2020 lockdown, her orders unexpectedly surged, especially during the Christmas season. “I think people were looking for some kind of joy—something to cheer them up. I love when people get excited about it; I love giving people yummy food. The taste is the most important part. It’s beautiful, and it tastes good.” Stephanie’s business focuses primarily on macarons and cupcakes, but she does do a very limited number of cookies. If you would like to learn more about Steph’s Sweets Boutique and her journey or place an order, visit stephssweetsboutique.com or follow her on Instagram and Facebook @stephssweetsboutique.
TAKING A GIRL’S VOICE IS THE SAME AS TAKING HER POWER A compelling, lyrical memoir that will rip your heart open and then stitch it together again, page by page.
AVAILABLE ONLINE • WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD @authorricakeenum • RicaWrites.com
Dan McCarthy VISIONS BY DAN MCCARTHY
What is your background, and how has it informed your art? I've always had a love of exploring the outdoors. This joy of discovery and just being in nature has led me to want to preserve that moment and emotional experience by capturing it with my camera and creating a print from it. What types of art and culture do you like to consume? I love to listen to a wide variety of music, especially when I'm driving to or from a shoot or working on editing photos. Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? Definitely. My aim is to share the emotional experience of exploration and discovery and inspire others to seek out these experiences for themselves. When creating a piece, I'm always looking for the best way to convey that feeling. Compositional choices, camera settings, and lens choices are all made to help build the story of a piece, and I use the editing process to accentuate certain elements or enhance the emotional connection to the story of discovery and wonder.
What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I am first a father and a husband. I'm a thinker. I'm an explorer of both places and ideas. I like to think of myself as a student of life, who is always looking to learn more. How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? My definition of success— as an artist, as a person, as anything at all—is quite simple: Happiness and contentment. Being happy with where I am and what I am doing is being successful. Being content in looking around at my life, my family, and my plans for the future and that all is as it should be is success.
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Inclusion in the magazine is based on first come, first served. You must complete the questionnaire and submit a headshot to be considered for publication.
FIND DAN AT:
visionsbydanmccarthy.com Instagram: @visions.by.dan.mccarthy Facebook: @visionsbydanmccarthy "I am participating in First Friday Art Walk in Ocala. I will also be participating in the Ocala Fine Art Festival on October 22 and 23, and I will have a solo exhibition at The Brick City Gallery opening December 23, 2021."
Photo submitted by artist
What type of an artist are you/What is your medium? I'm a photographer, who focuses primarily on Florida landscapes, although I've begun exploring other avenues of expressing my photographic creativity.
Melissa A. Taricic THE POTTERS DAUGHTER What type of an artist are you/What is your medium? Certified ADHD artist. All mediums in due time! Read that with an English accent. My main medium, as of now, is clay. What is your background, and how has it informed your art? My background is funky, fresh, strange and exciting… Oh! AND impromptu! That's my art! What types of art and culture do you like to consume? All kinds of all kinds. My favorite musicians are Josh Garrels, Damien Rice, Cloud Cult, Albert Vargas, Sam Friend, Lovage, Emily Jane White. Art: MAMDSIGNS really impressive stuff. Gypsea Art! I love Justin’s flow and imagination! Mel’s oil paintings are incredible! Plays: Anything with the Broadway star Nick Duckart in it and Godspell.
Photo by Dave Miller (submitted by artist)
Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? The way that I make art is instinctive. I just do what feels natural to get to point A, spice it up with imagination to get to point B, and perspective my way to points XYZ. I don’t normally go into a piece knowing the idea of what I’m making. I love to watch the work unfold, evolve, and grow. It excites me and
keeps me on the edge of my stool. What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I am a freak that loves Jesus! Seriously, I am everything I’ve always wanted to be, so my role is pretty intense. I’m a mom of four amazing children. My hats, they have many corners, so to speak. Oh! And I’m the hostess with the mostest! Check out our Airbnb, The Cozy Cottage FL! How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? Happiness. And so…I’ve been successful my entire life. I pray for everyone to find happiness, even in the darkest days. It truly is a “GREAT SUCCESS” to have that ability.
FIND MELISSA AT: Instagram: @Lulli_Bell Facebook: Melissa Ann Taricic TikTok: The Potters Daughter
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