I’ve never been one to save new shoes, new clothes, good food or expensive wine for a super-special, just-right occasion. Life’s too short, despite my mom rolling her eyes incessantly at my unwavering commitment to instant gratification. 

But if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. Health is fleeting. Lives are fragile. Families and friends are essential (even if they nearly drove us over the edge during quarantine.)  And the best-laid plans for the biggest occasions can disappear in the flash of a single news headline, or the dreaded second line on a COVID test.

In this, our fifth edition of Keys Woman, we celebrate our tentative return to normalcy and all things that make us happy, including Pantone’s latest color of the year and three spectacular Florida Keys women, who invite us into their happy places. Stephanie Mitchell pairs wines with junk food and Annie Briening takes us on a tour of her hometown, happy place of Philadelphia. Erin Stover Sickmen explores “The Art of Polite Partying” and how the rules (finally!) have changed for women. We get serious about flipping the script on sexual violence against women. And our in-house fitness instructor Maison Benitez gets us in shape for summer. As you dive into the following pages, start with the specially curated playlist by Key West DJ Sanaris and pour yourself a glass of the “good wine” that you’ve been saving for a “worthy” occasion. Hell, a Tuesday should be reason enough. Don’t save those fancy filet mignons. Throw them on the grill and enjoy. Don’t wait to buy your favorite flowers until you, or someone else, feels you deserve them. Buy the flowers. Use those fancy bath products. Light the expensive candle. Break out the good china.

Why do we have these luxury items that make us feel good if we’re never going to enjoy them? And yes, I know, the more often you use your wedding china, the more likely you are to break a piece of it. But would that really be the end of the world? (If so, you need more help than this magazine can provide.) 

Let’s not be so hard on ourselves when deciding when we’re worthy of using or wearing something special.  We deserve to be happy. Always. Every day. And if the new shoes that are still in their box in our closet make us happy, wear them, even if it’s just to the grocery store. If your fancy wedding plates make you happy, use them, even if it’s just for pizza night. Because nothing is guaranteed, don’t wait to celebrate.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.