Do Family Farms Still Matter?

Gaining Ground This article first came to our attention from our friends at I Support Farmers Markets, but originally published in Parade. We wanted to share this remarkable journey taken by author/farmer Forrest Pritchard.

As my friends headed off to graduate school, I pointed my dusty pickup toward the farm. My college advisors shook their heads with well-meaning disapproval. “Go ahead,” they admonished. “Get your hands dirty for a few months. But when you’re ready to decide on a career, the real world will be waiting for you.

But this is the real world, I insisted. It’s a world of sunshine and rain. It’s a world of physical work and sweat, and the sweet satisfaction of nurturing life from the earth. A few weeks back on the farm, I was sunburned and filthy and utterly blissful. Most importantly, I was certain that I had made the right decision.

I projected our bills for the coming winter, and knew that we needed ten thousand dollars to carry us into spring. That summer, we planted the farm with corn and soybeans, abandoning our traditional cow pastures for the quicker financial return of grain. The meadows were killed off with herbicide, and the rolling hills cultivated.

In October, trucks whisked away our glittering corn and soy. I was so proud of what we had accomplished: We had saved our family farm. Later that week, I received our paycheck and tore open the envelope.

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Unite Against Bullying

October hosts a number of national observances including Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Our friend Chris Gagliardi, who is featured in the Fall issue, has experienced bullying throughout his life. Born with autism, Chris has faced life with courage and is believed to be the only person with autism to have run for public office in the United States. Check out our Fall issue to read Chris’s story and be sure to sign his petition “Give Youth Rights for Justice Against Bullies.”

The NEA (National Education Association) encourages family and friends to pay attention.   “There are many warning signs that may point to a bullying problem, such as unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed personal items, changes in eating habits, and avoidance of school or other social situations. However, every children may not exhibit warning signs, or may go to great lengths to hide it. This is where paying attention is most valuable.”

“if you see something – do something. Intervene as soon as you even think there may be a problem. Don’t brush it off as “kids are just being kids. They’ll get over it.” Some never do, and it affects them for a lifetime.”

A Rhapsody in Blue, Red, Orange & Yellow

Central Park in Autumn

I don’t know why, but George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue has always reminded me of Fall. Watching the season’s colors burst forth in a dazzling array, while the temperature drops and the sky exhibits a dichotomy of gloom and brilliance all at the same time. The Fall season is a time for fresh starts, almost similar to New Year, with much less pressure; and also a time for the beginning of hibernation and introspection.

I love Fall. I love the clothing of Fall, the warm snugly sweaters, the scarfs, the jackets. It all seems so much more stylish than shorts and tank tops and flip flops.  I love the routine of Fall, no one is going on vacation – they are concentrating on work, school, business (or so it seems). I love the crisp air in the morning and evening, the shuffling sound of the leaves underfoot, and the cacophony of the geese above, flying south. I love the crackling sound and smell of fireplaces, oh how I love wood-burning fireplaces!

If only Fall could last forever! Enjoy this video by Gilda Tabarez with music from the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, directed by Leonard Bernstein. It is amazing!


Standing with the Family Farmer

Farm Aid 2013

Farm Aid 2013

On Saturday, the great Pete Seeger took center stage, along with John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Dave Mathews at the 28th edition of in Farm Aid, this year held in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY. In a Huffington Post article Willie said this:  “Every year, come harvest season, we gather for the annual Farm Aid concert. Artists, farmers, activists and eaters, we come together to recognize the crucial importance of family farmers. We take account of how far we’ve come and we renew our spirits for the fights ahead. We stand with family farmers.”

“Today, as the minutes tick down to another farm bill deadline, people in towns and cities everywhere are taking matters into their own hands. They’re standing up with family farmers and insisting on food that is best for them and their families. They’re seeking out food from family farms at farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants. They are organizing to change the food served in schools, hospitals and public institutions. They’re making their voice heard and voting for family farm food every way they can. Our message is hard to miss. America needs family farmers. Congress, can you hear us?”

To read the entire article click here.

Hero Is A Woman


The Last Watch of Hero by Frederic Leighton

Hero Is A Woman is the opening vignette in a in a new, delightful book of inspirational mini-biographies celebrating the heroic feats of courageous women, Heroic Vignettes by Tami Richards. If you would like the chance to win an autographed copy, just enter your name and email on our Facebook page in the tab Enter To Win.

“So the sun set and the dusk came. The first star shone; and as the gradual dark deepened, the torch glowed brighter, a signal through the night. About her, asleep, were the sparrows and doves, the birds of Aphrodite which it was Hero’s duty to feed. At the foot of the rocks the ocean boomed solemn and forbidding. Continue reading

Deserve A Glance Back?

Born In the 60s

Just finished reading two wonderful posts, America World Peace Keeper, by our very own contributor, Sally Edelstein, and Pushing America’s Reset Button by Maggie Van Ostrand. Both author’s reflect on our country’s “good old days,” when America garnered the respect of the world and was considered the Ambassador of Peace and when “Made in America meant the product might even outlast the buyer.”

There seems to be a lot of action on Facebook lately with postings like the image above, or this one:  “For Anyone who was born in the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s…We are the last generation who played in the streets. We are 1st who played video games. We walked over a mile with no worries on being taken. We learned how to program the VCR before anyone else. We played from Atari to Nintendo. We are the generation of Tom and Jerry, Looney Toons and Captain Kangaroo. We traveled in cars without seat belts or air bags. We were taught to say please and thank you, and to have respect for our elders. We were taught to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ and to lend a helping hand to those in need. We were taught to hold the door for the person behind us, say ‘excuse me’ when it’s needed and to love people for who they are and not for what we can get from them. We were also taught to treat people the way we want to be treated.” We did not have flat screens, surround sounds, facebook, twitter or computers. Nevertheless, we had a great time!”

Is it because we are becoming weary and frightened by the explosion of fast technology and the way the world may be headed, or are we just looking back through rose-colored glasses?  What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Our USA Summer Must Reads!

We realize there any number of noteworthy and popular summer reading lists – from a selection by the New York Times and Washington Post, to Publishers Weekly, Scholastic Times, and of course the “how to live your best life” selections from Ms. “O”. So we thought we would put together a shout-out of very fine books from our contributors that we thought should be a must read! (Click on the Page Cover and you will be taken to Amazon for easy purchase.)

A Piece of Her Mind By Amy McVay Abbott

Visit a universe where roosters crow 24/7 and The Rolling Stones perform unnoticed on the neighbor’s lawn. Journalist Amy McVay Abbott shares 35 of “The Raven Lunatic” newspaper columns in this romp that will keep you laughing from start to finish. Abbott celebrates Vince Lombardi’s birthday every December, and hopes forever whiter teeth and world peace. Put down your Smart Phone, enjoy a “hot oven meal,” and explore the world of “The Raven Lunatic.”


The New Orleans Way  By Liz Newman

Everything comes at a price. Love. Security. Even happiness. On the day of her debutante ball, Rosemarie Kuhn is heralded at “The Next Great Lady of New Orleans.” Despite her love for the lowborn private detective Michael Hennessy, she is betrothed by her mother to marry General George C. Boas. Spurned by the general and a false marriage certificate, she guns him down in front of his favorite tavern at St. Anthony Street. With her family’s income in jeopardy, her home is turned into a casino for high class patrons funded by the first families who brought The Mafia to the United States. As her love for detective Michael Hennessy grows, she is torn from her desire for him and the promise she made to her dying mother.

Giant Killers By Mark Barkawitz

Hidden behind dark sunglasses, long hair and a beard, a mysterious young man in shorts and sleeveless T-shirt runs the streets of a small town in Middle America. Store fronts are closed. The unemployed, like Darwin Charles, sleep on bus benches no longer on bus routes. The factory around which the town has grown, now struggles to stay open. So why has the runner returned when so many others are escaping? At the park, he meets Willy Wood, a fatherless little leaguer who, like his teammates, can’t catch the baseball. When pressed for information, the runner remains elusive, like the answers to the town’s economic woes. The novel tells the story of this fatherless little leaguer and his single mom, who find their fortunes changing when a mysterious stranger arrives.

 Mae’s Open Arms By Shelly Gail Morris

All she wants is a place to call home… and to be able to dance again. The summer before her junior year of high school Amanda has lost her joy in life. After not making the dance team, she’s engulfed in self loathing and bad decisions. One hot afternoon, during a bad drug trip, an old friend, Jered, rescues her. His nonjudgmental, blue eyes remind her of happier times, easier times, before her father left and her mother spiraled into a world of depression. When Jered takes her to his grandmother Mae’s farm, with her kitchen smelling of cinnamon and apples, Amanda wonders if she’s fallen into a bit of heaven. A peaceful feeling surrounds her, but she doesn’t feel worthy of love. Amanda longs to show her talented, generous side, but knows it will be a challenge with a high school full of drama and equally confused friends. Making the right decisions is never easy. Yet what she discovers in the picturesque setting of the farm will change everything for her, and for countless others. A poignant tale of dreams, change, giving back, and strength.

Golden Haze By Larry W. Fish

A family from Pennsylvania is having a great life until tragedy comes into their lives. They are hit with struggles when an unlikely angel shows the powers that will put their lives back together again. The family decides to move south to North Carolina hoping that the mild winters will be easier to deal with. The struggles in Pennsylvania were nothing compared to what they would be facing in their new home. It didn’t take long before the happiness turned to sadness and tragedy. What was going on in their house was tearing them apart. It was putting their little angel to the test, making them all wonder just how much more she could take. How much more could the family take? The terror and the fear continued building up and it was a question as to whether it would reach the breaking point.

 Secrets of an Old Typewriter by Susie Duncan Sexton

Anyone who has ever lived in a small town certainly knows that secrets are sometimes not so secret. Susie Duncan Sexton has lived her entire life in a small town—indeed, in the same house where she grew up. As an adult, she taught at the same grammar school that she attended as a child, and many of the relationships she cultivated while growing up, including her marriage, have endured over the years. Always one to document the present and offer her sometimes unorthodox ideas and opinions, Susie Duncan Sexton has tickled the keys of her trusty old typewriter for nearly five decades, and now that venerable machine is ready to reveal its secrets.

This book may be about small town life, but the ideas contained within it are expansive. The written accounts of the life of a ‘smart and sassy small town girl’ are as urbane as those of any city dweller. From ’50s and ’60s nostalgia to modern-day values, and from the drama and insight of America’s great books and motion pictures to politics, religion and animal rights, Susie Duncan Sexton’s ‘secrets’ always hit the mark with unexpected candor and a unique perspective.

Love to Mom


Mother's Day 2013

Truth be told I work because I could never be a stay at home Mom. Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect for Mothers who stay at home raising their children. I truly believe God calls them to this vocation. A friend of mine once told me “It is easier to go to work than it is to be a stay at home mom.” She was right, I’ll admit it I am just a coward. A coward because deep down inside I am afraid I could never live up to my Mom and the numerous women who helped shape my life. These were undoubtedly strong women, women of opinion, courage and substance. Some describe me as quiet, meek, mild and sometimes even an anomaly, as my manager would say, since my profession is sales and marketing. But the key to my success is not talking but listening and this is what our Moms did so skillfully responding in insightful ways acting on their gut feelings. The last words I heard my Mom say to me were I love you as I boarded a plane from Rochester, NY to Boston. My last sight was of her pointing and pleading in a very stern voice to the flight attendants – “Take good care of my daughter and her son John!” Ever commanding she knew they were carrying her precious cargo not only me, my son John but her soon to be born grandson Thomas. We had just visited in early May, Mothers Day weekend and she passed away suddenly the end of the month 10 days before Thomas was born. I am so grateful to have had the chance to spend that time with my mom, reflect on what it was to be a new mom and ponder how my mother had really become a mother at a very young age to so many individuals. At age 13 she traveled to NYC during the Great Depression to work as a nanny commandeering a large household for a well to do family, cooking, cleaning and raising three children earning $15 a month. Ten of which was sent home to support her mother, father and younger siblings.

My Aunt Helen, nine years her junior often told me my mom being the oldest girl in their family was also the bossiest! She was the 2nd in command after my Grandmother. My grandmother was also a very adventurous women having come to America the turn of the last century at the tender age of 16 on a steamer ship from Hungary with her father all as a result of a bet with her girlfriends. They bet she would not venture to America but she came, saw, fell in love and lived the rest of her life here as a mom, teaching herself English, taking in boarders, doing laundry for other people, raising 5 children and still giving, always giving at Sunday Mass, much like the widows mite. She was truly a woman of grace, living modestly, working hard and praising God. What a life of courage and fortitude! I was very fortunate to have my grandmother live with my family from the time I was 14 years old until the year I was married at age 26. Those years flew by and were filled with laughter, awe, stories I will never forget and something I long for my children to have in this fast paced world we live in, a sense of family and roots. We are all knit together in our mother’s womb by the hand of God but are shaped by the mothers we live with or are exposed to in our lifetime. Women of this magnitude die to self each day for us, the greatest form of love. They attend to us in their own time, own way through their physical presence, time, treasures and talents or in their prayers as they are always there for us.

It is true I will never be a perfect “TV” mom but I have been profoundly influenced by many great women over the years… My Mom the best care giver, home maker, baker, advocate & listener. Grandmother – story teller and grace filled adventurer! Sister – entrepreneur, dreamer, & business woman. Numerous Aunts – one who owned a children’s clothing store and gave me my first job at age 14 in retail, co-owned restaurants, were stay at home moms, professional singers and models. Mother in law – inspirational angel. Sister in laws & their mother‘s – many who are artists, talented seamstresses & unbelievable cooks. Friend’s & their mothers – lawyers, scientists, engineers, marketing professionals, artists, and some suspect Martha Stewart’s clone! Cousins and cousin in –laws who are professional bakers, Evangelists, teachers, social workers, nurses, and coffee / artisan shop owners. They do it all and more because they love us.

I once had a picture book when I was a child entitled I Can do Anything Almost… With love and devotion these women encouraged me to be the best that I could be, challenging me to shoot for the stars and do anything I chose to accomplish. I have been truly blessed by their presence in my life.

Maya Angelou, the poet / writer once said – I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Wherever you are close your eyes for a moment and remember your how your mother made you feel – enclosed by your mothers hug, the first time she kissed you on the forehead or smiled and made you feel like you were the most important person in the world, her favorite.

Now go and see, call or pray for your Mother and the women in your life wherever they may be. Don’t text, don’t e-mail, and just really be present for them! Wish them a Happy Mother’s Day and let them know how much you appreciate them being in your life.

Abundant flowers my mother gave to me many years ago surround my house, transplanted from NYS to MA – peonies, tiger lilies, blue vinca, snow on the mountain and Lilly of the valley. When I look at them I picture her enveloping my world as she loved flowers and caring for flowers, tending to them and us, her garden of life. May each of you feel the warm presence of your mother everywhere this beautiful Spring and may God bless mothers everywhere on earth and in heaven!  Love Mary V. Valentino



I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can


Art of Jeanie Tomanek

Artist: Jeanie Tomanek

As an entrepreneur one can become quite disillusioned and disenchanted with social media, especially for all its time-robbing ability, unintentionally I am sure.  But, one does get the feeling that if you are not in the newsfeed, or reading the newsfeed, or conjuring up ways to get in the newsfeed, then you have missed out on something. This week we have slowed down a bit with posts to try and get back to reality. However, one amazing thing happened this week because I connected with an artist who ‘friended’ me on Facebook. I looked at her profile page, and her work, and really felt connected with it, so I accepted. I prefer to keep personal and professional relationships separate, but there was something about her work that really drew me in, especially the piece included here. The caption of her piece also intrigued me as that is how I was feeling, especially with the difficult week that I had just experienced. This wonderful artist, with the beautiful moody images turned out to be an old high school friend – a friend I didn’t know by her current artistic name. So, we have a lot of catching up to do.  As much as social media can seem so draining, it also has some inexplicable worth – like connecting with your long-lost community and friends and sisters. She doesn’t know that I have written this post, but I am sure you will love her work as much as I do. Check out her FB page here, then share the love.


Come to the table and eat

Baby Deer

I had an unusually trying day the other day. Confrontations, intense emotions, in your face accusations and downright hostility. I remembered an old Italian tradition – if you can get people to sit down at a table with a good meal, half your problem is solved “venire al tavolo e mangiare” –  “Come to the table and eat.”  My mother was a big proponent of that adage – but of course she was a remarkable cook!  Me, not so much. So instead of a homemade meal, a good restaurant was chosen, and the emotions  and the situation was made better. Driving home afterwards, on a stretch of highway that is fairly desolate, going about 50mph, I saw some gangly legs in my headlights. Slowing down, then coming to a crawl, there were about 15 baby deer in front of my vehicle crossing the road. They stopped and stared, I stopped and stared, and thanked our higher power that I did not hit any of them. They are God’s beautiful creatures. It was a wonderful end to a not so wonderful day.