Getting to Know You

 

By Ann Luongo
Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

 

Here in the Marketing Department, we’re working hard to put together the Annual Report on Giving. It’s my first time working on this project, but I love being a part of the process – picking out the images, putting together the content, and bringing all the pieces together to create something great. That’s what publishing is, after all – creation. So much satisfaction comes from holding that beautiful finished product in your hands.

I was a little nervous about the interview portion of the project. We wanted to get quotes and testimonials not only from the staff, donors and family members, but from the individuals we serve. Their view of what we do here and how they feel is, after all, everything.

I wasn’t nervous about interviewing people. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over my 20-year career in writing and publishing. I’ve interviewed authors, celebrities, politicians, musicians, artists, business owners, and just about everyone in between. But I’ve never interviewed anyone associated with New England Village before.

While excited to have the opportunity to meet with some of the individuals we serve and spend a little time getting to know them, I really wanted to do a good job. It was important to me to accurately represent what they were telling me. I wanted to convey to our audience what they had to say (some with the help of their staff) and wanted them to be pleased with their words coming from my hands onto the page. I hope they’ll like the results.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a writer. They usually react one of three ways: with interested surprise (surprise because it’s not something a lot of people CHOOSE to do) or by scrunching up their face and saying, “Really? I hate writing.”  The third response is to react with suspicion. After all, being a writer must mean that I’m also a reporter (I’m not) and will spill all their secrets to the world (I won’t).  That last one doesn’t happen as much as the previous two, thankfully.

But I digress; I’m glad to be able to slowly get to know more of the individuals we serve as I continue working at NEV, and I’m happy that some of the residents recognize me now and will greet me by name, and I can greet them in return by theirs. Getting to know them, in all their individuality, is a pleasure.

What’s Love Got to do With It?

By Ann Luongo
Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I Googled “quotes about love” to find a little something to start off this month’s blog. That was an enormous mistake.

The return brought an astronomically long list of search results, including Love Quotes for Him; Love Quotes for Her; Love Quotes for Mom; Sad Love Quotes; Happy Love Quotes; Short Love Quotes; Love Yourself Quotes; and the list went on and on.

There are many kinds of love – romantic love, the love we have for family and friends, the love we feel for animals, nature and the like, etc., and so much more. To put it simply, to love is to give of one’s self with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

There is also the love we feel for humanity. This can be a tough one these days, I know, when you read about all the negative and awful things some humans are capable of in the news. But, the fact is, humanity as a whole can be truly wonderful, full of kindness, caring and generosity.

Loving humanity is the core mission of philanthropy. According to the National Endowment for the Humanities, “the word philanthropy comes from two Greek words – ‘philein,’ meaning to love, and ‘anthropos’ (as in anthropology), meaning humankind.” Thus, philanthropy means “love of humanity.”

It’s through this love of humanity that those who have the capacity and ability to help others, do. Philanthropy and that special love of humankind is what keeps organizations like ours going. We depend on it to continue our mission to be able to serve those who rely on us.

Love is something that we can practice in many of its forms each and every day – not just once a year when the candy and card aisles go all red in February. Help someone if you can. Hug a friend. Listen to someone who needs it. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Be kind. Be generous. Give where you can.

Love, after all, is what makes the world go ‘round, as they say.

One of my personal favorites is a quote from the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu. He said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Indeed, it does.

New Year, New Us!

By Ann Luongo
Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

What is it about a new year? Why do we get so excited about it? We’re really just turning a page on the calendar, like we would at the end of any other month, right?

Well … yes and no.

While a new year happens every 12 months like clockwork, it signifies something special – something not really the same as, say, turning the calendar’s page from February to March or from June to July. It makes us FEEL a certain way, like a proverbial clean slate has once more been presented to us by the universe.

It makes us feel hopeful.

Each year in December, I take a little mental inventory of the notable things that happened over the past year, both positive and negative. In 2022, we lost three members of our family and extended family to illness. I lost my job. And my younger brother was diagnosed with cancer.

Along with the negative things, however, there were so many more good things. My husband finally left his job with the long, white-knuckle commute for a similar position only 15 minutes from home. My brother’s cancer appears (fingers crossed) to be in remission.  My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and we visited Italy for the first time. My 86-year-old father remains in good health. And I found a new job that I really enjoy.

The thing is, despite any of the challenges a year ultimately brings, I always – and I mean ALWAYS – look toward every new year with hope and optimism. I know the challenges will come; they always do. But the good things – the laughter with our friends in front of a campfire, the moments when our adult daughters can’t wait to share news with us, the little things that make up some of the best moments in life – will come, too.

We celebrate the end of each year and the beginning of the next for different reasons. Some people are happy to see the old year in the rear view mirror, while others welcome what they feel could be a fresh start – at life, at love, at self-improvement, etc. While there will inevitably be those challenges and speed bumps that life likes to toss in our paths, there will also be many triumphs, large and small, for which we can all be grateful.

May this new year bring us all peace, love, good health and many new adventures.

The Simple Joy of Togetherness


By Ann Luongo

Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

The last few years have been strange and frustrating, to say the least. For so long, we were advised to avoid gatherings, including (and even especially) those around the holiday season – the time of year when gathering had always been commonplace.

Families and friends had to be separated from each other due to the pandemic, only getting together virtually for an occasional Zoom call or spending time waving at their loved ones through windows. Even worse, so many had to spend the holidays alone.

While COVID continues to be a reality, one that we’ve grown to live with, families are spending time together once more, people are visiting friends, and the holidays are again spent in the company of those we had to avoid for so long. People are enjoying togetherness. They’re laughing more, hugging more, and spending time together while enjoying face-to-face conversation.

It’s been long studied and concluded that enjoying close social ties with friends, partners, or family members can make us happy and improve our overall life satisfaction in the long run. In-person meetings and gatherings allow people to share, laugh, comfort one another, and be present in ways they couldn’t with social distancing.

According to Medical News Today, “… direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a ‘cocktail’ of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety. “In other words,” the article said, “when we communicate with people face-to-face, it could help to make us more resilient to stress factors in the long run.”

The fact is, we NEED to be around other people. And now, for the most part, we can be.

Having the opportunity to be together with friends and family at a holiday gathering has brought us a new appreciation of the little things – like just being able to see our friends and family in person! It has made us appreciate that human contact we went without for too long.

Once again, we can bask in the simple joy of being together. Enjoy the holidays with those you love.

 

 

 

 

The Practice of Gratitude


By Ann Luongo

Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

It’s that time of year again – the time when we begin to look back at all the things for which we should give thanks.  We’ll go down that mental checklist and tick off all the obvious things – good health, a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and having people in our lives who we care about. Those are the big things. What about the little things?

Practicing gratitude is something that we really should be doing every day. Being grateful has real benefits, both physically and mentally, that we don’t even think about. It makes us feel good. It puts us in a better state of mind. And that’s just the beginning.An article in Harvard Health Publishing states that, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

I’ve been trying to make a practice of practicing gratitude each day (yes, I said that) – even for the small, seemingly unimportant things that we all take for granted, such as enjoying a few quiet moments with a good cup of coffee, or finding a $10 bill crumpled up in my purse when I thought I had no cash on hand, or realizing that the person driving slowly in front of me actually prevented me from getting in an accident at an intersection, had they (and I) been going any faster.

In a world in which bad news sells and we are constantly bombarded by it every single day, making an effort to be grateful for something – even a small something – IS SOMETHING! But, like anything else in life that’s worthwhile, you have to work at it. You have to practice.

When I visit my 86-year-old father, he often talks about the news or politics and I can hear the change in his voice as he begins to sound bitter and disgusted by all of the negative things happening in the world. This train of thought, if you swim in it for too long, can lead to anxiety and depression. Therefore, when I see this happening, I make an effort to flip the script.

“But, Dad,” I say, “look at all the GOOD things happening. You’re so lucky to have thoughtful neighbors who check on you. You have three adult children who (let’s face it) turned out pretty good. You have five beautiful granddaughters. You have a home that’s paid off. You can still drive a car and you still have all (or at least most) of your mental faculties.” (I do try to make him laugh as much as possible.)

Often, it just takes this little reminder to change his thinking and, before you know it, he’s feeling more positive and he agrees that, yes, there really is a lot of good in the world – good people, good news, good experiences – plenty for which to be thankful.

You just have to look for it.

Fitness and Fashion Collide


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Life is ever changing. I’ve been on this earth for 6 decades and each decade looks entirely different. Take fashion for instance… the 60’s with the new “bell bottom” look and the hippie culture turned into the 70’s where corduroy pants in all colors with a crocheted vest was a “look.” From there, it just got more and more interesting, with Farrah Fawcett big hair and spandex-wearing rock bands to “spacesuits” during the David Bowie phase. T-shirts and jeans were standard at the turn of the century and then came the leggings! For young Continue reading

Prost!


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

A few years ago I was visiting friends in Bavaria. There was no itinerary—no plan, just a day-to-day “whatever” laid back visit. My friends really enjoyed surprising me, so I never quite knew what the day would hold – well, except for beer and a tray of meats and lots of bread. One morning I woke up and was told we were going on a little drive, but to wear comfortable clothes. No other hints. We drove through the hills and valleys of Bavaria until we came Continue reading

Bloom where you’re planted


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Many years ago, I reluctantly sold a house that I helped design and build and moved to another property. It wasn’t a choice and I was very lucky to find something that could work for myself and my sons. It was a transition property in my mind and that helped me to accept the situation. It was March. With spring around the corner, I could almost start to envision my new home, but I sorely missed what I had left behind. A good friend of the family dropped by with a housewarming gift. It was a small plaque. Four words. “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” Continue reading

What if


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

On Monday, February 1, we were expecting a big Nor’easter with snow and winds and possible power outages. Monday morning, I put a snow shovel in my car, expecting I would need to shovel myself out later that afternoon to get back home. Schools and businesses were closed. Sunday January 31, I went to the grocery store with all the other storm procrastinators to buy food that I may or may not be able to cook, depending on power outages. Knowing that same food could also go to waste if we lost power, I shopped very carefully—I bought mostly chips. I also filled up my gas tank. Saturday, I did all my laundry and house chores. I had my phone charged with a back-up portable charger ready; flashlights with batteries at the ready, and wood for the fireplace. I made all the preparations for the big unknown… a storm in New England. And. It. Rained. That was it for me. No snow. Not windy. Power stayed on. I am not complaining… it was a nice surprise!

I grew up in a town that is often featured on the news during any storm predicted. The reporters go to the windiest part of town, which is a peninsula, so they can be blown around a bit while on camera. I was there in the Blizzard of ’78 and I walked along the seawalls, looking into the houses along the shore whose backs had been ripped off and left like big, huge dollhouses. I remember what a big storm looks, feels, and smells like, so I am not a fan of the pre-storm drama on the news; or on Facebook with all the “gloom and doomers.” I usually just roll my eyes when all the big meteorological words come out like bombogenesis which, by the way, is not yet in the dictionary. I scoff at the reporters standing in water up to their ankles as they talk about the storm surge, knowing that it floods there daily and has nothing to do with an incoming storm. I talk back to the meteorologists when they yell the weather at me, as if the louder they say it, the worse the storm will be. I am not a fan of the hype.

But “what if”? What if it had been a bad storm Monday and I was not prepared? If 2020 taught me nothing else, it taught me to be prepared for the “storm,” while being hopeful it would pass on by. Don’t listen to the hyped-up info, follow the facts. Have a plan. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel from the year 2020 and all its “storms,” I will continue to prepare. I will continue to wear my mask and wash my hands. I will not listen to the loud talkers who are yelling to scare me. I will not fall for the hype that is not backed up by facts. I will distance myself and follow guidance. And to avoid the big “what if,” I will get vaccinated. I will always remember February 6, 1978 as the day of the Blizzard of ’78, but this year I will also remember February 7, as the day I got my second Covid vaccination. Covid-19 is like a storm, it may or may not hit. It may or may not cause damage. But why take the risk of the “what if?” What if it is a Blizzard of ’78? For me, the vaccination is the shovel, the flashlight, the wood, the clean laundry, the full tank, the charged phone, the stocked kitchen and most importantly … the chips! I am very grateful! Just my opinion….

 

 

 

Popcorn and a Movie


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

We did it! It is 2021! We should all congratulate ourselves. Honestly, I’d like to just stop right there…but that would be the easy way out and we all know I have lots to say! This morning, a colleague who shares my visions gave me a copy of a positive thinking quote. The first line grabbed me, and I knew it was how I needed to start off my 2021. The line was: “where your attention goes your energy flows.” That makes sense to me. Think happy thoughts and voila! – You’ll be happy. Think negative, and you’ll end up glum or in a rut. So, there you have it—my job is done. But wait… what about those days when you just cannot shift those less than positive thoughts into blissful, joyful, magical, Disneyworld reality? This, my friends, is where we need tools—tools to shift anything we do not desire towards things we do. I am not talking about material things (but you can); I am talking more about setting up for the best year ahead in our thoughts and expectations, and not dwelling on the year behind. I won’t even say the year. It’s gone. Like the song says, “Let it Go.”

So back to the tools. How do we shift our less than positive thoughts? I have written dozens of monthly blogs for a few years now and mentioned meditation numerous times. If you are not doing it now, perhaps you never will; or perhaps you will give it a go this new year. I’ve talked about exercise and moving. Either you are or you are not; either you will or you will not. I have written about eating healthy. Hopefully, now that the holidays are over, you can find a way back to the nutritionally sound way of feeding your body or you’ll set your mind to starting now. Sleep—it’s huge and without it, we are all cranky pants and we know it, so I won’t say anything more about that. So what is left in my tool box that I have not already shared? A couch, a TV, and a bowl of Popcorn. Movie Night!!

There is no better way to change your mindset from glum to cheered up than to watch a good old-fashioned, “feel good” movie with a bowl of popcorn. Usually, the main character is not in a great place but ends up in a happy place. We get to go through the journey with them seeing all the… wait for it …TOOLS they find along their way. Watching them changes the way we think and where our attention goes. We see that we can find joy, magic and Disneyland too. We have to believe that “where your attention goes your energy flows.” If you can take your mind off negative thoughts for even just a short while… you can lift your spirits and start heading toward the positives by re-wiring your brain to feel those happy thoughts. A “feel good” movie can do just that!

So, here are a few critically acclaimed “feel good” movies to put on your list when you need a boost.

Devil Wears Prada, The Bird Cage, The Help, Princess Diaries, Sister Act, The Pursuit of Happyness, Forrest Gump, LA LA Land, Mamma Mia, Wizard of Oz, The Parent Trap, Grease, Ground Hog Day, Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, Little Miss Sunshine, The Sound of Music, and it’s never the wrong season to watch It’s a Wonderful Life! If you’re reading this and know other movies – share them with me, your colleagues, and friends. Passing along positive tools also creates positive thoughts!

Cheers to 2021 and getting back to the theaters soon!