Spring Has Sprung!


By Ann Luongo
Content Writer, Marketing & Philanthropy

There’s something about spring that feels … almost magical. Seeing the small green shoots of plants and flowers finally pop their heads up after a long winter and watching their early buds flower and bloom in those first small bursts of purple or white lends a feeling of renewal. Winter is ending. A new season has arrived.

Spring is a time of rebirth. Nature, while seeming to lay dormant under the brown, crunchy, lifeless leaves and twigs, has been busy preparing itself for new life.  Robins have returned and can be seen hopping around, looking for breakfast (or dinner) as the earth begins to thaw and soften.

And spring is all about newness. Look closely at the trees and you might see them beginning to bud. Look around on the ground between the rocks and the sticks and the other winter debris, and see the early buds of purple crocuses, yellow daffodils and pink, white and grape hyacinths. After that, bright yellow forsythia will make its appearance, announcing spring’s true arrival, and tulips will appear in time for Easter.  Here at New England Village, you can find crocuses making their appearance around the grounds and in the little garden outside the Sheingold Building.

White hyacinth is my absolute favorite spring flower. Its scent is almost intoxicating and lighter than that the heavier perfumes of its colorful siblings. When my small white hyacinths are in bloom at the side of our house, I can sometimes catch their scent on the air as I leave the house for work in the morning, and breathe it in deeply, as if trying to bottle it in my memory and keep it with me all day.

My husband will soon start talking about the lawn, and what types of things we’ll need to do to clean it up – raking the remaining leaves, adding soil around the flowering plants, adding mulch to the flower beds, burning branches and sticks from the yard in the fire pit, etc. We’ll eventually wash the back deck in preparation for warmer weather.

The evenings have already started to grow longer, and I plan on taking advantage of it with walks and hikes after dinner, taking photos of nature in the glow of the setting sun (the “magic” hour is the hour just before sunset). I’ll put away the heavy winter coats and gloves and hats, in favor of lighter jackets, and we, along with our friends and neighbors, will reemerge from our self-imposed winter slumber, if you will.

Yet, this is New England. So, really, there could be a blizzard tomorrow. Better hang on to the heavy coats just another few weeks – just in case.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing what the NEV campus will look like in the spring, when everything is in full bloom. I have no doubt it will be absolutely beautiful.


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.