Good News, August 4, 2012

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

You have to make your own happiness.  Maeve Binchy

Vitamin N

For the past few weeks, Kitch and I have been working long and hard hours in our garden. It is not the kind of work I thought we would be doing at this stage of our life. It is, however, the kind of work we love to do.  The garden at sunrise is peaceful and quiet. While we work we listen to a magnificent concert performed by cardinals, mourning doves and robins.

We are building enclave gardens to make the garden more maintenance free and more attractive to visitors. We are also repairing damage from two years of horrible weather, and neglect because of the unexpected challenges life gives all of us.  As of today, we have finished 10 new enclave gardens. They speak to family, life, love, excellence and service

Working in the dirt is a challenging, humbling and enriching experience. The benefits are many. 

According to Richard Louv, a growing body of research links more time spent in a garden and other natural settings with reduced stress and depression.  Mr. Louv refers to a 2008 study at the University of Michigan to make an important point; just one hour of interaction with nature results in improved memory and attention span. He cites another study completed at the University of Kansas. It documents a 50 percent boost in creativity for people who were steeped in nature for a few days.

In his book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, Louv encourages parents and grandparents to get children connected with nature. That’s exactly what we do with our grandchildren during their Windsor Park Camp experiences.  

Last week, our six-year-old grandson joined us for his first Windsor Park Camp experience. During the day, we spent time in the garden, and every night we ended the day in the garden. When I asked him what his favorite camp experiences were, he put his time in the garden at the top of the list.  When I asked him why, his answer was quick and to the point, “It is peaceful there.”

Need I say more?

Opportunity: America at Its Best

Opportunity is the life blood of America. Our ancestors came here because they believed America would provide them with opportunities to make life better for themselves and their children.

Opportunity is central to the promise of American life, and my life, even in its Indian summer, is an example of the blessings of opportunity.

Recently, our friend, Marty Wolff opened the door of opportunity for us. Every week, Marty hosts the Business Builders Show.  The program is designed to inform, educate and encourage entrepreneurs and small business owners. Marty thought it would be a good idea to end each program with a commentary.  He invited us to join his team

Kitch and I discussed the offer. We accepted, and we came up with a concept and a title.

On July 21, and August 4, we broadcast our first and second America at Its Best Commentaries. You can listen to these short summaries at this address on our Face of America website:

You can listen to Marty’s show on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at 94.3FM "The Talker" or you can listen live on your computer at 

Rebroadcasts of the shows are available at Marty’s website:

Beautiful Thoughts for Difficult Times

The news of the day at the local and national level has been very discouraging of late. I don’t have to recite the litany of stories originating from the darker side of our world. You know what they are. Rather than wasting time lamenting, we decided to build a page on our website called Beautiful Thoughts. Every week we will add a beautiful thought.  It will focus on positive experiences, kindness, and generosity of spirit that come from caring and helping hearts.

It is not by accident that our first Beautiful Thought is about our greatest American president and his philosophy of leadership. Our second beautiful thought is about something we all need, laughter.

You can listen to Beautiful Thoughts for Difficult Times at this address:

Walking into the Light

Four months ago, Kitch and I spent three days working with 10 students from North Plainfield High School at the Gettysburg National Military Park.  It was an incredible experience for the students, and the fulfillment of a lifetime dream to produce a documentary about Gettysburg.

Kitch and I love the majesty, solemnity and silence of the battlefield. We appreciate what the battle says about America on its best and worst days. We admire the people who have spent a lifetime working to restore the battlefield.  We have been impressed by the kindness of people in the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation.

In 2010 during our journey across America, Kitch and I were very fortunate to meet and become friends with Barbara Platt. We spent several enjoyable visits with Barbara in Gettysburg, and we recorded two priceless interviews with her before she lost her battle with cancer.

Every time Kitch and I visit Gettysburg we learn something about courage, integrity, patriotism and service to country.

Every day since our production experience there, we have been working on some aspect of the documentary. It may very well be one of the biggest research projects of our career as  documentary filmmakers.  We have no budget. We rely on the good will, help and support of a team of volunteers headed by our dear friend Tom Mazur. We have connected with some wonderful people in Gettysburg who have offered their help and encouragement. Bonnie and Frank Orlando head that list.  

As of today, the assembly edit of the introduction for Walking into the Light at Gettysburg is finished. We have a long way to go, but we feel confident we can meet all of the objectives we set for the project and the documentary.

If everything goes as planned, there will be two screening events, one this year, the other in 2013.

We will keep you posted on our progress.

A Very Special Moment

This week, we had one of those moments that cannot be accurately described. It must be experienced.

It came in the form of a note we received from a student who visited our garden with the students from North Plainfield in July.

With gratitude for the opportunities we have had to work with the students in North Plainfield, Kitch and I built an enclave garden to celebrate what is one of the most diverse high schools in New Jersey. Walking the halls of North Plainfield High School, visiting classes, and attending extracurricular events, we found the face of America’s tomorrow today.

We asked our friend Michael Sackett to engrave a cornerstone rock and four smaller rocks for this enclave garden. When the students arrived we asked them to place the rocks in their enclave garden. Then we invited the students to have lunch.  There were a few requirements.  They had to turn off all digital devices when they entered our home.  They had to sit together at two large tables in our dining room.  There would be no adults in the room, and they were encouraged to make the most of this opportunity to talk with one another face to face.

After lunch and before the students left our home, I took a few minutes to speak from my heart about the most current research about the impact of digital addiction. I did not know how my comments would be received, but I felt compelled to share them, in an honest, empathic and engaging way.

The letters Kitch and I have received from several of the students have been very encouraging. The latest note touched our hearts in a very special way:

Throughout the whole trip … I hadn’t really talked to the other girls much but as we sat at the table I had no other choice but to talk to them and I found out that I actually have a lot in common with those girls so thank you for making us sit together. 
I would like to let you know that I liked the talk you gave us after lunch it got me thinking about how I do spend a lot of time texting instead of actually talking to people and about how I do need to take time everyday to just sit and talk to them in an area where there’s no distractions and my resolution is to do just that. 

My favorite part about the visit over your house was the gardens I love your gardens.  It was like in every area of the gardens was something new to be discovered and while I walked through them I felt really peaceful, I wish that I would have had more time in the gardens but I’m hoping that next year I will be able to visit them.  I can’t wait to go back and see what else I can learn from your visits.

P.S I love the rocks you got for us, and I would like to let you know that I took a picture of the big rock and is now my profile picture on Facebook for the time being.  

More than anything, the candor and sincerity of this note and the others we received documents an important point. There is a place in the lives of young people for mentors.  If we approach them in a positive way, we can get them to think about the things that worry us, and we must find a way to do just that.

Update on the Mourning Dove

We received a number of beautiful notes from people who read our story about the Mourning Dove. To everyone who took the time to write we say thank you.

As of today the nest is empty, and there is but one reminder of what happened there.  In this picture, you can see the empty nest and the grey colored feather that obviously belonged to one of the squabs.

Nature is both beautiful and mysterious.

A Final Thought

Maeve Binchy, one of Ireland’s national treasures, died this week.  

Before she became a celebrated author, Maeve Binchy visited our hometown with a group of Irish teachers.  People who met her said she was down to earth and very witty. Like many of her American fans, Kitch enjoyed all of her books, and she agrees with Gail Rebuck’s description of the woman who identified herself as an airport author.  “She was a woman who wrote from the heart with an unrivalled warmth and passion.”

Part of her legacy rests on the success of the 16 books she wrote. More than 40 million people were amused, entertained and informed by the characters in her books. Much more important and lasting to the people who knew her was her kind and welcoming disposition.  

Roy Greenslade chose these words to summarize the life of Maeve Binchy. “There was a total absence of malice in Maeve. She loved people and, in return, they loved her. For her, life was all about laughter.” (picture of Maeve Binchy by Jon Kay Wikimedia Commons)

These three quotations speak to the genuineness of Maeve Binchy’s heart of gold:

“You don’t wear all your jewellery at once. You’re much more believable if you talk in your own voice.”

“There are no makeovers in my books. The ugly duckling does not become a beautiful swan. She becomes a confident duck able to take charge of her own life and problems.”

“The great thing about getting older is that you become more mellow. Things aren’t as black and white and you become much more tolerant. You can see the good in things much more easily, rather than getting enraged as you used to do when you were young.”

Maeve Binchy made her own happiness in life. By doing what she loved to do, she brought happiness to millions of people all over the world. Now that’s a beautiful thought for every day.

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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