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Our USA 速


Our Country - Our People - Our Stories

Charming Stories & Photos Created by remarkable Americans just like you!

Our USA Magazine

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With the new year we celebrate our fifth year of existence! We hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as we have enjoyed curating all these wonderful stories and images, created by remarkable Americans – just like you! I’ve always loved magazines and journals and artists books, they’re not only nice to look through but in a way conforting and inspirational. That’s what I hope we are achieving with Our USA...a place to go for a different, gentler perspective, a place to connect with like-minded people, a place to discover new ideas and friends, a place of warmth. I hope you enjoy our winter issue. Please take advantage of all the new fangled technology available throughout the magazine. Did you know that by clicking on the author or artist’s name, it will take you to their blog? Or, if you see a little arrow and click on it, you will hear music or see a snippet of a movie? Or by clicking on a vendor you will go directly to their website? The interesting aspect of going digital. As always, if you have a down-toearth story, a poignant memory, an amusing anecdote or fantastic photography or art to share with us and your fellow Americans, please do so at www.ourusamagazine.com. or www.ourusamagazine.com/blog. We want to hear from you! Let us know what you like, or don’t like, or just to let us know how we are doing. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter, and can connect just by clicking to the right! Wishing you a wonderful new year!


Cher Valentino, Editor

Front Cover: Jessica Shyba http://instagram.com/mommasgonecity# See her article on her beautiful son Beau and is pal Theo on page 30.

Wendy Junker, Marketing Director CJ, Production Manager Debra Jennings, Text Editing Bubba, Director of Goodwill

Back Cover: Janet R. Sady P. 21, 42, 43 Bob Oswald lightbanditphotography.zenfolio.com P. 22 “The Faulkner Portable” Gary Bridgman http://www.southsideartgallery.com P. 30-35 Jessica Shyba http://instagram.com/mommasgonecity# P. 65 Carol M. Highsmith http://carolhighsmithamerica.com

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Winter ‘13 Copyright © 2013

All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or part is prohibited. Our USA Magazine 

Our Country, Our People, Our Stories

Winter 2013


Photo: Jessica Shyba

10 Remembrance

of New Year’s Past

It was a freezing finish to the 50s, that last day in December of 1959, and the exciting “World of Tomorrow.”


Plowing through Wintry Lessons

My father was stubborn, take the snowstorm incident.

22 Finding Me Does reading all the AARP literature really prepare you for retirement?

Our USA Magazine

24 The Real Places

36 Growing Up On

I was some “place,” some “where,” yet I was kind of nowhere, too, and anywhere...

25 Facts About Being a Farm Kid - A Tribute!

In Our Lives

26 Five Ways to Get


What to do when you’re feeling broken, beaten or blah.

a Farm

42 How TV Has

Made Us Stupid About Farming Poor TV… So much disdain for an inanimate object!

30 Wishes Granted 44 An unconditional love affair.

Vegetarian Awareness

Farm Fresh Produce doesn’t have to be boring.

54 The Story of

70 A Long, Long

Explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction.

Linda Ronstadt looks back on four decades of music.



78 My Side of the Made in USA

in America

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed December as “National Made in America Month.”


The soulful sound of the train whistle conjures up many warm memories.

84 Less Miserable What could sooth my jangled nerves during a frenzy of problems at holiday time?

60 Saving Walmart or Saving America

Should we believe the hype?

64 Coalition for a

He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue. And if you love to see geese as they gather, chances are you’ll see that too. Did he have to make the squirrel’s tail furry? Was he obliged to make the birds sing? And the funny way that chickens scurry or the majesty of thunder when it rings? Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Could it be he loves to see that look upon your face? If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would he? If we–speckled with foibles and greed– love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us. ~Max Lucado Excerpted from the devotional Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms


58 Celebrate Made

A Gift For You

Progressive Ameriica

An alliance of manufacrturing, agriculture and labor working to engage Americans.

66 Dryhootch A Milwaukee coffee shop where Vets help Vets survive, at home.

70 Our USA Magazine 

A Shout Out to Our Contributors Sally Edelstein Sally Edelstein is an award-winning artist and writer whose work has focused on mid-century American culture. Her nationally exhibited collages of vintage imagery offer a remix of popular culture. Her blog, EnvisioningTheAmericanDream.wordpress.com, offers up a curated collection of vintage advertising and illustrations of mid-century American consumer culture. Weaving personal stories along with vintage images, the commentaries are an amalgam of satire, history and memoir. www.sallyedelsteincollage.com

Kay Thomas

Kay Thomas has lived in the rural Finger Lakes hills of western New York for many years. After a successful teaching career, she is pursuing opportunities in freelance writing. Her first book, “AND ONE MORE THING: I Brake for Squirrels and Other Thoughts I Have No Doubt About” is based on her bi-weekly social commentary column in the Livingston County News, Geneseo, NY. http://overaroundhills.blogspot.com

Tama J. Kieves Tama Kieves is the best-selling author of “This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love!” and “Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!” As a sought after speaker and career coach, she has helped thousands worldwide to discover, launch, and live the work and life of their dreams. Visit her at www.TamaKieves.com and sign up for her free “Inspired Success Launch You Kit” and free mojo-messages. And join her Facebook tribe!

Rev. John F. Hudson The Reverend John F. Hudson is pastor of the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Sherborn, MA. He is the creator and writer of “Spiritually Speaking,” a weekly newspaper column exploring the intersection of spirituality and popular culture which appears in the Community Newspapers of Eastern Massachusetts. His work has also been featured in The Boston Globe and Boston Herald newspapers and he is currently at work on a spiritual memoir about life as a small town minister. He blogs at sherbornpastor.blogspot.com

Jessica Shyba From California to New York City and back again. Wife to a dentist and mother to three children and two pets. An eternal urban soul riding the daily waves in Surf City and living to capture as many moments with her family as possible. See more at: http://www.mommasgonecity.com/ #sthash.Iyrj1lf8.dpuf

Alison Bos

Alison Bos, author of Growing Up on a Farm: 25 Facts about Being a Farm Kid, is a graduate student studying agricultural communications at the Darr School of Agriculture of Missouri State University in Springfield. Born and raised on a dairy farm in Billings, MO, Bos has had a lifelong passion for agriculture and strives to continue educating the public about its importance. Follow Alison at http://myagventures.wordpress.com 

Our USA Magazine

Forrest Pritchard Forrest Pritchard is a professional farmer, writer and public speaker. Holding degrees in English and Geology from William and Mary, Forrest studied under George Garrett with the University of Virginia’s MFA program. His farm, Smith Meadows, has been featured on NPR and the Washington Post. One of the first “grass finished” farms in the country, Smith Meadows has sold at leading farmers’ markets in Washington DC for fifteen years. Read his book “Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm.” http://forrestpritchard.com

Anita Haridat Anita is a medical writer/coordinator from Syosset, New York. She has her master’s degree in clinical nutrition and is pursuing her PhD in business/health care administration which will be completed in 2014. Anita has created a publication titled the “Health Care Spectator” which focuses on a variety of ideas regarding health and positivity. Her mission is to provide readers with a source about the importance of wellness, advocacy and overall empowerment. Follow Anita at http://healthcarespectator.wordpress.com

Phil Butler Phil Butler is editor-in-chief of Everything PR and senior partner at Pamil Visions PR. He’s a widely cited authority on beta startups, search engines, social media, and public relations issues, and he has covered tech news since 2004. Phil wrote in the past for ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Profy, SitePoint, Search Engine Journal and many others high profile publications. Follow Phil at http://everything-pr.com

Ricardo Torres Ricardo Torres is a journalist based in Milwaukee. In 2009 he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and immediately went to Roosevelt University in Chicago where he received a master’s degree in journalism. He works part-time as a reporter for the Catholic Herald and weekend producer for Newsradio 620. He’s also worked for Wisconsin Public Radio, WGN Radio 720, and the Better Government Association.

Gloria Doty Gloria Doty is a writer, author, blogger and speaker living in Indiana. She has 5 children, 13 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Although she has had many different occupations in her lifetime, she has finally settled on being a full-time writer. Please visit her blog written about her special needs daughter: www.gettingitright-occasionally.blogspot.com and her website: www.writingbygloria.com

Susie Duncan Sexton

As I consider myself nothing more than Peter Sellers in Being There, or at my liveliest as Inspector Clousseau, it is difficult to make “Susie” sound interesting? I am proudest of being mother of Roy, whom I consider the person I would most wish to be. I grew up in a very small town, and after having ventured briefly out and away, returned to my roots. I love to rhyme, and I always have time...for stray animals and causes which involve “innocents” being victimized by our selfcentered society. Follow Susie at http://www.susieduncansexton.com Our USA Magazine 

Jeanie Tomanek

Pg. 27, 28

Artist Jeanie Tomanek draws upon themes that first developed in her poetry; exploring various feminine archetypes from myths, folk-tales and even her own experiences. Tomanek is self-taught, and has always painted for pleasure. It is only in the last decade that she has begun her full time artist career. She lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband Dennis and two rescue dogs. She has one daughter who lives in Amsterdam. Follow Jeanie at http://jeanietomanek.com

Pg. 39, 40

David Mills

The Prairie Project is a series of original oil paintings by Austin artist David Mills. The paintings depict farm houses, barns and prairie homes both gloriously and in neglected disrepair. All are devoid of visible human life giving each piece an ambiguous narrative that brings the status of the dwelling into question. Usually completed in one session and executed en plein air,. Follow David at www.prairieproject.org

Tim Knepp

Pg. 46

Tim grew up in Western Pennsylvania spending as much time as possible wondering through the woods, camping, and fishing. Most of his work consists of wildlife, whether in illustration, fine art, or murals. He has been freelancing full time since 1983. Some of his clients include Smithsonian Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Zoological Park,U.S. Postal Service, and the USDA. You can follow Tim at http://www.timknepp.com/ARTIST.html

Pg. 52

Jack Sorenson

Though born in 1954, Jack Sorenson grew up living the Old West lifestyle that he now depicts in his work. Sorenson was deeply embedded with a love for the stories and imagery that characterized the Old West, and which continues to motivate him to this day. Jack Sorenson’s work has been featured on the covers of more than five dozen western magazines. Follow Jack at http://www.jacksorensonfineart.com

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Our USA Magazine 

Remembrance of New Year’s Past

By Sally Edelstein


Our USA Magazine

Playboy Magazine, December 1959

Back to the Future It was a freezing finish to the fifties, that last day in December of 1959, and the exciting “World of Tomorrow” 1960 was less than twentyfour hours away. The far-off world that had captivated my parents at the New York World’s Fair in 1939—the very year they had been magically transported to, courtesy of General Motor’s Futurama ride—was now almost here. Yesterday’s tomorrow was right around the bend. Unlike my parents, who had to endure long lines at the Fair, inching their way to the future in order to catch a glimpse of this new world, all that was required of me to greet “this new world, this greater world, this better world, this America of 1960,” was a long afternoon nap.

For one night only, I too would be a part of “those who know life’s more sophisticated pleasures.” It seemed only fitting to usher in 1960 with Guy Lombardo on television. Along with his Royal Canadian Orchestra, it was Guy Lombardo who, on opening day of the 1939 NY World’s Fair, played a tune composed especially for the event by George Gershwin called “Dawn of Tomorrow.” All Eyes to the Future

Like Cinderella I was going to be permitted to stay up to the stroke of midnight and watch, along with millions of other TV viewers, as Guy Lombardo rang in the New Year. The epitome of high bred good taste, the show was telecast live from the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel located on fashionable Park Avenue, where New York’s glamorous high society would bid a farewell to 1959 and a noisy welcome to 1960.

Not to be outdone by Mr. New Year’s Eve himself, my parents intended on celebrating it in style, with their own New Year’s Eve Party. On the very cusp of the Space Age, they wanted a party that would send them soaring into The World of Tomorrow—the future they had seen twenty years earlier. Set your Telechron electric clock kids, it was back to the future! Adults Only

My parents, like most suburban

couples, enjoyed entertaining. But this was company unlike my standard family get-togethers, which had more to do with genealogy than congeniality. Neither relative nor neighbor, they were my parents’ friends, not mine. Here was a constellation of adults mysteriously visible only at night, making appearances at certain times of the year and certain days of the week. Not withstanding the funny hats and loud noisemakers, this gathering was for mature audiences only. This was no pin the tail on the donkey, ring around the rosy, Simon says kind of affair. Strictly adults, it was a party strictly off-limits to me. Along with my brother Andy, I was excluded. After a brief walk-on, long enough for cheeks to be pinched and hair tousled, we were vanquished to our bedrooms. The show would go on without us; we were to wait in the wings until we got our cue, to reappear for the third act, the big countdown to the New Year. Our USA Magazine 11

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it ... The last week in December 1959, New York was hit with an icy, blustery snowstorm and it showed no signs of stopping. Cars were at a standstill as Ford Fairlaines were replaced by flexible flyers. Mom and Dad were concerned about their big New Year’s Eve 12

Our USA Magazine

party, but took weatherman Tex Antoine at his word that the snow would stop by the end of the week. The thoughts of messy galoshes tramping through her house sent a shiver down Mom’s spine.

stocked with frozen food as any Eskimo. But with much to do for the celebration, the last frenzied days before 1960 were whizzing by, and my whirlwind Mom was already spinning into orbit.

As the snow continued to fall silently, the weatherman advised everyone to stay put in their igloos. Fortunately for us, we were as well

True to his word, by dawn–just in time for New Year’s Eve day–the snow suddenly stopped.

New Year’s Eve Day As Mom prepared the house for the company, I prepared for my long nap. Too keyed up to sleep, I listened to Mom scurrying around the house, the radio on in the background. It seemed all the commentator talked about was the new year “…as we enter the soaring sixties, at long last we are about to begin the exploration of the mysterious universe that surrounds our planet. At the same time, we are confronted by thermonuclear suicide.” “Ten years from now, life on earth may have been made intolerable by human stupidity. We will all be part of this epic of the sixties. Are you worried, thrilled or indifferent? What do you look forward to in this uncertain next decade? As the fifties fade…..” the commentator’s voice droned on… and I faded too, falling into a deep sleep.

Giving her decorator’s instinct full reign, Mom’s ingenious use of GE’s new Coloramic light bulbs turned our home into an Emerald city. These new bulbs were so easy, you could change the color effects in your home as easily as you change your dress. Though far from the haunts of the rich and fashionable, my little ranch house was as elegant as any ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria. Warm tones of dawn pink light bathed the dining room as I stood transfixed at the table of food aglow with glamour and gracious living. Perhaps I only imagined it but the chips seemed zippier, dunks dazzled the eyes, the cheese ball remarkably luminous. The table laden with festive party food was an unmistakable message of America’s abundance. Combining party elegance with practical ease, Mom wisely left the menu up to the seasoned pros at Kraft, Nabisco and General Mills—a vivid tribute to the American scheme of things. The twinkling of the sterling silver and gleaming copper chafing dishes lovingly polished brighter than new, winking in the light with a friendly greeting that says “I can’t rust or tarnish” seemed an omen for the tarnishfree, sparkling future that lay ahead. No future so shiny and new could ever rust. For the moment you could suspend your anxiety and be bathed in the warm glow of optimism. All eyes to the future, all eyes to 1960.

By the time I awoke daylight had faded, dusk slowly disappeared and night had fallen. Disoriented, I feared I had missed New Year’s Eve. The melodic sounds of “Make Believe Ballroom” on radio station WNEW filled the house that had, while I was napping, been transformed into the shimmering world of tomorrow, gleaming and shiny and as bright as daytime. As if a magic fairy had appeared, our house became a dazzling city of light as radiant colors washed over our ordinary walls and furniture. Shaking the sleep from my eyes, I felt like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.” The living room walls became washed in sun gold, the couch luminous in sky blue, the kitchen a garden glowing green. Our USA Magazine 13

Remembrance of New Year’s Eve Past, Part II

The countdown to the New Year’s Eve party had begun. 1960 was just hours away. As my father raced about giving last-minute checks of the Ronson silver plated lighters, making sure the wicks were high enough, and Mom unloaded the last clean glasses from the GE dishwasher, my brother Andy and I kept a look out for the arrival of our guests. Our faces pressed against the frosty picture window, we waited in watch for the convoy of cars carrying the party company that would soon appear at the top of our snowy suburban block. The clanking sound of chains and studs on snow tires would be heard before we spied a single car. Party Time Rules Earlier that evening Andy and I had a run-through of the company bathroom rules. Once Mom brought out the fancy perfumed soaps and beautifully embroidered monogrammed terry towels, it was our cue—they were strictly off-limits to us. 14

Our USA Magazine

If we had to use the bathroom while the party was in progress we were to carry out towels from our rooms to the bath and back again. We were forbidden to touch the 12 delicate pink guests soaps. I would stare longingly at those plump little heart-shaped bars, each with a rose design molded in the middle, nestled on a Limoges dish. In all the years of trotting out those eternally pristine soaps, I don’t think they were ever touched by guests either. The Party Begins

didn’t need much coaxing to stay out of their hair. After our perfunctory meet and greet once the company arrived, we were vanquished until midnight. But the lure of the forbidden world, the tantalizing smell of new and exotic foods, seemed irresistible and drew us out of our bedrooms. We stealthily slithered down the hallway to get a worm’s eye glimpse of the festivities. My eyes, like my brother’s, were focused on the drama being played out direct from the intimate living room of my house on fashionable

The future seemed frosty as a blast of cold air greeted us as each guest arrived.

Western Park Drive, a spectacle that could easily compete with TV or the movies.

At the first sound of a doorbell ringing, like some Pavlovian response, Andy and I scurried into hiding like some frightened mice. Despite our protestations on being excluded from the party, the truth was we were both painfully shy and really

Watching the spectacle from the sidelines, listening to the sounds and laughter, was like a guided tour through an exhibition of what adulthood might look like for me in twenty years, my own world of tomorrow.

The universe was changing for the night. This was a world in which I played a tertiary role. As a fouryear old used to being in a starring role, I was stuck backstage, a mere walk-on player, summarily called for to appear, just as summarily dismissed. I, who felt chosen, whose life revolved around Mom’s just as in equal measure I was sure hers revolved around mine, suddenly found Mom spun out of orbit into her own world, a different galaxy, one that didn’t include me.

Even dressed in my kid’s glamorous mink stole, puffing on kiddie puff puff cigarettes, I was way out of my league. The glowing house and the beaming guests all so shimmering, glittering, out dazzled me.

Our USA Magazine 15

Smoke Gets In your Eyes The future looked very foggy, as the living room was filled with a haze of blue cigarette smoke. The once full cigarette urns were empty. The assortment of Ronson silver plated table lighters shaped like small Aladdin’s lamps seemed to have been given quite a work out. Mom was scurrying around emptying overflowing ashtrays with the silent butler, that small, silver, oval flip-top garbage can with a long handle that kept cigarette butts safe from tray to kitchen. First rule of hostessing—never allow more than one lipstick-stained cigarette butt to accumulate in an ash tray.

A Glowing Future The final countdown to New Year’s Eve 1960 had begun. It was a few minutes to midnight, and that marvelous World of Tomorrow was nearly here. While my parents New Year’s Eve party was in full swing, I was down for the count. Earlier in the evening I had retreated from the boisterous party into the quiet seclusion of my parents’ bedroom. Stretching out on the cool satiny bed, I hibernated under the heavy pile of coats that had been tossed on my parents’ bed earlier by the guests.

All the guests were now dressed in party hats embellished with glitter and feathers; some cone-shaped cardboard hats, some featuring ruffled crepe paper fringe.

Enveloped in a tangle of ranch minks, Persian lamb and camel hair, I faded off to sleep. Although permitted to stay up to midnight to bring in the new year, exhaustion won out over my four-year-old body.

The mood of the party was downright effervescent, as bubbly, sparkling sprightly as the glass of royal-ring-a-ding-ding-crown cola I quietly sipped between mouthfuls of Chex party mix.

Despite my best efforts, I dozed off. At 11:45 Dad came in to wake me for the midnight celebration that lay ahead. Out of the darkness, I was gently scooped up out of the warm safety of the furs. Groggily, I recognized my father’s voice, as he carried me into the future.

Dad’s excellent cocktails were getting down to work. These buoyant bouffant beauties were letting their hair down. Mama loved to cha-cha but Papa loved to Mambo.


Our USA Magazine

Social Security With inhibitions sloughed off as easily as they tossed their minks and grey felt fedoras on the pile of coats on Mom’s bed, normally strictly enforced constraints lessened, conversations not as guarded.

It was also at the fair that, besides a preview of the year 1960, my parents got a first glimpse of that marvel of technologic possibilities, television, or as RCA explained it “radios newest contribution to home entertainment.”

Despite the constraints, and the tight security when it came to any unsightly bulge, these girdle-bound women had more spring in their step as they broke free of their role of mother and became, if only for the night, women. The gals were all in their “after dark” glamour, utterly feminine and frothy. It was as if June Cleaver had been re-tooled into Elizabeth Taylor, while Margaret Anderson was replaced by Dinah Shore. And was that Anita Ekberg sidling past the clam dip? The happy housewives were transformed in their merry widows. The securer the undergarment, the less constraint there was in behavior. The tighter the girdle, the looser the conversation. As if the containment gave them a new level of confidence. Auld Lang Syne An assortment of colorful lithographed tin noise makers of all shapes were strewn about, including drum shaped tin clackers festooned with ballroom dancers, clowns with guitars, New Year’s revelers, and balloons. I latched onto a bell-shaped, tin clacker noisemaker with a bright yellow handle featuring many dancers including a Spanish dancer, a ballerina, a Black and a White orchestra conductor, (perhaps it was for use in the deep South), and a black man playing the banjo. The TV set warmed up, as everyone

gathered around the television to watch Guy Lombardo, courtesy of our new giant 24-inch Philco.The New Year revelers came in crystal clear—no fading, no flickering, no ghosts. I felt like Cinderella, permitted to stay up to the stroke of midnight and watch, along with millions of other TV viewers, as Guy Lombardo rang in the New Year. The epitome of high-bred good taste, the New Year extravaganza was telecast live from the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel located on fashionable Park Avenue, where New York’s glamorous high society would bid a farewell to 1959 and a noisy welcome to 1960. For one night only, I too would be a part of “those who know life’s more sophisticated pleasures.” It seemed only fitting to usher 1960 in with Guy Lombardo on television. Along with his Royal Canadian Orchestra, it was Guy Lombardo who, on opening day of the 1939 NY World’s Fair played a tune, “Dawn of Tomorrow,” composed especially for the fair by George Gershwin.

Mom could recall vividly how visitors to the RCA Building, the one shaped just like a radio tube, would crowd together to watch in amazement, as NBC broadcast on closed circuit television. As a thirteenyear-old she was tickled when she was selected as a volunteer to be televised. She was escorted outside to the cameras and encouraged to wave at the amazed folks back inside the pavilion. To counter the doubters who thought it might all be a trick or magic, the set’s transparent cabinets revealed the inside workings of the picture radio. The televisions of tomorrow were very expensive, so Mom would have to dream of “The Radio Living Room of Tomorrow” for another decade. Television evoked such wonderment, such possibilities—it would be an instrument of learning and beauty. And now in the comfort of our own living room, we could marvel at the sight of drunken couples—“those epitome of high-bred good taste and elegance”—decked out in their After Six tuxedos and silly hats, dancing cheek to cheek to the sweetest music this side of heaven, direct from the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. “A new world… a greater world… a better world…. come travel into the future! The America of 1960!” Our USA Magazine 17

Plowing Through Wintry Lessons By Kay Thomas


Our USA Magazine


y father was stubborn. Take the snowstorm incident.


he weatherman on the radio was calling for a chance of snow over eastern Long Island. Predictions were a hit and miss affair most of the time, and those living in a coastal region were accustomed to Mother Nature’s unreasonableness. Residents were hardy people equipped for dealing with the consequences, come what may. Then again, this was in the 1950s and attitudes were quite different than they are today. People kept to their responsibilities, went to work with little or no grumbling, and snow days for school kids were uncommon occurrences. A mere couple of inches of white powder landing on the ground was not an invitation for slacking. However, this storm was quite different. It took everyone by surprise – as to its intensity just like I got a little better insight into my father’s personality. At least, I thought I did for an eight-year old. Never did I realize that I was learning a life lesson, too. Ah, parents can be subtle in the ways of raising up their children. By the time my father came home from work at five o’clock, the snow was becoming steadier and the wind was whipping around the corners of the house like the four o’clock train on the Long Island Railroad, passing through in haste without its normal stop at the station. We sat down to dinner of pigs in a blanket, arithmetic homework and nighttime baths. It

never entered my mind missing school the next day. Living two blocks from school, I would walk to Roanoke Avenue Elementary, and come home for lunch every day. Only the country kids took the school bus and packed lunches. I remember going to bed and taking that one final look out of my window onto the street. The snow was falling in huge clumps, and there was an eerie feel to its perseverance that I couldn’t put my finger on. A fairyland of white purity was coating the bushes like marshmallow fluff. I felt safe inside a warm home with my parents. In the early hours of the morning eastern Long Island got a major two-foot storm, and I slept through it all. I woke up to a virtual winter wonderland and I couldn’t see the street from the sidewalk when I pressed my face to the frosty windowpane. I heard the steady scrape of the shovel in our driveway, for my father was already outside working at snow removal. When I bounced downstairs, my mother had my cereal on the table, and the milk ready for pouring. She announced that dad would walk me to school because it might be tough going with the snow piled so high in drifts. Usually I started out alone. By the time I reached the end of our street, two or more neighborhood kids of varying ages would join me in the walk to the red brick building. I must stop and tell you that I had perfect attendance that year, and I was sure that my father was not going to let anything happen to get in the way of my record. There were no if, ands and buts about it. My father had such a thirst for education and he was training me to follow in his quest for knowledge.

Our USA Magazine 19

Layering for the day took a few extra minutes. My one-piece snowsuit covered me up to my neck and a long knitted scarf was wrapped several times around bundling me tightly. On came the Wonder Bread wrappers over my oxford shoes before slipping on the high rubber boots. Mittens. Hood up. I was ready to trudge through the snow. It was tough going. One big step. Stop. Another big step trying to keep my balance staying in dad’s footprints. Dad inched along with his shovel paving the way. The wind was blowing and the air was biting giving a sting to what little was exposed of my face. Hardly a car passed us on the street. Off in the distance I could hear a snowplow on the main road. Later on, the horse drawn sidewalk plow would come through with a jingle of sleigh bells. I could see the grim determination on dad’s furrowed brow with his head peering forward. I stuffed my gloved hand inside his thick overcoat pocket. We pushed on. 20

Our USA Magazine

I had a big canvas sack clutched close to me that had my Christmas cards for all my classmates. Each card had been handmade and cut out with a note written in my newly

I would have turned back so many times if dad hadn’t persisted. He explained to me that when he was a little boy he had walked for miles to get to school, and he felt that a good education was to be taken seriously. And I was learning another lesson, too, but its wisdom wasn’t to sink in until later. Now, I get where I am supposed to be on time if at all possible, and complete my obligations. When we arrived at school my third grade teacher was so surprised to see me. Not one single student had ventured out. I was embarrassed to be the only kid coming to school, and I never did tell a single friend. I watched while she marked me “present” in the attendance register with her black ink pen, and she told me to go back home. She smiled at my father and thanked him for making the extra effort to get me there.

acquired cursive handwriting. The whole grade school would all gather on the center stairs to sing carols together looking down upon the huge tree all decorated in the main foyer.

Today, when there is a snow day at school, I laugh over this one particular morning where I faced the weather conditions head on. My father didn’t cave in, declaring it a difficult day, and let me turn over and go back to sleep. I took on the challenge. Thanks, dad. Photo ~ Randy from A Christmas Story

Photo by Robert Oswald

Our USA Magazine 21

Finding In Search of:

Photo “The Faulkner Portable” - Gary Bridgman 22

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By Janet Kuplinski


suddenly found myself retired. It was heading toward me like a speeding locomotive, but when it actually arrived six months early, I found myself unprepared to come aboard. Yes, I had read all the AARP literature. I had been Googling retirement investments and articles on “What do you want to DO after retirement?� It was apparent that a plan was needed, but somehow I never quite got around to it. In my mind I assumed that as things ended on the work front, I would just naturally find hobbies, volunteer work and leisure activities that would consume my time. What actually happened was that my work place decided to muscle out most of their part-time help and I was compelled to either quit or increase my work hours. So I quit. For the first time in my life, I quit without having another job. Here I was. Not quite ready for Medicare but suddenly feeling vulnerable and without purpose. Where to start? What do I do now? Perhaps I should mention here that I am married to a man who has been retired for several years. We have a little house that we bought some nineteen years ago and fortuitously paid off early. (Aren’t you proud of us, Suze?) After retiring, Bob worked at a part time job and then transitioned into a once-a-week volunteer. He was now happily futzing around our property learning to garden in the desert, making household repairs, and creating items in his workshop. In other words, he was managing to be fully engaged. He had no idea how to deal with this once busy woman who was now moping around the house.

Now, what will I do with my excess time? I am in good health but I have decided to do more walking and less eating. We bought a little Porta-bote and are learning to navigate it for fishing and fun. Next, I am investigating different volunteer opportunities. I believe I must choose one with a worthy mission that will keep me committed. The internet is helping me with this quest as well as keeping me connected through social media to friends and family. I am hoping also to reconnect with some of my far away friends who are also reaching the end of their work life. I have plans for continued learning. First I will learn more about some hobbies I currently have but had limited time to pursue. Next, I plan to get fluent in Spanish, a language widely spoken in my state. Then I hope to learn a new hobby that will require lessons and some new equipment. Finally, I will step up my political involvement. I have been an occasional activist but now have time to get more involved in our political process. So this is the beginning of my new life.

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Photo ~ TitusAndronicus123/reddit 24

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The Real Places in Our Lives


hen the idea for this article first took shape, I was drinking a smoky and sharp “grande” cup of coffee outside a Starbucks Coffee Café in Bedford, New Hampshire, right across from the Bedford Mall. At least I think that’s where I was. I could have been at a Starbucks in Elkhart, Indiana …or in Rockford, Illinois on State Street, where two Starbucks are less than a mile and a half apart, or maybe it was in Minneapolis, but with 22 Starbucks there it’s hard to recall which bistro I was visiting. The rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike? The one on Route 9 in Framingham? Not sure. I was some “place,” some “where” drinking my “Charbucks,” as some like to call that chain’s dangerously dark drink. Yet I was kind of nowhere, too, and anywhere – could have been at any one of that franchise’s 19,000 stores in the United States. Not unlike the Comfort Inn hotels I stayed at while driving 3,000 miles across the United States on a summer road trip. The Dick’s Sporting Goods where I bought my bike supplies. The numbingly familiar interstate gas stations where I purchased my gas. All located in a specific place, somewhere on a map, yet kind of nowhere, too. Places so generic, so similar, so cloned one from another that in visiting there it felt like I was in Anytown, USA, anyplace. But there was no “there” there.

By Rev. J. F. Hudson

Yet on my trip I was also in places that were so very real: unique, odd, local, totally somewhere, points on the map unlike any place else. The tiny George’s Barber Shop in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, barely large enough for one chair, a dusty wall calendar, and taciturn George snipping away. The Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty Restaurant in Minoqua, Wisconsin, an all-you-can-eat dinner of fried chicken, white fish, spaghetti, apple sauce and coleslaw spilling over the plates. The Wild Rumpus Children’s Bookstore in Minneapolis, with a four-foot purple front door for the kids to enter and a live chicken sitting in the front window. We live in strange times in our world when it comes to claiming and finding a “place,” a real place to visit, to dwell within, to claim as our own. Spending so much of our time now planted before a screen: typing out texts, penning rushed emails, surfing Facebook, tweeting on Twitter. Is cyberspace a real place? When we are in “there” are we anywhere? Or nowhere? Somewhere? Everywhere? I’m not sure. We travel across a landscape now so often paved over and built up with super-sized, boxy stores and uber chic outlet malls, and on and off highways exits leading to McDonalds and Mobil gas, and Home Depot and places like everywhere else. Where am I? Phoenix, Arizona? Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Freeport, Maine? Manchester, Vermont? Who knows? Who cares? Fill it up. Buy it up. Then return back to the highway to visit another “place.”

But how important a sense of place is to this life: a specific and comforting and geographically defined and found space. Holy ground to stand upon. Land to dig deeply into. An address to return to again and again and again, and in that journey back home to trust that we do have a real place, that there are still real places left in the world. The white church on Main Street, too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter but our place to reunite with old friends and talk to God and sip sweet lemonade on the back patio as toddlers prance and elders gossip and folks catch up. No place else like it anywhere in the world.

A cabin in the woods, down a long dirt path, well-worn docks floating on the lake, the splash of waves and the cry of loons and the buzz of hot bugs calling us back to this place. The local bookstore. The ice cream shop. The post office. Real places. Real dots on the map. All somewhere. Right here. We all need a place, sacred spaces in life to live within, to visit, to love and to inhabit. Where is your place? May God bless you as you seek to find it. Reprinted with permission from the author and Wicked-Local Framingham. Our USA Magazine 25

5 Ways to Get Inspired When You’re Feeling Broken, Beaten or Blah


factory outputs identical pieces of plastic merchandise, no matter what. But you are “operationally challenged”—for you are made of conscious bold choices, moods, and miracles. A mechanical life requires output, form, and results measured down to the chin hair of the decimal point. An organic life is natural. It’s blemished and mythic. You will not endlessly “produce” without having awakening times of getting to know yourself again and again—and working with riotous forces. As an author, coach, and motivational speaker, I make my living “being inspired” and helping others discover their wild, true fountain of infinite good. That means I’ve had to learn how to take scrap metal and turn it into gold. And sometimes I’ve had to learn how to take VPs of Craziness, broken artists, and midlife menopausal hopelessness, exhaustion, cynicism and spontaneous-hatred-of-humanity and turn that into passion and bliss. I can boil this down. Don’t seek to be inspired. Seek to be present and kind. When you’re not feeling purposeful or creative—love yourself more. It’s love that opens the gates. Take exquisite care of yourself and spontaneous strategies and opportunities will match your inner abundance. This is no piece of cake. It’s 26

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By Tama J. Kieves a piece of cake and a nap—without belittling, self-judgment. Believe me, this is not your father’s “productivity.” But then you’re not trying to produce widgets. You’re daring to serve miraculous forces. Please don’t make being a human being wrong. Don’t make being a human being who is growing, transforming, and facing bewilderment wrong. This is the recipe of discovery. Vulnerability is where your next leap begins. I get it. You’re not having any fun right now. Your “vibration” is a cesspool. You’re as flat as a hospital gurney and as pent up as a cheetah in a cage. Trust me, this isn’t your life. It’s part of a process, like one of the screens that comes up on your computer before it’s fully booted up. And it means you’ve outgrown one level of good and you’re restless for the next. Sometimes, you’re so uninspired, that the word “inspired” sounds like shooting for the moon. So shoot for Toledo instead. Good news. I’ve got 5 “tickets to Ohio” for you. Shoot lower, rise higher. Don’t Dam Your Own River Ditch the stoic, the intellectual, and Ms. Rosy Pants. Sometimes you

need to cry or kick something. Can you allow yourself to simply feel how you feel at this moment in your life? Let your feeling self or inner child “speak” to your Wise Self in a meditation. Share your feelings with your therapist, coach, shaman, or favorite raccoon—anyone who will not seek to change you. Honesty is a healer. A feeling is a feeling. It is not reality. It is not a decree. Bang the drums. Draw loneliness. Write in your journal. I know this to be true: underneath every dark feeling, a deep knowing abides; you know you will be all right. It’s inexplicable, yet undeniable. And only feeling really, really weak will get you to this strength. Beckon Emptiness If you want to be creatively alive, emptiness is required. But most of what we call empty, isn’t empty. It’s toxic with disappointment, fear and judgment. True emptiness is being and beckoning. It’s an invitation. Creative emptiness is a feeling of anticipation. I can begin anywhere. I can do anything. What do I want to play with today? Your Muse will not come into a room if you’ve brought in expectations. She will not enter a room secretly crowded with surveyors, actuaries, accountants, and salesmen. Believe me, she smells a calculator in the room and will have nothing to do with you. You have to come alone. You have to come with curiosity and bare feet.

Escape Velocity by Jeanie Tomanek

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Flying Solo by Jeanie Tomanek 28

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You may turn your inspiration into profit centers later. But meanwhile, don’t monetize the butterflies. You must court inspiration on inspiration’s terms. Take Rest When you’re sleep deprived, you don’t need to be creating your dreams. You need to be snoring them. Let your body reclaim its natural equilibrium. The burned out do not have more pistons to fire. You need to heal. In This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love, I have a chapter called “The Year of Sleeping Dangerously,” talking about how when you’ve abused yourself, following your bliss doesn’t look like starting a multi-national company or feeding small children in war-torn nations. It looks like counting sheep. Take the pressure off. It’s okay. It’s okay if you lay on this couch for a thousand years. It’s okay if you don’t want to say anything profound or write something brilliant. It’s okay to breathe. It’s okay to daydream. It’s okay to recollect yourself, integrate where you’ve been and where you are going. It’s necessary. It’s holy. And your excitement will come to you naturally, because your true nature is purposeful, and it is your birthright to shine. And true rest isn’t always physical. It’s about forgiving yourself, letting go, dropping the weights and angers of a thousand years in the past and a thousand years to come. Rest comes from a lack of self-recrimination. What grievance are you holding right now? (Something like this: If only I had x, I would have everything.) When you accept your life and forgive yourself, you free yourself. Transcendence comes from acceptance. Creativity doesn’t

come from the fantasy you have for yourself. It comes from the way you deal with the reality you are trying to avoid. Listen with Love Life is relentless and challenging at times. Maybe you’ve noticed. You are going to feel like you got left behind while everyone else went on a road trip and sent postcards. You are going to want to judge yourself for not being further ahead, especially when you’ve just binged on brownies, and you read other people’s tweets. I don’t suggest a whip when you’re feeling hobbled. I suggest mercy. Self-love is the quickest route to wild, time-saving, inspired ideas. You can’t criticize yourself and listen to fearless, unexpected directions at the same time. Please treat yourself with unconditional positive regard, no matter what. This will not create weakness, but radical vitality. The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow says, “All creativity comes from safety.” Self-love is the willingness to listen to anything your heart wants to say to you. When you want to be inspired, let go of insisting you know how things work. Let go of your questions of “how” to get what you desire. Your questions can only attract mediocre answers at the level of the question. Be willing to receive answers to wilder, sweeter questions you did not know to ask. Sometimes the Universe is trying to give you directions to the top of the highest mountain, and you are asking how to tie your shoe lace. Really, those of us who are lost, should not be the ones who are leading the search party. Feast on Grace

Sometimes when I’m removed from my feelings, feeling as though I’m suspended in mid-air watching my life with dull, foggy interest, I lean on other artists—those who have delved into passion and grace. I want a contact high. I read or listen to those who have already caught the light. Sometimes I have that uncanny feeling that I have just read, “coincidentally,” a short story in a magazine that has explained the world to me. I am certain, though I might deny this if I’m ever under psychiatric evaluation, that it’s been written in divine love ink, and will definitely not be there the next time I look. Some of you will need heavy metal or chanting or opera. Others will need cumin or fresh lemons. You may need the touch of warm lavender oil upon your skin. You don’t need to be sensible. You need your senses. You need to be present to the touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell of life. These are the gateways to life. I also recommend nature and travel. Leave your worldviews behind to discover your truth. Come into the newness of where you are now. Be initiated. Finally, I want you to know that you are doing so much better than you think you are. When you’re not inspired, you don’t have true perspective; you tend to believe that the fog is more solid than the mountains that it hides. But you are in a process. You are not on an assembly line or in formation. You are in transformation. And this is your time of awakening. This is a time of great purpose. And there are mighty forces with you. Our USA Magazine 29

Wishes Granted:

Theo & Beau

By Jessica Shyba


ur quest for a puppy began last Christmas, while we were still living in New York City. We had trekked the three excited kids twelve blocks to Macy’s in Herald Square on a blustery day, made our way through Santa Land and eventually to greet the wish granter. Jack and Zoe perched themselves on Santa’s lap on the 8th floor and asked–in–unison–for a puppy. While I’ll likely not forget the sound of our hearts breaking, Justin and I smiled and sort of choked in disbelief. We were certain their requests would be one of the items on their heavily tracked Christmas gift lists, surely one near the top. A puppy didn’t even make an appearance. 30

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With the pending move, our student-loan-ridden financial situation, and basic red tape about dogs being banned from our residence in NYC, we were approaching a conversation that we had hoped to avoid for at least a year. While it was sort of a sad moment for us as parents, the anticipation and excitement and feeling of “reward” for completing our journey in dental school was far more enticing than a simple wish granted by the big man in red. We wanted to instill in the kids that having a puppy is a big deal, and that he would need attention and love just like we do. Fast forward to Monday, November 4th.

Justin and I had been stalking the shelters both online and in person for months, and finally agreed to bring the kids to be a part of the adoption process. I took them all myself one day, determined not to leave without a puppy. Acting on impulse is something I’m very, very good at (clearly to my own detriment). We didn’t find one on that day, but our puppy landed in our arms on the day we visited a few weeks later. Visiting animal shelters was something that used to make me inevitably cry. I suspect that the suffering of the children and dogs that we saw in Guatemala “hardened” me a

bit, as I wasn’t nearly as emotional as I had expected to be. We found him tucked together with his two siblings in the back yard of the Santa Cruz SPCA. Big Bird–as he was named at the shelter–was the shyest of them all to meet us, though he bounded instantly into Beau’s lap as soon as he entered their pen. The look on his little furry face was enough to seal the deal for me, we had met our newest family member. We brought him home at a very young seven weeks. He had been abandoned as a baby with his ten other siblings, and even ten days later he still seems like a brand new baby. He always wants to be near one of us, either in our laps or at our feet. Theo, as we have started calling him, has gotten feistier as the days go by, which I like to think is a sign that he is getting more and more comfortable in his new home. We don’t know much about what to expect, as we were given a vague description of his breed; He is part boxer, part shepherd, and part labrador retriever. It doesn’t matter much to me. He is Theo, and he is our new beloved puppy brother.

We decided to crate train him. I bought a crate, and a pen, and a snuggly bed to put inside for when we left. The first night, I slept through his cries and then Justin slept on the couch with him. Frustrated, I vowed that he would be in the crate the next night, no doubt. We would train this puppy “right” from the beginning! I couldn’t bear his cries either the next night, and he slept with me. On his third day with us, Theo fell asleep on Beau and me as I rocked him down for his afternoon nap. I was practically howling at the cuteness-and nearly woke them both up. The following day, Theo met us up in my room for the nap time ritual, and so began what I can only describe as the most organic and beautiful friendship I have ever witnessed. Each day, Theo meets us at naptime and waits patiently for Beau to fall asleep. By that time, he’s also sleepy, so when I hoist him onto our bed, he stumbles over to Beau and plops right down on top of him. And there they sleep, entwined, for at least two hours. Our USA Magazine 31

At this point, I began to hashtag these photos on Instagram as #TheoandBeau, and have successfully captured the hearts of many. Every day, another sweet nap. Sweeter than nearly anything I think I’ve ever seen or experienced. These moments I not only look forward to, but if I avoid any possible opportunity to thwart the sacred puppy and boy nap. Every day since, for a week straight. It makes my heart nearly explode with joy. My family and I are completely humbled by all of the kindness and love that we have been shown. Many of you have expressed interest in supporting the pet rescue effort, and I am privileged to be able to share with you the plight of the Santa Cruz SPCA, where we adopted Theo. Lisa Carter, the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz SPCA & Humane Society, reached out and shared with me that they are desperately in need of a new building and have raised $3 million via a capitol campaign and are in need of the remaining $1.5 to break ground. If you would like to donate or share, please visit this link: http://www.spcasc.org. You can follow along our daily journey on Twitter at @mommasgonecity, and via #theoandbeau on Instagram. Time will tell where this project leads, but I have high hopes of doing a little book and donating proceeds to the Santa Cruz SPCA. Always dream big. In this case, quite literally.


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his article is dedicated to all of you past, present and future farm kids out there. There may not be very many of us, but we truly are one-of-a-kind. In all honesty, I don’t know of a better way to grow up. Yes, we worked hard. Yes, we can tell stories all day long about our experiences both good and bad. Most importantly, yes we are proud to be farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters. We are proud to be born and raised farm kids. We are proud to be future farmers. For all you farm kids out there, you know we had a very special upbringing that many do not understand. With this in mind, I decided to come up with 25 truths that most farm kids could relate to in some way. To me (and I think many will agree), being raised on a farm is a gift and something we should definitely treasure. We learn things that will be with us the rest of our lives. I could literally go on and on about how lucky farm kids really are. Whether you were raised on a farm or are just simply curious about the farm kid life, I hope you enjoy this list I have come up with. Don’t be afraid to smile, laugh and take a trip down memory lane! I know I did.

The author, right, with sister, Sara 1. When you were first asked what you want to be when you grow up, you could not think of anything other than a farmer. Duh! 2. Yeah, those Hot Wheels, Barbie Dolls, Nintendo’s were all oh so cool. BUT nothing compared to your farm toys and figurines. Those John Deere tractors, plastic hay bales, plastic cows, horses, trucks, etc. They were your favorites that you played with ALL the time. 3. No Christmas list was complete without those farming toys. Ertl farm sets, more toy tractors, more farm animals…you needed to make your “farm” bigger. 36

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Growing Up on a Farm By Alison Bos

From the Prairie Project by David Mills

4. No matter how hard your mom tried for you to have “good clothes” and “chore clothes,” and/or “good shoes” and “chore shoes,” everything you had turned into clothes you got dirty outside. Your excuse? “Sorry mom, I forgot…” 5. You learned some of the most random things…most of the time, the hard way. Examples?? You learned that if you got stuck in the mud while wearing your muck boots, you better just stay put and wait for help. You learned that your parents weren’t kidding when they said the fence was “hot.” You learned to avoid crawling through or over barbed wire fences. You learned that no matter how “cute” little mice looked or how tempting it was to pick one up to tease your sibling(s) with, those suckers would bite if you messed with them. You learned where not to hold a bottle when bottle feeding a baby calf. This list could go on and on. 6. Here are some of the rules you were given when you went and played outside. Don’t go to the road, don’t go near the bull, if you open a gate then you better shut it, do not turn on/operate any piece of equipment, DON’T GO TOO FAR, don’t hurt your brother/sister, blah blah blah. We all heard it. 7. You learned at a very young age that you needed to pray every day. Granted, yes, we need to do that every single day. However, you prayed for things most kids would not even think about. You prayed for rain during a drought. You prayed for a good harvest. You prayed for sunshine when hay needed to be made. You prayed for your animals. You understood just how important faith in farming is.

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8. The worse forms of punishment, in fact, were not getting spanked. The worse forms of punishment included picking rocks out of dirt lots and walking through fields with a feed sack and scissors cutting thistles. Even worse than that? Being told to stay in the house! 9. You have been chased by a chicken, bucked off a horse, cut by a barb-wire fence, kicked by a cow, fallen face first in mud, fell out of a tree and/or have fallen off a tractor/truck/trailer (just to name a few) on a few occasions. Funny thing is, it did not slow you down one bit. 10. You did not open your Christmas gifts on Christmas morning or go trick-or-treating on Halloween until all the chores were done. And you did not complain about it. 11. The best bonding time with your daddy came from sitting on his lap in the tractor. You seriously felt like the luckiest kid alive. What made you feel even luckier? Riding with your daddy in the combine! Also, let’s face it. Whatever your daddy’s favorite kind of tractor was, well it was yours too. 12. Your momma cooked the best home-cooked meals. She was the best at making those daily bumps, scrapes and bruises that we would always get all better. She could get manure and oil stains out of anything. She could then go outside and run a tractor, haul cattle to town, tend to a sick calf, haul hay and back a trailer just as good (or sometimes even better) than your daddy and the other farm hands could. 13. Hay season, planting, chopping, etc. were like mini Christmases to you. You could ride in the tractor all day long, your meals were brought out to you, you could even stay up past your bedtime sometimes…. 14. Yes, we had our swing sets, trampolines, sand boxes, etc. However, those were not the coolest things to play with. The coolest things were round bales, livestock trailers, piles of seed, skipping rocks at the pond and stuff like that. Now that was fun! 15. You could operate equipment, drive a tractor, drive the farm truck and run the 4-wheeler at a very young age. (I won’t exactly specify what age this is, but let’s just say it is way before the age of 15.)

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16. You could tell if a cow was calving by the age of eight. You got to see more live animal births than any of the kids in your class. Once again, cool kid status reached! While we are on the subject, you could tell if an animal was sick. You could determine how crops were doing. You could count hay bales during hay season. You knew a great deal about medicines, fertilizers and other farming practices. You were that smart. 17. You have had the opportunity to see more sunrises and more sunsets than most kids your age did. That is pretty cool. 18. You had manners and learned to respect your elders. You learned the importance of listening and following instructions. You quickly learned the value of a dollar. You just learned lesson after lesson day after day. 19. You strongly disliked going to school sometimes because you could not stand to be locked up inside. You’d much rather be outside working on the farm, no matter how it was like outside. It would literally drive you insane. (Sidenote, all of your projects/assignments somehow incorporated farming into them.) 20. You had that one animal: one dog, one cat, one cow, one horse, one something that was your buddy and at the time, your best friend. That special animal is one you will never forget. 21. Your senior pictures, prom pictures, graduation pictures, etc. have a tractor, truck, FFA jacket and/or livestock in them more than once. 22. You were proud to be a member of 4-H and/or FFA.

“His & Hers” from the Prairie Project David Mills 39 Our by USA Magazine

“Prairie House 13” from the Prairie Project by David Mills

23. The older you got, the more responsibilities and chores you were given. No we were not slaves of our parents. No we were not “overworked.” Our parents were teaching us one of the most valuable lessons a person could learn – that is RESPONSIBILITY! 24. You understand the value of hard work, commitment, good character, good business and dedication. Farming is no easy task, and you fully comprehend the fact that these values will benefit you the rest of your life. These values will lead to success and you know it. 25. You realize just how lucky you are to have grown up on a farm. You realize that you want your future kids to grow up on a farm too because there really is not an upbringing that can compare.


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By Kersti Nebelsiek

My brother’s pony, but he didn’t want to ride him, so I rode all three of the ponies we had on the farm. I was too young to have fear, so I rode, usually bareback, out in big pastures. I’d set up jumps. If they took my bridle or halter away to ground me, I’d simply put a piece of binder-twine around my pony’s nose (make-shift hackamore). It’s your body language the horse responds to, anyway. Perhaps it was not so bright for me to be out galloping in huge pastures at my age (10-12) with no one home, but it was what I lived for and had asked for since the age of two. Something divine was up with that. I never got injured or thrown from any horse I’ve ridden, including a young, green Arabian filly I trained, when I was near 30 years old. The seat I earned as a kid, stays with me. I’m by no means a perfect rider, but it is the one gift/desire I’ve always had. Riding is an amazing workout, though, I didn’t realize it at that age. For me, it was just fun. I’d go out, early, early in the morning and slide from one horse to another for entertainment, since no one would wake up and play so early. The horses trusted me. When I had spent an hour or so sliding from one horse to another, I went and dragged out a 70 lb. bale of hay and launched 3 slices into different places, so they could all eat. Those were good days. Our USA Magazine 41

How TV Has Made Us Stupid About Farming

By Forrest Pritchard

Photo - Robert Oswald 42

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rom parachuting cows to learning-disabled farmers, commercials have effectively dumbed down agriculture. As a full-time farmer, I don’t have much time to watch television. Despite my best intentions, I’ve never seen an episode of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. I’m usually game for a lunchtime episode of Pawn Stars, but farming requires me to be outside most of the day, and my schedule demands an early-to-bed type of lifestyle. Suffice to say, my remote control could use a good dusting.

to pseudo-reality, a pop-culture kaleidoscope through which the act of farming becomes obfuscated and whisked into the realm of afterthought. As a farmer, it doesn’t especially bother me that the cows in these

Whenever football season rolls around, however, I gloriously plunk myself on the couch each Monday night, put up my feet, and watch grown men in day-glo pants tackle each other at high speed. And as always, wedged between timeouts and two minute warnings, there they are: the farming commercials making us all a little more callow, distancing us from our inescapable connection to the land, and how farming actually works. You’ve seen the ads. Parachuting cows imploring us to eat chicken sandwiches. Farmers who can’t spell. Kids who garden with dinosaurs and chickens without bones. We’re not talking about restaurant spokesclowns any more, or your grandma’s ‘Where’s the beef?!’ ads. Over the decades, commercials seem to have transitioned from pure fantasy

ads are holsteins, a dairy breed and not beef. More confounding is that while these cows can spell, they can only spell very badly -- tacitly perpetuating a stereotype of agricultural illiteracy. And it’s not even that irksome to see Old McDonald,

our country’s de facto agricultural mascot, portrayed as a lovable imbecile. The commercial itself is funny, and most farmers don’t mind a little self-deprecating humor from time to time. But what is worrisome is these commercials are the only glimpse into farming that millions of people will ever see. For a generation that’s never raised a flock of chickens or planted a row of potatoes, much less visited a working farm, how much of a stretch is it to assume that birds are now raised without bones, or that farmers flunked first grade? Now, before I’m accused of being a (stereotypically) curmudgeony farmer, I fully realize that commercials exist to sell product; this is the nature of businesses. But with less than one percent of the country currently employed in farming, an overwhelming majority of Americans are fully disconnected from agricultural production practices. As a nation, how much do these ads influence the way we perceive agriculture? Intentionally or not, corporate America has filled an important cultural void, playing high definition surrogate to our rural education. “Lil’ Cowboy ~ Photo by Bob Oswald Our USA Magazine 43

Commercials have long taught us that food should be cheap and abundant, an economic fairy tale that walks hand-in-hand with confinement livestock operations, herbicide monocultures and preservative-laden processed foods. Perhaps it’s only natural that these ads have delved into the realm of edutainment, scripting an agricultural narrative that has little basis in reality. A generation that’s been raised on artificial ingredients is now being fed a diet of farming fiction. Small wonder we’re also fed ads for Prilosec. Of course, there’s a reason so few people farm these days. Regardless of what the ads would have us believe, most farmers can’t produce a ‘value meal’ hamburger for $1, not even one made from parachuting holsteins. And they certainly can’t produce a patty for 15 cents on the dollar, which is how much the average farmer receives for food grown in the United States. Provided the chance again, perhaps Old MacDonald would have spelled, “C-O-W... B-I-T-E-M-E”. Dagnabbit indeed. Give Madison Avenue some credit, though. Dodge released a heartfelt farming encomium last February, and Chipotle debuted an updated Meatrix-esque ad that’s blowing up the internet. Perhaps the era of cheap food – and cheap laughs – is running its course. Successful advertising might someday intersect education with positive cash flow, creating a win for businesses, farmers and consumers alike. Chipotle has clearly seized this opportunity, and it will be interesting to see if others follow. Naturally, we’ll all be watching. In the meantime, however, I’ll just do what all farmers do: breakdance with rainbow colored pigs, harvest cheeseburgers from a bush, and read the latest Dick and Jane e-book to my boneless chickens. It might not save me 15 percent on my pickup truck insurance, but heck, it’s a living. The book about our farm, “Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm,” was named a Top Ten Read by Publishers Weekly, Washingtonian, and NPR’s The Splendid Table. Follow Forrest Pritchard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/smithmeadows 44

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Vegetarian Awareness By: Anita Haridat, MS

Painting “Ho, Ho, Holstein by Tim Knepp


t seems that vegetarian meals are gaining in popularity — even with regular meat-eaters. It has been found that forty-seven percent of Americans eat at least one vegetarian meal per week, according to a recent poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group. That’s up 15 percent from similar data 10 years ago! As more and more individuals reduce their carnivorous ways, one essential question remains: Are vegetarian and vegan diets healthy? The answer is yes. If appropriately planned, vegetarian or vegan diets can be healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain conditions. But many myths still surround the health implications of a vegetarian diet. See below what the facts are when it comes to plant-based diets. Myth #1: Vegetarians and vegans have a hard time getting enough protein. As meat has become synonymous with protein, many consumers struggle to identify non-meat sources of this dietary building block. But adequate protein needs are easily attained through a well-planned diet. And, plant-based protein typically contains more fiber and less fat, both cornerstones of a heart-healthy diet. For vegans, it would be beneficial to consume more protein than their meat and dairy-eating counterparts. That’s because protein from whole grains and legumes has lower digestibility than animal protein. Plant foods are encased in cellulose cell walls, which are hard to penetrate and digest. For familiar, high-protein vegan options, try bean burritos, vegetable and hummus wraps, bean chili or even hemp seeds. Myth #2: To build strong bones, you must include dairy in your diet. Dairy is not the only food source that can help protect your bones. A number of nutrients are needed for bone health, including calcium, vitamin D and protein. Each of these nutrients can be found in plant foods such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, calcium-set tofu and fortified soymilk. Some vegetables like spinach and rhubarb are good sources of calcium, but they are also high in oxalates, which decrease calcium absorption, so include a wide variety of other green vegetables more often. 46

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If you are forgoing dairy, ensure that you get the recommended daily 1,000 mg of calcium by spreading your green vegetable intake throughout the day and choosing calcium-fortified foods such as non-dairy milk, readyto-eat cereals, orange juice and tofu.

However, these needs typically can be fulfilled if the diet provides enough calories and diversity of foods.

In addition to following a nutrient-rich diet, weightbearing exercise such as yoga, running, walking and strength training is an essential component for increasing bone strength.

And while most competitive athletes require increased energy, protein and nutrient needs for optimal performance, there’s no reason that they can’t get everything they need nutritionally from plant sources. All it takes is a little diligence in menu planning.

Myth #3: Vegetarian diets are not appropriate for pregnant women, children or athletes.

Myth #4: Just because it is vegetarian it is healthy.

A well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can meet the nutrient needs of people from all stages of life, including pregnant and lactating women, children, and even athletes. It’s just about making sure you get the nutrients you need.

The “vegetarian” or “vegan” label doesn’t automatically equal good health. While some cookies, chips and sweetened cereal might be vegetarian foods, they are also likely high in sugar and unhealthy fats. Meatless eaters might find it easy to load up on processed foods like veggie burgers, but those items aren’t necessarily any healthier than their animal counterpart. And cheese, while a good source of calcium, also contains saturated fat and cholesterol.

Pregnant women, for example, need more iron. So expectant mothers should eat plenty of iron-rich foods and include a source of vitamin C to help increase absorption (iron is not absorbed well from plant-based sources). Try these iron and vitamin C combinations: beans and salsa, broccoli and tofu, black-eyed peas and collard greens. For infants, children and adolescents, a vegetarian diet can promote normal growth. As with adults, vegan children may have slightly higher protein needs because of how the body digests plant protein.

The Bottom Line So what is the best way to assure a food is a good choice? Read the label. Look for low levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. These key nutrition label components are much better indicators of a food’s health than whether or not it is vegetarian. Being a healthy vegetarian eater means loading up on veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins.

Photo: Flickr Our USA Magazine 47

Roasted Acorn Squasherole By Maura Knowles



1 Acorn Squash (cut in half and scooped out) Seeds from Acorn Squash 1/4 cup MORSELICIOUS Mix 2 tablespoons hemp protein powder 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons coconut or hemp oil 1-2 zucchini, sliced 2 scallions (green onions), chopped Black pepper (to taste) 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon tumeric (optional) Fresh juice of 1/2 lemon and/or no salt seasoning 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/2 cup mozzarella shredded (Vegan) cheese

Preheat oven to 325º F. Heat a small non-stick sauté pan over medium-low heat. Rinse and dry the seeds from the squash and add to the pan, lightly toasting on both sides for 3-4 minutes each side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel to cool. Bake squash in glass casserole dish, cut side down, for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove squash and allow to cool.

Cashew Creamy Goddess Dressing 2 tablesppons cashew cream, Fresh juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon cilantro Black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove diced garlic, 1 chopped scallion (green onion). Blend all ingredients well into a creamy dressing. 48

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In separate bowl, combine the Morselicious Mix, hemp protein and water until you have a “paste” consistency. Spread mixture over squash. Toss the zucchini and scallions with black pepper, cayenne pepper, tumeric. Squeeze lemon juice over mixture and mix well. Add to the top of casserole and sprinkle with remaining squash, mushrooms and cheese. Cover dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Top with toasted acorn seeds. Serve with mixed greens topped with my Cashew Creamy Goddess Dressing.



othing says comfort on a cold day like a bowl of piping hot soup. Translated from the Latin suppa meaning “bread soaked in broth,” this restorative dish has been in existence since 6,000 BC. Perhaps the most recognizable of all soups is the “big soup,” or minestrone. Every region of Italy has its version of minestrone vegetable soup. The Italian American version seems to always have diced carrots, celery, potatoes, beans, and cabbage, rendering it distinct, with a touch of sour after taste. Variations include vegetables that were readily available in the small gardens Italian immigrants kept in their backyards or window boxes. Italian Americans loved their minestrone so much that in 1949, Progresso Quality Foods began selling minestrone, as well as pasta e fagioli, in cans as a convenience food. At first the soup was only available in Italian American markets, but soon enough it hit mainstream America. Here is our favorite Italian chef’s recipe for the beloved Italian Minestrone.

This recipe is from Lidia’s newest book, Lidia’s Italy in America, which was released in October. Visit lidiasitaly.com



1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into pieces 4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled 1 medium onion, chopped 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (12oz.)

In a food processor, combine pancetta, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil and pulse to make a finetextured paste or “pestata.” Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, scrape in the pestata. Cook, stirring, until pestata renders its fat, about 4 minutes.

2 tablespoons tomato paste 6 quarts water 2 fresh bay leaves 1 large carrot, chopped 1 stalk celery, chopped 1 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded (about 8 cups) 1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded 2 tablespoons salt 8 ounces ditalini

Add the onion, and cook until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Toss in the potatoes, and cook until they begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, another 3 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to make a dry “hot spot” in the center of the pan, and plop the tomato paste into the space, toasting it on all sides for a minute or two. Return the vegetables to the center of the pan, and stir the toasted paste into them. Pour in the water, along with the bay leaves, carrot, celery, and soaked cannellini. Bring to a rapid simmer and cook until beans are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Add the zucchini, cabbage, chard and salt. Cover and cook until beans and vegetables are tender and soup is flavorful, about 45 minutes more. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the ditalini al dente. Just before serving, scoop up the ditalini and add to the soup.

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Preserves made by the Trappist Monks of St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, MA

All products seen here may be ordered online through the Abbey of the Genesee


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“All Roads Lead Home for the Holidays” by Jack Sorenson © Jack Sorenson Fine Art, Inc. Our USA Magazine

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The Story of Solutions

from The Story of Stuff Project


an you imagine how much genius and focus it took to turn a music player into a handheld computer/phone/ GPS/remote control for everything in life in just five years? The thousands of people who made it had to solve thousands of problems that literally could NOT have been solved five years ago. That’s what people can do when they’re motivated to find solutions to problems. But the problems we’ve been busy solving are not the problems that most need solving. So much focus has gone into faster, cheaper, newer that we’ve actually lost ground on things like safer, healthier, and more fair. It’s as if we’re getting better and better at playing the wrong game. And in many ways, this system is a lot like a game — but with very high stakes. Just like a game, our economy was designed to get everyone to play by certain rules. And like a game, it comes with instructions telling us what the goal is. Think about the last time you played a new game. Remember? The first thing you did was find out what it means to win and that guides every decision you make along the way. So, naturally, the solutions most people are working on pursue this game’s simple goal — and that goal is “more.” More money being spent, more roads being built, more malls being opened, more stuff! That’s what economists call growth. So we take all the money spent on stuff that makes life better and all the money spent on stuff that makes life worse and we add it together into one big number, called GDP (Gross Domestic Product). 54

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We’re told that a bigger GDP means we’re winning! So it’s the number that thousands of rules and laws are designed to increase. But there’s a big difference between more kids in school and more kids in jail. More windmills or more coal-fired power plants. More super-efficient public trains or more gas wasted in traffic jams. Duh. But in this game of more, they are counted the same. What if we built this game around the goal of “better”? Better education, better health, better stuff, a better chance to survive on this planet. That’s what we all want, right? So shouldn’t that be what winning means? Changing the goal of the entire economy is a huge task. Of course we can’t do that all at once. But when we focus on game-changing solutions, we gradually make it possible for a new game to be played. To do that we have to be able to tell the difference between a gamechanging solution or just a new way to play that old game of more. For example, let’s look at two solutions to one of the many problems we face today — the scourge of plastic packaging that everyone knows is a disaster for the planet, especially the oceans. And there are two groups of people with very different ideas for solutions to the plastics problem. One group decides enough is enough and they start by launching a citizen campaign to “ban the plastic bag” in their community.

Another group has a different solution. They start a business that gives people gift cards to buy stuff if they recycle their plastic waste. Both of these are happening right now, but only one of them changes the game. The gift cards solution does keep some plastic out of landfills and incinerators. But it creates more plastic by encouraging people to buy more stuff. Even worse, it teaches that MORE consumption is the right reward for being a good citizen, making it even harder to think outside that old game box. The ban the bag solution is harder to achieve, but it’s a game-changer. Why? Well by volunteering their time, these citizens are declaring there’s something more important to them than just earning and spending more. And they’re insisting that the health of their community and the planet is more important than some chemical company’s profits. To win this campaign, these citizens are going to have to team up with forward-thinking businesses offering alternatives to throw away plastic packaging. They’re going to have to build power to fight back against the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for the companies that make all that plastic junk. And they’re going to have to get out and talk to their neighbors and friends, inspiring yet more people to begin to question the old game. This is exactly what’s happening in towns and cities – all across the world — and they’re winning! But can banning a few million bags transform the goal of the game? By itself, no, but in combination with millions of others working on game Our USA Magazine 55

It gets us off the treadmill of more, conserves resources, gives people access to stuff they otherwise couldn’t afford, and builds community. What’s it look like? Bike share programs in major cities. Online platforms that let us share everything from our cars to homes to camping gear. In my town, the public library system lends out tools! There’s just no reason every house needs its own power drill, creme brulee torch, scanner, wheelbarrow, bike changing solutions they care about—yes! Together, these solutions are beginning to turn the tide. As people build power to change the game, their citizen muscles grow. They work to ensure the local solutions they create get copied and scaled up. And when they see these solutions getting blocked by corporations with way too much influence, they start teaming up with other solutionaries to fight for a real democracy by the people, for the people. Gift cards will never do that. But thousands of citizen campaigns can. Whenever I’m asked to join in on a solution I wanna know if it’s transformational — will it change the goal? To figure it out, I use the word goal. I wanna know that it:


A- Accounts for ALL the costs it creates including the toll it takes on people and the planet. In other words it internalizes costs instead of externalizing them as most businesses do today. L- Lessens the enormous wealth gap between those who can’t even meet their basic needs and those who consume WAY more than their fair share. I like solutions such as the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, where worker-owners are running green businesses – a laundry, a solar company and a super productive urban farm — that are healthy and safe.

G- Gives people more power — taking power back from corporations to build democracy.

They provide secure jobs to people the old game has left behind. We all know we need to get businesses out of our democracy—but cooperatives go further and bring democracy into business. Sustainable, democratic and equitable — that’s a game-changer.

O- Opens people’s eyes to the truth that, once basic needs are met, happiness and well-being don’t come from buying more stuff but from our communities, our health, and sense of purpose.

And how about the new trend of “collaborative consumption” formerly knows as sharing? Sharing may sound like the theme of a Barney song, but think about it – it’s a huge challenge to the old game.

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pump, etc., when we can share.

As transformational solutions like these gain traction, we will reach a tipping point — IF we keep focused on the new goal of better.Without a new goal, all the work we’re doing to build a better future will A) not be enough and B) be really hard. Too much genius and focus will continue to go to solving problems like iPhone battery life while the problems that threaten human life spin out of control. Five years ago, when we made the “Story of Stuff,” we started building a community of people who sensed something was really wrong with this old game. We agreed there was a problem. Now it’s time to build the solutions — solutions that won’t just change a few of the rules, but will change the entire game. Wanna help? Come on, let’s do it!

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Celebrate Made in America

ecember is by far the most important month for retailers in the entire year, and it has never ceased to amaze me that President Ronald Reagan, back in 1985, proclaimed December as “National Made in America Month.” Every year I take this time to reflect on the significance of this action and its relevance in our current economy, as I believe that Reagan saw the writing on the wall for America as he served as our 40th President of the United States from 1981-1989.

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he and his administration set out to reinvigorate the national economy, reduce taxes, balance the federal budget, and reduce the size and scope of the federal government. At the end of his presidency, the United States was experiencing the longest recorded period of peacetime prosperity without a recession or depression. Reagan was an advocate for free markets and laissezfaire economics, and summed this up in his inauguration speech that he wrote himself saying, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” But, what many may recall is that during this period of our American history, our American automobile industry had gone through a little more than a decade (the 1970s and 1980s) where imported automobiles had aggressively increased their share of the U.S. auto market, with their new compact, fuel-efficient cars, modern design and reliability. The “Big Three” American automobile manufacturers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) were struggling to compete, while consumer perception of American automobiles had declined due to a flurry of design and manufacturing problems and the oil embargo in 1973, which created a high demand for smaller, more fuel efficient, imported cars. President Reagan saw that the American automobile industry was being brought to its knees, and the flood of imported cars and electronics caused many to worry that these industries would not survive. Under Reagan’s presidency, he felt that it was important to come to the aid of the American automobile market, and that government had a role in regulating the flood of imports to create more of a balance of trade. In 1981, Japanese automakers entered into a “Voluntary Restraint Agreement” limiting the number of autos that flooded the American market. But despite government 58

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By Julie Reiser

intervention – swinging the pendulum back toward American manufacturing was a steep feat even back then, and President Reagan knew that the most powerful economic agent in change is the massive consumer power of the American public. If Americans could realize the importance their purchases played in reinvigorating American industries, the tides would shift. So, on December 23 (the day before Christmas Eve) in 1985, President Reagan proclaimed December as National Made in America Month. The proclamation was filed with the Office of the Federal Register at 10:40 a.m. on December 24 (Christmas Eve), 1985. I invite all Americans to read the proclamation from start to finish, reflecting both back on what was happening to our manufacturing sector back in the 1970s and 1980s. But, the most critical piece of all this is that President Reagan, the day before Christmas Eve – sent a message to the nation that would forever reverberate into the future. The message was simply for Americans to observe the month of December with “the appropriate programs and activities to recognize and celebrate the excellence of American products.”

So, this December as we shop, gather with family and friends, and celebrate – let’s not forget the role we all have in our national economic strength and independence – each of us has the power with our purchases of Buying American to turn the tides, shift the axis, and cause the pendulum to swing back in the favor of “Made in USA.” This holiday season, let us all put forth the effort to read the labels of the products we purchase and look for those products that are proudly labeled “Made in USA.” Julie Reiser is Co-Founder and President of Made in USA Certified

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, America’s Photographer

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Saving Walmart, or Saving America, Reversing PR Courses By Phil Butler

Small town USA in the 50s – thanks to Gorillas Don’t Blog


orty years ago my father was an attorney in a thriving little town called Jesup, Georgia. Like something out of the movie Cars though, a series of events turned a South Georgia home place into a real Radiator Springs—off the highway, broken by Walmart. Jesup and ten thousand other such towns are all but dried up and blown away today, along with the people who worked, lived and loved there. A scant few cling to severed values and hope. Chances are, just about everybody reading this has some sort of memory of small town America “back when.” The main drag, little Mom and Pop places lined up to greet, that old cinema sticking out, cars lined up in a slanted review line, apple pie in the air everywhere. Ah, but that America is long dead now, dead and buried at the hands of a greedy lot. Sam Walton’s family and organization put an end to such things, and now, justifiably, their reputation and growth has run out of PR gas. Not even Richard Edelman* may be able to resurrect what will end up being the bloodiest corporate corpse anybody ever saw. *Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of the world’s largest public relations firm with 67 offices. 60

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Is my jargon here too strong? Somewhere out there are their Rollback Price shoppers so loyal to junk from China and those Waltons worth billions now as to give a damn for an end to madness? I hope I do not need to elaborate on what Walmart has done, or should I say helped do to you. Rolling back prices, down to the point of ruining just about every supplier ever associated with them, cutting down everything except their own margin, slave driving their employees, lobbying, cheating, essentially stealing the American market for “things”– Walmart needs to die. Since when has cheaper meant better? Hell, it never did. Made In America Sam Walton had a brilliant idea once: take over retail by approaching wholesale value. It was not a new idea, folks. Woolworth, Kress, Ben Franklin, W.T. Grant, Butler Bros. (some relation), and hundreds of other so called 5 & 10 cent stores preceded Walmart and Kmart. The same volume buying and selling has been in place for more than a century, in fact, but what’s never been in place is the kind of cutthroat backing and tactics the Waltons have shown. Sam was a decent enough fellow, it seems. Remember when Walmart’s slogan was “We Buy American, Whenever We Can.” Allow me to quote from Daniel Welch, who was president of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1444 in Milwaukee back in 1997. This was even before the flood of cheap China products hit the US.

Welch said: “One of Wal-Mart’s best known slogans is: ‘Buy American program is both a commitment and a partnership. It’s a commitment to our customers — our friends, neighbors and fellow American citizens — that we will buy American-made products whenever we can that deliver the same quality and affordability as do their foreign-made counterparts.’”

In that article in the Milwaukee Business Journal, the union mentioned exhibited some evidence that Walmart not only bought foreign products in favor of US-made variants, but that the company may have purposely undercut cheaper American examples of the same products. One case, Green Bay Packers’ ball caps, Welch claims Americans made cheaper but still lost out. Why, you ask, would any company purposely run fellow countrymen out of business? The answer to that is Machiavellian. This rant falls in the category of old news for you and me. I’ve been waiting and hoping Walmart and the Waltons would fail for years. In books like Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (please buy it at Amazon, I like them better), and How Wal-Mart is Destroying America and The World and What You Can Do About It, libraries of text take aim at America’s biggest company, and ironically one reason for America’s current plight. Is anyone else out there pissed off the buttons won’t stay on their clothes? Does it bother you the paint on your kids’ toy cars comes off so easy? Is your garage and attic more about Walmart junk than storing value? I don’t even have to ask, you know.

So gentlemen, first we try what worked before, then if that does not work…

What’s of No Value Must Die A book by Charles H. Hood, a former vendor put out of business by Walmart, claims America’s largest retailer is the biggest cause of the US economic situation. Hood’s story is by no means unique. He contends that Walmart not only ran him out of business, but then set out on a revenge campaign; this same song echoes across the business landscape in America. Now that Lee Scott and Walmart finally recognize the company image is in the toilet, only the most influential PR man in the world can save the most hated company in the world. Or so they figure. A Wall Street Journal article frames the staggered behemoth turning to Edelman PR for salvation. While some might say hiring Edelman’s firm is a positive, others can argue Walmart is in huge trouble to have to. Already the logic and brilliance of Edelman himself shines through the opaqueness of typical Walmart BS. Interestingly, though, turning back the clock on the “Made in America” lie people once snatched hook, line, and sinker. Unless Americans are the dumbest cur dogs in a world pack of idiots, this sort of “chummy” fluff should never fly. The Huffington Post reports, Walmart held a Made in America meeting!

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The Walmart legacy – courtesy Brave New Films.

The good ole’ boy in me is yelling, Jesus H. Christ! about now (I hope all my Southern Baptist friends will forgive me). This initiative, like the move to hire top gun PR, proves the Walmart boat is taking on water faster than the Titanic. Experts say the “proposition” of Walmart adding some American products to shelves now, it’s just crisis management. Hoping for a so-called “ground swell” movement out of regurgitating an old lie, Walmart is really desperate now it seems. In fact, the Arkansas-based giant is really only riding the tide of logical sentiment here. Additionally, for a company with $466.1 billion in annual sales, talking about spending an additional $50 billion in America in a decade, this amount would scarcely be noticed. That says nothing for the millions and millions of people displaced by Walton’s company over the years. It says nothing for my favorite tailor shop in Jesup, Georgia, nor the Ben Franklin store there, or even the Kmart virtually deserted, or dozens of others. 62

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Walmart, the people who own and run it, they betrayed their own countrymen in my opinion. There never really was all that much value in Walmart’s stores, not really. The old saying “you get what you pay for,” this is purely sound and true logic. Ask yourself who is able to produce “fine” for less? Junk, and mountains of it, Walmart prayed on your own gratifications, America. Now Richard Edelman is probably the only chance the Waltons have, that is unless Walmart drags him down into the mire too. There’s the whole point of my rant. I really do admire Richard Edelman. I share his 6 A.M. posts on Everything PR News, with his team’s permission. There is no other duplicate content nor was there ever, on this blog. I would be remiss in my respect, not to point out a PR client that perhaps should have never been.

Thanks Walmart. Jesup’s rail depot and bus station today – courtesy Matt Johnson.

Cherry Street in Jesup looked like this for decades – no more. Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Rising and Falling with PR Challenges Bruce Watson over at Daily Finance may have encapsulated this Walmart PR and “America gushing” by best pointing out the reality of Walmart’s new “plan”: “In context, then, it would appear that Simon isn’t even promising to maintain the company’s current level of spending on American-made goods.” Yep, the big America push from Walmart is just air. Stacy Mitchell at Salon goes so far as to say the “scheme” is bent on ruining the middle class in America. To sum up from a PR perspective here, Walmart is by no means “just” another public relations client. For many of us, what Walmart has done in the last two or three decades is tantamount to treason. For Edelman or any PR firm, propping up Walmart this time is a bit like promoting Colonel Sanders if he’d poisoned the world with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Boosting the brand of Walmart with a lie, that may end up as the ninth life of Morris the cat, after he’s scratched the eyeballs out of America’s newborn sons and daughters. To conclude, calculating the real damage Walmart economics has done to America, to you and your neighbor, is now quite impossible. Now experts say Americans cannot even produce good products any more. They say America’s workforce is under-trained, behind, the tail end of a world labor force. Just who led America into such a productive abyss? And what should a real PR campaign look like for Walmart? What could save the most hated company on earth? This truth. “Until America is back on her feet, until our employees have a decent standard of living, and until further notice, ALL Walmart products will be manufactured in North America. This is our pledge up to and including the time our resources are depleted. Win or lose, Walmart is American.” Get them to commit to that Richard. That will be the stuff PR legends are made of. Editor’s note: This article is an editorial piece expressing the author’s personal opinions and his opinions only. These opinions are not necessarily those of Our USA Magazine or its affiliates. Our USA Magazine 63


he Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) is an unprecedented alliance of manufacturing, agriculture and labor working for smart trade policies. CPA represents over 2.7 million households through member associations and companies. Members include associations and businesses in copper, steel, livestock, row crop, textile, tooling, machining, electronics, software and other industries.

sidies and other barriers. Trade agreements do not address these modern problems. As a result, we buy far more than we sell, diminish tax revenues, lose jobs and forfeit industries. Manufacturing and Jobs Despite overwhelming advantages in infrastructure, innovation and

CPA members hold education and advocacy meetings across the country informing business owners, local elected officials, service organizations and trade associations of problems and solutions to trade problems. CPA informs them about their federal officials’ vote records on trade. CPA works hard to develop trade policy solutions that benefit the entire economy, not just a particular sector. Every solution presented has been agreed to by agriculture, manufacturing and organized labor as good for the entire country. CPA and its members present mature solutions to political leaders in Washington, DC. CPA advances the conversation beyond “free trade” vs. “protectionism.” CPA advocates “smart trade” policies that are fair and free. What are the problems we face? U.S. Trade Policy America’s trade policies have caused grave harm to our country’s economy, security and people. We fail to respond to foreign protectionism including currency manipulation, border taxes, sub64

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The CPA is working for a new and positive U.S. trade policy that delivers prosperity and security to America, its citizens, farms, factories and working people. We are an unrivaled coalition of manufacturing, agricultural, worker, consumer and citizen interests working together to re-build an America for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. We believe America can provide good jobs for workers, affordable goods for consumers, opportunity for farms and manufacturers, and a clean environment without compromising our national sovereignty and security. We are committed to achieving this outcome. The CPA is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of 2.7 million households. Our Activities

know-how, one in five U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost in ten years as tens of thousands of manufacturers have closed. Agriculture and Aquaculture America’s traditionally large agricultural trade surplus has nearly disappeared since 1992. Food imports often enter the country without food safety inspection. The U.S. seafood, apple and other production sectors have been marginalized by foreign subsidies. Environment Each energy intensive factory lost to another country produces up to eight times more global warming emissions than in the U.S.

CPA’s focus is grass roots. We are educating citizens and local opinion leaders where they live and work. We are identifying those elected members of Congress who favor improved trade policies and, as importantly, those who do not. We will hold major events during the electoral cycles to inform citizens on the issues. Engaging Washington is important, but politicians come home on the weekends and must face the citizens. Engaging America is our primary focus. Consider becoming a partner in building broad support and focused strategies for this project, and our country. www.ProsperousAmerica.org 700 12th St. NW, Suite 700 Washington DC 20005

Paso Robles, CA - Photo Carol M. Highsmith, America’s Photographer Our USA Magazine 65


A Milwaukee Coffeeshop Where Vets Help Vets Survive - At Home

By Ricardo Torres

Returning vets often struggle with relationships, housing, PTSD, and more. Dryhootch founders say the best mentors for people returning from our latest wars are other vets who have been through it before.

Looking north from the parking lot of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, you can see the steeple of Milwaukee Soldier’s Home—a pioneering, all-in-one facility built for veterans returning from the Civil War. It was established in 1865 as a result of federal legislation calling for a national system of similar homes around the country, one of the first government attempts at healing soldiers after war. President Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, had called upon the nation “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.” The Soldier’s Home once provided housing, medical needs, and camaraderie. Though several of the buildings still stand, they are now surrounded by a chain-linked, barbed-wire fence. The funding to keep them operational is nonexistent. Today, on Milwaukee’s East Side, you’ll find another, very different pioneering project in the field of veteran care—a coffeeshop called Dryhootch. Founder Bob Curry, a Vietnam veteran who himself has post-traumatic stress disorder, created Dryhootch in 2010 to provide a place for a new generation of veterans to come home to. 66

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“Those of us who have been down the journey could tell other veterans that here’s the issues, here’s the problems, here’s the help you can get—and don’t do what we did,” Curry says. “We need to do something for this generation.”

Veterans Court

Dryhootch isn’t an extension of the Department of Veteran Affairs; nor is it connected to some American Legion post or Starbucks ad campaign. It’s a nonprofit, substancefree, vet-to-vet peer-mentoring initiative to ease the transition from military to civilian life, all while providing a healthy social gathering place.

In 2011 Dryhootch was awarded a grant from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program to survey local veterans about their use of the VA system and their time adjusting when they came home.

“If you look at older veteran organizations like the American Legion or VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars], they formed around a bar,” Curry says.

One major problem of the VA system is it denies veterans with less-thanhonorable or dishonorable discharge coverage— something Dryhootch employees proudly say their organization doesn’t do.

Milwaukee Soldier’s Home, now closed, was built as a result of national legislation enacted to provide better support to veterans. Photo by Ricardo Torres.

More than 800 individuals completed the survey, which found that more than 80 percent of respondents felt that the military taught them responsibility. However, more than half said their service negatively affected family

Dryhootch gives vets a place to talk informally with other vets about VA bureaucracy, going back to school, getting a job, and any other problems they might be having. It also offers peer and group mentoring and alternative medical treatments, like acupuncture. The project started on Brady Street, a typically liberal, anti-war Milwaukee neighborhood. During the Vietnam War it was ground zero for activists and protesters. Today, the attitude has changed a bit, and the community is looking to help returning vets who can’t find help elsewhere.

The Dryhootch website offers legal support, housing services, community connections, and more for returning soldiers. Our USA Magazine 67

relationships, more than 70 percent reported physical problems, and more than 60 percent reported emotional problems. Many veterans turn to drugs and alcohol when trying to seek help and often are busted for nonviolent crimes like multiple DUIs or drug possession. Veteran advocates believe the justice system isn’t the place to rehabilitate those who are suffering, and Dryhootch—which focuses on creating a substance-free environment—has created a relationship with the Milwaukee District Attorney’s office to adequately address these individuals. It’s a partnership that has resulted in the formation of a “veteran court,” which has been operating regularly since January.

But if they can’t make it through, they’re sent back into the justice system. Brostrom says she’s referred individuals to Dryhootch case managers for treatment and required them to go to various group meetings hosted by them. “Nobody can communicate with these people the way someone who has walked in their shoes can,” she says. “They know what it means to have been fully enmeshed in the military culture … they’re really a tremendous resource for us in terms of peer mentors and court participants.” But invisible scars take a lot of time to heal.

“If they can make success of that solution, then they get some relief from the heavy hand of the criminal justice system,” Brostrom says. If the individual is successful in treatment, it could change his or her life, and the case could be dismissed. 68

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According to their estimated timeline, they plan on reaching their destination by the end of January 2014. They plan on relying on the hospitality of individuals and spreading the word about veterans’ issues. Armed with laminated newspaper stories to prove their validity, they plan on asking strangers for places to sleep on their journey. They’ve also contacted local veteran groups to help them. “In Iowa, we have a place to stay every night,” Anderson said before leaving. But the help is just trickling in. “The thing that sits worst for me, like in my gut,” Anderson says, “is that the vast majority of the support we’ve received has come from veterans and veteran organizations … I feel like I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“The evidence will show that when someone has an addiction, a therapeutic approach ultimately is likely to have better success helping them overcome that,” says Circuit Court Judge Ellen Brostrom. Brostrom is one of several judges involved in the veteran court and says that many of the veterans she sees have PTSD from combat, and it’s directly correlated with substance use and abuse. In order for an offense to be considered in veteran court, it has to be nonviolent; and the individual has to be a veteran, have no prior record of violent offenses, and plead guilty to opt in to treatment.

But they weren’t going to war, they were embarking on a very different journey. Anderson and Voss had decided to address their own issues as vets and raise money for Dryhootch by walking all the way to Los Angeles—2,700 miles.

But despite any setbacks that may come, their determination is strong.

A 2,700-Mile Journey On August 30, at the Wisconsin War Memorial overlooking Lake Michigan, Dryhootch employees and Iraq War veterans, Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss, hugged their wives and children goodbye. The mood was somber, as though they were going back to Iraq.

“Our message is that it’s a community effort,” Anderson says. “But it’s the veteran community that’s stepping up. That doesn’t surprise me … I’m still struggling to find a way to communicate that. Maybe I just need to be blunt.” Left, Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss set out on their trek to Los Angeles. Follow them on their journey here. Ricardo Torres wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions.

If you are interested in timeless music, and stories about its artists, please check out this wonderful online magazine. Conceived as a labor-of-love by founder/publisher Kevin Wachs, Rock Cellar Magazine’s focus is on music and musicians from the 1960s through the 1990s – seasoned, established artists who are still recording, touring, and whose voices still remain relevant today. Wachs felt that he–as others–just didn’t have the time to endlessly surf the internet trying to find music and articles on older artists. “I thought it would be cool to start collecting artists all in one place, and then eventually offer their music, books, whatever, right at our site.”

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A Long, Long Time By Ken Sharp

Linda Ronstadt Looks Back on Four Decades of Music


This article was reprinted with permission from our friends at Rock Cellar Magazine.

ver delicate acoustic guitar finger-picking and a lush orchestral score, Linda Ronstadt sings, “’cause I’ve done everything I know to try and make you mine, and I think I’m gonna love you for a long long time.” It’s a line from her 1970 single, “Long, Long Time,” her first hit as a solo artist. For this writer, had she only recorded this exquisitely beautiful and haunting song Linda Ronstadt’s place in music history would be assured. But to the delight of music fans worldwide, this was only just the beginning of a storied and wondrous musical journey. Sales of over 100 million records…winning collaborations with the likes of Neil Young, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra… shelves groaning with every prestigious music award imaginable…. Over four decades of music making, Linda Ronstadt is a consummate song stylist who remains one of popular music’s greatest and most beloved artists. Blessed with one of the most extraordinary voices in popular music, Ronstadt drew from a deep well of influences ranging from Mexican folk music to Hank Williams, opera to the Everly Brothers. From the sun-kissed country rock splendor of 1974’s “Heart like a Wheel” to the punchy new wave sass of 1980’s “Mad Love”, the elegant Great American Songbook craftsmanship of 1983’s “What’s New” to her all-Spanish album, 1987’s Grammy Award winning “Canciones de mi Padre,” Ronstadt’s wide-screen musical education played a significant role in helping to inspire, shape and inform her career choices. By the turn of the ’70s she was the most popular female artist of the decade. Multi-platinum albums, a raft of hit singles, sold out concerts—she graced the covers of both Time and Rolling Stone magazine—Ronstadt literally wrote her own ticket, essaying a wide swath of musical styles and genres numbering country, pop, rock, R&B, jazz, new wave, American songbook standards and mariachi. 70

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And the one common thread through all of her music? Her peerless interpretative skills, fearless versatility and hard fought integrity.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Was there anything you learned about yourself during the process of writing the book?

Now retired from recording and touring as a result of being recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which has tragically robbed her of her singing voice, she released her last album in 2006 and performed her last show in 2009. At age 67, Ronstadt is content in her life, reveling in the joy of parenthood and raising her two children.

Linda Ronstadt: Well, I learned not to procrastinate. I used to be a procrastinator and this changed all that. (laughs) I wrote every word, for better or for worse. (laughs)

She might have vanished from the public eye but that spectacular, rich and robust voice is never far from the airwaves. Her new autobiography, “Simple Dreams,” chronicles her remarkable life, revealing how the fledgling singer was transformed into one of the most popular and enduring artists of her time. Ronstadt wrote the book herself without the aid of a ghost writer, and strewn throughout its pages resounds the strong, powerful and authentic voice of a woman who bravely forged her own artistic path. In the book, she writes, “Someone once asked me why people sing. I answered that they sing for many of the same reasons the birds sing. They sing for a mate, to claim their territory, or simply to give voice to the delight of being alive in the midst of a beautiful day.” Ronstadt was kind enough to speak with Rock Cellar Magazine for a feature interview. We are pleased to reprint this interview courtesy of the good folks at Rock Cellar Magazine.

upon…like when you’re struggling and then you have to describe how you came to succeed. I remember clearly somebody showing me that “You’re No Good” was number one on the Billboard pop chart, the Billboard country chart, and the Billboard rhythm and blues chart. It turned out it didn’t happen and I’ve corrected it in the book. I remembered it so clearly and now I think it probably happened but I don’t think it was Billboard magazine; it might have been a local chart. But I also remember thinking “what good does this do having this kind of major success?” because I didn’t care for the way I sang ”You’re No Good.” I didn’t think the vocal was any good. The success of “You’re No Good” was not something I was proud about but rather it was something I was so disappointed in.

I don’t know what I learned about myself doing the book. Thinking about it, I guess I learned that I have a terrible memory and that I often remember things where events are condensed and dates are very fuzzy to me. I’d remember someone dying five years before she did. They say they have been able to create false memories in mice. I’m not inclined to brag, as you may have noticed after reading the book. I know certain things are important to readers that you need to touch

RCM: That’s surprising to hear. Why didn’t you think the vocal on that song passed muster? Linda Ronstadt: I was tired and we’d been working on “You’re No Good” for a long time. I was also a little tired of the song anyway because we’d been doing it on stage. I sang it all day and my voice was all worn out and my rhythm was a little off. I just didn’t like it and didn’t like my phrasing on it.

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very much time to do music. From an early age, I was able to get paid singing, not a lot of money but it was enough to eat. I was able to get by singing in whatever kind of a venue I could find to play. I mean, I wasn’t fussy, I played in pizza parlors and beatnik dives and all kinds of strange places. I played The Insomniac down in Hermosa Beach, which is now thankfully a parking lot. We played wherever we could get a job and we were lucky to get jobs and happy to get jobs.

RCM: In your book you state, “Our parents sang to us from the time we were babies.” Linda Ronstadt: I come from a really musical family. Everybody sang in my family. They weren’t doing it on a professional level and weren’t as good as Richard and Linda Thompson’s kids or the McGarrigles, but we sang in tune and we sang in time and we sang the things we loved and we sang with each other. I think it’s really important for people to do their own music. I think we’re very eager to delegate our artistic endeavors and experiences to professionals, like we don’t do our own drawing and painting. We don’t do our own dancing. Unless you live in New Orleans no one in this country dances (laughs). It’s a shame. It’s fine to have heroes. It’s good to have people like Adele or Pink or whoever’s a good singer, but you need to have your own thing too.

RCM: Did it take you a while to find your own voice? Linda Ronstadt: It took me about ten years. I started sounding like myself in the late ‘70s. It wasn’t until I actually went to Broadway and came back that I really landed on my voice and oddly enough it was with the Nelson Riddle stuff. I can sing rock and roll and I had a successful career doing it, but I wasn’t as personally invested in that as I was singing those standards. Those 72

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songs are exquisite works of art; they’re beautifully crafted and are written for singers. (laughs) And also, the person that I was and the way that I was raised didn’t make me part of that rough and tumble world. Was I there? Yes. Did I try drugs? Of course. Did I like it? Not particularly. It just wasn’t who I was. You go to where you need to go to get music. I always made sure I had a musical reason to be hanging around and I always made sure I had a ride home. Those were the two essentials. (laughs). And you get good songs that way. RCM: Singing in private and at family functions is one thing, putting yourself out there to sing in public is another. What compelled you to go that route? Linda Ronstadt: I just wanted to be able to do music all the time. So if I had a job at a bank or had a job driving a cab or teaching English or nursery school I wouldn’t have

Playing a place like the Troubadour in Hollywood was a really big deal. We probably would have paid to have played there. Now you have to pay to play clubs but not back then. We certainly couldn’t have afforded it in those days and thankfully they didn’t have that policy then. They paid us starvation wages but we somehow got by. RCM: Speaking of the Troubadour, in the late ‘60s you were part of that musical nexus which spawned so many burgeoning artists. How did that club figure into your musical development? Linda Ronstadt: The Troubadour was probably a less sophisticated version of café society. It actually wasn’t that unsophisticated; there were plenty of sophisticated people coming in and out of there. But it was kind of like a version of the West Coast casual café society. So it was a café in the true sense of the word where there were a lot of artists coming and going there. You’d get something to eat, you’d get a drink, you’d hear a story, and

you could have a soft shoulder to cry on, whatever. People really influenced each other in that place. That was a little microcosm for a while where people could see performers in a small place that was sympathetic to music. After everybody got to be such big stars and music started going in those huge arenas, we just didn’t influence each other as much. All the musicians were surprisingly supportive. Yes, there was a lot of competition and there was a little bit of cut throat activity. I think it shows a lot in the work of the Eagles and Jackson Browne and JD Souther; I knew all of them very well. They were there to support each other. They really did help and encourage each other. They wrote together and they really tried to get the best out of each other and that was impressive because they could have just as easily sliced each other down. I’ve been around situations where everybody was trying to be hipper than thou and pull all of the hip people into one corner of the room and laugh at all the people that weren’t hip. There was a lot of that going on in the ‘60s around Bob Dylan and around a lot of those English bands. That was sort of the attitude of wanting to get with the hipper side. But I never bought into that. It was so competitive and all about looking down at other people and trying to trip them up and make them look bad. Everybody’s in there at some level just to learn and it gets down finally to, “Can you pull your weight? Can you do the job at hand? Can you make up that harmony or make up that lead lick or figure out that arrangement?” And for me, that’s what really counts, not who’s hipper. (laughs). Rolling Stone magazine really encouraged that attitude. It was a kind of Puritanism and I never liked it.

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I hadn’t evolved that arrangement in an organic way, which was the manner in which I usually approach music. I hadn’t done it with the group but had chosen it as a song for myself and I thought it was a hit. I wanted to recut it but Nik wouldn’t go for it. The version of “Different Drum” that was a hit was the second time we cut it. We’d cut it first with just guitar, a mandolin and acoustic bass. I didn’t think that version was strong enough so we decided to recut it but then we recut it with the orchestra, which was shocking to me. We only ran through two takes of it and that was it.

Different Drum. Linda and the Stone Poneys

RCM: Tell us how you found the Mike Nesmith song, “Different Drum,” which became your first major hit with The Stone Poneys. Linda Ronstadt: See, I had these bluegrass records by the early bluegrass guys and then there were these New York musicians who really loved that music and tried to emulate it, like the Greenbriar Boys who used to travel with Joan Baez. They were really wonderful. Their lead singer was John Harold and he was a good singer. In fact, I first heard “Different Drum” on a record by the Greenbriar Boys and I didn’t know that Mike Nesmith had written it. I knew Mike Nesmith and knew he was a very talented guy but didn’t realize it was his song until after I learned it and had fallen in love with it. That song had a sentiment that I wanted to say. It was something I wanted to proclaim for myself, which is how I pick all the songs I sing. I picked it and loved the way he sang it, and I also loved his treatment of it, which was acoustic. The Stone Poneys were into folk rock and I was trying to make sure the song had a little bit more than just a traditional approach to it. “Different Drum” wasn’t even a traditional song but already they’d (Capitol Records) taken it and made a synthesis. I wanted to make it a little bit more mine and more of that California thing. Our producer, Nik Venet, hired this arranger, Jimmy Bond, who’s a darling man, very smart, a good jazz musician and a good arranger for pop stuff. But I was just shocked by the treatment they gave “Different Drum.” 74

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We used some players from the Wrecking Crew on that– Don Randi was on harpsichord and Jimmy Gordon on drums. When you had expensive musicians on the clock you didn’t keep them long. Those players in the Wrecking Crew were so good you could book half a session and that would be enough time to get what you wanted recorded properly. We used them on Different Drum because they were the first call studio guys. I didn’t know that world at all; I’d just come from Tucson and I had no clue. I’d just played music with the people that I knew; I didn’t know there were other people you could hire. I was worried about it. It’s not that they weren’t good players—my God, they were vastly better players than we were—but they hadn’t evolved along our same path. They hadn’t absorbed the same musical idiosyncrasies that we had so I felt the recording of “Different Drum” didn’t sound like us. And I was right; it didn’t sound anything like us. (laughs) But “Different Drum” was a hit and, as it turned out, the way The Stone Poneys sounded wasn’t destined for success. RCM: While growing up, you enjoyed the rich diversity of top 40 radio with acts like Louis Armstrong playing next to The Beatles, Paul Revere and the Raiders alongside Dean Martin. Do you think that diversity impacted on the various genres you so effortlessly tackled through your career? Linda Ronstadt: Oh, it had a tremendous impact on me. My background at home had that kind of diversity so I resonated with it. We listened to all kinds of different music when I was growing up. My father and mother loved a lot of different types of music. So when I turned the radio on and heard all these different kinds of artists, it had a big impact on me and I’m sure influenced me later in choosing to record all kinds of different styles of music.

RCM: The Stone Poneys opened shows for The Doors and you got to know Jim Morrison. Linda Ronstadt:

Jim [Morrison] was very soft spoken, quiet and very moody. When he was not drunk he seemed nice enough, but as soon as he began to drink he really got very wild so quickly, which was frightening to me.

I’d never been around that kind of heavy drinking and seeing someone like Jim Morrison – who had such a personality – change when he drank was very frightening to me. It was scary to witness when someone seems one way and then they turn into someone else. I was very young and it frightened me. I used to watch The Doors play every night. They were great. They were a power trio and were one of the best bands I’d ever heard at that point. I thought they were fabulous. I didn’t much care for Morrison’s singing even before we toured with them. The first time I saw them play live was at the Whiskey-AGo-Go and I think they had just recorded “Light My Fire” and it hadn’t become a big hit yet. I was very impressed with the group and said, “They’re gonna be a big hit band!” But to be completely frank, I thought if they’d gotten a better singer they’d be a much better group. (laughs) RCM: Reading your book, I was surprised that you seemed uncomfortable making the move from the Stone Poneys to a solo career. Linda Ronstadt: You’re right, I was uncomfortable for the simple reason that I never wanted to be a solo artist. I was always trying to get back in a group. That’s why I

sang with Dolly (Parton) and Emmylou (Harris) and that’s why I sang with Aaron (Neville). I love singing with other people. I can do things with my voice with other people that I could never do by myself. RCM: Why is that? Linda Ronstadt: Because whatever the colors and the textures are in someone’s voice, you try to reflect them, you try to mash ‘em, you try to embellish them and you try to augment them. Those all become things you wouldn’t come upon on your own. It’s very intuitive. Art is like water; you’re just kind of reflecting everything that’s around you. So somebody comes in with sky, somebody comes in with the earth, somebody comes in with the flower and you’re just reflecting all those different things. You’re not thinking about it. It’s not a conscious process; it’s a collaborative process. So when I sing with Emmy I make sounds with my voice that I’d never make with anyone else or on my own. Same way with Aaron. My God, Aaron got stuff out of me vocally that I thought I could never do! RCM: Have you always been hard on yourself as a singer? Linda Ronstadt: I’ve never liked any of my records. I just hear the vocals and they make me shudder.

learn because I didn’t have it. I didn’t realize people spend years in conservatories honing these skills. (laughs) And I never did any of that. I couldn’t read music and wasn’t very proficient at an instrument, which was a huge mistake because I could have been. I can pick up the guitar and play it but I never really worked at it because there were so many good guitar players around. I mean, why bother? That was a big mistake. RCM: While you wrote and cowrote songs, more often than not you recorded outside material. As an interpreter of songs, what were the defining criteria for you that compelled you to say, “I want to record that song”? Linda Ronstadt: It has to have a line in it, not the whole song but at least one line that just made me go, “That’s exactly how I feel about my life,” and sometimes it could be about the way a chord is voiced in the rhythm pattern. Sometimes it wouldn’t even be about the lyrics, sometimes it could just be about the chords. Jimmy Webb is so good at voicing chords in a way that just rips your stomach open. To read the interview in its entirety, and hear more of Linda’s great music click here.

I always say there are three elements that go into music. There’s story, there’s voice and there’s musicianship. Some people are stronger in one area than another. I was strong on story and strong on voice but not as strong on musicianship, but that came later and I learned after a while. I thought I just couldn’t Our USA Magazine 75


ailroads have been a part of life in this country since the 1800s when they replaced the covered wagons for hauling people and goods across the continent. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, but the Pennsylvania Railroad began operating in 1846. The February 1946, issue of “National Geographic” states that 1946 marked the 100th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s service to the American people. While that was an interesting anniversary, it meant nothing to me. I was born in 1946, so the “Pennsy” had been around for 100 years before I was. Shortly after my birth, however, it began to take on meaning for me. My family lived on a small seven-acre farm in Northeastern Indiana, west of Monroeville and east of Fort Wayne. The seven acres formed a triangle with gravel roads on two sides and the railroad tracks making the third side, crossing both roads. I learned later it was the New York to Chicago route and it cut right through my backyard. I have many recollections of the trains, all etched in my memory. The hobos, as they were known then, would occasionally knock on the back door and ask my mother if she had any work for them. She never asked them to do anything, but she always fixed them a sandwich and gave them a glass of cold water. I would stand on the back porch, peering through the screen on the wood-framed door and watch them as they sat on the cistern cover to eat their sandwich. I wanted to know all about their lives, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to them. They seemed to appear out of nowhere and as quickly as they came, they were gone again, walking along the tracks until another freight train rolled by. The tracks bordered our orchard. One particularly dry summer, a passing train set the grass at the edge of the orchard on fire. My mother, older sister and grandmother ran a bucket brigade from the well to the fire. I was too little to carry a bucket of water, so my job was to keep the buckets filled. The fire was extinguished and I remember when my father came home from working in town, he said a hot brake box probably caused it. I had no idea what that was, but it certainly caused a lot of excitement on an otherwise boring summer day. My mother had the timing of the freight trains down to a science. She knew when to hang her newly washed white sheets on the line to dry, so the soot from the smoke would not fall on them. Once in a while, the train was ahead of schedule. When she heard the whistle, we would all scramble to grab those sheets before it passed by. If I was outside when a train went past, I would wave so hard my arm almost flew off. The engineers always waved back and sometimes the men in the caboose did, too. I was fascinated by the people who looked out the windows of the passenger cars, especially the ones in the dining car. I wanted to know where they were going and where they had come from. Once, I walked along the tracks with my father, I found a small sauce dish that had been used in the dining car. It had no cracks or chips. It was pink and cream-colored and bore the logo of the Pennsylvania Railroad. I was ecstatic. You would have thought it was made of gold. I insisted on having my food served in it, of course. As an adult, I took the train to Chicago. I could hardly wait to visit the dining car. When my cousin would stay overnight, she complained the train whistles kept her awake. I thought that was funny, because I didn’t even hear them when I went to bed. I probably learned to count by counting the cars on the lumbering freight trains. I still find myself counting the cars if I am waiting at a crossing. I live in town now, but when my windows are open, I can hear the trains as they pass through and I still enjoy that mournful sound. As a baby, I fell asleep to the lullaby of those train whistles and I have never lost my love of hearing them.


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My Side of the tracks By Gloria Doty

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obos is a name coined for men and women, but almost exclusively men who travel as migrant workers, or left their friends and family in the depression or after wars when there was no work for them in their home cities. They either left to go look for a job or just to avoid the stress and strain of life where they could not support their families because there were no jobs. They would maybe jump on a train and ride in a boxcar to the next city to find a temporary job such as construction, or picking strawberries for the season. Hobos do not like to be labeled or to have people talk for them: they are an independent lot and they really do not fit into any category. The ones who actually call themselves hobos have a sort of code of the road that they adhere to or are aware of, and this code is some ways enforced or not enforced. The hobo is penniless and poor, and lives by his or her wits from day to day, and the future is not important because they have to normally make the cheap choice, and not the best choice. They are pragmatic and accept the reality that they are not rich and they must accept the way they must travel from place to place. There is a love of trains for the hobos. Train hopping is almost synonymous with being a hobo and, although there is no hard core connection that says a hobo must travel by train, it is the customary or common way for a hobo to travel.


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In the early years of transportation in the USA, the easiest, quickest, and most convenient way to travel was by rail, so there became a hobo culture that had its community centered around the trains and living close to the railway. They would set up camps close to train tracks and live in these camps waiting for the next train, or working at a local job, ready to leave whenever they heard the sound of the train whistle. Life for the hobo was harsh, and brutal in many ways. It was not the life for the weak of will, or the person who could not tolerate some bad conditions. They did what they had to do to survive and this was not always the best of ways. A hobo was in many ways a good familyman that ran astray and did not know how to compete in the world of normal jobs, and especially when the ravages of war or the depression took away their jobs, and threw them into the road. So there is a resourcefulness to the idea of being a hobo that says you will survive by doing what you have to do. Hobos were both loved and hated by people. Maybe there is the “but for the grace of God, there goes I” mentality, and back to the basic idea of human nature. People take care of each other in the end. If the time really gets bad, there is a common bond of misery or poverty people can share, but they can also be cruel and mean. Life is not always so good for the hobo: you do not just fit in like the rest of the people. And how do you ever get up to normal standards of the community by getting a good shower, a clean bed and clothes when you are living in boxcars or traveling for days, and the last meal you had is not remembered clearly.

The word “hobo” is almost exclusively used by the American culture and a bit by the British, Australian, and New Zealand cultures. Basically it is an American-originated word, adopted or utilized by other English speaking countries. It is part of Americana and the world of being a rag muffin immigrant land where people had traveled to for the dream of golden streets, and land of plenty, but there was not always a way to live. The American dream, although not achieved by the hobo, was still professed, and understood at its more essential end. Being a hobo in America was about the ability to claim the American dream in the end by saying, I be Hobo, I be FREE! So the love of freedom and the wonder or wanderlust of the hobo has led them to explore the places the rest of the world did not go and often did not want to go, but also helped them to understand real freedom. I did no justice to the hobo, and I am just a traveler without a home. I appreciate their free spirit, but also understand the loneliness, and possibly the life of a hobo with no future. There are lot of hobos in the world that neither can return to their homes, do not remember how to return home,or find, when they do return, that they must leave for the road calls, and they only feel complete when they are traveling. Andy Lee Graham has traveled perpetually for 15 years and lived in 90 countries. Read as he explains the wonders of the planet ,writing daily about a life less normal. Read more at Andy Lee Graham the HoboTraveler.com

By Andy Lee Graham

Photo: Wintersixfour Our USA Magazine 79

To cope with the difficulty of hobo life, hobos developed a system of symbols, or a code. Hobos would write this code with chalk or coal to provide directions, information, and warnings to other hobos. Some signs included “turn right here,” “beware of hostile railroad police,” “dangerous dog,” “food available here,” and so on. For instance:

Sign reads: Ferry is free for pedestrians or on bicycle. “X” means “OK”, slashed circle “Good way to go.” Others unknown Hobo markings at Algiers entrance to Canal Street Ferry across Mississippi River, New Orleans.

Image:HoboMarkingsCanalStFerry 80

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Two young street artists (collage and graffiti) met in 2008 behind school desks and started drawing together. After a few four-hand drawings and paintings, they decided to form THTF in November, 2009. That was the beginning of illustration works in large black & white formats. Big smileys and cuious characters eager to discover and interact with the world in which they’re introduced, geometric shapes, surreal elements and the most entwined works began populating street walls which became their playground. These collages allowed THTF to be noticed by the public and to access places of contemporary art where they presented more accomplished works such as colorful paintings and sculptures.

Thanks Frrresh Visual Arts Magazine, Croatia


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Hobo Hieroglyphics Today?

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Less Miserable


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s to Leading Men

By Susie Duncan Sexton


h, the holidays–magical, manic, frantic, stress-inducing, scintillating! Unfortunately, my heretofore rather mild psoriasis attack blossomed into Elephant-Man-itis. Doctor appointments wriggled their way into the usual notably bustling festivities. Exhaustion and disillusionment R US! “Doctor Feel-Good” adventures invaded my individualistic “I do what I wanna do, and when I wanna do it” schedule at the traditionally nuttiest time of the year–the progression of three celebrations throughout November to January, dictated by the calendar for ages upon ages. You’d better be game. Ride those sparkling events like a demented Beach Boy hanging onto a precariously slippery surfboard for dear life! No exceptions! Always remain perky and full of positive thoughts! Bah! Humbug! This particular season, national events encompassed: stomach churning fiscal cliffs; stubborn “gunblasting-our-way-to-total-obliterative-MASS-massacre” foolishly contentious debates; wildlife culling promoted as sportsy; “looking occasionally cross-eyed” broadcast by the NRA to be certifiable mental illness, which is supposedly the only reason that increasingly (currently, more guns in the United States than people) heavily armed, paranoid, violent humans slay one another; ever-present, extremist political points of view quashing peaceful, reasonable dialogue; and self-defeating refusals to deal with climate change’s environmental emergencies–ALL of the aforementioned trampling upon one’s liberal-progressive spirit. Chinese water torture. It follows that a person might reflect inner turmoil via the –“pain of psoriasis”– systemic, unpredictable, an all-too-obvious reaction to the world at large! Furthermore, I am “got” because pharmaceuticals thundered into the life of somebody who never even swallows an aspirin. Ever! Hypochondria’s not my style. Probably I lean more toward “Christian Science,” but our local branch shut down scores of years ago. Our USA Magazine 85

Quick-fix time! Who relishes feeling even a teensy bit under the weather? But how about greeting each day while covered with chicken-pox polka dots which “flare” into patchy, fire-engine red, scaly patches manifesting their myriad selves into mysterious patterns and configurations via a case of latterday leprosy once featured in Bible stories, left and right? Life, according to Thackeray, is a “Vanity Fair”! Unsightly, temperamental skin eruptions, other than a few scattered mole-like beauty marks here and there, assure that I’ll be more antisocial than I am already! Difficult to fathom! Googling unearthed fellow sufferers comic Jon Lovitz and reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian. Misery loves company! Any boob-tubed obsessed couch potato knows that our societal dependence upon prescription or overthe-counter medications guarantees accompanying unwanted results whenever we watch impossibly perfect models wander gleefully and prettily through peppy commercials. Side effects listed provide the bulk of the voice-over’s script: “possible liver failure, pituitary tumors, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, heart attacks, alteration of personality, debilitating anxiety –please discontinue use if any of these new symptoms develop!” Waxy, cortisone-based, steroidalloaded applications of topical, slathering creams initially converted me into a walking Christmas candle. Within a couple of anxious weeks, I experienced a switch-over to a greasy, oily concoction, no longer in toothpaste sized tubes but rather in huge jars, which assures that I could effortlessly swim the English Channel as a revisited, slicked-up Gertrude Ederle! These ointments and salves co-mingle, entering my 86

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blood stream prompting both inventive dreams and convincing hallucinations. Truly, I spotted JFK, or his identical twin, at Richard’s Restaurant recently. “Jack” appeared very fit and startlingly elegant in an expensive overcoat, his distinctive shock of hair–still parted and combed to one side–now glistening silver. The president’s steely blue eyes peered in my direction in a decidedly aloof country club/landed gentry manner. I spoke to him and am comforted that my husband also witnessed this occurrence. Rod Serling, in a nearby booth, may have been jotting down notes for his “Twilight Zone” series. Thus, following my relentless rounds with the medical profession in an attempt to retrieve cosmetic acceptability, what truly soothed my jangled holiday nerves? Leading Men! Handsome matinee idols recently paraded across movie screens before my eager, adulatory eyes! These dudes re-directed my vain, obsessive fixation with my skin onto their perilous adventures with–respectively–Her Majesty’s Secret Service MI6, civil wars, and French revolutions. Daniel “James Bond-007” Craig stylishly and ruggedly pursuing villains as the sky falls all around himself. Daniel Day Lewis’s 150% inhabiting of the iconic persona of a Christ-like Abraham Lincoln; and hunky Hugh “Jean Valjean(#24601)” Jackman’s completely convincing, mesmerizing transformation from a despicable singing French convict into an angelic singing French savior of lost souls, stole my heart! I vicariously cheered, swooned, and suffered! Sacha Baron Cohen and Javier Bardem

boosted my spirits also, as both appeared in these very films as cleverly clownish villains! Upton Sinclair regarded Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, “Les Miserables,” as “one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world”–agreed! Susie Sexton, likewise, considers Russell Crowe to be “one of the halfdozen greatest actors of this world or any other!” I’ll not be moved to change my accurate evaluation of the Australian perfectionist. Contrary to probably countless audience members’ appraisals, I revelled in his Gladiator - Insider - Beautiful Mind-blended super-intelligent approach to the character of conflicted, yet determined “Inspector Javert.” His execution (Crowe detractors might snarkily agree with the word “execution”) of the constant musicalized dialogue, required of the entire cast at all times, demonstrated consistent focus, flawless articulation, and a raw honesty captured by not one other vocalist as exquisitely. Extraordinary Russell’s inspirational believability astounds me. Not since Spencer Tracy regaled audiences with total naturalness for decades have I ever been so impressed by any actor. Russ’s Inspector Javert, planted firmly amidst dismally dreary overwrought deprived and depraved local masses of French humanity dubbed “Les Miserables,” provided the highlight of my 2012-13 holi-daze malaise!

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Great Reads

All Books Available on Amazon.com








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1. From personal experiences to quotes - The Be Something Project will simply allow you to stop the craziness of the world - if only for a few moments - and look at yourself and the world in a new way.


2. In Susie Duncan Sexton’s follow-up to Secrets of an Old Typewriter, she offers her second essay collection of provocative, funny, and heartwarming/ heartbreaking observations. 3. In A Piece of her Mind you 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.


4. And One More Thing is a collection of twentyfour essays taking you on a journey where you will pause to reflect on the little things in life that you have no doubt about whatsoever. Thomas searches for places of solitude, dines with cowboys, dances with Dick Clark in her dreams and shares closet space with her spouse.


Great Gifts


5. Heroic Vignettes by Tami Richards. These brief biographies portray the wisdom and strength of female heroes, women who rose above their circumstances to improve their lives and their world 6. A perfect home, perfect neighbors, in a perfect, new, neighborhood and all is well. Or is it? This happy middle-class family is soon terrorized by an unknown entity that is relentless. But in the Golden Haze, they have their special guardian to help and protect them. 7. In her nationally best-selling book Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!, Tama shares the journey of accessing your deep inner power and using it to fuel a future of inspired prosperity. 8. 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. Mae’s Open Arms offers a poignant tale of dreams, change, giving back, and strength. 9. A fatherless little leaguer and his single mom find their fortunes changing when a mysterious stranger arrives in their moribund little town. Can one damaged man really make a difference in so many lives? We discover the truth in Giant Killers. 10. Everything comes at a price. Love. Security. Even happiness. Southern debutante Rosemarie Kuhn is captivated by the lowborn private detective Michael Hennessy. In The New Orleans Way, status and propriety can get in the way of true love. Our USA Magazine 89

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This is Winston (Joseph) Sharp from Warrenton, Virginia. He is visiting his grandparents, Joe and Brenda Bish, in Langville, PA. “Joey� is very proud to be an American. He is standing in their driveway beside an eagle which I hand- painted for them. Photo courtesy Janet R. Sady

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Our USA Winter Issue  

Remarkable Stories & Photos Created by Remarkable Americans Just Like You!

Our USA Winter Issue  

Remarkable Stories & Photos Created by Remarkable Americans Just Like You!


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