If you are fortunate enough in life to have good friends who are are a few years older, and they are willing to share with you the ups and downs of life, you are quite lucky.  Good friends like that can help you realize what is really a problem and worth worrying about and what is something you need to deal with.  When you are young, maybe it’s dating, social issues or the workplace.  As you move on in life, it’s the problems that come with having a spouse, kids and other timely issues.  It’s a very smart person who can learn from the successes and problems of others and maybe avoid them in your life.  

Dolly performing Thanksgiving evening at AT & T Stadium during the Dallas Cowboys at halftime.

     In this time we are living everything is so readily available at our fingertips, from the overnight last minute thing you need on Amazon the person you need to get in touch with just because you are thinking about them cross country, to the answer to that question you are unable to think of by looking it up on your phone, modern technology allows us to do so much at the drop of a hat and it also allows us, with social media, and so much written media, to know up close and somewhat personal, with so many media outlets and numerous journalists world wide and cell phones in most people’s hands, anyone with a smart phone can record anyone, anywhere and submit footage to any news organization or upload to Facebook, Instagram, Rumble or Truth Social or X “Curious Minds” can soak up tidbits from best selling biographies, both authorized and unauthorized, interviews from the most sought after journalists like Piers Morgan, Oprah Winfrey or Tucker Carlson and we all remember the tell all interviews conducted by ABC’s superstar interviewer, Barbara Walters. 

     Thanksgiving evening during the Dallas Cowboys football game, country music star, Dolly Parton performed in the AT & T Stadium singing a medley of her hits over her longtime career, complete with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleader outfit. Over the next few days, I got to thinking of Dolly Parton, her songs and her successes as a musician, writer, entertainer and entrepreneur.  One thing leads to another when you start thinking about a person or a topic and I thought about other women about her age who have had similar levels of success in their own areas of expertise. The first names who came to mind were these ladies all pros in their field.  There are some similarities, many differences however, the common thread in them all is their work ethic and their talent.  Pair talent with the willingness to not be out worked, and creativity which each one of these are brimming with, as well and how could they not have succeeded.  

     Dolly Parton, age 77 grew up in a large Christian family. What her family lacked in finances, they made up for in their strong faith and common sense.  Dolly’s ancestors had come from Great Britain where folk songs were handed down from generation to generation. She grew up singing and when she was a teenager she started writing songs.  She moved to Nashville and began writing songs for other singers.  One thing led to another, she created a new persona for herself and the rest is history.  Dolly realized early on that there were many women out there with a good voice, she realized that she needed to set herself apart and she did.  Her wigs, costumes and physique DID set her apart, got her attention and people quickly realized how good she was. You need to get the audiences attention.  If she had no talent, it would have been for naught.  You don’t sell 100 million records world wide if you have no talent. She has starred in movies, recorded numerous hits, created an amusement park in Tennessee call Dollywood, a dinner theater stage show called “Dolly Parton’s Stampede” in Branson, MO.  She has been married to the same man, Carl Dean,  from an early age, who helped her raise some of her younger siblings and maintained his own asphalt business in Nashville, choosing to stay out of the spot life. Dolly Parton has given quietly to plenty of charities and local Tennessee disasters to help those in need.  With few missteps in a longtime successful career, Dolly Parton has lived a life of a strong faith, loyalty to a dedicated husband and extended family, a true performer and successful businesswoman.  Those are good lessons learned in life from a true performer, longtime wife, successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. Thank-you Dolly.

Ina and Jeffrey Garten on their wedding day and all these years later, she still enjoys cooking for Jeffrey, she even named a cookbook after him.

     Ina Rosenberg Garten, age 75, was born in New York City to a surgeon father and a dietician mother who stressed the importance of academics. Her mother didn’t expect her to take her turn with kitchen duties, but pressed Ina to succeed in her studies. She liked the sciences, however went on to Syracuse University to study business and economics.  When her family was visiting her brother at Dartmouth she met her eventual husband, Jeffry Garten when she was sixteen years old.  They eventually married, moved to Ft. Bragg where Jeffrey was stationed before serving in Vietnam. After serving, he went on to get doctorate degree from John’s Hopkins.  Following graduation, he and Ina travelled and camped through Europe.  Ina enjoyed trying the different food and became very interested in French cuisine and all of the local food markets.  Jeffrey and Ina went to work in Washington DC for the government at the White House for the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations.  Ina studied cooking and enjoyed hosting dinner parties for the Washington DC friends. They eventually left DC when they were ready for a change of pace.  Ina saw an add in the NW Times for a little grocery store for sale in the Hamptons.  They took a drive up to the Hamptons when they saw a little grocery store for sale called “The Barefoot Contessa”, named after the Ava Gardner character in the 1950s movie. They made the purchase, moved their life to Connecticut with Jeffrey becoming a professor at Yale. The store was a success and it grew.  She catered, was written up in Martha Stewart Living in an early issue of the Magazine and from there, her success took off.  Ina is quick to credit others in helping her succeed from her chef’s, staff and most notably, her husband, Jeffrey, now a retired Yale College Professor who she loves to cook for.  The cookbooks are numerous, the first being The Barefoot Contessa, followed by The Barefoot Contessa Parties, The Barefoot Contessa in Paris, Cooking for Jeffrey and on and on all titles start with the same, Barefoot Contessa.  Each recipe starts with a short background or introduction to ‘set the stage’.  I find myself doing that with my recipes both in my book and Marvelous Monday Recipe posts on itsagreatdayto.com.  Ina is smart, creative, and hardworking.  Although I do not know her personally, I have read nothing but good things about her.  She and Jeffrey have no children but it seems as if they like to surround themselves with  with family and close friends. Lessons learned from Ina are that you can have success in an area you didn’t train for.  She studied business and economics, she wrote proposals for different government agencies.  However, that business education and knowledge no doubt helped her in running her Barefoot Contessa grocery store/catering and her prepared mixes and sauces businesses.  Another lesson learned from Ina,  to entertain with ease, you need to prepare and keep things simple.  Ina’s ingredients are mostly items you could pickup at your local store.  I’d have to say that Ina’s books have played a huge role in teaching me how to cook and create good food for my family.  Thank-you Ina.

     When Tina Turner passed away at age 83 earlier this year, so may spoke of her talent and in the same breath, her ability to succeed in the toughest of situations.  She was talented from early on and married early to a man who ended up being jealous of her success and abusive.  She left him and at a time when most women in the entertainment field at that time were winding down a performing career, Tina was ready for act 2.  She found success in the European music scene where her age seemed to be less of an issue.  She started playing small venues and then started performing with friends like David Bowie and Mick Jagger and she started experiencing more and more success. Her goal in act 2 was to be a female rock and roll performer.  She did it and along the way she found a man who loved her exactly the way she was.  As her life went on she could look back on the tough days not with regret but with the feeling of “they allowed her to end up where she did”. Lessons learned from Tina were that, “It’s never to late” to do what you want to do, no matter how far fetched the idea may seem to others.  If you have a focus/an idea the desire to do it and you are willing to work hard  for it, well then you CAN make it happen.  And, it may even turn out better and bigger than you ever could have imagined with a good person by your side along the way.”  Thank you Tina.

     Finally, Martha Stewart.  Probably some of the most important lessons I have learned from these four very successful ladies, would be from Martha.  Although I have not met her, I know a few people close to her and her extended family.  I have read most of her cookbooks, other books and biographies.  I know the most ‘about’ Martha.  She was born in Nutley, New Jersey.  When she started her career, in home making/domestic arts, she came to it from a financial background.  Her first professional job out of Barnard College was working with Francis “Frank” William in the field of finance in New York City.  She met and married, Yale Law School grad, Andrew Stewart, had a daughter, Alexis and when Alexis was young, Martha desired to get back into the working world.  It was the late sixties/early seventies and options were limited for part time work in her area of investing and finances.  She liked throwing dinner parties and soon started a catering business. Martha and her husband bought a fixer upper in Westport, Connecticut, and did it true to the period the house was built in.  It had a large yard which they landscaped and they planted an aisle way of beautiful trees they imagined their daughter walking through when she would grow up and marry at this very house.  Martha became a sought after caterer and party planner.  One thing led to another, she hired help and assistants and when her husband began working in the legal end of publishing he was able to secure a book deal with the company he worked for, Clarkson Potter and a top notch photographer to record her parties and events for her first book, Martha Stewart’s Entertaining, the book that would put her on the map and eventually lead to the Kmart deal, the magazine LIVING, more books, a show and eventually the creation of Martha Stewart Omni-media.  

     Martha Stewart was “introduced” to me when I read an article about her in the Sunday NY Times.  The dorm I lived in at the University of Michigan had quite a few students from New York so we carried the Sunday times and it was laying around the 3rd floor library, and that’s where I became a reader back then.  A few years later, when I was engaged, I was reading a Sunday edition and read about Martha and her new book Entertaining.  I purchased the book at Borders in Ann Arbor, read that book cover to cover and quickly became interested in entertaining, homemaking, cooking and anything associated with it.  When Martha launched her first special with PBS, I tuned in and took notes, wanting to do things the way Martha did, all while looking spectacular.  Later I would read that Martha and her staff took 5 days to produce that video and they marveled that they tried to make it all look easy yet no one could do it with such ease.  When Martha’s magazine came out, I bought the first issue and quickly signed up for a bi-monthly subscription.  The magazine was a hit.  I read that when Martha and her team pitched to investors for a supposedly July issue, investors, they said “very nice, but what could you produce for the “following July?” Martha and her team were brimming with ideas and off the cuff rattled off a long list of ideas for a subsequent issue and then another.”  That’s what a PRO can do and when you know you have a good idea, the thoughts keep coming.  Investors were impressed and ready to “be all in.”

    There were many things I looked forward to in Martha Stewart’s bi-monthly magazine, I liked the people she introduced to her readers, like Ina Garten who had recently purchased and made a hit, “The Barefoot Contessa” mentioned above, Martha’s opening Introduction was good, her calendar and most interesting to me was her last page, REMEMBERING.  Each month, Martha treated us to her memories of growing up in Nutley with her siblings and parents, Martha and Kostyra of Polish and Russian descent.  She reminisced about the kitchen scents, household chores, the backyard garden, the ethnic neighborhood, Wolfe the butcher her mother would shop at his shop where she learned about the different cuts of meat and what each was used for.  The most memorable REMEMBERING was a few years before she was arrested and went to trial.  This was the issue that was the most important lesson learned from Martha.  The essay was about her only child, Alexis’s wedding.  I sat down to read as surly the wedding had been a grand event.  With no social media at then, it wasn’t unusual for a celebrity wedding to happen and you didn’t hear about it until a later date with no FB or Twitter to announce to the world.  All we could hope for was People magazine or Entertainment Tonight or a few pages in Town & Country or In Style a couple months later.  I’m paraphrasing here but this is the idea of what I read, thinking back to the Turkey Hill home Martha and Her husband, Andy has purchased with the aisle way of trees for Alexis and Andy to walk through.  “My daughter Alex got married.  Rather than the wedding I had imagined at our home in Westport, it was city hall  in New York City.  Rather than a pretty white dress, Alexis work a gray pinstriped suit.  Rather than a lovely reception in our backyard, we had lunch following Alexis, her husband and myself.”  There was more but that’s all I had to read to learn a very valuable lesson a lesson that has stayed with me.

     Martha had built an “Empire” yet when her daughter married, there was no husband to celebrate with, he had, had an affair and married her assistant.  Of course you don’t need a big event to celebrate a marriage, in fact sometimes the meaning of a marriage can get lost in the details of planning a large affair of course, but this dichotomy just seemed so apart from the vision I had in my mind  of the life Martha lived.  I strived for the family around a table, nicely set and a good meal to celebrate at the end of the day where meaningful discussions would take place.  Surly, this prescription in life would yield good values instilled to children and many long and happy years for a growing family for years to come. In the years to come after that Remembering issue, Martha continued to grow in popularity, she got in trouble with the law, was found guilty and served her time in prison.  Even after that whole thing, she came back professionally. Martha proved to be every bit the smart and savvy businesswoman one more success after another. Where I had one time admired Martha and her homemaking prowess, it seemed to be maybe “just the business” and not really the way she lived her life.  Maybe she was so focused on the business that the most  important issues in her life had to take a backseat and over time of priorities not in order, the import things in life, became less important.  I didn’t want that to be me someday.  Martha gets ever bit of credit for her ability to come up with an idea, make things happen AND be able to make it financially successful for sure.  I’ve had a few friends say, “what you do is sort of like Martha Stewart.”  I take it as a HUGE compliment, but I think to myself, ‘sort of.’ She like every other woman in this group of successful can be referred to by her first name alone and you know who someone is talking about.  I hear that she does have a good relationship with her daughter, Alexis, and she enjoys traveling with her grandchildren.  I’m glad for her and hope that she has found a balance in her life now into her eighties.  Thank-you Martha.

     Hats off to these four ladies who have made their mark on the world and have taught me some very valuable lessons leading to  many Great Days in my life ❤️