Sorrow for Notre Dame…

I think for most – and certainly for many – the initial news of a terrible fire at Notre Dame was viewed as possibly either in error or not the immense blaze it became. If you have been to the cathedral, you know the awe-inspiring engineering, the beauty of the architecture, the splendor of the Rose Window, the joy in strolling in the gardens. Setting religion aside, it is a  piece of incredible history on multiple levels. I can only imagine the even deeper sorrow for my friends who are Catholic.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and I have been to Paris several times and the last two trips, we stayed near Place Saint Michele. From a location perspective it’s ideal for us. It is a short walk to Notre Dame and so of course, we always spend time there. In an amusing anecdote, when son was eleven and we were in Italy, we decided to go to Paris for Thanksgiving. On that particular trip, I booked us into a little hotel on Ile St Louis – also a nice location. We were literally in the shadow of Notre Dame. We all went to dinner and as often happened, son asked if he could go back to the hotel as Hubby and I lingered over dinner. That was fine, but when we returned, he was in the small hotel lobby reading. We asked why and his explanation made sense. The hotel was quiet and with the gargoyles of the cathedral dramatically lit at night, it did create a somewhat spooky feeling to be all alone in one’s room. He was well aware it was simply an emotional response, and he was fine, but I can’t say I blame him.

And closing on the word, “blame” –  notwithstanding the number of terror and other attacks that have become a sad reality, those were not my thoughts when I saw the dismaying photos. Buildings that old have weaknesses and in many ways, it is a wonder it survived the French Revolution and WW II. I don’t know how they will proceed with repairs nor what the end result will be. We can hope for preservation of as much as possible.

Competing for Time…..

This was going to be a busy week anyway. Multiple commitments, a friend coming into town, and some critical tasks as I am involved in preparing for two different fundraisers for two of the boards I sit on. So, a carefully orchestrated event was severely impacted by Mother Nature with only hours in which to respond. Several phone calls and quite a bit of scrambling, FB messages, and emails flying about that day and the next in setting up a new date. That, of course meant me being unable to attend an already scheduled event on the new day, but we’ll split, and Hubby will go to the function before he joins me at the rescheduled one.

The out of town friend in for a visit comes with the usual tasks of cleaning in prep, etc., and a couple of bedtimes later than usual, which doesn’t actually help with my insomnia. Related to dining out, I’m trying to decide how to creatively use some of the leftovers. Not a big deal, simply something to think through.

Next we have a crisis develop in another non-profit I work with, and it’s too complicated to get into, plus at the moment, we appear to have only bad choices. This is never a situation I like to find myself in, and yet, it’s not the first time either. Experience in such matters does help. I can delay things for a short while and hope a better solution falls from the sky or whatever.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no way I need to be concerned about getting bored. And to put things into perspective, two different friends have asked for prayers as members of their respective families have been entered into hospice and another friend is giving updates on the state of her daughter (several years younger than me) who is recovering from a stroke.

Missing Writers Conference…..

One of the things I do miss about the Washington, D.C. area is the annual writers conference in May. In actuality, the organization I belonged to was forced to finally fold due to the common problem with non-profits not being able to financially sustain in a high cost of living city. I gather another group has revived the conference. The timing was such that I was able on one occasion after we moved to attend the conference and one of son’s dance performances and perhaps the same can apply next year.

There is an energy to be had among writers even though for someone like me who has not been a commercial success, I do have to thicken my skin to hear how others have “made it”. There are always plenty of writers, however, who are still fairly new and can use experiences of those of us who have been around a while to perhaps help them along their way.I usually picked up a few good tips as well. The two conferences in this area have formats I simply don’t care for. There was talk several years ago about trying to have one here. Once the individuals involved looked at the kind of resources required, they realized it wasn’t practical. The small writers’ group has persevered over the years thanks to a couple of hard-working people. The main drawback is a lack of somewhere to meet and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the near term. No, I don’t belong to the writers’ group for reasons I don’t intend to go into.

There are conferences in GA, NC, and TN I may look into for next year because the timing this year probably won’t work with the trip I always make to Louisiana around Daddy’s birthday, plus this is the year for the big dive show in Orlando in November. (The show rotates between Las Vegas and Orlando) Ah well, I’ll keep an eye out.



Summers on the Farm….

One of the writers on Twitter sent put a request for folks to also exchange Facebook info and I did. This morning, she posted about hay in their barn and that did bring up the memory of the hayloft in my paternal grandparents’ barn. I have previously posted about my sympathy for the economic plight of family farms balanced by my recognition of why corporate farming is what actually feeds the country. Anyway, in spending part of each summer at the farm in Arkansas, there were certain givens. One was playing in the hayloft. This was of course before we realized how allergic my brother was to such things. Gathering the eggs from the chickens was a fun chore. Unless you have done this, you probably don’t know that when pigs are crowded into the trough feeding, you can stand behind them and pull (gently) the curl out of their tails and watch them curl back up. Sitting on the fence watching Papaw herd the cows back from the pasture in late afternoon was a daily treat, too. Arkansas, by the way, is hot and muggy in the summer and we would definitely nee to wash our sweaty faces more than once a day. Three hefty meals a day was in order, but snacks were mostly taking a ripe tomato from the box Mamaw kept by the back door. There is something special about eating a garden fresh tomato in the same way as you do an apple.

The annual killing of chickens to put up in the freezer was a pretty messy affair and I’m not sure we thought that was fun. There was also a lot of canning that went on and we didn’t help with that so much as we stayed out of the way. In truth, I suppose I did occasionally wonder why it was referred to as “canning” when what you actually use are mason jars.  I imagine there were times we claimed to bored although there generally was plenty going on to keep our attention.

Another Memory Stirred…..

A number of Facebook posts about Vietnam Veterans’ Day being marked March 29th brought another memory to mind. March 29, 1975 was the day the United States pulled out of the Embassy in Saigon, officially ceasing our military involvement. The South Vietnamese Army was defeated within about 30 days after.

Hubby and I both fall into the category of Vietnam Era veterans, not Vietnam veterans. Withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops had begun prior to the March 1975 date and those of us who were in varying stages of professional training realized we would not be considered ready for our first “field assignment” before the last troops were pulled out. Only those individuals who served “in country” or “in the theater” are actual Vietnam veterans. I was, however, in my professional training on March 29th. We had several South Vietnamese officers also in training with us. They were in class that morning and when we  returned after lunch, they were gone. This was my first lessons in such matters and I have never forgotten it. None of us knew where they were sent, although Fort Chaffee in Arkansas was set up to receive many of the refugees and they may have gone there. A number of years later, I worked for a major (and then again when he was a colonel) who was in the Saigon Embassy and literally was one of the last American put onto a helicopter with the Embassy’s American flag clutched in his arms. He didn’t speak of it often and knowing what I do now, the chaos he would have witnessed would have stayed with him and no doubt difficult to describe.


Not Knowing What You Don’t Know….

This isn’t as confusing as it sounds. A recent event with a major, mutual misunderstanding and some as yet unresolved tensions brought this expression to mind. I have been on both sides of this as in being in a situation where someone was convinced, “Well, you ought to know” directed at me, and me thinking the same about someone else. In the real world, however, I have also been in positions where I genuinely did not know certain things and I made mistakes due to that; some more serious than others.

Indeed, in continuing to reflect back on my Army days, I’ve mentioned my very first assignment was completely different from what it was supposed to be and it was a position to be held by a captain rather than the junior second lieutenant I was. At a minimum, it should have been a fairly senior first lieutenant. The rationale for why this  occurred is not the subject of this post, however. The individual who placed me in this position was also a demanding boss and only cut me so much slack. On the other hand, I was told in one of my moments of great self-doubt that his actual assessment of me was, “Yeah, she makes mistakes, but never the same one twice,” and the senior guys around me, to include him, did step in if it looked like I was going to make a really serious error. Which leads me to the first main point.

The event that set me to thinking about this was a case where Person A had an agreement that Person B was going to perform a certain service. Person B happily agreed and in fact was in multiple meetings when the service was being discussed. Person B had done something similar for Person C. The difference was an additional administrative requirement was applicable to Person A that had not been the case for Person C. Person B was not aware of this. Person A was not aware Person B did not know of the requirement. The lack of understanding did not come to light in time to correct the problem. “Well, they should have known,” was stated on more than one occasion. It’s a logical sentiment, but in truth, it was simply a mutual, unfortunate lack of understanding. Both parties are now very aware of the specific question to ask in the future.

The second main point is if you are thrust into a position you don’t have the training/background for, be willing to seek out the information/guidance you need and be willing to do the extra work to become as knowledgeable as possible as quickly as possible. The flip side of the coin is if you decide to pursue such a position, don’t try to pretend you won’t make mistakes. Again, be honest about what you’ll have to do and learn from the mistakes you do make. Stretching beyond your comfort zone or taking on new challenges is okay; just be honest about what it is you’re doing.


Good Deeds and Whirlwind Week….

Last week was a bit more jammed than I intended, but at times, it only takes one additional task to throw things out of whack. This week was already programmed to be as “task-heavy”, and then a couple of extra events occurred. There’s really no way around it, notwithstanding the common refrain of, “Say no.” As often discussed, that does not come easily to me and when it entails walking away from someone unexpectedly in need in addition to something I have committed to, there is no way I will refuse. There are, however, only so many hours in a day. Therefore, whatever can be assigned the lower priority does get pushed back. The house is an utter mess and the guest room is still not recovered from the last visitor.

However, the coming week should settle into the “still too busy”, yet manageable, and to date, there’s no possibility I will become bored. Indeed, Tuesday afternoon, Hubby and I have a  “good deed” session we’ve been looking forward to which I am not at liberty to disclose. It’s really Hubby as it involves photography and I’m going along because I support the organization and we’ll be having dinner after either just the two of us or with a couple of other people involved in the project. On other topics, I do need to check the fence people as this is the  time frame they should be coming to finally get us taken care of. Once that step is done we can finally move forward with recovering the back yard. And as I am so tired of the front bed continuing to not look like I want, I think Hubby and I have compromised. The single, very large aloe can stay and the other plants requiring too much care will come out. We have to do some container planting though because of a very odd situation I will post about if we get it resolved in the manner we have planned.

A Market to Grow….

I’m going with “Third time’s a charm” on this particular project. A few years ago I did a post about the Verde Garden Market in Homestead close to Homestead Air Reserve Base. There are 22 acres and a farmers’ market adjoins it. They had completely refurbished the market to add a commercially approved kitchen and an area where they could serve food, put in a number of picnic tables and display area for art as well as places for the fruits, produce, and a couple of refrigerator cabinets. I was so excited when I toured and told as many people as I could. Unfortunately, things never took off, nor did the next try at it.

Last week, I was back with the group that is now in charge, which is a combined program. Redland Ahead (I have posted about then before, too) is a non-profit with goals to:

  • Work in unison with FIU to provide support to the FIU’s Agro-Ecology program in South Florida in expansion of the newly awarded FIU Hispanic Land Grant University status.
  • Support the training of underserved populations and Veterans to become farmers & explore careers in Agri-business in programs offered by FIU and UF (TREC).
  • Support training to improve the profitability from existing or future crops through university and private development of incubators, commercial kitchens and other ventures in the Redland community.

The main farming program provides up to a year of training and then the opportunity of a low-cost lease on acreage to begin farming. In general, the individual starts with approximately one-quarter acre and can expand up to four acres. The products can then be sold at the Redland Community Farm and Market at Verde Garden and other venues.

The commercial kitchen option is available for someone who may not be interested in farming, but may have a talent for, and desire to be in, a culinary career. Small batch producers who create baked goods, candies, jellies, and so forth can use the kitchen at the market and sell there. Perhaps someone wants to develop their own line of sandwiches, soups, or other hot items, and operating a food truck or opening a café is not feasible. A part time arrangement at the market is a workable way to begin. Currently, Tuesday through Thursday 12:00-4:00 p.m., is when Phillip Bryant and Veronica Valdivia are on-site with Johnnie’s Pit BBQ. Since the market is open seven days a week, other food vendors will be welcome.

Redland Community Farm and Market is open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. Twice monthly Friday night events are also held with extra art, music, and food choices. The purpose of the Friday night events is to extend the regular hours from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. and help spread the word about the market. A special note, as of this post, is road construction at 127th which was the most direct route. The detour is from 288th onto 132d through a residential area to SW 280th St. Detour signs are posted.


Not That We Miss It……

A tricky maneuver for demonstration

When we made the decision to relocate here, it was because of the scuba diving. I could write anywhere and being in a place with an active military base was not one of our criteria. It would have been a nice “plus”, but unlike quite a few people we know, it was not a deciding factor. Even though Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB) has few benefits for us, in our work with the community paper, we always have “first cut” on any military related event. When people ask us if we miss the military, the answer is, “no”, as our time has come and gone. That doesn’t mean we don’t tell “war stories” as all of us are prone to do.

It is nice though to occasionally spend time around the military and yesterday was one of them. The U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, come here for three months each year for their winter training. They appear at different events and this year for the first time, they invited other teams to come in for this final week for them to do what is referred to as joint and interoperability training. That means training with units you don’t normally train with. In this case, they had two other Army teams – one from Fort Bragg, NC and one from Fort Benning, GA. The U.S. Navy team was in from San Diego, CA, and the U.S. Air Force Academy Team from CO. The British Team rounded things out.

Due to an oddity of timing, Hubby and I actually spent about four hours with them as they went up and then did maneuvers in the air and made these incredible landings on a fairly small field. They were doing multiple drops which means groups are split, go up, drop, land, repack their parachutes and go again. Hubby actually went up in the plane to get some interior shots and I opted to stay on the ground. (It’s very noisy on those aircraft and they are

not built for comfort. I did enough of that when I was on active duty.)

It was tiring, but fun and the piece I did for the paper was short since it was primarily a photo opportunity. I did take pages of notes though since I had the extra time.


Demonstration Parachute Team from Fort Bragg – The Black Daggers

Daylights Savings Time…..

I know I am by no means the only person who finds this whole thing to be annoying more than helpful. At least I think I do. We’ve been at this since the 1970s when the energy crisis hit and that’s been a long time ago. The fact that a couple of states don’t bother with it – Hawaii and Arizona and I’m not sure if there are others – seems to support the concept  we really don’t need it any longer. Maybe if we didn’t have so many items in the house that require changing the clocks, I would feel less imposed upon. While the computers and cell phones  have it figured out, the house phone, stove, my watches, and more need to be reset. To be honest, I don’t have the faintest notion of how to re-set the house phones – we bought the new ones fairly recently. Anyway, I suppose this is another of those things I should simply accept as a fact of modern life. The real impact this particular morning is I already have a jammed day and screwing with my time doesn’t help. The week has been in a bit of a turmoil with not only extra social events, but also a commitment to do four articles within a few days. One of them deals with a technical subject I am not very familiar with and a publication I don’t normally work with. Both those factors complicate the task. The other articles are a matter of coincidental scheduling which happens to not work in my favor. Ah well, so goes the world of freelancing.

On the “upside”, I had to send down some more copies of Shades of Deception to the dive shop since the last two sold. That is a task I certainly enjoy. Okay, having allowed six days to pass since my last post, I will do better this week.