Women in Agriculture…….

Mango is one of many tropical fruits grown in South Florida

For those who are not familiar with the geography of South Florida between Miami and the Florida Keys, this area is one of the remaining major agricultural areas. Not the land of citrus – that’s further north. Here is a combination of ornamentals; more palms than you can imagine, acres of tropical plants, mangos, papayas, avocados, and other exotics such as carambola (starfruit), lychee, etc.,., as well as crops of pole beans, tomatoes, and incredible  strawberries. As with so many places, agriculture, real estate developers, and those concerned with waterways (in our case, salt and freshwater) often clash over issues. That, however, is not the point of this post. Notwithstanding the difficulty, let us acknowledge for the purpose of this post that there are sustainable solutions for all to co-exist peacefully. (I didn’t say that everyone gets everything they want.) What I want to talk about is some great women that I met a couple of weeks ago when I covered the 2012 Women in Agriculture Luncheon for the local weekly paper. The Dade County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee selects a woman each year to highlight her contributions to agriculture in Dade County.

Even though I grew up going to my grandparents’ farm in Arkansas multiple times a year and watched my grandmother manage a large garden, the chickens, and the myriad chores a farmer’s wife is responsible for, neither my father or any of his three brothers wanted the farm. So my familial connection to farming was nothing compared to many of the women in attendance. There were fourth generation farming families there and I still owe a follow-up visit to interview some of the high school girls who are members of the Future Farmers of America. The woman who was being honored was intriguing because even though her parents had established a farm specializing in tropical fruits and vegetables, she had gone into banking. She was quite successful and while she was not active in the farm, she was active as an advocate for agricultural issues. After her father passed away, she began to help more with the farm and when her mother passed away, she left banking and immersed herself in continuing the legacy they had built. She not only took over the existing farm, but also expanded into the organic egg business. Her farm was recently recognized as being the first in Florida to have the highest rating possible given by the Cornucopia Institute for Authentic Organic Egg Production. Oh, while she was doing all of that, she was also elected to be the President of the Dade County Farm Bureau.

There were multiple speakers who presented different plaques and proclamations, and yet when the time came for the woman to speak, her message was succint. She thanked everyone, said she was overwhelmed with their kind words, and wanted to say that everyone helped inspire her passion for the land and agriculture. In the few minutes that I was alone with her, there was no doubt of her sincerity. It was an engaging time listening to all these women (there were a few men present) talking about agriculture. I enjoyed myself and it reminded me of the diverse professions that women can excel in.



NASCAR May Be More Fun Than You Think…..

A view of a NASCAR race. (Image from a Free NASCAR Images site)

I had said that this post was going to delve deeper into the topic of lying, but having two back-to-back “heavy” posts is a bit of an emotional strain. And it is Daytona Sunday. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know what that means, so let me take a few minutes for those who know little or nothing of NASCAR

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has moved well beyond its original roots, but is still somewhat of a mystery (or source of derision) for people who have never watched a race with someone who actually understands what is going on. Quite frankly, that’s not much different than a lot of other sports. I mean really, how can one appreciate a hockey game without a fan explaining the intricacies?

My husband, being from Georgia, was of course a racing fan, but as he moved around in the Army to a number of places with coverage of only perhaps Formula One racing, it was less of a priority for him. Our relocation to South Florida to where we are practically in the backyard of a Speedway, the subsequent link between scuba diving and a couple of fairly recognizable names in racing, and a friend who is involved in a small racing circuit changed all that. My husband’s love for racing was re-ignited and I have been drawn into the circle by association.

Don’t get me wrong – I tried six hours at a race a while back and that’s a bit more than I can deal with. However, I now treat racing as I do football. I can sit comfortably with a book as a race is on and share that experience with my husband. I have come to greatly appreciate the incredible number of facets of the sport – the layered engineering aspects, the sheer skill of drivers who, at nearly 200 miles per hour, can win or crash by thousandths of seconds – the passion of drivers who often start at a young age with Go Karts. I have actually gotten to the point that when my husband has to work during a race, I will record the race for him, but if there’s nothing else on television that I want to watch, I’ll have the race on TV, wander by as I am doing other things, and keep an eye out for the big incidents that inevitably occur during a race. Yeah, I know – who would have thought?

So, if you have a friend or relative who is a big NASCAR fan, and you think, “Why do I want to watch a bunch of noisy cars going around in a circle?”, you might consider sitting down with that fan during a race and genuinely listening to what goes on.You could very well be surprised at what you learn. Oh, Daytona Sunday for those that don’t know. It’s the official start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season that goes all the way to November. Even though there is a race almost every week of the season, specifically winning the Daytona 500 race is the dream of every driver within the sport. It is a very big deal.

Mistakes and Lies….

This is not a lighthearted post, but one that may strike a chord. Many of us in life have made careless or incredibly stupid mistakes that we sometimes initially lie about. Why? Because we’re really embarrassed, because we think it’s a small enough lie that it won’t be found out, or one of several other reasons. That leads into two points about lying in a case like this. First, if caught in a lie of this nature, there is usually a time period when you can ‘fess up’ and work through it. Second, trying to cover up the first lie is what frequently sets unpleasant happenings into motion. The saying, “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” is as true today as when it was penned.

The thing about mistakes though is that sometimes, particularly if the person you have lied to doesn’t like you/trust you, a genuine mistake can be perceived as a lie. For example, you have a project at work and you are about to miss a critical deadline. Let’s say a few things have gone wrong and you’re trying to adjust the timeline to minimize missing the deadline. Let’s also say though that back when the project was being planned, someone warned you that this could occur and you weren’t really paying attention or you literally put the warning out of your mind. Another individual (or that same one) brings the discussion up and you defensively deny it. That is actually a mistake because you genuinely didn’t remember, but when an email or other “trail” is produced, your denial of knowing about the warning can be viewed as a lie. Even if you convince most people that it was a mistake, others may choose to continue to think of it as a lie. There is little you can do to change their minds. A genuinely humble meeting to clear the air might work, or it might not.

What you do at that stage will also depend on who the individual is (or individuals are). If your very credibility is damaged with people that matter to your continued employment/relationship, it may be time to move on and accept it as an unfortunate episode that you hopefully learn from. If they are not of particular importance, then you may still be able to take a lesson of value from the incident. The flip side of the coin is if you are faced with trying to determine if a person made a mistake or is lying to you. It is rarely a comfortable thing and if you decide it was a mistake, it may still impact your relationship with the individual. That goes back to an earlier post about why genuine apologies are so important; that is usually the best way to heal a breach of credibility.

The sad truth though is that people we trust are capable of lying and betrayal. That will be the subject of the next post.

Girlfriends Who Are Like Sisters…..

We all see the emails that circulate periodically about the importance of girlfriends that goes beyond “let’s do lunch”. In addition to the ones we have a good time with, there are the ones that are so close that we are sisters in spirit if not in blood. You have fun with them, yes, but they are the ones to turn to when you need that shoulder, that understanding for something heartbreaking, or the one you want to share something uplifting with. No matter how much you love your husband/significant other or children (when that applies), real girlfriends are important and the truth is that you won’t have many of them. The balance of who needs whom tends to be equal as you support each other in times of crisis or just intense frustation. They are the ones you can reveal your frailties to, although you don’t always – but the point is that you can.

We are sometimes separated by geography in our mobile society, and one of the great things about the Internet is how much easier connectivity is than it used to be. If you really can’t sleep at 3:00 a.m., or time zones make telephoning impractical, you can send an email or post a message to Facebook. I count myself fortunate in the girlfriends I have that bond with and I cherish those relationships. (You know that I love you, too, Sis!) If your busy life has kept you from telling one of those special girlfriends how much she means to you, maybe you can take a few minutes to call or send a message through whatever means you prefer.

Break the Routine……

It is so easy to fall into a routine, to realize that an entire week has slipped by, a month, or more. If you commute any distance at all, Lord knows you spend time crawling in traffic and dodging idiot drivers. If you have children at home, there are more obligations that you can count, and if you have parents or elderly relatives that you are helping out with, you may not be able to even stop and think of everything that you’re supposed to be doing. People say, “Have a nice weekend,” and for so many that often consists of taking care of a list of errands – not to mention numerous activites you might be scheduled for. If you own a house, then add in the seemingly endless small and large tasks like seeing about that seeping faucet, replacing the weather stripping on the doors, etc.,.

If this is sounding familiar, when was the last time you stepped away from your routine for just a momentary break? No, I’m not talking about taking a vacation. I mean doing something simple, but different. Maybe take in a matinee, take a stroll through a park. (Okay, it’s winter, so go to a museum or art exhibit.) Look in your local paper and see what low-key events might be available. Small venue performances don’t usually involve crowds and traffic jams. Try for something simpler – find a spot where you can watch a sunset or go outside in the dark and gaze at the stars. Isn’t this rather trite? Yes, but really, it’s lovely when pink, purple, gold and red mingle in the sky. Glittering stars against a black sky are beautiful too. Okay, it’s winter. Bundle up and have a hot beverage with you or afterwards. If an overcast sky negates those possibilities – think about turning off the television (yes, you can DVR or TIVO) and play a card or board game. If you like to cook, break out a cookbook and select an entire meal to do from the cookbook or go on-line if you have a celebrity chef you like and get the recipes.

If money isn’t an issue, pick a new restaurant that you’ve been meaning to try, or high end hotels frequently have reduced weekend rates. Have a massage  and/or beauty treatment. That might be more complicated than you want to deal with, but it can be a break in your routine.

Something else? See if there is a project looking for volunteers – a number of organizations schedule cleanups or other one-two day projects that need extra hands. I understand not having enough time to get things done – believe me, I do. And I also know that sometimes stepping away – even if just for a short time, can help you catch your breath.

An Interesting Movie Premise….

This isn’t categorized as Favorite Movie because I’m not certain that I feel that way about “The Adjustment Bureau”, but it does raise an interesting question. Actually, the thriller starring Matt Damon (and I don’t know the female lead) deals with two essential themes. The first is about free will and fate which I am not going to discuss. The other is about sacrificing material wealth for love and the unknown. By the way, this is one of those movies that you have to watch the beginning very carefully in order to follow the middle and end.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, but it raises the question of how much certainty do we want in our lives? If you were given the opportunity to choose and one path would lead you to genuine fame and fortune with the unknown possibility of finding a great love along the way, or the other path would allow you to be with someone that you love, but the material side was an unknown, which would you opt for? And please, don’t automatically say, “Oh, love of course.” That might be your actual choice, but in this hypothetical case, choosing the material path does  not necessarily mean that you won’t find the great love. On the other hand, choosing the path of being with someone you love also doesn’t mean that you won’t find material success. So, what are your thoughts on this one?

Both Sides of Valentine’s Day……

I have been on both sides of Valentine’s Day – that wonderful romantic feeling with flowers delivered to my office, a lovely dinner out somewhere, etc.,. and at other times it has been the, “Well, here you are alone while the rest of your friends have someone to celebrate with” situation. Granted, as we enter into our 23rd year of marriage, it has been a long time since I felt left out at Valentine’s Day, but those pangs have not disappeared from my memory.

The simple truth is that Valentine’s Day is another one of those marketing targets and as an unabashed capitalist, I’m okay with that part. Yes, advertisers make it seem as if everyone on the planet should be exchanging expressions of love – that’s what marketers do. By the way guys, if you are on a tight budget, let me tell you that a single rose given with a card is every bit as romantic as a bouquet that you can’t really afford. If the girl/woman you’re trying to impress needs the big bouquet instead, the relationship has other problems. But back to the point of feeling down at Valentine’s Day. This is where having girlfriends can come through for you. Take in something artsy – an exhibit, a concert, a lecture. Hit a cutesy cafe instead of a restaurant offering that special dinner for two. No girlfriends available? If you want to stay home – do a favorite take-out or how about experimenting with a recipe that you’ve been meaning to try? Make it a movie night, although instead of a romantic comedy, maybe something poignant like “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, “Tuesdays with Morrie”, or a film noir – “Body Heat”, “Double Indemnity” and so forth. Feel like going out? If you have the slightest inclination toward sports, do a Sports Bar and yes, sit at the bar and eat. Talk will swirl around you and none of it is likey to be about personal relationships. If you have an Irish pub nearby, that’s good, too. If anyone understands being alone at Valentine’s Day, it’s the lyrical Irish.

And here comes the inevitable cliche – go ahead and love yourself at Valentine’s Day. It counts, my friend, it counts for a great deal.

“Robin Gets Another Shot”…….

I don’t pretend that Mel Brooks movies are meant for anything except amusement. I don’t look for deep meaning and I do allow myself to guffaw. There are the times though when his humor provides great one or two-liners to accept as part of your personal philosophy and a scene from “Robin Hood Men in Tights” falls into that category. It carries with it two aspects that help me in those situations where I’ve made mistakes that bother me.

The scene in the movie is where Prince John declares an archery contest knowing that Robin Hood can’t possibly resist making an appearance despite everyone knowing it is a trap. Prince John’s champion shoots his arrow and Robin confidently shoots his arrow and Gasp!, doesn’t do as well.  The characters express suprise, and in typical Brooks’ fashion, they break character as they determine that this just can’t be right. “Check the script,” someone says and they all pull out their scripts, thumb through, and discover that, “Ah yes, Robin gets another shot. Robin get another shot!” The movie resumes with the rest of Brooks’ comical treatment of the Robin Hood myth.

There are all sorts of occasions when a do-over,  or “Robin getting another shot”, is a viable option. You may feel stupid for a mistake, or careless, but in the end, it isn’t a big deal – you can take another shot. The problem though is that you don’t always get to write the script and the script doesn’t always work in your favor. Not long after the movie, that became an expression between my husband and me. If there is an outcome I don’t care for, I may say, “Well, let me check the script.” While no, I don’t do this for serious matters, there are definitely times when a little tongue-in-cheek perspective is what I actually need. And in cases like that, I don’t always get “another shot”. Sometimes I have to admit that the metaphorical script does not have me covered, the mistake was something that I can’t “do over”, and I have to make apologies as appropriate. I genuinely dislike making mistakes of substance and l am one of those people who often dwell on a mistake longer than I should. But I’m working on it – I really am.


When a Hammer is Like a Pair of Pumps……

No, this isn’t as odd at it sounds. Men and women are different in many aspects and when you enter into a relationship – especially a long term one be it marriage or otherwise, you find ways to navigate through things like men channel surfing at lightening speed, and their lack of comprehension of the idea of “clutter”. I’m not even going to talk about the toilet seat up or down issue. My husband, like thousands of men, was grateful when the entire “Mars and Venus” came into publication because he had long thought that women were indeed another species. Way back when we married and he became a truly wonderful stepdad, my eight-year-old son was bemoaning losing the affection of a pretty little classmate and he said something along the lines of maybe when he got older he would understand girls. My husband assured him that was not a goal that he needed to set for himself.

Anyway, my point to this post is about tools. Oh  sure, you know hammers, screwdrivers, and perhaps drills, but routers and rachets might not be in your vocabulary. If you’re a fan of cable home improvement shows, you see that a lot of women are entering into this field and can strap on a toolbelt with the best of them, yet for most of us, we stand mystified if we should happen to find ourselves in the actual hardware section of a store. What on earth is all this stuff and more importantly, why does my husband need so much of it?

One day, as I wasn’t objecting to the purchase of whatever the item was, merely expressing my puzzlement as to it since I thought he already had something similar, my husbdand sighed. “Look, the problem is that women do not understand tools. Think of them like shoes. I mean, why do you need all those  different types of black shoes? Or the same pair in more than one color? What it comes down to is that a guy can never have too many tools. If you’ve got the space to put them, you can always find something you need.”

Ah, now that’s a comparison that most women can identify with. This also explains why a guy can spend an incredible amount of time wandering through the aisles of those big stores when he’s usually a get-in-get-what-you-need-and-get-out kind of shopper. Think of how you feel when you go into a shoe warehouse. It is apparently the same kind of sensation. And this is why a hammer can be like a pair of pumps.


What Ayn Rand Gave To Me…..

I try to stay away from politics and religion as such in this blog, but where personal philosophy crosses over can sometimes get muddled. And as I explain in the Welcome Page, Charlie’s Corner Cafe is a place where you can slip in for a short time or linger for as long as you like – it’s a 24-hour kind of place. Depending on your age, it may have been a while since you sat around with your preferred beverage and some good friends discussing philosophy. It was Ayn Rand’s birthday yesterday and no, I am not a member of the institute, but I also want to acknowledge both what an influence Atlas Shrugged was on my life and express my personal opinion that Ayn Rand (like Abraham Maslow) is often misunderstood in an attempt to “sound bite” them. That discussion, however, is way too lengthy for this post.

The thing is this – I discovered Atlas Shrugged when I was 18 (could have been 19) and even as a reader, I was initially daunted by the 1000+ pages. In truth, the individual who suggested that I read the book had been more intrigued by the intricacy of the book than by the philosophy and so I wasn’t prepared for what I was to find. At that stage of my life, I was emotionally roiling with rebellion against the kind of person that I was supposed to be. For anyone who has grown up in a small town (or a neighborhood that might as well be a small town), you know exactly what I mean when I say that having someone to help me with my frustration was difficult. Within the pages of Atlas Shrugged, however, I found that voice of individualism that I was aching for. I was a literature person mind you with a standard, although Eurocentric, grounding from Sophocles to Steinbeck. Existentialsim held a certain allure and yes, I read Jean-Paul Sartre in French, but did do Simone DeBeauvior in English. It was Rand though who touched me most, who provided me with that, “Yes, I am not alone in these thoughts”, moment that can be so crucial to forming one’s philosophical outlook. Well, laying the foundation, because I am not about to claim a fully formed outlook at that age. Needless to say, I followed up as quickly as I could with her other works and to these day I can’t recall how many copies of Atlas Shrugged I gave as gifts, or how many times I’ve read the book. (No, I haven’t seen the movie yet and am reluctant to do so since I’m unsure of how well it translated to screen.)

Notwithstanding some of the simplistic aspects of a book written in 1957, if you have never read Atlas Shrugged, I would urge you to do so. If you haven’t read it for several years, it might be time to brush it off, or get it in audio format if that is better for you. By the way, deep into the book there is a 20+ page speech delivered by a charcacter and it was probably my 5th or 6th reading of the book before I tackled that entire thing.

So, belated Happy Birthday Ayn Rand, and thank you for the role that you played in my life.