In Praise of Girlfriends…..

I want to be careful here and not get into a guy-buddy and girlfriend comparison because I don’t genuinely understand how much guys need those buddy relationships. Girlfriends – now that’s a different matter. We do. It’s that simple. When we’re lucky we have that best friend or a few very close friends in the same town, maybe occasionally on the same block or next door. In other cases, due to a variety of reasons, the geography of those relationships become stretched out and physically inconvenient. The physical separation, however, doesn’t dilute the strength of the friendship, merely the ability to dash out and have lunch or sit down for the glass of wine/cup of coffee.

The ability to have those all-important conversations, to share the emotions that we do doesn’t change and we, who are sisters in spirit if not in blood, can pick right up with a line of thought whether it’s been a day or two years since we were last together. There are many reasons why this is true and I can’t begin to imagine the volume it would require to take everything that has been written about this and store it in one place. The Library of Congress might have enough space. In reality, my trip to DC this time was yes, seeing the kids and watching our son perform in a new venue. But as much as it was that, it was also visiting with some girlfriends that mean a great deal to me. So, ladies, everyone out there who has maybe not had a chance to speak with a friend like that lately, grab the phone and give them a call.

Waiting for the Right One……

I had an interesting conversation yesterday after the last of several meetings when the coffee was swapped for wine. Of the four of us in the room, one woman coming up on their 47th anniversary had known the man she married for only three months, the youngest guy in the room met the love of his life when they were in high school (separate, rival highs schools), but they actually didn’t get married until seven or eight years later. The other guy waited until he was in his early 50s before he married for the first time, although he and his future wife also knew each other for six or seven years before they actually got married. In the case of my husband and me, we knew each other for almost two years before we married, even though we were officially engaged for six months of that time. In each case, there was the recognition that this was the “right one”.

Now, as I have written before, I do believe in love at first sight because I have personally known of some situations, but I also know that it is easier to fall in love than to stay in love. I have one friend in particular who has had an on-again, off-again relationship for well over ten years and they cannot seem to get past certain points between them. Will they ever? Hard to say. Are they “right” for each other? From the outside, looking in, I think so, but maybe there are too many things that I don’t know about their relationship.

Anyway, before I stray too far from the point, love can come in different forms – that instantaneous attraction that keeps growing, a friendship that develops into love, even initial disagreement that changes, and occasionally, as with one couple I know, there is a divorce and re-marriage. From my perspective, bring with “the right one” means it’s easy. I don’t mean that you never disagree or squabble, or may have an out-an-out fight every now and then. What I mean is that when you think of that person, there is a warmth that suffuses within you, and it’s like slipping on that favorite, worn pair of jeans/sweats/shorts/robe or whatever. It’s that feeling of comfort that surrounds you. And if you are in the midst of being lonely, wondering if “the right one” will ever come, what I will say it that I’ve certainly seen people on their second (or more) go-round in later years. Not that it can’t be painful being alone when you are surrounded by couples, but I do believe that “the right one” is worth waiting for. By the way, that doesn’t mean you can’t have plenty of fun before then. In fact, I included that line in Deadly Doubloons.

Small Town Lies is Out…..

Cover Small Tonw LiesDespite all the delays, Small Town Lies is finally out! I came back from lunch and had the first few copies, although not enough for me to dash to the Tuesday Night quilters group and give them their copies. However, I do have just enough to take on my trip this week, so that’s good. I’ve put the link into Amazon here although it is available in other venues, too (http://amzn.to/15M5WlP). Now of course, as timing would have it, I leave on Friday, don’t come back until the end of the month, and have to immediately plunge into a two-week project. That means I can’t set the little launch party I was planning until after that. With all the postponements, I didn’t dare set a date until I knew for sure when the book was ready. I had what turned out to be a pre-release party because the book wasn’t available in April as I had hoped.

At any rate, I’ll get Chapter One posted to the web site, but the essence of the book is that Gabriel Thatcher (Gabe) is the town Romeo and the story opens with Justin Kendall, Helen Crowder’s son-in-law, finding the body. Death appears to have been from a blow to the head and the simple truth is that there is no shortage of suspects. Helen, who is a widow and a quilter, has lived in Wallington, GA all her life, and in fact, is from a fourth-generation family. Justin, who has moved from Baltimore for the sake of his wife, Tricia, is new to small towns and definitely new to the deep South. The ensuing investigation uncovers a number of secrets and lies of omission, if not commission, on the part of many people. Small Town Lies is categorized as a “cozy’, and if you aren’t familiar with that brand of mystery, it means it is G-Rated, but still a fun read, especially if you’ve ever lived in a small town.

An Incredible Group in Farm Share…….

I have highlighted a number of organizations that do wonderful work in different areas and written about the people behind the idea. And even though I don’t have a huge following, I am asking that you help me spread the word about Farm Share, not only because of the good work they do, but because Patricia Robbins, the President and CEO, has developed a system that is, and can be, a model for similar undertakings throughout the country. She was not some billionaire who turned to altruism. She is a woman who worked hard all her life, then determined that she wanted to take on the task of re-packing fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away and provide those at no charge to organizations that feed the hungry. By being located in the heart of South Florida’s agricultural center and having a career in the wholesale seafood business, Patricia set out to harness her business and logistics expertise into Farm Share with phenomenal numbers to show their success. The real story is told on their web site at http://www.farmshare.org but I will throw out a few facts to make the point.

They work in a public-private partnership with the state (as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs) to maximize support that can be provided to more than 500 organizations they give food to. They also have periodic Food Distribution events where volunteers join them to support hundreds and sometimes thousands of families in a four-hour period. They maintain a small staff to keep their administrative costs down to under 3% – a remarkable achievement for a non-profit, and through the techniques they have honed, they can provide 11.5 pounds of food per every $1 of donation. On average, they distribute  more than 15 million pounds of nutritious food to approximately 600,000  low-income households across Florida each year. In fact, their reputation for efficiency means they have farmers from a multi-state area that make food available to them. Their system enables them to often have a mere twenty-four hour turnaround from receipt of tractor trailers filled with goods to that same food being repackaged and into the hands of soup kitchens, food pantries and similar organizations. Much of Farm Share’s cost goes to paying for the transportation of the food because again, they do not charge one cent to the organizations they support. They have also begun to be offered non-food items such as truckloads of bicycle helmets and child car seats, but when tight dollars can’t fund transportation for both, food is given the priority in keeping with their primary mission.

Farm Share now operates out of the original location, plus two others in Florida and they would love to expand. They are more than happy to share their knowledge and give tours of the packing house to show their operation. If you are looking for a charity that is making a tremendous difference in people’s lives, productively utilizing what would be tons of wasted food, and doing so with remarkable stewardship, then Farm Share is one such group.

Traveling Ahead……

Dustin and one of his dance partners in new piece from Lucy Bowen-McCauley.

Dustin and one of his dance partners in new piece from Lucy Bowen-McCauley.

Well, the summer as a possible quiet time doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. That’s not a bad thing, merely a change in directions as I have decided in add in an extra trip this month, then my October trip to Louisiana will actually start a little earlier in September as I add on a leg up in Missouri. There’s more in Nov, but I’ll talk about that in a later post. The multi-stop trip beginning late next week has to do with me going up for the Capital Fringe Performance that the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company will be appearing at (http://bmdc.org). They have a short video clip of a rehearsal and Dustin is the guy in the black leotard. Anyway, I’m combining that visit with a return detour through Huntsville where I will be with another dear friend. We missed seeing each other last year, so I’ll pop in for a couple of nights.

I’ve sent word to the Louisiana girlfriends to see if anyone will be around the last Friday of September, although if they aren’t, there’ll be an extra evening to spend with some of the cousins. The Missouri piece has to do with linking in with the Hawaii friend, and no, that isn’t as odd as it sounds. That’s all connected with visiting our mutual parents and me throwing in a couple of extra days to make the logistics work. And if the schedules don’t get screwed up again, all of this will be as new books are coming out. Now, these trips have nothing to do with the major travel in November and December, but as I said, that’s another post.

It’s Not That I Don’t Like Make-up……..

When I posted the other day about being sure to use sunscreen no matter what climate you live in and I made the comment about the cosmetics industry being out of luck if they depended on me, I didn’t intend that in anyway to be a slam against the industry. My not wearing make-up (or coloring my hair for that matter) has nothing to do with thinking that one shouldn’t do such things. While I do have very strong opinions about parents who consider cosmetic surgery for adolescents and young teens, what a woman over 21 wants to do in this arena is her business. Now, in the realm of every day life, I did wear make-up all through high school and college and when I first went into the Army. In fact, that was during the days when the Army gave cosmetic and grooming classes as part of training. One of the reasons for that was because I came in at the very end of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) timeframe as they were transitioning to the regular Army. That was when women were still predominantly placed into administrative positions and therefore, make-up was expected.

Fast forward to my second assignment where I was in more of an operational unit and outside a lot, plus the morning started with Physical Training (running) three days a week. By the time you combined all of that, trying to do make-up and then having it smudged/sweated off made it fairly impractical to bother with. I slapped on moisturizer instead and I became accustomed to that habit. When I was back in an administrative job, I just decided to stick with the no make-up routine. Do I look better with make-up? Sure, most women do when it’s correctly applied. I simply don’t like to bother with it and so I don’t. I do concede that when I have a photo shoot (doesn’t occur very often), make-up is a requirement or else the photo is terribly washed out, and I dutifully go in for a professional session. As a note, I do use concealer and sometimes mascara, but that’s about it. I’m always a disappointment to Mary Kay consultant that I meet, but that really can’t be helped.

Sunscreen……..

I haven’t looked the studies up, but I saw a headline the other day that there has been a noticeable rise in cases of skin cancer in young women. Since we have lived in tropical climates for some time now, we are sensitive to the issue of sunscreen, but of course, not living in a warm climate can give a false sense of security for people, especially if one is already of a darker skin tone. However, as can be seen on many sites to include http://dermatology.about.com, all skin is vulnerable to sun exposure and using a low-level sunscreen (SPF 15) daily is an effective means of combating this. From a cosmetic perspective, sunscreen also helps hold wrinkles at bay.

If the cosmetic industry depended on me, they would take a drastic nose-dive in the stock market. However, a very long time ago, an older woman that I worked with told me that if I would just be sure and cleanse well and moisturize, that would make a tremendous difference in my skin. I did take that advice, although during those days about all I could afford was Noxzema (which I still think is a great product). Having attained a better financial posture, I don’t buy the really expensive stuff, but I am careful to buy a moisturizer that also has sunscreen. Fifteen is the minimum and I prefer 28-30. That’s for daily use and when I go out on the boat, I apply regular sunscreen, but I use the one for babies. Yes, I know it sounds a little odd, but here’s the thing – whose skin needs protecting more than a baby’s? Hats, too, hats are a good thing in a climate like ours.

Anyway, please give this some serious thought it you haven’t considered it lately and especially if you have influence over young women who might think sunscreen is a waste of time.

 

Spreading the Word for YEA!……

Yesterday rather fell apart on me with meetings literally all day, but the last one was about an exciting new program that we are going to be helping with. It’s the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) and I’d like everyone who is in the Homestead area to please help spread the word. There is a special page on the Chamber of Commerce web site dedicated to it and an FB page http://www.chamberinaction.com/pages/YEA

In a nutshell, this 30-week program is open for students in grades 6-12 and it actually teaches them how to create their own company. Students meet once a week and learn all about how to take their idea to actual creation of a company under Florida state law and the within their city of residence. In this case, the classes will be held on the Miami-Dade Campus Homestead on Tues 4-7:00 p.m. There is a $395 cost, but that covers all the books and materials for the whole 30 weeks. There will also be scholarships available if you know of a student who would be perfect for the program, but simply cannot afford the fee. This is not merely class work – it is hands-on and there are a number of students in other YEA! Programs (it started in 2004) that have opened their businesses, run them for more and a year, and some are still going. The students in the program also get to compete for such things as scholarships and an opportunity to appear on the TV show Shark Tank. Applications are available through the web site above or you can call the Chamber of Commerce at (305) 247-2332. There are 50+ other Chambers in the country that have this program, so if you aren’t in the Homestead area, but are interested, there may be a program near you. I would please ask you to spread the word through any means you can since the application deadline in 31 August 2013.

 

The Oddity of Not Moving……

Well, it’s happened. We have now actually lived in a house for more years than we have ever lived in a place before. (We’ve moved once since arriving in town.) Notwithstanding the sometimes upending sensation of moving during our military careers (on average every two years which means sometimes twice in one year), that did tend to cause us to shed ourselves of items in conjunction with packing up. I look around now and say, “Hmmm, we really do seem to have a lot of stuff.” Yes indeed, with not having to go through and get ready for packers, it really is easier to simply find another spot to put things. Or in the paraphrased words of the late George Carlin, “We have too much stuff, so we buy a bigger house, and what do we do? Buy more stuff.”

The obvious solution is to do a serious clearing out here and I recently had a discussion with my husband about that. He agrees in principle although as I think I  have explained in a previous post, I have to agree not to toss/donate things unsupervised. In reality, I think this will have to be a multi-phase operation because there are some items I plan to swap out, but they are dependent upon getting other items as replacement and I doubt that will happen this summer. We have a lot going on and having the new bookcases/entertainment center built isn’t going to happen and I can’t get rid of the current ones without having the new ones in place. That’s not a bad thing, merely a fact of timing. So, let me map out a plan and see what happens.

How We Think Now…..

Serious content alert! A luncheon conversation did it again – set me to thinking about one of the important themes of my book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid. In this particular case, it has to do with knowing when you really are “too old” for a task or activity. I’m not talking about a physical thing here, although that certainly does happen. Being no longer able to carry an heavy object or climb up on a ladder without the real risk of falling, or something of that nature, is in a way, easier to accept because there is a physical impediment that can be defined. In other cases, as in this particular discussion, it is the far more distressing point of discovering that you may no longer have the mental acuity to manage a specific task or set of tasks. Worse, is having other people tell you that you are no longer able. Most of us like to believe that we will recognize that point and gracefully hand over the reins, maybe make a bit of a joke. If you haven’t experienced this with an older person in your own life, talk to someone who routinely works with the elderly and run that one by them. One of the things that I learned in working through writing Your Room was to acknowledge the fear (that is often accompanied by anger) of “becoming useless”, and especially of being pushed aside because someone perceives you in that manner.

What does one do about this? What I have come to believe is that a genuine analysis of a situation is the starting point and if you can’t objectively analyze, then ask for another “pair of eyes”. Is it that an individual can no longer do a task or that the individual can no longer do the task as quickly or as efficiently as before? There is a difference and it might be a big difference. Managing a checkbook is an example. Perhaps the individual was once meticulous in maintaining a checkbook down to the penny. Maybe that individual now labors much longer over the task, asking for you to double check their math, perhaps forgetting sometimes to enter a debit or deposit. If it is only occasionally, and doesn’t cause an overdraw, is it really time to consider taking away the management of the checkbook? Now, if there are multiple missing entries, and especially confusion about the missing entries (or duplicate entries), that’s probably cause for concern.

There are no easy answers here, no “one size fits all” measure, but what I would suggest is that if you do quickly reach in to “help” with something or become impatient because a previously simple task now requires double or triple the time, that you step back and try and view the situation from the other individual’s perspective. You may find that you are too quickly leaping to the conclusion that someone is “too old” for a task. If you are correct, however, try to handle it with as much dignity as possible for the other person.