Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Official Harrison Farm Statement on Bathrooms

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a conference out-of-state to represent a farm organization -- and on this trip I had one of my classic Katherine embarrassing moments.  While sitting in meetings all day, I inevitably take several breaks to stretch my legs and visit the restroom.  At this particular conference, I ducked out of a presentation for a few minutes to take a break during a very long day.  I headed for the ladies' room, and walked into the stall immediately in front of me.  While in there, I observed that there was someone in the stall next to me.  My observant nature operates at all times, so I realized it was a member of the cleaning staff by the uniform of their pants leg.  My mind -- always running -- thought to itself, "That poor lady . . . They really make the cleaning team wear such awful shoes!  Those shoes are just so manly.  What a terrible uniform for a lady!  Wait a minute . . ."  I hurriedly looked around the stall, and realized there was no discreet box on the wall for waste as would be present in every ladies' room.  And it suddenly occurred to me that I was observant enough to be judgemental about the shoes of the "cleaning lady" in the stall next to me, but not cognizant at all that I had just walked into the men's restroom.  I pulled myself together, stepped out of the stall, and as luck would have it there was a gentleman washing his hands at the sink.  He looked at me with questioning eyes.  I smiled and said "lovely weather we're having!" . . . And then hustled out the door as fast as my non-manly stilettos would take me.

My friends have laughed about that story for years.  As embarrassing as this story is for me, I love to make my friends laugh and thus the experience had a purpose.  Blissfully, I was not arrested for using the restroom of the gender to which I was not born -- a concept which never entered my mind when I made this mistake years ago.  Now we are oddly in a world where such things are being debated.  It seems to me to be a most ridiculous debate.  A bathroom is created for a specific purpose.  No one angrily chased me out of the men's room when I made my error.  At my church, there is inevitably a group of women who end up in line for the ladies' room during the "halftime bathroom break" that is the offertory.  In an effort to move things along -- and reserve the ladies' room for mothers with children -- some of the ladies will instead use the men's restroom (which never has a line).  I can report that the ladies' room is usually a bit better organized and cleaned, but both rooms are there for a specific purpose.  Arguing over who gets to use it is not a constructive use of our time.  Animals relieve themselves in front of me (and sometimes on me) all the time, so I am very happy that as humans we actually use dedicated restrooms.  Beyond this, it was not that long ago that my grandparents were using an outhouse at Harrison Farm.  We should be filled with joy that as humans we have the technology to offer real functioning bathrooms!

This morning in the Wall Street Journal, there was a photo on the front page of a bus that was bombed in Israel, injuring many.  There was an article inside on the hundreds of people who died in the earthquake in Ecuador and the current humanitarian crisis facing the survivors.  There was in-depth follow up on the terrorism in Europe over the last year and the intelligence failures that permitted these atrocities.  A particularly intriguing article discussed the struggles of aging parents in China (a culture that expects adult children to provide for their elderly parents without a strong safety net by the government) who lost the only child to which they were restricted to have by the government, and now have no one to provide for them.  And in the United States we are arguing about who gets to use a bathroom.  Our country has had 240 years of freedom and liberty, and we choose to exercise our First Amendment rights by arguing about bathrooms.

Friends, this post is not to attack anyone's beliefs.  These words are to remind you that our country is engaged in dialogue on a trivial matter: who gets to use a toilet.  I happily endorse that there are differences between the genders, and I happily promote that we are all unique individuals.  Parents who are concerned about their children using a public bathroom should always go with their child.  ALWAYS.  Women tend to go to bathrooms in groups -- this is both social and basic good safety.  In Wyoming, my girlfriends & I visit the woods in groups when we camp to help protect each other from bears of all genders!  It is as equally ridiculous that government bodies are trying to regulate the use of bathrooms, as it is that other government bodies are trying to protest this regulation with their own proposals.  I doubt there is a government entity in this whole great country that does not have at least one rule on the books that would be offensive in some manner.  Move on, and address issues that truly matter.

And if you end up in the wrong bathroom, just comment on the lovely weather!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Iron Ladies 2016

I have come to believe that to be a great lady, one must first be a true bad ass.  While the rules of etiquette provide us with the standards for which to interface in a genteel & respectful manner, these are only arbitrary dictates if they are not first inspired by a sincere desire to treat others with love & understanding.  And that desire comes only from a heart that has complete confidence of its place in the world and a deep understanding of life -- two things which come from encountering joy & pain, from loving sincerely, from losing things & people of value, from struggle, from laughter, from being forced to start over unexpectedly, from learning what truly matters in life.  Once a woman has done all of these things, she becomes a bad ass.  She knows what is important and what is not.  She has the ability to be completely confident in her actions no matter what others think, and yet she chooses to treat those around her in the manner that she would want to be treated.  Those are also the hallmarks of a great lady.

In April of 2013, Baroness Margaret Thatcher passed onward.  Several of my best friends gathered at Harrison Farm the following weekend in their black cocktail dresses to celebrate the Iron Lady.  This event has now evolved into my annual Harrison Farm Iron Ladies Party -- a celebration of the strong and remarkable women who inspire my world.  We gathered on Saturday 4/16 for a wonderful night of conviviality.  The event usually starts with cocktails, then a potluck, dessert, bourbon, and cigars.  It is the one night of the year that smoking is permitted in the farmhouse . . . Being surrounded by inspiring women (all in their favorite black dress) while having a libation and enjoying a cigar is a joy-filled experience!

My friends are cognizant how important equality of opportunity is to me.  I believe we are all endowed with certain rights by God, and we should have the freedom to exercise our abilities and shape our own destinies through personal hard work -- regardless of gender or color or creed or orientation.  I am interested in individual achievement, and I want to compete on a level playing field.  That being said, I also believe in celebrating what makes us different.  I love being an American, I love having blue eyes, I love raising goats, I love being a Catholic . . . And I also want to encourage others to love what makes them a unique individual.  Finding connections with others can be uplifting, thus I firmly endorse finding support networks of those who help to celebrate what makes a person remarkable as individual.  Being able to gather with other strong women to laugh, to cry, and to support one another is such a joy.  It is also my personal celebration of what it means to be an American woman: my friends were able to drive themselves to the home of an unmarried woman without any male chaperones to pray as we wanted, drink as we wanted, and talk about what we wanted -- all while wearing fabulous black dresses.  Think of all the places around the globe where this small party could NEVER have happened due to restrictions on behavior.  To be an American woman is a great gift, and we must never lose sight of the routine freedoms which we have thanks to our birth in this great country!

I am extremely grateful for my inspiring friends who joined me for this year's event!  I truly believe that Margaret Thatcher would be proud!