All of us do it. We do it in our own way. We do it either alone or with friends and family. Sometimes we try to ignore it.
I’m talking about celebrating a birthday—that one day out of the year that is ours alone.
Now, I realize that birthdays may not be a big deal to some people—especially in 2020, the year of the pandemic and if birthdays are usually not a big deal and you are happy to let it go by each year unnoticed, then it would not be a big deal for you this year either way.
But for me, birthdays have always been a big deal. My special day.
It started when I was a young girl and my dad would kid me, pretending he didn’t know when my birthday was. I still remember every year on October 1, I’d comment to my dad—“Do you know what happens this month?” He would always say, “No. Is something happening this month?”
And, being as gullible as I was, I always fell for it.
My mom always made me feel special on my birthday. She called me every year on my birthday at 4:15 a.m. No matter what time zone I was in, since I was born at 4:15 a.m., she figured it was fair play for her to wake me up. Every year. Last year, for some reason, when I went to bed, and put my phone on my nightstand, I didn’t realize it was on silent mode. So when I woke up in the morning, I kind of shrugged it off that mom had forgotten. But, never fear! There was a voicemail for me from mom! Who would have known that it would be the last year she would be calling me (since she passed away three months later)?
This year was a milestone birthday for me, so before the pandemic my partner Jack and I started planning to have a party at our house to celebrate my birthday (last week). We even started re-landscaping our backyard in July to make it extra special for the soiree.
Well, you know how this story ended. Not only are we still in the middle of our landscaping project, but there was no party. No lunches and dinners with friends during the month, which is another birthday tradition for me. If you’re not a super extrovert like me, this may not be a big deal, but I thrive on in-person interactions with people. It gives me energy.
Frankly, I had a pretty hard time last week. It was all my “head trash” (thank you Jack for putting a name on it!). I began to focus on the reality that there are so many people who have been locked in their homes since March, in constant fear of contracting COVID-19. I needed to remind myself that I have been fortunate enough to go into my office three or four days a week, and to get to spend time with my teammates (with masks and physical distance, of course). Multiple times a week I am interacting with friends, business professionals and others via Zoom.
In fact, last Friday on my actual birthday, I attended a virtual global session with three of the most powerful and influential women in the world: Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors; Virginia (Ginni) Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM; and Fatma Samoura, Secretary General of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)! It was quite a session.
Have you ever had a pity party for yourself? Especially since the coronavirus has taken over our lives, I think there are many of us who have regular pity parties. I was guilty as charged. So, I did what I needed to do to stop that pity party—I took matters into my own hands, within the limitations of masking and social distancing.
I let my partner Jack know how important my birthday was to me, without any specifics. Fortunately, he is very creative and amongst the cards and gifts he gave me, I giggled when I opened up a package with bottles of Benadryl and Advil (he said I would need them more at my age). I set up a birthday dinner with my family, putting no pressure on them to attend, as I know to not judge those who have health considerations during the pandemic.
I contacted two of my dearest friends, and they each happily offered to meet us for breakfast and lunch at an outdoor restaurant. It was so good to see them—in person!
And I did one of the coolest things ever—I played the recorded voicemail message that my mom had left me last year on my birthday. It was fate that I had my phone on silent, as I now have a lifetime memory.
As I think back to last week and what I had originally hoped to have happen to celebrate my milestone birthday, and then reflect on how the week went, I realized that everything worked out perfectly. It was different for sure. I found new ways to celebrate (such as hiking up to the top of the HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles, which allowed me to check something off my bucket list).
It was QUALITY, not quantity. Perhaps I learned that the new normal, starting in 2020, is about quality of life. Have you thought about how your life is going to be different now? Maybe it’s not so bad that we have had to slow down our hectic pace. We’re not traveling as much, not eating as much, perhaps sleeping more and taking better self-care.
I think this trip around the sun was awesome and I look forward to what the near year holds!
Sixteen years ago, I met Sarah Frey (pictured above). She was the 2004 recipient of the annual scholarship that my sister Jackie and I created in 2001 to honor our mother while she was alive. The Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship annually funds up to four members of family owned businesses in the produce industry to attend The Washington Conference (formerly the Washington Public Policy Conference). The conference, held each year in September, was created by the United Fresh Produce Association to bring members of our industry to Washington, D.C., to talk with our elected officials (Senators and members of Congress) about the priorities of the agriculture industry.
Members of the industry apply for the scholarship each year and an independent selection committee chooses the winners. Jackie and I attend the conference and always spend time interacting and encouraging the scholarship winners. Over the years, more than 60 members of family owned produce businesses have joined us in Washington D.C.! In the fourth year, a young woman from the Midwest was awarded the scholarship and she stood out like no other. Her name is Sarah Frey (pronounced fry).
In 2004, when I first met Sarah in Washington, frankly, she seemed very timid and too quiet to be a business owner. She was 28. I was told that she was one of the largest pumpkin and watermelon growers in America and, as a woman-owned business, she was on the radar of many of the biggest retailers in America. My friends at Walmart told me that they really enjoyed doing business with Sarah and her company. And she had hired as one of her company managers, a longtime friend of mine, Paul Fleming.
Paul confided that she was amazing and she really was a force to be reckoned with. Not only did she spend time that week on the hill talking with our elected officials about the shortage of farm labor, water rights and hours of service regulations for truckers—but later I realized I could have learned a thing or two FROM her! Although quiet in her demeanor, she was compelling, knowledgeable and frankly, fearless.
Over the years, I have enjoyed getting to know Sarah better. Her niece, Hilary, and my eldest daughter Alex were both selected for United’s year-long Leadership Program in 2014. So Sarah and I met up at their class graduation. When my mother passed away in January, Sarah arranged to attend the celebration of life we held in February, flying all the way out to California to attend.
When our industry was soliciting nominations for its annual Women in Produce Award this past June, I couldn’t wait to nominate Sarah for this recognition. The Women in Produce Award was created over 25 years ago to highlight and give recognition to those women in our industry who have an inspiring untold story. Little did I know when I was putting together the nomination packet that Sarah’s story was about to be told to the public.
Sarah had just completed her autobiography The Growing Season and it was published in August by Penguin/Random House. I had the incredible opportunity to listen to it last week on Audible. Talk about a compelling and inspiring story!
Sarah is the youngest of eight children and moved out on her own when she was 15. To support herself, she bought melons from local farmers and developed a route of delivering those melons in her pickup truck direct to grocery stores. She was so successful that she ended up buying her family farm and house out of bankruptcy! When I originally heard that she was the owner of Frey Farms and her four older brothers worked for her, I was in disbelief! But, after reading the book, I now know how it all happened.
Sarah is a survivor. She never takes no for an answer. She always finds a way to get things done. Here is a perfect example: while she was in bed recovering from the birth of her eldest son, she was interviewed by telephone by a Harvard Business School professor for a case study on how she negotiated with Walmart!
If you ever want to be inspired, especially in times like now, when many of us live in fear of being caught without a mask and hand sanitizer, I highly recommend you either read or listen to The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life—and Saved an American Farm.
Or perhaps, you will have tuned into Good Morning America this week and saw Sarah being interviewed. Or, in a few years, you may see an ABC Television/Cable series based on the book! Just last week Sarah texted me the announcement of the deal she signed with ABC.
When I think back to that first meeting with Sarah in 2004 and fast forward to seeing her accept the Women in Produce Award earlier this year, I am in awe of how determined Sarah has always been her entire life and how much I can learn from her. Just like my mother, success came to Sarah because she never saw obstacles. How many of us put up our own obstacles? How many of us have self-talk that is negative or not productive? Next time we think we have hit a bump in the road (or a pothole), or a door has started to shut on us, let’s be a little more like Sarah. Where there is a will, there is definitely a way!
Besides COVID (and our new work-from-home, self-isolating, temperature-taking and no-handshaking lifestyle) and climate change (exemplified by the raging fires in Northern California, fires in Southern California, flooding in Iowa, high winds and overcast skies/poor air quality), I’m guessing we all have the same thing at the top of our minds—the election.
Every time an election rolls around (whether it’s in a Presidential election year like this year, or every two years when we elect congressional representatives, state officials or local community leaders), I oftentimes get a sense of apathy from many people. Apathy sounds like: “My vote doesn’t matter. I don’t know which candidate is better. I don’t understand what the (California) propositions really mean. I’m not registered. I’ve never voted before.”
Well, this year I am channeling my inner “Frieda Caplan”—my mom. When we held her celebration of life in February, we shared her favorite quote from the commencement speech she gave in 2014 at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo when she was awarded an Honorary PhD. On that Saturday morning, she spoke to thousands of newly graduated students who were embarking on the next step in their life journey. Here was her advice:
“Never badmouth others. Always listen to the whole story.
Be a voice in your community. Be politically active, VOTE, speak up.”
This week, millions of Americans will be receiving their ballots at home. Many of us have signed up for or are eligible to vote by mail, making it incredibly easy to cast your vote in the comfort of your home. But, as you know, there has been a lot of controversy about the U.S. Postal Service and its ability to handle the anticipated surge in mail volume and to safely ensure the delivery of ballots to secure ballot-counting locations.
I am personally thrilled that there is so much publicity about the ease of voting and the ability for most everyone to vote by mail. So many of our citizens take our right to vote for granted. In fact, it has only been 100 years since female citizens in the United States have had the right to vote! [That one is personally shocking to me!]
Did you know that Chile, Ecuador, Australia and more than 15 other countries require compulsory voting (if you don’t vote, you can be fined and, in fact, in Bolivia you can be denied your salary if you cannot show proof of voting within three months after the election!)?
So, if you are one of those people who doesn’t think your vote matters, or you feel you don’t have time to go to the polls, or can’t make a decision on who or what to vote for … you have one month to do your research! Time to get on it!
Here in California, the land of “propositions” (where citizens and groups can petition to put issues on the ballot for a direct vote of citizens, therefore bypassing the regular legislative process), voting for or against an item can be tremendously confusing. I was just introduced to www.CalMatters.Org — a nonpartisan, non political organization that explains the real meaning of items on the ballot. If you live in California, check it out: The CalMatters 2020 Elections Guide.
In closing, I want to say this. We live in a democracy where we have the ability and the responsibility to be active citizens. We may not all agree with each other as to who should be elected to represent us. But, as citizens, and responsible members of humanity, we should take advantage of the right we have to vote and have our voice heard.
If you own a company, encourage your employees to vote; remind them that it is their hard-earned right. Give them time off to vote if they didn’t vote by mail.
If you’re not an owner, then as you talk with your friends, family and coworkers—without politicizing the conversation—encourage them to vote. If they want more information, help them find it. In California, our Secretary of State sends out an Official Voter Information Guide. Read it!
Wear red, white and blue every day until the election to remind people that being patriotic is being an active citizen. It does not indicate whether you are Republican or Democrat. It says you care.
As my mother said, “Be a voice in your community. Be politically active. VOTE. Silence is not an option.”
Los Alamitos, CA (October 2020) – As the ghost of COVID continues to linger, Halloween is expected to look a little different this year, making now the perfect time to inspire shoppers and their families to try something new in the produce department!
According to a recent survey, 45% of shoppers are looking to find new and different things in the grocery store to make life a little more fun and interesting since the onset of the global pandemic.1
“I look forward to our Spooky Foods promotion all year long because it’s a great way to get shoppers to try something they have never had before. This year, I’m especially excited about our super-sweet yellow dragon fruit from Ecuador with a Brix level as high as 23…so sweet your kids will think it’s candy!” says Allen Demo, director of business & grower development at Frieda’s.
Just because consumers are opting for small Halloween gatherings at home or letting kids trick-or-treat within their social pods, doesn’t mean that Halloween needs to be less fun. Remind them about the joys of Halloween by displaying carved faces on apples and kiwanos®, creating jackfruit jack-o-lanterns, and staging rambutans to show off the fruit’s fearsome spiky sweetness! Don’t forget to add festive decorations from other departments to help to create the full Halloween effect.
Make the produce department a destination this Halloween by stocking up on fruits and vegetables that will give your shoppers something to cackle about. Your Frieda’s account manager will help you create the perfect potion for a chilling Spooky Foods display to drive incremental sales this October.
1 May 2020. C+R Research Omnibus Survey. Sample size of 1,000 people. Representative of total U.S. demographics.
About Frieda’s Inc.
Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.
Thanks to my 45-minute commute each way to work daily, I am reading one book a week. By “reading,” I mean I am listening to them on Audible. I am a huge fan of audio books. At this pace, I am constantly looking for recommendations of books to read.
Thanks to AI (Artificial Intelligence), Audible takes care of that for me, if I let it. So last week, after I finished No Rules Rules, by Reed Hastings (CEO and co-founder of Netflix), Audible suggested I might like to read the Dale Carnegie classic How to Win Friends & Influence People.
Even though I had read the book many years ago—and have taken several of the Dale Carnegie training courses (which, by the way, I still find helpful and relevant)—I thought, “It never hurts to reread a classic.”
Part of my inspiration for rereading this book was a speaker I heard probably 20 years ago. Boaz Rauchwerger continues to be a popular speaker in business circles. I use Boaz’ “Five Key Questions” when I meet someone for the first time, and have done so for years:
Boaz Rauchwerger’s Five Key Questions
Boaz always started his presentation by saying he reads, or rather rereads, the Dale Carnegie classic How to Win Friends & Influence People once a year! He shared that he always gets a new insight regarding people relations. So, I figured if Boaz reads it once a year, I could reread it for the second time.
Because I am listening to this book during my two-way daily commute, I have a unique opportunity to apply the principles twice every day, once when I get to work and then again when I get home at night.
The Carnegie book is divided into four sections. This infographic outlines it for you: How to Win Friends & Influence People Summary:
There are so many lessons to be learned through following the practices in this book. Several stood out to me that I have tried out in the last week. I’ve had incredible success in using them authentically.
Probably the easiest and most effective of Dale Carnegie’s principles is just one word: Smile. It’s so easy to do, but I for one can say that it is easy to forget. I learned long ago that if you smile at someone it is the other person’s natural instinct to smile back. Physically, it is impossible to NOT smile back. I’ve tried it many times, whether at work, at home, or out in public. A person always smiles back at me. And then, the rest is easy.
So, during these stressful times when tensions are high and nothing seems to go the way you are used to, it might be a good refresher to pull out that dusty copy of Dale Carnegie’s book and read a chapter a day, or even a chapter a week. The chapters are short but the message is timeless.
After all, the book was first published in 1936 (thus all the references to Presidents Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson) and the paper copy I just pulled off my bookshelf was the 102nd printing in December 1975!