“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.” Barbara Jordan
Just saw Joshua Redman’s trio at Jazz Alley in Seattle last night. As the amazing music washed over me, thoughts began to fly – here’s a few words:
The woman with the perpetual smile – shining in the glare of the stage lights
Feeling the ache of every note
Memories colliding in the darkness
The. Woman. With. The. Perpetual. Smile.
What lies inside – pain and joy, a mix of all that makes us human
So many cliches, tomorrow is another day, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle
I claim my pain and my joy
I fight for my right to remember – all of it, not just the good times
And still, I choose to be happy
I choose to be
The woman with the perpetual smile
I will be 50 years old on October 30 (go Scorpio!) and I recently started acknowledging the fact that I’m getting old when I noticed that my feet had grown a half size, I need glasses for reading and distance, and my hormones were acting up so badly I had to buy a new facial wash. Apparently I’m not the only woman dealing with this issue, Neutrogena has a face wash that deals with pimples and wrinkles. So I decided that I would celebrate my birthday for the entire month of October, I have been posting old pictures of myself on Facebook, and we are taking a trip to Seattle this weekend to celebrate with my family (dancing will most definitely be involved) and see a Seahawks game. I haven’t been to the new stadium and I’m excited to see my team in person, even though we had to pay an arm and a leg for nosebleed seats. It’s all about the atmosphere.
So posting all those old photos got me reminiscing about the past. I actually contacted my old high school principal, to let him know how successful I’ve been and the impact he had on my life (as noted in this column for Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/running/givens3). It’s a good time to reflect on how far I have come in life. I know I have many years ahead of me, but I never could have imagined how life would play out for me. I have been a successful academic, which is a huge accomplishment in this day and age of higher ed under fire. Given where I come from (see this blog post http://blog.terrigivens.com/2013/04/06/how-much-is-enough/), it’s amazing that I beat the odds in so many different ways.
My son Andrew (just turned 14) recently asked me a very interesting question “do you ever have any free time” — he was asking because he is already thinking about what he wants to do as a job. My response was that I’m usually working or spending time with him and his brother, but I love my work, so that’s why I don’t mind it. I told him I appreciate the fact that my job is flexible so I can take time during the day to pick him up from school, or go to his sporting events, and then work in the evenings. I’ve certainly been busy with all the writing I have been doing lately (one example is in Politico Magazine) as well as interviews on TV and radio. It still hurts that I can’t call my parents on the phone to tell them about my latest exploits, but as I age, I also am gaining more perspective on the rhythms of life. Nobody gets out of here alive, and this is the prime of my life, when I’m supposed to be out there sharing my gifts. As my mother always told me, “don’t keep your light under a bushel!”
So turning 50 is not so bad, I’m still in great physical shape (except for my sore achilles tendons), I have a beautiful family, a great job, and there’s so much more to look forward to…including the Seahawks making it to the Superbowl again! I’ll have more thoughts on turning 50 in the coming weeks, consider this just another step in the journey…
Shelley Seale has written an article on the State of Austin – including my thoughts on Austin’s present and future.
With our city growing and changing around us, we take a closer look at the issues shaping Austin today.
By Shelley Seale
Austin is the country’s current “it” city. All of the things we love about this place,
find quirky and unusual and even a little rebellious, seem to have been discovered by
the rest of the world. The 11th largest city in the U.S. has seen a lot of changes recently,
yet remains home to many beloved long-time institutions. Here we take a look at Austin today,
in a snapshot of many different facets of the State Capital of Texas.
The speed with which Austin is growing seems to be the hottest topic of conversation around the city these days. An explosion of “Don’t move here” t-shirts and “We hear Houston is nice” bumper stickers proliferate amid the buzz about how many thousands of people move to the…
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The juxtaposition of the passing of Robin Williams with the death of Michael Brown, shot by the police in Ferguson, Missouri, was a stunning example of the disconnect we have in this country. So many posts on social media about depression, suicide and reaching out for help. It made me wonder how many people ever think about the never-ending impact of discrimination that ultimately leads to the deaths of African-Americans, Latinos and so many others in this country, at the hands of the people who have pledged to protect us as citizens.
America has been sleep-walking into a situation where the police have become the occupiers in some neighborhoods. Dressed in fatigues, carrying weapons that belong on a battlefield, not in a residential neighborhood, and seeing those who they have sworn to protect as “the enemy.” As noted by the ACLU (https://www.aclu.org/war-comes-home-excessive-militarization-american-policing), the excessive militarization of the police has become more than a ticking time bomb, it is now exploding in the deaths of people across the country.
How do we de-escalate this situation? Ferguson, Missouri looks like a war zone, with the frustration of so many years finally boiling over. But it’s not just in Ferguson, people across the country are venting their frustrations and standing with the people of Ferguson, like these students from Howard University:
I don’t have any answers, I just know that it seems like we have reached a tipping point. I know that I will continue doing what I can to educate people and try to work on changing the tide. But it has an impact on all of us, the sleepless nights, the anger, the micro- and macro-aggressions that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Worrying about what might happen to our children, our husbands, ourselves…it ultimately damages the psyche, not just of an individual, but of an entire country.
Yes, I’m angry. I’m an angry mother to two boys who shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they are carrying a toy gun while playing in the front yard. I shouldn’t have to worry that my son will be driving in a couple of years and I’ll have to teach him how to avoid being pulled over by the police.
I’m angry that the world looks at the events in Ferguson, Missouri and many will use it as an example of why those black people deserve to be gunned down.
I’m angry that too many of our elected officials are unwilling to face up to the violence and acknowledge the frustrations that lie underneath it.
I’m angry that we lose people we love to depression and suicide, that we don’t take mental illness seriously in this country, treating it like the medical condition that it is.
I’m angry that we can’t support a healthcare system in this country that pays for critical medications for those who can’t afford it.
I’m angry that I can’t sleep at night, worrying about what is next for our country, and wondering how we can stop the violence here and abroad.
I hope the petitions help, but it’s going to take more than that. I can’t afford to let go of this anger, just like the folks in Ferguson, Missouri. I plan to channel my anger into action, to fight to make sure that my boys aren’t the next victims. Class, manners, education, and even being mixed-race – none of it can protect them in the end. This country needs to take a long look in the mirror – but I know that’s not possible in this political climate. Too much of our politics is being driven by hate. It’s up to us to change the equation, even if it’s one person, one elected official, one police officer, one teacher, one friend at a time…
I’ll do it for them:
I keep editing this post, because my feelings keep evolving — I was hoping to write an upbeat post about the wonderful day I had – and it has truly been an amazing day today. I woke up next to the man I love, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with my boys, then went out on the lake. We are staying at our lake house this weekend, at Lake LBJ and even though the temps are in the 100s, there’s a nice breeze and we can jump in the lake whenever we need to cool off. It’s not difficult to find joy in a day like today…but sometimes I feel guilty that I can find enjoyment in the midst of all the chaos in the world today. I know that I live an incredibly privileged life and I’m always trying to find ways to do more…
I have worries, as we all do, but I also try to find joy in the simple pleasures of a summer’s day. It’s at times like these that I remember the serenity prayer:
I have enjoyed a special day with my boys, but I also worry about their future in the midst of a world that doesn’t always protect the innocent…and so I will also take action where I can. Signing a petition is an incredibly small step for me alone, but many voices together can help lead to change. If you care about this issue, then I urge you to sign, too – click on the link below to go to the petition:
I’m sitting on my parent’s couch that they purchased 13 years ago – it barely shows any sign of wear. My father passed away in June of 2001, just a few months after they had redecorated their home in a retirement community in Mesa, Arizona. My mother had a stroke 4 years later and had to be placed in a skilled nursing facility until she passed away in May of 2010. I’ve written before about losing my mother, but there are days when it hits harder than others.
After my mother passed away, I was able to take most of her living room furniture and use it in our lake house near Austin. It’s a bit formal for a lake house, but it’s a link to the life that my parents had made for themselves in retirement, and I’m sure they are glad that I’m able to use it. It’s hard to believe that it has been 13 years since my father passed away and 4 years since my mother passed away. There are still times when I want to pick up the phone and tell them how their grandsons are growing, or about the latest book I published.
As I sit on my mother’s couch, I think about the dreams they must have had for us. As I look at turning 50 in October, I reflect on a life that has been blessed with a close-knit family, good friends and a world that is looking crazy at the moment, but that can’t even come close to the uncertainty that my parents had to live with, growing up during the depression, World War II, the Jim Crow South, and an America that considered them less than human. It’s during times like these that I have to kick myself in the rear and remember that my parents sacrificed so that their children would have amazing opportunities like I have been able to take advantage of in my life (and for a nice profile, see my friend Anne Boyd’s blog).
The passing of my parents and others close to me, including my niece Melissa, has left a hole in my heart, but as I sit here on my mother’s couch, I know that they are here with me, enjoying the evening with a laugh and a smile. Although they have passed from this world, their love lives on, in those they left behind and it helps to fill in some of the emptiness that is that hole in my heart — it won’t ever go away, but as my boys grow it will be filled with their achievements and most of all, their love. ♥
If you have been following the news about the University of Texas, where I am a professor in the Department of Government, you will understand my previous post about stress. I was very concerned about the developments with our President Bill Powers, and the impact it could have on the university. In the end, cooler heads prevailed, and Bill will step down at the end of this academic year rather than be fired immediately. I had been asked by the Faculty Council to speak on Bill’s behalf at the emergency faculty meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday. The surprise announcement that the Chancellor had backed down led to a quick end to the meeting, but I will share the thoughts I had prepared here:
When I became vice provost in 2006 it was an amazing time at the university. Bill Powers reached out and sought my advice on a variety of issues, something that I will always remember, even though I was newly-tenured and new to the Provost’s office. One of the things that I admire most about Bill is his willingness to listen and the respect that he shows to people, regardless of whether they are a student, a newly-tenured faculty member or a high school student considering coming to UT. I had the opportunity to travel with Bill to several high schools around the state for a diversity program called Longhorn Scholars. Bill took the time out of his busy schedule to meet with students from low-income neighborhoods to encourage them to go to UT. Bill’s commitment to diversity is unparalleled, from his support of affirmative action to his push for gender equality within the university. We didn’t always agree, but I always knew that Bill respected me, and he deserves the respect that the faculty is here to show today. I hope that Chancellor Cigarroa and the Regents will show their respect for Bill, this faculty and this university and allow Bill to stay on through this academic year.
Many articles have been written about the situation at UT, and on a personal level I hope that all parties will take a step back and focus on what is best for our students, faculty and staff as we try to move forward and choose new leaders.
Whenever I’m feeling stressed, I like to think of a place I’ve been that helps me to breathe and relax. During our recent trip to Belize, there were many great places, but after being home for a couple of weeks, I have to say that my favorite place was the Split on Caye Caulker. It was a great place to swim, enjoy a drink at the bar, watch the sunset and watch some soccer. Just thinking about it makes my stress levels drop a few notches.