2013 gets off to a fast start – some thoughts on our democracy.

I can’t believe January is almost over — it has been a crazy, hectic month.  We are getting ready for the kick-off of our partnership between my fitness program Take Back the Trail and Southwest Key; our new women’s group, Austin Women for Political Action had its first meeting; one of my main areas of research, immigration, has become a very hot topic (see my other blog immigrationtexas.org); and on the academic front I have a bunch of writing projects to get done in the next few weeks.  Whew — it seems like every major project I have been working on for the last two years has come to a head this month!  It’s all good, just a reminder that I’m always juggling too many things at the same time.

In any case, I was able to attend the presidential inauguration in Washington this month as well, which was a reminder of the vibrancy of our democracy.  It was really nice being in the crowd, and the weather was much warmer than 4 years ago, when we were able to watch the parade from the comfort of a local law firm’s building. I spent the week in DC, attending various events and I gave a talk at GWU on my latest book project on antidiscrimination policy in Europe.  Being in DC for the inauguration was like being in a bubble — so much was going on, but it was only in DC — the rest of the U.S. and the world was going along normally. The gun control issue was at the top of the agenda while we were in DC, and as someone who believes in common-sense gun control laws (i.e., the public doesn’t really need access to military hardware) I was a bit surprised that it didn’t make it into the President’s inaugural speech, but he touched on many issues which are important to me such as gay rights,  immigration, climate change, and supporting the middle class.  One of my favorite lines was “The most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is still the star that guides us.

As the debates on gun control, immigration and other issues unfold over the next year, it will be important to respect the opinions of all sides, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out on issues that are important to us. As a political scientist, I understand the complexities of policy making, but as a mother, I have to speak up for myself, my children and those I hold dear. Our democracy functions when, “WE THE PEOPLE” are engaged, involved and pay attention to what our representatives are doing. As President Obama so eloquently said, “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.”  The stakes are high — this is an important time for our country and we all need to be informed, as much as possible.  I began this post with how busy I am, and I will generally focus my time on the issues that are in my area of expertise, like immigration, but that doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of all other issues.  It doesn’t take that much time to write a letter to your congressperson (glad to know there are more women in congress!).  Not everyone has time to be involved, of course, but every little bit helps…IMG_0926IMG_0929IMG_0922

Life, death and the journey forward…

2012 got off to a very bad start.  My oldest sister lost her husband after his 3 ½ year battle with kidney cancer.  His brother died from kidney cancer a month later.  It was the end of a string of family losses and crises that continually challenged my equanimity. I’ve written about much of this before, but now I’m looking at it after a fairly calm semester, and I’m just beginning to realize the impact that the last couple of years had on my career and productivity.  It’s a good time to reflect on the past year, lessons I have learned, and issues I think will be important in the coming months.

It has become clear to me that I was running on adrenaline for the past year.  I had way too  many projects, I ran a half marathon in January, the marathon in February and a 10 miler in March.  I had a lot of anger, grief and pain to run off.  I’m still working out this year, but I don’t have any races planned, I’m skipping the 3M half marathon for the first time in years, and I’m trying to focus on spending more time with my husband and kids.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot going on — besides my regular job as a university professor, I’m on four nonprofit boards, many committees, and my big project Take Back the Trail is taking off after much hard work.  I love working in the community, but sometimes I feel like I’m learning to breathe again.  Sometimes I cry for those who have gone ahead.  I hope to eventually work on a book about my mother and our relationship, but that will take time and more healing after her passing 2 1/2 years ago.  I’m learning to have patience with myself and to try to not be so hard on myself when I can’t do it all.

In the next year I have a variety of goals, I’m becoming more politically active, particularly on women’s issues (check out our FB page Austin Women for Political Action ) I hope to finish a book manuscript or two, but I’m going to make sure I take time for those quiet moments that help to re-energize me.  I almost never take time to watch TV, except for the occasional football game, so  I’m going to pick one of the new series to watch on a regular basis — I just started watching Downton Abby with Mike.  I’m going to try to see movies in the theatre more regularly, and not just kid movies. We are good at getting out to concerts, so we already have that outlet, and the regular date night.

So the main lessons I have learned over the past few years, is that you can live with heartache, it’s not good to drive yourself too hard, exercise is a good thing in moderation, and the most important thing of all is spending quality time with the people you love.  Unfortunately none of us will be around forever, and watching my kids grow up and being a part of their lives is one of the most rewarding parts of my life.

Taking time to breathe before going skiing with the family with a view of Lake Tahoe
Taking time to breathe before going skiing with the family with a view of Lake Tahoe