Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

November 18, 2012

Post-Election Now

Filed under: Family,Genealogy,Politics — Janice @ 11:06 pm

After I wrote that last blog, I kept thinking of more of the reasons why I voted for President Obama. And more and more reasons why I couldn’t fathom why someone would vote for Mitt Romney. Fortunately, that is all water under the bridge now. I was so incredibly relieved that the election was not close and there were no (major) shenanigans that affected the outcome of the election. I was really shocked it was called so early. I had to have my little celebration quietly because Mark had fallen asleep on his chair. Maybe an hour or so after it was called for Pres. Obama, he turned over and seemed to be in a lighter phase of sleep so I let him know at that point that we had four more years of Obama and he raised his head up enough to say, “Really? Cool,” before he fell back asleep.

I will go back to not talking politics here. I do worry, at times, that something I write here will affect me in my job or in future job searches. Everyone reads about employees that get fired for things that are on their Facebooks or things they write on their blogs. I know I will not be fired for lewd photos since none exist, but since we have seen employers already laying people off since the election because of politics, the possibility is always there, I suppose. I will hope for the best and hope that, it it were to happen, that I would make headlines and freedom lovers and first amendments supporters would rush to my aid.

Back to other topics of my life as I try to get into a writing rhythm again…

My Uncle Dick died at the end of October. I don’t believe you’ve ever read about him here. He was the younger brother of my grandfather. He was not just a little younger, he was a LOT younger than his 3 older brothers. My grandfather was born in 1908 and he was the second oldest. Dick was born in 1923. The 3 older boys were out of the house, married, and gone before Dick was even in school. This is my favorite picture of their family from that era, just because it does show the drastic difference in their ages:


I’d say this was about 1927. A pretty prosperous looking bunch. My grandfather is the second from the right. Dick is the little one.

I’ve kind of been watching over Uncle Dick for the last few years and I’ve been his medical power of attorney. I was the one who had to sign all the paperwork to let the hospice people take over his care in his last week or so of life. Up until then he really was in his right mind and I never had to make any medical decisions for him.  My dad was only 5 years younger than his uncle and at some point in the 1990s, Dad insisted the Uncle Dick come and live in a nursing home near their house. Dad was good to visit him on a weekly basis and was his only male relative and only friend in the world. When Dad died in 2006, I couldn’t take over that role, but I did try to visit him from time to time (more like once a year instead of once a week) and send him a card occasionally.

Uncle Dick was really odd and not someone that we looked forward to seeing. And I don’t just mean because of the nursing home atmosphere. He was raised as a Mama’s boy and he lived with his mother his whole life. His own father died when he was only  11 and with his brothers all grown and married, he was left to help take care of the cows and the farm. He left school in about fifth grade (though he had fallen behind and was older than his classmates then) and never got any more education. He did get married once, but the story I heard was that she came to live with him and his domineering mother (my great-grandmother) and it wasn’t long before neighbors across the road heard her hollering one night, “Doyle!” (his real first name was Doyle) Doyle, we’re going in to town tomorrow and we’re getting’ us a divorce!”  And they did. I don’t know how much of that is true, but I got it from a very reliable source.

The story that I love to tell about Uncle Dick, though, is about his encounter with “them men from outer space” (I think that’s how he put it). I had heard my Dad comment sometimes about Dick having seen aliens, always scoffing about it, of course, but I had never heard the stories. I hadn’t seen Uncle Dick at all in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t think. He wasn’t the kind of uncle that you brought out to the house to join us for family events. After Daddy died and I began visiting Uncle Dick, I asked him to tell me about that encounter. Imagine if you went in and asked your uncle to tell you what he had had for lunch and he said, “Oh, I had a ham and cheese sandwich on toast and some pickles.” Uncle Dick told the story with about that much credibility. It wasn’t oversold or hyperbolic. He didn’t have to search his mind for details or think about things. He didn’t embellish in any way. He just told the story.

The story he told was that he was working as a janitor at a K-Mart in Burleson in the 1970s (he gave a specific year – see? his memory was better than mine). The store was near an air base and he frequently heard large transport planes fly over during the night. One night he heard a large vehicle flying over, but having some sort of engine trouble and he took note that it sounded like it might be in trouble. Then he saw a lot of lights from the front of the store. They were near a highway and he assumed it was a highway patrol with a traffic stop on the Interstate. But then the lights in the store all went out and he was in pitch black. So he made his way to the front of the store and those lights and he saw a space ship in the parking lot with the lights on it. And there were “them outer spacemen” up closer to the store looking at him. He said that they were on the other side of that big sidewalk in front of the store and he motioned for them to come closer to the window so he could see them, but they didn’t. They just stayed there on that side of the sidewalk “dancing around the way they do.” At some point they go back to their space ship and they fly away and lights come back on. And a policeman comes along and asks Uncle Dick if he saw a spaceship and outer space men and he told them that he had and the policeman drove off. What is interesting (well, it is all interesting)… I have a friend that is a science fiction writer and she writes about aliens a lot so she has studied all the alien sighting stories and I told her about his description of the aliens and that “dancing around the way they do” and she said that that description of the dancing around and sort of working in tandem as a group is a very common description of a certain type of alien that seems to have an “ant-like” mentality where they work together and function together like ants.

When most people die, it takes several members of the family to make a lot of calls and ask those people to call members of their family to let people know about the death. With Dick, there just weren’t many notifications to make. I had called my mom when hospice called me and said it was close, but didn’t call her back when he died because it was late. I called her the next day and told her. My sister was in Italy with her family so I waited until they were all home the next week to tell her. The only other relative that really cared was my cousin Nancy. She was his actual niece, the daughter of the man on the right in the picture above. She lived near where he lived and had visited him and been very sweet to him and had even taken her mother from her nursing home over to see him in his nursing home. I have only known this cousin a couple of years, but we have bonded a lot in that time. I called her as he was getting sicker. I asked her if she thought we needed to have a funeral. To my great relief, she said she didn’t think so. We felt like the two of us and maybe our husbands would be the only attendees. I made all the arrangements long distance and we will get together at some point in the future and pay our respects.

I’ll close with another sweet picture of Dick as a kid. That’s him on the right with my dad on his shoulders.


November 5, 2012

The Election

Filed under: Politics — Janice @ 12:00 am

I can’t let Election Day get here Tuesday without telling you that I have voted and I have again voted for President Obama, along with a straight-party ticket of Democrats. I have voted a LOT of different ways in all my voting years. I have been one of those “it’s not the party, but the man” voters, too. Finally, in middle-age, I realize that the party DOES make all the difference. And there are things I agree with Republicans about completely. And things I disagree with on the Democratic agenda. But, all in all, I am ecstatic to have a president that said he would get us out of a war and has done it. Can you remember anyone before ever even getting elected with that promise? I can only see more war and more involvement in causes that do not benefit us as a country if we elect a Republican president this year.

The Democrat’s whole-hearted support of women’s issues including equal pay for equal work and a woman’s right to have medical procedures that she and her doctor deem necessary – THAT ARE PERFECTLY LEGAL – without interference from the government is my number one reason to be a Democrat. I could go on and on about my disgust with all the references to “legitimate rape” and “that rape thing” and the categories of rape that Republicans have decided to label women with. I worked for Rape Crisis in Amarillo and Dallas. It was an incredibly hard volunteer job and that is why I haven’t done it in 25 years. I admire the people that work with rape prevention and rape counseling organizations. They are desperately needed. But the comments this election season have taken me back to the training sessions I went through and the victims that came and spoke to our group about their experiences – not just with rape, but with the court system, the medical system, and the police. And then when I began to meet and talk to victims that were only hours removed from the experience itself… I can promise you that any candidate that starts classifying this rape as “better” than that rape has never sat in a hospital waiting room and talked to the husband, sister, friend, daughter, or GRANDCHILD of a rape victim. It seems they have the “typical” rape victim in their mind and there is no such thing.

Okay – I didn’t mean to get off on that tangent.

Mitt Romney is a businessman, he claims. I see it more as a speculator. Whether you call him a businessman or a speculator, we have had some of those in office before … Herbert Hoover, for instance. More recently George Bush and George W. Bush. They had businesses. They ran oil companies or baseball teams (wait, what WAS W’s business again?). I don’t recall the economy doing anything consistently spectacular during their terms that would make me rush to put a businessman back in charge of the economy. And being able to order a business to lay off workers or hire workers or build a new plant or borrow money or do any of the functions of a businessman don’t necessarily translate to improving an economy. And when a president begins to order Congress around as if he were their boss, then you’ll quickly see how unlike a business it can be.

If I had doubts or disappointments with the four years President Obama has spent in office, and if I weren’t happier with the Democratic platform than with the Republican, I still could not support Mitt Romney. Fact checkers have pointed out the misinformation from both campaigns and both candidates all through this year. There are shadings of the truth from both sides to make their case seem stronger. That is politics. But time and time again I have heard flat out lies from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. And I am no political genius or pundit. But when I can hear a speech and hear something that I think sounds wrong and immediately go to the Internet and find the actual facts from which they are diverging, it appalls me that they can lie so easily and then deny it. When Mitt Romney claims he never said something when there is video – yes, even unedited so it isn’t pulling out a single sentence out of context – I wonder if he has never heard this magical thing called YouTube. Seeing him say that he doesn’t care about the 47% was eye-opening. It wasn’t said in a speech televised while he was on the campaign trail, it was said when he’s talking to wealthy donors. Whether he said it because he thought it was what THEY wanted to hear or whether he said it because it is what he believes is inconsequential. Just the fact that a presidential candidate would write off half of the population (whether he is really referring to people who don’t pay taxes – which includes members of the service, the working poor, retirees—or just about people that vote for Obama or even if he is truly referring to poor people that are stuck in a cycle of poverty and need the government assistance because there is no other way to survive) is an attitude I would expect from a man that has never been laid off from a job, never had to cash in coins to see if he could pay a bill, and never took on a second job or a third job because times are very hard. But it is not an attitude that a president can have when he is leading a country that includes millions of people struggling to make it through another day.

I hope election results will quickly and easily point to an Obama victory on Tuesday night. With the voter manipulation and efforts to keep as many voters as possible from even making it to a voting booth this year, I have worries. I do not trust that the system is not rigged. If Mitt Romney becomes our next president, I do not think there will be rioting in the streets or the world or our country will end. I do think that the next 4, 8, 12, 16 years will only get tougher. I was laid off in 2001 and 2002 and then 2007. I have had a moderately good job for 2.5 years now. It pays considerably less than my last job, so I have two side jobs to help add to the income. Still, together with Mark and his two jobs, we are not making anything like we were making for a short period of time when the economy was doing well. And our 401K took a huge hit in 2008, too, of course. I can definitely say we are better off – day by day — than we were 4 years ago, but we have not caught up from all the down times and any upcoming bad times will knock us clear off the rails when it comes to retirement.

I do hope you have voted or will vote on Tuesday and I would like you to vote for President Obama to return to office. But if you feel differently because there are issues that are non-negotiable to you and the Republican platform matches your views, I can understand that. We do have free speech in this country, too, but if you feel the need to rebut my thoughts, please do it on your own blog, not in my comments.

January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Politics — Janice @ 9:29 pm

I saw Gloria Steinem on TV one day and she was reminding me and all women of the things that the feminist movement has allowed: Women having property in their own name for one. It is easy to forget how far we have come.

I was thinking about that today, too, as some of my Facebook friends still seem to have the attitude that there is no need for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the calendar, that it was approved and created in an effort to be politically correct. Of course, this friend (truly it was only one) was a white male who has probably never felt discrimination. I got to thinking about the changes that have come about in my lifetime because of the works of MLK and other civil rights leaders and thousands of people willing to fight and march and speak out.

First and foremost, there is a black man serving as the President of the United States. I don’t know about you, but I thought about this as a child and never thought I would see it in my lifetime. Or, if it DID happen, it would be a Vice President that has to take over or some “fluke” like that. There was a book out when I was young called “The Man” (I would link to it, but it is so old I can’t find it online). In it, a black man becomes Secretary of State, I think. The President dies in a plane crash, but the VP is very sick and close to death and won’t let them inaugurate him because he knows he might die soon. So the black man becomes President and the book was about the outcry about it and how he ultimately wins over the citizens. I really didn’t expect to see an African-American man move up through the ranks and run for President and win so overwhelmingly like Barack Obama did. I was a supporter and it thrilled me to have witnessed it. I wondered what my grandparents would have said about it. When I think about MLK and Civil Rights, it is easy to draw a direct line from the 60s to this President. And it is a very short line.

I also think about attitudes within my family changing.

I didn’t know ANY black children or black people until I was probably 10. I was even very confused as to the ethnicity of Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Mathis, and Elvis Presley. Once we moved to Colorado, I went to school with a few black children, though still a minority. I remember walking home with one girl one day and discovering that her father had died in Vietnam. That was very sobering. She was the first person I knew that had a direct connection with that war. Another friend, Regina, was a fun friend at school.  She was planning a sleepover at her house. I hadn’t been invited yet, I don’t think, but I mentioned it to my mother and was told that I would not be allowed to spend the night at the home of a black friend. It wasn’t stated in a mean way, just “that’s the way it is.”

After we moved back to Texas, it was back to an almost all white school again. But a black friend worked on the newspaper with me. Everyone loved him, he was a star football player and an all-round fun guy. I drove him home one night after one of our late night newspaper work sessions because his house was on the way to my house. I mentioned it to my mother and she warned me not to let my dad know about it because he would have a fit.

When my nephews came along, Brandt’s best friend all through elementary and high school–and still today–is an African-American kid. Many times they spent the night at each other’s homes and the attitude has changed considerably in our family. Each generation has improved on the feelings and beliefs of the one before it.

Mark toured with a band that had a black singer for a year or two. I don’t know if they ever faced any discrimination as they traveled in their band van, but that singer sure remembered the days where he only played in the black clubs. He remembered playing in my hometown in the “Heights” where the black clubs were and where the African-American airmen from the base would go.

I guess that is a big difference between me and my dad, too. He had a first cousin that married an African-American in the 50s or 60s. He never forgave her for that and could not understand why she would do that. I don’t think he ever saw her or spoke to her after she married. I’ve learned a lot more about her in recent years. The man she married shared so many of her interests and her views. They both were involved in church mission work and education. It makes sense that she would fall in love. He just happened to have been born in Africa. Later they divorced and she is currently married to another black man. Another case of him being involved in education and things she was interested in. I believe he even supervised the Los Angeles school system at one time. He was also a Tuskegee airman, which makes me very interested in the new movie Red Tails that comes out next week. My dad was an airman, too, but he could not approve of mixed marriages.

And I’ll admit I still squirm a bit when I see a mixed race couple. I worry about their acceptance. I worry about their children. I know I don’t need to worry about it if they aren’t worried about it. I will admit I am still prejudice and occasionally racist. I certainly try not to be, but sometimes I feel those attitudes crop up in things I think. I try not to let them crop up in the way I act.

I still hear cases of discrimination or near discrimination that make me wonder how long it is really going to take to be color blind. I have an African-American friend that I work with that was telling me one day about going into a south Austin restaurant. The restaurant has a large lobby where a hostess greets you and seats you or you can just go on in to the bar if you don’t need a seat to eat. He went in one day to go to the bar to meet up with people from the radio station. He was striding toward the entry to the bar and no hostess was visible and then she came out just before he got to the entry. “Whoa whoa whoa,” she said, “Where are you going?” Not “Can I help you?" but a very clear implication that he didn’t belong in this place. He said he got the distinct feeling that he was not wanted there. He did go on in to the party and stayed a bit, but said he has not been back since. I am sure that there are still many stories like that in Austin.

The Civil Rights movement did not give me any more rights than I would have had as a white girl in America. But it has given me a wider variety of friends and co-workers than I would have had. For that I am grateful. It has certainly given me a richer musical experience and for that I am extremely grateful. Those are very selfish reasons that I am happy that change came to the U.S.A., but this is my blog and I am allowed to be selfish in it.

I am glad we have an African-American family in the White House. It seems sometime that some of the other candidates are desperately holding back on hurling a racial epithet. Instead, they use code words, hoping that there are enough people that understand that code and still hold those views to go back a generation to an all white male political system.

Sorry to go all political on you today, but MLK Day makes me happy. I see it as a reminder of where we have come from and a reminder of what visionaries can achieve.

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