Running in Auckland

15 12 2013

Run on the left side of the sidewalk and the right side of the road.

Give way not yield.

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Stop to smell sunny-side-up flowers.

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Marbury v. Madison, take 37

9 12 2013

Three finals down, two to go. If only all of our finals could be as much fun as our law final. I’m going to miss this class. Szypszak told us at the beginning of the semester to trust him. He had a plan and he knew where he wanted to take us. Class discussions might not seem relevant, but don’t tune out, he said. It’s all part of the Socratic process. “I know where we’re going.” The last day of class, we watched High Noon and sure enough, Chuck brought us full circle, back to practicing virtue by way of being just and honest, as per Aristotle, especially in our relationships.

“If you can’t be an honest lawyer, just be honest.” – Abraham Lincoln

When Szypszak walked into class the first day with his military crewcut and sparse, two-page syllabus, he intimidated us. It was clear he was going to expect the same level of focus and self-discipline from us that he did from himself.

Charles-Szypszak

Charles Szypszak, UNC School of Government

He told us if we liked analysis and that style of thinking, we’d like this class, and that process would come more easily to some than it did to others. I never did better than average on our assignments but my analytical baseline might have been lower to start. Truly, I was happy for every “P” I got in that class knowing how much effort it took for me to deconstruct cases. I’m better at it now than I was to start.

These last three weeks reviewing with Micah, Andrew, and Maria have been fun. (Ask me about the Lemon test, go ahead. Where in the Constitution is a right to privacy stated?) I learned so much from my classmates and our discussions and most of all, from Szypszak’s deliberate selection of these cases to careful guidance of our discussions to tease out the most salient points. I learned a lot. It’s fulfilling to go over Marbury v. Madison now for the 37th time and grasp Justice Marshall’s brilliance at creating judicial review. I understand better what our constitutional freedoms are, how they’ve evolved, and what it looks like when they are being breached.

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With more knowledge of our judicial history, I’m optimistic too, however banal that sounds. Once, our courts upheld racial segregation and sterilization of the mentally disabled. So too, very soon I hope, Amendment One will be an anachronism.

Most of all, Charles Szypszak equipped me with a new way of thinking, of analyzing information, teasing out the logic, questioning its application, and trying to understand from what viewpoint another is making a decision.

I’ll probably get a “P” on his final too, but it will still have been way more enjoyable than these next two finals. On-on.





Life is about love.

8 12 2013

Joe’s right.

This week was a good week, in spite of being finals week from hell. I talked to Jerry Carter, my Program Director from WNCU. We caught up on the phone for the first time in 15 years. I worked for Jerry in WNCU’s first year. What a great time. Jerry professionalized that college radio station and taught me and the other students so much. He mentored us. He introduced me to jazz. He was a father figure to the students.

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This is the only picture I could find of Jerry. It’s 20 years old, and he’s 66 now.

So Jerry’s doing well now living in Hampton, VA. He married a woman he met at Wal-Mart in 2001 after dropping this:

“There’s something you need to know before I leave (Wal-Mart).”
“What’s that?”
“Me.”

Smile.
Jerry told me he’d been trying to find me for 15 years. He said I’d written him two letters many years ago that spoke to his heart and made him feel someone really knew him. I don’t remember writing those letters, but Jerry said he’d kept them. We talked a little about marriage and love and divorce and making mistakes. Jerry said he always knew I was a child of God. Do you have anyone in your life like that, someone who thinks you’re glorious, even if you don’t think so? Jerry can be excused for thinking this way for not having known me and my many mistakes over the past 15 years. I believe though that God put us in touch this week to remind me of what’s important and what is possible in life.

Joe is right. Love is what matters. Jerry was coming off of his divorce after 20 years of marriage when he came down to us at WNCU. Maybe that was a technicolor time in his life, because of his transition, and he will always treasure that time with us.

I also saw John this week. Long overdue.

John Shaw and I had liver pudding and biscuits at Watkins Grill. Our beloved Futures for Kids (F4K) is likely going bankrupt. I have some ideas to get with John on in January to explore if there’s a way we can continue the services, even if the nonprofit is gone. Still, even if F4K goes the way of the dinosaur, I’m happy that we had those 10 years together. John is the most honest and optimistic person I know. I miss seeing him every day, arguing over how we’re going to take over the world. If it weren’t for John, F4K would not be around today, so many times we should have folded. We held F4K together long enough for him to transition to social security and see his girls out of college.

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13 years and many biscuits later

On the heels of this Jerry and John love, I want to get to the other side of this New Zealand holiday. Now I know what my feelings are, I’m eager to get on with life. I want the open space to spend time with friends and family and to think about what kind of work I want to do next. Jerry and John reminded me time goes by so quickly. I royally screwed up with one person I love. Thankfully, there are a few other people I really love whom I want to spend time with before it’s too late.





Raleigh is too small.

8 12 2013

I met Mo out at Kings Barcade for The Love Language show tonight. She brought Margaret and Alex. Later, Joe showed up Steve. I was hoping he wouldn’t show, since I love The Love Language, but that’s the extent to which I don’t factor into his decisions.

He looked so adorable. When I see Steve, I feel first happiness, because he’s the same Steve I used to talk to. Then it’s sadness, because he loves someone else now. I know the next time I see Steve, he’ll be with girlfriend. I wish could stop loving him but I trust time will do its thing.

Joe asked how I was doing, and I said I was focused on school. Joe said, “Life is not about school or work; it’s about love.” Yeah, he’s right.

Alex came from a wedding where he was the best man. He said he had mixed feelings about seeing his friend get married only two years after getting divorced. I like his idea about having a Valentines party for single people to celebrate the benefits of being single. I look forward to being single next year and spending time with family and friends and my d@mn self.





one semester down, three to go

2 12 2013

Today, we presented our economic development strategies in Dr. Hoyman’s class. I really enjoyed taking her Community Economic Development class. She brought guest speakers in each week and made sure we read at least two perspectives on every issue we covered from business incubators to incentives to social capital.

This was our last class, and Dr. H invited us for lunch at her home. She showed us a black and white picture of her and her mom flanking Shirley Chisholm. Activism runs in Hoyman’s family it seems. I admire her. She must be in her late 50s if not early 60s. She has a bucketful of labor relations stories to tell and is still passionate about her work and so energetic, but not at the expense of being warm and open. She gave me some good advice about pursuing the Master in City and Regional Planning.

“I wouldn’t do it.”

I was glad to hear that. This morning I talked with the admissions advisor in the Division of City and Regional Planning (DCRP). I wanted to hear her advice on completing just an MPA and maxing out economic development electives in the DCRP vs. completing the dual degree program in three years. I did the math and figured the dual degree would work time and cost-wise, if I could complete it in 2.5 years.

Vivian, the advisor, said she’d never heard of a dual degree student completing both programs in 2.5 years. Just because no one else has done it doesn’t mean I couldn’t accomplish this, I thought. Then Viv extolled the benefits of the dual degree, how it gives students another edge in the job market. I guess I started to tune out then. I’m skeptical of advice from academics, and I question whether a second masters degree > work experience.

Dr. Hoyman said planners are a different bunch, and for me, wanting to work in economic development (ED), she wouldn’t recommend it. She mentioned a friend of hers who works in ED and has an MCRP and rarely uses it. She said it’s a very technical, detail-oriented, mathematical field, and if you want to work in development, just max our your ED electives.

Good. I am feeling antsy to get back to work, although I am enjoying the cohort experience in grad school.

I am a little nervous about our Bureaucrats’ Ball this Friday night. It’s a formal social at a restaurant in town, and I expect most people will be partnered up. I thought about passing and not going, but that would be the chickensh!t route. Better to experience everything.

This is the final week of school. Tomorrow is our last day of class, and next week we turn in our papers and sit for the law exam. I still haven’t figured out how to organize my printouts, and the semester is ending.

Lots of emotions swirling around this week. My paper for Dr. Hoyman, I felt could have been better. My classmates seem to have a more comprehensive grasp on the material it seems to me. I worked hard on our analytical memo for law class and still came out with an average grade. I’ve wasted time on that old self-doubt of whether I’m smart enough.

Sunday morning, I ran with a group of Raleigh runners and sat next to a fellow in his early 70s. God willing, I’ll be his age too. Next year, I turn 40, and I’ve been thinking about the next 40 years of my life. It feels like such a short time.

I’m going to die, and I want to have done something good with my life.

Brenda came over Saturday night and put aging in perspective. Her niece died two years ago at 15, and her cousin died at 35 a few years back. Brenda said every year is a gift. She’s right. If not for getting older, I wouldn’t be able to say Brenda’s been my friend for 23 years.

The end of a semester, a decade, and two relationships, bring on self-reflection I imagine.