How to Make #Lemonade out of Lemons
If you ask Tamika what she’s been up to lately, she’ll nonchalantly tell you, “work, school, kids. That’s it.”
Oh, and she wakes up each morning at 5:30 a.m. and lays down around midnight- no big deal.
When we asked her more about her day-to-day schedule, we learned that that’s it is far more than that. Tamika is one of JRF’s current scholars, a full-time divorced mom of four, an accountant of 16 years, and a student. She already has her Associate’s Degree in Accounting and is now in pursuit of her Bachelor’s.
While in the military, she learned to consistently make time for everything you plan to accomplish or the time will never come. Her casual explanation of how she makes lemonade out of life’s lemons with no excuses will make anyone question their time-management skills.
After four or five hours of sleep, Tamika starts making her daily dose of lemonade. She begins by helping her 8-year old twins and 16-year old get to school and heads off to work. “Usually my own time comes around… 2 a.m.,” she laughs as she shares how she finds peace in these wee hours of the night.
During her lunch breaks, she dedicates 30 minutes to reading in order to be a better student, a better accountant, and a better role model for her family and friends. “Reading helps remove the noise of discouragement,” Tamika says. Right now she’s reading Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent.
Tamika first enrolled in college immediately after high school. But, when she returned home for winter break, she came back with an extra package, her son.
Teenage motherhood presents its own set of challenges in the midst of transitioning into adulthood forcing Tamika and her oldest son to share a great deal of the growing pains together.
“He’s seen the eviction notices and he remembers living in the projects.”
During those times, Tamika focused on providing for her son so her educational aspirations took a backseat. A few times, she would enroll in classes while working, find herself discouraged, and stop.
“The more I had to stop and start, it took too much of my energy.”
Years later, she’s in a much better situation to keep going, but she admits she’s still figuring it out day by day, lemon by lemon.
These bittersweet memories keep Tamika going on a daily basis to continue to make the lemonade. After a full day’s work, she comes home and cooks a family dinner for her children. While dinner is simmering, she and the twins work on their homework together.
Sometimes their dinner conversations are about money management. Tamika thinks back to how she watched her grandmother struggled to keep the lights on and paying bills in portions of payments from month-to-month by working extensive hours at low-paying jobs day in and day out, just to provide for her.
“For years, I found myself repeating the same behavior I had been exposed to growing up.” As a single parent of four children, those habits stop here.
Each pay period, Tamika sits down with her oldest son (22-years old) and together they map out what he should do with his job earnings. He is responsible for presenting an Excel spreadsheet budget to her to allocate money to responsibilities first, then savings, and then a little for fun. Tamika makes sure that all of her children understand the importance of strong work ethic and financial planning, no matter the job and no matter the level of pay.
“I have one thing my grandmother did not have and that’s an education. Money doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable topic of discussion when we have access to financial education.”
“I grew up on the back porch talking with old ladies while my friends were playing outside because of my grandmother’s fear of me getting pregnant or leaving home.” She respected her protective grandmother, but she saw the Army as a means to a better life for her and her son.
Those years in the military are now behind her, but the systematic grind mentality sticks with her daily. Now, she has a daughter that “watches [her] like a hawk,” just as she did to her grandmother. “I keep my energy up for her.”
She knows she can’t always protect her children, but through higher education, she can prepare them for life and the real world.
“I refuse to let them see me cry. When I’m alone, that’s when I shed my tears…It’s difficult some days. I [sometimes] ask myself, ‘do I really want it?’ But, I refuse to let anything stop me. I put my goals off for so long that I have no choice but to keep going.”
She keeps going so that she is better equipped with the knowledge and resources to help minority owned-small businesses make sustainable accounting decisions.
In addition to her grandmother and godmother, Tamika’s best friend from her time in the military helps her maintain the mental balance to keep making the lemonade.
“He will not let me do the woe is me…in the military, you cannot do ‘woe is me’ because that means you’re leaving a soldier behind.” Tamika certainly and selflessly embraces each day to make sure none of her little soldiers are left behind.
The way she lives out this mindset, in pursuit of higher education, is what makes her lemonade that much sweeter for her, her family and her community. On days when the lemonade gets a bit tart, she leans on her mentors and supporters. She listens to her favorite Charlie Wilson album. She instills better habits into her children. She listens to a rebroadcast of her church’s sermon. Then, she starts each day renewed, eager to come closer to the finish line.
Tamika, the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund thanks you for allowing us to share some of your lemonade recipe today.
A Chat with Founding Feminist Activists at UGA
When we walked into the room, we couldn’t help but smile at the sight of warm reunions amongst women who had not seen each other in years. More than 40 years had passed since they were spearheading feminist activism at the University of Georgia (UGA) in the 1960s and 1970s.
This panel discussion hosted by UGA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) on March 24, 2016 shared the stories and history of the feminist activism movement in Athens and UGA. The OLLI@UGA organization offers a space for individuals over the age of 50 dedicated to meeting the intellectual, social and cultural needs of mature adults through lifelong learning. OLLI graciously allowed us to stream live via Periscope and live tweet on Twitter. Please view part of the discussion here.
Collective pins were lying on a table and read Jeannette Rankin Brigade, Catalyst for Change, and Shirley Chisholm for President. A woman even shared her 1972 first edition copy of Ms. Magazine, the first national publication focused on the advancement of women's rights. Unapologetic mediums on feminism including: books, letters, papers, t-shirts, and photos were also present.
We were in a room filled with feminists who had decided as students at UGA that they would speak out and advocate for gender equality, around the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and long before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling. Two of the panelists, Sue Bailey and Margaret Holt, helped found the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund in 1976 with $16,000 in seed money from Rankin’s estate. The third panelist was Sharron Habbon, founder of the Athens National Organization for Women (NOW) Chapter in 1982.
The panelists shared that for many women, including themselves, coming to UGA for school was their first time ever away from home. When most of us recall our experiences as college students and young adults, organizing housing protest sit-ins in the president’s office and marches on Washington (Jeannette Rankin Brigade) aren’t exactly the first thoughts that usually come to our minds. They laughed at learning to master a pelvic exam on each other at a friend’s house during a time when women’s health was not a societal priority or even a public topic of discussion. Those shared times were challenging, yet laughter and sisterhood often kept them centered amidst opposition.
During their time at UGA, job postings were organized by gender preference. It was normal to see an advertisement in the UGA career services office that read, “Seeking accountant. Must be male.” In the Athens Banner Herald, “Help Wanted” postings with “Male” jobs were on one page and “Female” jobs on a separate page with women historically limited to secretarial or administrative roles.
We were shocked to learn from the panelists that if a female student married a man from out of state, she would have to pay out-of-state UGA tuition even if she was a Georgia resident. Only after being married could she then own a credit card and her husband’s name still had to be displayed. One participant in the discussion shared her struggle of getting a credit card with her first and last name, without Mrs. and without her husband’s name on it. She recalled that at the time her husband was in law school so she was the breadwinner for the family, but still his name was required for validity.
These challenges that the panelists and OLLI class participants had to endure may seem dated and ridiculous to us today, yet here we are in 2016 still advocating for gender equality and a woman’s right to education. We’ve certainly come a long way though from remarks like “why would anyone want to take a course about women?” a direct quote from a former UGA dean. But as we learned from the panelists’ account of their grassroots efforts, the work is not done yet.
As scholar bell hooks eloquently says, “feminism is for everybody” and it continues to be molded and shaped today by women and men, young and old, of all races and backgrounds with the common goal of gender equality. Because of the efforts of the golden men and women on this panel, in the audience, and in the community, feminism was brought to the forefront in the small town of Athens, GA. It is important that we remember that feminist activism is alive and there are more stories for all of us to create.
Thank you to the everyone at OLLI@UGA for inviting the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRWSF) staff to listen to your stories that continue to provide fuel to the our organization’s mission. In 1978, JRWSF awarded its first scholarship in the amount of $500. For four decades JRWSF has provided more than $2.3 million in college scholarships and support to low-income women age 35 and older to nearly 800 women.
For more information on how you can be an activist of feminism TODAY and empower women through education, please click here.