by Jennifer Marine
Writing, Web design, deejaying… AustinMama Christie Smith likes to mix it up. A native Texan (born in Houston, but raised in Kansas City, Missouri), Smith is the mother of two sons, eight and six, and has called Austin home for the last four years. Her family chose to relocate to Austin after her husband retired from the military -- an organization within which lie the threads of a story that encapsulate both her varied vocations and her romantic relationship.
After getting a B.A. in Communications, twenty four-year-old Christie joined the Army because she wanted to be a journalist. She also wanted to travel, accomplish some career goals, and land a secure income. She ended up doing two separate tours of duty in Germany, sandwiched between stints in Kansas City. The first tour was to Bavaria for 11/2 years. A change in specialty sent her from journalism to broadcasting and she returned to Germany, but this time to Nuremberg, where she became a DJ.
"It was fun -- I was surrounded by people who weren’t very ‘military-ish’ and they were bright, creative, and interesting. I also worked for a year at a radio station in Bamberg, doing an American show on Sunday nights. It was called ‘Fun Boy’ radio. When I returned to Kansas City, I also worked for a year at KCUR, which was the local NPR affiliate. I worked weekends and opened up the station and got it on the air."
While in Germany, Christie visited Berlin both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and witnessed firsthand an historic evolution in East German culture -- they had gone from somber and serious to smiling. "It was so exciting to see East Germans coming over and raiding grocery stores in their tiny Czech or Yugo cars, with little motors like lawn mowers. There were wrecks on the Autobahn because the cars would top out at 50..."
She and her husband were friends in Germany but didn’t start dating until they had moved back to the U.S. and lived in two different states. He promptly received orders for Hawaii shortly after they married, where they lived for 4 years.
From there, it was on to Fort Lewis, WA, where she completed her Masters Degree in Historic Preservation. She conducted a historic survey for the small town of Shelton, WA -- a city effort to jumpstart a historic neighborhood program to increase heritage tourism. She took pictures, conducted research, surveyed residents and created a summary report. She also wrote a military guide for Puget Sound and traveled to all the bases in Washington, writing travel capsules for each one.
In Washington less than a year, Smith and her husband decided to move to Austin on a whim. Before they arrived, she found a job as an Organizer for the Federation of Teachers Union. Weary of traveling for work, Christie was happy the new job allowed her to settle in one place.
"I left the union because of the travel schedule. This is the truth, but the reason the travel sucked so bad was because I was starting to feel like I was really missing out on my kid's lives. My children are the most important thing to me, and I could no longer live with the mommy guilt. So I chucked a fair amount of money and far superior benefits to take a job that wouldn't require more than the requisite 40 hours. I enjoy my job now, but enjoy even more the opportunity to be more involved in my children's lives (before they become teenagers and automatically hate me!)"
She also received a Webmaster Certification after moving to Austin, and runs her own freelance Web design business. She works for the St. Louis Catholic Church, where she writes and edits their newsletter, takes pictures and manages special seasonal programs. She just finished a special feature on a 50-year history of the church and she writes a weekly bulletin and edits the Spanish Weekly Bulletin. "Even though I work at a Catholic church, I'm not Catholic. People often find that interesting. I'm actually Methodist, though I grew up Presbyterian. In other words, I'm very ecumenical!"
Publishing a website under a pseudonym serves as a healthy outlet for Christie (whose anonymity is respected for this article). The site was initially launched in response to Sept. 11th as a place to voice opinions that were at the time politically unpopular, but now includes topics on just about anything.
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New life directions are currently on the horizon for her family: Christie is branching out into writing fiction, and her husband just graduated in May with a teacher's degree (He's currently looking for the right fit in an elementary school). She dreams of writing a novel, and is taking online fiction classes through Writers Village. She hopes to write children’s stories too, especially after seeing her son’s eyes light up when he settles into a good book.
Here's more from Christie:
Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?
I can think of a couple of different answers to this one, but I guess I'd have to say my 8th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Womack. She was always so enthusiastic and was the one that really got me turned on to current events and how the past informs the present. I even wrote a story in the 8th grade with her as a character. She influenced me quite a bit, and I've never forgotten her.
You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?
Don't expect life, or people, to always be fair, no matter what you think. Don't take yourself or anyone else for that matter, too seriously.
What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?
We're often expected
to not only have a 'hard-charging' career, but be perfect mothers and
great cooks with a home that's a showplace. Plus, we're supposed to be
super in shape. There's not enough community support for working mothers
(i.e. affordable and quality child care as well as people who could be
called when you have a sick child if you don't have any nearby family);
and stay-at-home mothers are not respected. I've played both roles, and I
found when I was a stay-at-home mom many people (especially men)
automatically assumed that I wasn't that bright. We just can't be
everything to everyone, and the sooner we let go of that ridiculous
imposition and just try to be the best we can be, we'll all be a lot
happier. (On a related note, please see the
AustinMama.com bumper sticker below. If you'd like one, just tell us
where to send it)
What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?
Myself, and the limits I place on myself when I listen to negative people or negative voices in my head.
What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?
I believe that I am truly blessed and when I'm able to share some of that, or some of myself with someone else in a way that helps them, then that feels absolutely the best. And I know that every mother says this but I really DO have the most wonderful children! They are and will continue to be the best gift I've ever given the world.
What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?
Prince Charles and Princess Diana (of course before her death) - because I really wanted to believe that fairy tales could come true and I think a lot of people were sad to realize that their fairy-tale marriage wasn't real. Tom DeLay and Jesse Jackson - oh, wouldn't that be a lovefest?
What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?
A good night's sleep as well as an ability to know that it's okay to not be perfect, and their kids will probably turn out just fine without them needing to obsess about it.
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