Life lessons from New York Times bestselling author and Today show personality Al Roker and his wife, globetrotting ABC news journalist Deborah Roberts.
Al Roker and Deborah Roberts have sixteen Emmy Awards between them. They have covered everything from the Olympics and the Gulf War to natural disasters and the AIDS crisis in Africa. Now these two married journalists and parents have collaborated on the most personal and important “story” of their lives.
Been There, Done That is a funny, heartfelt, and empowering collection of life lessons, hard-won wisdom, and instructive family anecdotes from Al and Deborah’s lives, from their parents and grandparents, and from dear friends, famous and not. Here, Al and Deborah candidly share childhood obstacles like obesity and growing up in the segregated south; the challenges and blessings that come from raising very different kids; hard-won truths about marriage and career; the illuminating “little things” that adults can learn from children; and the genuine wisdom that the elderly can share with a younger generation.
These are real-life stories told from every perspective—from parent, spouse, daughter, son, and friend, stories that every reader can relate to, appreciate, and share.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Al Roker is seen by over thirty million daily TV viewers and is the recipient of thirteen Emmy Awards, ten of which he won for his work on NBC’s Today show. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Never Goin’ Back and Don’t Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood. An accomplished cook, Roker also has two bestselling cookbooks to his credit.
Deborah Roberts is a multiple award-winning ABC News journalist and 20/20 correspondent and former talk show host who has traveled the country and the world for her eye-opening reports on 20/20 and World News Tonight. She has also served as an anchor on World News Tonight Weekend and Good Morning America.
From the Hardcover edition.
By most measures, we are just your average American family. Yes, we may be in the public eye, but we share a lot of the same struggles, challenges and dilemmas other families face every single day, especially when it comes to raising our children.
We’re not perfect.
Far from it.
We’re not even striving for perfection . . . Well, maybe Deborah is. (Al, I admit it!) But still, we know we’re fallible, and that’s what keeps life interesting. What fun would perfection be anyway?
Although Al has written a number of books, collaborating was a new challenge. As we kept sharing our ideas, our goals and our memories—some funny . . . some of them serious—we realized that what we most wanted to write about were the values and lessons we hope to convey to our children. Passing on our values is one of the most important responsibilities of parenthood, and sometimes the lessons we’ve learned the hard way can spare our kids an ounce or two of struggle. Many of these lessons came from our own parents, while others came from friends, colleagues or people we’ve been privileged to meet all around the world. All have gifted us, in words or by example, with tremendous insight and wisdom. Some of those lessons were small and easily absorbed; others were deeply painful, but valuable and necessary. These are the things we want to teach our children and, we agreed, to share. We hope these stories will help inspire, entertain and connect with you in the process.
We are truly excited to take this project on together because outside of our family, which we’re extremely proud of, we haven’t had the chance to collaborate on many other projects. Someone once said to us, “The couple who works together stays together!” Ever wonder if the person who said that actually worked with their partner? We’re here to tell you, if you can survive writing a book that’s personal, revealing, open, honest and full of intimate details about your life, then you can survive anything! (We did it! In fact, the experience brought us closer.)
We come from very different backgrounds, which has given us a broad perspective on all the things we have faced as individuals, as a couple, as parents, as journalists and, most of all, as a family.
One thing we do have in common is being raised in a large family, with Deborah being the seventh of nine children and Al being the oldest of six. When we think back to our childhoods, the happiest and most vivid memories that bring us the greatest joy are those family moments that shaped us into the people we’ve become today. Deborah’s life was shaped by her small hometown in Georgia and Al’s by his close-knit neighborhood in Queens, New York. Deborah’s conservative Southern values and Al’s urban savvy have combined to make a well-balanced, albeit sometimes feisty and spirited, home environment, one that never gets boring or old! (Well, not unless it’s the argument about who’s driving.)
Despite our differences, we’ve both carried our childhood lessons into our roles as partners and parents, and we think we’ve been mostly successful in creating a balance that has helped blend our family into one filled with unity, love and togetherness. Above all, we share an understanding that family trumps everything. You may bicker, disagree, drift and come back together again, but at the end of the day, when the chips are down, family is who you can count on and who truly matters most in your life.
Other than the Bible, there’s truly no life handbook for modern times. If your pets start lining up two by two, check your homeowners’ insurance for flood coverage! Otherwise—nope, there is no user’s manual to confirm we are doing this thing called “life” right. Believe us, we’ve searched high and low for one. It doesn’t exist. So instead we hope, we pray, we discuss our choices with friends and loved ones, we look for signs, we ask professionals, we probe, we research and still we hold our breath that we are making the right decisions every day.
And life is what this book is all about. Experiences—funny, smart, sad, real, challenging, hard-to-talk-about, got-to-do-it-anyway experiences and what we learn from each of them.
We haven’t seen it all . . . yet . . . but Lord knows we’ve seen a lot. You might say we’ve really been there, done that.
Every day we strive to take the wisdom that our parents passed on to us and integrate their knowledge and experience with what we’ve learned in our own lives. As a result, we’ve been able to share their legacy with our children, instilling their values and ours, as we face the daily challenges of being mom and dad, husband and wife, and chief cooks and bottle washers.
So as a way to pay homage to our families, our heritage, our history and our children’s future, we wanted to share some of our favorite nuggets of wisdom we’ve gathered along the way. We’re not preachin’; we’re not teachin’. We’re just sharing what’s worked for us. Maybe it’ll work for you. If nothing else, we’ll share a few laughs and a couple of tears and try to make life a little better. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed sharing them.
—Al and Deborah
Never Give Up on Your Dreams
Growing Up in the Segregated South
When I was growing up in Perry, Georgia, in the late 1960s, our black-and-white television was always set to CBS. Channel 13 was the only station we could get with our flimsy rooftop antenna, so soaps like Search for Tomorrow and Dark Shadows were a part of the Roberts family’s daily routine. So was Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.
Who would have guessed then that network news reporting would be my destiny some twenty years later? As a young black girl in the still-segregated Deep South, I could only daydream of someday living in a big city such as New York, reporting on important news stories like Walter Cronkite and his correspondents.
I remember being riveted by Lem Tucker, one of the few black national reporters at the time. His bravery while reporting in the thick of the brutal civil rights struggle stirred something inside my small chest. It seemed like the only black men and women you could see on TV at the time were the ones being brutalized in the fight for equal rights. I still recall seeing blacks sprayed by water hoses or being attacked by police dogs in Mississippi—just a few hundred miles away from my little town. Although I was young, I inherently understood there was something terribly wrong with what I was seeing almost daily.
As my brother Ben and my younger sisters, Belinda and Bonita, and I ran into the house, thirsty and hot from a day of play in the broiling Georgia heat, my parents were often watching the news and would shush us. So we’d stand silently around our pedestal television set, witnessing a changing world. Usually no one said a word. But one day my mother said in a soft voice, “People are getting tired.” She and Daddy exchanged a look of concern unlike any I had seen from them before. Then they quickly changed the subject so they wouldn’t scare their bewildered children. But we all felt the tension, especially when we went shopping downtown. I felt the glares and the uneasiness of the white customers, and it didn’t escape me that they always got preferential treatment from the store clerks. I couldn’t explain or express how it made me feel, but I knew I didn’t like it.
Today, as we make our lives in the diversity of New York City, my husband finds it hard to believe that I can vividly recall a time when the line between black and white was so clearly marked. To me it isn’t “history,” but my own lived experience. It seems like just yesterday that when I was sick my mom walked me around to the back door of Dr. Hendrick’s office to sit on the wooden benches in the colored waiting room. My school, the Houston County Training School, was segregated until I was in the fourth grade—fifteen years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court. Our books were used and tattered and our classrooms in need of fresh paint. I had no idea what it was like to sit beside a white child in school, let alone to play together on a playground. We saw white people in the grocery store or at the post office and that was it. I desperately wanted to take dance lessons, but the local dance school only accepted white girls. Somehow, though, my mother managed to shield me from the sting of segregation, turning my attention away from what I couldn’t have and toward what was possible by placing my focus on school, the local black chapter of the Girl Scouts or our church choir—all pursuits to catapult me forward toward my dreams and the belief that I could achieve anything.
In our little neighborhood of Old Field, with its roads made of red Georgia clay, parents didn’t talk much to their kids about the indignity of segregation or the pain of the Jim Crow laws. Like so many other black adults, who mostly worked factory jobs and struggled to get by, my parents learned to keep on keeping on, quietly praying for a better day. Mom and Dad both worked in a textile factory and then, for a time, Daddy worked in a cement factory while Mom cleaned houses. They seethed silently and yet somehow managed to see the light shining through the cracks of that dark system. Both held on to the dream that their children would someday have a better life than they had. My parents taught us to be mindful and careful while also being ready to stand up for ourselves, but like others in the community, they were reluctant to push back against an oppressive system they’d known all their lives. But as we watched Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Selma, Alabama, on the evening news, I remember Mama and Daddy cheering, calling him a hero. My parents didn’t speak often about resistance, but I saw in their eyes that they were ready for change and, most of all, opportunity.
Life was challenging for us—for all black people back then. It took many years of hard work in factories, but Daddy was finally able to scrape together enough money to start his own business, a carpet-installation service, with my cousins Sonny and Little Buddy. Daddy wasn’t a very good businessman. He never got the hang of using an appointment book. He wrote down appointments on little slips of paper that would somehow go missing and then he’d get angry phone calls from customers who expected him to be at their home . . . yesterday. But Daddy built a great reputation and was well respected, installing carpet in homes, both black and white, all over the region. Even though the company never did get well organized, they did great work and clients raved about my dad’s work ethic and installation skills. Somehow, like any small-business owner, he managed to make it all work, getting up early day in and day out, eking out a living, putting food on the table for his family and keeping a roof over our heads.
My mom was very traditional in her role as a wife and mother, and sometimes it makes me angry that she never had a chance to realize her full potential. Like many of her friends, she never finished high school. She had to quit and get a job to help out her family. On some level I think she felt intimidated and insecure, as if she didn’t know much about the world—but she did. While she may not have had a great deal of formal education, my mom had what I think of as street smarts. She inherently understood things about life and the real world that can’t be taught in a classroom. She took great pride in her civic responsibilities, especially when it came to voting, and she wasn’t afraid to join a local civil rights march. At the time, I didn’t know what the march was all about, but I understood that my parents wanted to help make a change in Georgia, to give their family greater opportunities than they’d had. In their quiet way, Mom and Daddy were breaking down barriers. I watched with pride and did my best to understand the significance of their resilience and contribution. And, looking back, I now realize that these two people, who were denied higher education, taught me the most wonderful and powerful lessons that would sustain me to this day—lessons that I take with me everywhere I go. Whether I am interviewing the first lady or a young mother suffering with AIDS in Lesotho, on assignment in Bangladesh or navigating office politics, I draw on the example set by a strong mother who, despite her insecurities, had a strong belief in a woman’s power and sheer determination.
My mom was something of a quiet feminist. I still remember the day in 1969 when she emerged from her bedroom wearing pants. While this may not sound notable today, in the 1960s, Southern women were expected to be ladies. And ladies wore dresses. Mom never left the house in anything but a colorful shift or a fitted A-line dress, always with panty hose. But Mom had a strong sense of herself and decided she wanted to wear what stylish women in the magazines and on TV were wearing. So she made herself a pair of straight-leg red pants and rocked them. Daddy came home and said, “What are you doing?” Mom answered that she was making dinner and it would be ready shortly. Wow. I was impressed. Mom, usually so passive and quiet, was now shaking up the status quo. My dad wasn’t crazy about the look. Even so, Mom believed a woman should set her own agenda.
While she never had the luxury to dream of a career of her own, Mom always wanted more for her children. Homework and reading were serious business in my household. Mom demanded that we stay busy, if not doing homework, then joining the library reading program or at the least playing outdoors until sundown. She believed that “idleness was the devil’s workshop.” Mom cracked the whip, encouraging her children, especially her daughters, to find a dream and go for it. (This must be where I get it from!)
My mom clearly wanted her girls to have the opportunities in life she never got herself. As teenagers we were expected to hold a job and make some money. I worked at McDonald’s for two years and took great pride in my polyester suit and matching baseball cap. Never having had a career of her own, Mom cautioned us girls that we should never rely on a man to take care of us. We needed to be self-sufficient and make our own money, she would say. She didn’t want our success to be determined by who we married. She wanted it to be about achieving for ourselves.
My older sister Bennie was the first black cheerleader at Perry High School. Pretty and charismatic, she exuded confidence and excitement in nearly everything she did. She loved fashion, and even as a high schooler, she strutted around in the latest bell-bottoms and crop tops, which she sewed herself....
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Book Description Penguin Group USA, 2016. Compact Disc. Book Condition: Brand New. unabridged edition. 6.00x5.25x1.25 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1611764750