Food for Thought Friday: Too Tired Thrifty Chicks

As I write this, I’m sitting at Busboys and Poets, waiting for an 8 p.m. flight to Chicago for another conference. Ricks is working an 11-hour shift at her temp job. Between me working an hour away from home and writing a dissertation, and Ricks working long hours at her temp job and kickstarting her business, life is busy and tiring.  Couple all the changes happening in each of our lives with vexing things like Renisha McBride’s murder (which deeply effected both of us) and you get two tired (and sometimes discouraged) women whose creative juices are running low. All of these things make stepping back and taking stock of every aspect of our lives, including our commitment to this blog, not just a exercise in reflection, but a necessary force for self care.

Our love of thrifting is what initially connected us, and we started this blog because we each wanted a creative outlet that allowed us to freely write in ways that our jobs at the time would not. Over the last year, the blog has served that purpose beautifully. Now — a year later — we’re wondering what we want this blog to be. Our conversations have changed, deepened in some ways, and we’re asking ourselves how do those conversations make it to the blog? In other words, how do we write from “the center of our passion,” as a friend once asked me? We believe we’re pretty honest people, and want more of our whole selves to be reflected in our writing.

So what does this mean? It means that until we figure out the answers to some of these questions we’re taking a break. We are alleviating ourselves from the pressures of one more thing to do — something that the blog was never supposed to become. For the remainder of 2013, you might see a post or two or none at all, depending on what life brings in the coming weeks. In December, we’re heading to South Africa and hope that disconnecting from our current day-to-day lives will inspire us to come back and write with gusto about all the things we’re passionate about.

We’d like the blog to be somewhat of an extension of our couch time — the time we dedicate to talking about life, love, struggles, etc. Of course, we can’t let you in on ALL the conversations (smiles), but we’re hoping to honor our gift of writing not only what makes you smile and laugh but also stimulates your thoughts and encourages discussion. We haven’t figured it all out yet, but we will and when we do, we’ll be back in full swing!

-R&R

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We Live Among Miracles

Someone tried to mess up my zen this morning, and in the midst of calling that person a bad name in my head, I opened facebook and read the most awesome status:

11-13-13…..marks 12 years since a brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation) was discovered.

Janeen practicing her selfies.

Janeen practicing her selfies.

Well two as a matter of fact. They were discovered by one if them rupturing. In short I was on disability from work for a year….and was told I wouldn’t be able to walk without a walking device (cane or walker). Obviously I thought that was silly. Fast forward 12 years and I have so many great people in my life that have gave me the confidence to try to go above just walking. I have a half marathon this Sunday…and it’s not my first. I thought a great anniversary gift to myself would be to do a box jump in crossfit. Now to others that seems like an easy accomplishment….for me not so much. Well I have been working on them I was able to jump on the box but then I sort of fell backwards BUT I got up there. So I consider this a win. So this D Day anniversary I choose to celebrate my awesome friends that motivate me everyday to be more than ordinary.

Running friends celebrating Janeen's anniversary.

Running friends celebrating Janeen’s anniversary.

I’m so glad I didn’t step my game up and wear eye makeup today. Can you say eye sweats? I mean, reading this stopped my complaining dead in its tracks. I thought about Janeen–her amazing story, the feats she has overcome. I live among miracles. We all live among miracles. Among us are people who were never supposed to walk again. Someone who was not supposed to live beyond six months or run that marathon they wanted to run or even get a job they were not qualified for on paper. Yet, these things are happening around us, among us. Thank you, Janeen for celebrating your miracle and for celebrating your friends. I’m happy to be included in that lot, because today you reminded me that miracles are not a thing of the past; they are always happening, always present. You are proof of that–one mile and one box jump at a time. Happy Anniversary, Janeen!

~Reese

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Spotted: Go Go’s Retread Threads

A converted school bus with super cool vintage and second hand goodness, you say? Yes, please. And Thank You!

A converted school bus with super cool vintage and second hand goodness, you say? Yes, please. And Thank You!

Reese and I have a thing for converted school buses. We are drawn to them and the cool things that some people manage to do to transform them into something other than what they were. One of our earliest posts — nearly a year ago — was about the pop-up that the eyewear do-gooders at Warby Parker put on for its Class Trip. Warby Parker has brought the Class Trip back to D.C. through Dec. 22, so don’t miss it.

Me and Stacy "Go Go" Chambers, owner of Go Go's Retread Threads, a mobile boutique based in Baltimore.

Me and Stacy “Go Go” Chambers, owner of Go Go’s Retread Threads, a mobile boutique based in Baltimore.

On a recent trip to Reese’s place of employ, we saw the most wonderful thing parked on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus — a mobile fashion boutique called Go Go’s Retread Threads. Not only were we drawn to all the amazing vintage clothes and accessories staged outside the bus, but also to the rad art that covers it too. According to owner Stacy “Go Go” Chambers, her converted school bus is Baltimore’s first fashion boutique on wheels.

Because her business is on the move, her overhead is low and her prices are pretty reasonable. Specializing in vintage and gently used clothes, Go Go’s has it all. Stacy hunts for her amazing finds at thrift stores and estate sales. I was immediately salivating over all of the vintage accessories. Reese was pretty partial to a snazzy nearly floor length sweater situation that promised equal amounts of comfort and pizzaz.

Reese trying to resist the bounty of Go Go's Retread Threads.

Reese trying to resist the bounty of Go Go’s Retread Threads.

Stacy doesn’t get down to the D.C. metro area much, but if you’re in the Baltimore

metro area you can catch her and  her carefully curated menagerie of upcycled and eco-chic apparel, footwear and accessories at festivals, farmers markets and in various neighborhoods.

To keep up with Stacy check out her blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Laters,

Ricks

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A Thrifty Birthday + Give Away: The Too Thrifty Chicks Blog Turns 1!

Hi Gang!

We’re coming at you really quick to ask, “Do you know what today is?” It’s TTC’s birthday! We’re officially one today!!! happybirthdayGIF

On this day last year, this blog began — a few days after our very first thrifting adventure when we rode around Maryland suburbs on an overcast day looking for Columbus Day bargains at every Value Village we could get to. We spent hours — seriously like 5 plus hours — going through every rack with a fine tooth comb. By the time we came up for air and Indian food a friendship was born. A few days later, this blog was born. We never imagined this blog would become what it is. We were both simply looking for a creative outlet to share our writing and adventures. But through this blog, we’ve met cool people, gotten great encouragement, and deepened our offline bond.

To celebrate, we went out for Indian food and a little thrifting to celebrate. When you get a chance, we hope you’ll hit up the racks of your local thrift store in our honor.

We also decided we wanted to show our appreciation for one of our most loyal followers. Seriously, this lady comments on every posts and shares them regularly on her Facebook page. Everybody put your hands together and show TOSHA some much deserved love!

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She’ll receive this studded top from Reese’s personal collection, and a pair of handmade

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Everybody else, stay tuned. More give aways in November and more fun and adventures to come in this new year!

1043877_10101575920175405_815990422_n– R&R

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GO: Petworth Community Market

20131004_164852While Reese was off being brilliant at Food For Black Thought in Austin earlier this month, I made some time to explore my world. I received a pretty groovy invite to Vintage Fashion Night at the Petworth Community Market and had every intention of going, that is until the day of the event.

After working 8 hours at my temp job, during what felt like the Washington, D.C. heat wave of 2013, I was seriously ready to head home and shower. Seriously, taking the train in any direction that was not headed home was quickly sliding off my radar, but something said I should go.

And I am ever so glad I did. The Petworth Community Market is held every Friday from May 3 to Oct. 25, from 4 p.m. to 8 pm. According to its blog, the market is a non-profit organized by people who live in the Petworth neighborhood as an economic and social stimulus. Not only do vendors at the market take credit and debit cards, they also accept SNAP benefits.

On Vintage Night I was pleasantly surprised to find vendors of all stripes selling everything from fresh from the farm fruits and veggies, to vintage menswear, women’s apparel and even vegan/raw cheesecake. Best of all, there were samples and I was hungry.

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Christopher Williams, curator of Brown & Williams Clothiers

Christopher Williams, curator for Brown & Williams Clothier, really caught my eye because he was so sharply attired. Brown & Williams specializes in fine mens vintage clothing imported from Britain and Christopher was showcasing a fabulous selection of mens jackets and blazers that would be perfect for the man of discerning fashion sense.

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The fabulous custom bow ties designed by Elizabeth St John.

Christopher was rocking a fabulous reversible bow tie designed by Elizabeth St John. Elizabeth specializes in couture bridal wear and incredibly cool custom bow ties too.

In addition to checking out cool fashions I also got to try the sweet treats — vegan, raw cheesecakes to be exact — produced by the ladies of Sweet Raw, who specialize in gluten-free, vegan and uncooked goodies.

Alas, I went home with two bunches of beautiful swiss chard, green tomatoes from Shlagel Farms, and apple cider from Kuhn Orchards. While Vintage Fashion Night was a one night only event, there are still two Fridays left before the regular market shuts down for the season. Plan to go this Friday!

– Ricks

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Food for Thought: Race, Gentrification, and Food

“The foods of different peoples, shaped by habitat and by our history, [became] a vivid marker of difference, symbols both of belonging and of being excluded.” –Sidney Mintz

As many of you know, I’m a doctoral candidate in my offline life. As a PhD-in-training, I’m expected to share about my research at conferences and in publications. Last week I attended Food for Black Thought at the University of Texas-Austin where I was able to share about the work I’m doing in D.C.  Talking to Ricks, I realized I haven’t shared much (if anything) about the research I do on the blog, so here you go. Last Friday morning I was up way before sunrise in Austin, Texas thinking about the presentation I would give that day. I sat up in bed and wrote:

I’m awake in Austin, Texas. I present at Food for Black Thought today. I slept very little last night; maybe I’m anxious. What do I want people to know about Deanwood? About my research? I want them to know Deanwood is a place with history. It isn’t perfect but most of the people who live there-especially the elders love it precisely because of it’s history; because it has become the place that it is because of Nannie Helen Burroughs, Carter G. Woodson, and other black folks who invested time and money into it. I want them to know that it’s changing; that the city has prioritized Deanwood as a site for “revitalization” (read: gentrification), and retaining current residents is not high on the priority list. In five to ten years, Deanwood won’t look the way it looks now. As for food–it’s complicated. Just like other places that are labeled “food deserts” (I have a love-hate relationship with this term), it has the corner stores, the liquor stores, the fast food joints, and carry-outs. but we have to be careful of leaving the story there, because Deanwood also has a rich history of trading goods from gardens (long before community gardens were a “thing”), supporting hucksters selling door-to-door, and being a commercially vital neighborhood, earning it the nickname “a self-reliant” community). I don’t mean to idealize the space. This history primarily lives in the minds of residents and in the life of oral traditions, since there is very little written history about the neighborhood. These histories are threatened when we talk about food deserts as having no past and potentially no future. These spaces/places are always in flux and the changes are complicated, set in motion by a number of things: elders dying, rapid globalization that affected local industry, young professionals moving into the neighborhood, lack of economic investment, etc. etc. etc. And here we are in the present where the biggest thing I want people to know is food is never just about food. Deanwood is such a powerful example of what a neighborhood (complete with traditions and history) looks like after systematic disinvestment. Food is simply nestled within layers of power and culture and to meaningfully engage, those layers cannot be neglected.

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Me, Michael Twitty, and Naya–sorry, you can’t see the yellow shoes that give an extra pop of color :)

So there you have it folks. This is the type of research I do. I’m very grateful for spaces like Food for Black Thought and colleagues like Naya and Michael Twitty (check out his blog http://www.afroculinaria.com). In that type of space, I don’t have to separate myself into different beings. I can bring my whole self, and I think because of that, I’m growing into a better scholar. That’s part of the reason I’m inspired to share here. Writing a dissertation is a big part of my life these days. Makes no sense not to share with our faithful readers, right?

I might start blogging more about research in the future, but for now, this is what I would like you and the world to know. For the readers who might be interested in food justice or health disparities, I hope this inspires you to start from the questions, who are the people I am invested in helping? and What is the history of this particular place? There is no one size fits all model for anything. To deny a place and people’s history is to exclude them from meaningful processes. Food is never just about food.

(P.S.–I was really cute at the symposium *two snaps*. Who says you have to wear a suit to look professional?”)

If you’re interested in learning more about Food for Black Thought, check them out on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-for-Black-Thought/359534887456758. Also, check out this article about the event here: http://www.austin360.com/weblogs/relish-austin/2013/oct/08/food-black-thought-race-food-and-gentrification/

If you’re interested in the work I do, drop a line. Ask questions. I’m happy to share.

-Reese

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Too Thrifty Chicks Cook: A twofer with three ingredients

The Too Thrifty Chicks are a day late and a dollar short these days when it comes to posts. We’ve both been living life on the run — Reese in Austin and me working my temp job — and things are crazy to say the least. But we haven’t forgotten you, nor have we forgotten the multitude of posts that we promised all of you. Person pairs and Affordable health care 101, anyone? We are hoping that things are going to even out soon, but in case it doesn’t, we encourage you to follow our motto: “Just go with it!”

We’ve been cooking sporadically these days and by sporadically we mean you-will-not-believe-how-much-we-have-eaten-out! Like seriously, we have been all Operation Do Worse instead of Operation Do Better. While it’s not impacting our budget so much, we have some concerns that it might be impacting our health. So at first opportunity we got in the kitchen and made some kitchen alchemy as Reese likes to call it.  We’ve been kind of stumped for ideas, but have vowed to stay out of the grocery store and eat what we have on hand when we cook.

Meal #1: Butternut squash and sweet potato curry

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There has been a butternut squash sitting in our kitchen and silently mocking us (what your vegetables don’t mock you?) each time we grabbed something out out of the bowl where we keep our vegetables. Did we want soup? A casserole? Roasted? What, oh what, to do with the butternut!

Turns out we didn’t want to do any of those things. Instead we decided on curry and boy were we glad we did. I found a fairly simple recipe for butternut squash and sweet potato curry. Ding, ding! We have a winner. We love Indian food and we make and eat Chana masala and even get our Tandoori on from time to time. The spicy curry powder in this dish was a nice foil to the sweetness of the butternut squash, sweet potatoes and sweet onions we used in the dish.

All you need to make the dish are things that you might have handy in your pantry: mustard seeds, curry powder of choice, coconut milk and veggie broth.  I’m not going to lie, I didn’t follow the recipe very closely, but it still turned out great. Here’s what I did:

Sauté the mustard seeds, but be careful they start to pop when they get hot. To avoid popping I tried to keep the heat at a medium flame and essentially put the chopped union in half a second after stirring the seeds just enough to get them coated with oil. Once your onions become a bit translucent, add in a teaspoon of curry powder. I only used a teaspoon to begin because Reese said the particular curry powder I chose to use was rather spicy. Coat the onions in the curry powder. Your house should smell amazing at this point. Then dump in your chopped butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

I sautéd the butternut squash and sweet potatoes much the same way I do when I make home fries, allowing the sugars from the veggies to carmelize and covering it with a lid to allow the steam to sweat the veggies at the same time.  At this point, I also sprinkled some sea salt over the mixture. To help the veggies cook down enough to get tender, I added a little organic veggie broth. Don’t overcook your veggies, or it will be mushy. I threw in a handful of curry powder that had much less spice and then another teaspoon of the spicy curry. If you like spice, but not this much, skip this step. I added a half can of coconut milk, stirred to incorporate, allowed it all another few seconds to heat through and Violá! Butternut squash and sweet potato curry. Serve with some brown basmati, or jasmine rice and red wine.

Meal #2: Roasted butternut squash and sweet potato as a side

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Warning: Objects should be bigger than they appear. We do not advocate these portion sizes.

It’s that time of the year when Mother Nature’s bounty runneth over, and that was the case with the fairly good sized butternut squash and gigantic sweet potatoes that started this whole thing. When I chopped up both the squash and the potatoes, I was overwhelmed with how much we had. Reese suggested that we curry half and roast the rest. She whipped out some traditional spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and olive oil. She tossed the veggies in the oil and then got her sprinkle fairy on and popped them in the oven until they were fork tender. Serve this as a side dish to baked fish, sautéd swiss chard and our crockpot black beans (not pictured) and you have an easy and colorful dinner.

We hope you find your way back to the kitchen and we hope it’s delicious. Happy feasting!

– Ricks

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A Too Thrifty Update

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From Ricks’ 34th Birthday Brunch Shenanigans!

Hey boos! Today is Friday and this should be a Food for Thought post but it has been a rough and tumble week! Reese is off to the Food for Black Thought conference in Austin, Texas getting her nerd on. Catch her tweeting at @toothrftychks.

I’m holding things down in the D.C. metro area. The government shutdown has put the kabash on my freelance federal work, but the universe provides and I am happily working my temp job. Catch me if you can at the Petworth Community Market this evening from 4 to 8 p.m. I will be checking out what promises to be cool vintage threads and whatnot. Address is 4130 9th St., N.W. Washington, D.C. Hope to see you there.

We promised to introduce you to some of the amazing person pairs we know and that is a promise we intend to keep! Once we are back in the same place, at the same, time we will crank out those posts.

Until then, have a great weekend!

R & R

Do Good with Dewdrop

shop4love3rd_05_webLooking for something to do this Saturday, Oct 5? Check out the charity swap party and vendor showcase hosted by Dewdrop. From 4-7pm at the Durants Arts Center in Old Town Alexandria, you can enjoy yummy treats and refreshments while shopping various pop-up shops and participating in the swap at the end of the event. Proceeds from the event will go to the Tigerlily Foundation and Doorways in support of breast cancer and domestic violence awareness months.  All unswapped items will be donated to Goodwill.

Dewdrop provides information on how to prepare for the swap. Click HERE for the link.

To grab your ticket, visit: shopforlove.eventbrite.com.

Go out and support this great charity event!

R&R

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Tidbit Tuesday: Affordable Care Act 101/No Take Backs!

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This was supposed to  be a post on what to expect if you’re uninsured and looking to check out what the Affordable Care Act might have to offer you as federal and state insurance exchanges opened their virtual doors today. Don’t worry, I promise I’ll be back with a post to share what I know about the exchanges and my own personal experience setting up an account today.  If you’re interested in looking for insurance please visit https://www.healthcare.gov/.  If you’re interested in my thoughts on the recent shenanigans in Congress, read on.

The most vexing thing

If you’re anything like me, this morning you woke up with a bitter taste in your mouth because of the sorry state of American politics. Members of Congress, once again, decided at the 11th hour to pit the American people against themselves all in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.  That’s right. They spent all that time and effort on the pretense of trying to take money from legislation already passed and funded instead of passing a budget. Riddle me that, as my Aunt Boo would say.

Millions of federal workers are once again furloughed but don’t get it twisted, their furlough is not because the Affordable Care Act has come, stealing their paychecks and benefits like a thief in the night. Oh no, in case you missed it, state and federal exchanges, ironically, are open for business today, as they should be, even if our federal government is not. Members of Congress are the only ones who stole from federal employees — fellow Americans, taxpayers — last night. For three years these members have tried to kill this legislation. For three years they were unsuccessful.

Let’s be clear. Congress didn’t shut down the government because of the Affordable Care Act, which it already funded. Congress shut down the government because of a repeated failure to pass a budget. A failure to do one of the central things Congress is supposed to do. The Affordable Care Act was used as a political foil. If it had not been the Affordable Care Act it would have been something else. In fact, when Congress has to deal with the debt ceiling pop some popcorn. The performances will be equally legendary, I’m sure.

Regardless of what anybody thinks, the opponents of the Affordable Care Act lost the battle against that piece of legislation when it was passed by a bipartisan effort. Bipartisan. Last I heard, that means both Republicans and Democrats voted for the dang thing three years ago. And I am calling no take backs! The Affordable Care Act was a compromise piece of legislation, which means no one got exactly what they wanted when that bill was passed. As a lobbyist — yes, a lobbyist — once told me when I was covering state government and politics in Alabama, never sacrifice the good for the great when it comes to legislation. It is debatable that the Affordable Care Act is even all that good given the assumptions it makes about access to a computer, literacy, money to spare and even time off to sort through the plans. But that is another post for another day.

Great in my mind would have been more than a promise of access to insurance and a patient’s bill of rights of preventative care. But if I can’t have great, I will take the Affordable Care Act, warts and all. Why? Because I am us and them. I am the very people being pitted against themselves, all so some politician can go home to his constituents — increasingly just the man in the mirror, I’m guessing — and say he has represented their interests. Politics are indeed local.

“Hello. I am an uninsured, federal contract worker.”

Don’t know anyone who is uninsured? Now you do.  I am uninsured. Don’t know someone who is an employee, or federal contractor who will be directly impacted by the shutdown? Now you do.  I will be impacted by the shutdown. I don’t begrudge anyone tucked away in the security of their private industry job, with their health care and benefits.  I don’t because until June 15, I was one of you and I know for the vast majority of you those benefits are considered a part of your salary, not something paid above it.

But when my industry started to look shaky — downsizing employees and furloughing every quarter — the idea of working for myself became more and more appealing even as I considered the risks. The biggest risk for me, after being sure that I could eat and had a warm place to sleep, was health insurance. And what I saw in the private market was not encouraging. If I managed to find a plan that let me pay $100 a month for private insurance, my deductible could be as high as $10,000. If I paid more each month — a lot more — I might be able to get my deductible down to $2,500. And that is just health insurance. It doesn’t include eye and dental insurance, both of which mean a heck of a lot to a girl who has worn glasses since fifth grade and who sees her dentist more than any other doctor she’s ever had.

Access: Close, but no cigar

Increasingly, in this age of small start ups and more self-employed people, finding ways to afford healthcare is necessary and acute. The private insurance market won’t go away, but it is yet to be seen whether the Affordable Care Act will create enough competition to ensure that those of us who aren’t eligible for Medicaid and Medicare can get a foot in the door. But even I know I am writing out of the privilege of being a woman who has access to a computer, has a master’s degree and time to sort through Virginia’s health exchanges today such as they are.

You see I have the privilege of living in one of the states that had the arrogance to opt-out of creating its own exchange, thus leaving me and others like me with limited access. Not only do uninsured Virginians have fewer choices, they’ll also have less help. The Commonwealth of Virginia, with it’s smart self, opted out of creating an exchange and got a whopping $1.6 million for its efforts. That money funds the 16 navigators who will help hundreds of thousands of people in this state figure out this mess. Just across the border in Maryland, where the governor embraced the coming changes, sits a cool $150 million in federal funds to figure things out. I’m thinking about moving, but even that is my privilege talking because not everyone will be able to escape. Sadly, I suspect that Virginians have it better than residents of some of the other states that opted out. Alabama, I am looking at you.

How members of Congress sleep at night, I’ll never know. Maybe sleeping on the piles of money that represent their salaries and all that universal healthcare they receive at the expense of the American people makes it all bearable. But I’ll say this, nobody likes a sore loser. The fact that the opponents of Obamacare refuse to even attempt to be good sports about losing is disgusting and pathetic. If a Little League game ended this way, everyone playing would be forced to go to bed without their supper, and possibly be made to forfeit the season. But this isn’t Little League. This is real life and maybe if the players in Congress had to suffer more of the consequences of a shutdown, they’d get their real work — the work of passing an actual budget — done quickly and go home quietly.

– Ricks

***Next week I promise to share any insights I learn from trying to sign up for an insurance plan along with the information I learned from a forum hosted by Congressman Jim Moran, D-Alexandria.

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