Too Thrifty Chicks


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I Turned 30 in Big Sur!

This year, I decided to do something different: I spent my birthday alone. Initially, some of my wonderful friends IMG_1039were planning a birthday weekend for me, but so many mishaps were happening, I took that as a sign to do a solo trip. I am so glad I did! Last year Nikisha from Urban Bush Babes shared these photos from her wedding. I fell in love with the natural beauty, and when I thought of somewhere relatively affordable to visit, Big Sur was an immediate thought.

I flew into San Francisco and drove down the coast. Y’all. Highway 1 is as beautiful as everyone says it is. Totally worth the drive. I rented a cute apartment on Airbnb, spent two days hiking, treated myself to a yummy seafood dinner, and generally relaxed. After 3.5 days in the Big Sur area, I spent 3 days with old friends and new friends in San Francisco.

It was a beautiful trip. Sometimes, you just have to do something solo to remind yourself that you are worth celebrating; that the effort you put into celebrating yourself is worth it. Anyway, here are some of my favorite photos from Big Sur. It was really hard to narrow them down!

IMG_1111 IMG_1095  IMG_1052 IMG_1044

IMG_1234 IMG_1221 IMG_1349 IMG_1322


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Use Those Photos: DIY Cards

I take photos. Lots of photos. Seriously, I have about 30,000 photos.

What do most of us do with our photos these days? Post them on Facebook and Instagram. We might print them out and tuck them away into photo albums. But aside from that, what else can we do?

This year, in lieu of traditional holiday cards, I used some of my favorite photos to create cards for a few people. In a small way, this was an opportunity to give something I love and am proud of to some people I care about deeply. I was super happy with the end results! Not as cheap as buying a box of generic holiday cards, but not as expensive as buying single cards for each person. Total cost for this project (including photos, 30 cards, and markers): $60.

I ordered a variety of cards from Photographer’s Edge. When I first received them, I was worried that the card stock was not thick enough. However, once I added the photos, it was perfect. I’ll likely use them again for other projects.


  • Printed Photos (I printed mine in matte to avoid finger prints)
  • Scissors
  • Pre-cut frame cards
  • Markers/Pens

IMG_8047 IMG_8051 IMG_8049

You would think choosing the “right” photographs would be hard when you have so many, but it wasn’t. I looked at photos and often times instantly knew who should receive it. I did not send cards to everyone. I sent them to people who had been on my mind, who inspired me this year, who were coming out of challenging times.



A few of the final products


….and if you’re worried about whether or not you need to use photos from a fancy DSLR camera, the answer is no. A few of the photos I used were from my iPhone! Also, places like Walgreens and CVS now let you print your photos directly from Facebook or Instagram.

If you create your own cards, tag us in a post so we can see!

Happy Creating!


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Home and Heritage

My cousin's tractor. Dec 2014

My cousin’s tractor. Dec 2014

To say I grew up in the country is an understatement. Hide-and-seek in hay bales, barefoot running up and down the dirt road, feeding slop to hogs that would be slaughtered. Yep. All of of that. I can’t say that I appreciated it all–especially by the time I was a teenager and later a country girl trying to function in an urban world–but I owe much of my love of nature, of simplicity, and of community to my upbringing.

While I was home, I visited my two great aunts, both of whom are 80+.

“Shanté, are you married yet?” said one.

“No ma’am. I am not in a rush,” I said.

“No need to be. You don’t need no husband. You doing alright just by yourself!” said the other.

“Yeah you ain’t got no worries. You get a husband, they worry you!”

We laughed, and I smiled at the thought that my feminist leanings started here.

Aunt Bernice and me.

Aunt Bernice and me.

We talked about family members (how is so and so?), and my travels, (“you’ve seen the world, haven’t you?”). They told me some stories about the past, and we mused about what we could use in the present. One thing that stood out to me that resonates with my academic research and personal interests was how they talked about community, integration, and race relations. The school district tried to force black students to leave their high school to integrate the white school, but they stood their ground.

“[My cousin} told me that one day he met a white man up the road and the white man said, ‘if they do this integration, these streets will run with blood, and [my cousin] said, ‘one thing about it, they won’t know if it’s black blood or white blood.'”

Aunt Albertine and me.

Aunt Albertine and me.

Talking to my great aunts inspired me. Clearly, I come from a line of fighters. of feminists. of caretakers. My great aunts have lived through many transitions in their personal lives and our national history. Their minds are still sharp….and one of them still drives! They have fed me, corrected (aka punished) me, and have been part of the “village” that undergirds my success. I left home feeling proud to be part of their lineage; to be doing many things they have never done but are happy I have experienced.

Sometimes the best way to start a New Year is to sit at the feet of those who came before us. I’m looking forward to spending more time talking with my aunts this year. Can’t wait to learn more about their lives and our national history from their perspectives!



A Celebration of Life: Minnie Mae Turns 80!


My 8th grade history teacher once assigned the task of interviewing a family member and writing up a history of that person’s life and I chose my maternal grandmother, Minnie Mae Jones Jeffers, better known as “Sis”. I was living with her and my late grandfather because my mom and dad were still active duty Army and one was in Korea and the other was in Kuwait.

My grandmother told me what it was like being the baby girl of a large family; what it was like to grow up farming tobacco; and what it was like to get married real young, start a family in the country and move that family to the big city of Philadelphia. It was the first awareness that I had of my grandmother as more than just my grandmother. I am pretty sure it also was the first time that I was aware that I had the power to tell other people’s stories. My grandmother still talks about that assignment and for many years, until I borrowed it back, she kept the pages I wrote among her keepsakes.

Fast forward some 20 years, to Johannesburg, South Africa, January 2014…

I believe that Reese and I are great friends because we recognize that the Universe has connected us in very specials ways. As she wrote in a previous post, last year we were in South Africa celebrating her birthday on Jan. 2, when her beloved grandmother, Helen Marie, passed away on Jan. 3. Oddly enough, my G-ma celebrated her 79th birthday,  a day later.  If we knew then, what we know now, those three events — life, death, life — should have been a harbinger for things to come, or at least a lens for viewing life. Ultimately, those events have been a reminder that things can be great, rough and then great again.

One year later…

When I was telling Reese, whom my G-ma affectionately calls “Sunshine”, my plans to head to Philadelphia to celebrate her 80th birthday, I could tell by her texts that she was dealing with something. She finally told me that in fact, she was thinking on losing her own grandmother last year. I immediately felt like an insensitive heel. Here I was preparing to celebrate my grandmother’s life and had forgot that Reese is still mourning her grandmother’s death. How do we talk about this?

What I remember saying to Reese is that I thought it was interesting that because of the special connection we share, her grandmother’s death is bookended by celebrations of  life: her own and my grandmother’s. Life can be funny like that.

My G-ma is my last living grandparent and I don’t know how many more years we have together. If she has her way it will be at least 20 more because she told me her goal is to “make 100!”

That’s not a bad goal for a black woman born in the Jim Crow South, who managed to raise eight kids (who have given her an army of grandchildren and great-grandchildren); buy two houses, in two different states and still own them; survived two strokes; and the death of her husband of more than 50 years, almost 12 years ago.

She may not be able to walk a mile, but she can still shake a tailfeather. So at her 80th birthday party, I asked my grandmother three questions and her responses are in italics:

  • What is her secret to reaching 80? “I always try to be nice….and I guess, I just kept on praying, kept on praying.”
  • What’s the best piece of advice she ever received? “Always listen to the old people when they tell you how to do something and always do your best to do it. Oh, and good food! (she said chuckling) GOOD FOOD!”
  • What is the best piece of advice she ever gave? “Try to be nice and love people like you would want them to love you.”

My grandmother has done her best by those things, especially the food part, all my life, but they haven’t protected her from tragedy. Since my grandpop died, she lost her youngest daughter to cancer, buried two grand sons and a brother who has been her nearest and most dependable neighbor and friend for more than 20 years.

She has watched one of her older sisters deal with Alzheimer’s, only to discover that her oldest daughter now grapples with the ravages of the disease. What Langston Hughes wrote in his poem  “Mother to Son,” is what Reese’s grandmother, Helen-Marie, and my grandmother, Minnie Mae, knew and know:  “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” but it is worth the small kindnesses you show to others, it’s worth the prayers and it’s worth the love.

Happy Birthday Granny Sis and well done Ms. Helen Marie. Well done!

– Ricks

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Lessons Between Life and Death

My maternal grandmother died on this day a year ago. This day, which happens to be the day after my birthday. I

October 2014

October 2014

woke up at 4am this morning thinking about where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I was in South Africa. My sister sent me a message on January 3rd: “Has anyone told you that mama died?” My heart sunk. I had just celebrated my birthday in this beautiful country. My grandma died?

I journaled more than I slept that night, trying to process my feelings about it all: about her death, about her life, about being halfway around the world, about my siblings seemingly offering care to each other that I was not part of. The next day, my South African friends took us to meet their families. One of the people we met was a grandmother, who was

Ricks and me with Tumi's Grandmother

Ricks and me with Tumi’s Grandmother

beautiful and kind. We met her in her kitchen where she sits most of the day. It reminded me of my own grandmother.

This post isn’t about death. Today, I am somber, but I can’t say that I am sad. My grandmother lived a full life. The fullness of her life is the reason why I, too, can live a full life. Her sacrifices and commitments are the reason why I can be where I am now: in the middle of a solo vacation.  They are the reason why I am close to being a freshly minted “PhD.” They are the reason I am who I am.

This post is really about living. I was born January 2nd. My grandmother died January 3rd. For the rest of my days, my birthday will be followed by death. As morbid as that sounds, I woke up this morning thinking about how challenging but encouraging that is. For the rest of my life, when I wake up on January 3rd, I will remember that I am indeed living; that I am (hopefully) thriving. For the rest of my days, life and death will be just a

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2007

day away. That doesn’t scare me. It inspires me to keep on living and doing. No matter how much we want to prepare for death, we’re never fully prepared. Yet, each day we’re living, we can continue with the will to make it worth it.

Helen Marie, look at you. Still teaching me things. I’m forever grateful.

Rest on, mama. We’re still making the most of living down here. <3 <3 <3


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I am tired. Not even angry. Just tired. Tired of not expecting the system to work, only for it to meet my low expectations. Tired of how heavy this feels; how the contours of life in America are hauntingly shaped by race and all its struggles–so much so that I can go from being incredibly excited about my dissertation that deals with race in historical and theoretical perspective to tonight’s announcement that remind me of the material realities of racist, flawed systems. I am just tired. My feelings might change tomorrow, but unfortunately, systematic disenfranchisement does not change as quickly as feelings….and that is, perhaps, the rub of institutional racism. We (our society) has largely bought into the idea that racism is simply personal; that it is about how we feel about people. The irony, of course, is that once the realities of the deeply flawed system are revealed, those who feel angry, hurt, or frustrated are denied the full range of their human emotions through policing tactics, admonition to be part of the “solution” and not the “problem,” to be civil and peaceful. Craziness.

We have been here before. When Zimmerman received a “not guilty” verdict, I wrote the following:

14 July 2014 5:16am

We are not free in this country. Every human life does not have the same value, especially under the law. I am sitting here at 5am in a very expensive hotel and I’m grieving with folks all around the world….because I know my presence here in this hotel, no matter how nice it is, doesn’t mean “we’ve made it.” In fact, right now, it serves as a reminder of how quickly we can forget that we have not. It’s still raining but it looks like the storm may pass soon. I’m thinking about justice. I’m thinking about how beauty, pain, and joy coexist. I’m wondering how we find the balance between them all. I’m thinking about N. who fell asleep crying in his mother’s arms after the verdict. I’m hurting for his friend who said, “why study and get good grades when a stranger still looks at me and sees a criminal?” I’m crying because I don’t have a legitimate answer. Everything I can think of seems cliché and insufficient. I’m thinking about parents like Lisa and Greg who let their kids be angry and let them process their emotions. we cannot tell our children they are part of humanity but then deny them the right to feel another’s pain or their own anger. I’m frustrated with posts like, “God has the final say” and “God is the ultimate judge,” because I know these sayings are cloaks that help people sleep at night and shield them from responsible action. Even if there is a God who has a final word, there are a lot of sentences, commas, and periods between the beginning and the end. We are the authors of those stories….

…and so we are here again. Here I am again….thinking. And feeling the numbness that comes with knowing way too much about how deeply ingrained the devaluing of black life is. It is not simply historical. It is daily. It is ongoing. It is sometimes paralyzing. Deadly. I know people believe education is a key to liberation–even I believe that–but right now, in this moment, after years of studying theories and histories of race/racism and how systems of power work, I am not liberated. I am at as much a loss as those around me, even with my fancy education….because even when we know the outcome is not going to be on the side of justice, even when we know, we hope. We hope, because even though we know, we are waiting for the day that we are proven wrong. Faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Maybe one day…


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Adventures in Commuting by Foot: Crosswalks, Cat Calls, and Conversation

When I moved to Memphis, I had a vision of biking to work. I live 1.5 miles away, and the main street I would bike has a bike lane. Perfect. Except it isn’t. Cars routinely ignore the bike lanes. Some park in them. I’ve seen quite a few cyclists almost get hit biking uphill on the street I would use. Needless to say my vision of biking is on hold until I build more confidence in my ability to avoiding being hit by a car.

Anyway, last week I decided that just because I wasn’t biking to work didn’t mean I had to drive. I could walk.

During today’s thirty-four minute walk, I walked by a group of male nurses outside a senior care facility who asked if I needed a nurse. Recently, 27-year-old Mary Spears was murdered after refusing a man’s advances. Her death was fresh in my mind. I passed three drivers who felt the need to honk at me. Whenever people honk, I roll my eyes. What does honking do besides startle people? Ugh.

When I got close to campus, I had to cross the street using a crosswalk that isn’t controlled by a light. A few days ago, my colleague (who is blind) and I were walking in this crosswalk and two cars nearly hit us. I was thinking about this today as I watched a car speed up to pass an elderly woman who was already in the crosswalk. I thought about how awful it is that we seem to always be in a hurry.  When the woman and I passed each other, we smiled and exchanged pleasantries. If the car bothered her at all, there was no evidence.

When I got to the college’s gate (yes, gate), I greeted the security officers, one of whom stopped me and asked, “who is the woman you were walking with the other day?” He was referring to my colleague. We talked about crosswalks, speed racers (aka drivers in the area), and my name,to  which he said “I’ll treat the “A” as silent. I can remember Shante.” I replied, “that’s fine…that’s what family calls me anyway.”

When I drive to work, I don’t have to worry about catcalls and honking. But I also don’t notice signs announcing new construction or exchange words with moms and babies on the way. I often wait until the last possible minute to leave,which sometimes puts me in the “hurry” mentality.  If I had driven today, I wouldn’t have met Jimmy and Shirley. Sure, it is likely I would meet them later, but I hardly ever use the main gate to the campus. When I drive, I use the electronically controlled gate instead–less human contact.

Even though I have to plan my time differently, deal with unsolicited street harassment, and hope I don’t get hit in the crosswalks, I like walking to work. It is one, small step towards challenging the tendencies to always be in hurry. Walking reduces my carbon footprint. I hope I work up the nerve to bike, but until then, walking will do. Besides, how else do you “stop and smell the roses” If you’re never out among them?


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