Too Thrifty Chicks



Two Weeks. Two Professors. Thirty Students.: What Traveling to Morocco with Students Taught Me about Teaching

On May 5th my students turned in final exams. May 6th, I closed on my first home. On May 7th, I boarded a plane to Morocco with one colleague and thirty students. I graded exams on the plane and the first two nights in Morocco. I was tired. What in the name of all things holy and restful was  I thinking?

I know what I was thinking: who turns down an all-expense paid trip to Morocco? ::looks around:: Not me. Secondly, I teach anthropology. I constantly ask students to imagine and consider different perspectives; to dream up worlds in which we learn from insiders’ knowledge;  to reconsider what we believe as “right” or “true.” This was an opportunity to take what I do in the classroom and live it with students.

13323260_10100156598247900_5789730391267701544_oWe spent A LOT of time together. 10-12 hours on many days.  In some cases, too much for my need for quiet and solitude. The first half of each weekday included language lessons and a course in intercultural communication. In the afternoons, we explored Rabat’s history and culture through organized tours and experiences. On the weekend, we took a trip to Marrakesh where we ate, shopped, talked and (in the case of the students) partied. We also hiked the High Atlas mountains (first time hiking for most), rode camels, and shared in a group reflection session that made me so proud to be one of the professors accompanying this group of students. I would love to share more about those reflections, but that time was sacred. 13308526_10100156598452490_5577182120150535706_o

I did not, however, anticipate how much this trip would influence my pedagogy. Before the trip began, I made a commitment to spend time with each student. In one such conversation, one of the students said, “I love the way you live your life, Dr. Reese. I want to be like you when I grow up. You’re just so cool.” I paused for a while before responding. I looked at her and said, “let me tell you a story.” I told her about struggling with expectations as a teen and college student. I told her about the lure to create a life that looked like someone else’s rather than the one my spirit wanted to create. I told her about my emotional breaking point in which Liz (the bestie) showed me exactly why she is one of the strongest pillars in my life. And I told her about this irrevocable joy that I have now as a result of daily choices to live life on my own terms. Afterwards I said, “what I want for you is to live life exactly as you want, and if some of that looks like mine, great. But if it doesn’t, it is still yours to do as you please, and it is still good.”

13329436_10100156597843710_3159774233758217301_oThat moment (and so many others) made me think about vulnerability in teaching and learning. We ask students to share. We push them to share about their lives, about their opinions, about their values. Where do we fit in this sharing? What is our role in modeling this with students? Morocco was a two week crash course in this for me. I have thought about it before. I thought I was doing it. The two weeks with those thirty students cracked open a deeper well that I have not explored in my teaching. I’m thankful that students saw a glimpse of it, took risks to share with me, and trusted me to take the risk, too.

To those thirty students: most of you tried new things. You stepped outside your comfort zones. You laughed. Some of you cried. Many of you kept me up with your loud talking and utter ridiculousness at night (lol). There were moments like discussing “American” values or grappling with having U.S. American privilege as a black woman or conquering fears while hiking in the mountains when I looked at you all and felt immense pride and joy. You all embody so much of what I love about my job. Teaching you all is a redemption of sorts. Through you, I get to be the person I dreamed of. Through you, each day I have a built-in accountability system that reminds me that my outsides (actions) should match my insides (integrity, soul, spirit). Our time in Morocco demanded that you see me beyond the “professor” title. I obliged by showing you. Thank you for reminding me (and I hope each other) that you/I/we do not have to be superhuman. We can be tender, flawed beings and still be magical. Thank you for an amazing two weeks.


“SCARY SCARY SCARY. Everything is so goddamn scary!”

The title of this post is taken from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. It resonated with me; so much so that I stopped reading so that I could write about it. The book is about living a creative life, and this line appears after a laundry list of fears that keep people from pursuing creativity for the sake of creativity. I shook my head in agreement with several of them. I thought about how “adulting” often excludes carving out space and time for creating or trying new things.

“SCARY SCARY SCARY. Everything is so Goddamn Scary!”

…except it hasn’t always been. I don’t mean that in the you must be “fearless” in order to accomplish things kind of way. I mean it in the “curiosity can trump perceptions and fear” way. When I was younger, I’d read to anyone who would listen, including cows. Especially cows. I’d drag a chair in the middle of the dirt road. My teacher chair. I’d read to them. Teach them. Point at them to answer a question. Chastise them when they weren’t paying attention. Sometimes my younger sister played along, but I don’t think she fancied cows as much as I did. I also simulated funerals for bugs sometimes (creepy, I know). When I was a fourth grader, I asked for a sewing machine. My first project was a two piece pattered short set. My grandma taught me how to sew in between fussing and my tears. In high school, I ripped up hand-me-down jeans to make them cooler. I wrote really awful poetry full of teenage angst. And then…

“SCARY SCARY SCARY. Everything is so Goddamn Scary!”

…somewhere between being ambitious, figuring out life, and navigating very real structural constraints, I began to see creativity as something separate, something bonus or extra, apart from my “real” work.  Let’s look at blogging, for example. When we created this blog, it brought so much joy to our lives. But then we started to think about ways to make it more “legitimate,” and as soon as we crossed into that territory, blogging became more stressful and less about creating for the sake of creating. As I moved closer to my career goals, I worried that I wouldn’t be considered a “serious” scholar because of my blogging. Creating for the sake of creating became less important. Let’s take photography as another example. I love photography, so I took it up as a hobby. I’m pretty good at it. I started thinking about a photography business to “legitimize” my art. I stopped photography for a while. Somewhere I had internalized that doing for the sake of doing somehow conflicted with my career and life goals. So, I tried to validate my creativity…

“SCARY SCARY SCARY. Everything is so Goddamn Scary!”

…but we have a shit ton of work we have to do, don’t we? Our creative pursuits are part of that work, but in a different way. They sustain us. Keep us curious. Push back against the voices of perfectionism that tell us we shouldn’t do something if we aren’t the very best at it.  A couple years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to rollerblade. My friend Bridget gifted a pair of rollerblades to me. I rolled around the basement for several hours. Finally, I said fuck it. I’m going out to skate. While my buddy Keila rode her bike, I skated, weaving in and out of people.  I had a blast. Even though I didn’t know how to use the brake. When I needed to stop, I’d roll into the grass or railing. I busted my ass a few times. I laughed a lot. I tried. I still don’t know how to break, but I’m no longer afraid to skate.

“SCARY SCARY SCARY. Everything is so Goddamn Scary.”

…until we try. Until we accept that sometimes, we just need to create or try things just because. No validation needed.


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Hey y’all! ::waving:: Ricks announced her return to our blog a few days ago. I’m slipping in quickly to share some reflections.

Those of you who know me in real life know that I am moving to began a tenure track position in Atlanta, Georgia (inserts applause and jumps for joy).

When I was offered the job in early March, I had no idea what the subsequent three months would look or feel like. Because Memphis was a challenging city to adjust to, I thought I would spend the next three months enjoying the life-long friends I met here but generally counting down to my move. That has hardly been the case. When June hit, so did ALL THE FEELS. EVERY.SINGLE.ONE.  I’m leaving Memphis for Atlanta. Transitioning from PhD student to tenure track professor. Leaving folks I love, some of whom will not make the journey with me (literally and figuratively).

For the last six weeks, I’ve been managing, suppressing, questioning, fighting, and accepting those feels. Friday, I went to see the movie Inside Out. OMG. All the cute. Also relevant, because the whole film deals with the reality that conflicting emotions are normal and often necessary. Like…we can’t have joy without sadness.  I’m pretty sure that movie was not written for children, but I digress. (Sidenote: I may or may not have cried through half the movie, because….feelings). Anyway, that film, plus all the layers of this transition, plus long emails and conversations with my favorites led to this post. Just a few comments on transitions, in case other folks are struggling through some of their own.

1. Conflicting emotions are OK. I already told you I feel all the things. At this very moment, sadness lurks underneath a very real excitement that I have for breaking bread with some of my favorite Memphians tonight.  I’m also feeling the buoyancy that only love seems to provide. I’m excited about my new job, excited about what this dissertation will be when I have finished it, overwhelmed by having to find a new place to live. See? All the feels. And sometimes they don’t make sense.  That’s alright. I (we) need them all.

2. Transitions are multilayered. I’m not just moving to another city. I have to pack my life in boxes, sort through the things that make my apartment “home.” I am navigating requests/suggestions for lunch/dinner/happy hour, to which I have said “no” many times because I can’t manage them all. Saying goodbye over and over is a real drag, ya know? I am prepping for my fall courses. Mentally preparing to live in a different city. Surrendering to the realities that location changes often necessitate (or foreshadow) relationship changes. That’s a lot. Give yourself grace. (Note to self: Grace, Reese. Grace)

3. You need your people. My friends, family, friends-turned-family are the gift that keep on giving. In June, I drove from Memphis to Dallas to Austin to Waco to Crockett. I had planned to attend a conference in Austin, and instead of flying, I drove. Seeing family and friends blessed my heart so. We didn’t have to talk much about transitions. Bourbon, margaritas, laughs, and hugs were enough. I needed them more than I knew.  In my day-to-day life, there are some folks in Memphis and beyond who keep me sane, because they just me be my indecisive, sometimes emotional, quirky self. They know it is sometimes hard for me to articulate when I’m overwhelmed, but when I sent out an email to my inner circle saying just that, they responded with compassion, encouragement, and desires to spring into action on my behalf. My god dad always says, “if you don’t get anything else, get you some friends.” Yes. Get you some.

4. Your people will not begrudge you for needing space or time.  Between writing, prepping for the move, and all the feels, I have been selective about who I see and talk to. A few days ago, I sent a text to my friend K.T. saying, “I love you sister.  I know I ain’t been present. I’m struggling with some of these transitions.” She responded: “It’s gonna be ok. Hell, we all have moments where we ain’t present. One of those seasons. I love you too, sis. You could go radio silent for months and I wouldn’t feel slighted at all. No worries.” (cue water works) Yes, K.T. yes. That’s love and grace in action.

5.  All those things you read about self-care, loving yourself, etc.? This is the time to practice them.  Your self-care practices might look differently during intense transitions, but if they completely disappear, all the feels will just intensify. This morning Ricks sent me: “I am sorry you feel overwhelmed. I think the beautiful thing is that there are only two maybe three things that require your attention. 1. Finish your diss, 2. packing your stuff, 3. moving. The rest of it will take care of itself whether or not you fret over it.” Her message reminded me that even though I have all the feels, I have three very real action items that require my attention. To do these things, I have to make sure I am being conscious and intentional about self-care practices that are important to me. (Thanks Ricks)

6. As you feel all the feels, remember joy and gratitude are always appropriate. Always.  Always. No exception. Hard things happen. Sad things happen. But if I sit still enough, I can always find something that brings me joy or that make me feel grateful. Usually, I don’t have to look very far.

So, I know that wasn’t really an update on my life, but eh. It was necessary.  Here’s to embracing all the beauty and craziness that accompany life’s transitions.


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To Memphis, With Love

Dear Memphis,

I have spent many hours talking about what I don’t like about you, detailing the ways you make me feel like I have image3stepped back in time or like I am a unicorn living in a city that cannot make space for me. Yet, I haven’t taken as much time to give you love; to thank you for the beautiful things you have added to my life. When I needed a place to manifest new things in my life, you welcomed me. You have produced daughters and sons who have invited me into their homes and circles, plying me image5with alcohol, laughs, hugs and fire pits. Daily I see the potential of your beauty manifested in your people; folks who love you fiercely but challenge you to be better. When I walk down your streets, I am reminded of so many of the reasons why I research the things I do. The vacant lots, boarded up windows, and underdevelopment are by design. You, my dear, were set up to fail while the surrounding suburbs were created to be the meccas in which the “good” folks could find refuge. But you have not failed. You have and are producing greatness, even in the face of many stumbling blocks. And for that, I will always be rooting for you. On your streets and in your buildings, my thoughts and hopes have ricocheted what I thought were hollow cries, but you heard me. In you, I have rekindled my love for silence and solitude. Like Santiago I have struggled image7with figuring out what I want the universe to conspire to make happen. And you have give me the space, the time, and the resources to do that as I have felt and expressed every emotion one feels when you’re on a roller coaster love affair. So, today, I honor you for the beauty you have given me: new friends, new dreams, and new perspectives. Thank you, Memphis, for being part of my life’s journey. Whenever I look around and want to hate you, you send me a small reminder–in a person, in a mural, in a sunset over the Mississippi River, on a dance floor on Beale Street–that there are so many reasons to love you. It is not easy to love you. Sometimes it feels like a struggle to wake up and choose you every day. But you are now a part of me and I a part of you.

With Love,


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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!

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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

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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!