Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


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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. ❤ ❤ ❤

-Shanté


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Tired

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…

-Reese


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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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Through Reese’s Eyes: The Other Side of Hardship

Ricks: Good morning. I scheduled a post.

Reese: I saw it. I’m teary-eyed in my car, girl. I’m so proud to call you friend and soulmate. Supporting you during the hard time was one of the most challenging things ever but also one of the most rewarding.

Ricks: So happy to have you. I want you to write transparently about your struggle helping me.

Reese: ::crickets::

When Ricks asked me to write this post, I thought, the best way to tell the story is through how I captured my feelings at the times I felt them. My journal, perhaps the place I am most candid, honest, and raw, holds those moments, some of which I will share with you, starting from the day I knew she would either quit or leave her job before she even told me.

25 May 2013: My roommate’s very close to losing her job, not because she doesn’t have the necessary skills, but because the passion isn’t there. Nor is there a desire to just lay down and give into the demands of people who believe she is expendable. Universe, you have shown and taught her much this year: the tools and steps to get out debt, the power of assertiveness, the value of righteous rage, the promises that lie in “be still and know that i am god.” I believe with all my heart that none of this is accidental. I feel in my spirit that things might get rougher before they get better but all things work together for good. The whole universe is conspiring on her behalf…thank you for the honor, privilege, and responsibility of being a friend, prayer partner, helping hand, and listener. My prayer is that if there is anything I can do during this time, that it be revealed to me. If I should pray more, fast, talk less, listen better, I’m down. I am part of the universe. I’m part of all the universe that is conspiring for all the desires of her heart to come to pass, and I’m excited about that…In the meantime, may there always be a praise and in the times where things feel too heavy for a praise to spring forth from her bosom, please accept mine on her behalf.

….and as with many things, a honeymoon phase followed. Ricks was pumped. I was excited and ready to do whatever it took to make it work. Then, after a particularly bad experience with freelancing, it all started to tumble.

27 February 2014: Today I came home to Ricks still sleeping. I try not to be bothered by it, but I am. I don’t get to sleep in. I don’t get to linger in bed as long as I want. I know that is not compassionate. I guess I feel like her sleeping in is inconsiderate, especially since a while ago she said she’d get up when I get up. That doesn’t happen. But if the tables were turned, would I do anything differently? I’m not sure. More days than not, I think she is wasting time. All talk and little action. This is the same person whose work ethic I valued a year ago. Funny how quickly our perceptions change. It’s all situational. None of us are a simple reflection of our current positions. Me getting up earlier, going to work doesn’t make me a better person than she is. And I certainly don’t know how this process feels on the inside of her. Today I pray that survival mode transitions into thriving mode-for her and for me. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a giver. I don’t know how much more I can take though, to be honest. But I believe the universe is teaching and changing us through this process. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we both cry because we have no idea what to do and we’re afaid this process is tearing us apart. Sometimes I carry resentment and regret. But there have been opportunities to get us out the fire, and nothing has come through. That must mean you’re not done teaching us in this phase. I pray that i am a receptive student and that I show compassion to my classmate.

…and there was prayer.

2 March 2014: People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soulmate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. -Elizabeth Gilbert

Thank you for my current soulmate. This has been a rough period of tearing down walls and smacking each other awake. It has been hard and it hurts. I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today, I feel like this current phase of our collective life will end soon. Praise god. Today I face the hard truth that even if someone cannot continue the journey with me, the journey must still continue. I must still press on. My physical, emotional and spiritual well being are my own responsibility not anyone else’s. Ricks reminds me of that every day. I have to do the work with or without her. For almost two years god has blessed me with her guidance, love and friendship. I have focused so much on the future and what I could potentially lose, but today I give thanks for what I have: a soulmate who shows me my reflection-the good, bad and ugly. The ugly isn’t so easy to take but it’s all part of me. Thank you for her life. These last eight months have been hard on her. I pray joy returns. For laughter to abound. I pray for something so big and undeniably orchestrated by the universe to happen. Something so big it restores her faith. And when it happens, I pray my own heart is filled with joy and gratitude.
…and more prayer.
2 July 2014: It is really difficult to watch someone you love struggle. Markeshia didn’t get the job and naturally she’s disappointed. She cried last night as we went for a long, aimless drive. I had to reign myself in from trying to be the savior. I didn’t say–hey just move to memphis with me, although I wanted to. I did say she can come stay as long as she wants. Part of me feels like this process is hers to navigate. She has to do this on her own, but with cheerleaders and support. After she interviewed for the job, I could tell she wasn’t excited. and I wasn’t sure if the job fit her skills or credentials. But last night, none of that mattered. I was angry with god and frustrated that s/he did not provide. But a small voice reminded me that s/he is always providing, even now. so I wanted to be angry because someone I love, my favorite person, is hurting and sad. But there is benefit to struggle. This road isn’t easy but it’s worth it. The fact that after she found out she said, “I hope the person who got it has a really good year,” speaks to her integrity, growth, and character. This year of struggle has been worth it. Now, god bless her with a job to match her faithfulness in her self-growth pursuits. Amen.

…and thanksgiving.

27 August 2014: I am alone in this new place for the first time since I arrived in Memphis. I’m grateful, sad, hopeful, content. Ricks is at the airport soon to board the plane. I want to write a blog post, but not sure I have the right words. I’ll miss her fiercely. This time we can’t whine and say, “I’m so ready to come home” when we’ve been too long apart. But I am grateful for this time we both need. I have nothing else to write today except thank you universe for trusting us with friendship. Bless her. Keep her. Amen.

I am unwavering in my belief that the support I gave–financially, spiritually, and emotionally–was the right thing to do. But it was hard. It required significant alterations in my lifestyle, even though I wasn’t the one who quit my job (taking on a third roommate, for example).Sometimes it was hurtful.  I’m sure most of you cannot even fathom Ricks and me arguing or not speaking to each other or not being comfortable with the silence between us. If someone had asked me a year prior, I wouldn’t have imagined it either. Yet those things, and many others that I’m sure we will bury between the two of us, happened. Watching my favorite person experience depression happened. Feeling completely frustrated by what I perceived to be a lack of effort towards building the dream she wanted so badly happened. Shouldering resentment and feelings of being taken advantage of happened.

Yet, somehow, the faith I had (have) in her, her dreams, and abilities remained steadfast, albeit bruised. I always thought I was really good at keeping enough distance from people’s problems so as not to make them my own. And I was. Until they were on my doorstep, in the kitchen, on the couch everyday.  I knew her potential and every day I saw it threatened. So I kept throwing rope down into the pit where she was…until I ran out of rope. I saw in myself something I knew wasn’t helpful in the long run: I was sometimes helping too much. Sometimes, I overextended myself to try to bring some type of normalcy and joy that I sorely missed. But with that, I also felt like she owed me something for accommodating her hardships (hard to type…something I am not particularly proud of).

I found myself at a crossroad: do I jump down and see what I can do in the trenches with her or do I trust that she will figure out a way to bridge the gap between the rope and where she is? Quite honestly, a lot of this was resolved simply because, I too, reached an “enough” point, and I had little left to offer. Whatever happened in her life, it would have to happen on her own accord or with the help of others. Being her sole confidant during that period was heavy. And one day, I had to put it down.

If we’re lucky, we are given opportunities to support people; to grow in our understandings of partnership and unconditional love. But with that luck sometimes comes hard moments, harsh realities, and shifting perspectives of who we (or the ones we love) are. I didn’t always understand her experiences, so I lashed out. I yelled when i didn’t think I was being heard. I, at times, accused my friend, my family, of seeing me as nothing more than a way to keep a roof over her head.  I am convinced that our relationships sometimes call for sacrifice but never for losing ourselves. Perhaps I’ll do a separate post on this later, but one of the things that helped me tremendously was art therapy. During the roughest period, it is one of the few self-care practices I maintained. And I’m glad I did. Since art therapy is built on multiple modes of expression, I sometimes drew, collaged, or painted my way through my feelings. I’m thoroughly convinced that therapy plus making some time to do other things on my own are what kept me afloat.

Sometimes I managed the balance between caring for myself and for my partner-in-crime well. Other times not so much. It’s a delicate balance. I am SO thankful we’re on the other side. We are much better humans on this side of struggle. I am much more rooted in my convictions of what it means to be “ride-or-die” while still caring for myself. And if (should I say when?) we hit another rough period in our lives, we have a written record that proves we know how to make it through.


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Snowballing Debt: A Free Tool

It has been a long time since we talked about debt reduction here. Truthfully, part of the reason is because debt reduction took a hard nose dive in 2014 (perhaps more on that in other posts). Now that I’m settled in Memphis, I’m ready to hop in the saddle again. I have had this plan to be completely debt free for a while–2013 produced great strides toward that goal–but I still didn’t have a clear vision. Today I sat down with pen and paper, wrote out all my debts, interest rates, expenses, and planned adventures. 

Seeing all those numbers didn’t mean a thing to me with little idea of how to go about paying debt. I knew I wanted to attack credit card debt first, but after that… ::blank stare::

I thought about trying Dave Ramsey’s snowball tool for a 7 day trial period, but a friend encouraged me to look online for a free one….and I found one! Vertex42 offers many different tools to help people manage their finances and time.  

debt-reduction-calculator_large

For the last two hours I have input my information, played around with numbers, and come up with a plan: I will be completely debt free in three years! The tool is easy to use (formulas for each cell are already formulated) and has instructions and a video if you need additional help. If you have more than 10 creditors, there is an extended version that costs $9.95 that allows you to input up to 40. Besides the ease and cost, another reason I like Vertex42’s calculator is it works with OpenOffice and Google Sheets. No Excel? No problem. 

If you’re like me and need to visualize your plan, this tool might help. Let me know if you use it and how it works for you!

-Reese


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First Day of School!

Ok, not really. More like new faculty orientation. But I was excited. I woke up, went for a nice run, leisurely got dressed, and then went to meet about twenty other new faculty members, which was pretty awesome. Before I left, Ricks insisted on taking “first day of school” pictures, so here they are!

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This is my “I’m so excited” look. lol

My top and skirt were thrifted and the shoes were 50% off at Old Navy (had to have a pop of bright color). Not too formal, not too casual.

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Y’all know I’m still getting settled in….excuse the stuff.

 

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One more picture on the way out the door….ok Ricks, that’s enough now.

How do you like to present yourself on your first day at somewhere new?


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It’s A Dog’s Life: The Story of 1 Dog and 3 Humans

Just before the weather got too hot for, well, anything, we took a day trip to Shenandoah  with our good friend Keila and her dog, Nena. We all looked forward to the trip for different reasons: good weather, time to reflect, opportunity to get away from the city. We had a great time hiking (just a little…we were so tired), talking, and eating BBQ on the grass. But what captured our attention most was Nena. IMG_6644

Nena was THE happiest of us all. You don’t know the good life until you’ve seen a dog smile.

Between hanging her head out the car window and wandering off on her own to explore different things, she was so into her surroundings. So present. At first Keila kept her on a short leash (presumably to see how she would act on the trail), but the further we went, the more freedom she was given to roam.  And when she was tired or felt like she needed a nap, she took her rest.

Humans, with all our thoughts about, well, EVERY THING, can learn a lot from dogs.

Here’s are a few things we learned from Nena:

  • Be curious. Nena, let her senses lead her. Whatever she was smelling, seeing and hearing, she wanted to know what it was. She sought it out with boundless curiosity instead of cautious suspicion. Could she have gotten hurt? Possibly, but what’s life without a little risk? Examine the world before you with openness and curiosity.  Investigate whatever it is you’re interested in with the possibility that you will be pleasantly surprised. Do it now, whether you’re on a trail in the forest, or sitting in your living room.IMG_6628
  • Express your pleasure. If something pleases you, smile. Nena, sure did. She reminded us that it’s OK to be happy in the present moment and to feel a sense of well-being from even the simplest pleasures.
  • Show love and affection for your humans. Once Keila started letting Nena wander a little on her own, Nena always came back to show us some love, especially Keila. It reminded us that any time is a good time to show some love for the humans in your life, even when they don’t expect it.
  • Be present. When we stopped for an extended period of time Nena settled in for a little R & R — rest and relaxation that is. Even when she dozed off a little she was still aware of her surroundings. If she heard a new noise or felt a change in the atmosphere, her attention was immediate. Nena was completely present. She wasn’t worried about anything that wasn’t happening in the space that she was in.

Thanks Nena for your infinite wisdom.

— R&R