Too Thrifty Chicks

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“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.

-Reese


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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,

Ashanté


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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!

-Reese


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Food For Thought Friday: Your Beautiful Routine

On the heels of our post about self-care, we wanted to ask you about your beautiful routine. This isn’t a question about how you wear your hair, or whether or not you wear make-up. This isn’t about your beauty routine, but your BEAUTIFUL routine. Don’t have one? I do and if you’ve ever felt some kind of way about your appearance you should consider adopting a beautiful routine too.

Let’s be real. We’ve all had moments when we felt down on ourselves about how we look. Someone is always prettier, more stylish, or has the good genetics, or deep pockets to be all those things at once. We then in turn feel bad about feeling bad over something that is deemed “shallow”. Never mind that we live in a world that tells us, we’re too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny.

Reese and I once had a conversation about when we became comfortable with the skin we’re in. The conversation was sparked by the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches,” where women were sketched by an artist based on their description of themselves and then sketched again based on the description provided by a stranger. The women invariably described themselves in ways that resulted in sketches far less flattering than the sketches that resulted from the stranger’s description. Reese and I basically tested this by describing ourselves to each other — neither of us can draw more than stick figures — and were pretty shocked about how we described ourselves.

Don’t get us wrong. We tend to think we’re pretty cute most days. We’d have to think so considering we have pictures of ourselves all over the Internet via this blog for anyone to judge. But we both came to the conclusion that we’ve reached a certain level of acceptance of our physical features and that we really wouldn’t change much, even if we had the money. Acceptance was a gradual process and it involved a lot of standing in front of a mirror naked. Yes, naked.

Each day, I make it a point to moisturize. Everywhere. I do it slowly and I always moisturize right out of the shower or bath. I almost always do so in front of a mirror, mostly to make sure I don’t miss any spots, but also to appreciate the changes I see in my body. I can tell when I’ve been working out a lot because everything looks firmer. I look and feel for changes in my skin. I can see if the tan I got in Jamaica finally faded, or if the office-thigh jiggle has gotten worse.

I only skip this process if I am sick or so tired that my beautiful routine is standing between me and my beauty sleep. Yes, I like to dress well. Given the time, I love to artfully apply make up and I like to put in enough hair product to make my little bit of hair shine and curl. Depending on the day, I’ll skip all of these things. But the one process that I am least likely to skip is the moisturizing process. I do it wherever I am, no matter what. Almost always in front of a mirror.

I do it because it helps me to slow down and appreciate how time has changed me and how I feel about my body. It’s a time to appreciate my long arms and neck. To appreciate the softness of my naturally, near-hairless skin and my little pooch in the front that Reese swears I don’t have. It also is a time to appreciate the backside that every girl-child on my maternal g-ma’s side of the family has got. What can I say? Baby’s got back.  The only other thing I do consistently is wear earrings. I truly feel naked without them.

Establishing a beautiful routine is as easy as stopping to admire something about yourself and affirming that you love you. Your hair is on point today? Give yourself a pat on the back. Fly outfit? In your best Tamar Braxton voice say, “You did that boo!” Having the courage to stand in front of the mirror naked and say, “I love every roll, every stretch mark, scar, or so-called imperfection.” That deserves and “Attagirl!”

If you don’t have a beautiful routine — something that you do to make you slow down and appreciate who you are — I encourage you to create one. It can be elaborate, or as simple as taking the time to paint your nails. A public affairs officer in Afghanistan once told me that he knew an airman who had packed a pair of high heels in her rucksack and pulled them out each night of her deployment. After running around in a uniform and boots all day, she told him that she did it because it reminded her that she was beautiful, even if no one ever said she was.

That’s a pretty cool beautiful routine.

— Ricks


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Food for Thought Friday: Setting Boundaries

Last week, I had a semi-melt down at 7 o’clock in the morning. I’m lucky to have a roommate who just “gets it.” She saw it all over my face. I was tired. Probably nearly exhausted. I answered a phone call in the middle of the night from someone who was having an “emergency” and though the person felt much better after we talked, I felt awful. The nervous/angry/frustrated energy she had was transferred to me. I think I probably got an hour of sleep after that, and it showed. When I finally dragged myself out of bed to get ready for an hour-long drive to work and a day full of interviews, I was in tears. Ricks reached to give me a hug, and I was too done. It was that moment when I realized I really needed to evaluate the boundaries (or lack there of?) that I had in my life.  And that’s just what I did.

The next day, I sat down for a long, uninterrupted journaling session to think through the boundary setting process. A cramped hand and nearly two hours later, I had journaled my way through self-care and and reflected on my relationships. I identified five self-care things I need to do regularly:

  1. SLOW DOWN. This is probably the hardest but most necessary. I am not superwoman. I do not have super natural powers. I don’t always have to be busy. It’s ok to have nothing to do. It is not a privilege to slow down; it is a necessity.
  2. Turn off g-chat, turn my phone on silent when I can, and stop checking in with folks so much.
  3. Keep discovering things that I love and do them–with or without other people.
  4. Quiet time is a priority. This time for me might include journaling, meditating, reading, or just sitting but it is the time I take to commune with the universe. Doesn’t matter what I do or how it’s done, but it has to happen. Other stuff can wait.
  5. Let other folks do stuff. Period.

I also thought through the different relationships in my life and created categories to reflect their degrees of closeness to me. Starting with a circle with “ME” in the middle, I drew five circles around it, labeled them, and defined them:

Inner Circle: I know these people would do anything at the drop of a dime for me and would sacrifice for me. I’d do the same. They know my whole self as much as another person can, and they will always be honest with me. As far as I’m concerned, these are the only people who have near-unlimited access to me.  

Outer Inner Circle: There’s aren’t necessarily the first people I’d go to for help, but they absolutely have my back. They are close, but most of them know me in parts. Checking in with them regularly is a priority; regularly meaning 1-2 times a month at least. I might not always stop to pick up the phone when they call, but I will always call back.

Casual Friends/Family: These people show care and concern for me when I need it, but they don’t “know know” me, and I’m ok with that. Some of them bring “their stuff” to me regularly, and it can be a lot. I love these people and what they bring to my life, but this is probably the circle that takes most of my energy. I need to set more boundaries here and be conscious about my availability. Many of these people are closer to me than I am to them, and I don’t feel bad about that but I need to be mindful. At the very least, I need to check in with myself to and be honest if I can’t deal with communicating, because while the inner and outer inner circles understand how I communicate, sometimes these friends might not, and I don’t want any hurt feelings.

Acquaintances: I don’t mind knowing what’s going on in these people’s lives, but we aren’t close. No need to feel compelled to check in regularly, and if they contact me, I can handle that on a case by case basis. Let the spirit lead, but remember these people are not necessarily invested in my day to day life. They probably just need something and I get to decide if I can or want to meet that need.

Peripheral: These are the folks who contact me out of the blue for advice, info, connections, etc. They are not priorities. Period.

In some cases, I attached the names of people I talk to on a regular basis to those circles. What I found was really eye opening. I had been spending most of my energy/time on folks who weren’t even in the inner circles. I also realized that some of these relationships are draining because I wasn’t getting much in return. Not every relationship will be equally reciprocal, but it wasn’t until I did this exercise that I really sat down to think about my role in letting those relationships suck the life out of me.

Here is my truth: there are only 24 hours in the day. I had to make some changes to be a better steward of my time. I’m learning to say no unapologetically. I value my relationships, but I am no good to anyone if I don’t take care of myself first.

I don’t typically believe in fixed categories, and this exercise for me wasn’t about banishing someone to the outer spaces of my life. It was about really thinking through how I want/need to spend my time and energy, and sadly, some of the people closest to me have been getting the short end of the stick because I was exhausting all my energy on things and people who could really do without prioritizing. There’s always room for intuition and judgement in the moment to decide how you want to handle a situation. But there should never be a time when you say “yes” so much to others’ needs that you have to say “no” to your own.

If you’re a person who is feeling drained, I encourage you to do this exercise or something like it. As you know from reading our blog, community is something very important to me and I know I sometimes take on a lot of responsibility for that. But the reality is if you are truly in community with others, they want the best for you. The people who love you will understand if you need to reshape your life to better serve yourself and the world around you. Give it a try. Take charge of your time and your life.

-Reese


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Food for Thought Friday: Just Stop Already

Guest Contributor: Naya Jones from http://www.root-work.comCrack Up

(Especially for recovering overachievers and people who do too much)

This Saturday I woke up at 4 AM with a hefty to-do list on my mind. My body was tense. My head hurt. (But) I immediately grasped for my computer. I needed to check something off my to do list. I booted up my laptop, started writing drafts, and then, thank goodness, the Internet stopped working. Suddenly the connectivity just. . . stopped.

My forced departure from “productivity” came at just the right time.

I was hunching over my desk in the wee hours of the morning, on one of the few days when my calendar was actually clear. Like my spotty Internet connection, I needed to completely, utterly halt. I needed perspective.

As a meditation facilitator, I sometimes share these workaholic, overachieving moments with participants during classes or retreats. They look surprised. But if you were born and raised in the United States, or simply in a culture/society that equates productivity with hard work and long hours, you know that stopping is all too often censured. Time is money, right? To stop is to lose money, time, networking opportunities. Stopping delays progress.

AltarI’m a recovering overachiever who still has my bouts. Social signals encourage me to keep doing what I did for the first 25 years of my life: do too much, too hard, all the time.

Cases in point:

* My partner and I just bought a home. While buying some items for the house, we witness Lowe’s slogan: Never Stop Improving. (Message: Your house is nice . . . but is it ideal?)

* On a recent plane trip, a fellow female entrepreneur told me to always answer the phone. After all, you never know when a potential client is calling. (Message: Never stop being “on”).

* In the grad school hallway, I’m greeted with, “How’s the research going?” rather than, “How’s your summer Naya?” (Message: Graduate students should have no lives outside of research.)

Add to these signals stereotypes based on race/culture/gender/sexuality or more  – and the messages thicken. The inner pressure can be immense. If I stop as a Black Latina, am I lazy? Am I proving my ancestors proud? Am I showing that we ( = all Black Latina women in the country) can succeed?

If you are overwhelmed, doing too much, or a (recovering) overachiever, I’m telling you and telling mySelf: Just stop!

Saturday morning I closed my laptop, gathered my drum and journal, and went to a nearby park.  Sunday, Monday, and today, I’m still stopping. On campus I stop en route to my destination or slowww down (Why am I walking so very fast?!). At stoplights,  I take deep breaths. Today after an inspiring office hour with a student, I decided not to grade papers. Not just yet. Instead, I took a long walk back to my car. I drove a long route home.Rootwork_collage62

I’m also noticing how other people stop around me. My partner goes to the gym. On a deadline, he will still meditate for 5 minutes to refocus. (Yes, he inspires me.) A friend of mine who has two children and owns a business meets with girlfriends for coffee. She also takes a dance class once a week. As a more luxurious example, one of my aunts plans splendid Hawaii vacations for herself and family. She stops in two ways: by planning the trip and by taking it.

How do you stop? Is it time to take even just five minutes to stop, breathe, regroup? Is it time to do something – or be with someone-  that nourishes you?

If you are a fellow (recovering) overachiever, I remind you, and I remind myself:

By stopping you are not lazy, unproductive, unaccountable, or irresponsible.

By stopping, you nourish yourSelf. You connect with yourSelf and loved ones. You gain perspective.

Stop! and be well,

Naya

Rootwork

http://www.root-work.com


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Food for Thought Friday: Quiet Time

“We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly. . . spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.” -Susan Taylor

IMG_9515In our house, each of us has a quiet time space. Ricks has a yellow recliner chair that she thrifted, and I have the window bench I built at the beginning of the year. We wanted to have places designated for reading, journaling, etc., but the truth is, they hadn’t gotten much use until a few weeks ago.

It happened sort of spontaneously. Every morning, each of us got up –around 5:30-6am–went to our quiet time spaces, and started our respective quiet time rituals, which include thinking, reading, praying, and writing in silence for an hour or more. There’s never a specific agenda other than to have a deliberate, calm start to the day. Everything in the house is quiet until we’re both done. Neither of us interrupts the other….and though we do almost everything together and share so much, it’s not hard to respect that space, because we know the clarity and peace it offers and wouldn’t want to deprive the other of that.

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” -Edgar Allen Poe

We let our thoughts roam, our dreams take root, and our pens write as much as IMG_4451they’d like (I swear we’re each gonna go through 10 journals this year).  It isn’t an agressive time.  I just let myself be present, engaged, and open to whatever the universe wants to share. For me, that might mean listening to the birds sing to each other, paying attention to my visceral reactions to what I’m reading, or writing down my thoughts and feelings without judging them.

This week, we’ve been working hard on separate work projects and teaching vacation bible school at night, which has made it challenging to get up early to have that quiet time. And each of us has felt every bit of it. I missed how it slowed me down. I missed offering the praise and worship that has now become the first thing I want to do each day. I missed taking the time to journal thoughtfully and honestly at length about whatever BIG dreams and goals I have. It’s not that I didn’t do these things at other points in the day; but by the time I got around to them, they were competing for time with other thoughts, feelings, and responsibilities that seem to crowd the day as it wears on. The morning time when each of us first wakes up–before the sun rises for me, when the light hits the window for Ricks–is the golden time. For whatever reason, when Im sitting on my bench at 5:30am, looking out the window as I read, write, or think, I feel like I can accomplish anything.

How do you start your day?  Do you give yourself the opportunity to have a quiet time (no matter how long or what time of day) that you can spend however you want?