Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


9 Comments

Food for Thought Friday: A Leap of Faith

IMG_4451Three weeks ago, I made the biggest decision I’ve made since I moved to the DMV. Three weeks ago, I decided to quit my job.

Today was my last day at work. And as I prepared for this day, I have checked in with myself repeatedly. I kept looking for fear, but the only thing I kept finding was joy, exhilaration and this otherworldy sense of calm.

In fact, I’m more nervous about writing this post and sharing this decision with the world than I was when I made it.

After 11 years of newsrooms and deadlines, I am no longer a journalist. At least not in the traditional sense. I plan to sustain myself with freelance writing and editing projects, but chasing politicians, and lately generals, for quotes is no longer on my agenda.

I’ll miss many things about the day-to-day grind of the news business, but I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time about anything.

If I am honest — and honesty is something we place high value on here — this decision was a long time in the making. Over the last half of my career there has been this gnawing sensation that I had I strayed away from why I became a journalist. There was also that feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else.

As you can imagine, Reese and I talk extensively about what we want out of life, what we value and what we don’t. Increasingly, I was frustrated with the amount of personal and professional energy  it took to do my job and with how the news business, in general, is changing. But more importantly, what I believed about who I am and what I truly valued was changing. So much of my identity and who I believed I was had everything to do with being able to say, “I am journalist.”

Over the course of the last year and a half — a time frame in which my best friend died at 32 and my 56-year-old mother was diagnosed with earlier onset Alzheimer’s — I realized being a journalist wasn’t who I am, it was what I had been trained to do. My identity was no longer tied to what I did for a living. The passion I had for the work had slipped and that was starting to show on the job no matter how I tried to cover it up.

After a couple of very uncomfortable conversations, I carried the burden of the choices I had before me to Shenandoah National Park hoping that the quiet of nature would allow me to hear the answer I needed from the universe. On our first night there, thinking about all I needed to do to redeem myself at work left me so frustrated that I struggled to see the quirkiness of Front Royal, Va.

But on the next day, as we prepared to hike and reached a fork in the trail that offered us the option of going left or right, an alternative to redemption at work built in my spirit. “I could quit,” I thought. I quickly tried to dismiss that thought. But it would not let go. I couldn’t even think of doing anything else.  When I finally decided to surrender to the decision to resign, the sense of relief and peace was instant. When I told Reese about it and she said she knew it was coming, my peace was confirmed.

Deep down I knew that this was an opportunity that I was only going to get once. This was going to be my one and only get out of jail card. If I chose to keep going down the path that I was already on, I would regret it. All of this is hard for me to say. I’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat, tears and years in being a journalist, and to go off into the world without any guarantees is so unlike the me I used to be. But the new me has faith that no matter how this plays itself out, whether it ultimately looks like a success to me or anyone else, is not what’s important. What is important is that I realized that life is far too short to not pursue more of what I love and less of what I’m good at. Life is too short not to take a chance, to step out on faith.

Conditions for taking a leap of faith are not perfect. But they never are when you do something like this. That’s why it’s called a leap of faith. I’m going to have to make real money to pay real bills — an adventue to be sure. But a favorite rhetorical question of mine is “What would you do if you could not fail?” My work on answering that question starts now. I’ve got a plan, but I’m sure what God has in store is better than anything I can imagine.

Because something in my spirit is asking, “What if you take this leap of faith and you are successful beyond your wildest dreams?” There is only one way to find out.

Wish me luck.

— Ricks


1 Comment

Food for Thought Friday: Partnership

Friendship is essentially a partnership. ~Aristotle

Partnership is a funny thing, because it can look so different depending on the context. We see it everywhere: in businesses, in romantic relationships, in team sports. Somehow, people have to navigate the highs and lows and potential power struggles to find a system that works. If you’re lucky, you won’t have too many of those lows or power struggles. If you’re double lucky, you won’t have any. I guess you can say we’re double lucky so far.

I’m not going to pretend like either of us are perfect people or that we sit around singing kum-bah-yah every night (although, you might catch us rockin’ out to some Betty Wright or sliding across the kitchen floor in socks…but I digress). We’re both quite open with each other about our flaws and screw ups. But somehow two imperfect friends have managed to create a bond that reflects what I think is important about partnering with others.IMG_3865

What I’m learning is that partnership isn’t about splitting things down the middle.  There are times when Ricks gets home late or her days are hella stressful, and it makes me feel like it takes a little bit of the pressure off her to come home and not worry about cooking (or worse–just eating cheese for dinner…LOL). I sort of operate on a “see a need, fill a need” basis in terms of our household, and I trust she does too. We don’t have a chore chart. We don’t keep tally of who’s doing what. Sometimes I cook more, sometimes she cleans more. Sometimes she writes more blog posts, sometimes I do most of our scheduling. There are times when one of us picks up a lot of slack because the other is feeling really blah. This is what partnership means to me. It means figuring out how to best support people in ways that make sense–not just following some legalistic structure just for the sake of being “right” or being “even.” We’re in this together. In my mind, there’s no success unless we’re both reaching our individual goals, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes….and I know she is too.

IMG_3861Our partnership requires us to have a great deal of trust and openness about a number of things, including our finances. We talk about ways to cut our grocery bill (we’ve done a fantastic job, btw), we talk about the challenges and stresses of trying to pay off debt, and we talk about our visions for the future–what it will feel like when we reach all our goals. There’s really nothing off limits, because we’ve both learned that there’s no way to reach financial freedom alone. This is a long-term process that I’m sure will extend beyond our time as roommates, so when I think about focusing on the little things–like who’s cooking or who took out the trash or who washed dishes–it seems silly. When Ricks and I talk about our blog, our home, etc., there’s a lot of “we” talk, because if something doesn’t go well or doesn’t get done, there’s no pointing fingers. We usually ask, “ok so what do WE need to do?”

When you’ve decided to partner with someone, you agree to create a space where each person’s talents, time, and treasure can be used for the good of you both. You submit to being held accountable and you commit to being a cheerleader, a supporter, a hugger, a tissue bearer….whatever your partner needs. You truly learn what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” You check your ego and judgment at the door.


2 Comments

Food for Thought Friday: Consciously Doing Without

Today marks the end of our 40 day lenten fast.  The fast included many different components, but the one that was most challenging for us was no food from sun up to sun down on Wednesdays and Fridays. Why was this challenging, you ask? Because we like to eat….whatever and whenever we feel like eating (if you follow us on instagram then you know we’re always cookin’ something good at the thrifty palace). We went into the fast with great expectations and excitement, which in turn led to some pretty big growth moments (read Ricks’ reflections on developing a grateful heart HERE), but fasting for 40 days was not without its challenges. There were times when at least one of us was like, “ummm no. I’m not feelin’ this today” or a time when Ricks was sick or just times when life was happening and it was hard to make fasting a priority. Yet, we did it, and it left me thinking about the challenges of consciously do without things I want.

Challenge #1: Putting all my focus on the thing I gave up.  Most fast days one of us would message the other and give the sunset time for the day. Daylight savings time RUINED us when we realized there was going to be an extra hour of daylight standing between us and eating dinner. I’m not gonnna lie to y’all, I can be a cranky something-or-other when I’m hungry. One day Ricks and I were chatting about fasting:

Ricks: OK, the challenging thing about this here fast, is right now I don’t have anything to do at work. So there is really nothing to keep my mind off my stomach.

Reese: The challenging thing is I’m really hungry. Like almost painfully hungry. Idk why tho. I ate plenty yesterday. Today’s more challenging than the last fast. And I have a headache. Not cool.

Ricks: Totally not cool. I thought I was going to get the whole hunger headache, but I’m doing good so far.

Reese: Overall I’m happy to be doing this. But at the moment I’m not a happy camper…..I think I’ll stop complaining now…that feels incredibly selfish….gonna turn up the music and clean up.

Ricks: Good call.

The only thing I knew to do in the situation was to redirect my attention. After all, that’s part of what fasting is about, right? I had to decide if it was worth it to focus on what I didn’t have (food) or to focus on something else. At the end of the day, I could have spent 10-12hrs focused on how hungry I was, and what would that have accomplished? On that particular day, I cranked up one of my spotify playlists, cleaned the house, and focused my mind on all the things I was grateful for. By the time dinner came, I had forgotten about being hungry and the headache.

Challenge #2: Choosing to accommodate or not accommodate life stuff.  Life happens….and it didn’t stop just because we had good intentions of fasting.  Our NYC trip took place during the lenten season, Ricks got sick, and I was registered for a Saturday morning half marathon. We had to choose what we wanted to do about it. We changed our fasting days to accommodate our NYC trip, because we didn’t want to set ourselves up for failure. Who goes on vacay and not eat?!  Ricks battled the yuckiness and fasted anyway, and I fasted part of the day before my race (which probably wasn’t a good idea, but I had already gone through half the day before I decided I was actually going to run the race). Bottom line: there were many things that came up during the 40 day period, and we had to choose what to do about it. Life lesson: ish happens….but is it  big enough for you to decide to go back to consuming (or using) whatever it is you decided to consciously give up? There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer here. Only you can decide.

Challenge #3: Choosing to function within an uncomfortable space when you know you don’t have to. In an essay called, “Veganism and Ecowomanism,” Layli Phillips pursues the concept of being gentle with herself and others. She details navigating the gray areas as she developed and embraced living simply and sustainability. I love this essay, because in it, she’s transparent about the awkward and sometimes uncomfortable spaces she found herself in during the pursuit of discovering her truth. There were many times she could have given up her pursuit of veganism, sustainability, and reducing her material possessions–particularly when she realized her partner and children weren’t into it. But she didn’t. She kept pushing until she found the balance and clarity she desired. I felt the same way during the fast. Since I primarily work from home, I could have walked into the kitchen at any time and had something to eat. I never did. I wasn’t always happy to be fasting, but I was always happy to be moving toward my truth….and I tried to be gentle with myself in the process.

Though we did this in accordance with our particular spiritual beliefs, the act of consciously giving up stuff is valuable for anyone–regardless of what you believe or don’t believe. I’ve always heard that you learn who you really are when you’re faced with challenging situations. One day I had to admit, I didn’t want to fast. I wasn’t feeling it.  But I did it anyway. Why? Because the practice of giving up food wasn’t just about the food. It was about being able take my mind off the struggle-of-the-moment for a second, to allow myself to feel a lack that some people feel on a daily basis….and to sow positive, conscious energy into myself and the world around me.


1 Comment

Food for Thought Friday: Reflections on Community

Reese’s Reflections on Community

BGR! Drive to End Hunger Race, September 2012

BGR! Drive to End Hunger Race, September 2012

So much has changed in a matter of months. I’ve moved, gotten a new job, started the Too Thrifty Chicks venture with Ricks, and met some incredibly fascinating people. Ricks and I started Operation Do Better to tackle debt and save money, and that has been more of a blessing to each of us and others than we could have ever imagined. Life is moving…and I’m trying to move with it.

About a month before we officially moved in together, Ricks sent me a blog post called, “Create a Superhealth Community.”  It couldn’t have been more on time. The very morning that she sent it, I was freaking out about moving and all the changes that would happen. I lived alone at the time — and for good reason. A year and a half prior, I was in a challenging roommate situation that convinced me that if I was

going to have another roommate, surely it would have to be my life partner. Living alone really spoke to my inner solitude. If I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t have to. If I wanted to hide my head under the covers all day because I didn’t want to be an adult, I could do that. Going back into a roommate situation freaked me out because I knew I would be in a space where I’d have to be mindful of someone else. And not just anybody. Someone who I had only recently developed a friendship with.

PhotoGrid_1355085713560Because of some shared experiences (including a roadtrip to ATL for a race), I had developed a deep appreciation for Ricks, particularly her character, her style, and her willingness to see life as a series of adventures worth tackling. I had a number of concerns about moving. Worry about damaging our newly formed friendship was not the least among them. But, even in my freaking out, my spirit knew moving was the right thing to do.  The blog post Ricks sent calmed me and reminded me that (as Ricks put it) “It’s good for us!”

And indeed it has been. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the community my roommate and I have built in our home space. I think my first “ah ha” moment about this came when Ricks went off to Florida for a week for work sometime in December. The weirdest thing happened: I actually missed my roommate! Dinner and TV alone wasn’t as appealing to me as it had been, not because I don’t like quiet time (there are times where we’re in the same room and never talk), but because the equilibrium of our shared space felt off. When I picked her up from the airport, it was like a flood gate opened. We talked a mile a minute for hours (literally), finishing each other’s sentences as we sometimes do. Perhaps for the first time, we realized that whatever our respective life journeys are, we were destined to support each other along the way.

PhotoGrid_1343355646164

BGR! DC at the Crystal City Twiligher, July 2012

We joke about how often we’re #twinning (thinking/doing the same thing) but even in those jokes there’s a bit of affirmation/comfort in knowing that as much as another human can understand me, she does. Our home is a place of laughter, silliness, transparency, and comfort — all of which (I think) people feel when they come visit. Several of our friends have joked about wanting to come live with “the thrifty chicks” and we always reply with something like “Come on! There’s an air mattress for you!” We’re quite lucky to have each other, but I think we’re equally lucky to share our lives and adventures with the people in our lives. It’s a great reminder that our individual lives are never solely about us. We all have some role to play in others’ journeys.

Goodwill Shenanigans, November 2012

Goodwill Shenanigans, November 2012

The warmth and encouragement of community isn’t limited to our in-person encounters. Everyday we’re amazed at the level of honesty and accountability exhibited in our small but faithful group of friends and friends of friends who are committed to Operation Do Better. In our Facebook group, we post our successes and struggles, cheering each other on like we’ve known each other for years when in reality, most of us have never met in person. In just a month’s time, people have had exciting victories and we can’t wait to see what will happen by the end of 2013! Empowerment is happening…and it feels great to be a part of it!

We’ve been meaning to write a post about ‘community’ for a while now, because we spend a lot of time talking about it. In some ways, I think it’s hard to write about just how important community is. The gratefulness I have for the people in my life sometimes can’t be put into words, but I hope my actions toward them shows my appreciation. There is one thing I wholeheartedly believe: if there is to be genuine change in this world, if there is to be healing where hurts exists, it will start with the relationships each of us build with each other. Wholeness can only be accomplished through community building.

Inaugural Parade 2013

Inaugural Parade 2013

A word about community from Ricks…

When I reflect on the four years that preceded my moving to the D.C. metro area, I can only describe them as solitary. I had tons of friends and great work colleagues, but I lived alone. And the only-child in me that places a high value on her private, quiet, personal space thought that I liked it that way.

But the truth of the matter is I always lived as if I was going to suddenly be whisked away from the tiny house where I lived. It was sparsely furnished because I really only slept there. It wasn’t a place where I entertained friends over meals that we cooked in my tiny kitchen together, and it wasn’t a place where I watched movies and drank wine with a so-called “significant other.” It simply was the place where I slept and got dressed for work every morning. It wasn’t a place that I considered home.

Foolishness + Race Day, BGR! Race to End Hunger September 2012

Foolishness + Race Day, BGR! Race to End Hunger September 2012

When I moved, I knew I wanted things to be different, but had no real thoughts or ideas about how to change that, or any inclination of what I was really trying to change. I was a full participant in this world where self- reliance and independence are valued above connecting with others. Being transparent enough to let others help me in ways I didn’t know I needed help was something that I craved, but I had no clue how to let my guard down. How I solved this dilemma that I didn’t even know I was having is rather unique because I didn’t solve it at all. It solved itself.

First, friends of a friend opened their doors and their furnished basement to me to give me an opportunity to get my sea legs in a new town and to look for a place to live. They were a sweet, fun couple who took a chance that I wasn’t a horrible person. I mostly kept to myself, but they were always friendly. Whether it was helping me get my things out of my packed car when I first arrived on a cold, rainy afternoon at the end of March 2011 or lending me a fleece so that I’d have something warm to wear in Afghanistan, I couldn’t have had a nicer introduction to a scary new place.

The last chipotle supper before the spending fast, December 31, 2012.

The last chipotle supper before the spending fast, December 31, 2012.

I was baffled at how to make friends in a strange new place, so I reached out to colleagues who I knew lived in the area and fell back on my sorority ties to connect. These were all things that I’d done in the past whenever I moved to a new area. But it didn’t work as I had intended. Where I thought I’d find a comfort zone was non-existent. It’s like the universe wanted me to do something completely new, so I did. I managed to connect with a friend, who wasn’t a friend when I originally met her because in the space that we used to know each other, we didn’t really “know” each other. (You caught that right?) I also deepened a friendship that started in the place that I had just left.

Through Meetups, church and getting involved in other organizations

Ricks and Reese out on a trail run with one of our favorites, January 2013

Ricks and Reese out on a trail run with one of our favorites, January 2013

I have made and built friendships that have been a blessing to me and continue to be so. Through these friendships is also how I met Reese. If two spirits were ever destined to meet and make friends, then we are those spirits. I’ve been fortunate enough to have roommates exactly at key points in my adult life when I needed them. But Reese is truly the first person that made me think about the value of shared space and shared investment in the deepness of each other’s lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to like all of my previous roommates and even had deep affinity for one or two, but this is different. It’s a rare thing to live with someone who just gets you. Most people expect this type of synergy to come in their romantic relationships and maybe for some people it does, but she and I are like peas and carrots. We just go together. And it’s good for us.

Breakfast at the thrifty palace.

Breakfast at the thrifty palace

When I learned my mother was diagnosed with earlier onset Alzheimer’s and started reading up on the things that can contribute to this devastating illness, I came across this New York Times article about an island of people who regularly live to be 100 or older. These centenarians get regular exercise by walking everywhere because they don’t drive, they drink a little wine regularly, and grow a lot of what they eat. But what struck me most was that though some of them had lived through tragedies, including the death of their own children and even being diagnosed with cancer, they had each other. They enjoyed each other’s company and had stimulating conversations.

Trail run, January 2013

Trail run, January 2013

In our country, it’s common place that getting older means losing friends and family to death and illness. After the death of a spouse, or even divorce, some people never find love again and live out their lives in solitude that gets louder and louder as they get older. One day you look up and everyone that you used to know is gone. You drift away from meeting new people, disengage from the things that used to bring you joy because you no longer feel like you have anyone to do them with. This also can happen to single people as their various friends go off down the traditional path of getting married and starting families.

534590_696624856290_1972075459_nBut many studies have shown that connecting to a community of people and engaging in acts that keep you mentally stimulated and involved, whether they be with family or friends, is vital to your health.

As Reese mentioned about the blog post I sent to her, it’s good for you. So often, I think we get caught up in the idea that when you’re an adult, you shouldn’t really need anybody that isn’t your so-called “significant other.” Some might even argue that you can only have this kind of relationship with a spouse. But I disagree. Investing in the lives of others and making real connections can happen in any kind of relationship if you let it. I believe that this adventure with Reese is teaching me to value all of my relationships individually and collectively, to not place more pressure on one than another, and to find ways to connect with others and build community wherever in the world I might be because ultimately it is for my good and the greater good of others.


6 Comments

Food for Thought Friday: The Joy of Creating

“I discovered bit by bit not the pleasure of eating good meals (I am seldom drawn to solitary delights), but that of manipulating raw material, of organizing, combining, modifying, and inventing. I learned the tranquil joy of anticipated hospitality, when one prepares a meal to share with friends in the same way in which one composes a party tune or draws: with moving hands, careful fingers, the whole body inhabited with the rhythm of working” (The Practice of Everyday Life, vol. 2,  p. 153)

In my real life, I’m a PhD student studying anthropology. I spend most of my time reading about food justice, health disparities, and black social and political thought. When I’m not reading about these things, I’m reflecting on them, trying to figure out reasons why so many disparities exists; why so many people don’t have what they need.

During one of those reflections, my good friend and colleague Naya made a great observation: we’re getting further and further away from the production of food, which has done a great disservice to most people in this country, but particularly those who suffer most from health disparities. After the conversation, I thought about how we’ve moved away from the production of many other things as well, because we often want things quickly….and sometimes creating things with our hands isn’t a quick process.

Preping a DIY project...post coming soon :)

Prepping a DIY project that took a couple days to complete.

Last year I realized that some days would come and go and I wouldn’t remember hardly anything that happened. I decided I didn’t want to live like that. I thought about things I wanted to experience and I envisioned how I wanted to feel on a daily basis. That helped me see that I needed to stop moving so fast and spend more time creating. When I deliberately slowed down my life, I began to pay more attention to what’s happening around me. My creativity expanded. Now, I get a great deal of joy from making things with my hands for myself and others. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way I planned, I try not to be too disappointed, because most times, the process was enjoyable despite the outcome. When it does come out right, I feel like I love it ten times more than anything I could have purchased “as is” in the store.

I spend a lot of time creating, because there is something beautiful about knowing the process that something went through to become what it is. Whether it be an outfit, a DIY project,  a meal you’ve prepared or a story you’ve written, the process of creating it makes you an active participant in your present day. And hopefully, taking the time to make things with your own hands will deepen your appreciation for others who do so as well.

Make something this weekend. Doesn’t matter if you make it for yourself or someone else. Just do it with your whole self present.

-A.Reese