Everything Old is New Again 

Everything Old is New Again 

By Amanda Rose Adams


Now that my daughter wears adult sized clothes I have bought her Banana Republic sweaters and snow pants at a thrift store.


During a rare car ride with my grandmother in the 1990s she shared the stories of her parents’ deaths when she was a child. It was eerie how she described her excitement about getting her father from the hospital and watching her mother gather up his clothes. When my nine-year-old grandmother grabbed her father’s heavy boots, her mother just shook her head. The clothes they were bringing were for burial, and one of Grandma’s many fully grown brothers could make use of their father’s shoes. Their mother died a few months later.

A few years after this conversation with my grandmother I was pursuing my master’s degree and working at a technology company. During a water cooler moment, I made a comment about buying used clothing at a consignment store. My work-friends were troubled that I wore used clothes. One of my friends was visibly creeped out by the idea and shivered at the thought of wearing “used” clothes. I learned to be more selective about with whom I chose to share my shopping habits and wins.

When I had my daughter in 2004, fast fashion coupled with a child who grows like a weed found me buying her new clothes most of the time. However, I was always a persistent coupon and clearance shopper and strategically bought mix-and-match colors to stay in my budget. Then she grew too tall for children’s clothes and I had to change my approach.

Now that my daughter wears adult sized clothes I have bought her Banana Republic sweaters and snow pants at a thrift store, Asics running shorts in discontinued colors for five dollars on Amazon.com, and slightly worn jeans at consignment shops. We also buy at overstock stores like TJ Maxx where my daughter spent her own money to buy herself a ten dollar dress for her first day of middle school and bragged about the bargain to our hair stylist.

When I was my daughter’s age I wore my brother’s used shoes. In fact most of my clothes were from garage sales or hand-me-downs from a family friend. The rest were hand made by my mother or bought on lay-away at K-mart. Unlike my parents who were raising four kids, I only have two. My son couldn’t give two figs about clothes and usually wears the first thing he can grab out of his closet, whether it matches his pants or not. My daughter is far more interested in expressing herself through her hairstyle and clothing choices. But she is also open to the creativity and flexibility second-hand clothing allows.

When I took her sized 5 ice skates to sell at the consignment store, my daughter looked a little sad, but I reminded her that she now wears a 7.5 and that she could have all the store credit for those skates, and she perked right up. Our community consignment stores are all locally owned. Our community thrift store benefit local charities with the proceeds they make from their sales, and by buying chain store clothes on a secondary market we are buying local, and that’s important to me.

My kids don’t wear used shoes, socks, underwear, or pajamas. When I was buying snow pants at the thrift store, I looked at used snow boots and decided that I could afford to buy my kids shoes that fit their own feet. I will splurge on shoes and bras because nothing makes a person more uncomfortable in their skin than ill-fitting undergarments or shoes. The rest can be washed in hot water with vinegar and given a new life.

Financially, I can afford to buy my daughter expensive clothes, but I don’t want to start that habit. I can’t make the emotional leap. Between my great-grandfather buried in his bare feet, my favorite Levi’s 501 jeans that came from a garage sale with a $5 bill in the coin pocket that I wore throughout middle school, and the hand pieced quilt I made from an old flannel jacket I shared with my father in high school as a form of grieving his death, clothing is more to me than a consumable possession. I am quick to pass on clothing we no longer need and rarely keep a sentimental piece. My approach to clothing, and what I hope I’m passing on to my children, is that while we live in a culture of conspicuous consumption, we have choices and the power to decide for ourselves what matters and how we express that.

Amanda Rose Adams is contributing blogger for Brain, Child, the author of Heart Warriors, A Family Faces Congenital Heart Disease, and her work has been featured in the New York Times Motherlode Blog, The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Bioethics and various literary journals. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaroseadams or visit her blog at www.amandaroseadams.com.

Image: gettyimages.com



By Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly


Times being tough is an understatement, but how I manage has gone from a question, to a state of panic, to an action. It is what we do. Manage.


The first time my daughter received hand-me-downs, I washed them, pressed them and voila, they were like new. Friends with older daughters were eager to give away the clothing they had collected over the years, and my being in an unexpected position of need both economically and as a first time parent, I was happy to have them.

I was raised middle to upper middle class in Detroit. Instruction and private lessons in an array of classical art forms (violin, dressage, flute and ballet) turned me into the artist I am today, but art alone doesn’t automatically surrender a comfortable living. With multiple graduate degrees in tow, Sallie Mae has me on speed dial and every month I feel as if I rob Peter to pay all 12 Apostles. Times being tough is an understatement, but how I manage has gone from a question, to a state of panic, to an action. It is what we do. Manage.

It hasn’t always been like this, but since my entire child rearing experience has taken place during a time of economic upheaval in our household, I often find my parenting stifled. I am unable to be the mother I want to be 100% of the time because of the looming financial responsibilities dampening my daily situation. The embarrassment of being a millennial not financially secure and overwhelmed with debt is suffocating as my Facebook news feed overflows with the happiness of other people’s lives. We know not to compare, try not to compare, but on some level the comparisons are always there.

There are times I feel unsettled, as if my life never “began”—not that I didn’t want to be a mother, but what have I experienced that I could teach another person? What can I give a child when I have “childlike” sensibilities?

I had to sink or swim with my immersion into parenthood; I thought I’d be in a far better economic situation. In 2013, about a year after joining what felt like a natural position as “mama” and naturally never being afraid to try new things, I began to explore new ways to make money, especially from home. It was then that I joined a pyramid scheme after googling “How to make money from home.” It was a rather desperate time as I struggled to build a photography business to make ends meet. A few months later I laughed about the whole crazy thing, because after nearly 10 years at Gap and opening hundreds of credit card accounts, I was terrible at offering Motor Club memberships to people, no matter how wonderful it appeared. The few friends and family I told about my “new venture” was through a mass of laughter and embarrassment because I couldn’t believe I had fallen so low. I made a total of $80, and suspended selling and marketing activity after two months.

My patience is often thinner than it should be as I get through a 7-10 hour period with two children—a baby and a toddler—while my husband is at work. The moments where I want to sit and bask in their development: new sounds, new words, and an understanding of concepts are often spoiled by the realities of unpaid bills or dreams deferred.

I’m a writer. I have an MFA in Playwriting, and even more, I am an Obie award winning Theatre Producer—an award I won with the Producing collective Harlem9, 1 week before giving birth on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building in Harlem. While my career accomplishments exist, there still lives an anxiety because of financial instability. A life in the arts with children is more than economically unpredictable. Most theatres are not-for-profits and therefore do not have the funds to allocate towards childcare, although many parents are beginning to fight for that right. With a spouse not from the arts world, my main struggle has been justifying that my creative work at all hours of the night is part of a standard family model.

I am imprisoned by my lack of financial freedom. In the deepest moments of my frustration, I coddle less and teach my children to get back up “after a fall” more. I have walked out of a room with a crying child in order to finish something that may never get done. While I want to sit and cuddle for hours, time is sometimes money, and there is never enough of either.

Parenting without financial comforts or stability does not allow me to approach parenting with ease. I often feel there is something I am not doing if I cannot focus on my children’s education or other social opportunities because I am overwhelmed with ways to make money to afford those experiences.

Between attempting to be supermom and super-wife, I am drowning in a mound of half completed tasks, feeling less than accomplished in the home.

I worry for the social lives of my children and find as many free opportunities for classes at local bookstores or concert halls. Recently, I signed up for IDNYC as a way to take the children to multiple cultural institutions free of charge or at a discounted rate. In this city that seems to cater to the rich and discard the poor with every passing day, I often wonder, would we be happy elsewhere?

When my children are asleep, I take the opportunity to write—in my notebook… on the subway… I write for that one job, the one break that could mean a more focused and attentive mother, changing our status, removing the economic burden. No longer managing or thriving, surviving … but being.

Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly is a writer, OBIE Award winning theatre producer and newly Licensed Real Estate Salesperson. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Howlround.com. A mother of two, she lives in Harlem with her family. Follow her on Twitter/ Instagram/ Facebook @garliacornelia www.garliacornelia.com.

Photo: gettyimages   

Things Money Can Buy

Things Money Can Buy

By Sarah Winfrey


He came home that Friday night to his heavily pregnant wife. That was me, the heavily pregnant wife. He made some comment about the layoffs at work. The layoffs we’d been promised at least twice would not affect us.

“Do you know who is getting laid off yet?” I asked. In passing.

“Well, I know one of them.”


He didn’t answer and I finally looked up from whatever held my attention so closely. I met his eyes and I knew.

“Me,” he said, though he didn’t have to.

We’d planned our entrance into parenthood with a meticulousness that, in retrospect, probably boded disaster. My husband had heard it was best to wait at least 2 years after marrying to begin trying to conceive, so as to consolidate our emotional bond. We did that.

We also planned which doctors we’d use, how we’d get to the hospital (with alternate routes in case of emergency or traffic), and which baby products were worth buying at a premium.

We had it all covered, everything but this.

It would have been one thing if he had lost his job when it was just the two of us, to scramble a little, to work part-time and freelance and live off our savings until we had something official again. Who knows? We might even have decided to take off and travel around the world, to pursue the thing we’d spent so many years dreaming about.

When I became pregnant, knowing our daughter grew inside of me and seeing her tiny heartbeat on the ultrasound, we began to dream new dreams. A home with a yard, family that lived close, and friends who knew us like family. And stability.

Stability is a strange thing to dream about. Most people pit stability against dreams, like you have to choose one or the other. But we began to dream of the things that meant her life would be safe: steady income, health insurance, and childcare such that she would know who was going to be there for her, and when, and why.

Of all the dreams that came along with that first baby, stability was the one we thought we’d be able to provide. And then we couldn’t.

With the loss of my husband’s regular income, we felt like we couldn’t give our daughter anything. This child, the one we would have given anything for, was going to come into a world where nothing was certain.

My dad worked for the same company, albeit in different locations, for my entire life. Even as a small child, I took it for granted that money would continue to come in, that there would always be enough for whatever I needed. Because the family could count on his steady income, I took things for granted that other kids didn’t even have.

I lived in a home my parents owned.

I got new clothes with the changing seasons.

I got to travel all over the country and try things like paragliding and snorkeling.

Was there privilege in that? Yes. But there was also stability.

Even when hard things happened, like when we moved three times in three-and-a-half years, life didn’t fall apart completely.

That’s what I wanted to give my baby.

Instead, I found myself afraid of the way she would grow up. What would it mean for her if we couldn’t buy her new clothes when she outgrew the old ones? What would happen if we never owned a home? If we had to forego something she really needed because of money?

After my husband lost his job, we tried to figure out what life would look like as we moved forward. We talked about income, about needs vs. wants, and we talked about dreams.

We found that some of the things we dreamed of giving her, the things that meant “stability,” centered on less material aspects of life.

“I want to teach her to ask good questions,” I told my husband over bottles of cider one evening. “And to know that the questions you ask in life are more important than the answers you get.”

He nodded. “I want her to know that we know her, inside and out. And to know that she’s always got people on her side,” he said.

“I want to love her well.”

I don’t remember which one of us said that, but it came from both our hearts.

That proved to be the first of many conversations about money and about what we want to give our kids.

We’ve talked, too, about what the loss of that job meant for us. Looking back, we see how not being able to provide her with financial stability threw us even further into darkness than the job loss itself.

But she brought us light too: loving our baby girl made our priorities clearer and helped us focus on moving forward despite our loss. Loving her still centers us, even when it doesn’t make sense of everything.

Just the other day, my daughter, that baby now a five-year-old, got angry with me because her brother got something new and she didn’t. I looked at my husband for reassurance.

“She knows she’s loved,” he said, like he’s said so many times over the years.

She knows she’s loved.

It would be nice to say that my husband’s job loss and our daughter’s first years helped us to refocus, to realize that loving our daughter would be enough. The truth, though, is more complicated.

We have loved her. We always will. And because we love her, we want to give her many things, including some that money can buy.



Sarah Winfrey helps moms who struggle with motherhood make peace with both their mothering and their struggle. She writes about mothering and spirituality at sarahwinfrey.com.