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‘Chick trips’ can be done cheaply, provide many ‘priceless’ memoriescomment (0)

July 24, 2008

By Judy Woodward Bates

The apostle Paul wrote to Philemon, saying, “I have great joy and encouragement from your love.” Just as with Paul and Philemon, our friendships today bring us joy and encouragement, and the bonds of friendship are so precious that we should be careful not to neglect them or take them for granted.

Over the years, I and three of my closest friends moved to different communities and let the weeks and months, then years, tick by with our contact becoming less and less frequent. But when one of my friends, Gwen, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we realized how critical it was to stop putting off all those things we were going to “get around to” doing together and get at it.

That’s when Gwen, Millie, Lawanda and I met at my home and began planning “chick days” — one-day, in-home gatherings — and “chick trips” — outings from day trips to weeklong excursions. We came up with a flexible, but fairly consistent, schedule of bimonthly (every other month) chick days, rotating to a different home each time. Each of us came up with fun ideas for our turn as hostess.

I hosted Italian Day, when each of us brought an Italian dish, including scrumptious cannoli for dessert. Our entertainment was an Italian movie — “Roman Holiday,” a great classic. This inspired a series of dinner-and-a-movie chick days, including French, Mexican and Irish themes.

Lawanda’s Asian daughter-in-law, Yuko, taught us about Japanese cooking while serving us a fabulous smorgasbord. Gwen, the gardener of our bunch, served a beautiful spring salad luncheon on her screen porch overlooking her garden. We wore hats and dresses, and Gwen entertained us with a wonderful short story, read in her finest “suth’n” (Southern) accent.

When Millie, our resident artist, hosted chick day, our post-dinner surprise was a lesson in sculpting.
She taught each of us to make our own polymer clay figurine — my Olive Oyl look-alike was a major accomplishment, considering I’d never been able to make a recognizable Play-Doh worm.

Chick days were  sometimes substituted for one-day chick trips. We also did a number of Friday overnighters, several multiday excursions and even a cruise. Whatever we did, we had a blast. And as the professional economist of our group, I made sure that everything we did was at the least possible expense.

We took advantage of free and low-cost parks and attractions: Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover; Palisades Park in Oneonta; Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens and Alabama’s first incorporated town, Mooresville.

Spots such as these not only provided us with healthy outdoor air and exercise, but they also gave us the chance to picnic in ideal surroundings.

Starting our chick-trip fund was a great move. I kept a record of each person’s contributions and made sure that equal amounts of each person’s money were used to pay for joint expenses such as accommodations and admissions.

For road trips, we estimated our fuel expense and put equal amounts into a “fuel” envelope. This worked out so much better than rotating fill-ups, as some were always more expensive than others.
We also made it a rule that whoever provided that particular trip’s vehicle didn’t pay into the fuel fund.

Except for a planned bargain-hunting road trip, we learned to steer clear of shopping areas — no unnecessary spending. We used  www.restaurant.com coupons to save money on eating out and brought along an ice chest and plenty of snacks, drinks and food we could prepare ourselves.

All of us made a list of the things we’d really like to do or see, and we began to prioritize them, with Gwen becoming our focus.

I scoured the Internet and booked accommodations online, used www.eBay.com to land some hotel gift certificates and attraction admissions tickets and even found a super deal on a van rental to make our trip as roomy and comfortable as possible.

In a one-week trip, we walked the beaches of Florida’s east and west coasts, visited lighthouses, rode Silver Springs’ glass-bottom boats, strolled the streets of historic Cedar Key, marveled at Marjorie Rawlings’ courage to settle in Cross Creek and oohed and aahed our way through the Tallahassee Museum. Throughout it all, we made memories that are absolutely priceless.

As you’ve probably already guessed by my use of the past tense, Gwen is now with her Savior.
Millie, Lawanda and I will soon be taking our first chick trip without her. But we’re bonded by our memories and have no doubt we’ll be eternally chick-tripping together.

Life is brief. Don’t lose touch with all those special girlfriends. Put a chick day together, won’t you? You’ll all be so thankful for the “great joy and encouragement” you’ll give and receive from each other.

Editor’s Note — Judy Woodward Bates is the creator of Bargainomics and author of “Blessedly Budgeted Women’s Events.”

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