Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble Gobble!

For our American readers, we wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving. We'll be on vacation for the long weekend, but you can join us again on Monday as we return to our regularly-scheduled blogging.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Temp's Life

Since I got back from my ESL teaching gig in Indonesia at the end of 2006, I have been thrown into the world of temporary workers and contractors. Before that time, I always had permanent positions where I didn't have to fill out timesheets every Friday, and wait for supervisor approval. My current state is shared by many, especially during this unstable period in our economy. I feel a strange combination of uneasiness and freedom: I work for two companies, but have no allegiance to either one of them. It is all about the paycheck and the work experience. If anything, I have learned that I have to make serious changes in my life, so I am not doomed to go from temp job to temp job.

Being a full-fledged freelancer is something else entirely: you are your own boss, you make a name for yourself, you market yourself, you negotiate your own salary, and the money keeps coming in... hopefully. In addition to freelancing, I am also considering careers with much more financial stability attached to them.

Recently, a fellow contractor told me that she overheard a full-time employee at one of the companies we work at saying that we were "not important" and "easily disposable." While I was annoyed by the comment, I also know that a secure person wouldn’t say that. Is he afraid of becoming one of us? Does belittling us give him a false sense of superiority?

While I am thankful that my contracts at both companies have been extended until the beginning of next year, I also know that I can’t get too comfortable. I need to think strategically about my future plans now: will I go back to school to get another degree? Should I switch careers? Will relocating be necessary? I have much to ponder in the next few months.

Do you have any temp stories to share?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Me Time

About a month ago, I wrote about my chaotic schedule and the effect it's having on "me" time. I figured you were about due for an update, so here goes.

On the work front, things are as hectic as ever, but I'm starting to get into a groove and not letting it get to me. One thing I've started is getting to work about a half hour earlier so that I can ease in. This is just to put me in a different state of mind, because I'm not particularly productive during this time. But it's my little mind trick. Also, one thing I do every so often is walk to the train station instead of taking the subway after work. It's about a 20-minute walk, but I enjoy getting lost in random thoughts and listening to my iPod. It helps me unwind after work. I've been walking more in general, even in the cold! All I need now is a good winter coat to keep it up.

I've become more focused on my health. I started working out again, making it fun by using Wii Fit! Now, instead of dreading working out, I look forward to having fun with my work-outs and my "treat" is ending with some hula hooping - quite the work-out in itself. My diet is still mostly take-out, but at least I incorporated some regular food into it. I even made an appointment for the doctor!

The best part is that I'm going to take a few half days at work so I can take some yoga and dance classes. Kristina very kindly gave me a few passes, so I'm going to take advantage -- you can't say no to a gift, right?!

So things are certainly not perfect, and I'm really just starting to focus on my goals, but I think it's a drastic improvement from the road I was heading down.

How have you all been doing with your "me" time?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Passing the Turkey

My parents are coming in for Thanksgiving again this year. Thanksgiving has become my holiday, ever since I cooked my first turkey for my parents and brother in my tiny NYC studio apartment eight years ago. Ever since, I've remained the host of our T-Day meal. Even when we've been at my parents', it's still my show. I cook, carve, bake, and serve. And I love doing it.

I have fond memories of the big extended family Thanksgiving, cooked by mom and aunts and grandma, while the other adults watched football, and we kids scrambled around in the backyard until called. We set a cheerful table and the food appeared – a warm, delicious smorgasbord of dishes not to be seen again for a year.

The original magic of Thanksgiving is somewhat gone for me, now that I know how the stuffing gets into the bird, so to speak. But in its place, I've come to cherish the ability to create something pleasing for people I love. I've done it enough to feel comfortable, even confident, and to put most of my performance-anxiety aside. I no longer worry about ruining the bird (wouldn’t be the end of the world) or keeping people waiting to eat (it can ever be perfectly timed). I have finally hit my stride.

Each year, I find myself begging less and less wisdom from my mother’s experience. My mom doesn’t enjoy cooking, so she was happy to hand this off to me. Neither of us looked back. But I notice something larger going on. The rolling of generations. Soon enough, it’s likely I'll be "mom," and she'll become "grandma," and though those titles seem far away, we have already taken the first steps down an inevitable road.

I contemplate this while chopping and basting: the passage of time, and the changes we must go through. It’s a good feeling – nostalgia for what was, and anticipation of what might be ahead. A torch is being passed, from one generation to the next. Though, I guess in our case, you could say we're passing the turkey.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Forum: Giving Thanks

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching - this month is going by quickly! - we were wondering what you're all grateful for this year? Family, friends, a new job, a new home?

Share your gratitude in the comments.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

YOU Rock!

We want to start off by thanking everyone who has been keeping up with us, reading, subscribing, and commenting. We appreciate your support and value your presence (whether silent or outspoken) in our community.

Having said that, we'd love to hear from you even more!

Now that a few guest bloggers have gone before you and you've gotten a sense of the blog, please consider submitting a post of your own. Write about your personal experiences, making sure to read our guest blogger guidelines, and email us your post.

If you'd rather speak up behind-the-scenes, you can do so by sending us an email with your suggestions for Friday Forum questions, or things you'd like to see more or less of at CHICKS ROCK!

Remember that this is a community for the bloggers AND the readers, and we want you to feel a part of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post Mortem of a Friendship

When we met in college, my former friend was a talented theater major with an angelic singing voice. We had a very interesting friendship: she introduced me to industrial/goth and opera music, and I discussed books, movies, and philosophy with her. While some of my friends were put off by her eccentric behavior and quirky sense of humor, I found her endearing and genuine. Even when she moved from New Jersey to Florida to Arizona, we remained close. When I was in Java, Indonesia and an earthquake struck the island, she was one of the first people to call me to check on my safety. It did not matter that we lived on different continents; our friendship seemed indestructible.

After four years of not seeing each other, we decided to reunite at my best friend’s wedding in India. During the week we spent together, I was troubled to discover that my friend had become emotionally unstable and extremely angry. Maybe I should have known that her personal insecurities and dysfunctional relationships with emotionally abusive men, family members, and some friends would lead to the demise of our friendship. Hindsight is always 20/20, I suppose.

Soon after we returned to the U.S., I expressed my concerns to her as delicately as possible. She abruptly ended our friendship as a result. Our first serious conflict became our last. In the end, I told my friend that I wished her well and would always remember the good times we had together. She didn't seem to understand or appreciate the sentiment at the time, but I hope she will in the future.

It has been almost a year since we last spoke, but I still have lingering feelings of loss mixed with nostalgia when I think of her. She was one of my closest friends, and I will never forget the impact she has had on my life.

How do you handle the end of your friendships? Have you made peace with the past?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Musings of a Latina Immigrant

While I've admitted that my identity as a woman has often defined me more than being Latina, I've been more connected to the issues of immigrants and Latinos lately, especially with the case of Marcello Lucero.

In case you haven't heard by now (although it has finally started getting more attention), Lucero was murdered by a group of teenagers in Long Island, and one of the primary reasons cited is because he was Latino. I think there's a strong connection between fear of immigrants and violence against Latinos, and the details of this case make it clear, at least to me, that this is a connection being swept under the rug. By looking at instances of violence, harassment, and discrimination as isolated incidents, it allows us to ignore the conversation we so need.

This case has touched me much more than I expected. For starters, I went to college in Long Island, where we were aware of the tension around us, but had no idea how bad it was or how to deal with it. But on an even more personal level, being an immigrant myself has always been challenging. I've often felt excluded, despite being a naturalized citizen. I've heard it all, from being called a spic, to being told to swim back home.

But rather than be held down, I educate others about what it means to be an immigrant. I've tried to be a good citizen, voting in almost every election I've been eligible to vote in, becoming an activist, and striving to make this country better.

So I share this story with you not to bring you down, but to make you understand how these cases affect others. And while anger, rage, sadness, etc. can all be driving forces for us, I want to use this as a stepping point to move forward. I think we need to channel the initial emotion episodes like this spark to open up the discussion. I believe it's time we bring up all the misconceptions and realities to better understand all sides and close this chapter in our history.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recognizing Beauty, The Zambian Way

In college, I made a presentation about differing cultural perceptions of beauty and body image. I was reminded of it recently in Zambia. With the women, we spoke a lot about our bodies, and how they're viewed in our respective worlds. The women we encountered were as intrigued by our cultural quirks as we were by theirs. They were fascinated by the idea of plastic surgery, Botox, and our perpetual quest for thinness. But, fat is good, they said. Fat means well-fed, and well-fed means rich. Wrinkles are good. Wrinkles show age, so all who see you will know you are an elder. Sagging breasts are natural. Sagging breasts show you have nurtured your children well.

Next, they wanted to know if American men demanded these procedures of us. No, no, we said. All of us agreed that most men are far more open-minded about how women should look than we tend to give them credit for. This further baffled the Zambian women. If not for practicality and not for men, then why are we going through these drastic machinations? Many of us ended at a loss for words about it. How do you explain to someone with limited access to television that images and media can shape the way we look at ourselves? How do you tell a woman who has never had a doubt about her beauty what it is like to feel ugly and imperfect?

Zambian women, of course, have their own set of expectations to live up to. But body image is not their problem, at least as far as I can see. To them, the inherent power of femininity is enough to make every woman beautiful. They are not ashamed of their bodies, of sexuality, of the physical realities of life and love, as we are. They take pride in every bulge of fat and roll of skin because they know there is something of greater importance within us.

If we could learn to see ourselves through their eyes, we might all be better off.

How do you feel about your own body image?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Forum: Are Youth Apathetic?

It seems that people often bring up the issue of young people's apathy to politics, social change, societal issues, etc. Yet, youth voter turnout is on the rise, and there has been some anecdotal commentary on the impact youth have on global issues (such as Darfur, for example.)

Do you agree that there is some apathy in American youth? Or, do you think that this sentiment is wrong? Is there an intergenerational divide causing this perception?

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

TWM in Flesh and Blood

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to have Kristina back as a guest blogger this week:

Kristina Leonardi is the founder of The Women’s Mosaic. She is a career/life path consultant, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of women, diversity and personal growth.

Now that the dust is settling from last week's election, I have had some time to reflect on what it has meant to me personally. As an American who dedicated her life to promoting unity through diversity by founding The Women's Mosaic - in fact, our tagline, "Recognizing Our Unity; Celebrating Our Diversity" is a trademarked part of our logo - I could never have imagined a presidential race like this, let alone the outcome. I could not be more proud, uplifted and full of hope, and would be remiss in not taking a moment to talk about its relevance to TWM.

It has always been my premise that by bringing people, especially women, from various backgrounds together, we are able to "dispel cultural ignorance, prejudice and bigotry," and "expand our horizons by creating positive change to individually and collectively enrich the world." The ideals I so firmly believe in have started to take major strides forward!

Regardless of your political inclinations, the fact that we had women vying for the top positions in the land did much for our discussion and perceptions of women in leadership positions. And, of course, there was the monumental election of a relatively unknown Senator - neither privileged nor white - with faith in people, our country and himself that we can reach our full potential. Women's empowerment, intercultural/race relations and our ability to make positive change came to the forefront of our national dialogue in a way it never has. It's quite amazing.

What I relate to about President-elect Barack Obama is that he quite literally embodies, and is able to articulate so eloquently, everything we at TWM believe in and advocate for. And, I dare say, he operates in a most traditionally 'feminine' way - demonstrating a style and sensibility that is thoughtful, relationship-based, and values consensus building and inclusion. He sincerely listens, understands and cares about the betterment of our local and global communities. By his own admission, the strong women in his life continue to guide and inspire him, and have made him who he is today.

At this place and time, could we have asked for anything more?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Optimism Abounds at the Savvy Ladies Gala

Kekla and Pauline at Savvy Ladies GalaThe Women’s Mosaic is a great organization to be a part of for many reasons. One of them is learning about other organizations that are run by people who are as dedicated to women as TWM is. Savvy Ladies is one that focuses on promoting financial education for women. On a rainy night the day after the presidential election, I was fortunate enough to attend Savvy Ladies' Holiday Gala on the Upper East Side in New York City. As I walked into the main room with a glass of champagne in hand, I knew immediately that many of the attendees were in a "giving" state of mind. Kekla and I bought raffle tickets and participated in the silent auction, both of which benefited the Savvy Ladies' scholarship fund.

Savvy Ladies Holiday GalaEven with the live music, free food and drinks, swag bags, and elegant setting, it was the speech by the celebrity guest that was the highlight of the evening. Kim Kiyosaki, author of Rich Woman, was honored as "Savvy Ladies Changemaker of the Year," and she expressed her gratitude towards the organization by donating $1,000 to Savvy Ladies’ fundraising efforts and giving away autographed copies of her book to everyone in attendance. She spoke to the enthusiastic crowd about her and her husband Robert (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad), and their continued efforts to teach people tips for financial success. Kiyosaki spoke directly to the women in the room, encouraging us to become the masters of our financial destinies. As I said in my previous post about personal finance, I am always open to learning from those who are positive financial role models in our society.

For me, the timing of the Savvy Ladies Holiday Gala was perfect. I feel refreshed, and optimistic about the future of our nation and our world. I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for us!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Do We Have a Global Responsibility?

As a very passionate activist, I often find myself having conversations with people about why I feel the need to, say, help women in Africa who are subjected to FGM, when I live and work in America. It's not my problem, they usually say. Not my responsibility. Can't I at least stick to my own country? We've got a war going on, the economy to worry about, all sorts of problems. Don't I have better things to worry about?

People insist that I should mind my own business and keep to myself.

I just can't do that. Here's why...

For starters, the world is not as disconnected as we think. A recent study suggests that the six degrees of separation theory was pretty dead on. Even more than that, for all of our differences, people around the world are just like us. They have families to love, jobs to keep, and rights being violated. If I can help them just the teeny, tiniest bit by taking action and urging others to take action too, why shouldn't I?!

Also, helping with one cause doesn't stop me from helping with another. I can donate a suit that'll never fit me to a woman who really needs it AND cast a vote on Election Day.

So, DO we have a global responsibility? Do we even have a local responsibility? I agree with JK Rowling on this one: we have imaginations so we can empathize with people all around the world in situations we will never face. I think our responsibility is to act on that empathy if we really feel it. So long as you are communicating with the people we want to help, rather than giving them the help we think they might want.

In the end, I think it is a personal choice. If you can barely make ends meet for yourself, I don't expect you to donate to someone living halfway around the world. And if you have more than you need, but don't want to give for whatever reason, I won't make you. Just don't try to stop me from doing it, because I won't.

What are your thoughts? Do you think we have a global responsibility? Or should we clean up our own house before trying to bust into others?

(A longer version of this was originally posted at The Feminist Underground.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Glass Ceiling

Last Sunday, I went out to Central Park to cheer on the NYC Marathon runners. The weather was great, so a big crowd turned out. People of all races and nationalities stood together shouting good wishes in many languages, urging the runners on whether they were strangers or friends. I doubt I’ll ever attempt a marathon myself, but even standing on the sidelines, I felt like I had become a part of something bigger.

That was two days before the election, though, so my thoughts strayed to what it might feel like to be running down the home stretch to be elected the first black president. I was struck by similarities between what was happening there on the race track and what was happening in the country as a whole.

Folks in NYC danced in the streets last Tuesday night – people of all races, and of a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. Yet we came together in joyful celebration as Barack Obama ran through the tape at the end of his long run and another glass ceiling shattered over all of our heads... or did it?

When I think of our past, it seems that the only way to pass any glass ceiling has been to break it, sending shards raining down on everybody below. The desegregation of schools was met with violence and fear. The first black voters risked life and limb when they went to the polls. Civil rights workers were destroyed for holding up hope. What I saw happen on Tuesday night was something totally different. It felt like the country finally rose up in unity and just carried the glass ceiling out of the way.

As a community, black Americans have been running for a long time. Not a single marathon, but a relay of marathons, a baton passed from one generation to the next to the next. I’m not sure that we actually came through the tape last week, but it feels like we might be on the home stretch at last. I’m sure that the American presidency isn’t the last glass ceiling that people of color will have to pass. I just hope we will be able to push aside the rest as gracefully and with peace.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Forum: Now What?

With all of the excitement, anticipation and 24/7 media coverage over the last couple of weeks, it's strange to think that we're finally on the other side of Election Day.

So we're wondering, now that the election is over, what will you be focusing on? Is it back to business as usual for everyone? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Link Love & Our Blogroll

Last week, we had a link love post with stories we wanted you to read. We'll be doing that more often from now on and in the future we'll be highlighting more posts from the blogs in our blogroll.

Here are links from the blogs we currently have on our blogroll, which you can see on the left-hand side of the screen under "Other Great Blogs." If you have suggestions for blogs we should add that share our goals for CHICKS ROCK!, please let us know in the comments so we can reciprocate linkage.

In the meantime, enjoy these posts:

Savvy Ladies gives some advice on dealing with how much money to spend on your children (though the same can be applied to nieces/nephews, younger siblings, etc.).

NYWSE has a piece about balancing your own self with work, family, and play (something we all struggle with).

Girl with Pen has some incredible voting tales -- don't forget to share your own!

Glamocracy considers how to move forward now that Election Day has passed and where to go from here.

Change Everything is wondering how women could have avoided the financial meltdown.

Lindsey Pollak celebrates the impact Generation Y had on the election, starting before Election Day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Finally, the 2008 U.S. presidential election is over! I am one of many Americans who were extremely annoyed with the mudslinging that the candidates and their respective campaigns resorted to in recent months. It makes me wonder: what lessons can we learn from this election? Would local, state, and federal races be handled better if more women ran for office and managed political campaigns?

I recently wrote an article about a TWM event that took place almost four years ago and featured an eclectic group of women who were (and still are) involved in politics. We need more events like "Politics Schmolitics" so that more women can be inspired to become politically informed, and maybe even venture into politics in their own lives. I know that I could not become a politician, but I would willingly throw my support toward a qualified female candidate that really inspires me. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is important for the next female candidate for president to impress potential voters with keen intelligence and a positive attitude. She will have to be ready for the challenges of an arduous campaign, without resorting to dirty tactics that previous candidates have resorted to in the past. If she must "go there," then hopefully she can do so without tarnishing her reputation in the public eye.

Now that we as a nation have elected our first African American president, I know that a female president will not be far behind. The possibilities are endless, and we have much to look forward to.

To read more about TWM's Politics Schmolitics event, check out the article: "Politics Schmolitics, Four Years Later."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Do I even have to say anything?? Get your butt out there and VOTE!

Find out where your polling place is and when it opens, and get on that line as early as you can. Early voting already showed how long many of these lines will be, but please be patient and try to carve out enough time. Maybe you should bring a game and bond with your fellow citizens who are waiting with you. Or some good reading material. Also bring some water and snacks. Whatever you need to keep you sane and entertained.

A few reminders:
-Bring your ID just in case and your voter registration card if you have it.
-If you make it to the poll location before the polls close but are waiting in line, contact your board of elections if they try to turn you away. Laws vary by state, but make sure you cast your vote.
-Keep in mind the voting myths: wearing campaign gear (just cover it up), being arrested for outstanding warrants or tickets (simply not true), losing financial aid (many student voting rights are confusing). Don't let them take away your right to vote!
-Check your ballot (whether electronic, paper, or lever) before finishing, especially because problems with machines already started with early voting.
-If they challenge your eligibility for whatever reason, insist on filling out a provisional ballot.

Most importantly, keep this information handy to report any problems:
-Use Twitter Vote Report to keep track of long lines, problems with machines, etc. Check it out.
-Use the Election Protection hotline by calling 866-OUR-VOTE (or 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota for Spanish speakers).
-Contact your local board of elections, particularly for voter suppression or suspicious activity. You can use to find out the number you can call.

For those of you who can't vote (either because you're not citizens, didn't register on time, or are choosing not to), please considering volunteering your time today as poll workers, or by driving the elderly or disabled to the polls, or by reminding others to vote, etc. It's a great thing for anyone to do.

And for everyone who's volunteering, THANK YOU SO MUCH! You all rock!

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge)

Monday, November 3, 2008

That Voting Feeling

In NYC, the only place I’ve ever voted in person, you step behind a curtain, slide a lever, flip the switches next to your chosen candidates, then slide the lever back so your vote is counted. It is very tangible, the clunking sound of the lever locking into place and taking official note of your opinions at that moment. I always feel a little choked up as I step out of the booth and scurry home.

I don’t know exactly where that feeling comes from. People try to tell me that it’s pride – pride in the country, the system, the privilege of having my vote counted. But I’ve never really thought that was it. Frankly, I don’t always feel that much pride in our government, or even in most of our elected officials. It must be something else.

Maybe it’s just a release of tension after months of looking at candidates and hearing about issues and polls. Or maybe it’s a new and frenzied kind of stress that comes from knowing I have done everything I can and now it is time to wait in front of the TV to learn whether or not the country has come to its senses. Perhaps it is even a little twinge of hope—hope that the system can work and we can have change.

Yes, I’d like to think it is hope that I feel. I do know I am fortunate to live in a place and time where I can reasonably trust that my vote will be counted. I know that I will not be subjected to pain, fear, violence or intimidation as I approach my polling place, as happens in so many places around the world. As has happened at times in this nation’s history.

No one should stand in the voting booth and feel afraid. No one should have to look over her shoulder when she slips her card into the ballot box. Those reasons alone are enough to urge me to stand up. To say I am here, to make sure my voice and my vote count. It is why I will be standing in line tomorrow morning, looking for that voting feeling.

Go out and get yours! Maybe I’ll see you there.

Disclaimer: Blog entries express the opinions of the respective Bloggers/Contributors/Authors/Commenters solely, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Women's Mosaic. As host and manager of CHICKS ROCK!, TWM acts solely as a provider of access to the internet and not as publisher of the content contained in bloggers' posts and cannot confirm the accuracy or reliability of individual entries. Each participant is solely responsible for the information, analysis and/or recommendations contained in her blog posts.
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