Monday, August 31, 2009

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

I was recently gifted with a large (and I mean LARGE) bag of fortune cookies. At first I laughed, thinking, "What am I going to do with sack of a hundred fortune cookies?" But these little snackaroos have become quite popular around my apartment these days. With me, that is.

Get your mind set... confidence will lead you on.

Maybe it's the tiny smiley face that precedes and follows each morsel. Maybe it's the fact that I stand a decent chance of being able to put a sentence together in Chinese after reading the back of each slip. Maybe it's that I'm finding real meaning in these tiny proverbs. Or maybe there's an X factor that just keeps me wanting to nibble and read. (MSG, anyone?)

Be tactful; overlook not your own opportunity.

I've found myself looking forward to the little pick-me-up that comes from reading one of these tidbits of wisdom and humor, truth and philosophy. I've started trying to take them a little more seriously.

If your desires are not extravagant they will be granted.

These tiny meditations are leading me to look on the bright side (luckily they are nearly all positive messages), and to think deeper about the things I really do want. I feel a bit ridiculous even saying that with a straight face, but it's quite true.

You are the master of every situation.

In the end, I know that fortune cookies are like most things in life--what you get out of them depends on what you put into them. For me, it comes down to this: In a time when I feel I'm constantly struggling to understand what I need to do to keep building the life that I want, any scrap of encouragement is worthy. Especially if it comes with snacks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Forum: Women in Films

It seems that at the end of every summer, everyone sits around and talks about the best films they watched. Talk of Oscar contenders doesn't usually start until early the winter is growing near, but with the hype around summer blockbusters, it's easy to see why these talks might start so early.

Who are some strong female characters you've seen in films lately? Was it Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia? Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer? Nia Vardalos in I Hate Valentine's Day? Or perhaps a classic performance you're just getting around to watching now? Let us know your favorite performance and what made it so great.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sharing Your Story

Before the summer ends and while lots of you still have a bit more free time than usual, we want to remind you that we welcome guest blogger posts.

Did you travel this summer? Are you starting school this fall? Have you switched careers? Have you recently married or divorced? Is there a personal story you've been needing to share?

All of these (and more) are great starting points for a guest post on CHICKS ROCK! Writing your story can be empowering for the writer, and it also gives readers a chance to realize that they're not alone. Our stories can connect us when we need it most -- wouldn't you love to be part of that connection?

So take a look at our guest blogger guidelines and the range of posts our guest bloggers have contributed in the past. Then send us an email with your story. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Horses and Family Bonding

Overall, it’s been a pretty low-key summer for me. I have done some contract work in New York City, I have read a great deal, taken French lessons, taken a few day trips, but mostly, I have been home. It is not something I regret, but I wanted to do something I had never really done before the summer ended, at least not significantly. My sister suggested horseback riding, and I jumped at the chance. I have been on a horse before, but I was sitting behind my cousin and someone was leading the horse down the well-trodden path in India several years ago. I have great pictures taken from that experience, but I don’t really consider it horseback riding. It was like a pony ride, only the horse was an adult. It was time for me to immerse myself in the fundamentals of horseback riding on a trail. My cousins, siblings, and I agreed that we would ride before the summer ended.

On a weekday morning, we drove to a place in northwestern New Jersey, which is an hour away from my house. The stables’ owner suggested that morning would be an infinitely better time to go horseback riding, and he was right: it was almost 100°F that day, and our ride was completed before noon. We all had different experiences with our horses; I felt that my horse was annoyed with me because of the way her head would fling up when I was handling the reigns throughout the ride. Still, I enjoyed the trail ride through the forest, and the laughs we all had when we were confronted with massive horse flies and bees. Maybe it wasn’t so funny at the time, but we laughed anyway, because it made the insect onslaught easier to bear.

While the horseback riding was wonderful, it was the time spent with family that made the experience incredible. I don’t get to see my cousins much, so this was a great opportunity to have fun and re-connect with them at the same time.

What fun experiences have you had this summer?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feels Like Home

It's now been over a month since I moved to my new place in NYC, so I figure an update is in order. The move itself was stressful and tiring. For some reason, we all thought it'd be fun and cost-effective if our friends helped us move and set up the apartment rather than hire movers. Not recommended. It has provided laughs as we look back, but the lack of sleep, sore muscles, and snapping at each other at the time was not exactly the "fun" we had in mind.

We did settle in eventually. Alright, that's not entirely true. We went through all of our boxes and tried to get rid of anything we didn't need anymore. However, we still have several boxes of clothes to give away and recycle, and a box of things we have no idea what to do with. Our closets are a mess because we've just been shoving things into them. We don't have a couch or any chairs either. But aside from all of that, our apartment is live-able, more or less.

Part of the reason we haven't finished settling in, though, is because we've been too busy enjoying our new neighborhood! In our old neighborhood, everything closed early, we needed a cab to get groceries done, and there wasn't a real park anywhere in sight. Here, I've been going out in the sun to get work done and to read, and my guy has been playing sports in the parks. We've been trying out the local restaurants and delis, eating a different type of cuisine each time. We have green markets and several places to get groceries done. Overall, a huge improvement.

It will take a while longer to really get comfortable in our apartment, but I'm happy so far. It definitely feels like home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blurring the Lines

I traveled to Cape Cod recently, and spent some time in the community of Provincetown, way out on the very tip of the Cape. P'town happens to be an area rich with shopping, beaches and a thriving nightlife -- and it also happens to be one of the most extremely rainbow-flagged locations I have ever seen. I can't recall ever experiencing such a warm and open community of people, within which any couple, or family, can find a space of comfort, even among strangers.

The vibe throughout this town is wonderful. People are relaxed and most likely on vacation, wandering through the streets hand in hand. Men and men, women and women, men and women, parents and children, friends -- the full gamut of people in all their quirkiness and beauty. One thing I observed in my wanderings was that it was impossible to tell on the surface who belonged with whom. A far cry from the traditional formula of Mom, Dad, 2.3 kids and a dog. I loved that. It really brought home for me the fact that our country, our world, is changing in important ways that have been a long time coming.

Even living in a place as diverse as NYC, I feel as though there is a compartmentalization of people of different races, sexualities, lifestyles. These divides run deep, and are hard to bridge at times. We coexist, but are still working to live in true harmony with one another. In P'town, I witnessed something fundamentally different. A blending of diverse spheres of existence into one thriving center of culture and sharing.

On the streets there, you simply could not look at the faces of people passing and make assumptions. That experience showed me how many assumptions I make about people I know, and about the strangers I pass in my everyday life -- assumptions that maybe I should learn to think past. I consider myself to be an open-minded person, but maybe I need to work hard to be more so.

Perhaps we all need to be challenged in these ways more often. The lines that define "a family" have blurred in lovely ways. I, for one, hope they keep on blurring.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Forum: Routine Check

We've been talking a bit on the blog about getting organized -- whether it's organizing a schedule, getting ready for a big move, setting goals and priorities, etc. It's always good to learn what others do to get organized so we can learn from each other's best practices.

What are some routines you have that keep you organized? Do you have a planner or daily agenda? Do you have a routine you follow when getting ready for something big, like a vacation, moving, and so forth?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Link Love for 8/20

It's around that time again when we check out what our favorite blogs are up to and throw some link love. Remember that you can leave a link in the comments with something great you've read or written lately so folks can check it out -- it doesn't need to be a blog post, any writing will do. On to the link love:

Deborah over at Girl w/Pen announced a while back that she was pregnant, and has an honest post up about her current fears.

In Good Company has an interesting post up about how karma does (or doesn't) work in business.

Lindsey Pollak's blog has a guest post with tips geared at young job-seekers, but which can really apply to anybody.

NYWSE Chapter blog wants everyone to take a look at the circumstances around them and learn to adapt in order to succeed.

Savvy Ladies shares some tips for how much you should be saving each month, whether your income is fixed or fluctuates.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Confessions of a Classic Filmophile

I love old movies. I don’t know how it happened; I must have been flipping through the channels on my television one day and came across some wonderful old black and white film that captured my imagination as a child. Since that time, whenever it was, I have seen many films and marveled at how superior many of them are in comparison to those made today. Yes, we can see the advancements of special effects in many action films, but the quality of scripts, character development, and the overall attention to detail were so much better in the past, in my humble opinion. There are good independent films being made, and once in a while a mainstream film does get it right, but the latter doesn’t happen often enough.

I remember watching The Gladiator with Russell Crowe and being unimpressed. I saw better war scenes and gladiator battles in classics such as Spartacus, The Sign of the Cross, and The Fall of the Roman Empire. There were no computers back then to create special effects, such as filling a crowd scene with computer-generated people. The acting was also surprisingly better in these earlier movies, at least I think so. Most popular actors today really lack the personality, intelligence, and charisma of some of their great predecessors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, such as Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Sidney Poitier, and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few.

I almost feel sorry for people who don’t know how good and entertaining movies were, but I’m glad that I know. I have the TCM channel, the Internet, my local video store, and other resources to find and watch classic movies when I have time. I rarely go out to see new movies in the movie theaters, mostly because the prices are sky-high and I want to be sure that the ones I do choose to see are worth my money.

Am I a film snob? Maybe, but I just prefer good stories that can be about anything, as long as they are shot, acted, and directed well.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cyber Buddies

I recently read an article about Gen Y feeling that their real friends are their online friends. It got me thinking about my own friendships and what it means to be a friend.

My friends in real life are great. I don't have many of them (I'm horrible at staying in touch with people) but I share laughs, secrets, and a history with them. They offer companionship and they know my family and other friends, so there's less that needs to be explained and more that can be shared.

But then I think about a couple of moments when I needed somebody and I turned to twitter. When our car was stolen, when I woke up one morning and had no idea where my guy was, when I was in a car accident, when I started thinking about nonmonogamy... All of these were moments when I received an incredible amount of support from people I consider friends but who I only know online. I've shared intimate details of my life with them, and they've helped me and comforted me when I needed it.

Another reason I often find myself turning to my online buddies is because I find we have more similar beliefs and outlooks when it comes to social justice, discrimination, calling out racism, misogyny, ableism, and so forth. Most of my friends in real life don't even understand what ableism is, despite my attempts at explaining in several ways. My friends have conversations and make jokes that make me uncomfortable. They use words that make me cringe. It's just a different dynamic.

So I'm not sure if I'd say that my real friends are my online friends, but I can see why some people might come to think that. Ultimately, I think it's great that we can make we of the internet to find like-minded people and forge relationships that fill the needs our other friendships do not fulfill.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Showing Skin

The other day I ran down to the grocery store on my corner, wearing a tank top and shortish shorts. What should have been an unremarkable journey became remarkable when I was ogled appreciatively by no fewer than ten men on the street (within the space of about seven minutes), and verbally catcalled by four of them. This blew my mind.

I didn't think at all about my attire before leaving home. Granted, I was wearing significantly less clothing than I normally do, but nothing I don't see other women wearing every day. And, in my estimation, I did not look good. At all. This was errand running at its quick and dirtiest. But the dramatic response from passersby quickly made me very self-conscious. I wanted to go home well before my errand was complete. That angered me.

I've wondered for years what men who catcall at women perceive the benefit of doing this to be. I've heard some defend the behavior as "paying a compliment," but is that really what it is? I personally don't feel complimented by hearing "hey, baby," especially when it's uttered in a tone rife with implication. It makes me feel nervous, embarrassed and in extreme cases, even attacked.

I know some women don't mind these mild advances, or may even feel flattered by them. But they just make me uncomfortable. And to be totally honest, it bothered me that this happened when I was utterly unprepared. I hadn't made any effort to look nice; I was simply, inadvertently showing a bit of skin. It reminded me that no matter what women do or how we act, some men will only be able to see us as physical bodies.

I can't control how I feel in response to these comments, but I'm still working out what to think about them. Are they appropriate? Complimentary? Degrading? Does it depend on the situation, the woman, the man?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Forum: Lazy Days of Summer

The end of summer is quickly approaching! For some of us, this means going back to school to learn or teach, and for others it means nothing much changes and we just keep going to work.

Are you looking forward to the fall? Why or why not? What did you enjoy the most about your summer?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time for Some Housekeeping

Today, we wanted to make some announcements -- updates, reminders and the like.

First, we wanted to update you all on the upcoming events we've recently posted about:

The book club meet-up details were finalized and the post has been updated with the details. The book club is meeting next week, August 18, from 6:30 - 8 p.m. at Veniero's. Be sure to RSVP -- the easiest way is by sending an email.

The private make-over and shopping event we posted about last week has a change of location. That post has also been updated, but we wanted to make sure you all knew the correct address: the Esprit store at 600 Fifth Avenue New York, NY. You can get more info about this awesome event here.

Hopefully we'll get to see you at those events!

But even if we can't, we'd still love to hear from you! That's right, we're still waiting to hear from all of you with your guest posts. Check out the guest blogger guidelines and the wide variety of posts other guest bloggers have written, then send us an email. Let us know if you have any questions and be sure to include a photo and brief description of yourself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crossroads and the Foreign Service

My parents are very lucky. They have stable jobs in secure fields, and they worry about my brother, sister, and me because we haven’t followed them into similar situations, at least not yet. I don’t see life as a competitive race with others, especially when it comes to my family members. I always say that I don’t want to be anyone else; I just want to be a better version of myself. It’s just that I want to know what’s next already! One of my plans is to try for the U.S. Foreign Service. I took the exam before, but didn’t make it in for various reasons. Now that it is being offered several times a year and the format has changed, I think I have a better shot at getting in this time around.

Why the U.S. Foreign Service? Well, for a long time, I have known that I want to do meaningful work and interact with people from other countries, cultures, and walks of life. I have had enough of working in offices where I know I won’t see or experience the fruits of my labor; the only thing I have to show for it all is a paycheck, and that doesn’t seem to be enough for me anymore.

And I also want to see more of the world; it’s no secret that I love travelling, and not just for leisure. To experience other cultures around the world while representing the United States sounds really good to me; I am not ignorant to the anti-American sentiment out there, but I think being a woman of Indian descent will help me in many places. I also don’t presume to be superior to anyone else because of my citizenship, and I don’t have an inferiority complex, so I am not easily intimidated. In other words, I think I would make a good diplomat. Still, it is one of several plans I have for my future.

How do you juggle various plans for the future? Do you have any advice to give me?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Swap 'til You Drop

A few weeks ago, on the same day as the blogathon I participated in, I organized a clothing swap for me and my friends. For those of you who might not know what that is, the way it works is you have people bring clothes they don't want anymore and then swap clothing with each other. The idea is that even if you don't like something anymore or it no longer fits you, somebody else might have a use for it.

I love the idea of clothing swaps for a number of reasons. For one, it's a great way to reduce waste. I've often heard of or seen people throw their clothing away, and this is such a huge waste. There are places you can take their clothing to recycle, but at the very least, folks should be donating their clothes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. A clothing swap is in the same spirit, except your clothes go to your friends and acquaintances.

Another reason I like clothing swaps is because it can save money. During times like these, it's hard to think about spending hundreds of dollars for a few new pieces of clothing. Even if you wait around for sales or shop at a thrift store or Goodwill, finding the right item can take time and you'll still have to pay for it. At a clothing swap, everything is free! A barely-worn jacket that once cost somebody $100 is now yours for nothing.

Of course, the best reason to have a clothing swap, in my opinion: the fun! You get to spend hours with friends and family, drinking and munching away. You'll probably end up hearing at least a couple of stories sparked by clothing items -- a dress worn to the first date with a now-husband, the outfit that got somebody their dream job, the jeans somebody wore when she fell face-flat at a college event. Their memories become intertwined with yours and everyone knows their clothes have a great new owner. It's like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for grown-ups.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Hostess with the Mostess

Having friends visit from out of town is never exactly easy. Nevermind that the apartment is in disarray because I've just moved. Nevermind that there is much work to be done that I've put off in order to complete said move. No, suddenly I have bigger, more pressing concerns, such as: Where are we going to eat? What are we going to do? Are they going to have fun doing it? Am I going to keel over from exhaustion if I have to walk one more block out of the way to look at yet another pile of I-heart-NY t-shirts?

Don't get me wrong - I do love it when people visit. It makes me feel important, flattered and loved, that a few friends care enough to travel here to spend time with me. But let's face it. I live in NYC. They're not just here to see me, they're here to experience the urban jungle in all its glory, and it's my responsibility to deliver.

A visiting friend once told me not to stress over planning our activities. "It's the guest's responsibility to have fun, no matter what you take her to," she insisted. "You can't make people enjoy themselves." While I appreciated the gesture of her saying it, and I actually do agree with the sentiment, I can't quite pull it off. I worry. I'm a worrier. I always want people to be comfortable and happy, and have a good experience, but especially so while they're on my watch.

The two friends who are here this weekend have visited me three times, so I must be doing something right. Despite the fact that they are sleeping on the floor because I don't have a couch yet, and despite the fact that a few directional mishaps led us into strange urban territory last night, they still woke this morning with smiles on their faces.

So, maybe I can relax after all. If I treat my guests with warm hospitality and plan our outings with enthusiasm, good friends will be up for anything!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Forum: Share What You Love

Because we're always making announcements for things we're working on or events we're going to, we figure it's about time you get to shout out your own work!

So leave a comment with some shameless self-promotion of your own! Are you currently working on a project you want to share with others? Are you planning an event you'd like us to attend? Did you recently start a blog that you want us to check out? Let's all take advantage of this space as a way to share what we love with each other.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

End the Summer with Style

We are very excited to tell you about the upcoming TWM event, a private shopping and makeover event! TWM members and two of their friends can attend this event for FREE, but we are also opening this up to non-members for a chance to join in on the fun and even become a TWM member in the process. Check out all of the details below and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 6:00 - 9:00 pm

This year's Members-only event falls on Women's Equality Day so why not honor the occasion by becoming an official member of an organization that empowers women and then celebrate with an exclusive private makeover and shopping event so that you can make the most of who you are, inside and out!

Style talk and wardrobe makeovers by Monica Diaz of Style Matters, Inc. Attendees will receive 25% discount on all fully priced merchandise at Esprit that night!

LOCATION: Esprit, 110 Fifth Avenue New York, NY
UPDATE: The location has changed to 600 Fifth Avenue New York, NY
For TWM Members and up to 2 friends: FREE
For non-members: $20 for event OR $35 to include TWM membership

You can RSVP any of the following ways:
If you're on Meetup, RSVP here. If you're on Facebook, RSVP here. Or simply send an email.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tackling French... Again

Personally, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I find that I must re-affirm the promises I made to myself constantly, especially when it comes to moving beyond my comfort zone and changing my life. Tackling French again is one of my non-New Year’s resolutions, and I am both excited and intimidated at the beginning of the process.

I can understand some French, but I am far from proficient and my accent is pretty atrocious, so I am eager to practice and educate myself, in addition to taking classes twice a week. Now that my classes are in full-swing, I began opening my old French books from college to supplement the texts I already have. I hope to get to a point where I can make some small talk with French-speaking peoples. Oral comprehension is something that I wish to master, but I have to practice that particular skill more often than I already am.

Why take French again? Well, it is a language I took in high school and college, and even though knowing which words are masculine and which are feminine is often frustrating, I am anxious to improve myself and broaden my horizons further. In this economy, I have personally learned to make short-term and long-term plans so I can be prepared when some or all of them don’t work out. My yearning to be multi-lingual also extends to learning something of Malayalam (my parents’ native language), Hindi, and Spanish. I am not sure where this journey will take me, but I know I must stick with it and keep practicing as much as I possibly can. I have friends who are fluent in French, and I hope to practice with them so my verbal and oral communication skills in the language will improve considerably.

As I brush off the dust from off of my old French books and prepare to be tested in class twice a week, I wonder if I will be able to achieve my goals. I will work hard to do so.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Finding the Write Time

I recently participated in something called a blogathon. I posted on my blog, Jump off the Bridge, every 30 minutes for 24 hours. I did not do this because I'm crazy -- I did it to raise money for the READ Foundation, an organization that uses teen tutors to help young children learn how to read.

I've had some time to reflect on my experience, and realize that I've learned some things. 1) Coffee is my friend and staying up for 24 hours without drinking any was the dumbest idea ever. 2) Stretching can make me feel instantly better. 3) You can never be too prepared -- an outline can never have too much detail. 4) I really love writing.

I was having a dry spell on my blog when I signed up for the blogathon. I was posting once or twice a week, making excuses for not writing: no good material, no time, no confidence in writing ability, etc. So I looked at it as a way to raise money and awareness for literacy, but also as a writing exercise. I suddenly had to ignore my excuses and write 49 posts in 24 hours!

When I decided to participate, I started a list of things to write about, with rough outlines of what I wanted to say and links to include. Throughout the course of the 24 hours, I strayed from my outline at times and had several "can't write, can't type, can't think" posts. But for the most part, I had a lot of substance as well and, most importantly, I was able to finish.

Since then, I've realized that I need to stop making excuses and write what I can, when I can. If I only have time for a short post, I'll do that. If I want to share something with little commentary, I'll do that. I really love writing and it's something I want to get better at. There's no way I can do that if I sit back and let the world pass me by without documenting it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Leap of Intention

I’m sitting surrounded by boxes. I’ve decided—while the market is slow—to take the leap that I’ve been eager to take for quite awhile: moving to a new apartment.

I’m thrilled and excited. The new place is a tad bigger, freshly remodeled, and overall a drastic improvement. I’ve been unhappy with my current apartment for years now, yet something always held me back from moving. Now I’m glad I waited.

Beyond the physicality of the space, there’s a deeper benefit I feel growing within myself when I think about this move. Many of my big life decisions have been made with fingers crossed, a deep breath, and a jump into the unknown. I’m good at leaps of faith. They’ve served me well.

This move has arisen from a different place. I know what I want now, and how I want to live. The future is no longer a blank page of pure possibility. If designing the life of your dreams is like painting a picture, I believe I have all the dark lines in place: the outlines, the broad strokes, the beginnings of what this thing will be. I see the full image in my mind’s eye, and every step I take toward it fills in a bit of color. This decision, at this time, has brightened things considerably.

That said, moving is proving to be a greater reality check than I had expected or even hoped for. I mean this in the best possible way. For a clutterbug such as myself, it’s a huge challenge to look at every single item in my space and have to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. But I’m going about this move with intention—the things that come into the new space will be things that further my goals and bring pleasure to my life, nothing that detracts.

I don’t know what the future holds. I can only wait, and hope, and strive, and imagine. Keep painting that picture. I feel myself moving one step closer to something bigger, better and very worthwhile. A new chapter is beginning...

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