Monday, November 30, 2009

One Road, Unfinished

I'm having trouble believing that it is almost December! These past few months have simply flown by for me. It's now clear that I haven't accomplished all (or even most) of the things I've been working toward this fall, which leaves me feeling discouraged.

For one thing, while I attempted NaNoWriMo, I didn't quite make it to the 50,000 word goal. I made a lot of progress, but just couldn't cross that finish line for a variety of reasons, none of which make me feel any better about not getting it done. Today, though, I have no choice but to smile and recognize that there's always next year. Which got me thinking....

With only one month left until the new year arrives, I figure it's time again to start thinking about what I need to do to kick myself into gear. Over the years, I've found that spontaneous New Year's Eve proclamations about what needs to change in my life have a tendency to stay in effect for about... a week.

I'm hoping to hit 2010 with a running start. Which means that now is the time to start planning, and beginning to build the routines that I want to stick to in the new year, and beyond. I've read that it takes at least twenty one consecutive days of repetition before a new behavior becomes a habit. Yikes!

One good byproduct of NaNo, for me, was getting in the habit of writing a certain number of words every day. Clearly, I didn't fully succeed in the endeavor, but every morning that I hopped out of bed and put fingers to keyboard marked another step toward a new great habit. I may not be destined to be a sprint writer, but those were someone else's rules to begin with. I'm not giving up on the marathon. I can't think of my NaNo attempt as a failure. It's just a road I started down, but haven't yet finished walking.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We wish a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving to all of our American readers. We'll be on vacation for the long weekend, but we'll be back again on Monday with our regularly-scheduled blogging. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TWM Book Club: A Retrospective

I am fortunate enough to have been a part of The Women's Mosaic Book Club, which began this past summer. I started attending because I had never been a part of a book club before, and wanted to experience what it was like to discuss a selected book, its themes, characters, plot, and so much more. Christianna, TWM's Program Coordinator Extraordinaire, did a great job organizing the event, which included inviting participants, securing the location, and posing the specific questions in our discussion to ensure that we did not drift too far away from the book itself. I was one of the interested participants who came up with the idea of a theme for each book club meeting, and then choosing a selection that corresponds with it.

Each month this summer, my fellow bibliophiles and I came together to sip beverages and nibble on some Italian cookies and pastries, while discussing books written by women. I have enjoyed every meeting I've attended because my fellow attendees have always been respectful and good-natured with one another; there never was anyone who acted like they were too smart for the room.

When the summer was over and I learned that there would be no meetings until next year, I was curious to see what power (if any) I had to resurrect the book club before the holidays began. After speaking with fellow TWM member Julie at September's TWM Visioning Workshop, I was relieved to see that I was not alone. After discussing the matter with Christianna, Julie agreed to use her apartment on November 18 to discuss Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson. In my humble opinion, it was the best book club meeting we ever had, even though the group was smaller than before. The same spirit of freedom to discuss the book’s controversial themes candidly and constructively, combined with our new, intimate setting, contributed to a thoroughly successful, end-of-the-year TWM Book Club Meeting.

I hope to meet more TWM members (and those who are interested) at next year’s meetings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Holiday Stress

The holiday season is all about being thankful, giving back, and spending time with the people you love. But it can also be very stressful. Where are you going to go? How are you going to spend your time? What are you going to make for dessert? What are you going to buy your pick for Secret Santa? How much weight will the holiday feasts make you gain this year?

Now, I don't know about you, but between work, family, and my extra-curricular activities, I have more than enough stress as it is!

Lately I've been trying to focus more on my physical and mental health. Going to Europe was a great way to leave my worries behind, but I've felt overwhelmed by them since I got back. One thing that has always worked for me during a time like this is physical activity. There is nothing like a good long run, even in the bitter cold, to clear my head and get focused. So I've been making use of my gym membership and taking the great classes they have to offer or simply using the treadmill.

But what's really been helping me lately are the hot Vinyasa yoga classes I've been taking. Vinyasa yoga is already my all-time favorite workout, but doing it in a 100-degree room just makes it that much more intense. By the end of the class, I feel like I can take on anything I put my mind to.

Of course, the added bonus to doing all of this working out is that I can feel a little less guilty about having an extra slice of pie at dinner. I'll just burn it off with an extra 30 minutes at the gym.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Going Back in Time

This fall, I had the pleasure of participating in an informal reunion with some old friends in a place that was quite dear to me as a child. We spent a fantastic weekend together, catching up and reminiscing, and I left the gathering feeling fuller than when I'd arrived.

All in all, a pretty lucky outcome. Perhaps even an unlikely one.

Returning to a place of childhood memories seems simple enough. But gazing with new eyes upon a place that was once so familiar, well, it's not for the faint of heart. No matter how well you prepare yourself, the air quickly becomes loaded with the substance of those memories. Expectations are always too high.

There was nothing I could do to dim my expectations. I walked into this place, for the first time in over ten years, incredibly excited, but nervous that it was going to let me down. It never had before, but still. Nothing stays the same forever, even our memories evolve, leaving out things we'd prefer to forget, or changing details to make the picture more rosy all around.

In the moment, in that place, my memories won. Big time. It all came rushing back, the good, the bad, the ugly, the unbelievably beautiful, the life-changing. Being surrounded by these friends made it seem as if no time had passed. The world rewound and all that was outside faded away.

Driving home, though, it finally struck me, all the things that had changed. How these friends had all grown up, grown apart. Our coming together was like a snapshot, dug out of an old dusty photo album, then put back away. But could what we once had be so easily dismissed?

Somehow, then, I made peace with something I'd been holding on to for a while. An irrational hope for something long past. A season of our lives that had risen bright then faded, and all we're left with is the memories. We can't get it back, no matter how hard we try. Letting go is right. Moving on is okay. Moving on is good. It's just another season.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Forum: A Novel Idea

You all know how much we love reading and writing here at CHICKS ROCK! and sometimes it's fun to think about life as if it's a novel. Today's question comes from that spirit: what would the title of your life would be, if it were a novel?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Promote Your Work & Do Good

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and we wanted to share with you what TWM has got planned. Instead of doing a traditional bazaar, TWM is hosting an online holiday bazaar and silent auction for the month of December.

We'll post more details on the bazaar and auction itself as we get closer, but for now we wanted to post the information relevant to potential vendors and donors. Check out the info below and get in touch.

If you or someone you know has a product, service or organization you would like to promote, then we'd love for you to be a part of our upcoming TWM 2009 Virtual Holiday Bazaar & Silent Auction happening from December 1-24, 2009.

By participating in the bazaar and/or silent auction you will not only be supporting our work to provide educational, inspirational and motivational opportunities for women to connect to themselves, each other and the world around them, but you can reach a targetted audience of over 5000 for less than $25 per week!

Your vendor investment is a flat fee of just $99 for up to five blasts, so the earlier you submit your registration/payment, the better rate you pay per week! Contact Program Coordinator Christianna at for more details on being a vendor.

Silent Auction items donated with a value of $75 or more will be accepted by Sally at and will receive the same amount of exposure for you, as the link will be included in the minimum five blasts that are sent - this is free advertising!

Please note that we are accepting vendors and donors on a rolling basis, so the earlier you submit your information and payment, the more exposure you will receive.

Feel free to contact us should you have any questions, require further information or are interested in additional sponsorship/advertising opportunities with TWM.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Colorblind Love

I am not a big fan of Hollywood films today; I’m usually the last one to know what the top box-office hits are in the movie theaters at any given time. Still, when I saw the trailer for The Blind Side, which opens this Friday, I was truly moved. The film is based on the life of Michael Oher, a young African American man who rose from homelessness and abuse with the support of a well-to-do family, and how their love, encouragement, and his determination led him to the NFL. It is one of the movies I will see in a theater, and I’m hoping it will be worth the money.

When I read some online reactions to the trailer and Oher’s story, I was floored. The fact is that he was taken in and adopted by a white family, and this really angers many people. I just don’t get the racial negativity; with all my heart, I believe that love can be colorblind, especially when it comes to parents and children. I hope to adopt in the future, and no one is going to stop me from adopting a child because of race.

Even though attitudes about race and adoption have changed, there are those who still believe that adopted children are loved less than biological ones. Many people are also dubious when discussing how celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Madonna have popularized international adoptions, which I can understand to a certain extent. There are many American children in the foster care system who need homes, but they have familial and emotional baggage (depending on their ages and circumstances) that many can't (or won't) handle. Those who do adopt want an infant or small child; older children are usually overlooked. With these prevailing attitudes, it’s hard for many to comprehend how Oher’s adoptive family could have considered including an older African American teenager in their lives, especially one with a troubled family history. I am not one of those people.

What are your thoughts on interracial adoption?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where Are You From?

Living in the U.S., particularly New York, it's very common to hear the question "where are you from?" This, of course, can mean anything: What state or city do you live in? Where did you grow up? What country were you or your parents born in? It's up to us to decipher which one they might mean and hope the answer satisfies them, but in my experience they usually mean, what is your cultural background?

A lot of people don't bother to ask me "where are you from?," they assume they already know. Even though I'm very open with people about my cultural background, I've found that whenever somebody doesn't know me, they can't seem to figure out where I'm from. This makes for some interesting scenarios, like the time I went to a deli and the man behind the counter started speaking to me in Urdu. When I stared blankly at him and simply asked how much my items came to, he was shocked -- "You are not from Pakistan?!" I smiled politely and said no, but he insisted "You look like you're from Pakistan!"

Things like this seem to happen to me all the time, just with different languages and different countries. Off the top of my head, I can recount being identified as being from: Pakistan, Mexico, India, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Bangladesh, etc.

I know people who get upset when their ethnicity is incorrectly assumed. They're suddenly filled with a cultural pride and insist that, no, they are most certainly NOT from whatever country you think they're from. I react rather differently, and instead of expressing anger or discomfort, I simply laugh it off and think about how arbitrary it all is. We attach such value to physical characteristics and personality traits that a Dominican with brown skin, dark eyes, dark hair, and a quiet demeanor can be mistaken as being from half a dozen different countries.

I think from now on when people ask "where are you from?" I'll just smile and tell them to guess. Let's see what they come up with!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mood Music

My iPod is among my best purchases ever. Four years ago, it seemed such a drastic, expensive, indulgent item, but my excitement over it still holds up. Yet, as I reached for my little friend this weekend, and found its headphones all tangled up around it in the bottom of my purse, I realized I haven't been using it much lately.

For over a year, I listened to it daily during my commute--an hour each way. When I started working at home, I still used it. I'd bring it to the library or the coffeehouse, to help me tune out surroundings while I worked. Any time I took the subway, in went the earbuds. Long distance travel? You'd never find me without it. Its music, organized into my own mixes, helped me cultivate certain moods. On the way to work, a buck-up: You can do this. One day at a time. On the way home, calming: You did your best, time to rest. If I was on edge, there was a mix to match or soothe the mood. If I was sad, I could allow myself to wallow, or draw myself back up with the push of a few buttons. Music for every mood.

I still love my iPod, but I just don't need it the way I once did. Like books or TV, I've always treated music as a form of escape, something to lose myself in for a while. I don't know exactly when it happened, but my relationship with music has changed. I no longer rely on my iPod for comfort because I wake up knowing that I get to spend the day in my own space doing what I love.

Sure, I still listen to the occasional ballad if I'm feeling melodramatic, or angry chick music when I'm in a funk, or indie pop when I feel the need to just bop around, but it's not as automatic. It's not about fixing something that's wrong. I enjoy it more. The iPod will always have a place in my heart, and a place in my purse, but finally she's taking a backseat!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Forum: Regrettable

Today we want to talk about something everyone asks themselves at least a few times in their lives.

Looking back on your life so far, is there anything you regret? If so, do you regret something you did or is it a regret of not having done something?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Your Words

We really want to thank everyone who's been commenting on the blog lately. We love hearing from you and we want you to keep it coming! This space is for all of us to learn from and interact with each other, and we certainly can't do it without your participation.

But this space is also for you all to really make your voice heard. The best way to do that is to shift from reader to writer from time to time by being one of our guest bloggers. What are you passionate about? Have you recently learned something new about yourself or the world around you? Got a great story to tell? We'd love to hear from you!

Check out our guest blogger guidelines and posts from our previous guest bloggers. Maybe next Thursday it'll be your words on the screen!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More or Less Gun Control?

Last week’s back-to-back shootings in Fort Hood, Texas and Orlando, Florida left me shocked, saddened, and angry. The reasons why the perpetrators went on their respective rampages may be very different, but the way they committed their attacks is the same: they used guns on unsuspecting, innocent people. I know the news media is concentrating on the killers’ motivations, but I can’t help thinking about how they both had unrestricted access to firearms and were able to use them with devastating results.

I know the Second Amendment has been a point of contention for Americans in all fifty states, and I know that the right to bear arms will not be taken away any time soon. But I also know that something has to change with the gun control laws in this country. For example, when I saw a news report about people going to gun shows in certain states and buying a variety of firearms without background checks, I was horrified. If I was ever compelled to buy a gun, I would expect to go through an extensive security check and be monitored periodically as long as I had one in my possession. Since we are often monitored by the police for speeding and parking violations, I believe we should have stronger checks on us as gun owners. I personally don’t see any other way to curtail the violence; banning the use of firearms will probably not work, just like it didn’t when alcohol was made illegal during Prohibition. But with these rights should come great responsibility, maturity, and sanity, and there are people who are in possession of weapons they wish to use for negative reasons. I don’t think this statement is unrealistic or far-fetched in nature.

Do you think we should have stricter gun control laws? Why or why not?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making Friends

One thing my friends and I have noticed in the past couple of years is that it's really hard to make new friends. High school is all about making friends and socializing, so it's really easy to do it there. College becomes a bit more challenging, but you've got roommates and joining a club or organization helps. But once you're out of college, the opportunities to meet new people become scarce. You can make some friends at work, but that's not always a sure thing -- co-workers might not be in the same age group, or you might not have much in common.

I've kept in touch with my sorority sisters and some of my friends from college, but it's been hard to make new friends. I was fortunate enough to become friends with one of my co-workers and we've gotten close over the past few months. As I've written before, blogging has also given me the opportunity to interact with like-minded people and develop relationships with some of them. What starts over a series of blog posts and comments, continues through Twitter and Tumblr, and then we meet and a friendship is solidified. (I can't wait until the next conference so we can all spend more time hanging out together.)

Hmm... I guess when I write it all out like that, I've actually been pretty lucky so far.

But still, it makes me curious to learn how other people make and maintain friendships once they've left school. Do you also find that it's hard to do?

Of course, I can't really complain too much. I have a lot of people I can turn to for anything I need, whether it's good conversation, a night out, or a way to waste a few hours online. I guess more friends would really just be icing on the cake at this point.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Women's Words

I consider myself a feminist, but honestly, gender discrimination isn't something I think deeply about on a daily basis. I'm not so naïve as to believe it's a non-issue, just one that I'm not confronted with too overtly anymore. Turns out, I may need to rethink my position.

I was one of many people upset by Publishers Weekly's recent announcement of their "Top Ten Books of 2009." A list that included no female authors.

Knowing nothing beyond that, my initial reaction was lukewarm. All things being equal, the odds are strongly against an all male list occurring by coincidence, but... it could happen. And they didn't completely ignore women--there were 29 included in their "Top 100." Still, a low total. As I considered it, the less lukewarm I became. A little steamed. A lot steamed. Hot.

I spent several days in dialogue with other women writers, collectively bent on responding. After all, who else was going to spotlight this oversight? As articles were written, and the conversation unfolded online, the range of public opinion stretched far and wide. From the overtly sexist ("Women just can't write as well as men."), to the inane ("It was a bad year for women writers."), to the delusional ("We're in a post-gender America. Quality trumps quotas."), arguments abounded. Few people seemed willing to accept our critique and move on.

All in all, I observed more anger directed at the women who were protesting the PW list, than at the list itself. Many people seem to believe that PW should be allowed to have their opinion about the best books of the year, without anyone second-guessing them, yet women writers aren't allowed to disagree without being pegged as reverse-sexist, or worse, a special-interest minority group vying for an unearned piece of the recognition pie.

In the end, does any of it matter? The PW editors and their sexism--whether intentional or subconscious--matter very little in the long run. It is just one list, one moment, one group's opinion. The true value of this experience, for me, was watching women writers come together to say something important. It's unfortunate to realize that we still have reason to unite in protest, but it's good to know that we still can.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Forum: Challenge Yourself

Thinking of NaNoWriMo and things like the Julie & Julia Project and 50 Jobs in 50 States made us wonder, what's one thing you would challenge yourself to accomplish in a certain period of time?

Whether it's based on a hobby or something you've always been curious about but never tried, what would you want to do and why?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Link Love for 11/5

Not much time has passed since our last link love post, but there can never be enough, right?! Here's another round of links for your reading pleasure.

Girl w/Pen takes a look at the current debate about paid sick days and reminds us why it's important to have all the facts.

In Good Company wants us to see the benefit of sharing our ideas with others, and gives us tips on how to do it.

Lindsey Pollak explains the value of building a career pyramid, and breaks down just what that means.

Work + Life Fit stresses that the battle for work/life balance is not unique to women.

Those are the links for today, but please share some more in the comments. Link to what you've been reading and writing on the web lately.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

There's Reason to Stay Informed

When I learned the details of the recent gang rape of a high school student in Richmond, California, I felt nauseous. The victim is only 15 years old, the attack happened on school property, she knew some of her attackers, and people actually watched it happen but did nothing to help. The feelings of anger I feel help me make sense of senseless acts human beings inflict on one another. This particular case also re-affirms my belief that women and young girls must be more vigilant about their protection. Here are some things I’ve done, and will continue to do, to protect myself and others as much as possible.

• In the past when my instincts told me that the place I was in or the people I was with were not right, I immediately took action. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t suffer in silence. Who cares if others think you are being uptight? We as women have to stop being nice all the time in favor of our personal safety.

• Watching out for friends, especially when their judgment is impaired, is an absolute must. I’m proud of the fact that I have prevented certain people (they know who they are) from being in situations where they were unprotected. I wasn’t popular during these incidents, but I have no regrets.

• There is still so much ignorance when it comes to rape and rape prevention, particularly with younger women and girls. Without becoming excessively paranoid, we should discuss these issues with family and friends more often. I was horrified to hear that some students at Richmond High School actually blame the victim for the attack. This tells me that more must be done to dispel these negative and untrue beliefs, and I have done so with my younger relatives as tactfully as possible.

Do you have any further thoughts to share about this extremely important issue?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Days of Yore

Today is Election Day here in the U.S. and it's got me thinking about Election Days of years past. I think Election Day should be a holiday that everyone has off from work, so in lieu of that, I celebrate it by reflecting.

American flag with a button that says VoteWhen I became a U.S. citizen a few years ago, the privilege I was most excited about was voting. The first time I voted, the elections were local, but I was no less excited. I knew that local elections are probably the most important because it is the local officials who have power over our daily quality of life. I researched each candidate, waited in line for hours, cast my vote, and picked up my bright green "I Voted" sticker.

Fast forward to the election we all remember well, Nov. 4, 2008. The anticipation leading up to that date was incredible, and the electricity in the air for those 24 hours was even more amazing. I got up early to cast my vote, I checked the polls all day, and waited at home with wine and snacks until it was official and Obama made his speech. It's hard to imagine that it's only been a year since that day -- a year of some becoming more active, while others, like me, took a mental break from politics.

But Election Day is here, and my brain is sparked all over again.

The atmosphere this year is nowhere near the level it was at last year -- I've already gotten a lot of "oh, it's Election Day?!" reactions. There are still some races to look out for. Many are pointing to elections in New Jersey and Virginia as ones to watch. And, of course, my own home state of New York is attracting a lot of attention.

So there's much to keep political junkies busy for the day, but what will you be doing? Will you get out there and vote? I sure hope so!

(Need some help at the polls? Check out last year's voting guide.)

Monday, November 2, 2009


A few years ago, I discovered an online literary phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month, uniquely abbreviated NaNoWriMo. Each November, people all over the country (all over the world, really) sit down to write a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, over the course of 30 days. This probably sounds impossible to the average person, and it's definitely not easy, yet tens of thousands of people line up to try. Many of them succeed.

I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I always thought it sounded like a fun adventure. Since I'm a novelist, though, it never seemed like something I should try to get in on. It would almost be unfair, because I know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I do it regularly, though all those words never go into one single novel.

Yes, there's the rub. Can I write a whole novel in a month? It takes me much longer than that to draft anything, let alone something good. NaNoWriMo's goal isn't to make anything good. They're out to get words down on paper, fast and frantic, and see what emerges. This inspires me. I'm giving it a try. One blank document. Thirty days. No plotting, prodding, structuring. No use of "delete." Two days into the task, I know I have my work cut out for me. But maybe there's something to this frenzied style, some way of cutting to the heart of things.

The best part is, I'm not doing it alone. One challenge of writing is that it's simultaneously about solitude and communication, being alone with your thoughts and connecting your ideas with others. After all, why tell a story if there's no one around to hear it?

I suspect most people get into NaNoWriMo for the fun and festivity of it. Or maybe to indulge secret longings that don't get played out in their everyday lives. So they can stand up in triumph, having written a novel. One less dream left un-pursued. For me, it's more about the chance to write in concert with others, and to approach my work from a new angle. It's already making me more excited to get started in the morning.

Bring it on, NaNoWriMo! 29 days and counting...

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.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.