All of us at The Women's Mosaic and CHICKS ROCK! wish you a very Happy New Year! Let's celebrate 2009 and look forward to 2010!
The following was originally posted on Oct. 14, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
I don’t have the luxury of going to the spa very often. In the past, I considered myself lucky if I went three times a year. Now that I don’t receive regular massages as I did when I was abroad, I make sure to go spas that are highly recommended. If the service exceeds my expectations, I am more than happy to return to the place, and pass on recommendations to people I know.
My recent trip to an Ayurvedic spa is perhaps the best I have ever had. I first learned of the facility at a TWM event this past spring. At the Health & Nutrition: Perspectives from Around the World Panel Discussion, the panelists and some audience members made the evening a pleasant and informative one. Dr. Priyatarssini Balamurugen was one of the six panelists who particularly caught my attention, because she spoke specifically about the Ayurvedic approach to health, nutrition, and life as a whole. I have been interested in this particular branch of alternative medicine, because it focuses on multi-faceted treatments for a variety of problems: Yoga, massage, and herbs are just a few of these. When we received our “swag bags” at the close of the event, I noticed a coupon for the Santhigram Kerala Ayurvedic Health Spa and knew I had to visit the New Jersey location before the offer expired at the end of the year.
During the massage and steam bath, I felt the pressures of everyday life slip away. For a person who finds it difficult to meditate because of mental restlessness, I felt surprisingly free during the session. Ayurveda is centuries old, so I am not surprised at how effective it was for me during the hour and fifteen minutes I was there. I think my transcendental experience also had to do with the desire to purify myself, both inside and out. This, coupled with the expert hands and herbal oils used during the session, made me feel relaxed and relieved for the rest of the day.
Have any of you tried Ayurvedic massage or similar treatments? What was your experience?
The following was originally posted on May 26, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
When I think about the responsibilities we have to each other and to ourselves, I start to think a lot about what is more important. Selfishness is something frowned upon in our society, and yet we are often described as a very selfish culture. We want what we want, when we want it, and regardless of how it might affect others.
Perhaps this is why my friends and I get such a positive reaction from people when we say we work for non-profit organizations. We seem to have a higher purpose and goal, and we are commended for taking home a smaller paycheck in return. In reality, I think a lot of young non-profit professionals get frustrated about different aspects of non-profit work. I see a lot of my peers and colleagues become disgruntled and complain about the limitations of the work and the pay.
But even still, there is certainly a commitment to serve that I don't see in many people outside of the non-profit world. Despite the frustrations, everyone has at least one cause they are passionate about and put above almost everything else -- including themselves. Most of the activists I know work so hard that they often neglect their own health and well-being, myself included. By putting the work, the cause, the justice ahead of our own needs, are we doing more harm than good? Most activists would say of course not! We do what we need to do, when we need to do it, regardless of how it might affect us.
I'm coming to realize, however, that this just can't be an option anymore. A few other activists have been expressing similar sentiments for a while now, and I have no choice anymore but to agree with them. If the good we do for others is harming us, it is our responsibility to ourselves to step back, and hope that somebody else takes the wheel. If they do, we can be back in action when they need to step back. If they don't, then at least we'll be re-energized and ready to work even harder.
The following was originally posted on Sep. 21, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
I stumbled upon a magazine feature in which celebrities responded to questions about faith. They each offered sound bites about a spiritual experience, or moment when faith came alive for them. I was intrigued by this conversation, as it’s something that’s often on my mind. I hear many practitioners of religion say that faith is about trusting in something that cannot be seen or proven. Yet, somehow that unproveable, intangible thing must be felt, right? Otherwise, how do we, as people, keep throwing ourselves toward beliefs that can’t be proven, and what is it that makes us feel that we’re believing in the right direction?
This quote from Faith Adiele, author of Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun, struck a chord with me. “Every time I act without knowing the outcome, with the risk of failure looming before me, I try to see that as a spiritual moment. Every time I transcend my limitations or touch something larger than myself: one step closer.”
I never articulated it this way, but lately I’m making such acts all the time. Leaving a steady job to pursue writing, sticking with it despite the bleak economy, writing what I care about over what will earn the most. I recently commented to a friend that I feel validated in this pursuit when the world answers me in small ways, whether it be a good review, or a letter from a reader, or an invitation to speak. Sometimes I need those small tokens of approval to know I’m on the right track. But my friend seemed distressed by this, saying that I shouldn’t need to be validated by the outside world, as long as I know in my heart that I’m doing what I love. Conceptually, that sounded right to me, and I worried about it. Do I not have enough faith in myself?
In reality, though, every time I take one of these little leaps I am putting faith in myself, but also in God or the universe or the world around me, to catch me before I fall.
There won't be any post tomorrow because we'll be off for Christmas, so we wanted to post this Friday Forum question today.
As everyone gets ready to say goodbye to 2009, we're looking back at the things we've learned and done this year.
What are some of your favorite moments from 2009? What are some lessons you've learned about yourself?
The following was originally posted on Jul. 29, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
It is a gift when people can hold it together in stressful situations and be pleasant to people around them at the same time. My friend Catherine reminded me of this as she prepared for a fashion show she designed for last week, in honor of Bastille Day.
When I visited Catherine backstage as she got ready for the Planete Chic & Naturally Couture Fashion Show, she, her models, hair and makeup stylists, and her assistant were decidedly calm and composed. I was impressed by the professionalism and civility they had towards one another. I mostly observed and stayed out of everyone’s way as the tension slowly began to mount. Even when some of models had not arrived yet, and their walking order on the runway had to be changed because of these delays, Catherine and her assistant never broke a sweat as they kept re-arranging their plans. In spite of all of this, she maintained her composure, which was a good influence on everyone else in her team.
In Catherine’s case, I think it has to do with her self-confidence. Like many small business owners, she has been affected financially and emotionally by the recession. At the same time, she loves what she does and is really good at it. We met at the CHICKS ROCK! Launch Party last September, where she first impressed me with her intelligence and kindness. Our friendship really began when she told me how she uses recyclable items (such as discarded umbrellas and other fabrics from clothes and furniture) to create bags and clothes. While things haven’t been easy for Catherine and Himane Inc., she has always demonstrated admirable leadership skills. As a friend and advisor, I hope to learn more from her in the future.
Is there a friend/colleague/family member you admire, especially during these difficult times?
The following was originally posted on Sept. 29, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
A while back, a group of friends started talking about how great it would be to road trip across the country in the next year. As our excitement grew, we realized that in order to make this happen, we would need to do actual planning. We started with the most obvious question: who was going on this trip? I don't remember what names were thrown around, but I do remember what somebody said: "this is just for friends, so don't bring your sisters."
It's not that I felt they were picking on me, or that I was insulted at the idea that they wouldn't want my sisters there... it's the way the sentence itself was structured. Apparently "just friends" means "no sisters," but why?
My sisters are my friends. They are not just people I talk to from time to time and see on holidays. We know our personalities better than anybody else and we know how to give each other support when nobody else can. We talk about family, friends, relationships, careers, sex, etc. I don't know about you, but that seems like the definition of a great friendship to me.
Perhaps I'm bothered by this because my sisters and I haven't always been friends. For the better part of our lives, we were not close at all. I might even go so far as to say that we didn't really like one another all that much. Sure, we enjoyed spending time together and we certainly loved each other. But we did not confide in each other, nor did we spend hours upon hours talking about everything and nothing at all. It wasn't until fairly recently that the three of us really started to develop a friendship to go along with our sisterhood.
So I don't know if my sisters will end up going on this trip (or if the trip is even happening), but I'm happy I realized that my sisters are my best friends. It took a while to get here, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
The following was originally posted on Mar. 30, 2009. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.
On Saturday, I attended The Women’s Mosaic’s spring Visioning Workshop. Visioning is an intensive personal collage-making process that inspires people to use creativity and intuition to tap into their subconscious dreams and desires. The goal is to capture images – abstract or literal – that represent the life you want; by interpreting and embracing those images, you empower yourself to make the choices that will lead you there.
I’ve participated in quite a few visioning workshops over the past five years, and each time, the collage process seems to have something different to offer. Sometimes it manages to invigorate or refresh me. Other times, it leaves me feeling reflective. Or inspired. Or challenged by the thoughts that surface when I really give myself time to be alone with what I feel.
The magic of visioning, for me, lies partly in its familiarity, but just as much in the fact that you never can know exactly what to expect. The point, of course, is to reach inside yourself and grapple with questions like “What do I want?” and “How do I get it?” without allowing yourself to pre-judge or discredit the answers based on so-called logic or practicality. When I’m able to enter the visioning space with a truly open mind, I never cease to be surprised by what emerges. At times it can almost be as powerful as seeing yourself through new eyes.
When I look at my latest collage, I see spaces of beauty. I see strangeness, and passion, and promise. I see adventure – not the reckless kind, but the kind that unfolds slowly and fills you with richness. I see myself at a moment in time where there are many possibilities, but many uncertainties. Where there’s a delicate balance between things hoped for and things earned, between embracing the things that truly define me and recognizing the things I allow to represent me that are merely shadows.
It seems these images are telling me to get out in the world and just be me.
Do you have a Visioning Workshop story? Even if you haven’t done the workshop, what do you see when you picture the future?
Just like we did last year, we'll be giving the bloggers here at CHICKS ROCK! some time off to spend time with their family and friends. We've chosen some of our favorite posts from the past year to re-post.
We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane!
In the meantime, be sure to check out TWM's online auction. Some great items ending tomorrow and a few more ending on Tuesday.
I know I am not the only one who becomes reflective this time of year. It isn’t the holiday season; it has more to do with the end of the year and thinking back at what I have done and what has happened to me. There are many people who judge themselves (and others) too harshly by having regrets. I say they are a waste of time. Can we get in a time machine and go back to reverse our previous choices? Of course not! When others I know start ruminating about the past, I encourage them to focus on the present and future instead. It’s what I tell myself, and it works for me.
This becomes difficult when someone you love is mired in regrets and disappointments about themselves and others. I think we all know at least one person who falls into that category, and in my case it is an individual who I am currently estranged from. I used to get upset when this person shared his uninformed opinions about my life with me, but I have slowly come to the realization that these negative criticisms actually come from a good place. I also know that he is harder on himself than anyone could ever be on him, so I pity his “black and white only” views on life.
Honestly, I can’t worry about what the naysayers have to say: I used to want to save those in my life who fell into this category, but I have given up on this thankless quest after realizing that they were resistant or unable to change for the better. I also know that I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I am focusing more on my own life than ever before. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and it has helped me in my writing and in other volunteer projects I consider to be worthy of my time.
Do you have any realizations to share as we approach the end of the decade?
I woke up this morning, anxious to get the day started because I have tons of work to get done. I open up my email and find 5 are from the same place: Gifts.com. My first thought was "uh oh, did something happen to their server? Why so many emails?" But then I opened them and saw they were all reminders to get gifts for each of my family members because Christmas is only 10 days away! Eek!
Of course, that made me panic. So far I've only gotten one person their gift (thanks to TWM's silent auction), so I have at least another 4 to buy and no clue what to get anybody. Suddenly all that mocking I did of people who were done with their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving has come back around to me.
Shopping for gifts wouldn't be all that stressful except I really hate giving people generic gifts. I like their gifts to mean something to them, and make it something they'll remember. But I also don't like spending very much money on gifts. As it turns out, these two very simple rules are not so simple when they are put together. I always end up finding either very inexpensive stuff that nobody will actually want or need, or gifts that would be perfect but are completely out of my price range.
So it seems that now I have to spend the entire day trying to brainstorm gift ideas on top of everything else I need to do. It's moments like these that it's easy to forget why we do this in the first place. And while the cynic in me does think that the holiday season is driven by major companies who want us to spend every penny we have, I do love giving people gifts. I love seeing their reactions and realizing I've gotten them something great. It's the one thing I like about Christmas.
Well, that, and Christmas music. I LOVE Christmas music!
A friend of mine had a baby about a year ago. She’s stayed home with him, and I go out to their place to visit them about every month or so. He’s a super cute little guy, and I’m hard pressed to think of any other baby who I’ve gotten to watch grow up this closely.
It’s not like I’m part of his life everyday, but he seems to recognize me, and he knows I like books, because when I visit he sometimes brings me books from his shelf and we read them. Ah, how my little heart melts….
I listen to my friend talk about the struggles that they go through, and the progress that he makes. I get excited about his new teeth, and his words. I feel like a part of his extended family, somehow.
It’s been really meaningful to me to be a support system for my friend as she wades the uncharted waters of parenthood. We’re also lucky in that it’s brought us closer instead of tearing us apart, or making it too hard to relate to one another. Sure, I can’t relate to 3 a.m. feedings, and she rolls her eyes if I complain about not getting enough sleep, but on a deeper level, we’re closer friends than we were a year ago.
It’s so easy to fall out of touch when people have kids, especially here in the city, where single life, couple life, and family life are totally separate spheres that barely intersect. It’s happened to me several times, growing apart from people after they have kids. I can see that parenthood can be quite isolating.
To be honest, I don’t always make the effort. I don’t truly know why I decided to work harder this time, but I’m definitely glad I didn’t let this friendship slip away. I hope I can do as well the next time a friend makes the leap to a new sphere of life!
If you've been looking for a way to get all your holiday shopping done at once and from the comfort of your own home, look no further than TWM's 2009 Virtual Holiday Bazaar and Silent Auction! This online shopping event is creating such a buzz that we wanted to share it all with you.
The vendors TWM lined up offer a great variety of products. Browse through their sites and start shopping.
Eco Africa Social Ventures sells products produced by artisans and other artists and craftspeople of Zimbabwe.
Terry Ross Jewelry has handcrafted jewelry made with semiprecious stones and wire.
Ardyss International lets you drop 2 or 3 sizes in 10 minutes. Check them out!
Passion for Silver gives you the chance to shop the globe with jewelry from Italy, Mexico, Thailand, China, Bali and Indonesia.
Himane turns trash into treasures by using discarded clothing to make unique handbags, dresses and jackets.
Wendy Mink Jewelry is a great place to shop for handmade quality costume jewelry made in NYC.
Center for Skin Care and Wellness lets you take the spa home for a natural alternative anti-aging solution.
Rogue Confections has tasty treats - handmade Belgian chocolates inspired by vintage designs.
BONUS: New York Racquet & Health Club is offering TWM members at the $100-level or higher a 1-year membership for only $71 a month, with NO activation fee! This offer is only available for a limited time, so be sure you join TWM today and sign up for NYHRC.
In addition to these vendors, don't forget to stop by TWM's online auction. Here are the items currently up for grabs:
One hour of general office cleaning services
A $50 Gift Card to Eve's Addiction.
Your choice of a Swedish Massage OR Mineral Green Facial.
A set of three 'COLORME' black & white prints.
Two nutrition products from Ardyss International.
A nutritional counseling session.
A career counseling session & follow-up.
One hour of full body therapy.
A one-hour holistic health counseling session.
A one-hour deep tissue massage.
A comprehensive technology evaluation for your home or office.
A handmade designer necklace.
And the services of a children's party planner.
More auction items will be added on Tuesday, so be sure to check it out again then.
Browsing through the blogosphere lately, we've found enough good pieces to put together a link live post. Enjoy the pieces linked to below and don't forget to add your own.
Girl w/Pen informs us of a group of mothers in Iran who were arrested for organizing against government violence.
Global Sister posted an interview with a campus journalist and activist that is certainly worth checking out.
In Good Company remembers that just because Thanksgiving passed doesn't mean it's too late to give thanks.
Lindsey Pollak's blog examines why it is very important to pay your interns, particularly in this economy.
One Writeous Chick takes a look at the myth of having it all... and Janet Jackson.
Savvy Ladies has a piece for all of you who might be dealing with remarriage, children, and inheritance.
My annual birthday tradition is to take the day off to do whatever I want to do. I personally believe that a birthday should be a personal holiday, but that is just my opinion. With my own special day approaching, I am looking forward to taking on some mountain trails and breathing in fresh mountain air. Previous birthdays involved me skydiving at 14,000 feet, spending a leisurely day at a spa, visiting several art museums in one day, having a family get-together in India, and just wasting time doing nothing. If I am lucky to have more birthdays (you never know how long you have, after all) I would like to try spending them in foreign and domestic locales I have never visited before.
I can never understand why people show up to work on their birthdays, and are content to have people they may or may not like sing “Happy Birthday” to them before blowing out candles on a cake that was bought with company money. As a child it was fun to go to school, armed with cupcakes or other sweet treats for my fellow students, but as an adult I am compelled to avoid being with people who only show interest in me just to get some free food and drinks for their trouble.
I feel the same way about weddings. I never understand why brides and grooms (more the former than the latter, stereotypically) spend more time and money buying flowers, dresses, and organizing the ceremony and reception rather than preparing for the rest of their lives after the party is over. I actually know a couple who are still paying off the expense of their wedding four years and two children later. They are separated now, which makes the situation even sadder, I think. For me, the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars and more on one day is enough to recommend elopement as a more than ideal arrangement.
What about you? Do have any unconventional ideas you'd like to share?
Something I always hear from people is that I don't know how to take compliments well. Criticism I'm great at because it's usually something I've already considered about myself, but compliments... not so much. I've been thinking a lot about this lately as I look back on the last couple of years and think about what I've accomplished and the work I've done.
Of course, I know that part of the reason I am this way is because this is how I was brought up. I learned to be very critical of myself and the work I did and never settle for anything less than perfection. Of course, perfection is not only subjective, it is also pretty much impossible. But that doesn't really matter in the day-to-day when I am not satisfied with the work I've done on a particular project.
And there's also the fact that, generally speaking, as women we don't know how to take compliments. We can't just say "thank you!" and move on. We have to find somebody else to thank ("oh, I couldn't have done it without so and so") or somebody else to give all the credit to ("thanks, but really it was all so and so's doing"). We think that humility is more attractive than gloating, and it is, but a simple "thank you" and acceptance of the work you've done comes with the territory of doing a good job. You're not gloating, you're merely recognizing that something you did worked out well.
I know all of this on an intellectual level, but it's still hard for me to internalize. But that's what I'll be working on from now on, in fact I think I might make it one of my New Year's resolutions.
So if you catch me brushing off a compliment rather than saying "thank you," please remind me to accept it and take it all in, and I'll do the same for you all.
Christmastime has totally snuck up on me this year. It was mid-fall, then I blinked and it was Thanksgiving. Now, seemingly overnight, the weather has turned, and the season along with it. Holiday windows went up in all the storefronts. My friends have bought Christmas trees and are talking about having finished their gift-buying. (Yikes.) Everyone has booked a plane ticket home. Except me.
This year, so far, I've been rather grinchy; not feeling all that festive. It just hasn't felt like it's time yet, when normally I'm eager for Christmas to come.
Magically, all that has changed in a matter of hours. This morning I volunteered to help pack Christmas Angel gifts, a holiday project at my church. The Angel gifts are bought on behalf of an incarcerated person and are given to his or her children, so they can have a Christmas surprise. I didn't volunteer to buy a gift myself this year; it came and went before I was ready.
I attended the gift packing out of obligation, not excitement, but the group of ladies who were helping out managed to turn me around. They were so into it that I couldn't help be excited. One of them commented, "I really look forward to doing this. Now, I feel like it's okay to have my own Christmas." I loved that she said that, and I discovered a decidedly Christmasy smile on my face for the rest of our morning.
When I stepped outside afterwards, it just got better. A tiny elderly couple was standing waiting for the bus, bundled up in their winter finest. Her long coat was holiday red, and she was grinning. He hugged and kissed her, very sweetly, but rather dramatically, right there on the street. I'm sure he thought no one was looking. My heart melted.
I'm suddenly feeling altogether too Christmasy for words.
All this talk of holidays and giving got us thinking about holiday gifts. What's the best gift you've ever received during the holiday season? What's the best gift you've ever given? Can't wait to hear the responses!
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about an opportunity to be a vendor or donor to TWM's 2009 Virtual Holiday Bazaar and Silent Auction. We're happy to announce that the bazaar and silent auction have begun.
Check out the vendors TWM has lined up for your shopping pleasure so far. Want a handmade craft from Zimbabwe? Sterling silver jewelry? An eco-friendly handbag? Shop for that and more through the virtual holiday bazaar.
But if you want a more unique gift, something personalized that is just what somebody needs, be sure to take a look at the items in our auction. The items will change each week in December so you can find the perfect gift for yourself or someone you love. This week there are items for the Christmas loving, somewhat lost, somewhat messy, food-conscious, health-conscious, body-conscious, Feng Shui curious people in your life.
And don't forget there's still time to participate by being a vendor or donating to the silent auction.
I recently heard news about a family member who drove drunk and crashed his car. Thankfully he (and no one else) was injured, but he is in trouble with the authorities and will probably have his license suspended, at the very least. Initially, I was shocked, but then I realized that this horrific accident was a long time in the making. We all know someone who is an addictive personality, and either they have been exposed through their actions, or it is just a matter of time before they are. When I think back, I always had a feeling that something like this would happen to him, if he didn’t change his ways. We are not close and haven’t seen or spoken to each other in a long time, but from what I understand, he still believes he doesn’t have a problem. While I am very concerned for him and his immediate family, I know that the only thing I can do is pray and hope for the best.
Some may argue that I am being too passive about this troubling situation, but I’m not. In my parents’ culture and many other traditional cultures, one must always respect his or her elders, even if they do not return the sentiment. Addictions like drug and alcohol abuse are still vehemently denied by many people my family and I have known from the cultural, ethnic and religious communities we have associated with, so I am familiar with how addictive behaviors have been too often ignored (or even enabled) since childhood. I’ve seen how strong denial is, so much so that it causes long term and even permanent estrangement. The shame of having an addict in the family is also very powerful, so secrecy is still easier than honesty for many. But living in blissful denial can only last so long.
Even though we live in the twenty-first century, I realize that we will continue to be reminded of the detrimental effects of addiction for the foreseeable future. I know that the lessons are not lost on me.
It's really no secret by this point that I love to read. It's always been one of my favorite hobbies, even though I let it slip for a while during and right after college. Always up for a challenge, I took my mission to read more to a new level. I belong to one "real life" and two online book clubs, each group reading different types of books over a month or two months. I've also been reviewing books each month, which gives me a chance to read new works of fiction and non-fiction. These are all probably very tame, albeit ambitious, ways to increase the number of books I read, but the most fun I'm having is with reading challenges.
When I joined Goodreads a while back, I was excited to have a place to live up to my full bibliophile potential and I discovered that some groups participate in reading challenges. For example, one challenge is to read books mentioned in the t.v. show Lost, another is reading the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, etc. But my personal favorites are the shelf-a-thon and the seasonal reading challenge.
The point of the shelf-a-thon is to read at least one book from all the popular categories and genres listed in Goodreads. This means that during the course of the challenge, which lasts a few months, you need to read historical fiction, books published in 2009, children's lit, erotica... the list goes on and on. The seasonal reading challenge is a bit harder to explain, but the idea is to read a book that fits a specific task. For example, Walt Disney's birthday is in December, so one of the winter tasks is to read a book related to your favorite Disney film.
In starting the new year, I'm participating in these challenges as a way to push myself to keep reading books I wouldn't normally read. There is also a certain level of competitive spirit, but mostly I'm competing with myself. The fun is in completing something I didn't think I could actually accomplish.
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