Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Forum: The Women in Your Life

Yesterday, we reflected on TWM's anniversary and how your support helps women. In a similar vein, we want to know what you do to celebrate the women in your own life.

Whether it's your mother, sister, best friend... in what ways do you celebrate their strengths and accomplishments and in what ways do you help them grow?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Celebrate Women

Earlier this week, The Women's Mosaic turned 9! The very first gathering was a Chinese New Year celebration on January 24, 2001. Since then, TWM has offered over 90 unique activities and events to educate, inspire and motivate women to rise up and rock the world, thanks to the support of TWM Members. Another great TWM program you're all familiar with is this blog, CHICKS ROCK!

Because TWM is a non-profit, receiving monetary support is the best way to sustain our efforts. By becoming a TWM Member, you can contribute to offering women of every background countless opportunities to connect to themselves, each other and the world around them.

In addition to feeling great about helping other women, becoming a TWM Member has benefits of its own. For starters, members receive discounts at TWM events and invites to TWM's Members-Only events. As an added perk, members also receive special offers from partners throughout the year. This past year, offers included discounts at various stores, discounts on gym memberships and trial passes, and tickets to a comedy show.

To join, simply visit TWM's Membership Page.

We truly appreciate your recognition of The Women's Mosaic as a vehicle for you and other women to enrich your world and the world around you. Thank you in advance for your support, as we would not be able to exist without it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Helping Haiti Through a Friend

Minutes after learning about the earthquake in Haiti, I thought back to a conversation I had with my friend Catherine in December. We were in her work studio in Brooklyn, and I was helping her get ready for a holiday bazaar by preparing price tags made from recycled cereal boxes. As I sat cutting the neatest rectangles I could manage, my friend told me how her desire to start HIMANE, her eco-friendly fashion design company, began in her native Haiti, because there she had access to countless pieces of discarded clothing and other materials. Catherine spoke of making deals with garment factories during her upcoming trip to the country, which she hoped would help stimulate the Haitian economy in her family’s geographical area. I bought a few of her signature bags as presents, and for my own personal use, and I always recommend her collections of "upcycled" accessories and clothing to anyone interested in fashion. Business reasons were not her only motivation to visit Haiti this year; she was also looking forward to seeing her father again after several years. Her anticipation was contagious, in a good way.

Then the earthquake hit and everything changed. Catherine read and watched the news in despair, and then true panic set in. While she found out that her family members were physically unharmed and accounted for, the news of friends who were injured and killed became known to her in the days to follow. Instead of succumbing to grief, Catherine organized a fundraising benefit, People Helping People, for this Thursday evening in Brooklyn to collect funds and supplies for Haitian earthquake relief. She plans to take all donations to the country herself so she can personally distribute them to local hospitals, organizations, and private citizens in late March. I will be one of the enthusiastic participants.

I feel good knowing that I am helping Haiti through my friend Catherine. There is nothing wrong with donating money to bigger organizations involved in the relief effort, but this particular way works best for me. For more information on her fundraising efforts, please visit HIMANE Inc.'s blog.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Biggest Competition

When I’m with family or friends, we usually play board games to pass the time. I love playing games, but I find that I’m not a particularly competitive person. That is, I’m not competitive with other people, but boy am I competitive with myself!

No matter what I do, it seems I’m always trying to top myself. This has come as a bit of a surprise to me, though I should have seen the signs. In Scrabble, I try to outdo myself with each word; the goal of Solitaire is to win as many times as I can; Beatles Rock Band is all about playing each song better than last time. I don’t worry about how everyone else is doing, just about outdoing myself.

I’m not this way only with games, but in all areas. Usually, it’s a good thing. At work, I find ways to be even more efficient. In hot yoga, I commit to getting through more poses. But I am also in competition with myself in areas where I probably shouldn’t be, like writing. This would be fine, except that, for me, writing is about creativity, catharsis, and tapping into things I hadn’t considered before. These don’t mix with competition.

I made this realization a few weeks ago, when I was thinking about the Legendary Latinas series I wrote last year in honor of Women’s History Month. I remember how much time and energy I put into that and the positive feedback I got. It occurred to me that March is coming up and I convinced myself that I had to do something better this year. Ever since, I’ve been scrambling for ideas and looking for inspiration everywhere I turn. I panicked a couple of days ago when still nothing had come to me, and that’s when I saw how ridiculous I was being. Nobody expects me to top myself, and even if they did, writing is so subjective that it’s impossible for me to “win.”

I still don’t know what I’ll write for March, but my new goal is to keep my competitive spirit in check.

Monday, January 25, 2010


As an author, most of my work time is spent by myself. I work at home, I stare at the computer screen, and on rainy days like this one, there's very little reason for me to leave my comfy cocoon at all. Nine days out of ten, I consider this to be a truly glorious arrangement.

On the tenth day, though, I have to admit that I sometimes miss the sense of community that I experienced as an office employee, and the sense of camaraderie that you can find--if you're lucky--by working closely with others. When I think back to my pre-writing days, I tend to dwell on the negatives, which helps me to know I've made the right decision for my own life. But, I do think I miss that collective experience at the same time.

Luckily, we lone writers now have ways to connect with each other online, but that never seems to quite do it for me. I am happy to rant into cyberspace about the trials of dealing with publishers, or the impatience that strikes while you're waiting to hear news from your agent or editor, but there's still something special and unique about the "water cooler" experience. The chance to mutter under your breath at the little annoyances that get under your skin, but aren't worthy of a full email or blog post to share the pain. Writers don't get that.

All of this is to say that I feel lucky to have found a small community-within-a community, a little group of "work buddies" who I get to meet in person every week, with whom I can commisserate and celebrate, and who will challenge me to be accountable for the goals I set for myself. After all, there's no real "boss" for any of us to answer to anymore, so it's great to know there's someone looking out for you.

As different as I hoped my solo work environment would be, I'm glad some things can be similar to working at a company, where you gravitate to people you connect with, and bond over shared experience. The people are out there; the "office" is just a little bigger!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Forum: Trip Down Memory Lane

With stay-cations being the rage, and no major holidays coming up, chances are that many of us are staying put for a bit. But that doesn't mean we can't take a trip down memory lane.

We want to know about the best trip you've ever taken. Where did you go? What did you do? Why is it your favorite?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Link Love for Our Guest Bloggers

As you probably know, 2009 was our first full calendar year of blogging here at CHICKS ROCK! Over the course of the year, we were able to showcase several guest bloggers. We want to thank them again for sharing their words in this space, and highlight some of their posts.

Bridget got several comments with her great post about how traveling impacts the way she views her own American identity.

Stephanie also shared what she learned from her experience traveling, particularly when traveling as a woman.

(In case you didn't notice, we love writing about travel here on CHICKS ROCK!)

Kristina wrote several guest posts, including one that's still very useful about using job loss as an opportunity for personal growth.

Kelly (our very first guest blogger) returned to talk about being a new mother, and the bonds she's formed with other mothers.

Sasha reflected on TWM's health & nutrition panel and how it impacted her as she focuses on becoming a healthier version of herself.

Rita had a post about how she learned to be in the present, rather than focus on the past or future.

Now that you see the range of topics our guest bloggers cover, hopefully you'll be inspired to contribute a post of your own. Take a look at our guest blogger guidelines and submit a piece. This space is meant to be a vehicle all women to share their experiences so that we can connect with each other and learn from each other.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Making Sense Of Tragedy

When the earthquake hit Haiti last week, I was sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City before a mass began. I like churches, especially when they are quiet and I can have a moment to myself. I did not know until later that day what had happened only a three-hour plane ride from where I live. When the tsunami hit in 2004, I was in southern India on a boat at the time. Other parts of the state I was visiting were affected, but what I saw was how beautiful the sky and the water were that day.

For me, these moments are reminders of how tenuous life can be. None of us know if or when tragedies like these will happen to us, or people we know. No matter how much knowledge we acquire about the world around us, we always find ourselves in situations that are beyond our scope of understanding. It is the one thing that unites us as human beings, and but we all have different ways of living through it. After years of taking life for granted, I have learned to be humble and grateful for each day I have in my life.

When natural disasters and violence among human beings happen, I manage not to fall into despair by trying to see the good that comes with the bad as a result of these terrible situations. For me, the best thing that has come from the recent earthquake in Haiti is the outpouring of support that people from all over the world are giving to the island country. I just saw a news report about an engaged couple who are donating money, which they set aside for food for their wedding, to Haitian earthquake relief. The happy couple will be dining on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of the typical, high-priced fare, and it was a wonderful reminder to me of how giving we as human beings can be.

Do you try to make sense of tragic events? Why or why not?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dealing with Disappointment

I’m not exactly an eternal optimist, but I try to stay positive as much as I can. Sometimes it’s harder to do that than usual, and lately I guess it’s been one of those times. It seems that lately, I work hard towards something and then it doesn’t go as expected. Suddenly, I’m wishing I could take back all the hours I spent focusing on that one task. I’m left wondering how I can now find extra hours to work on all the other things I have on my plate moving forward. If only there were more hours in the day so I could finish everything I have going on.

But… this isn’t a lesson in time management. Really, I focus on how I’m managing my time to distract me from what’s really going on here: disappointment.

The fact is that if these things had worked out, I would be proud about all the time I dedicated. Now that they haven’t, I am disappointed. I am constantly working on multiple projects at the same time, and more often than not, they all work out. When you’re a multi-tasking perfectionist, you don’t really have to deal with failure very often. This isn’t to sound cocky, it’s just true.

Normally, when something doesn’t go as expected, I regroup and think about what steps I can take to get things back on track. And normally, that works. But what happens when there’s no way to get it back on track? When there’s nothing you can do about it? I suppose the best thing to do is to forget about it: put it aside and focus on the other things I need to get done. Yet I can’t help but think that I’m not acknowledging my feelings in all of this.

That’s where I’m at now: figuring out how to deal with the actual feeling of disappointment when things are no longer in my control. Moving on to other tasks is easy for me; it’s what I’m good at. Dealing with the emotions involved, however, is unfamiliar territory.

How do you deal with disappointment?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Author Awards = Awesomeness!

Well, it has been an eventful week in my world, and fortunately in very good ways! One piece of great news came in last week, and a second just this morning. I'm so excited that I can't help but wallow in some shameless self-promotion. Please bear with me!!

Last week, I learned that my novel THE ROCK AND THE RIVER was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, in the category of "Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens." As if that wasn't cool enough on its own, apparently this means I will get to go to a fancy awards event in L.A. next month, with live TV coverage and a red carpet and everything! (Well, I'm not sure about the red carpet, but just roll with me...) Awesome. And in the coming weeks, NAACP members will be voting on the winners! Drumroll, please.....

Then this morning, the American Library Association announced their annual youth media awards, which is a really huge deal in the children's literary community. Under the umbrella of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards (for literature by and about African-Americans), I've been honored with the John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Very exciting!!! And how awesome that it's announced on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, too!

For now, I'm happily basking in the warm glow of recognition, but amid all this hoopla, I've also learned something important about myself, at least in relation to my work: I actually feel confident in myself! When I got the news, I felt excited/flattered/thrilled/etc. first, but shortly after that, I thought "Hmm, okay." As in, "Yeah, this is a special opportunity, but you can totally rise to meet it." And I will!

If there had never been any awards, I would be okay, too. But let me not lie: it feels great!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Forum: Motivation

It seems everywhere we look, people are talking about resolution and making changes. Considering how much that success relies on your own motivation, we thought it'd be good to discuss what keeps you motivated, not only for your resolutions but for everything you undertake.

Where do you turn when you need motivation? What steps do you take to make sure you stay on the right track?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Link Love for 1/14

Link love is back today - our first of the new year. Read through these posts and enjoy!

Girl w/Pen features a guest post about balancing a Mormon background with feminist politics.

Global Sister spotlights the Iranian women who are standing up against fundamentalist rule.

Shifting gears a bit towards the professional, In Good Company has a useful discussion about evaluating your business' mission.

Lindsey Pollak has a guest post about with tips for landing your dream job.

NYWSE just announced their Emerging Sustainability Leaders (ESL) program that's definitely worth checking out.

Meanwhile, Savvy Ladies has you covered if you want to check your financial fitness this month.

There's the round-up! Be sure to add links to what you've been reading in the comments.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Preparing For India

After many delays and broken promises, I finally made the decision to return to India, my parents' native country. My flight is booked and paid for, my visa is newly acquired, and I will be visiting the doctor this week to make sure I am protected from any diseases that might come my way. This trip to India is different from previous ones I have had to the country, because this time I will be visiting multiple locations in different states. I have always wanted to attempt something like this, and now my dream to do so is becoming a reality. To say that I am excited is a serious understatement!

At the same time, I am also aware of some problems I may face during my upcoming month in India. First, a month is not long enough to visit all the places I want to see in the country, but the fact that I have this much time to begin with is enough for me. Secondly, I know I may be confronted by family members, who will give me unsolicited advice about my life. My most serious offense is the fact that I am not married yet. I am more than ready to respond to their concerns as kindly and firmly as possible. An unprepared person may get easily upset and defensive; I hope not to fall prey to those emotional traps, but it will be hard at times. Being the better person requires effort, thoughtfulness, and patience, which are qualities that are difficult to maintain. I am also exercising much more regularly in preparation for the trip, but I hope to make this a permanent addition to my daily routine.

When you are looking forward to a major change in your life, how do you prepare for it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Best of '09: Europe Edition

Recently, a friend asked me to send along travel tips for Europe, and it got me reminiscing about my trip. It occurred to me that I've been so busy with other things, I never really took time to share my experiences. So here are some highlights from each city.

Paris was the first city I visited, and it might just be my favorite. The food was phenomenal, the museums and monuments were great, and just walking around the city was a lot of fun. My favorite moment was enjoying a delicious Nutella crêpe outside the Louvre with my guy on a sunny afternoon.

My next stop was Barcelona, where we spent most of our time hunting down all the Gaudi stuff. A memorable night out started with tapas and wine, continued with salsa music, and ended with a Lauryn Hill sing-a-long through Las Ramblas with other tourists.

My visit to Marseille was short, but nice. Mostly, my sister and I walked around, taking it all in, but the highlight was our trek up to the city’s highest point, Notre Dame de la Garde.

picture of Vernazza, ItalyCinque Terre with my sisters and friends was so great that it has not one but two of my favorite Europe moments. The first came during our walk through some scenic trails where we passed the time by singing songs from our favorite musicals. We attracted a lot of attention, but people loved us. The next day, my sister and I were the only ones up for the challenge of more difficult hikes, but it was my absolute favorite. The blue water and beautiful greenery more than made up for the difficulty breathing and all the cuts and scrapes.

I ended with London, where there was never a dull moment between the markets I visited and musicals I saw. The highlight of that city was spread across two days with the Beatles walking tours I went on. I'm a huge Beatles fan, so I had a blast.

It's only been a few months since I went to Europe, but I'm already thinking of when I can take my next trip. Who wants to come along?

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Again. Off Again. On Again?

I'm currently in possession of a lovely, warm, hand-knit scarf, which I...err...borrowed from my parents' closet while I was at home over the holidays. Every time I've wrapped it on since then, I think about taking up knitting again.

I do know how to knit--the basics, at least. I have a backpack full of yarn wasting away in the corner of my apartment, leftover from the last couple of times I've gotten enthused about this idea. There's a lot I like about knitting: it's simple and soothing, and it gives me something productive to do while watching TV or listening to music. (I never quite got the hang of knitting on the go.)

The problem is, I don't really have the patience or the passion for knitting. At least, not for the long haul of a truly cool project, like an afghan or a fluffy sweater. I can make it through a hat or a scarf all right, but beyond that, I tend to stall early. My yarn backpack is littered with old projects still resting on their needles, stuck in the beginning stages of whatever ambitious thing I set my sights on...and promptly forgot about.

I'm not sure there's any harm in trying again, though. I already have the supplies, so I'm not making a huge investment in something that may or may not pay off. Maybe knitting is somewhat like writing: sometimes you have to put your head down and power through, while other times it's okay to sit back and wait for the right mood or inspiration to strike in order to make any progress. Today I'm feeling a little bit inspired!

Do you have any on-again, off-again projects or habits?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Forum: A Look Back

It's the first Friday Forum of the new year! Looking back on last year, what have you learned about yourself? Are there any major lessons you are going to keep in mind for the new year?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Don't Believe the Hype!

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

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

Contact her at by January 15th for a special discount on her one-on-one consultation services so she can help get you on the right track.

Happy New Year! How ya doin' with those resolutions so far? There is so much hype and pressure around making huge life changes and setting goals starting January 1st that it's easy to feel utterly defeated when we don't succeed that first week, and therefore just give up. Yes, it’s the beginning of a new calendar year, so the world likes to make this time far more momentous than I believe it deserves. After an intense holiday period of excess and socialization, it is unrealistic for you to turn on a dime and start things completely fresh, especially if they are habits that you've had for 20 or 30 years! Change and growth do not happen overnight.

As we go through our lives, there are various cycles that affect us, with many opportunities for new beginnings that occur in more authentic ways, and are further in line with where we are at in life at any given moment. January is a particularly good time, though, to review the past year and to think about and understand the changes you want to make going forward - get reflective and go inward to see what’s out of balance, what direction you want to go in and what small adjustments you want to make in your daily life to be more fulfilled. True change can only happen after you've made an internal shift and the inner work that you do is just as valuable as the external results you desire.

The important thing to remember is that life is a process. Be true to who you are and take one day at a time knowing what is best for you and your goals - and don't beat yourself up if you don't make this first week or month the picture of perfection you envisioned on Dec. 31st. Setting a timeline and internal clock that is in harmony with YOU will be much more effective - and that will be something to celebrate at any time of the year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Better Decade?

Sure, a new year has just begun. But this stands out because it is also the beginning of a new decade, which was the prevalent thought in my mind as the minutes and seconds went by on New Year’s Eve. When the 2000s began, I already felt a sense of dread because of the election of the most recent former U.S. President, yet I had no idea what changes the decade would bring into all of our lives. I know I am no psychic, but I like to think that my instincts are pretty good. Will the second decade of the second millennia be a good one? I guess it all depends on your definition of good is, in this case.

From a global perspective, I certainly hope that the new decade will be known for more responsible leadership. We are all human of course, so there will be many mistakes, but I think the shame alone of being charged with corruption and/or personal indiscretions may decrease the number of scandals in the future. Maybe it won’t, but I refuse to believe that no lessons have been learned so far. I would like to think that future economic recessions will not be as severe as the one we are currently recovering from, but it was far worse during the Great Depression of the 1930s, so I think we are getting smarter in general when it comes to money. I am hopefully optimistic about this; it is not a case of wishful thinking on my part.

Will this decade mark the defeat of terrorism and global warming? I see no easy answers, but I am convinced that we will achieve control of these and other difficult situations in the years to come. I just have to believe that better days are ahead for all of us. Yes, it could very likely to wishful thinking after all.

Do you agree that we will “get it together” in 2010 and beyond?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Grading Your Year

A new year has begun! This is generally the time when everyone starts asking "so, what's your new year's resolution?" and I squirm in my seat trying to come up with one on the spot.

Last year, I resolved to trust my gut. I wanted to start following my instincts and that little voice inside me that tried to tell me which way to go. Looking back on the year as a whole, I would give myself a C; there were some times I really ignored what everyone else told me and trusted myself, but mostly I forgot I even made the resolution. That doesn't mean I had an unproductive year. Throughout the year, I made smaller resolutions (though I didn't call them that at the time). I wanted to read more, write more, manage my time better, take more initiative in different areas of my life, spend more time with friends, etc. I'm happy to say I was successful in sticking to these mini-resolutions and would give myself a B+ for those.

So I think I'm going for a new approach. Instead of one big vague resolution just for the sake of having a resolution, I am going to break the year up and focus on smaller, more specific resolutions. For the first three months of 2010, I want to focus on physical fitness. By the end of 2009, I was going to the gym (semi) regularly and doing hot yoga at least once a week. I want to continue on that path, working out at least 5 days a week and training for a half-marathon.

I still haven't decided what resolutions I'll make for the rest of the year, but I think this might be the year to make some changes to a number of areas in my life. This time next year, I want to be able to look back and give my resolution efforts an A+.

What grade would you give yourself for last year?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Going Home Again

I've been enjoying vacation these past weeks in my hometown in Indiana. I will say, though, that the longer I've lived away from home, the more striking it is to return. There are lovely things, like spending quality time with family and friends; poignant things, like visiting favorite childhood places; and familiar-yet-surprising things, like noticing more than ever how often I end up being the only person of color in a shop or restaurant.

I wasn't always aware of the homogeny of my surroundings. As a kid, it was pretty much all I knew, and I didn't give it a second thought. I never felt as severely "different" in public as I must have appeared. Now that I'm seeing the place through new eyes, I can't help but wonder what kind of effect growing up there actually had on me.

When I'm visiting home, people often ask if I like New York, which is an easy "Yes." But sometimes they ask more specifically what I like about New York. No offense to the die hard New Yorkers among us, but I've never quite been able to put my finger on it. I usually mumble something about "diversity" and "opportunities," knowing that somewhere in there is the actual truth.

I can give or take most things about my new hometown, NYC, but I like looking around and seeing all shades of brown faces. I never wanted it to be that simple, but I think that's what it comes down to for me. Not feeling so alone in a crowd, or like a sore thumb sticking out, trying not to bump anything. Small things in small moments that add up to something bigger.

I used to think the saying “you can’t go home again” meant that something about your home changed while you weren’t looking. Once you step outside of a place, your relationship to it is different. Forever. Home may not have changed, but I have.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Forum: New Year, New You

Welcome to a brand new year - and a brand new decade! Now's a great time to figure out your New Year's resolutions!

Have you made any resolutions yet for this year? If so, what are they, and if not, what are you thinking about? Or, do you avoid making resolutions altogether?

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.