Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Forum: New Beginnings

New Year's Eve is finally here! If you don't have those resolutions set, now's the time to do it.

What's your resolution for the new year? Looking back, how did you do with last year's resolution?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Guests

We're finishing up our holiday here at CHICKS ROCK!, and it wouldn't be complete without having you check out the work of our excellent guest bloggers. Look back on their posts and be sure to submit a guest post of your own if you've got something to say.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Juicing and Detoxing My Way*

The following was originally posted on May 19, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series:

When I make big changes in my life, I want to make a fresh start. This requires considerable effort from me, and one of the things I have decided to do is to concentrate on my health. My days of going through drive-through windows may not be over, but I plan to make much healthier choices when it comes to the food I eat. One way I plan to do this is by starting a juice fast and avoiding two staples in my diet.

This isn’t the first time I have done a juice fast. A few years ago, my sister and I went through one together for a few days, and it was very enlightening. I found myself not craving solid foods at all during the process, because all of the vegetables I was consuming in one glass filled me up. My vision was sharper, and I felt an overall sense of positivity.

When Kristina suggested a juice fast at last week’s “Thursdays at Three” meeting, I knew I had to do it again. I took her suggestions into consideration and did my own research to create a plan that is right for me. I will do a juice fast this week using the knowledge of experts on the subject of “juicing” and overall health. Even after the fast in complete, I will use my juicer weekly to supplement one meal with a fully satisfying glass of vegetable and fruit juice.

I don’t believe in dieting, but I do believe in eating healthy and knowing which foods to minimize or avoid all together. I never drink soda, I hardly drink store-bought juice, but I do have dairy and wheat products often, and I will be giving both up for the next month as part of my detox program. Giving up wheat will be very difficult, since it is in everything! But I am determined to choose gluten-free alternatives and to read all labels.

Does anyone have any juicing and/or detox advice to share?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ditching the Plan*

The following was originally posted on July 20, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

I’m usually a very organized person, planning things well in advance. Even when I decide to do something last-minute, I still take a moment to think about a plan before getting started. This weekend took me out of my comfort zone, but I had a great time.

It started on Saturday, when I had a birthday party planned for my guy. I wanted to get up early to make sliders, chicken tenders, etc. before anybody started coming over. But it didn’t exactly turn out that way… Everyone got up late, so I couldn’t clean up or get started with cooking until quite late in the day. By the time we were getting food in the oven and on the stovetop grill, there were already several people in the apartment. My sister was surprised and said “Why didn’t you already have this done? This is not like you.” But instead of dwelling on it as I normally might, I had fun with it and focused on getting it done. I missed out on the beginning of the party, but the food was a hit.

I guess that attitude carried over to the next day. The only plan I had for the day was an early workout and then cleaning the apartment. After the workout, however, we decided to grab lunch at a cute spot nearby. Then my guy decided he wanted to get his tattoo and asked us if we were interested in going with him. My sister and I headed down, and we both ended up getting tattoos at the last minute. Then, despite being exhausted and planning to clean and sleep for the rest of the night, we thought it’d be fun to go to the movies instead.

After a weekend of ditching the plan and dabbling in spontaneity, I can definitely see the appeal. Sure, I’m beyond exhausted and the apartment is a mess, but I had a great time, I got the tattoo I’ve been wanting for a while, and spent quality time with my sister. I may be doing this more often.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Touching Things Past*

The following was originally posted on February 8, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series:

I'm a little bit of a history geek. I was a history major in college, and I really enjoy historical fiction, historical films and other things along those lines. I love to dive into some other time or place in the world and try to get a handle on what was going on then and there, what people might have thought and felt way back when about one another and their lives and their place in the world. There's something about knowing what has gone before that feels deeply important to me.

Thinking about it recently, I know that there are two sides to my interest in the past--one is intellectual and the other is more personal/emotional. I do have the desire to really know this world--in a sweeping, epic, global sense, where I begin to understand the cause-effect relationships that have led us toward the wonderful and vicious, beautiful and horrible experiences we collectively face day to day, now.

Within that massive base of knowledge, there are individuals. I think about my grandmothers, and the disparate lives they led that somehow, miraculously came together to create me. One of them lived through the majority of the 20th century in America, and while I knew her as a teenager, I never got to know her as an adult, when I could have really asked the questions I now want to, about her life and the things she personally witnessed within the history that I know so well in terms of dates, facts and situations. My other grandmother lived her whole life in West Africa, a place that I am connected to, but know less intimately. There's a wisdom there that is somewhat outside my grasp, but I long for a taste of it.

So, I read lots of books, and look at lots of pictures, and try to imagine what I can about these women, and the many like them whose lives and work set the stage for my own world. I feel that I'm still looking for the truth of those experiences, and I don't know if we today can ever really touch it, but it's nice to believe we might be able to come close.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Forum: Rock 'til It Drops

New Year's Eve is only a week away, and everyone is trying to pin down their plans.

Have you made any plans for watching the ball drop -- dinner with family, a party with friends? How will you ring in the new year?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

From everyone here at The Women's Mosaic and CHICKS ROCK!, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season. Enjoy the time with your friends and family!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Power of Non-Verbal Communication*

The following was originally posted on February 24, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series:

I have known for some time now that understanding non-verbal communication is essential when it comes to human relationships. Many of my family members in India do not speak English very well (or at all) and I do not know much of my parents' native language, so it has been difficult to communicate with them. Regardless of the language barrier, I manage to keep my powers of perception as open as possible, because when speaking is difficult or impossible, simple actions like facial expressions or body language become very important when determining what another person is thinking or feeling at any particular moment.

Even when language is not a barrier, I still try to be perceptive in non-verbal communication. In many previous work and academic environments, I learned the hard way not to always believe what was promised or told to me at face value. I specifically remember a former employer trying to make conversation with me in a conference room before a meeting, and realizing for the first time that she did not like me at all. This became blatantly clear just before I left the position to attend graduate school full-time. I caught her in a lie about my job performance, and knew it was time to leave. I also remembered how she was on that day before the meeting, and other experiences that occurred afterward that really made everything clear.

Ever since this incident, I used my powers of perception to understand what people think. My observations are not always correct, but I have been more right than wrong when it comes to non-verbal communication.

Do you agree with my assessment? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dealing With Disappointment*

The following was originally posted on January 19, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

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, December 20, 2010

As Resilient As Glass*

The following was originally posted on August 2, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series:

I visited a glassworks in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this summer, where you could sit and peer through a huge picture window into the active glassblowing studio. I sat for over an hour and watched an artist and his assistants sweat over a single vase, thrusting the glob of red-hot, molten glass in and out of the flames, pinching and turning and shaping and blowing it just so with each extraction. Fascinating.

In the time I watched, the artist drew the vase in and out of the fire once every minute or two, working it, studying it, and finally he held it up for a long inspection. I thought he was finished, he had paused so long, but then he shook his head and slammed it back in, allowing it to lose its shape entirely. He drew out the pulpy mass and started over, scrapping an hour's work, at least. Not angry, just matter-of-fact. You could see it in the set of his shoulders. Not bad, but I can do better.

The heat must have been unbearable. I felt pain for him, as he destroyed his work and started again, but his attitude about it gave me inspiration and hope. Because things don't always go as we plan, the first time. And if you don't give up, there are better things on the horizon. It's as true in life as it is in art, whether it be glassblowing or writing, which is my own stock-in-trade.

Attached to the studio there was a shop and museum of handblown glassware and glass art. I fell in love with about a dozen amazing works of art. In the end, I wasn't able to afford anything in the whole shop, apart from the trinkets at the checkout. I bought a small disk of pale blond-colored glass, swirled with strands of copper and gold, etched with the words SCRIBE DEEP.

It's small--about the size of a half dollar, only thicker, like a Nilla wafer--but it's quickly becoming a favorite touchstone for me in my writing life. A reminder that it isn't enough to go through the motions, but that I have to dig to find what's important. And, that it's okay sometimes to scrap a project and start it over, when I know I can do better. It's not the same as giving up, when the raw material (or, in my case, the idea) is still alive in the flames, ready to be drawn out and made into something beautiful.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Forum: Winter Blues

Last week we asked what you loved the most about winter, but some of us don't love anything about it at all!

What are some of the things you hate about winter? Is it the mess, the temperature, or perhaps the chaotic holiday travel season?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Break at CHICKS ROCK!

We're nearing the end of 2010, and just as many of you are getting ready for the time with your family and friends, we here at CHICKS ROCK! are doing the same. But, never fear, as we've done these past couple of years, we'll be reposting some of our favorite posts from the past year for the next couple of weeks.

Look back with us on some of the things we've experienced this year, and take a little time to reflect on your own ups and downs.

We hope you enjoy it! And in the meantime, you can keep on shopping through TWM's Holiday Bazaar.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Email Communication Vacation

This holiday season, I plan to take a nice long break from checking my work-related emails. This is harder than it sounds, especially since I do most of my work from my laptop anywhere I happen to be. My hours are often long, and can extend into the weekends. I am often on the road, off to meetings with clients and associates who need a great deal of information, so I must always be prepared. That is why I made a conscious decision to step away from my work email completely during my seventeen days out of the office.

In previous positions I have had, I was always tempted to check work email if I had access to it after a few days. Since I am fortunate enough to have more time off, I decided to disconnect from my work-related duties completely for a little more than two weeks to reflect on the year that has passed, plan a little for the year to come, and to reconnect with family and friends. Yes, I need more than just thinking of a few New Year’s Resolutions the day before the year end.

A part of me would like to avoid personal emails completely during this period, but that would not be possible for me due to familial and friendship obligations. I see myself just checking once a day, or once every other day, just to see if I can. Perhaps when I have another vacation in the future, I can retreat from my personal emails completely too, but it seems too radical a concept for me at this time.

We are all so connected to each other via the web, but not so much in person; the Internet is our substitute for most communications these days. When there is no Internet access, we often find ourselves lost if we do not turn on our computers, laptops and/or phones to see what is going on. I look forward to transforming any lost feelings I may have into those of freedom from “the machine.”

Would you ever take a break from email?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Hairy Situation

As I mentioned last week, this year hasn't been the absolute best. I've always wondered what exactly motivates people to drastically change their look, and then I got the urge to do it myself. I suppose it's not completely drastic... I didn't, for example, tattoo and/or pierce my entire body or have plastic surgery or anything like that. But I did chop off my hair. Oh, and I got purple streaks put in it.

I haven't had hair this short since the 5th grade and I haven't had any color in it since high school, so it's definitely a change. A lot of my friends are shocked that it's so short (it's at about chin level) because I'm generally known for having my hair at least medium length, if not longer. I've gotten comments from strangers telling me how cool my purple hair looks and asking me how and where I got it done. The fun thing about the color is that depending on the lighting, it can be subtle and only look a shade different from my black hair, or it can look like my head's on fire with bright purple flames. At least it keeps people guessing.

It's interesting how changing something about your appearance helps you take on a new attitude. I feel ready for 2011 and whatever it throws my way. I'm not sure if I'll keep my hair this way once it starts to grow out, but it's been a lot of fun so far. If nothing else, it's been a great conversation piece when meeting people.

Have you ever changed your appearance to change your outlook?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Drinking Diaries, Holiday Style

I've got my tree. I've made my plans, but I'm not quite feeling the holiday spirit yet. However, I do find that the holiday spirits are flowing freely. It's that time of year--attending holiday parties, stocking up on wine for Christmas dinner, making New Year's Eve plans, chilling champagne. The time has nearly come to roll out the rum-laced egg nog and hide the car keys.

As far as my personal plans go, this is an exaggeration--my family are not big drinkers--but I find that the longer I live away from home, the more I've become aware of other people's holiday traditions--many of which center on imbibing festive beverages of all sorts. I admit I feel a certain romantic envy for that kind of holiday--boozing it up in front of a roaring fire, surrounded by people you love, eating and drinking until you can barely move for being so comfortable and sated.

I know that the rosy picture in my mind isn't always how things shape up. For all the lovely stories people tell, I've heard as many friends describe hurtful encounters involving tipsy slips of the tongue, inebriated arguments, or a feeling of needing to be three sheets to the wind to even get through all the wonderful family togetherness. Not very romantic.

There's a special holiday post series over at the blog Drinking Diaries, which I'm really enjoying, and would like to share with you. The basic premise of the site comes as no surprise: many women have a complicated relationship with alcohol, in our own lives as well as through our families and friends. Every Monday during this season, women post about their holiday drinking experiences:

Each of these pieces struck a chord with me, and I suspect that no matter where you fall on the spectrum (non-drinker, casual sipper, holiday lush), there's something there for you, too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Forum: Wonderful Winter

Even though some places are lucky enough to stay warm during this time of year, many of us are bundled up. But it's not all bad and, for some, it's their favorite time of year.

What do you love most about the winter? Is it the snow, the hot chocolate, or perhaps the twinkling lights?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

TWM Celebrates the Holiday

The Women's Mosaic is feeling the holiday spirit and getting you ready for all of your shopping needs with the TWM Holiday Bazaar.

This is TWM's second year highlighting women-owned and friendly businesses to help you find unique gifts for yourself and the ones you love. New vendors will be added in each of the next three email blasts, so shop around and if you want to be a vendor for the bazaar, be sure to get in touch ASAP by emailing

And while we're mentioning TWM, be sure to mark your calendars for the next Visioning Workshop. While the workshops are usually held in the fall and spring, due to popular demand, there will also be a winter one this time around. So clear your plans for Saturday, February 5, 2011.

Stay tuned for more details about the Visioning Workshop and for a shopping day here on CHICKS ROCK! highlighting the Holiday Bazaar.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Avoiding Holiday Excess

The Christmas holiday tends to mean busier stores, holiday decorations, more traffic, and general excess these days. The materialism of the holiday season makes many, including myself, very wary. When I started receiving and onslaught of mail about Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I began preparing myself for the inevitable. But just when I entered into one store in the mall two weeks before Thanksgiving and heard uninspired, recycled holiday music, I left sooner than I expected because it was too much. Before I did, one of the employees told me that he has had to hear the same soundtrack since the beginning of November, I couldn’t help but tell him I felt sorry for him; he accepted my pity with a tired laugh and a shrug.

It’s not a “bah humbug” feeling that I have about the holidays; I like giving and receiving cards and pretty decorations as much as the next person. It’s just during these difficult times when people are looking for work, or are working but can’t afford to keep up with their family, friends, and neighbors in their spending habits during the holiday season that makes me annoyed. At the same time, I know many of us have changed for the better after the lessons we have learned since the recession first hit in late 2008. Many people I know have limited their gift giving or changed what and the way they give to the people in their lives. I know it has more to do with being economical, but it also much more manageable to do it that way. I will be mailing out and hand delivering some holiday cards, sending online greetings to everyone else, and buying just a few, well thought out gifts for those closest to me. This is not because I feel like I must do so because all the commercials tell me I should; it is because I want to.

How do you combat the materialism of the holiday season?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye to 2010

This year has been a very strange one for me and a few of my closest friends. There have been some great times, but also a lot of sadness, loss, and general discontent. We're all fairly happy that the year is coming to an end, and looking forward to what will hopefully be a better 2011.

At work, I'm sometimes thinking several weeks ahead, so I already had New Year's resolutions on my mind. I've been thinking about how often people forget about their resolutions or fail completely, and I am pleasantly surprised that mine worked out okay. As you might remember, I wanted to make a series of more short-term goals to make mini-resolutions that I could hold myself accountable for. My resolutions were: getting fit & being healthier, getting my finances in order, reconnecting with people I love, and traveling more.

Without even trying all that hard, I've traveled quite a bit this year, often with people I really love. I've gotten closer to my sisters, my mothers, and a few friends, not to mention that I've gotten back in touch with a couple of friends I hadn't spoken to in a while. Between hot yoga, a ballet workshop, and running, I'm much more fit now than I was at this time last year (plus, my legs look great, which was an added bonus). And while I haven't completely sorted out my finances, I have a much better grasp on them than I have in a very long time.

For 2011, I might try this approach again, but I've also been wondering if it'd be even better to share a resolution with a group of friends. If 3 or 4 of us all have the same resolution (or a set of mini-resolutions), then there's an instant support system for all of us to succeed. I'm going to think about it more and propose it soon to see if we can't make 2011 a rockin' year and forget all about 2010.

Did you start thinking about your 2011 resolutions yet? Have you ever shared a resolution with a group of friends?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Truths and a Lie

Let's see...I'm a published author. I'm bi-racial (white mother, black father). I've never traveled outside the United States.

Two of these statements are true about me, and one is a lie. If you read the blog regularly, you'll know right away which is the lie. But if you've never met me or read my posts, it might be harder to tell. (I'll save you the suspense--I went to Greece last year and Zambia the year before that.)

"Two Truths and A Lie" is a common icebreaker game, used to help people who are meeting for the first time to get to know one another. I'm thinking about icebreakers today because soon I'm going to be leading a group of new students through a few of these exercises. I personally enjoy icebreakers, but I know lots of people who utterly despise them.

I've observed that outgoing people often find icebreakers cheesy, forced and restrictive. But I spent years as the quiet wallflower type, who wanted to talk to new people, but didn't always know how to go about it. Icebreakers offered a space and permission to engage people and it made everything that came after much easier. I've since become much more comfortable in new, awkward social settings than I used to be. So for me, maybe the structure of icebreakers is no longer necessary. But I find myself wondering, what about those who are still helped by it?

The best icebreakers, for me, require people to talk to each other and to share personal--but not too personal--details with others. Favorite color, alma mater, number of siblings, and so on. These small talking points do open unexpected avenues of connection and conversation. Which is why I'm bothered that the first game that came to my mind is "Two Truths and a Lie," which is my least favorite icebreaker. Why? Because it seems contrary to the whole point of getting to know people if you're going to start off by having to sort through false information.

I'm open to suggestions for other, better icebreakers! Have you played these games? Do you love 'em or hate 'em?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Forum: Holiday Cheer

With Thanksgiving behind us and Hanukkah already upon us, the holiday season is in full swing.

Do you celebrate any holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year's? If you don't, do you still feel the holiday cheer?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Link Love for 12/2

As we gear up for December, some of the sites we love are busy churning away awesome posts. Take a look at what we've been reading online:

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur offers tips for getting people to reach their full potential in school or at work.

Girl w/Pen takes a look at the race & gender problems that still exist in the latest Disney princess movie, Tangled.

Meanwhile, Woodhull Institute's blog examines Disney's announcement that there'd be no more fairy tale movies (aka, movies for girls).

One Writeous Chick writes about the good and the bad that comes with curling up into a ball for a break from the world.

Savvy Ladies wants us to get through the holiday season with the 12 days of Christmas, personal finance edition.

What have you been reading and writing? Be sure to leave a link in the comments.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Great Travel Expectations

Americans should have more than two weeks (on average) of vacation time every year. I think most of us would agree with that statement! I could never be satisfied with such a limited time to travel; and I know many of us don’t even use our vacation time to travel to somewhere new or not new; “staycations” have become the norm because of shrinking budgets and lost jobs.

As a consultant making a little money, I can now make time to travel this winter, something I have been wanting to do again since my trip to India earlier this year. I am one of those people that need to go somewhere new, whether it be just an hour away or on the other side of the world. Some people envy others because of their relationship status, how much money they make, what car they drive…but me? I get a little envious of those who have seen places I have only dreamed and read about.

My upcoming travel plans include my sister’s destination wedding in Puerto Rico and a holiday getaway this month, an after wedding party in my new brother-in-law’s home state of Georgia in January, and Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day in March. It makes the winter less overbearing in my thoughts, because I have different trips to look forward to. This is definitely not the norm for me, but I want it to be! I can be equally excited about vacations that take place very close to home, such as day trips or weekend getaways that don’t require air travel. Bottom line, I believe that life should be enjoyed each day we have it. I don’t want to look back on my life (if I am lucky to live long enough) and have major regrets about not taking chances or traveling as much as I would have liked.

Where would you go if you had more vacation time?

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