Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Forum: New Year's Eve

The new year is so close, we can start the countdown soon! What are your plans for New Year's Eve? Do you have a tradition or are you winging it?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Special Message from TWM


The Women's Mosaic® has offered over 100 unique programs since January 2001 to educate, inspire and motivate women to rise up and rock the world!

Because we are a small grass-roots 501c3 nonprofit organization, we very much rely your support in raising the funds needed to sustain us and all that we do.

If you enjoy reading our eNewsletters, attending our events, visiting our blog , following us on Facebook and Twitter, or just love what we're about, please show your support for TWM through our Membership or Donate pages to make your gift inwhatever amount is right for you, knowing that every penny counts.

Anyone who joins/renews or donates at the $50 level or higher by 12/31/11 will be entered to win a 7-night luxury stay in the Caribbean! See box below for details. You can also make an offer on another resort to guarantee your luxury vacation today! :)

And of course, as always, THANK YOU to everyone who has already become a member or donated to us in the past! We value and appreciate your continued support to keep us going and growing!

Wishing you a Peaceful & Prosperous New Year!
We look forward to seeing you in 2012 both online and off!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My TWM Experience*

The following was originally posted on January 26, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

I first learned about The Women’s Mosaic back in 2007. My sister and I attended a conference where we heard Kristina Leonardi speak about her journey to the creation of the non-profit organization, which I remember being impressed by. I talked to Kristina afterwards to ask more questions about TWM and her experiences. After a year in Indonesia, I was wondering about my own journey; I still am of course. I find myself enriched by the opportunities and experiences I have had through TWM.

Before teaching abroad in Indonesia, I was convinced that I would never be much of a public speaker. I challenged myself when I went abroad to teach, because having command of a classroom is no easy feat. I learned to speak with conviction to help my students understand their lessons, which I treasure to this day. When I returned to the U.S. and got involved with The Women’s Mosaic, I continued to use my voice in different ways. I attended a few college career fairs as a TWM representative and talked to those interested in internships for college credit. I think I did a good job promoting the organization and its many cultural and educational benefits. I enjoyed talking about something I believed in, and I think it showed; it still shows today.

There have been various TWM events and programs I have enjoyed being a part of, but being a CHICKS ROCK! Blogger has definitely been the most significant. Every week, Kekla, Sally, and I share our thoughts and experiences, as do our guest bloggers and Kristina herself on occasion. I enjoy connecting with TWM and non-TWM members on the blog most of all.

It has been quite a decade for The Women’s Mosaic! I look forward to what the future will bring to the organization.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Life Lessons at a Media Conference*

The following was originally posted on March 29, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

This past weekend was a great one for media-making and activist women as it was the WAM! It Yourself mini-conference in select cities around the world. Here in New York, it was a fun-filled weekend with a happy hour Friday night, a conference Saturday, and a brunch on Sunday. For the second year in a row, I spoke on a panel for the Saturday conference and it was great to be back in a space with women (and a few men) committed to learning from each other and helping each other out.

The panels were about writing, media, and activism, but there were a few lessons that came out of the day and that still echo in my mind days later.

The first lesson came up a few times on the social media and activism panel I was on, and was repeated by several others (who weren't even at that workshop): use your authentic voice. Whether it's in the way you use social media or in your writing, being yourself and being authentic makes it easier to stand up for your feelings and beliefs when they're challenged, as they inevitably will be, and puts your real truth out there. It's harder to back up what you don't believe in, so why bother?

Another lesson is in the power of social media. As Deanna Zandt said in her closing keynote "technology will not solve our problems, we will solve our problems but we can use technology to do that." People are using social media every day to spark movements, stand up for their rights and the rights of others, and make people's lives just a bit better.

And the last lesson is that we can all be leaders and change-makers. In many ways, a lot of us are doing it already, we just don't give ourselves the credit.

Okay, so the lessons are not new, but it doesn't make them any less meaningful.

What lessons have you learned or been reminded of recently?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two Roads Diverged*

The following was originally posted on March 23, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

Riding on the bus, this week and looking out the window at the wide world going by, I found myself thinking about the Robert Frost poem that ends with a stanza about roads diverging in a wood. Travel makes me meditative anyway, and I started thinking about times in the past when I’ve had to choose a path—and what might have happened if I’d gone a different route.

Everyone faces forks in the road, in big and small ways, over and over in life. It’s inevitable. We could talk about it on the level of major life decisions (law school or art school?), minor life decisions (pizza or Thai?), or even the day-to-day minutia of functioning in the world (speed through the yellow light or stop?). Today I find myself looking back and wondering…what if?

I think often in my own experience I’ve chosen the less traveled path, as Frost does in his poem. I’m both happy about and proud of that, but sometimes it leaves me curious—what if I had done the expected thing? What if I had followed the path that seemed easiest, or most clear? Would I be less than I am today? Would I be fabulously successful? Would I be miserable? Would I be happy?

I’m not living a life of regrets, or anything. I don’t particularly long for do-overs in any major aspect of my past. That’s not the purpose of my pondering, but simply to wonder…what if?

What are the big “what ifs” in your life?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Forum: Happy Holidays

No matter what you celebrate, we hope you've enjoyed your holidays so far and make the most of this weekend. What holiday plans did you make this year?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shop 'til You Drop

As you're finishing up your holiday shopping, or adding yourself to your gift list (as everyone should!), be sure to check out everything the 2011 TWM Holiday Bazaar and Silent Auction have to offer. This online shopping event is just what you've been looking for.

The vendors TWM lined up offer a great variety of products. Browse through their sites and start shopping.

sweetriot makes all-natural chocolate treats called "peaces," and works to create a more just and celebrated multicultural world for our next generation.

Style Your Life with Stella & Dot! Shop the collection; Host a Trunk Show; Run your own Social Selling Business.

Goods of Conscience is an apparel and accessories line made of handwoven cotton that uniquely benefits women both in the US and Guatemala.

Innovation. Convenience. High quality. Affordability. This is what Avon brings to its customers. And it's not just beauty -- it's clothing, products for baby, kitchen necessities, and more!

Shop Indego Africa: Purchase a gift that supports women artisans in Rwanda.

USAdopt, LLC is a domestic adoption consultancy that helps people navigate the complex world of domestic adoption. As a bonus, TWM members receive 10% off a custom consulting program.

Mary Shackelford of Wellness Solutions is a Wellness Strategist who transforms the lives of busy women by helping them lose that unwanted weight and ignite a passion for healthy living.

Kerry Cunniffe is a Professional Organizer who believes a healthy life includes a clutter-free home! She offers organizing services (paper, clothes, possessions, etc.) and is a member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers).

Essential Self Consultation with TWM Founder & Career/Life Coach Kristina Leonardi. Gift the gift of clarity, balance and direction to yourself or a loved one! Save $80 now until 12/31/11

Be a part of women's professional sports as a fan of the WNBA's NY Liberty! Buy one full season ticket plan and receive a set of pint glasses signed by Kym Hampton.

Forget the mall. This year, give your friends and family a world without street harassment by shopping Hollaback!

And get something for every feminist in your life to support the Feminist Majority Foundation.

BONUS: Join/Renew or Donate to TWM at the $50 level or higher between now and December 31,2011 and be entered to win a 7-night luxury stay at the Verandah Resort & Spa, Antigua! ($4200 VALUE)

Don't forget to check out another trip you can win, this one a romantic 7-night stay at Palm Island, The Grenadines. Make an offer or buy it now!

Like A Child

Sometimes I miss being a child, especially during the holiday season. I would not say I had spectacular Christmases and New Years when I was younger, but I did have more genuine excitement about those and other holidays throughout the year. I would not want to be a child now; I liked the television shows and toys of my youth far more than I usually care to admit. I also liked how playing outside was quite common for me, much more than it is for children now. Still, there are moments of pure contentment children have, and regardless of the generation gap, I do miss them.

I was reminded of these moments this past weekend, when I met two children at a local store I go to occasionally. I met them once before, and found them to be adorable and a bit shy. This last time I saw them, they were playing with their Pokémon cards and chasing each other around the store when they felt like it. Then they overheard me talk to their parents about how my cousins used to trade Pokémon cards as children, and that broke the ice. The boys approached me to show off their cards with great pride, asking me if I recognized the characters shown on them, which strangely enough I did at times. They enjoyed talking about how they trade the cards at school with friends and each other, but not in a spoiled, overindulged way. I liked talking to them about their world, which is full of fun and curiosity.

Maintaining a similar sense of fun and curiosity as an adult is hard, but I find I can savor the moments when I have them now, and appreciate those I had as a child. Christmas was never really about Santa Claus for me; it was about the Nativity story, the tree and decorations, Christmas carols, and of course, presents. Now I add retrospection of the year that has passed, and think about the year to come. I am an adult, but the inner child remains within me.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home for the Holidays?

A month or so ago, when I was still finalizing plans for Thanksgiving, one of my sisters let us know her plans all three holidays. I had already decided I wasn't going to my parents' for Thanksgiving, but I agreed to spend Christmas Eve with my sisters  (we don't celebrate Christmas Day) and to get dolled up with them and go out for New Year's Eve, even if that isn't how I normally like to spend that night.

Well, it's now weeks later, and we have no idea what we're doing for either event.

My youngest sister decided she didn't want to leave our parents for Christmas and they have since tried to guilt my other sister to change her plans. I told her I'd do whatever she decided, but it's days away and she's yet to make any decision at all. 

Then there's New Year's, for which it's practically impossible to find something affordable to do. (I'm all-too-conscious of the fact that a mere two days later, I'll no longer be making any money.) So with this as well, we can't seem to figure out exactly how the night will go.

The whole time, I've been saying that I have no problem sitting at home, by myself, with nothing but movies and mac & cheese to celebrate the holidays, and I'm starting to wonder if that's what I'll end up doing. I have to say, I don't think I'd be disappointed with that.

Ok, it probably won't end up happening that way, but being home for the holidays would be kinda great.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cheer

Every year it seems to take me longer and longer to get into the holiday spirit. I'm always surprised when my favorite television shows start doing their Christmas episodes, because it seems like they always come too soon, before I'm really in the mood to hear Christmas carols and start feeling schmaltzy.

Seeing decorated trees going up around town, and shop windows tingeing everything red or green doesn't even do it for me. I'm not all that into seasonal shopping. I buy things through the year that I think will make good gifts for my family, and if I don't get done early, I'm very last minute about the rest.

Admittedly, even when they seem early, I do enjoy the trappings of the encroaching holidays. I received cookies in the mail. That was nice. I extracted the cute penguin wrapping paper from my closet. It's super cute. But with lots of work ahead of me still, it was hard to relax and get into the spirit of things.

This year, it occurred to me that it's never been the Christmas atmosphere alone that makes me feel Christmasy. It's being with the people that remind me of Christmas--namely my family. Friends, too. I went to a caroling event and holiday parties this weekend, and it finally started feeling like Christmas in my bones.

Only one week to go, and by the time the weekend comes around I'm sure I'll be full of Christmas cheer. And then it'll be time to think about the new year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Forum: Giving Back

Tis the season of giving, and that includes giving back.

What are some of your favorite causes to support during the holiday season?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Shopping

The shopping season is nearly over, but TWM is here to help. Check out the latest edition of the Holiday Bazaar, which includes a few great Caribbean trip opportunities that you've got an entire year to use! Go get your shop on now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Politics Schmolitics 2012

Like many other Americans, I want to be more enthusiastic about the upcoming 2012 U.S. presidential election. I cannot muster enough enthusiasm at this time, because I am not happy with those who are currently taking the lead. Politics has always frustrated me, but I think I feel it now more than ever because of how our economy continues to suffer, and will apparently continue to do so for a few more years, at least. Major reforms, from global to local private and public entities to prevent similar economic downfalls, have yet to be implemented in most cases. Apparently the recession is over, but I have heard and can feel for myself that we as a country are still struggling, and may never be the same again. How do I get myself excited for the national race if both candidates leave a less than stellar impression on me?

I think one way to start is to look beyond the two candidates from the two main political parties to recognize and research those lesser known or completely unknown people who are running for public office. I would like to think that one day, we as a nation would elect someone as president who is not a Democrat or a Republican in our lifetimes. I wish it could be easier to learn more about lesser known candidates, so we can know as much as we can about those running for office from their records, apart from meeting them in person. All of my other suggestions have to do with taking initiative, and for it not to be overwhelming to do so.

I hope The Women’s Mosaic will host another Politics Schmolitics event to mark the 2012 races. It would be a great way to engage those interested in learning more and to possibly be more active in public life themselves. I also love the name "Politics Schmolitics," and would love to be a part of a new TWM event with that same name again.

What are your thoughts on politics?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's 2012 Got for Us?

As 2011 comes to a close, most of us are reflecting on how it went and wondering what 2012 might hold for us. My best friend and I were so emotionally and mentally drained from 2010, we just wanted it to be over and couldn't wait for 2011 to begin. We figured, hey, it can't get much worse!

We were right to expect great things in 2011: we both found jobs we loved, apartments in neighborhoods near each other, roommates we not only tolerated but actually liked, new friends, new lovers, and a lot more. I'm sure there are other people out there who had even better, more eventful 2011s, but we've got reason to be happy with what we got.

Now that 2012 is nearly upon us, I'm starting to worry about what it has in store for us. One thing we know for sure is that we're going on a week-long trip to Antigua in February, and something tells me we'll definitely need it. By then, we'll each have new roommates that we hope we like as much as the ones we have now, as one of my roommates and her only roommate are both moving to the West Coast (not together, just a coincidence). Oh, and then there's the little thing of having to look for a new source of income because I'll be unemployed as of December 30th.

I guess you can say the year is ending with as much newness and uncertainty as it brought throughout the year. I just hope this rocky end to 2011 doesn't bleed too much into 2012 so we can both start fresh as quickly as possible and recharge our batteries on a warm beach in the Caribbean.

What do you think 2012 holds for you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Flashing Back

I've been doing some historical research lately, and I've spent time looking at archived popular news magazines, like TIME, in the library. I'm looking now at 1968, because that is when my upcoming book is set, and a time I need to get more familiar with, seeing as it's a bit before my time.

The process is really intriguing, not just because of the information my research is uncovering--I expected to learn that stuff--but also because of some unexpected results. The best part of flipping through these old mags is the classic advertisements!

Wow, times have changed. Never has it been clearer to me than when I'm looking at these old ads. Looking at what is considered beautiful (women who aren't stick thin), what is considered fancy (really nice Scotch), what is considered risque (long distance driving) and what is considered cool (great cigarettes) has really transformed in the last forty to fifty years.

Needless to say, some of these changes are for better, and others for worse. It's all subjective. There are lot more drawings in the old ads, in addition to glossy photographs. There's a lot more text to read and absorb. There are a lot more families represented, and a lot fewer celebrity endorsements. Alcohol and cigarette and car ads dominate. It's striking, because booze and smoking have become so taboo in ads in recent years.

The research started out as drudgery, but now I'm loving this project. They say a picture is worth a thousand words...well, the thousand or so pictures I've looked at tell an entire story of a moment in time, and the way the country thought and reacted in those days. It's the closest I've come to feeling like I know what the world "looked" like in 1968. Pretty intriguing!

Is there a time period from the past that you'd like to visit?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Forum: Pet Peeves

We all have pet peeves and sticking points that people seem to constantly trigger, whether it's grammar, a certain phrase people use incorrectly, people who complain all the time, etc. What are some of your pet peeves and things that really get under your skin?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Write Resolutions

While you're all starting to think of resolutions for the new year, consider tapping into your inner voice and letting your thoughts and experiences out by writing. Lucky for you, you have a great platform to do that right here! Check out our guest blogger guidelines or past posts if you need some guidance or direction, and then write down whatever it is you want to. (And hey, no need to wait for the new year if you feel up to it now.) Can't wait to read what you've got.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Technology Withdrawal

I am thinking ahead about changes I want to make in 2012, such as possibly cancelling my Facebook account and travelling more. Both of these changes have to do with me wanting more face-to-face contact with people. The world is so much bigger than the Internet and technology, even though it does not feel like that sometimes. I just want to get back to basics.

I watched a few television clips from the 1980s (one of the great things about the Internet is that you can find almost anything) and noticed that the comedy, drama, and suspense sometimes increased when a person tried calling someone at their home and office, with no answer. The message was usually conveyed in person, with varying results. Now most of us have our cell phones, with texting and email included, so we are almost always reachable. I just can’t have my phone on all the time and I try to shut it off when I am out with someone or in a group, unless I am expecting an important call. I just want to focus on the people around me more than the device in my hands. I am by no means addicted to my phone, but I find that it has much more power over me than I care to admit.

Not too long ago, I accidentally dropped my cell phone with a piece of mail in a mailbox in front of a post office in a neighboring town. Panicked, I ran into the post office thinking that the postal official would have the keys to open said box. I had to wait for more than an hour in front of the mail box until it was opened, and during that time, I picked up the pay phone in the post office to make calls and went through technology withdrawal. As relieved as I was to have my phone in my hands again, I decided to limit my dependency of it, for my own peace of mind.

Do you think you are too dependent on technology?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo No-Go

Last month I made a pathetic attempt at participating in NaNoWriMo. I wrote maybe a couple thousand words before getting sidetracked by procrastination and, eventually, life. But I'm proud of myself for the creative work I've done beyond that: my Creative Writing 101 class.

Having never taken a real writing class before, I was worried. Having never considered myself particularly creative before, I was terrified.

The first week, it was a challenge just to sign in to the class and read through the lecture. It took me days to get the nerve to do that, but once I did, I realized it wasn't so bad. The exercises were interesting, though some more than others and while I wasn't all that confident reading back on my first assignment, the feedback I got was good.

Since then, I've worked harder on my assignments and implementing the lessons learned that week. I've even started to *gasp* look forward to the next lecture, exercises and assignment. 

The thing I love most about the class is the way it's making me think about my writing. I've often sought perfection, and worked on things I cared about an awful lot. But from day one, our instructor stressed that the process and the output both had to be fun. Even though I'm considering nearly every other word much more carefully than I have before, it actually has been fun.

So maybe I didn't come out of November with a novel, but I did come out inspired and ready to take on more writing. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hopping on the e-Train

No, I am not talking about getting on a subway train. I am quite comfortable hopping on a subway of any letter, A to Z. By the "e-train," I mean the express route to all things that are prefaced by the tiny but powerful "e": e-book, e-reader, etc.

I do not own a Kindle. Or an iPad. Or any of the many book-powering apps available for smart phones. I resist these things not on principle, but because I am a book lover. I like the feel of a cozy paperback, the hefty importance of a hardcover.

So it is strange to find myself suddenly dealing in e-books, which I have learned I can access on my computer without an extra device. I recently downloaded a program that will allow me to buy and read e-books, and borrow them from the library. I've acquired a few books for research purposes, and it's working out for me okay.

For all of you who are already devotees of the e-revolution (or passengers on the e-train, if you prefer), I trust you will bid me a hearty welcome to your ranks. BUT, I confess: I am not converted. My bookcases shall remain full. I can definitely see the advantage of the speed and accessibility of books online. It is exciting, to know that so much is at our fingertips at any given moment. But it doesn't make me feel like things are easier or better.

I don't want to forget what it feels like to curl up with a book. People tell me you can get used to curling up with a Kindle, but something about that idea leaves me a little on edge. I work at the computer. For fun, I often watch TV. Must I turn to a screen for my pleasure reading, too?

For the moment, I'm trying to become hip and tech-fancy. I would prefer to be the sort of gal who changes willingly with the times. I do not want to become a crotchety person who constantly whines about how great things used to be in the old days. But they were so great! (Yeah, yeah. I'm working on it...)

Are you on the e-train?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gift Giving

The holiday season has begun! Who are you shopping for this season? Do you find it a pain or do you look forward to it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Cheer ... And Shopping!

The holiday season is upon us and that means it's time for another great TWM Holiday Bazaar!

TWM's Virtual Holiday Bazaar is a great way to find out about local, women-owned, conscious/green, and other small businesses that support TWM now and all year long!

This is the first blast of the bazaar so please let us know if you or someone you know has a fabulous product or service that should be included to share with our targeted audience throughout the month of December!

Contact us for more info on how to participate!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Daylight

Now that the days are shorter, I feel like I am always chasing daylight. The holiday lights help for now, but after the New Year, I always feel the months drag slowly toward the spring. While the weather remains pleasant, I make an effort to spend at least an hour each day walking in a local park; sometimes I walk to my Mother’s house, which is three miles away from my apartment. I know my days of regular outdoor walking and basking in the sun are numbered, so I am doing it all now while I can.

As a child, I looked forward to winter because I hoped for days off from school and playing all day in the snow. I also did not pay attention to the shorter and darker days, but I always remember being overjoyed when spring arrived; it always came just in time. Now that I am older, I find do not enjoy winter as much as I used to because I am always driving, and the limited sunlight can make me feel a little down at times. Now, I feel that spring does not come fast enough. Like those who lived through the Northeast’s terrible winter weather last year and the freak snow storm late last month, I am not looking forward to the upcoming season. Still, I am going to chase daylight whenever I can get it throughout the winter, even when the weather and time stand in my way.

How will I do this? I will walk outside when the temperature is at least forty degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 degrees Celsius), with minimal wind. When that is not possible, I will still try to expose myself to sunlight when I can see it from my windows. Working out indoors rigorously, even more so than in other seasons, always seems to prevent me from sinking into the winter doldrums. I will also try to fit in a trip south (destination to be determined) in the next few months. Now I am looking forward to winter season!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breaking Turkey Day Rules

Just as Kekla spent her Thanksgiving in a non-traditional way, I broke a few Turkey Day rules myself in what was probably one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever.

The plan for the day was to have Thanksgiving "dinner" around 2pm at my best friend's place, with her mother who was in town, and then I was going to have a late dinner around 8:30 or so for my friends who either had no Thanksgiving of their own or wanted post-family plans. Earlier in the week, my best friend and I prepped for her meal and the day before, I prepped for mine.

Once the day arrived, I got a bit of a late start and was still baking two desserts for her Thanksgiving and another two for mine. Eventually, I made my way to her place and the three of us cooked while we watched the parade and some movies. We had a delicious meal with a turkey breast and turkey leg rather than a whole turkey, but all the sides were typically Thanksgiving.

Soon after we were done eating, I made my way back to my place where I made buffalo chicken mac & cheese, green beans with mint and pancetta, and a creamy baked fennel. It felt really strange to go from cooking in a group with the tv on to being the only person home with only music on. But in some Thanksgiving miracle, I managed to make all of that, shower, clean a little, and straighten my hair in less than 4 hours and I was even prouder to have done it all by myself, especially when everyone tasted the food and loved it. I had been worried earlier in the week that nobody would show up, but a boisterous, fun group of friends all made it and had an incredible time.

There was no turkey, no family, and no downtime, but it was still my favorite Thanksgiving. It'll be hard to top next year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Embracing the Non-Traditional

For the first time in my life, this year I celebrated Thanksgiving away from my family and without a home-cooked turkey. I probably would have been worried about this if I'd spent any serious time in the past few weeks thinking about the holidays. As it happened, the end of November sort of snuck up on me, and I found myself sitting around the day before Thanksgiving thinking that maybe I ought to do some shopping and menu planning. But I didn't.

A friend of mine came to visit from far-away Texas, someone I haven't seen in a couple of years. It was just the two of us spending the holiday together, a first for both of us, and initially we weren't sure what we were going to do, or if it would even feel like Thanksgiving if we didn't do up the whole day the way we were used to. But neither of us felt like putting in a lot of effort cooking, and we somewhat awkwardly negotiated a two-part plan for ourselves for the day: hang out at home, then eat dinner in a restaurant. We agreed not to stress about creating a meaningful holiday celebration.

What was amazing was, the big day still felt like a holiday. Special, because I spent time with a friend who I don't usually see. Lazy, because we cooked pie and watched movies all day. Delicious and food-filled, because we went out and enjoyed a turkey dinner that we hadn't spent all day slaving over. Entertaining, because we ended the day at a jazz club listening to live music.

I can imagine that it would be difficult for me to spend a holiday like Thanksgiving truly alone, or without any festivities, but that's not what happened. Changing my T-Day routine made me realize that the things that matter most about the holidays are not related to perfect, repeated rituals. Change can be good, and surprisingly, this very different Thanksgiving turned out to be one of my most delightful!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Forum: College Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

Going beyond earlier memories and to more recent ones, we want to know about your first semester in college. What classes did you like? Who did you make friends with? Are they still in your life now?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a great day relaxing, cooking, eating, watching football, or doing whatever else your heart desires. Most importantly, we hope you take some time to show appreciation for whatever you're thankful for!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great Holiday Expectations

When the holiday season approaches, I always feel a bit wary. Could it be the blatant commercialism, the same slick Christmas soundtrack played at almost every store you go to ad nauseam, or the pushy crowds of rabid shoppers? All of these things remind me to keep this annual experience in proper perspective. After all, I don’t only give thanks on Thanksgiving, and I have become good at avoiding the materialism that often distracts many of us from what Christmas is really about. It has taken years of practice for me to resist making great holiday expectations.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of childlike awe and pleasure in the season. Watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television and seeing a Christmas tree light up for the first time are just two simple things I will never get bored of, so I am not completely apathetic. It’s just those commercials for Black Friday, and listening to people who dread seeing certain family members once a year behind their backs that grates on my nerves. These two occurrences are so commonplace that they have become universally accepted to many. I am just one of those people who want to avoid these unnecessary and negative aspects that can ruin the goodness and purity of the holidays, if I can. I think I do this to avoid being disenchanted and cynical. I want to enjoy the season for the right reasons.

I stay true to the holiday spirit by avoiding commercials as much as possible, and shopping at stores when the crowds are not there. I have my own Christmas playlist on my iPod, and I listen to the songs I like when I want to. I also remember to breathe when in an uncomfortable holiday-related situation. The only way I can avoid it all is to go to Sri Lanka now until after the New Year. I did not pick this location at random; I actually did my research on great escapes from the commercialism and stress of the season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

French Connection

My French class is almost over and I signed up for the next level over the weekend, so I've been thinking a lot lately about what I've learned, where I need to improve, and what my plan is. In the last several weeks, I've learned all about verb tenses, and the basics of grammar and sentence structure. There are some things I remembered from high school French class, but a lot of things I'd completely forgotten. But I've committed to really grasping a lot of the material and have gotten some positive feedback on the more technical part of French. For the next level, which I plan on starting in the new year, I know that my struggle will be improving my vocabulary and practicing my conversational French. 

With that goal in mind, the idea of moving to Paris is becoming more of a reality. Talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago, the topic of going back to school came up. It suddenly dawned on me that I could easily move to Paris and do a one- or two-year program at American University of Paris. It would take away the drama of obtaining a work visa or long stay visa, it would allow me to adjust to the language switch, and it would give me a built-in social network that I wouldn't have if I moved on my own without knowing anybody there. Of course, then I'll have even more debt to worry about than I already do, but it's definitely a possibility I hadn't considered before.

Having the beginnings of a plan in mind, I now have a motivation to excel in French that I didn't have before and a desire to go through the final level of classes. I still don't know how it'll all turn out, but I'm happy with where I'm at right now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knot My Problem

Every once in a while, it seems, I take up knitting again. I've been spending time with a few friends who knit heavily--and much better than I do!--and it has inspired me to get to work on my small projects again. It's a good thing to jump start in advance of the holidays, when I'll be traveling a bit and probably sitting around watching football games and bad TV specials with my parents for a period of days.

I like knitting. Supposedly, once you get moderately comfortable doing it, the repetitive motion becomes meditative and soothing. I'm finally getting to that point, and it's become even more enjoyable. The problem I'm currently having is finding a balanced project that will look nice in the end but not drive me crazy learning new stitches.

In talking with my knitting friends, I've realized that the way they experience satisfaction after finishing a big, cool knitting project is similar to the way I experience satisfaction after completing a novel manuscript. One of them told me there are "process knitters," who just love the act of knitting, and "project knitters," who do it to end up with a neat homemade item.

I suppose the same could be said of novelists--some of us just do it because we love spitting words onto the page and the process of honing a first draft to a manuscript is painful, while others love the revision process because they want so badly to see a finished book.

I'm struggling through copyedits on my latest manuscript, a laborious process that has taken me many days of work. It usually goes faster. But it's the end process of more than a year's work on this book. How does this relate to my knitting, you ask? It's shown me why I am definitely a project knitter. And small projects, at that! You'll probably never hear of me tackling a sweater--if I'm going to spend a year's creative energy on anything, it's going to be a novel. But when the going gets rough with my writing, it's soothing to know I can grab a ball of yarn and knit up a pair of gloves or a hat in a weekend. It reminds me that creative projects can and will be finished!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Forum: Not-So-Happy Childhood Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

We've had some good memories so far, but today we want to know about one of your childhood injuries. We all have them: twisting an ankle during a baseball game, burning yourself with an iron. What's a time you hurt yourself and your parents or siblings helped you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Link Love for 11/17

Get ready everyone, there's another link love round-up coming your way! Check out the links below for some great stuff to read.

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur gives a shout-out to those who definitely deserve it: our personal cheerleaders.

Downtown Dharma reminds us all to listen our intuition -- it's usually smarter than we give it credit for.

Girl w/Pen takes a look at two shows that seem similar, but are quite different in how they portray women.

In Good Company points out the different ways in which entrepreneurship is full of tricky contradictions.

Lindsey Pollak wants you to be ready to "crack the new job market" and features an interview with the guy who wrote the book (literally).

That's what we have for today. What have you been reading and writing online?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Art of Social Diplomacy

Being diplomatic and polite to people who don’t deserve it can be an art. There is finesse involved, as well as a large dose of restraint. I exercised my diplomatic muscles recently when I encountered my late neighbor’s relatives who came to her apartment to go through and collect her belongings. She mentioned them once to me before when I first met her a year ago, and from what she told me I knew they were not close and never saw her. I also realized how rude they were when they asked me impertinent questions about my neighbor and her cat. They actually wanted me to be responsible for the latter, which I firmly declined. I also refused to trap him for them, which I thought was odd and distasteful of them to ask me for.

Some people would have expressed their feelings of being insulted directly, but I decided not to; I still stood my ground so they knew not to ask me similar questions again. I knew I would probably never see them again, and this helped guide me during our short exchange. I pitied my late neighbor for having such disagreeable relatives, but I am glad she is at peace now and will never have to deal with them again.

The fact is most of us encounter unpleasant people in our lives on a daily basis. Effective coping mechanisms vary due to personal circumstances and the person(s) involved. For example, dealing with a difficult relative is different from dealing with someone who swipes the parking space you were waiting for. I heard on the news recently of a man accused of a road rage incident where he actually knocked down another woman with his own hands, causing her to be in a coma for a week. I don’t understand being so angry about a minor incident with my car that I would actually cause physical harm by force, and on purpose.

What are your thoughts on dealing with difficult people? Do you vary your strategies diplomatically, or do you handle each situation the same?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rethinking Thanksgiving

It seems that every year, the holidays sneak up on me. For some reason, my brain doesn't realize that Thanksgiving is less than one month after Halloween, or that Christmas is about a month after that. Instead, I find myself amazed when I'm making plans a week or two out and see that my calendar hasn't forgotten about Thanksgiving at all.

This year, I'm even more worried about how quickly the holidays snuck up on me because, for the first time ever, I plan on hosting Thanksgiving dinner. It was one of those things that just made sense: I didn't want to go to my parents' for the holiday, it's one of my roommates' last Thanksgiving in New York, I have a lovely apartment, my best friend has lofty dinner goals and her mother will be in town, I love baking and my best friend loves cooking, etc. It all sounded so perfect...

Now I'm feeling like this was the worst idea ever. Friends I thought would be around might not be. My roommate might actually go to somebody else's dinner. No menu has been set. My kitchen is not yet ready for any large-scale cooking (I don't even know where we keep the glasses). What on earth was I thinking?! With my luck, this will end up being one of those terrible Thanksgivings people look back on and laugh at in a sitcom flashback episode.

Of course, I have saner moments sprinkled in between all that panic. So what if nobody shows up? And who really cares if some of the food is terrible? Even if it's just me and a few slices of pizza enjoying the 500th showing of The Wizard of Oz this month, I'm sure I'll still love the night.

How did you prepare for the first Thanksgiving you hosted? Did things turn out better or worse than expected?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bits of Inspiration

I opted out of NaNoWriMo this year, but I do hope that Sally decided to give it a try. And I'm still trying to get into the spirit of the event, whose full name is National Novel Writing Month. I don't need to write a novel this month, but I do have several writing projects that need finishing, polishing or editing before being sent off to my agent or editor. So, I'm doing my own version of NaNo, and I suppose that counts.

The greatest thing about NaNo is that it inspires people to rise up and actually DO something that they might otherwise only talk about. Upon learning that I'm an author, people often react by saying something to the effect of "I wish I could write a novel," or "I want to write a book someday," or "I might write something after I retire." The polite thing for me to do in the moment is to smile and nod blandly and hope they read it as approval or encouragement. The less polite thought that typically bounces through my mind is "Well, why don't you?"

Anyone and everyone who wants to write can do it, but the fact of the matter is, most people who talk about writing never actually sit down with a pen or a keyboard. And that's the trick in the end, just sitting down and doing it. Little bit by little bit. No one--not even the most accomplished author--wakes up in the morning with the intent to write a novel. We go to the computer with the intent to put something on paper. A single letter, which begins a word, which sparks a sentence, which blurs into a paragraph, and after many, many such occasions might add up to a piece of prose that means something.

If the intensity of NaNo seems too daunting, think about some simpler math:
One page a day = 365 pages in a year (Don't look now, but that's the length of a book!)
Half a page a day = 182 pages in a year
One paragraph a day (1/4 page) = 91 pages in a year

Little bits add up! And here's the good news: in my experience, the best writing occurs inadvertently. Meaning, when you sit down to write and just let it flow you may be surprised by the quality of what comes out in the process. As opposed to sitting down with the goal of saying something profound--in that case you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Nothing comes out fully formed. Revision is inevitable--if your goal is to share your work effectively with others. But for a first draft, in response to that creative urge to get something on paper, absolutely anything goes!

Do you have things you want to say? If writing doesn't appeal to you, what other dreams could you be following, little bit by little bit?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Forum: Civic Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

In honor of Election Day, we want to know about your first voting experience. How old were you? Do you remember who you voted for?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Favorite Reads

Every few weeks, we like browsing our favorite sites to find posts you might enjoy and feature them in Link Love round-ups. But we want to know your suggestions for sites to check out. What are your favorite reads? What do you think others would love to check out? Leave links in the comments and feel free to self-promote.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Death of a Neighbor

Just the other day, I overheard people on my street talking about my neighbor passing away. After some speculation, I learned that she died while walking to the door of her apartment to go outside. Thankfully, the property management checked up on my neighbor regularly due to her limited mobility and bad health, so when she did not answer her phone, the manager went to her apartment, and then immediately called for an ambulance. She was already dead when they arrived. I had no idea what had happened until that afternoon, on the street in front of my apartment, from people I had never really spoken to before.

I checked on my neighbor periodically, especially since I knew she had no family to speak of. She had a friend who shared a taxi with her when they went grocery shopping, but was mostly a recluse. I often heard her shouting on the phone to someone associated with her health insurance provider, or to one of the many doctors she visited and complained about after the fact. When I spoke to my neighbor, it was usually in front of her door in the common hallway we shared, and she would talk incessantly about her many medical conditions. She was always going in and out of hospitals every other week, at least. It was the way she spoke and represented herself, which made me believe that her medical conditions were not as serious as she said they were. I proved to be wrong, of course.

My neighbor’s death and the glimpses of her life I witnessed before it ended remind me that while I continue to enjoy good health and mobility, I must continue to make each day count. Sleepwalking through life is not an option, which was what my neighbor did near the end of her life; of course her medical and psychological states contributed to her limitations. My goals are to make meaningful connections with others and stay open to a variety of experiences throughout my life, for however long that might be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Election Day Guilt

Every year on Election Day, I think about all the people who are out there volunteering at the polls, calling people up to encourage them to vote, and sharing important information with their friends to make sure they know where to vote, who's running, and so forth. As most of you know, voting is something I've been passionate about for a long time, and while I normally spend Election Day giving people information they need, today I'm feeling guilty because I won't be voting.

For starters, I haven't updated my address with the Board of Elections. I wasn't going to let this get in my way and planned to get up extra early to go to my old polling location. Of course, I didn't even wake up on time this morning, let alone early, so that was out of the question. I have work all day and French class immediately after. By the time I'm done with my day, it'll already be 10pm -- well past the time polling locations close.

There are countless people who have complained over the years that having Election Day on a Tuesday is inconvenient, and I've certainly agreed in the past, but I'm really feeling it today. If you don't live close to where you work, if you work strange hours, if you have a lot of responsibilities on a weekday, etc. then voting becomes an added burden. 

There's a lot going on in the political landscape right now, with Occupy Wall Street being the loudest and most prominent, so it would be fantastic to see a higher voter turnout than usual. I'm still hoping that happens, even if I can't be part of it myself. At least I know I'll get one important thing done today: I'm updating my address so this doesn't happen again next year.

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Kekla is feeling a bit under the weather today. She's stuck at home with a bad cold. So, it's as good a time as any to catch up on some of her past posts that you might have missed.

Take a look HERE for the full archive.

How are YOU feeling these days? Struggling with the change of seasons, too, or still rolling happily along?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Forum: Movie Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

For today's trip, we want to know about the first time you watched or remember watching your favorite movie. What movie was it? Why did you like it so much?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What We Want to Know

What we do in this space is for you, and every so often, we like to check in and see how we're doing. Do you want to compliment us on something you love or is there something you dislike? If so, we want to hear it. Whether you leave a comment on this post or email us at, get in touch to tell us what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snowtober Memories

I was one of the unlucky people who found themselves on the road on Saturday, October 29th, now known as “Snowtober” here on the East Coast. I was working that day, and cut the itinerary so I could leave earlier due to the weather. First it rained, then the rain turned into sleet, then rain again, then thick snow fell, some of which turned into ice. On the highway as cars would pass me, sometimes this mixture of snow and ice would fly from the bottom of their tires or the top of their cars and fall on my windshield, blinding my view for a few seconds. Other times I would feel the car skidding a bit here and there on the road and would think to myself: am I going to make it back home, or will I be stuck on the road for hours or more?

The relief I felt after finally getting off my last highway changed to pure discomfort when driving back home on the local roads and being greeted with fallen trees and tree limbs. Downed power lines added to the danger and discomfort I felt as I carefully navigated my way to my place, and chose where to park before getting out of the car after being in it for more than two hours straight.

Even though the weather is completely different now, I did witness a medium sized tree branch break off from a tree near the mailboxes on my street just the other day. It wasn’t too large, but it wasn’t too small either, meaning that if someone had been walking on the sidewalk underneath that tree at that moment, he or she would have been knocked out and left with a minor concussion, at the very least. I was a bit paranoid for the rest of the day because of this incident.

I count my blessings that I did not get hurt or lose power during “Snowtober,” which is not what everyone can say unfortunately. I am wary of what Mother Nature has in store for us.

Do you have storm stories to share?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Getting Past Perfection

I learned about NaNoWriMo a few years ago and have known several people who tried it (including Kekla!). For the month of November, you're meant to write a novel of approximately 50,000 words but because I've never been much of a creative writer, I hadn't considered participating. Over the last six months or so, I've been wanting to tap into my creativity -- I even signed up for creative writing classes that start later this month. Of course, I've barely written at all since then, I just keep telling myself I will, so I still didn't think I'd do NaNoWriMo.

Then I was looking through Gotham Writers' Workshop's enewsletter and saw a blurb announcing that it begins tomorrow (well, today), and for some reason, it stood out to me. I wasn't sure why, at first, but I read through the description and remembered that one of the things that makes NaNoWriMo so interesting and unique is its departure from the way a lot of us normally work: the goal isn't quality, it's quantity. It's about putting words on the page, pure and simple. If you create something incredible, then great, but that's not the point of the exercise.

I suddenly remembered that a couple of weeks back my friend and I were talking about writing and he said I was making excuses by saying things like, "I don't have time to write." He made me write for 10 minutes to get me to see that I didn't need much time. It only made me stronger in my conviction that you need time to write something of quality. For me, it always comes down to quality, and that's surely an easy way to stop myself from doing what I love because of course nothing's perfect in just 10 minutes or 30 or even 60.

So I'm wondering, what happens if I take the challenge? What if I simply write and write and write without worrying about perfection? I guess I'm ready to find out!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Take Back Halloween

I'm a fan of Halloween. I don't enjoy being scared or spooked, but I like eating candy, and I particularly like dressing up in a costume and getting together with friends. Halloween reminds me of childhood, so for me there remains an innocent joy about it that is really delightful. It's an opportunity to be quirky and creative, silly and dramatic, and generally let your freak flag fly.

But it seems that the costume trend--for young women especially--has tipped away from quirky/creative and more toward short flimsy skirts and "slutty" versions of every imaginable profession and traditional Halloween character. Walking down the sidewalk this weekend, you will find slutty nurses, slutty pirates, slutty witches, and any manner of costumes not outright labeled "slutty" but designed to flash skin and tease the eye.

I'm not exactly sure when Halloween became the holiday to be "slutty," but apparently it's unavoidable. Two years ago, I dressed as the board game "Twister." I wrapped a (homemade) Twister mat around me like a toga, and turned the dial into a mortarboard-like cap and went out. I thought it was a cute, innocent and child-like costume, but when I got to the party, the first thing every guy I talked to (and these were my friends) said to me was some version of "Whoa, I hope no one calls out Right Hand Yellow" or "That costume wins Most-Likely-To Get-You-Touched."

I have to admit, I was creeped out and traumatized by their reactions, because it had NEVER occurred to me that my costume was in any way sexually inviting, or might be interpreted that way. Am I naive? Maybe. But it was definitely an eye opener to the fact that these young guys have been trained to look at women as sexual objects--especially on Halloween, when all of our underbelly tendencies are allowed to rise to the surface.

I suspect there's deeper significance to the pervasive desire among young women to flaunt their sexuality as part of a costume. Something joyful and freeing about putting yourself physically out there, like saying it's me, but not me, and then not having to own it in the morning. The excitement that surrounds it can't be denied, but if dressing up in costumes is the only way women feel like they can be so baldly sexual, there's something wrong with that too.

This year I discovered an organization called Take Back Halloween, which tries to counter the trend toward overt sex-kitten attire by cataloging costume ideas based on dynamic women from world history on their website. They call it A Costume Guide for Women with Imagination. Their press release says: "We’re trying to reclaim some space for a different vision of the holiday, where women can use Halloween to explore history and celebrate their heritage.”

Sounds awesome to me. Ladies, let's mix it up a bit tonight.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Forum: Happy Halloween!

Halloween is only a few days away and since it's on a Tuesday, we're sure you'll be celebrating most of the weekend.

What are your Halloween plans this year?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Link Love for 10/27

It's time for another round-up of great things we've been reading lately. Check out what we put together for you and remember to leave links in the comments to things you've been reading and writing online.

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur has great insights about the "root of it all," where the "it" is your work.

Downtown Dharma spotlights an organization that reminds us just how easy it can be to give back.

Girl w/Pen celebrated Love Your Body Day last week and has even more great links for you.

In Good Company poses an interesting question: is entrepreneurship the new gender neutral?

Lindsey Pollak features an interview about career blind spots, what they are, and how to overcome them.

NYWSE's blog considers how being socially responsible is as good for your wallet as it is for you.

One Writeous Chick shares a piece about her writing process that many of us can relate to no matter what we do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Made Anywhere But Here

It's happened before, but it hit me again when I went to a nearby grocery store and browsed through the greeting card aisle. This is nothing new to most people, but I was put off by the fact that everything was made in China. I planned to buy some Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other everyday cards, but walked away with neither. I could not find one card that was made somewhere else, like here in the U.S.A., or Canada, or anywhere else in the world. I will have to try my luck elsewhere, perhaps at a greeting card retail store that should have more offerings, hopefully with some of them being made domestically.

I am definitely not alone in preferring to buy domestic products. There are websites dedicated to all manner of companies that still produce their wares here in the U.S.A. By chance, I came across an article about olive oil from olives grown in California, and am now on the waiting list for a limited supply of a recommended reserve olive oil that must be used within a shorter time before expiration. I love Italian-made goods, but I could not give up the chance to try an olive oil made within the U.S.A. I am looking forward to getting it time for the holidays.

We can’t completely avoid buying things made outside of the fifty states, especially those items made in China. They are everywhere, and sometimes the only options available in stores. I have nothing against the Chinese people; it’s just their government’s cut-throat economic practices and human rights violations I cannot stand. When it comes to buying fresh fruits and vegetables, I almost always buy domestic. I immediately settled the choice between buying lemons grown in California versus those grown in Chile at my latest visit to the grocery store by choosing the former. In that case, they were the same price, but in many cases, buying domestically often means more money. I grin and bear it because I think it is worth it.

Do you think it is worth it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

End of Summer... In the Fall

Compared to most summers in my life, this past summer was quite eventful. I made new friends, went on a bunch of dates, enjoyed movies, concerts, and theater, and even went on a couple of vacations. Even with that being the case, I still made an "end of summer wish list" of things I wanted to do and events I wanted to attend before summer ended. Of course, I didn't even put a dent on that list while the summer was still happening, but I extended my timeframe by a couple of months. I figure this way makes it seem as though summer is still here (at least in spirit) and gives me something to look forward to while everyone else is grumbling about the colder weather.

I took a stab at two of the items this weekend: hiking and visiting Lake George. A couple of years ago, my sisters and I went to Lake George and had a great time. I had so much fun the first time, that I've been eager to go back. When I told a friend of mine about my time there, including the adventure course I tried to complete, he was excited about going there and giving it a try himself. So we decided to take a last minute trip up there to hike, do the adventure course, spend quiet time at a bed & breakfast, and just enjoy the time away from the city's hustle and bustle.

As I expected, it was just as much fun as it was last time. The hike was challenging, and the adventure course kicked my butt, but we both felt great afterwards. And even though we ran out of gas at one point, had a terrible and expensive dinner, and couldn't even complete the adventure course, the trip was well worth it.

There are still a few things left on my wish list, and I plan on getting through them as quickly as I can. Who knows, maybe once I'm done, I'll put together a winter wish list so there's even more to look forward to.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mystery of Faith

I've been thinking a lot about religion and faith lately. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this post, other than to say, it's something I'm thinking about. I was raised Presbyterian, and I've continued to participate in Christian life in various forms and fashions over the years. I belong to a church here in NYC, and I've become very involved there in the past decade.

Lately, I feel myself growing tired of some of the trappings of church life, and particularly some of the pretenses of myself that I feel I must maintain when I go there. I enjoy and value the community of friends I've made, but when at times I feel I don't actually share some of the fundamental belief system it is all built on, I wonder if I am building community under false pretenses?

I've never claimed to be a great Christian; I would shudder away from calling myself "devout" or "faithful" or anything even close to that. I do believe in God, but the true nature of the God I believe in is a very great mystery to me, and sometimes I think church goes too far in trying to explain God and what God's all about. What God would want me to be, or to do, and how God participates in the world.

We don't know. We can't know. And while I'm awed by that mystery and while it does lead me toward faith (of a fashion), I'm also bothered by the ways we try to rationalize God. When I think of all the destruction--socially, politically, interpersonally--that adherence to religious doctrines has caused around the world, it makes me ache because all of these rules of faith that we seem so willing to kill and die for are human-made. We might seek to worship God, but religion itself is a human construct, an answer to questions that every society has wrestled with over centuries--and ultimately answered in its own way.

Why are we so sure that we're right? More importantly, why are we so afraid to be wrong? In my own faith journey, I've always found that the greater power lies in the questions, rather than the answers. I know there are a lot of people out there like me, not so sure of things and just trying to figure it all out.

This week, I read an essay--a sermon, actually--that a friend and colleague of mine wrote about the similarities between being a person of faith and being a writer. She talks about the intangible sense of having something to express, and the struggle of trying to capture it all, and the need for constant review, reflection and revision. (The essay is posted on her website, here.) It was like placing a mirror to my own struggle, and it made me go "Ah!" I read her words, and I instantly felt more comfortable, more confident in my personal (awkward) process of faith, and more comforted than I had felt in a very long time. I have no trouble seeing a little bit of God in that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Forum: Mistaken Identity

Many of us have celebrities that either people think we look like or we like to think we look like. Whichever it is, it's sometimes fun to think about.

Is there any celebrity you have been or might be mistaken for?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons Learned While Blogging

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes back Diana as a guest blogger who let us interview her last week about her newfound passion for blogging. Here's the second part of her interview:

Diana enjoys transforming ordinary recipes into guilt-free, healthful meals that bring pleasure to the palate. She shares her latest ideas, inspirations, reviews, interviews, and plenty of food for thought on her food blog, Between the Tines.

What have you learned while blogging?

So many things have come to the surface for me, personally, as a result of writing this blog. Because of all the research I have to do before writing, I’ve become very aware of not only the wonderful aspects of food, but the issues and problems in and around food as well. For example:

1) I became painfully aware that childhood obesity is an overwhelming issue in this country and that it leads to life-long health problems.
2) The hunger crisis here and throughout the world today is out of control and is simply unacceptable.
3) The rampant spread of food-borne illness is distressing. I’m also a Certified Food Safety Manager. The training was very intense with emphasis on how food gets contaminated and that we really can prevent most of it.
4) That government and corporate America work hand-in-hand and are immersed in the food industry and driven by profit, not what’s healthiest for people. From genetically modified foods to hormone-treated cattle, have we considered the long-term effects of this and why are we allowing this to happen?
5) On the lighter side, I’ve realized that I need to go to culinary school at some point. I’m working on giving myself permission to do that right now.

What is one thing that has surprised you about blogging?

People actually follow me and subscribe!

I like to write from somewhat of a humorous, sarcastic perspective and I try bringing attention to things that need to be said but that aren’t being said without being particularly defamatory. I believe this humorous, sarcastic approach contributes to the fact that people enjoy reading my posts. I’ve had some great feedback. When I hear someone tell me that they look forward to my next blog, or that it has given them a laugh or two means a lot to me.

I’ve recently been invited to be a contributor to two additional food blogs, so I know I’m doing something right!

One is The Feed and the other is Bromography, both of which I’m very excited about.

What do you hope readers take away from what you write about?

I hope readers learn about eating well and eating healthy. I hope readers learn about some of the pressing issues in and around food and the food industry. I hope my blog makes people laugh while providing a little insight.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cooking For Life

With work, errands, and other commitments I have on a daily basis, it is hard to fit in time to do things that are good for me. One thing I wish I could do more of is to cook daily for myself. I make my own juice often, using my juicer or blender and different combinations of vegetables and fruit. But I am not part of the raw foods movement, as admirable as I think it is. I have hot meals daily, and I am always looking for variety and time to make them. Getting take out on a regular basis is something I used to do, and now I try to limit it to once a week, or once every two weeks or more.

I find that the key to cooking as part of my daily/weekly routine is to keep it simple. I attempt more elaborate recipes on days when I have more time to tackle them. This is usually a cake or other type of dessert, or a more complicated savory dish that requires more steps than the usual daily fare. I only take on the latter if I feel inspired by the recipe and feel that I can pull it off. I also make sure to have the right equipment for the cooking tasks I assign myself. For example, I don’t have a double boiler, so I avoid recipes that require it.

For me, cooking can be therapeutic and rewarding. I feel good when I can successfully combine ingredients and prepare them in certain ways; they are minor accomplishments that give me the confidence to do more and challenge myself further. Choosing what I put in my body is empowering; I don’t have to worry about how much cholesterol, fat, and/or sugar a certain dish may have if I am the one who put it together. It’s also generally less expensive to cook at home than to be constantly going out or getting take out, which is an added bonus for me.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Best Shape of My Life

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about how great it feels to be in shape and how much I wanted to be active again after a summer of laziness. We talked about fitness in general, what I usually do to stay healthy, and what being in great shape might look like for me. Then he said he could get me in the best shape of my life in less than a year, and as little as 6 months if I was really committed. Those who know me know that I love a challenge. I'm not as competitive with others as people might expect, but I'm fiercely competitive with myself. So his positioning was actually rather perfect, even if he didn't set out to make it that way. 

And so it began: he or I kept bringing it up and soon we were both serious about it. We went to the park and he made note oyang performance at the start. Along with a whole host of other exercises, he wrote down how long it took me to run 1.5 miles (14 minutes), whether I was able to do 10 regular push-ups (of course), and how many pull-ups I could do (barely 1, and it was assisted). He showed me how to do a bunch of exercises and now "coaches" me via text on mornings when I work out, telling me what to do that day or how many miles I should run. 

As usually happens when I start down this path, I've also become more conscious of what I eat. I'm not following any strict diet or anything, but I know that I feel pretty awful if I don't eat well the day before a big workout. Losing weight isn't the goal, after all, but really just being the best me I can be. I want to feel stronger, run faster, and make it up to my friends' places without feeling like I'm going to collapse (I've somehow ended up with 3 friends who live on the 5th floor of walk-ups). 

My 6 months is up at the end of March, so we'll see how it goes between now and then, but I'm already starting to feel better knowing I have a plan and somebody to keep me on track.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Capturing the Casual

I've recently started a process of redesigning my professional website. The old version is still up, but I'm working on new content and thinking about color schemes and things like how to effectively bring my personality to life online. I expect the new site to launch sometime in January, which intellectually seems a long way off, but in reality time is flying and 2012 is just around the corner.

There are a couple of things I'm learning through this redesign process, the first being that it's good sometimes to take the time to really do something right, rather than leaping into it headlong. I tend to be a little impatient with things like this--once I decide I want a new website, I want it NOW. So, I end up throwing something makeshift together, and not being super happy with it in the end.

A second (related) thing I'm learning is that sometimes it isn't good to do everything myself. Sure, I'm tech savvy enough to get by on a day-to-day basis, and I'd consider myself more web-literate than the average person, but I'm nowhere near an expert. So I've finally taken the much-needed leap of hiring a professional web designer (hooray!).

A third thing I'm learning through this process is how difficult it can be to let go of control over something as important as my online image. My website, really, is my most important professional "face," because most of the people I interact with are spread around the country. As such, I'm struggling to develop web content that I can hand over to the designer and say "This is what I want; this represents me."

Images are very important to capturing that essence, but really great photos are often difficult to come by. I've determined that I need to be more proactive--not just taking a camera along on big events, but carrying one day to day and having my picture taken as I go about my ordinary life. Special occasion pictures often turn out well, but if they don't, there's no do-over. On a day to day basis, I can wear different outfits, try different poses and espressions, and really figure out how I look best, and what defines ME, visually.

I'm trying to capture the casual, so if you ever run into me in real life, don't surprised if I impose upon you to snap a few quick photos!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Forum: Last Meals

For the foodies among us, one thing that comes up every so often is a question asked of chefs all over: if you could choose your last meal, what would it be? So today we're asking you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Are You Hungry?"

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes Diana as a guest blogger who let us interview her about her newfound passion for blogging. Here's the first part of her interview:

Diana enjoys transforming ordinary recipes into guilt-free, healthful meals that bring pleasure to the palate. She shares her latest ideas, inspirations, reviews, interviews, and plenty of food for thought on her food blog, Between the Tines.

What inspired you to start a blog?

A certain career coach by the name of Kristina Leonardi was instrumental in inspiring me to start my food blog. I’m sure my answer doesn’t surprise any of you!

Kristina is quite intuitive about reading people. She’s gifted at helping when people come to a crossroad in their life and need to make important decisions about how to move forward. She truly has the ability to cut to the heart of the matter and get down to the business of seeing what a person is passionate about, what they should be considering as an alternate path, and then finding a way to help guide them to take that first step.

Kristina gently pushed me to start blogging because I had something to say and because I really needed to explore this creative outlet. I’m a Creative Director for the marketing industry by trade so I’m very used to dealing with the copy aspect of design. I simply had to rethink my work experience and apply it to something that was specifically for me, rather than the corporate environment I was so used to focusing on. I’m convinced that it’s all about rethinking who you are and realizing that you really can recreate yourself.

Why did you choose to focus on food?

My focus is on food because that’s where my true passion lies. That’s all I think about! I’m a food-and-healthful-eating-junkie. Throughout the day my thoughts swirl around my next meal, what I’m going to prepare, and how I’m going to prepare it. I drive everyone at home crazy because I’m planning dinner at breakfast time. I got excited when the last gifts I received were a black truffle and fermented garlic! One day I took a survey of all the magazines I subscribed to. Every one of them was a cooking magazine. At that point I was beginning to get the message.

To say the least, I’m known in my circle of friends as a passionate cook. I love to have everyone over for dinner and it gives me great pleasure to hear that everything tastes wonderful. I get a lot of personal joy from feeding people. The first thing I ask when someone arrives at my home is, “Are you hungry?”

I also have to mention that a number of my daughter’s friends often show up “unexpectedly” when they hear I’m preparing a meal (and I absolutely love it). I’m quite flattered when I find out that a group of her friends are coming over solely because they heard I was having one of my “dinner-events”. These kids are all around 19 years old, and they think I’m cool because I can cook!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shaking Off Regrets

I try not to hold on to regrets if I can help it. It does not always work of course, but I generally reach the conclusion that a situation did not work out the way I wanted because it was meant to happen that way. There have been job interviews that did not materialize in employment, aborted travel plans to places I have yet to visit, and sometimes not making the kind of impression I want to make due to nervousness or other reasons. Instead of focusing on the past, even if it was only yesterday, I make sure that every day I try to make things better better for myself. It's not always easy, but I usually adhere to this way of thinking and it does help. Of course it can be difficult to do this when there are people around me who wallow in their regrets, and try to make me do the same.

I purposely try to keep away from people who are regret-ridden (of the non-criminal variety of course), but there are those in my family and associated with friends who I cannot always avoid. I do my best to tolerate their behavior, and stand up for myself when needed. Sitting through stories from people who regret their marriages, or how they are afraid to go back to school because of how bad they were in academics as children, or how much they hate their current or past jobs are normal unless they are repeated ad nauseum and those telling the stories have learned nothing from them. When I try to alleviate the mood by telling some to look forward to today and tomorrow, I am sometimes ignored, get a roll of the eyes, and occasionally I am heard.

We have to make the best with the time we are given; that goes for all of us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Other Things We Love

In keeping with last week's theme of doing and not doing what you love, there certainly are things we always seem to find time and money for. They aren't quite the same thing, of course, because they're simply for enjoyment or entertainment and require no commitment or work on our part.

Take theater, for instance, which I've been spending quite a bit of time and money on these past few months. Those of you who've been reading for a while know that I really enjoy going to the theater. Shakespeare in the Park is one of the highlights of my summers, and this past one was no exception. I've also seen Hair, Newsies (now a musical playing in NJ), Sleep No More, and Hamlet at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Tomorrow night, I'm seeing Rent and in a couple of weeks, I'm going to Sleep No More again. I've spent hundreds of dollars on tickets and countless hours traveling to and attending these shows.

It's been a lot of fun and I feel enriched by these activities and sharing them with people I care about. But while I've had a great time experiencing theater this year, I guess my point is that adding up all those hours makes me feel even worse about neglecting other things that are important to me, like writing. Why do I choose to distract myself with something like an expensive musical when I could be at home relaxing and getting some words down? I'm hoping to make some better choices through the rest of this year... that is, right after Rent tomorrow night!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Do NOT Read This Post

Doesn't that title make you want to read whatever I'm going to say just a little bit more? I thought so. This is one of the things that's always puzzled me about censorship; despite all the various forms it takes (some more insidious than others), in the process of trying to stop people from seeing or reading something, you often end up calling more attention to it and inspiring interest from people who might not have even noticed it otherwise.

This topic is on my mind because authors and book lovers around the country recently celebrated Banned Books Week, which is our way of honoring artists who speak truth and whose words contain a particular kind of power that has the potential to frighten small-minded people, those who want the whole world to agree with them on every imaginable perspective. As someone who's spent a great deal of my life dealing with diversity--embracing, encouraging and embodying it--I can't stand the thought of opinions being suppressed, and people's minds and hearts being suppressed along with them.

It's something of a badge of pride among published authors (especially young adult authors, I'd say) if your work has been challenged by a school board, a PTA, or a conclave of concerned citizens. We're proud of the impact our books can have, and we understand it very well, because lots of other people's books have had an impact on us--as young people, as writers, as humans. Books can touch readers in ways that no other media can. As authors, we know we have the power to reach people--maybe not to change their minds, but to make them think. And why is that so scary?

During Banned Books Week, I kept thinking about my own writing. I don't know if my books have been challenged...yet...but I know they will be in the future, because I write about things that make some people uncomfortable. Racism, classism, death, sex, violence, power. I write about genuine fears and deep loves, the way we hurt one another and the way we're affected by tragedies. And, particularly, how it all starts when we're young.

In 1992, Stephen King wrote an op-ed after some of his books were removed from school libraries, saying: "When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It's a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought. ....As a nation, we've been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn't approve of them."

Not much has changed in twenty years. Hopefully, twenty years from now it'll all be better. In the meantime, I'll settle for being amused by the attention that people draw to the books they challenge, and I will continue supporting other writers in the effort to keep our books on shelves in even the most tightly-closed corners of the country. I'll study all the handy, lengthy lists of "banned" or challenged books, and see what piques my interest.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Forum: Pain & Gain

They say "no pain, no gain," but just how far do people take it?

When it comes to beauty regiments (hair relaxing, leg waxing, etc.) and exercise routines (daily runs, kickboxing, etc.), how hard do you push yourself? Do you sometimes think the expectations are unrealistic?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Read All About It

One one of the things we love most on the blog is hearing from all of you. Whether it's feedback, ideas, or comments, we can't get enough of it. But it's extra special when we hear from you in the form of guest posts.

We know that all of you have things you're passionate about or struggling with or getting over, and we would love to read all about it. So send us your guest posts and give this blogging thing a try -- we want to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good New Days

There really is no such thing as the good old days when it comes to safety and freedom. When I heard a news report about the overall reduction of crime and overall violence in general since the 20th century, I was not surprised. Why? Because as one who loves history, I know enough about it to know that many problems people faced on a daily basis are not as common as they used to be. Even with the creation of more efficient weapons of destruction and more war, humanity in general is much better off than ever before. It just doesn’t feel that way sometimes.

As a woman today, I can travel on my own or with others with far less chance of being assaulted or killed than my predecessors. I admire travelling women in previous centuries because they risked their lives and took more risks than I will ever know. While it does not feel that way at times, I am aware that travel is much easier than in the past. The time it used to take to cross the Atlantic was so much longer and far less safe than most of us realize.

Even as a fan of classic movies and well done period films, I am wise enough to know that I would never have wanted to live during those more repressive times. Classic films I love, which tend to be of far better substantive quality than those produced today, often depict beautifully dressed men and women pursuing each other until either triumphing or losing in the end. In reality, the actors and actresses behind those roles were made and destroyed by the studio system that they worked for. I love Jane Austen’s novels and many of the films based on her works, but I would have hated to live in during her lifetime. She died in her 40s, and had to conduct herself within certain social parameters that most women today would find ridiculously restrictive.

Do you agree that living now is better than in previous eras?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Doing What We Love

Why do we stop ourselves from doing the things we love? I’ve been struggling lately (and by “lately,” I mean at least a year) with this question.

I have a friend who wants to be an actor and moved to New York partly to pursue that. When I ask him about it, he’s never much closer to taking his acting seriously than he was the time I asked before that. Another aspiring actor studied theatre in college and hasn’t gone on any auditions or even gotten headshots. I also have a friend who used to dance and was quite talented but had to stop years ago. Even though she now has some time and resources to start dancing again, it’s too emotional for her to even try.

All my life, I’ve loved to sing. When I stopped singing regularly with a chorus (or “for real,” as I like to call it), I lost confidence in my ability and eventually it became harder and harder to think about doing it again. Similarly, for the past few months, I’ve found it harder to sit down and write something substantial – one of the things I love doing most. I write here once a week, but it’s nothing like what I used to write when I used to write “for real.”

So I have to ask why it is that we stop ourselves from doing the things we love. I wonder if we don’t think we’re good enough, but it doesn’t seem that simple. I think maybe we don’t think we’re worthy of doing something we truly enjoy – something that has the potential to make us truly happy. Whatever it is, I’m trying to get us all out of our funk. However big or small our steps are, I’m hoping my friends and I can all get back on track… I imagine we’d all be at least a bit more fulfilled.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Long Distance, Birthday-Style

My mother just celebrated her 60th birthday, and when it came time to give her a gift, I found myself at a bit of a loss. What do you get for the gal who has everything? (By which, of course, I mean, the woman who has me for a daughter?) I actually had this thought in my head (in jest, of course), and after I got over that particularly egotistical moment, I realized that there was actually a bit of merit to my initial reaction. Here's how:

My mom lives halfway across the country from me, and one of the things that makes her happy is when she gets to see me (of course) and short of that, when she gets to talk to me on the phone. But, there are only so many things you can talk about on the phone without repeating yourself, so I had a new creative idea of how we could share an activity together long-distance. We are both nerdy, bookish, puzzler-types and we both enjoy word and logic puzzles like crosswords, Sudoku and picture logic.

My idea was that if we both had the same puzzle book, and started the same puzzle at the same time, we could call one another when we got stumped and it would be like we were sitting at the same table working on a giant jigsaw like we often do over the holidays. I thought it would be a nice piece of me to share with her.

She was very excited to receive the gift (because while she doesn't truly have everything, she doesn't need more stuff, either. Who does?) and she appreciated the gift of my time as much as the gift of the puzzle book (which, let's not lie, saved me some moolah). Even though we haven't started our shared puzzles yet, I am also really looking forward to calling her tonight to see how it goes!

I'm sure once we get on the phone we will revert to the old standbys--(Mom: How was your day? Me: How's Dad? Mom: Sold any books lately? Me: How's Dad?)--but the puzzles look like fun, too, and it will be nice to be together for a while, even from a distance.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Forum: Spooked

Halloween is still a month away, though it's hard to tell when it seems to already be everywhere. We think it's still too early to be talking about Halloween itself, but it does make us wonder: what gets you spooked? Is it a scary movie, reading a thriller, going on a ghost tour? Share in the comments!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Link Love for 9/29

It's time for our next link love roundup, as we try to make up for lost time. Here are some great links for you to read through and comment on.

NYWSE takes a different approach on giving advice by listing the 5 great reasons NOT to grow your business.

Lindsey Pollak also has a list for us, except this one's on how to have more fun at work.

Downtown Dharma wants us to take a different kind of message home with us: imagine peace.

Girl w/Pen has us shift gears a bit with an in-depth post on young feminists and the budget.

One Writeous Chick shares something that really spoke to us about the fears that come along with writing.

Hope you enjoyed these. Be sure to leave links to what you've been reading and writing online in the comments.

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.
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