Thursday, March 31, 2011

Link Love for 3/31

You probably can't tell by the weather, but spring is here and it's already time to say goodbye to March. Let's close out the month with some link love!

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur shares a few things that Wonder Woman can teach us about leadership.

Downtown Dharma has a post from our very own Kristina urging you to stop the tsunami in your life. (Speaking of which, there are still some spots left in the Visioning Workshop, so get in while you still can.)

Girl w/Pen takes a look at hooking up and the charged takes on sexuality.

Lindsey Pollak has tips and advice on being your own publicist in order to jumpstart your career.

Savvy Ladies explores the rise of the "sugar mamma" and why it's better than you think.

Woodhull Institute's blog celebrated Women's History Month with "Woman of the Day."

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Retreat From Technology

At an event in New York City last week, a friend and I got into a conversation with someone about the ongoing obsession with all things pertaining to technology. We are unable to get away from our computers, iPods, iPads, and anything else that allows us to communicate, view, and share information instantly to anyone. While the three of us agreed that we cannot go without our cell phones and Internet access, especially when living in a world that is constantly changing and demands us to change with it, we also expressed our desire to not be dependent on technology like a drug. I thought about it carefully, and decided to take some action.

I would hate to be a slave to anything, and technology is high on the list of things I refuse to be enslaved by. After careful consideration, I decided to designate most of every Sunday as my technology–free retreat day. I realize I can easily keep my phone turned off and abstain from my computer for most of the day once a week, and Sunday is my day to do it. I know that many of us cannot fathom the idea of doing this, but I look forward to a time when I can just get away from all screens big and small to see the world for myself.

Call me old fashioned; I don’t care. I am nostalgic for the days when children went outside to play, rather than stay indoors to become sedentary. When I taught English in Indonesia to children from wealthy backgrounds, I asked if any of them go outside to play after school or on weekends; they looked at me as if I was an alien from another planet. I helped arrange outdoor activities near the end of my tenure at the school, which was a revelation to them and to me. Getting them away from their cell phones, video games, and other technological accoutrements did not disable them from having fun, which pleasantly surprised them.

Could you take part in a technology-free retreat once a week?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Life Lessons at a Media Conference

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, March 28, 2011

The Beat Goes On

It's never been a goal of mine to spark a literary or cultural movement, to live in the eternal cosmos as a person who made a world-shaking, indelible mark....but I guess the idea of achieving that sort of legendary status dances at the edge of any artist's mind. And it certainly never hurts to draw inspiration from the minds and lives and letters of the legendary among us.

All of this is to say that I recently had the pleasure of visiting the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, home of Hotel Boheme and City Lights bookstore, places frequented by Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and friends in their Beat Generation heyday of the 1950's. I've actually never felt a strong connection to these particular writers, but it's still inspiring to walk in their shadows, to browse the shelves that first held their now-famous words, to dwell and dream among their ghosts that seem to linger in the air--at least in the form of memory.

Until now, the Beats existed for me as vague shadows, a vanguard of sorts, but one whose contribution hasn't touched the sphere in which I live. I may have been wrong about that. I read about the Beat poets and the ways they pressed the boundaries of what was considered appropriate and proper by speaking things that were difficult and true. It wasn't an easy road. Ginsburg's published poem HOWL, which sparked the movement, faced (and defeated) obscenity charges on trial in a U.S. court. It seems that, thanks in part to the Beats, the edges of the written word opened wider. It's nice to look back and realize that I am, in some small way, a beneficiary of that effort.

What legends do you look to for inspiration?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Forum: Just Another Holiday

The beginning of the year seems full of holidays: New Year's, MLK Day, President's Day, St. Patty's Day, and more. For many people it comes down to their personal celebration of the holiday, or whether or not it means being off from work.

Do you take the time to reflect on the various holidays on the calendar? Or do you look at them as being the same as any other day?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Translating Patience

CHICKS ROCK! wants you to welcome Bridget back as a guest blogger this week:

Bridget is a graduate of Vassar College, where she studied Political Science and Women's Studies, and former TWM intern. She loves watching movies with her younger brother and playing rugby.

"Could you please talk slower?" It’s a phrase I’ve said countless times now, trying to integrate into a foreign country.

It was at TWM’s Visioning Workshop two years ago that I realized how important my passion for German culture is. Covered in images of travel, my poster board inspired me to study abroad in Berlin that summer. I then applied for (and was awarded) a scholarship to study and work in northern Germany for a year.

So here I am, immersed in German society, living with German roommates, fulfilling my dream of working at the Ministry of Justice, Equality, and Integration. Every day, I join my neighbors on bike paths, pass bakeries and sausage stands, and head to work. In the Equal Opportunities in Work Life department, I’m learning the German perspectives on issues like equal pay and the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. Seeing firsthand how federal policy develops has been the most valuable experience. It involves a lot of debate, which means I always have my dictionary! Though it’s frustrating to only grasp general notions of sentences, it’s an achievement when the hazy fog lifts, leaving clarity and comprehension.

The biggest lessons have been humility and patience. I've had to accept that many times I don't know what’s going on, but the only way to get better is to not give up. Sure, sometimes I need a break and ache for something familiar, so I go to McDonald's for my fill of Americana. But I’m inspired by the compassion of my new friends and coworkers. Without a doubt, my experience has been largely shaped by their kindness, patience, and generosity. There’s a stereotype of Germans as cold, unfriendly, and negative; I’ve found that simply trying to communicate in German goes a long way in earning their respect. It doesn’t matter that I make mistakes, as long as my meaning comes across. Using goofy hand gestures and theatrical body language to express myself is just a part of my life now. And it’s totally worth it for the opportunity to be exposed to people of different cultures, to challenge my own beliefs, and to constantly change and adapt to a new place.

I like the juxtaposition I have here: feeling at home and foreign at the same time. It makes me feel awake and alive, but maybe that's just the cold northern wind!

Have you ever had difficulty expressing yourself? How did you overcome this?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Travel Philosophy

Each time I come back from somewhere else, I surprise myself a little at how I slip back into my daily life. I guess the surprise comes from the experiences I have away from home, such as getting more visual proof at how beautiful, big, and interconnected our world is. It makes me want to go away more, or to live a semi-nomadic existence. Perhaps it is not an ideal existence for some people, but it appeals to me.

I am also reminded that a week is usually not enough time to do another country justice. My recent trip to Ireland reminded me of this fact. The country may be small enough to drive from coast to coast in a few hours, but there is so much history and pastoral beauty to explore there that driving through it and not stopping every hour to take everything in means visitors miss something. That is how I felt while taking trips to Northern Island and its West Coast. In the back of my mind, I knew I should return to some of the villages and towns I spent fleeting moments in to do them more justice; then I thought about all of the countries I have not seen yet, and the thoughts overwhelmed me a little.

I met a German woman who confessed that she has visited fifty-five countries, which made me slightly envious. At the same time, I wondered how much quality time she spends in these many places. After my brief interaction with her, I was left with the impression that she uses travel to escape from her life. I have known people like this who use travel to escape from their families, social circles, cultural and/or religious pressures, and so much more. Escape is tempting, but we cannot escape who we are permanently.

For me, I constantly want to learn, and travelling is the ultimate and best way for me to do this. Rather than escaping from myself, I want to face who I am when moving from place to place.

How do you view travel?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking My Body Back

This past weekend, I attended Endangered Species, an international summit on body image organized by the Women's Therapy Centre Institute. There were panels and presentations on airbrushing in ads & magazines, men and body image, the medicalization of the body, and more. On the whole, it was not only informative, but also empowering. And it came at a really great time for me.

When I started working out and eating better months back, I did it to feel better and be just a bit healthier. I didn't give up the things I enjoy eating (I've had ice cream for dinner more than a couple of times in the last 6 months...), and I never went on a diet or got hung up on calorie-counting. I didn't restrict myself, I merely paid more attention and made better decisions using the "everything in moderation" credo. Between that and hot yoga, running, and ballet, I was feeling great, but I also lost about 15 pounds. That's where the trouble started...

Everyone noticed the changed and told me I looked great. Most people asked me what my secret was and how much more weight I was going to lose. With everyone buzzing around me, putting my body and weight front and center, I started to care much more than I have in years. You see, I had finally gotten comfortable not caring about how thin or fit my body looked but rather how good my body felt. Suddenly, here I was again preoccupied with the extra 5 pounds I gained in the last couple of months and not liking what I saw in the mirror.

Which is why I'm so happy I went to this event. It served as a reminder of why I changed my habits in the first place: to feel better. I do miss going to hot yoga and running to de-stress, but I'm going to start doing it again because it makes me feel great and not because I gained some weight back (which only I noticed). From now on, if somebody starts talking about my body, I will take it as an opportunity to reaffirm that we're all beautiful and should be much more concerned about how we feel about ourselves than how we look.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two Roads Diverged

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, March 18, 2011

Friday Forum: Wasting Time

Last week was all about saving time, but we all know how much time is wasted as well. Whether it's a healthy dose of procrastination or activities you find yourself constantly avoiding (like spring cleaning, yuck!), what are some things you do to waste a bit of time and avoid doing what needs to get done?

Are online games your weakness, or perhaps too much time on Facebook? Or do you go out for coffee with friends or an afternoon of shopping?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Putting Pep in Your Step

We know you're ready to put some pep in your step now that spring has officially arrived and luckily for you, it's already time for the next Visioning Workshop from The Women's Mosaic! Make sure you RSVP to claim your spot before it sells out.

VISIONING WORKSHOP: Using Your Creativity and Intuition to Gain Clarity, Find Focus and Manifest Your Dreams
Saturday, April 2nd, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Feeling a little confused with all that's going on with your career and the economy? Not sure what to do next with your life? Maybe your just a bit unsatisfied overall but can't exactly pinpoint what it is...

Our Visioning Workshop can help you sort it all out!

Come to our popular and powerful semi-annual workshop for a creative, transformative afternoon where you will make a collage to manifest your heart's desire - and you may be surprised as to what that turns out to be.

It's not unusual for participants to start new businesses, relationships, families or career paths as quickly as weeks or months after the workshop. If you are looking for both answers and results to help figure out where you are right now in your life and where you want to go next, this could be thing exact thing you need to push you forward and take you there.

COST: $85 for TWM Members; $130 for Non-Members
LOCATION: TRS Professional Suites, 44 East 32nd St, 11th Floor

RSVP on Facebook or by emailing

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Downside Of Giving

Have you ever lent money to people you thought you knew, only to be shocked when they don't return your phone calls or even acknowledge that the transaction took place? Even if money or other services (free baby-sitting, housework, crying on your shoulder, etc.) are given without the expectation of receiving anything back, givers usually believe they have their recipients’ respect and esteem, at the very least. I think we all know that this is not always the case.

I come back to this dilemma quite often, even though I stopped being an insatiable giver a few years ago. I have family and friends who constantly find themselves shortchanged by those they give to; some of them are moving past this, while others still fall prey to it. Family members I barely know in India expect my parents, uncles, and aunts in the United States to support them and their families for as long as they live. A glaring example of this is an unemployed, yet perfectly capable cousin with three young children who refuses to work; his wife worked until she became pregnant with their third child last year. When she found out, she quit her job and stayed home for the duration of the pregnancy. Another cousin and an uncle of mine support them financially, but they show little or no gratitude for this arrangement, which is beyond my understanding.

Whether it is financial or emotional expectations, givers have to realize that the act of giving can become enabling. The recipient may see the generosity as a symptom of gullibility, and if they manipulate the situation, the giver can be left out in the cold. Before I give my time to someone, I think about any expectations I may have from the aftermath, and who the recipient is. Do I want something in return? Am I prepared for the possibility of this person becoming distant afterward? I find that if I have low or no expectations, I am pleasantly surprised when gratitude and a genuine reciprocity of feelings are expressed.

Can you give without expectations?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Carving Out Some "Me" Time

I don't know about you, but sometimes I think the universe and the scheduling gods are laughing at me. After months and months of non-stop plans (happy hours, birthday parties, dates, work and more work, etc.), I decided this past weekend that I was going to make a conscious effort to not make plans for the next couple of weeks. With my birthday coming up, I knew things would get hectic again in the beginning of April, so I wanted some time off.

That was a great decision for me to make, and a hard one at that, except that when I looked at my calendar, I noticed I already have plans for all four remaining weekend days in March, and for several weekdays between now and the 31st. I'm on two workshop panels, I'm covering an event on body image, I'm celebrating at least one birthday (details are being finalized for another), and I've got two concerts and a musical to attend. Then there are all the people I've tentatively made plans with, who I might try to push until my birthday so I can see them all at once.

People keep telling me to stop complaining and to enjoy the fact that I'm young and so active, but it's hard to do that when all I really want is a few days to myself. What would I do on these days, you ask? Well, I could catch up on my writing, go for a run, take a hot yoga class, and maybe bake a batch of brownies or something. Just some good old "me" time, you know?

Hopefully I'll be able to take the time to do just that in a few weeks. Until then, I'm going to figure out how to squeeze more hours into the day...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Simple. Beautiful.

With everything that’s complicated and intricate in the world today, it continually surprises me when something simple strikes me. A glimpse of a spring bird in winter. A memory that rises from within an unexpected scent. A joyful thought with no foundation. Tiny things that seem to pop out of the blue.

These small things are what I cling to when things around me seem shaky—and at times such tiny moments actually arise when things are shakiest. I guess “shaky” is an apt metaphor, given the recent earthquake disaster in Japan. I ache for those for whom all simple, everyday things must now seem so distant.

A friend said to me recently (in a discussion of the quake), “I don’t know how we’re sitting here, going about the day to day.” In light of the suffering going on across the world, she meant. Not that we have to look as far as Japan to find suffering in our midst.

Her comment made me wonder for a long moment, about what the correct response to global tragedies really is, in the short and long term. We can give money, send prayers, raise awareness—generous acts of deep human kindness that, in time, bring healing to those who hurt. Yes. Good. We can watch the news coverage and cry, show we care, that we feel something for the unimaginable. Yes. Good. But there always comes a day when we turn off the TV and we try to forget. Maybe we succeed.

Whether we are near to a disaster or far from it, there has to be meaning in our will to go on living. Is it apathy? Sometimes. We can own that and still move on. Because, in the end, what are we really giving by wallowing indefinitely in pain for the sake of empathy?

There’s such wonder in our midst—at times it’s large and tragic, sometimes small and hopeful. Tiny gifts that all the complexity in the world can’t account for. Grace in the curve of a flower petal. Hope that rises from ashes, the hands to repair broken things. It reminds me to smile, sometimes through the tears.

What helps you heal in the face of tragedy?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Forum: Saving Time

We hope nobody's forgotten that this weekend is Daylight Savings Time! As you spring the hour hand on your clock forward, think about the ways you could be saving time every day.

How do you keep yourself organized and focused on "saving" time throughout the year?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Wo)Man Up

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

Kristina Leonardi is the founder of The Women’s Mosaic. She is a career/life path consultant, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of women, diversity and personal growth. Join her March 21st at Staying Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

This week marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, so in honor of this occasion I'd like to give a special shout-out to all the men out there and encourage you to celebrate all the ways in which women make your lives better, acknowledge what you can learn from us, and inspire you to get in touch with your feminine side with unabashed pride.

Dan Abrams just came out with a book called Man Down, a tome that provides extensive research proving how women are pretty much better at everything. Whether you believed that or not, the key is to remember that we are not in a Battle of the Sexes, but that everyone needs to demonstrate the best characteristics of both worlds.

The reality is that most men have a problem expressing emotion, long considered a girly trait. The amazing irony is that as I am literally in the midst of writing this post, I flip the channel to see the end of Charlie Rose interviewing David Brooks about his new book, The Social Animal. Charlie, who is clearly an exception to this rule, admits how important it is for people to have the "power to express yourself and have emotional intelligence." David comments how he, and most men, struggle with this and how he admires Bruce Springsteen as someone who is a 'manly working class guy who can be emotional in a respectable way.' (Thanks fellas for validating my post right as I type it!)

Most men will never know what it feels like for a girl, so since this year the day also fell on Mardi Gras, what better excuse is there than to 'dress' in drag metaphorically and try your woman-like alter ego on for size. I don't mean a full-on Tootsie or Mrs. Doubtfire, but more like the guys in I Love You, Man or The Boss in all his glory; allow yourself to be just a little more sensitive, intuitive, creative, and expressive of what it is you're feeling.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving It Up For Lent

I was born and raised Roman Catholic, but I no longer practice the religion. I identify myself as a Christian nonetheless, with certain Catholic tendencies. These flare up considerably just before and during the season of Lent; I have a tendency to want to give something up in preparation for Easter. I fail more than I succeed, but every year I still hope to successfully abstain from something I do often but don’t need to do for forty days.

In the past, I have given up sweets (although to be honest I rarely eat them), all animal products, and eating take out; this year, I am giving up watching all television. Even though I don’t own a television, I find myself watching television programs online or renting television program series from the library or my local Blockbuster.

I don’t think my need to abstain from a guilty pleasure is due to Catholic guilt; instead, I think more people should do something similar to this regardless of their religious and/or spiritual affiliations because it helps in all sorts of life transitions. Personally, I feel that it helps with my transition from a particularly harsh winter, where I found myself sequestered indoors, to the spring and summer seasons, where I hope to be outside more often than not. Television is an indoor activity that has the tendency to isolate people from one another if done too much, and even a non-addict like me can see its negative effects in my own life.

So now that the season of Lent has begun, and I look forward to forty days without television and more books, I feel good knowing that I am doing it because I want to. It is a far cry from my Catholic school days, when I was forced to abstain from something to please the priests and religious educators who gave me little understanding or insight into Christianity as a whole. Because of this, the Lenten season means much more to me now than it ever did before.

Will you be giving up something for Lent?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

100 Years of Honoring Women

It's not a very big deal in the United States so you may not know this, but today is International Women's Day. Not only that, but it's the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, so I couldn't very well let the day pass without writing about it.

Originally called International Working Women's Day, it started as a Socialist event and had political motivations in several countries. Since then, it has grown into something much more than that, marking a day around the world where women are celebrated. Events are held to honor women, discuss gender issues, reflect on women's achievements, and prioritize for the future.

These days, the United Nations chooses a theme for International Women's Day, and this year's theme is equal access to education, training, and science and technology. In previous years, themes have included violence against women, women and HIV/AIDS, women and peace, and so forth. Individual countries and localities, as well as other organizations, can also choose themes based on their own needs and the issues they want to highlight.

What I really love about this day is that it offers an opportunity for women to come together globally. There aren't too many international holidays, and there certainly aren't many other days that bring women together the way this one does. I suppose that's why I think it's a shame that it isn't celebrated as much in the U.S., though I think people have become more aware of it in the past few years thanks to feminist and political blogs and the reach of women's organizations. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years we'll all have events lined up for this day and won't need to be reminded that it's here. A great way to start might be to simply remind the women in your life how much they mean to you and how proud you are of their accomplishments.

Do you celebrate International Women's Day in any way? If you could choose a theme for this year, what would it be?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Books Galore...No More

After many years of hemming and hawing on the issue, I've finally decided to take the bull by the horns and pare down my book collection. As a writer, avid reader, and generally insane bibliophile, this is extremely difficult and time-consuming proposition.

As I've posted about before, several times, I am very attached to my books. Whittling them down to a volume that fits comfortably on my bookshelves is no easy task, but I've decided that the books I own fall into several general categories: old favorites, life-changers, classics/meaningful-to-own volumes, research material, authors I know personally, yet-to-be-read, and miscellaneous. (Truthfully, there's another category that takes up a ton of space itself--copies of my own books! Nothing to be done about that one, so I'm focusing on what I can work with.)

Currently I'm concentrating on the stacks of "yet-to-be-read" and "miscellaneous." Apparently, one of my vices in the last decade has been to purchase books on a whim, and never get around to reading them. I stopped my reckless bookstore visits over a year ago, just to save money, but it's been hard for me to admit that there are books I've owned for years that I will probably never really read. I keep thinking, "Someday...." Yet in many cases that day never seems to come around.

I want my bookshelves to be a reflection of who I am as a person; I want their contents to hold significance to me, and to represent what I care about and value. (Which is why there will always be a swath of partially-read black history volumes around, among other things...) But to have a bunch of books hanging around, entirely unread, doesn't fit in that picture. Especially when a large part of why I hold onto them is simply the regret that I spent money on them that now feels like it has gone to waste, and I need to make up for that "someday."

My decision: Let go of my attachment to each book's intrinsic value, and adhere only to it's emotional value to me. If I don't really care, it must go!

How do you deal with parting with beloved personal artifacts, when the time has come to let go?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Forum: Life's a Carnival

A major Christian holiday, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, is right around the corner, but you don't have to be religious to take part in the various carnivals and other celebrations around the world.

Whether it's Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street or Carnaval in Brazil, have you ever been to one of these festivities? If not, do you think you'd ever go?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Link Love for 3/3

It's about that time again, when we check out what others have been posting and highlight some of our favorites.

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur reminds us that having a successful career means loving what you do.

Girl w/Pen ended an interesting series about feminism with a look at how our choices are shaped by generations before us.

Lindsey Pollak has a guest post on networking effectively and getting what you want.

NYWSE advocates for socially responsible investing and introduces us to an investment advisory firm doing just that.

One Writeous Chick reminds us that when we struggle to stay hopeful and focused, we need to dig deeper and reach out to those who believe in us.

Savvy Ladies wants us to communicate with our partners about finances in a meaningful and effective way.

That's what we've got for you this time around. Let us know what you've been reading and writing online by dropping a link (or several) in the comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Genealogical Mysteries

Recently, I have become interested in a show called “Who Do You Think You Are,” which traces the genealogy of famous people. It fascinates me because I have always wondered about my roots, and I am envious at how easy it is for many on the show to trace them through paper trails. It is almost impossible for me to discover more about my mother’s and father’s families because of the lack of consistent records in Southern India. My family is also not very interested in our ancestors and how far back we could trace our roots.

What I do know about the four sets of great grandparents is that they all could not generate and sustain proper incomes to support their families. One of my great grandfathers on my father’s side lost two wives (one to illness, another to a poisonous snake bite) and had no financial stability, and this forced my twelve year old grandfather to leave home to support his younger brothers and sisters. According to family reports, my grandfather worked in factories and moved from place to place in India until he joined the British Army during World War II. He never saw action; instead, he learned how to edit films for soldiers who were so far away from their homes. My grandfather was never formerly trained, but through his interactions with other Englishmen involved in film during that time, he learned to edit film so well that he became an award-winning film editor in Kerala. He even won a national award for film editing in the 1960s.

What interests me about these stories from my family history is that I sometimes wonder if there are some characteristics that were passed through the generations to me, my siblings, and/or my cousins. We will never know the whole truth, but that is fine with me. What I know is that my genetic, cultural history is complex, and that my story isn’t so different than many others.

Do you know or care to learn more about your family genealogy?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Understanding the Book-Phobic

I recently found out that Dr. Seuss' birthday is March 2nd, so between that, my reading The Hunger Games series, and the Borders bankruptcy, I've been thinking a lot about books and reading lately. It's no mystery to everyone who reads this blog that, along with my fellow bloggers, I love reading even more than I love writing. I always took for granted that many of my friends growing up also liked to read. Lately, though, I've been meeting more and more people who don't like to read, and I just don't get it!

The usual explanation I hear from people is that they prefer to read non-fiction or academic books because it teaches them something and they can't be bothered to read fiction. Fiction, as they see it, is a major waste of time. I read enough books on politics, feminist theory, history, etc. to know the satisfaction that comes from learning something new and digging deeper into a subject you're passionate about. But I also see the undertones and subtexts in fiction and know that there's a lot to learn from that too. And, at the end of the day, it's incredibly entertaining and a more stimulating alternative than some of the dreck on tv. I also sincerely believe that there is a book or a series out there for everybody, they just need a nudge to actually read it.

Then there are those who say they don't have enough time or patience to read, or that just plain don't like it. These are the people who don't read anything at all, except for maybe some blogs and the occasional newspaper or magazine. It's a mystery to me how these people and I are able to get along.

I guess reading is such a huge part of my life, that I can't imagine life without it. I mean, what's better than grabbing your favorite blanket and curling up with a good book with a mug of hot chocolate next to you? Nothing, that's what, so that is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my nights this week.

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