Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Forum: A Royal Morning

It seems everyone this side of the pond is just as excited about the Royal Wedding as the Brits. Some point to the fact that there are few unifying events that are this joyful, so maybe that's it!

Did you get up early today to watch the festivities? Or are you avoiding all of it and waiting for it to pass?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Determination Meets Serendipity

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Karen as a first-time guest blogger this week.

Originally from the UK, Karen lives and works in NYC. She makes her living as an accountant but is also a collage artist.

What do you call those times when the entire universe seems to falls into place? When you feel there’s nowhere else you'd rather be and no one else you'd rather be with? Right here, right now. Atlas didn't shrug, he snuggled.

So here I am: intrepid solo traveller, nursing a broken ankle, drinking red wine in a seedy pub in Berlin in the early hours of a cold October morning. Since that horrible day three months earlier, when I hit the wet floor of the locker room at my gym and just knew it wasn't good, I’ve been working towards this moment.

My family and friends told me I'd be crazy to travel – my leg was encased in a big black boot, reliant on Percocet to get through the night – but my trip was booked and paid for. I resolved that nothing would stop me from going!

I surrendered a little of my independence by booking a wheelchair. At JFK airport I was cossetted and cared for. I swept through security like visiting royalty.

I was traveling to see a band, the Tiger Lillies, three middle-aged British guys I consider good friends. They’re spending a month in Berlin performing their "Freakshow" which has several circus acts. So there we were on my first evening in this amazing city: me, the band, three friends from London, and members of the cast. There are two little people (she's a dancer, he performs with Ringling Bros.), a snake lady who can contort herself into positions I never dreamed of, and a man who juggles hats and knives.

Surrounded by these amazing creative people, what did I feel? Freedom. Peace. Happiness! I don't care about my ankle or "Das Boot," as it came to be known. I wish I could bottle this moment and take it home. I know it's impossible to feel this way all the time, but it's good to remember that I helped to create that moment myself. Determination and a little serendipity came together at that moment, and it’s up to me to make it happen again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Emotional Prisons

When the people I care about go through difficult times, such as dealing with those who want their emotional destruction, I want to help save the day. In other words, I want to inspire them to stand up to their villains and take them down, once and for all. Call it a hero complex without the glory, because I don’t want to be thanked at all; I just want to give strength to those who don’t have it. What I have realized is that my efforts are usually fruitless. True victory for those plagued by others has to come from the ones who are oppressed. It is the only way they can truly be free, once and for all.

There are all kinds of prisons; I know about the ones that cannot be seen. People I know in these situations describe their feelings of fear and isolation so profoundly that it evokes feelings of confinement. I have even visited people in their homes and felt the walls closing in on me; it is like visiting someone in a cell. There are no bars and barbed wire, and they can get out once in a while, but they always go back, because they are not ready and/or don’t have the strength to revolt and break free. The people I know undergoing this plight are those in bad marriages, relationships, and in highly dysfunctional families. A family member of mine is friends with a man who was emotionally terrorized and manipulated by his mother for years: he had a strictly enforced curfew, had his mail opened without his consent, and was told he could never leave home, even though he had thousands of dollars saved in the bank. It took getting married to make him break out of that prison; he was in his early thirties.

I feel for those who are emotionally imprisoned, especially if they desperately want to be free. All I can do is pray and hope they find the courage to stage their own “prison breaks.”

Have you experienced emotional imprisonment in your own lives?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Unfazed Traveler

I've been trying to plan a vacation for several months now and I've definitely been in need of a break. But instead of some intensive trip like my Europe backpacking experience, all I want is to lounge in the sun, read, and drink cocktails. So when a friend of mine proposed a trip to Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend a few weeks ago, I quickly said yes. It's got all the things I need and requires very little effort.

The effort, of course, comes in the planning. First there was picking a hotel and checking flight prices obsessively, and now there's the drama of people actually committing. Between the time the idea first came up and now, a mere month away from the trip, the people who say they're going has changed countless times, and I don't actually know right now who will be there or for how long.

But, you know what, I don't really care. Much to my surprise, I'm totally unfazed by all of this.

I know that I have my flight booked and a hotel room ready for me. I know the pool will be open much of the day and have a bunch of eBooks waiting to be read. I know how much I can spend on drinks and have decided I'm staying away from all the gambling. The only thing I really have left to decide is whether or not to watch the Beatles Love show.

And if I have to do all of that with only one friend for a couple of days and then spend the rest of my time alone, I'm fine with it. At the end of the day, I'm still getting what I want out of this trip: rest, relaxation, and a healthy dose of self-indulgence.

I'll be sure to let you all know exactly how all of this works out, but something tells me I'll be fine with whatever happens, and that's got me more excited than anything else. I constantly feel like I need a vacation from my vacation-planning, and for the first time, I'm ready to just enjoy my time away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Too Tired to Tweet

I find myself experiencing a bit of social networking fatigue lately. I've been active on Facebook for several years and I have a Twitter page, yet I realized recently that it has been about a month since I logged into either account! I often pop in only once a week or so, but now my check-ins seem to have dropped off almost completely. So, what happened? I'm still not exactly sure. It's been a busy couple of months, sure. My computer is old and struggling, true. But I have a smart phone, and I'm genuinely interested in staying connected and finding out what people are up to, my friends and "friends" alike. So why does checking in seem like such an ordeal these days?

I'm worried about my online drought because it feels like things might be passing me by. For instance, Facebook has become a gathering place to let people know about exciting news. On my last few pop-ins (a month ago!) I learned that a good friend had given birth to her first baby, and another had gotten engaged. Changing your status from "in a relationship" to "engaged" is a big deal now, and it seems to be the way a lot of people are making the announcement. If you don't keep up, you don't find out. In all the time that's passed, I'm afraid I've missed similar milestones from others. And I've definitely missed opportunities to keep people updated on good news from my end (positive book reviews and things like that) as well.

I'm hopeful that the tide will turn and I'll soon find myself tweeting up a storm and updating my Facebook status every once in a while, at least. In the meantime, I guess I have to live with the ambiguity of not having seen or read it all. ("Did you see the photos so-and-so posted?" "Oh, I invited you to my party through FB Events.") It's shocking how much our online connections come up in real-life conversation. But instead of making me feel like I'm getting the scoop another way, it just makes me feel more out of the loop.

Are you a frequent social networker? How well do you keep up with all the buzz?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Forum: Stay Green

Today is Earth Day, one of the smaller, forgotten holidays we celebrate each year. But for those of us who pay attention to our energy consumption, recycling habits, and other ways to go green, it's a great time to share ideas and get tips on being more Earth-friendly.

What are some ways you stay green year-round? Do you have any tips to share with others who want to do their part?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 4

It's "spring break" at CHICKS ROCK! Instead of our regular posts this week, we're highlighting some of the issues and topics we've covered.

Today, take a look back at our guest bloggers and the stories they've shared with all of us. Don't forget that you can be a guest blogger too -- just read our guidelines and submit a post!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 3

It's "spring break" at CHICKS ROCK! Instead of our regular posts this week, we're highlighting some of the issues and topics we've covered.

Today, you might need a reminder that there's more to the world than your immediate surroundings, so take a look at our posts on travel and tell us when and where you're going on your next trip!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 2

It's "spring break" at CHICKS ROCK! Instead of our regular posts this week, we're highlighting some of the issues and topics we've covered.

Today, we want you to reflect on the power of getting in touch with yourself by looking back at others' Visioning Workshop experiences. Hopefully they'll inspire you to listen a bit more closely to your inner voice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 1

It's that time of year again: we're going on a "spring break" of our own here at CHICKS ROCK! We're not leaving you all alone, however, because we want you to take a chance to read up on some of the topics we cover a lot on the blog.

Today, we want you to take a look at issues that affect women, the experiences of women, and events geared towards women. After all, women drive the work of The Women's Mosaic and what we write here on the blog!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Forum: Taxing Activities

Even though your calendar might say today is Tax Day, you've actually got a couple more days -- until the 18th, to be exact -- to get them in.

Have you had your taxes done for months, or do you procrastinate and wait until the last minute to turn them in?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Get Moving to Support Women

One of the great things about TWM is that they are constantly working to support other organizations and non-profits. One way they do that is by participating in the Revlon Run/Walk annually, and this year is no exception. Check out the details below and be sure to join them or donate to the team.

TWM's Team for Revlon Run/Walk for Women's Cancers
Saturday, April 30th 7am - Noon

Looking to make new friends?
Do you want to get in shape?
Would you like to help others?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then join The Women's Moasic Team for the Revlon Run/Walk! We will be banding together with thousands of people on Saturday, April 30th to walk as one and put an end to women's cancers. Every step we take will bring us one step closer to the cure, with your help we can make this disease a thing of the past.

If you would like meet some great people, have a fun morning out and make a difference in thousands of lives please contact Team Captain Mary Brower at to or click on the link below to register directly.

This year's team has special meaning since TWM's longtime friend and board member Melanie McEvoy is a breast cancer survivor after being diagnosed immediately following her very first mammogram just last spring.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Natural Talents

We all have talents. A few of us out there achieve levels of genius that can and do make significant impressions on many, while others get by with or neglect what their gifts for a variety of reasons. Mostly I have heard people complain that they cannot make a living at what they are best at, so they choose what is safe and steady, which is hard to come by these days. Many become discouraged due to rejection, and then refuse to go on. The problem is that when one’s talents are suppressed, that does not mean that they just go away. Instead they remain within us, festering under the surface.

I just saw my cousin in one of the two lead female roles in her high school production of Guys and Dolls, and it got me thinking about my own natural talents. She is a fantastic singer with great stage presence; her ability to perform has been with her since childhood, when I saw her dance with her friends as part of an Indian classical ensemble. While part of a group of singers in this production, my cousin’s soprano voice stood out among the others, which were all very good in their own right. It was the first time I had ever heard her sing on her own in public, and she did it as if she had been doing it for years. I was so proud of her, and then I thought about my own desire to write. I am definitely not the best writer by any means, but I love doing it. I also notice that my writing improves the more I experiment with it. I use writing in all aspects of my life, including work, but to use it to create stories and write on topics and incidents that interest me are what I want to do more of.

Do you suppress your natural talents, or try to use them as often as possible? Does the fear of mediocrity bother you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The College Years

I've never been one of those people who wanted college to last forever. While I was there, I was eager to leave and start the next chapter of my life. Even though I love learning and knew I would miss taking classes, the actual experience of going to college wasn't something I needed to prolong. So while my peers constantly look for opportunities to go back and spend more time reminiscing on college days, I ran off and never looked back.

All of this is to make you understand how strange it is for me to suddenly realize how great my college experience truly was.

This past weekend, I spent some time on my old campus. At an annual event that would normally be filled to capacity, the room was practically empty. The dining halls closed early. Walking around campus during a time that used to be buzzing as people got ready for the night's festivities, it was practically silent.

I looked around feeling bad for the students there now and how lonely their college experiences must be. It was the first time I thought about how good I had it.

Even though it was mostly a commuter school and the campus seemed "dead" on the weekends, the truth is that there was almost always something to do and people were usually excited and eager to be there. Events on the weekends would quickly sell out and parties on campus and off had long lines and overflowed with party-goers. It was a great time to make new friends and lasting memories.

I'm still glad college ended when it did and I'm not looking to turn back the clock and wish I was still an undergrad, but I have a new appreciation for my time there. I guess I really did enjoy more than my college courses.

Have you ever reflected on your time in college? Do you sometimes wish you could go back?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Listening Big

I'm not a big radio listener these days, and when I do tune in I typically listen to music. So, I was surprised but excited when I was invited in for a cool interview on NPR last week. I've done radio interviews before, but I must confess that each time the experience takes me a little outside of my comfort zone. I'm used to talking about my books, but I'm used to talking directly to young readers--not into a fancy microphone!

I went on the Michael Eric Dyson Show to talk about my new novel Camo Girl (I managed to mention The Rock and the River a few times, too). The interview was recorded and incorporated into the episode that aired on April 1 in select markets nationwide (woot!). I listened to it when the podcast went up online, and I was pleased to hear that I sounded normal, maybe even intelligent. I had been really nervous going into the interview, so I'm really glad that it turned out well.

To be honest, downloading my own interview was one of the first times I've listened to a podcast. I hear people talking about them, and I've heard of many podcasts that sound intriguing to me, either by subject or concept or host. Yet, it's a form of media that I'm not sure how to access in an ongoing way. I have the technology, but I don't always remember to use it. I'm looking for ways to remind myself to try new things and stretch the boundaries of my experience, to move beyond books and conversations, to other media and ways of connecting. It feels like a wave of the furture, in some ways. I'd better get on board!

Are you a radio listener? What shows/stations do you enjoy? Follow any podcasts?

If you're interested in my Dyson Show interview, you can download the podcast or listen online. (If you don't want to listen to the whole hour, my part starts at 23:00.) Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Forum: Don't Forget Your Goals

A quarter of the year has already passed us by (we can't really believe it either!). It seems a good time to do a quick personal goal check!

How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions or any other goals you've set for yourself this year? Are you feeling productive as we head into the spring, or do you have your work cut out for you?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Conjuction Junction

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.

Synergy - the bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously. ~ Mark Twain

I find it curious that the words desperate and disparate sound so similar; and although their meanings are distinct and technically have nothing to do with each other, I think there is a correlation. A well-known strategy used by one group to influence power over another is to 'divide and conquer'; to keep people, things, countries, ideas, religions, and feelings separate and often opposed to one another. This way they’re unable to come together as a unified force and therefore have strength to accomplish their goals and objectives, which dis-empowers them. Regardless of whether the power desired or deserved outcome on either end is good or bad, it is a tactic that is extremely effective.

The most obvious place to observe this happening is in the military and political arenas, but there are more subtle ways that this truth can affect us in our everyday lives - within our families, at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, in the media and entertainment we consume, and often, within ourselves.

Lately I've noticed a lot of folks are feeling disjointed, fragmented and compartmentalized at best; discombobulated or defeated at worst. Everywhere we turn, there seems to be a sledgehammer creating wedges and a myriad distractions coming at us from all sides: us against them, head against heart, black vs. white, profit versus purpose, logic battling intuition, young vs. old; material values vs. spiritual ones, mental health vs. emotional health vs. physical health.

As the saying goes, we can't serve two masters - we must be unified in that which we revere and honor, integrate our disparate parts and connect to who we are, so that we can connect to others for the greater good. Because when we don't, we feel lost and alone, which when not addressed, can lead to feeling desperate. And that is never a good place to be - because decisions made from fear and desperation are never the best choices.

So if you're having a little trouble synthesizing your yin with your yang, make sure you take some quality time with yourself so you can live with yourself, and others, in perfect harmony.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thoughts On Cursing

Let’s face it: most of us curse. I don’t curse on a daily basis, but sometimes I find expletives escape from my lips at certain times, and when I do I surprise myself. Still, I am glad that every other word out of my mouth is not a “bad one,” because there are so many cleverer ways to make a point.

Just the other day I heard on the radio that three of the top songs on the radio all have a certain four letter word in the title; of course when the songs are played on the air, the word is replaced or covered up. It got me thinking about how acceptable curse words have become in our daily lives and all over the media, even when they are suppressed.

To be honest, it does not matter to me if a song or song title has the “F bomb” or any other curse word in it. Still, if I hear someone constantly cursing when speaking it does make me a little uncomfortable and slightly annoyed. I know it becomes a hard habit to break, so I can easily look past it. When I get the chance, I would like to ask someone why they always resort to cursing when expressing themselves; I hope they won’t call me a b-word, or worse. The possibilities are endless.

While I am not faultless when it comes to cursing, I would like to think that I can express myself effectively without having to use them. What makes these words so attractive are that they are still forbidden, evoke strong feelings, and are easy to use. Yet whenever I have had to verbally defend myself and set someone straight, I used pointed non-expletives that were extremely effective. I think that is why Jane Austen and her novels still resonate with people today; she knew how to give the best verbal assaults!

What are your thoughts on cursing?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sick Day

After avoiding it for several weeks, Sally finally caught the bug that's been making the rounds in her circle of friends. She's out sick today, but be sure to read up on posts from the past by checking out what she wrote this time last year: A Commute Disrupted, Blogging for Equal Pay Day, and Not Your Mother's Uniform.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Can See Clearly

I participated in The Women's Mosaic Visioning Workshop again this weekend. I've posted several times before about my participation in this semi-annual workshop, and as usual it was a unique and valuable experience.

When I explored my collage history recently, I observed several trends and common themes that extended from one piece to another, but I also noticed an increase in focus with each finished collage. My early collages were an almost indecipherable collection of images, individually meaningful, but not always adding up to a clear picture of anything on the whole. This result always seemed fitting to me, as my life at each of those moments was muddled in a variety of ways. Who am I? What is my place in the world? I grapple with these questions, and sometimes it seems like there could be more than one answer. Sorting out the mess of my thoughts hasn't always been easy, but I keep on trying.

This weekend's collage painted a more cohesive picture, at least in my mind. I could see my life (at least for the immediate future) stretching before me in a very pleasing way. Surprisingly, too, I could see how far I've come in the few years since I started attending the Visioning Workshop so faithfully. Granted, the workshop itself is merely a tool in self-exploration and discovery, merely one piece of a larger process of my evolving sense of self. But a meaningful one, one that leaves me with a snapshot of my hopes and aspirations so that when I look back in the coming months and years I can remember that one day, for just one moment, everything seemed possible.

Have you ever had a moment like that, when the clouds part and suddenly the sky above seems clear? What was that moment for you?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Forum: Spring Has Sprung

Spring is in the air and all the things that come with it (flowers, love, sunshine, baseball season) are on our minds.

What do you look forward to every spring? Is there a particular holiday you enjoy or outdoor activity you start participating in?

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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