Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Past and Present

Today is Leap Day, which only comes once every four years as everyone knows. I always saw it as a day I was glad not to be born in, since Leapers have to choose either February 28th or March 1st as their birthdays on non-Leap Years. I do not personally know anyone who was born on a Leap Day, so I am not sure if the common feeling shared by them is one of annoyance, pride, or both. It is probably amusing at times to claim to be younger than they are because of their actual birthdays being celebrated once every four years. It must also be a nuisance dealing with government agencies when Leapers use their true birth dates. I would not relish that.

I just found out that in Irish history, Leap Day was designated as the day that women could propose to men, and if a proposal made on this day was rejected, compensation was made to the scorned. I actually believe that this was a very good idea at the time, especially since women were expected to wait for proposals from potential suitors, or have their parents arrange marriages on their behalf. Rejection of these proposals did not leave any of these women empty-handed either, which must have helped to soften the blow. The common penalties were multiple pairs of gloves, gowns, or just money. I think that if I lived during those times and made a proposal to someone who rejected me on Leap Day, I would have been able to move on well enough.

Leap Days in the modern age should be days when we continue to do things we would usually never do. If I lived near Disney World or Disney Land, I would be there all day because the amusement parks are open for 24 hours today. Perhaps leaping off a building, armed with a parachute? Well, I won’t be doing that this Leap Year, but perhaps I will do something unexpected in honor of the day. Why not?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Big Birthdays

My birthday seems forever away to me, yet all of my friends have been asking me for weeks what my plans are. At first, I brushed it off with a simple "dude, that's months from now!" Birthdays aren't a big deal to me but they seem to be super important to everyone else I know. Then the more I got asked, and the more weeks that passed, the more anxious I got. What AM I doing for my birthday?

So far, my plans consist of the Mets' opening weekend at CitiField and a performance of the hip hop improv group I'm obsessed with, Freestyle Love Supreme. In reality, I would've gone to both of these things anyway but since they just so happen to fall on the weekend of my birthday, it was easy to say "hey, birthday weekend extravaganza!" My extravaganza is falling a little short, though, since I've yet to figure out any sort of party or gathering which might also happen that weekend. Karaoke? Bar-hopping? Dancing? I have no idea.

Normally, I wouldn't even care, but the pressure everyone around me puts on having a great birthday is starting to make me antsy. As more and more of my friends either near, turn, or pass 30, it seems they all want everyone to do it up "while we still can" -- as if birthdays suddenly suck after you hit a certain age. Who knows, maybe they do, but I simply can't imagine that. Why, then, can't a few simple gatherings with people you care about be enough?

At the end of the day, I doubt it'll make much of a difference when my birthday actually arrives. Last year, the pressure was definitely on but I got sick and simply decided not to reschedule any attempt at a big outing. People were disappointed, but I didn't care. It is my birthday after all!

Do you feel pressure to have a big birthday bash? How do you normally celebrate?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rubbing Elbows

I recently returned from the NAACP Image Awards out in Los Angeles, where my second novel, CAMO GIRL was nominated for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. It's pretty exciting to be nominated for anything, but especially when I get to go to an award show peppered with celebrities where I can see them up close and personal.

I'm not too big a follower of celebrity gossip. I usually hear the major stories, and I do okay in pop culture conversations, but I'm by no means an expert. I rarely read movie star magazines, I don't always know who is dating whom, and who is starring in her own new reality show, or whose marriage is on the rocks. I'm a casual observer at best.

But, put me in a room packed with television, film and recording stars, and suddenly I'm asking myself how close is too close to pass by Samuel L. Jackson in the crowd without looking like I'm doing it on purpose to try and catch some skin? (Don't worry, I didn't get nearly close enough. Nor would I actually randomly touch a celebrity. Really. Not unless the crowd was jostling just so....)

Ahem. The point of this is that, while I was momentarily starstruck by being in the same room with folks like Viola Davis, L.L. Cool J, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Sandra Oh, it's also a surprisingly humanizing thing to see people in person and realize they're not truly larger than life, they simply look like it on t.v.

I've never aspired to the kind of fame that movie stars draw. My definition of success is almost entirely internal--when I feel successful it has more to do with what I've accomplished than how many people are looking when I accomplish it. So I wouldn't expect to fit in in a room of screen actors, but I did fit there, because I realized that I have more in common with them on a human level than it would appear at first glance. We are all just making art, and hoping people like it. We all occasionally wobble in our high heels, or read a wrong word off the teleprompter. We all have to squint at our ticket stub in the dim lighting to find our way to our seat. We all bring a friend or partner along with us, because it's awkward to go it alone in such a weird social setting.

It's less intimidating to be among the stars once they start to seem like people. It's easier to walk up to them and say "I enjoy your work" when I think about how nice it is when other people say that to me. The little glow of their stardom doesn't fade with this realization, but it makes the world seem wider open, as if all the seemingly unattainable things might be closer at hand than we realize.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Forum: Childish Dreams

When we're young children, our dreams are sometimes ignored or laughed off by adults. Most of us get discouraged from pursuing them, only to think of them years later. Maybe you wanted to be in a band and can now take singing lessons. Or perhaps you dreamed of being a writer and can now start a blog.

Do you have any childhood dreams you've tried to act on lately? Can you think of anything that you'd want to take on?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Link Love for 2/23

Time for another fabulous round-up of what we've been reading online. If you know of any blogs we should have on our blogroll, please link to them in the comments and we might include them in our next link love post.

Alexia Vernon inspires a dose of self-love and moxie.

Downtown Dharma provides a few lessons from a helpful nutritionist.

Girl w/Pen has their own great round-up of motherhood and feminism links.

In Good Company shares some resources to help entrepreneurs with blogging.

Lindsey Pollak wants you to be the Jeremy Lin of your workplace.

Let us know what you've been writing and reading online!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sweets Ban For Lent

Now that the Lenten season has begun, I have decided to give up sweets for the next forty days. That means ice cream, pastries, cake, candy and more. It is going to be hard, but I am determined to see it through. It is so easy to get a carbohydrate fix with all the readily available donut shops (a particular chain comes to mind, and one of those locations are near my apartment) but I am looking forward to resist the temptation. It will be good for me and probably help me change some dietary habits in the long run.

In the past, I have given up television, going to restaurants and getting take out, using cell phones and the Internet after 10 PM, shopping for non-essentials, and more. I have not given up anything for Lent in the last few years, but decided to resurrect the tradition this year to get ready for the rest of the year. I think I also just want to refresh my daily routine, and this is a good way to do it. I know that observing Lent in this way is considered religious practice, but for me it is more to do with my overall well-being.

Lent is similar to a spring cleaning of the soul, or at least I think so. It does feel like spring this winter anyway, but I will be glad when the weather has really warmed up so I do not have to wear a coat or jacket anymore.

Are any of you giving up anything for Lent?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oscar Weekend!

The end of February is near, which means that most people are excited about being just a bit closer to spring. But what I'm excited about is Oscar weekend!

For the third year in a row, my sister and I are going to AMC's Best Picture Showcase. This means that for 24 hours this weekend, we'll be holed up at the AMC in Times Square, enjoying some of the best performances of 2011. The weekend will likely lack in comfort and convenience -- there's only so many popcorn refills you can handle in a 24-hour period and those theater seats don't even recline -- but I'm so excited about watching the films, talking to other movie-lovers, spending the weekend with my sis, and having an excuse to eat whoppers at 2am.

Having learned a bit from the last 2 years, I've already got a comfortable outfit picked out with plenty of layers (yoga pants, a tank, t-shirt, AND hoodie), a list of snacks to buy (peanuts M&Ms and granola bars), and my naptime movies picked out (the two I've already seen: Midnight in Paris and The Help).

The movie marathon ends around 11am on Sunday, giving us enough time to head home, shower, nap, and make some snacks to keep us going through the Oscars Sunday night. To make things even more fun this year, I'll probably be taking part in some live-tweeting or live-blogging on Oscar night, covering everything from the red carpet fashion to the tears, jeers, and cheers of the awards show.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Women and Children First

As a children's writer, I find myself contending with a lot of different social issues in my work. My personal background and my interests lead me toward topics that can be seen as controversial, especially when these writings are directed at young people.

I often write about race, and about characters with diverse racial backgrounds, and about the history of race relations in America. I sometimes write about sexuality, and teen characters experiencing first romances, dealing with attraction and coming to understand their sexual orientation. I write both boy and girl characters, and sometimes I face questions about what it means to be a woman and write from a boy's perspective.

All of these issues--race, sexuality, gender--fall under the larger umbrella of "identity," which is what a lot of literature (especially young adult literature) deals with. Thus, I spend most of my time thinking about how these issues are portrayed through my characters, within the life of my novels. I spend much less time thinking about how they affect me as a writer.

To be more specific, perhaps I should say that I spend less time thinking about how they affect me professionally. Of course I think about race and gender and sexuality in my own life as a human person, but I've never been the type to consider myself at a disadvantage because of where I stand in the world based on my gender or the color of my skin.

Last week I published an article online with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts about gender and children's literature, in which I took time to reflect upon the social significance of being a woman who writes for children. Here is the article. I came out of the experience of writing the piece feeling great about what I do, but not so great about the place children's literature currently holds in the world. Most children's writers are women, and I think that plays a role in why this culture looks at children's literature as simple and not worthy of much respect. So much of women's work--essential work, like raising and educating children--is looked down upon and disrespected, and that really needs to change. The sooner the better.

Have you ever stopped to think about how gender impacts you in your job or profession? Or, is it obvious? Do you feel the impact every day?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Forum: President Faves

The not-actually-a-holiday Presidents' Day is coming up but instead of debating that holiday, we decided to turn up the nerdiness dial a bit.

Who are your favorite Presidents, past or present?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Personal QT

Don't forget to RSVP for this Saturday's Visioning Workshop! There's nothing quite like devoting a day to only yourself and you're sure to enjoy it!

Get all the details for TWM's Visioning Workshop here and spend some QT (quality time) with yourself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Looking Back At High School

I just received notification from the high school I graduated from regarding an alumni publication, requesting information and photos of me to include in it. I usually ignore most mail I get from the school, but I actually thought of calling the phone number provided and telling them to remove any mention of me. Why? Because my high school experience was not a good one, and it did not help that my parents paid good money for me to attend the institution. My elementary and middle school experiences were far worse than those I had in high school, but I did expect more from the latter, especially since my tuition increased every year while the quality of my education decreased. Most of my teachers were mediocre at best, with the exception of one who made me look forward to college.

The harsh treatment of the school administration towards my class during our senior year was what made me decide to never have anything to do with the school after graduation. The principal at the time decided to punish us for the bad behavior of the previous senior class, which led to deep resentments; it was as if a black cloud loomed over us until we graduated. I even remember that many people did not go to prom that year, and I was one of them.

Because my academic experiences before my undergraduate education were sorely lacking, I appreciate good teachers and school administrators even more, whether they are found in public and private schools. I started loving education when I went to college, because I met more educators who knew how to teach, and took classes that were both difficult and interesting at the same time. I really felt like a butterfly that had been a caterpillar for far too long before then.

I may just ignore the notification from my former high school in protest of the bad education I received from them. Perhaps that is best.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tricky Timing

One of the strangest things about life is timing. It's strange how everything seems to fall apart at the same time, but then also comes together at the same time.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was stressing out about going on my tropical vacay to Antigua without having a job. Even though the vacation was booked way before I was jobless, it seemed like a waste of time (not to mention, the opposite of relaxing) to spend an entire week abroad, with limited internet access when there were jobs to apply to and interviews to go on.

So it was pretty much the best news ever to finally land a gig just as I was off to my vacation! Then while away, I learned that I got into the grad program in Paris I had applied to a mere week before!

Of course the timing of everything was kinda crazy to me. I was happy to learn that I can petition for a deferment to enter the grad program in the spring or fall of 2013 instead of this fall (and now hoping it's accepted), but it's still a lot going on in a very short period of time. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, just realizing how quickly things can fall apart and then how quickly they can all gel back together again.

Now I'm back from paradise, hating the cold, but excited about figuring out the next steps in my life -- starting with my first day at work tomorrow morning!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughtful Touches

Most people who know me know that I am a very big ice cream eater. There is nothing more delightful to me than a waffle cone with a double scoop. Except possibly a waffle cone with a triple scoop.

This is not a passing enjoyment. This is a passion. When I see giant ice cream cones out in the world (you'd be surprised how many there are) I always have my picture taken with them. I once ate twelve scoops of ice cream in one day (for charity). I've gotten into arguments with people about ice cream. My preferred flavor is vanilla, which some people find boring. I have an ongoing debate with one friend about whether vanilla is even a flavor--he says "vanilla" is the same as "plain," but I say it's utterly essential because it's part of the base to every other flavor. And so on.

My all-time favorite ice cream flavor is SUPERMAN, which I used to have all the time as a kid, but never could find as an adult. Turns out, it's not a widely known flavor because it's produced by a regional ice cream company called Hudsonville, based in western Michigan. I learned this during an author visit to Grand Rapids, because after my talk, the librarians came bustling up to me with cheshire smiles and said "Come on, we have a surprise for you."

They proceeded to take me to an ice cream stand that served SUPERMAN. When I saw it on the menu, I was beside myself. I'm sure I squealed it: "How did you know?"

They told me they had read an online interview in which I had lamented that I hadn't had SUPERMAN ice cream in many years. I couldn't even remember offhand which interview it was--I later found it, but it was really obscure. I couldn't believe they had not only read it, but were thoughtful enough to make it a part of my visit to their city. I had a huge double scoop of SUPERMAN that day, and I will never forget it.

The point of all of this is that ice cream is a thing that I love. The flavor, the chill, the crunch of a cone. It brings me joy. And nothing is more meaningful than when people notice a thing about you that brings you joy, and go out of their way to help you experience that joy again.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Forum: Valentine Faves

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we're thinking a lot about love and friendships. What have been some of your favorite Valentine's Days -- whether with a partner, your best friend, or even a family member?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Link Love for 2/10

While we're waiting out the rest of winter, let's perk it up with a few links we love.

Alexia Vernon thinks you have something to learn from watching how people place orders at restaurants.

Girl w/Pen celebrated 39 years of Roe v. Wade in a post that seems even more timely now, a few weeks later.

In Good Company posted 5 difficult questions to ask yourself if you're an entrepreneur -- that are also important to ask in life.

Lindsey Pollak lists 15 important resume tips for those of us just starting off or needing a brush-up.

What have you all been reading and writing online in the last few weeks? Be sure to leave links in the comments.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Relationship With Dickens

Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday was celebrated worldwide on Tuesday, February 07, 2012, and I suspect there will be celebrations for the rest of the week too. I listened to two BBC radio specials about the author, his work, and Indian views about both. I did not know there is such a strong affinity for the 19th century English writer in my mother’s birth country, but now that I do I am not surprised. Themes of social discord, money, poverty, child labor and abuse Dickens explored in his work resonate with many modern-day Indians. I believe (as do many others, I suspect) that novels such as David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist continue to attract readers today from all over the world because of the author’s ability to weave a variety of characters and their experiences together seamlessly.

I have a slightly odd relationship with Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations. I first read it in high school, and was confused by the two endings; the original one still depresses me, while the revised one is a bit too fairytale-like for my tastes. I would re-read the novel over the years, always with the false hope that the main character would avoid getting sucked in by his cold hearted childhood acquaintance as an adult, but alas, he never does. I continue to marvel at the writer’s prose, yet I am saddened by the characters’ journeys and ultimate ends. For reasons I cannot explain, Dickens’s depiction of the main character’s rise and fall in Great Expectations affects me in a visceral way. I think this is why it remains my personal favorite of his publications.

I always light up when I see Dickens’s novels in bookstores and in my shelves at home, no matter how dark they are. I look forward to revisiting more of his work in the near future. Dickens’s work reminds me that no matter how hard my life can get, the trials of his characters in the 19th century make my own slight in comparison.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Truth No. 2

Sally is not available this week, so enjoy today's post by TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi:

Tell me what's wrong with having a little faith in what you're feelin' in your heart.
- The Dixie Chicks (via Patty Griffin)

I try not to think as much as possible. This serves me well for many reasons. First of all, I am somewhat dyslexic, so the more I stay out of my head, the clearer things are for me. And forget about speaking; whenever I do my seminars what I say has to come from my heart and gut otherwise I would get super-confused and choke from stage fright and the fear of sounding stupid.

I have learned to operate this way more and more; it reduces stress by keeping me connected to myself and in the flow of life, in harmony with who I am and what I need or want at any given moment. It is the best source of motivation, decision-making and communications tool I possess because I have harnessed and developed it as such.

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise confronts Cuba Gooding, Jr. about why he hasn't been offered a ten million dollar contract yet, citing that how he is off the field is how he needed to be on the field. "Right now you play with your your personal life: heart....Play the game Rod, play it from your heart and you know what, I will show you the kwan. That's the truth, can you handle it?" Jerry knew that if Rod did what he loved with love, then, and only then, would he be able to show him the money.

And that doesn't just hold true in the movies. Steve Tisch, proud co-owner of the NY Giants declared that the key to their big victory this past weekend was that they "...played with heart, with passion, with love for each other and for the game of football."

Does that negate, replace or even diminish all the hard work, training, strategy, talent and skill necessary to achieve such great heights? No, of course not. But it's the thing that will make the difference between a good team and a great team, a good life and a great one.

Most of us are taught to live by our heads, logic and ego, not by our hearts and guts. But only when we listen to our hearts and put love into everything are we our most authentic selves, which means living our truth. And when we are living our truth, we can then more easily speak our truth, and stand in our truth. And that is the best way to guarantee peace and prosperity in our lives, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Million dollar contract, Lombardi Trophy or not, we are all players the Superbowl Game of Life - so are you playing with your head or your heart? Give me a buzz and I'll make sure that unlike Tom Cruise's confrontation with Jack Nicholson, you can indeed handle the truth and start living in alignment with who you are and what you want to make happen both on the field and off!

P..S Find out what's in YOUR heart at TWM's upcoming Visioning Workshop on 2/18/12!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Madame's Legacy

Last week I went to visit the Madame Alexander doll factory, which I was excited to learn is located in NYC's own Harlem neighborhood. I know someone who collects dolls, so I thought it would be fun to take her there. Not only is it a doll factory where the prototype dolls are handmade, it is also a doll hospital where people can send "injured" dolls for repair, and a Heritage Gallery displaying hundreds of classic collectible dolls from the Madame Alexander line.

I don't know much about dolls (that is to say, not any more than I knew back when I was six) but regardless, it's always fun to see something behind the scenes. My favorite thing was learning more about Madame Alexander, the company's founder, who was a pioneering business woman of the 1920s. She founded her doll company in her kitchen in 1923, and over the following decades nurtured it into an internationally respected business.

It turns out, she also developed a lot of the features I took for granted in my own childhood dolls. Madame Alexander was the first doll maker to license literary and film characters for look-alike dolls (like Rhett and Scarlett from Gone with the Wind). She created "sleep" eyes, which are eyelids that close when the doll is lying down. She manufactured the first line of hard plastic dolls in the 1940s. Madame Alexander's Cissy dolls were the first to be modeled after an adult woman's body as opposed to a baby or young girl. (Yes, this was several years pre-Barbie, and Cissy is more properly-proportioned!)

Bottom line: the dolls are really cute! And for me, they become more so when I realize they represent the legacy of a woman who must have faced every challenge the early 20th century posed to talented ambitious women, and still rose to the top doing what she loved. That's inspiring.

Images from

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Forum: Collectibles

These days, collecting records seems to be all the rage. It's not quite dolls, baseball cards, or stamps, but it's a cool hobby.

Is there anything you used to collect as a kid or have started collecting as an adult?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Manifest Your Dreams

TWM's Visioning Workshops have gotten so popular that even now that they're offered more times throughout the year, they still sell out! Get the details here and save your spot today!

VISIONING WORKSHOP: Using Your Creativity and Intuition to Gain Clarity, Find Focus and Manifest Your Dreams
Saturday, February 18th, 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*; $135 for Non-Members
*TWM Members can bring a friend at the member rate!
LOCATION: TRS Professional Suites, 44 East 32nd St, 11th Floor

RSVP on Facebook or by emailing

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hatred Where I Live

I know hate exists, but I will never cease to be shocked but its ferocity at times. When I heard of the recent firebombing of two synagogues in New Jersey, I was disturbed even further to learn that the suspect is from the town I currently live in, and that the synagogues are located in two nearby towns I know quite well. The close proximity of these attacks to where I live, and the hatred that fueled them reminds me that I don’t have to look overseas or in other areas of my country to discover people who are full of rage; they can be my neighbors.

When I saw pictures of the suspect, I was also struck at how non-descript he looks. He looks bored as he stands chained in an orange prison jumpsuit, and much older than his nineteen years. I have two cousins who are the same age, and they look and act nothing like the suspect to these heinous crimes. I sometimes wonder what factors led to someone stepping out of the law to indulge in violence that takes lives, or threatens to do so. Were they born with mental issues that lead them toward anti-social and then criminal behaviors, or did their environments influence their decisions to do ill? I tend to think that both create lone wolves or groups who revel in violence and hate speech. I shudder to think of gatherings of people united by hatred and expressing these feelings by words and actions, living near me and those I care about. I wish I could ignore their existence, but I cannot.

I will not let paranoia take over my life, but I am definitely more aware of people around me. Like millions of others who move in and out of New York City on a regular basis, I learned to be more alert after 9/11. This recent case of anti-Semitic violence reminds me of this even more, especially since it hit so much closer to home.

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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