Monday, April 30, 2012

The Art of Observation

I've been observing and enjoying a lot of public art lately. It might be because I'm traveling and so my eyes are open to noticing the world around me in different ways than usual. But even when I was last home, I found myself increasingly viewing the world in terms of visual art. I've been trying to take more pictures, and I always have my camera (or cell phone camera, at least) on hand and it makes all the difference when I am consciously aware of each new corner of the world as a potential photographic subject.

In every city I visit, I'm finding there is a notable presence of public art: dynamic sculptures, wall murals (some commissioned, some graffiti) activist-inspired installations, and much much more.

These discoveries have led me to think a lot about the presence and role of art in the world in general, and in public spaces in particular. I think about how essential it is, how delightfully overwhelming it can be to be startled, moved, inspired, made to giggle or to react in some visceral way to a piece of art encountered unexpectedly.

There's great power in art, which of course I knew already, being an artist myself, but the sort of art I pursue is more deliberate somehow. Readers don't tend to "accidentally" read a novel, not in the way you can so easily stumble into a piece of visual art, or overhear a song. I suppose you could compare the act of turning a corner and meeting a delicious sculpture to the act of browsing a bookstore and discovering a gem of a read you might never have gone in search of but just finds its way into your hand at the opportune moment.

At any rate, these recent glimpses of art continue to surprise and delight me. I continue to take their pictures and fold them into the photographic record of the life I am currently living. Which, I suppose is another layer of art unto itself.

Do you tend to notice art in the world around you?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday Forum: New New Year's Resolution?

If it hasn't happened already, this might be the time when a lot of people are wondering if they should change their New Year's resolution to something more manageable or more important to them. What was your resolution and how are you doing with it? Will you be changing it to something new?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Check In With Yourself & Us

We're now a third of the way through the year, so it's a good time to think about some of the goals you set up for yourself and how you're doing. Even better than that might be writing about it! It'll help give you some perspective and you can get support from others. So think about it and submit a guest post when you're done!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Return to Manhattan

Something I thought would never happen again is happening; I am moving back to New York City. I lived in northern Manhattan for a year in the early 2000s, and moved back to my home state of New Jersey afterwards, thinking I would never live there again. I thought this way for a variety of reasons, but the cost of living tops the list. As rents continue to skyrocket, I will never rationalize paying so much for such small living spaces. Now, I find myself getting ready to return to Manhattan without having to pay an exorbitant amount, and I am looking forward to it.

I have always liked New York City for all the obvious and not so obvious reasons. Manhattan in particular has always been great for me because I love walking, and when the weather is pleasant and I have time, I will explore neighborhoods on foot. It really is the best way to take in the sights; I even block out the auto traffic when I am not crossing the street, except when there is a major commotion. But even a few car horn blasts leave me indifferent, especially when I find myself walking on a particularly interesting street. I like having access to a car in New Jersey, but I will not need one in Manhattan, so I am looking forward to that.

I do not see myself living in Manhattan for a long time. I see it is a transition more than a permanent move, especially since I will not have a lease to abide by. I have been saying for a few years that I am looking to move out of the NYC metropolitan area, so I never thought I would be returning to Manhattan before leaving. I see it as a way to say farewell before venturing to places yet unknown. I am looking forward to my return stint as an older and wiser person, and this time I will make the most of it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beauty in the Breakdown

We're happy to share today's post from TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor Frankl 

I recently read about a pill being developed that would erase unpleasant memories, kind of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-ish. Of course I was appalled.  It's bad enough the American public is seduced by quick fixes to deal with many physical ailments that a simple change in diet and exercise, a reduction in stress, self-love and a little mind/body/spirit elbow grease would take care of.  Now they want to get rid of negative memories?!?!  We're already a society who over-eats, over-drinks/drugs, over-sexes, over-technologizes, over-works and over-realityshows to avoid what we're feeling!

There's a saying that many athletic coaches and trainers use: No pain, no gain. Yes, that can certainly apply to losing 20 pounds or training for a marathon, but it applies to our inner workouts as well.  As humans we like to avoid pain as much as possible, but pain can be a very useful tool if we let it.  Emotional, mental, physical or spiritual/soul pain shows us where we're out of wack and where attention needs to be paid and adjustments made in order to learn and grow in any area of our life.

To the extent that you are 'asleep' is the proportion in which the Universe is going to use some big 'ole version of its alarm clock to 'wake you up' and give you a big kick in the butt to do something about it.  And a kick in the butt doesn't feel too good, but we all need one now and then to propel us into action. Most of us don't want to endure prolonged suffering, so the pain forces us to take action. In other words, as I mentioned in the Well & article I was featured in, we often need to have a breakdown in order to have a breakthrough.

And remember that without pain we wouldn't know joy.  When we are experiencing something akin to the 'dark night of the soul,' think of the caterpillar who thought the world was over just before it became a butterfly, and that 'it's always darkest before dawn.'  Sometimes we just need to 'go there' - these are the times that are meant to test our mettle and force us to rise up like the phoenix from the ashes in order to evolve into a better version of ourselves - and who wouldn't want that?

So if you're feeling like you're about to crack, have been sleepwalking a little too long, or need someone to push you off that diving board, just Let Go, jump in, what are you waiting for? Give me a buzz and we'll find the amazing beauty in whatever type of breakdown is occurring in your life.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Don't Feel Like It

I don't feel like doing any of the things I'm supposed to do today. Work on my novel. Go to the library to do research. Post a new article or interview on my website. Monitor my social networking pages for updates. Tweet links to interesting things. Archive old emails. Revise my speaker brochure. Read a book. Slowly, I go down the list of activities that count as "work" for a children's author, until I end up at the very bottom of the list: Lie around and contemplate things.

Believe it or not, I actually do consider lying around and contemplating things part of my creative work, but there is only so much lying around a person can do before she starts to feel quite lazy.

When I was a kid, my mom occasionally allowed me to stay home from school under the guise of illness when we both knew perfectly well that I was not sick. She called the phenomenon a "mental health day," which I've since come to understand is a fairly common thing. I would stay in my pajamas, put on the television and veg.

I'm not quite sure what health benefit twelve hours of television really provides to a person, if any, but I admit I always found it more manageable to go to school the following day (no easier to get up and out the door in the morning, though) when I had taken a little break from the brain-taxing academic and social activities that filled the school day.

Today, I guess, I'd like to call in with a mental health day! I've been working crazy hours lately, trying to please my crazy boss (yes, that would be myself) and it is time for a bit of rest. Now, if I could only reach the remote control without actually getting out of bed...

Do you ever feel in need of a mental health day?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Forum: Pin It!

Pinterest is all the rage these days. The photo-based site lets you create inspiration boards of images and videos, and share it with your friends.

Have you tried Pinterest? What sort of inspiration boards do/would you have?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Be There For Yourself

There are still spots left for TWM's Visioning Workshop this weekend! Get the details and RSVP today!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting In Record Keeping Shape

Do you ever find your record keeping skills sorely lacking? I do at times. Every year when tax season is over, I find myself lapsing into a bit of disarray with my pay stubs and other related documentation. I don’t throw them out; I just keep them in different places. That made it a bit difficult this time around when I filed my taxes for last year. I have learned my lesson and am starting to put together my paperwork for next year, so I will not have too much running around to do the next time around.

I also have a tendency of keeping things I should have thrown out a long time ago. Sometimes, it is for sentimental reasons, or because I believe I will turn my attention to it eventually. Of course I always find myself throwing out most of these items eventually, especially when I have to replace them with new things. It helps make organization easier when I discard things I have not used for a while, and have no plan to use any time in the future. I am grateful that I do not have a hoarding issue, as I know that is a sign of more complex issues.

Record keeping, like anything else important and meaningful in our lives, takes conscious effort and action. My tendency to let things go in that department is something I am working on, so I will not be sorry in the future.

What do you want to keep order and control of in your life?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Oh, tax day. How I dread you every year. 

 It seems that no matter how hard I try to make the process as stress-free as possible, I fail miserably. One year, I had an accountant prepare them and while I saved money, he was also unresponsive half the time and took forever to complete them. Another year, I ended up discovering a mistake at my job that affected how much I owed for state taxes. This year, I decided I would take advantage of the free time I had while I was jobless and file early. It turned out that I owed entirely too much money to pay when I had no paycheck coming in, so I never filed and said I'd wait until I had steady income. Fast forward a few months and I finally had enough money to pay what I owe, but because I live like a nomad and kept forgetting to grab my forms when I stopped at home for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, I couldn't file until the last minute. Stress, no matter what.

What makes the process even worse is that, for the life of me, I can't figure out how taxes work. In the years I've been filing, I've never had consistency. I've either switched jobs or moved between counties, and I've never made the same amount. Because of this, I never know how much I should expect to owe. Now add freelance work in there for next year's return, and I don't even know how I'll make it through without a panic attack. For now, I'll just be glad this hump is over and deal with the rest tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Longing for Visioning

The TWM Visioning Workshop is coming up this weekend, but sadly, I'm going to be out of town and so I'll miss it. I missed the last one, too, and I'm bummed because I really love going to Visioning. I always get something great out of the workshop, above and beyond the fact that I just enjoy getting together with the group and making my personal collage.

I was feeling nostalgic today, so I went back and looked at some of my previous posts about my Visioning experiences. Apparently I've had a lot to say about it in the past, which only makes me miss it even more:

My favorite Visioning post
My next favorite Visioning post
Another visioning post (you can only have so many favorites)
Yet another...
What others have said about Visioning

Okay....nostalgia time is over. I will now return to my regularly scheduled program of travel and research. Sigh.

I suppose I could try to do a bit of Visioning on my own this weekend, but it just wouldn't be the same! I hope lots of you are going, and will report back about the workshop here at CHICKS ROCK!, so I can live vicariously through you.

Have you signed up for Visioning yet? If not, you're missing out! RSVP HERE

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Forum: Just Dreamin'

Whether they have a deeper meaning or not, dreams are fascinating! Sometimes we remember them, sometimes we don't, sometimes they comfort, sometimes they terrify.

Have you ever had a vivid dream you just couldn't shake? What about a recurring dream that kept cropping up?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Link Love for 4/12

Time for another fabulous round-up of great links! Let's dive right in, shall we?

Alexia Vernon is hungry to speak five sentences, and have those wishes fulfilled.

Girl w/Pen takes a look at gender reveal parties and six reasons we should dump 'em.

In Good Company wants you to remember that following up is important -- you're not bugging anybody.

Lindsey Pollak has some tips on landing an internship that are good for job-seekers to keep in mind too.

NYWSE spotlights She's the First, a campaign that's growing into a whole lot more.

That's what we've got for today. What have you been reading and writing online? Leave links in the comments!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Apartment Hunting Tips

I am thinking of moving from my current apartment to another one at the end of May, although as of right now I have not found anything suitable. It may or may not happen; it all depends on what is available, if it is a right fit for me and my needs, and if the money is right. I was thinking of making a change for more convenience on my part, but if it does not work out, I will not worry about it. I just want to see what is out there, and so far the pickings are slim.

For any of you in the market for a rental property, there are some basic tips to that will make your search easier to navigate, while also narrowing and possibly complicating your choices. They are as follows:

1. Beware of realty/brokers’ fees, unless you can afford it. This fee, which usually equals one month’s rent, is paid to the listing agent at lease signing, in addition to the security deposit (also equal to one month’s rent, or more) and the first month’s rent to the Landlord. If you want to avoid paying realty/brokers’ fees, look for apartments advertised by the owner or by leasing offices in apartment buildings. This will eliminate the need to pay out more than expected if renting through a realtor or broker.
2. If the price is too good to be true, then maybe it is. Renter beware when signing a lease to an apartment, house, condo, or any other property; if rent is extremely low compared to others in the area, it could be because there is a problem with the rental in question. Is it in good shape? Are tenants responsible for all, some, or none of the utilities? How will these affect monthly expenses?
3. Be annoying and ask questions. Before touring an apartment, ask questions you want to know the answers for. Questions about noise pollution from neighbors and other nearby elements are a good place to start.

Do you have apartment hunting stories to share? If so, please share them!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Retail Therapy

It seems that every few months or so, I remember how much I love stores like Old Navy (well... mostly just Old Navy, though I've been known to buy a few things at a good Urban Outfitters sale). Suddenly all the money I've been saving by not shopping is gone in a couple of trips to ON.

This happened to me recently when I found myself feeling a little stressed and a couple of friends suggested we hit the stores for some retail therapy. I'm not sure that it was the best solution to the problem, but I did end up with a couple of flats, several tops, a skirt, and even some accessories. And then a few days later, I went back for more. Oops! I fell off the wagon, and I fell hard!

I returned some of the things I'd bought that I knew I really didn't need or even liked all that much (don't ask why I bought things I didn't even like -- I was in a shopping haze). But I've started to wonder why this even happens in the first place. Most of my friends encourage "retail therapy" and don't feel that bad about spending so much of their hard-earned money on things they probably wouldn't otherwise. They don't ever seem to return anything, and they don't really hesitate to do it again a week or two later.

For me, it was the first time I blindly walked around a store in hopes of forgetting my stress and focusing only on cute clothes. It didn't work, of course, because the amount of money I'd spent just added to my stress, so I can't see why everyone else does it so eagerly.Do you believe in "retail therapy"? What do you get out of it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Community Easter

I'm still traveling this week, and spent Easter weekend visiting a friend of mine, one of the numerous cool, quirky, fabulous people in my life who happen to be spread around the country and so I only get to see them once in a rare while.

This particular friend and I go way back, back to the days when carefree weekends filled with silly games were par for the course, and both of us miss being surrounded by a community of close friends who we might see and hang out with at length on a daily basis, the way you do when you're young, in high school and college. We lament the fact that out here in the adult world we don't really know our neighbors, rarely interact with them except for the occasional pleasantries. Living in proximity to others no longer implies a shared sense of identity.

To celebrate Easter, my friend decided we should try to bring people together. Her initial idea was to leave treat-filled plastic Easter eggs around the building, for neighbors to find and enjoy. But we figured, in this day and age of terror and skepticism, who is going to eat "unknown" candy? It'd be better, we reasoned, to give a little message, or invite people to DO something. Thus, the Puzzle Project was born.

We placed puzzle pieces inside Easter eggs and left them on doorsteps around the building, inviting residents to come to the common area and help complete the puzzle. We put the edge pieces together to get things started, and let other people take it from there. We left a little sign-in book, in case anyone wanted to share comments or thoughts about the experience. By the end of the day we had received several notes and the puzzle began to come together! People seemed intrigued, and happy to participate in an unusual group activity.

We hope the Puzzle Project might inspire our neighbors to meet new friends, but mostly we hope it made other people feel as good as it made us feel!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Forum: Spring Break

Thanks to Easter and Passover, today starts a week of spring break for some -- and a time for the rest of us to be jealous. What would you do this week if you were on spring break? Or what will you do if you are?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Get in Touch

Don't forget we're always looking to hear from our readers and get them involved on the blog. If you read something you like, disagree with, or want to support, leave a comment. If you have your own story to share or point of view, submit a guest post. And if you have ideas or suggestions for what you want featured or writers you want to hear from, send an email. We're always an email away at!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Apologies For This Week's Post

Unfortunately, my computer crashed and I lost this week's post, in addition to many other documents and files. I will be back on track next Wednesday, so I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

People Problems

I've noticed recently -- well, I just noticed today, actually -- that more and more in these past few weeks, I've either wanted to spend time alone or with a couple of very specific people. Everyone else? Go away. (I say this in the nicest way possible.)

I want to clean the apartment in complete solitude, with only music to accompany me. I want to bake with and for people who appreciate the finished product as much as they do my belting showtunes during the process. I want to watch When Harry Met Sally... over and over and over again without anybody talking over my favorite parts. I want to sort out my finances while spending time with somebody hilarious enough to distract me when I need it.

There are a few problems with this. First of all, it seems that many of the people I'd most like to spend time with at any given moment aren't actually free. Secondly, I have so much going on every day that I hardly have a moment to breathe, let alone do something as silly as watch WHMS. Most of those I have going on, by the way, require me to interact with an awful lot of people. And lastly, I'm celebrating my birthday this week and next, which means I need to be even more social than usual when I have even less energy than usual.

I know that I just took a vacation only a couple of months ago, but I feel like I really need another break from people and commitments. I guess since I can't have that, I'll settle for having WHMS on in the background as I get a few hours of sleep.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Writing Poolside

I'm finding myself grateful for technology these days, as I'm traveling around a bit and always looking for places to quietly sit and write. I find that I can write anywhere, as long as there's a chair and a table, or even just piece of ground I can sit on where I'm not in anyone's way. I take my laptop or a pad of paper and go to town. Thanks to the wonders of wireless, I'm able to sit beside a lovely pool while I post to CHICKS ROCK! and edit my novel. Paradise? Just about.

Working on the road doesn't feel too different from writing at home in some ways. Creatively, there's a particular space I seek to inhabit when I sit down to work, but it's more of a mindset than a physical location. I've never been tied to my desk, or my particular writing routines. In fact, part of my "routine" is to have no routine at all. I actually feel myself inspired by motion, by change, by taking advantage of great opportunities and situations and jotting down random notes at random times. I like the unpredictable, but you wouldn't necessarily know it to look at how I live my life day-to-day when I'm at home.

In fact, lately I am feeling like it is great for me to be out in the world while I do my work, rather than holed up in my tiny space pecking at the keyboard in solitude. It is easier to stay connected to the moment and the material in total silence and isolation at times--but only at times. The rest of the time my creativity feeds on the energy of people around me, strangers who I don't have to interact with, but who are going about their business and living their lives and reminding me why I put pen to paper in the first place.

When I left on this long trip, people kept saying to me, "but how will you get work done?" I wasn't worried, and it turns out I was right not to be. Because work for me is not unpleasant, not a thing I have to force myself to do. It is something that brings me joy and fulfillment, and I'm grateful for that. Believe it or not, there are fewer distractions to me when I'm away from home--no t.v., for instance, and no regularly scheduled programming of the real life variety either. I feel myself being boiled down to the essence of what I love doing: writing and exploring and sitting quietly in new places, taking it all in.

A dip in the pool now and again doesn't hurt, either. The downsides are few, as far as I'm concerned!

Are you a lover of routine, or do you relish shaking things up now and again?

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