Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Space Travel Expands

When I heard the other day that a private company has made it possible for more individuals to take part in commercial space travel, I was both surprised and not surprised. Like everyone else, I have heard and seen news reports over the years discussing the growth of space travel so that many more private citizens with the funds to do so can make their dreams to be in space for themselves a reality.

To date, there have only been a handful of individuals who have travelled to space as private travelers, and they have all gone to and from the International Space Station. If I am ever in the position to go to space myself, it would be great to go there, but I would love to tour our solar system. I know this is will not happen in my lifetime, but I would like to think future generations would have the option to take a private spacecraft to see most (if not all) of our neighboring planets. Actually stepping down on any other planet’s surface seems like something much far off than just touring the solar system.

I can understand the appeal and the apprehension about space travel; the latter because of the great unknown being frightening to think of at times; after all, we cannot breathe without assistance with machines out there, and while an absence of gravity might be nice at times so we can float from room to room in a roomy spacecraft, it can be annoying if you try to drink a glass of water and the liquid does not make it into your mouth. Still, I cannot imagine refusing the chance to go to space because of these reasons. Of course I would like to see space travel expand so more safety precautions can be perfected. I suppose it was the same for those who were getting used to air travel a century ago.

Would you go to space if you had the chance?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

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

The unofficial start of summer is traditionally accompanied by a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow kind of attitude. Years ago there were only re-runs on a very limited number of TV channels and no internet to entice/distract/constrain us from being outside enjoying the warmer weather and longer days.

With our 21st century 24/7 lifestyle, this means that we have to consciously take time to disconnect with technology and re-connect with Nature, and ourselves.  

Like that cool special effect in big blockbuster movies of our recent past and present, we need to pause midair and get a full 360 degree view of what is going on around us so that we can take the precise action to defend and/or advance who we are and what we want.

So while in the park or at the beach, be sure to take a moment toreflect on where you really want to be going and why, rather than just moving unconsciously from one activity to the next, day after day. If you've been feeling too anxious or not in control, give me a buzz - I'll take the remote out of your hand, put it on slo-mo, and guarantee you'll be feelin' groovy in no time!

Monday, May 28, 2012

All the Difficult Things

Poster by Debby Dahl Edwardson
Today being Memorial Day, I've decided to offer a tribute to a wonderful friend who passed away this weekend: the children's writer and inspiring teacher Ellen Levine.

Although Memorial Day is officially dedicated to remembering those who've died in service to their country in the armed forces, I would argue that there are many ways to be of service to the country apart from military service. When I think of Ellen Levine today, I am reminded how much we need word warriors, too.

Ellen was the kind of fearless writer who tackled difficult issues head on, and who knew how to wield the power of a story to make a difference. She brought to light stories that many others were too afraid to tell. She wrote about the challenges of McCarthy-era life for a communist family. She wrote about teens dealing with unwanted pregnancy in the days before Roe v. Wade made choice a legal option. She interviewed young civil rights activists, capturing their true stories of the 1960's protest era. She wrote about Japanese internment camps in the Pacific northwest during World War II. And the list goes on.

Ellen did not just write about issues--she put herself on the line for the causes she believed in, stepping forward in the face of all the difficult things about which she felt such deep passion. She marched for civil rights, taught, practiced law, and generally dedicated herself to creating a more just world. She said, "caring about fairness is a big part of the well I dip into....I wonder and still have only bits of an answer for why some people live on the dark side. And why some risk everything to fight the darkness. Here's to fighting the darkness!"

Ellen's latest novel, IN TROUBLE
It's never easy to lose a friend, nor a colleague and mentor. In the days to come, I know that many writer friends of Ellen's will pen beautiful tributes to her, attempting to capture her spirit, her essence one last time before it fades into the ether. But the beauty of a gift like Ellen's is that it keeps on giving. It will not fade, because we won't let it. Ellen's spirit lives on in her published work, but perhaps more importantly, her energy and her advice live on in the many students and friends whose lives and work she touched. Those ripple effects are nowhere near their end.

I believe that on Memorial Day we ought not simply honor what is lost, but also celebrate what has been preserved. When soldiers die on the battlefield, we are ready with medals and parades in their honor. When word warriors die, it may not have been on the battlefield per se, and there may not be medals or parades, but there will surely be quiet revolutions happening in the mind of a child, curled in the corner of a library, captivated by the truth of a story. That is how we can walk forward, knowing that which seems lost is continually being found.

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Forum: Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day weekend! The start of summer, the season for beach and BBQs, and a day off from work! What are your plans this weekend?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We'd Love to Hear From You

Have suggestions for the blog? Got a favorite blogger you'd like us to feature? Ready to tell your story to people? Email us at -- we'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The War on Bullying

I have mixed feelings about the sentence handed down on Monday in the Rutgers webcam spying case. While I was satisfied with the decision at first, I became less sure of it when I saw and heard the Ravis (the defendant’s parents) plead for leniency on their son’s behalf. Never once in their impassioned speeches did they attempt to reach out to the Clementis to express remorse to them for their loss. Did the defendant physically push his late roommate to his death off the George Washington Bridge? No. Did he intimidate and bully an emotionally fragile young man because of his sexuality? The jurors, the judge, and many others are convinced; I am too.

I know bullies, because I have family members, former classmates and former friends who share this dubious distinction. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I had to be around any of them as a child, because they seemed to enjoy making me feel worse than I already did about myself. I was never a victim of cyber bullying, but I do recall having unflattering comments about me spread like wildfire. When all eyes were on me due to ridicule, I remember feeling that I wanted to be anyone else but me at those moments. Yet no matter how bad it got for me, I never wanted to end my life as a result. I also remember those who were bullied far worse than I ever was. Memories of what happened to these individuals still haunt me.

I wonder about families of bullies, like the Ravis, who see their child and themselves as misunderstood victims. Insincere apologies are worse than no apologies at all, at least I think so. Still, it is troubling that the defendant has never expressed sympathy to his late roommate’s family for his passing. Perhaps the years will open his eyes to the consequences of his actions; perhaps they won’t. Even though the sentence in this case is lenient, I still believe the bullies are losing in the war against them and their actions. It is about time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Let the Sun Shine In

Sally is not available this week, so enjoy today's post by TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi:
There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.~ Leonard Cohen

I recently had my apartment painted, which is basically like moving without actually moving. The main reason I did it was to force myself to go through all of my belongings and see what should stay and what should go, clean all the nooks and crannies that never get looked at and rearrange things in a better way.  Well, it's working, but for various reasons has been happening s-l-o-w-l-y....and I just need to be okay with that.

In my post The Present of Presence, I mentioned that out of chaos comes clarity.  And I'm always talking about process, how patience is a virtue and the consistent effort needed to make lasting change, One Step at a Time. I'm certainly getting some good practice right now!

It's been a great exercise to dismantle my external life since most days I live and work on the internal side of things.  Just like with physical surgery, sometimes you gotta literally open up, get in there, dig around and rid yourself of and/or fix whatever is not working in order to begin healing and functioning more optimally.  Like my client's ostrich with its head held high on her Vision Board,we have to deal with what is and take action, instead of keeping our heads buried in the sand expecting things to change.

With all the graduations, series, season and competition finales, and loss of some famous folks, it's a reminder to say goodbye to life as a student, to an era, to characters and storylines, and perhaps jobs, people, places and things, and especially old personas that we've outgrown. There are just times in our lives when we need to let it all go to make way for the new.

What needs to be opened up, dismantled, re-examined in your life? What is old and tattered and/or has served its purpose and should be released? What can be put back together in a new and improved way so that you can more easily integrate ALL parts of yourself and more effortlessly move forward in the most positive way on this journey called life?

Whatever area you feel stuck in, be sure to Ch-Check it Out - because only when we look at things from a different perspective can we make different decisions.  Having a hard time letting go of anything that's not Hot Stuff?  Give me a buzz and I'll help you face the music and get you Stayin' Alive in the best version of yourself now and beyond!

Monday, May 21, 2012

37 Things I Love

I'm excited to announce that my new young adult novel, 37 THINGS I LOVE (in no particular order), is going to be available in bookstores tomorrow!

I've been very much looking forward to this book coming out. Here is a little bit about it:

Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.
Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.

The book has gotten several good reviews so far, including this, from Kirkus Reviews:
 "...another powerful outing from a rising star."
And this, from Publisher's Weekly:
“Magoon (Camo Girl) gently but unflinchingly explores difficult adolescent territory in this intelligent, affecting novel.”

And this, from the Horn Book:
"There is much to this slim book—coming of age, death, hope, love—and Ellis is a character to care about and cheer on for a long, long time." --Robin L. Smith

This is my third published novel, but experiencing a book's evolution from a wisp of an idea in my head to a full fledged hardcover book never gets old. I said, I'm very excited. I could certainly list 36 more reasons why....but I'll just let you read the book!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lucky Charms

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.

A rabbit's foot, four-leaf clover or that certain pair of underwear - we all have things in our life that we consider good luck charms. Objects that we hold near and dear to serve the purpose of bringing us a little special magic in whatever scenario we need it.

But what about your inner charms, the things that make you YOU, those little quirks, sayings and even physical characteristics that come together in a combination uniquely yours? That is where your true luck lies, and by using them and trusting where they take you, doors that were previously closed can start to miraculously open.

We spend more time and energy than we realize trying to fit in and conform to certain standards of acceptance. Whether it be in our work, family, relationships, appearance or lifestyle, most people bury to varying degrees the very substance that will make them the most appreciated and successful. So if things aren't going your way right now, why not 'let your freak flag fly' and see what happens?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Trouble For No Reason

Have you ever been in a situation at work where you did nothing wrong, but the hypersensitivity of others gets you in trouble? This just happened to my mother, a nurse supervisor, who had to report a staffing situation at work, and then recommended that the managers make sure their staffing is secure before they leave for the weekends. She actually got in trouble for writing this, even though this is what managers are supposed to do. Her co-workers and I know she did nothing wrong, but it appears that her direct supervisor agrees with the manager who complained about her email in the first place. My mother has been warned and even threatened with termination if they find fault with her future correspondence. There is definitely more to this story meets the eye.

My mother is planning to retire next year, so she is ready for an earlier termination if it comes. She is also one of the highest paid in her position, so those who do the firing would prefer to let go of someone like her. This way, they can hire someone else to do the same work for much less. My mother’s supervisor, who was just hired last year to clean house, has been very critical of her for nonexistent offences. My mother’s saving grace has always been her great work ethic; if her performance was less than stellar, she definitely would have been fired by now.

The complaint made against my mother is just further proof that those who are great at their jobs, are pleasant and fair to their co-workers, subordinates, and supervisors, and always try to do the right thing can still be on the chopping block for a many complicated reasons. I think the lesson is to continue doing a good job, whatever it may be, but to be aware of those in the position to make life more difficult, for their own reasons. A little paranoia may be necessary for survival.

Have you been in trouble at work for no valid reason?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last night, while making one roommate take photos of my outfit, I explained to my other roommate that I was doing a clothing challenge. For the month of May, I'm wearing only six items of clothing. I can mix and match as desired, accessorize however I'd like and things like shoes, outerwear, and activewear don't count in the six items. 

 After explaining this, my roommate asked "so what do you get in the end?" I stared at her, confused about why people keep asking me this, and said "the knowledge that I was able to do it, of course." That's when she said something I hadn't totally noticed before: "you really like doing these random challenges for fun, don't you?" At first, I didn't know what else she was referring to, but then remembered some of my other recent challenges and realized she was right. In the time she's known me, I had a dating/love life challenge of sorts, then there was the no alcohol in January thing, and more recently trying one new thing a month.

Apparently, challenging myself to do random things people don't normally do is becoming a hobby of mine.

I didn't notice I was doing it, and wasn't really sure why I'm drawn to them, so I started to think it over last night and came to the conclusion that I love competing with myself and proving to myself and others that I can do things I don't initially think I can do. There doesn't need to be any reward at the end and i don't need any glory, just the feeling that I finished something I set out to do.

Do you ever challenge yourself when there isn't necessarily a "prize" at the end?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Meeting Rosa

In the course of my recent travels, I've found that it is very easy for me to draw inspiration from the world around me. I also find that when you set your mind toward learning about a specific topic (in my case, the civil rights and black power movements) the world continuously offers up tidbits of information in even the most unlikely places.

When I was in Dallas recently, I was delighted to encounter this statue of Rosa Parks, one of the celebrated figures of the civil rights movement. The little plaza where she sits (beside a bus station, appropriately!) is something of a monument to the cause she struggled for, with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King emblazoned on the fountain wall behind her.

It's a nice monument, of course, but what surprised me was finding it in Dallas, far from the Montgomery, Alabama, location of Ms. Parks's actual public bus sit-in in 1955. Certainly her story has ascended to a position of national prominence, and I'd be thrilled to find more statues of people like her scattered around the country, but in this case it still caught me off guard. In a good way.

I like being surprised and delighted by the world around me. When I am home, moving through my familiar circles, it is so easy to keep my head down and follow an expected path, rather than opening my eyes to what unexpected things might be lurking around any given corner. Like my new fondness for public art, the inspiration of random encounters is helping me think in new and creative ways, and I find it exciting.

Have you been surprised or inspired lately?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 4

We love our guest bloggers here at CHICKS ROCK!, so read through the diverse stories they've shared with us.

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 3

One topic we love writing about here at CHICKS ROCK! is travel and since it fits so well with our "spring break" theme, take a look back at our travel posts.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 2

As we continue our spring break at CHICKS ROCK!, let's look back on the posts about finding your voice and how important that is.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 1

We're a bit late in taking our spring break this year at CHICKS ROCK! But for today, take a look back at some of our personal growth posts and reflect on your own personal growth.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Forum: Favorite Fakes

This weekend is one of the bigger "fake" holidays of the year: Cinco de Mayo. The misconception is that it celebrates Mexican Independence Day, but it's not actually a holiday many Mexicans celebrate. In some ways, it's similar to St. Patrick's Day, another fun "fake". Which is your favorite "fake" holiday?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Are You Looking For?

We love making this site more about you and what you want, so we're doing another check-in to see what you're looking for. What type of content do you want to read? What writers would you like to see more of? Let us know in the comments or by emailing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beware of Scorpions

I always loved Aesop’s fables, but almost forgot one that has now become my personal favorite: The Scorpion and the Frog. It is a short yet meaty story about a scorpion agreeing not to sting a frog who agrees to take him across the river to safety. Inevitably the journey is ill-fated; they both wind up sinking, because of the scorpion’s nature to attack, even though it leads to his demise. It is not a happy story, but the lesson it teaches resonates with me. I want to avoid being at the mercy of the scorpions around me and to know them when I see them. It is similar to Sun Tzu's “know your enemy" with animal references.

This is hard to do when there are scorpions in our family and friend circles. I have dealt with one in particular since childhood, but my becoming aware of this individual’s destructive nature has helped me gain the proper perspective. I learned how to avoid poisonous behavior to maintain my own peace of mind. It is strange to compare a person to a scorpion, but I just see it as a point of reference in my own psyche. I know I never want to be a frog, when it comes to another person’s nature to attack others and self-destruct in the process.

When it is unavoidable dealing with a scorpion, whether it is a boss, a difficult family member, or friend of a friend, I find that the best ways to handle the situation depend on the nature of the relationship. If contact is limited, maintaining an emotional and physical distance and avoiding any financial, legal, or other kind of arrangement are key strategies. It is more difficult if the scorpion is predominant in our everyday lives. Regardless of the relationships, it is important to protect ourselves and understand the nature of cruelty, so it does not destroy us.

How do you deal with your scorpions?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When's a Decision Decided?

Why is it that just when you think you've decided something, you realize that you actually haven't? Somebody brings up a point you hadn't considered or money you saved for one thing suddenly needs to be used for something else entirely or you wake up one morning wondering why you're not fully satisfied with your decision. This has been happening to me a lot in the last several months and it's starting to make me wonder if I even know how to make decisions anymore.

One example of this is my potential move to Paris. I knew I wanted to go, I'd come up with a plan to make it happen and had more or less decided that grad school in Paris was my plan for 2013. Except that all the money I'd started to save for it had to go to sudden emergency expenses, like my taxes. And then the chances of getting a long stay visa seemed much less impossible than they had been before. And then I started to meet people with connections in Paris so that being a student was no longer the only way to make friends.

So now what? Now I'm back to square two: I have no idea what I'm doing when, but at least I have more options than I did back at square one a year ago. Still, my decision is now undecided, making me feel a bit lost.

When is a decision final for you? How do you know when to stop wondering about other options and sticking with what you decided?

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