Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Six Seconds

The following was originally posted on September 27, 2011 on Kristina's blog. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

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 coacch, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of career development, work/life wellness and personal growth.


I recently attended the screening of a very cool documentary called Connected.  An ambitious undertaking, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain has presented some interesting ideas and factoids in a unique visual way about the history of who we are and the connections we have to each other from the past, present and where we might be headed in the future.

One of the best tidbits I learned was that if you hug someone for six seconds or more, a dose of the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released.

Many of you who have worked with me individually, in a group or have talked to me after one of my workshops or seminars know that I’m a big hugger.  In addition to hugging my clients and audience members, I tend to hug strangers after a meaningful conversation, and even in more professional situations, say after a meeting, which may or may not be kosher, but I can’t help it; I often randomly hug friends, family members and co-workers because I somehow sense they need one, and I will occasionally request one myself (especially from a super-good hugger, like my bro!)

Why? I actually never thought about it.  It’s just always been a natural extension of who I am, the work I do and my love of people in general.  If I had to intellectualize it, perhaps it’s about sealing an interaction in a “Yes, I see and hear you, you see and hear me, and we can show mutual love, respect and care for each other as human beings in the most tangible way.”

And let’s face it, who couldn’t use a hug now and then?  We should be able to give and receive hugs freely, but for those of you who need to justify your request, there’s a scientific explanation, because hey, who wouldn’t want to get a little shot of some naturally feel-good feelings?!  So forget about the economy and the internet, because the true currency of connection is the HUG, and the good news is that it’s available worldwide and abundant in infinite amounts.

Feeling a little stressed or simply need a boost to brighten your day?  Instead of reaching for that Twix bar or beer, have no fear, don’t you pout just say hello and hug it out!  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dancing with "Dancing with the Stars"*

The following was originally posted on October 10,2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

After years of resisting, this season I've finally broken down and started watching ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Friends who know that I'm a former ballroom dancer constantly tell me I've been missing out. ("You'd love this show. You have to watch.") Instead, I studiously avoided it. I couldn't make it through a single episode, because I quickly realized that there's nothing more annoying and painful than watching people do something I enjoy doing when I can't do it myself.

Beginning in college up through my first years living in NYC, I participated in ballroom dancing clubs and classes. I cut out this activity because, after my career transition, it was no longer in my budget. Ballroom dancing lessons are surprisingly expensive! But I haven't stopped thinking about how much I enjoyed a good tango or rumba back in the day. Seeing Dancing with the Stars simply made me sad about it.

I'm not sure what caused me to give the show a second chance this fall. I'm even less sure why I'm not still hating it. I can't quite say I enjoy watching, but something new is going on for me. Perhaps some inner strand of optimism has risen to the surface. Because I've discovered that rather than being something to pine over, the show can be a way to savor something. The memory of my dancing days, plus the hope that I can begin again sometime soon. Better than memory or hope, even, is the potential that the show itself will inspire me to seek new ways of satisfying my desire to dance. Maybe I can locate an inexpensive ballroom class or even find a place to cha-cha my little heart out for free. Because, after having loved and missed something so much for so long, maybe it's time to open the door to opportunities again.

Is there a hobby or activity you've given up that you'd like to bring back into your life?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Forum: Summer Treats

When summer is in full swing, opportunities abound for buying and eating seasonal foods. We get farmer's markets, local stores, roadside stands, carnivals, fairs and ice cream trucks. What are your favorite summer treats?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Busy Summer

Summer is almost over, and there is still so much for me to do before the season ends. Moving tops my list of things to do by the end of next month, and as everyone knows, it is never fun to move. I do not look forward to deciding what I must keep and what has to go; I can do it, but as a natural procrastinator, I do not relish the task.

Making time for more fun is very important to me, and that includes travel. I do not have the time to go off to exotic locales, but I am hoping to take a few day and weekend trips to places I have never been to. One of my dream locales to visit is Quebec; I feel embarrassed that I have not been there, especially since I have always wanted to and it really isn't that far away. I hope to remedy this situation by Labor Day weekend, if possible.

I also want to reconnect with friends I have not seen in quite some time. I am usually on the phone or emailing them instead of being in their physical presence. I am guilty of breaking plans because work or other distractions that get in the way, and so I want to be sure to break this habit for the summer and beyond. I really am a social person, so I must resist letting technology and the demands of work get the better of me.

For the first time since I started blogging with CHICKS ROCK! in 2008, I am taking the month of August off to accomplish these and many more tasks. I will be back in September, but in the meantime please check out some of my previous blog posts from months and years past. This is part of the ongoing CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective, which my fellow CHICKS and I are participating in.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Art of Observation*

The following was originally posted on April 30, 2012. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective:

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?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Forum: Summer Heat Wave

This summer we've had record high temperatures in cities across the country. Has it been especially hot where you live? What are your favorite tricks for beating the heat?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Truth in What You Hear*

The following was originally posted on January 19, 2012. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes Amanda as a guest blogger this week:

Amanda Grant lives in Hoboken, NJ and enjoys spending time with her two year-old son Isaac and dancing. She left her successful 24-year career and founded USAdopt in New York to help potential parents navigate and accelerate the U.S. adoption process.

Have you ever considered adopting a child from the U.S. but thought: “if I adopt in the U.S., the birthmother can take back her baby” or “it’s too expensive” or “I won’t adopt from foster care because those kids are beyond healing”? If you’ve had these thoughts or similar ones, I encourage you to hear me out and reconsider the possibilities.

Four years ago, I was in the same place. I knew I wanted to become a parent by adoption, even though I wasn’t married, but didn’t know where to begin. All I knew was what I “heard” which wasn’t encouraging. So I researched and today I can tell you that most of what we “hear” about domestic adoption is incorrect or incomplete. I’m the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy boy born in New Jersey who I adopted at birth.

I had a positive experience adopting my son but not everybody does because the misinformation makes it challenging for even the smartest to filter out the facts. I became so passionate about helping people navigate the complex process that I left my 24-year career in asset management to start USAdopt.

USAdopt is a domestic adoption consultancy (not an agency or facilitator) that guides people through the process and prepares them for every step. When people know the facts, it often changes their perspective on and opens doors they didn’t know existed. For example, did you know:

  • Domestic adoptions cannot be revoked once finalized in court; they’re permanent.

  • Birthmothers cannot come back and take your adopted child. Even in an open adoption, the amount of contact information you provide is in your control.

  • There’s an adoption for every budget. There are tax credits, subsidies, grants, loans and fundraising alternatives to finance an adoption.

  • It’s usually less expensive to adopt from the U.S. than another country, and there’s a greater likelihood of receiving accurate medical history.

  • There were over 22,000 newborns available for adoption in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Many foster children, given a safe and loving home, will grow to be responsible, productive, self-sufficient adults.

  • Being single or part of the LGBT community does not reduce your ability to adopt a domestic child.

  • These are just a few of the facts that aren’t commonly known, and there are many more. We offer a free consultation so to find out how USAdopt can help you achieve your dreams of building a family, please contact me at agrant@usadopt.com.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Gay Marriage Is Right*

    This piece was originally posted on June 22, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective, during which we will post a combination of new content and posts from the past. Enjoy!

    The ongoing debate about gay marriage, particularly in New York and New Jersey, has flared up annoyance and some anger in me. Every time I think we as a society are moving closer towards acceptance of all law abiding people, regardless of sexual orientation, I am reminded by certain people that we still have a very long way to go. I have heard it said many times that the pursuit of equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens is our latest civil rights movement. People may dispute this vehemently, but I believe it is true.

    I think the opposition to gay marriage shared by a number of religious groups is one of the main reasons why I am no longer religious. Born and raised a Roman Catholic and having attended Catholic schools in New Jersey, I felt genuinely repressed and ill at ease with religion as a whole. I always believed in a Higher Power, but I find the bigotry towards gays and lesbians to be contradictory to Christian values of acceptance and love. I have a distinct aversion for people who consider themselves closer to God based simply on which religious group they belong to, especially when they speak words ranging from ignorance to pure hatred towards those they see as outsiders.

    As a straight woman who believes that there are many people out there who should not be married due to their destructive personalities, I am also supportive of anyone who wants to enter into the matrimonial state for all the right reasons. Love, friendship, respect, loyalty, and more can be shared by any two people who want to grow old together, and that is a beautiful thing. Regardless of the outcome of the pending vote in New York for or against gay marriage, I will always see any union between two loving people the same way, regardless of sexual orientation. Regulating love is never a good thing.

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    Friday Forum: Friday the 13th

    When Friday the 13th rolls around, it brings out the (sometimes hidden) superstitions that many of us carry. Are you superstitious? Does superstition affect your behavior on Friday the 13th?

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Making Time To Eat

    I must preface this post by stating that I do not have an eating disorder of any kind; I am just someone who occasionally forgets to eat when I get too busy. I love food too much to make myself throw up or deny myself on a daily basis. I also do not care about being thinner; I just want to be healthy. With that out of the way, I can now share my rare but sometimes annoying habit of working so much so that I forget to eat breakfast, lunch, and even dinner without planning to do so. I am always drinking water and herbal tea no matter how busy I get, but there are one or two days in a month where I find myself wondering why I did not stop to have a meal. I want to make sure that this does not become a habit.

    The answer is really quite simple; I have to make myself more mindful. Food is fuel, and running on empty is never a good idea, unless it is done as part of a planned fast. My problem is that at times, I am not mindful, and therefore the hours slip by with me working away on my computer, with tea and water readily available, but no food in sight. I have decided to program my mobile phone to alert me when it is time to eat meals and even snacks. I like almonds and fruit, so I have created alerts with the names of those snacks, which will hopefully train me to stop starving myself without wanting to, even on my busiest days.

    Ever since I started working as a consultant for a relocation company, which allows to me to work from home most of the time, I find that I have to work harder to stick to a fixed schedule. I work late hours at times, and this can sometimes disrupt my daily routine. Mindfulness is the key when it comes to eating, so I know I have to get control of it for my overall well-being.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Changing of the Guard*

    The following was originally posted on February 1, 2011 on Kristina's blog. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

    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 career development, work/life wellness and personal growth.

    Congress ushered in a new Speaker of the House, Queen Elizabeth is thinking about abdicating so that Prince William may actually get a shot at being King; Tunisia did, and now Egypt is on the brink of overthrowing their longtime leaders; American television staples Larry King, Regis Philbin and ET’s Mary Hart, whose careers took off around the same time as Hosni Mubarak came into power, are all retiring as well. What is the world coming to?!

    Change is certainly in the air and tomorrow is the Lunar New Year*, so it’s another good time to start fresh for the next twelve months. What are you ferociously guarding in your life- and is it worthy of protecting, or are you just doing so because it’s been that way for the past 30 years? What people, ideas, jobs, things, ways of thinking might you be holding on to that are old, stagnant, outdated, served their purpose, overstayed their welcome or just need to step down so that something better and fresher can take their place?

    What about that old persona you’ve been wearing?  We’re usually our own worst enemies, so maybe it’s time to take a look at the dictator who rules our lives – benevolent or not - and see how we might be restricting ourselves or abusing our power; where we’ve gotten into a rut, how we might have outgrown our ‘schtick’, or perhaps need a new audience to reflect back to us different facets of who we are. 

    Often things are so ingrained in us we can’t easily recognize them ourselves, so we need some deep reflection and outside perspective. After participating in a  Visioning Workshop and then working with me the following four months, a client has completely turned her perspective around, resurrected the true essence of who she is, embraced her new direction, and in turn literally looks like a different person and ten years younger! 

    Need a little help toppling your own personal outdated regime? Give me a buzz and I’ll help all the repressed parts or yourself rise up to have more say in governing your world, or at least get higher ratings.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    FRIDAY FORUM: Hollywood Blockbusters

    The 4th of July weekend always comes hand-in-hand with big blockbuster summer movies. How do you feel about Hollywood these days? Are you sick of all of the movie sequels and their massive advertising campaigns, or does it make you excited to go to the theater? Are you a fan of fast action and huge special effects or quieter, more artistic fare? Any big screen adventures you're especially looking forward to this summer?

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    A Little Help From Non-Friends*

    The following was originally posted on July 7, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Elaine as a first-time guest blogger this week as part of TWM's World of Wellness.

    Elaine Hamnett worked for years as a public relations executive before seeking a more fulfilling and meaningful path as a coach. She’s now dedicated to empowering people to get the life of their dreams.

    I discovered coaching by watching television -- something I do perhaps more than I should, but who knew it could change your life?

    Several years ago, coaching guru Rhonda Britten launched the show “Starting Over” on a major network and five days a week viewers were privy to the inner lives, thoughts, troubles and ultimate growth of six women dedicated to being better. I was addicted instantly and set the DVR (or was it video?) every day. In fact, it was so inspiring to see these women work through their personal blocks, doubts and self-sabotage to get what they really wanted in life that I decided I wanted to be a coach myself. So I got certified and today I am happily helping others be their best.

    Coaches believe in the process so strongly that most of us have our own coaches! I have to admit that my relationship with my coach is one of the most rewarding and productive relationships I have. Unlike therapy, coaching doesn’t typically dwell in the past or concentrate on healing wounds. Instead, it is really about forward motion. It allows me to spend 45 minutes a week thinking about what I want and how to get there. That sounds a little odd, but how often do you really think about that and then put a plan in action to achieve your dreams?

    And while I can turn to friends when I need advice and comfort, it’s not always ideal. They may be coming from a place of total love, but they might have their own agenda or thoughts on what I should or shouldn’t do, unlike my coach who has nothing at stake when I make a decision. My time there is all about what I want for myself.

    If this sounds like what you’re looking for, feel free to check out my website for more information, I’d be happy to speak with you.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    Post 911 America, Warts And All*

    This piece was originally posted on July 6, 2011. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective, during which we will post a combination of new content and posts from the past. Enjoy!

    The United States of America has always had its critics. After the second Iraq War began in 2002, global criticism of the country grew considerably. It was a tricky time; if an American criticized the war, that person was considered unpatriotic. I even heard some people in the media saying that anyone critical against the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan should leave the country for good. I was critical of the second Iraq War, but as a sister of a U.S. army officer, I am completely on the side of the troops who were and still are deployed overseas. I found the attacks on people who openly criticized the war to be similar to witch hunts, only there would be no literal burnings at the stake.

    Even though I am not a Muslim or an Arab, I was told by a family member that our last name implies that we could be one or both. He also claimed that we were facing bias because of it in the workplace. I personally never felt this, and refused to succumb to pressure to change my last name in the new Post-9/11 America. After all, Sikhs were being attacked because of their turbans, and they are not Arabs or connected to the Muslim religion. These attacks really had to do with xenophobia, which is an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners and anything foreign. When I heard about the murder of a Sikh man mistaken for an Arab on September 15, 2001, I remembered reading that the murderer was ignorant and xenophobic to begin with. After 9/11, he decided to unleash his hatred as a form of vigilante justice on those who did not look right to him.

    As I celebrate the America’s birthday this week, I am reminded of our continuing struggles for freedom and against bigotry. I am proud that as an American, I can openly support and criticize my country without fear of imprisonment. Difficult times, such as those faced after 9/11, remind me that we should NEVER take our freedoms for granted.

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Women's Words*

    The following was originally posted on November 9, 2009. It is being reposted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

    I consider myself a feminist, but honestly, gender discrimination isn't something I think deeply about on a daily basis. I'm not so naïve as to believe it's a non-issue, just one that I'm not confronted with too overtly anymore. Turns out, I may need to rethink my position.

    I was one of many people upset by Publishers Weekly's recent announcement of their "Top Ten Books of 2009." A list that included no female authors.

    Knowing nothing beyond that, my initial reaction was lukewarm. All things being equal, the odds are strongly against an all male list occurring by coincidence, but... it could happen. And they didn't completely ignore women--there were 29 included in their "Top 100." Still, a low total. As I considered it, the less lukewarm I became. A little steamed. A lot steamed. Hot.

    I spent several days in dialogue with other women writers, collectively bent on responding. After all, who else was going to spotlight this oversight? As articles were written, and the conversation unfolded online, the range of public opinion stretched far and wide. From the overtly sexist ("Women just can't write as well as men."), to the inane ("It was a bad year for women writers."), to the delusional ("We're in a post-gender America. Quality trumps quotas."), arguments abounded. Few people seemed willing to accept our critique and move on.

    All in all, I observed more anger directed at the women who were protesting the PW list, than at the list itself. Many people seem to believe that PW should be allowed to have their opinion about the best books of the year, without anyone second-guessing them, yet women writers aren't allowed to disagree without being pegged as reverse-sexist, or worse, a special-interest minority group vying for an unearned piece of the recognition pie.

    In the end, does any of it matter? The PW editors and their sexism--whether intentional or subconscious--matter very little in the long run. It is just one list, one moment, one group's opinion. The true value of this experience, for me, was watching women writers come together to say something important. It's unfortunate to realize that we still have reason to unite in protest, but it's good to know that we still can.

    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.
    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.