Friday, June 29, 2012

FRIDAY FORUM: Independence Day

With July 4 coming up next Wednesday, here at CHICKS ROCK! we're definitely feeling the freedom of summer. Since the holiday falls right in the middle of the work week this year, it may be harder than usual to make a "holiday weekend" out of the occasion. But whether it's just for one day, or a week-long extended celebration, we know most Americans will carve out some time to celebrate. How will you spend the 4th of July?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Half-Year Review

We're now half way through the year, so this would be a good time to think about some of the goals you set for yourself, and how you're doing. Even better than that might be writing about it! It may help give you some perspective, and you can get support from others. So think about it, and email us at with your guest post!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Surviving Narcissistic Personality Disorder

We all know at least one narcissist, whether we are aware of it or not. I am educating myself about narcissistic personality disorder, also known as NPD, because a member of my family has it. I always knew there was something seriously wrong in my interactions with this person, but I did not understand what it was. Now that I know, I feel liberated; knowledge really is power.

A narcissist is someone who lacks empathy for other people; the individual knows the difference between right and wrong, but the ego always prevails. This particular family member of mine is (and always was) self-serving to a fault. I cannot imagine ever having a meaningful relationship with him in the future, because we never had one to begin with. This person has repeatedly said he does not care if my other family members and I ever speak to him again, because he believes he is right and the rest of us are wrong. Now that I recognize this as one of the symptoms of NPD, his behavior is at last de-mystified for me. I always knew that trying to reason with this individual was a waste of time, but now understanding that most narcissists like him never seek treatment because they don’t recognize the problem releases me from any residual guilt I had about our non-existent relationship.

I would suggest to anyone curious about NPD and certain people in their lives (a boss, friend, family member, spouse, or significant other) to use the Internet as your initial guide. Mayo Clinic’s website sums up the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder best, in my opinion. If you want to go further, then I recommend The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family, by Eleanor D. Payson, M.S.W. Of the many books I have come across about NPD, I find that this one explains the disorder with the most clarity.

Do you know or think you know anyone with NPD?

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Woman's Table*

The following was originally posted on September 20, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

Last week I went to the Brooklyn Museum to see The Dinner Party, created by Judy Chicago (and hundreds of volunteers), a landmark piece of feminist art from the late 1970's. Surprisingly, I had never heard of this piece, which is now on permanent exhibition as the centerpiece of the museum's Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

The Dinner Party is a large triangular table with dinner place settings for 39 women (real and mythical) who over the course of history have impacted feminism, women's rights, and/or the perception of women in the world. Each featured woman represents a cadre of women who made related contributions, and 999 additional names are scrawled on floor tiles in the center. Some represented include The Fertile Goddess, Hatshepsut, Sappho, Elizabeth I, Sojourner Truth, Virginia Woolf and Georgia O'Keefe.

Each place setting contains a unique plate and table runner styled to represent the individual woman's contribution, plus an identical fork, knife and goblet to represent the unity among them. The ceramic plates feature stylized butterfly/flower/vulva forms, and the intricately stitched table runners and ceramic work alike spotlight centuries of “unsigned” women’s art—the quilts, clothing, dishes and more that women have sewn, painted and created over time.

As with any piece of (woman-centered) art of this scale and attention, The Dinner Party was controversially received. Developed between 1974-1979, and debuted in San Francisco, it then existed without a permanent home for over two decades. Is this so surprising, given that women’s work and art has traditionally been pushed to the margins? Let alone a piece of women’s art designed to highlight that very history…

Personally, I found the piece impressive, intriguing and inspiring, but most of all--it begs a conversation. After all, what else is a dinner party for?

Friday, June 22, 2012

FRIDAY FORUM: Weekend Getaways

When summer rolls around, many of us start thinking about going on vacation. Not everyone has the time or budget to take a long vacation in the summer, but there are plenty of fun ways to get out and enjoy the season while sticking close to home. What are your favorite summer getaways for day or weekend trips?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy*

The following was originally posted on June 9, 2011. 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 women, diversity and personal growth.

As the saying goes, there are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and change. Change comes in all shapes and sizes, some more scary than others. Climate change, career change, graduations, marriages and relationships changes, TV changes, sex changes, change of residences, and regime change to name a few - and June seems chock full of them!

Most folks have a hard time with change. We'd rather stay comfy and/or miserable rather than letting go of our crutches and seeing what else life might have in store us. We cannot control things but we can control how we respond to them: we can resist and go kicking and screaming or we can accept that change happens, and just go with the flow.

Going with the flow means listening to yourself, and giving yourself what you need at any particular moment. The best way to navigate change is to trust in yourself and be your own best counsel, so it's important to have that 'muscle' in place as you go over the white water rapids of feelings that come with this thing called life.

Change is not always fun, but it's almost always for the better, because change forces growth and growth is good. And once the change happens, we can't be like a goldfish who lived in a fishbowl his whole life but then when put into the ocean still swims around in a little circle as if he were still in a bowl!

David Bowie tells us time can change you but you can't trace time. So this summer, if you feel you are ready to be hatched, then fly, be free! Not quite like Mork's egg, but more like Steve Miller's Eagle or with the help of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds and the wonder of that other Stevie who sings, Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Better Decade?*

This piece was originally posted on January 6, 2010. 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!

Sure, a new year has just begun. But this stands out because it is also the beginning of a new decade, which was the prevalent thought in my mind as the minutes and seconds went by on New Year’s Eve. When the 2000s began, I already felt a sense of dread because of the election of the most recent former U.S. President, yet I had no idea what changes the decade would bring into all of our lives. I know I am no psychic, but I like to think that my instincts are pretty good. Will the second decade of the second millennia be a good one? I guess it all depends on what your definition of good is, in this case.

From a global perspective, I certainly hope that the new decade will be known for more responsible leadership. We are all human of course, so there will be many mistakes, but I think the shame alone of being charged with corruption and/or personal indiscretions may decrease the number of scandals in the future. Maybe it won’t, but I refuse to believe that no lessons have been learned so far. I would like to think that future economic recessions will not be as severe as the one we are currently recovering from, but it was far worse during the Great Depression of the 1930s, so I think we are getting smarter in general when it comes to money. I am hopefully optimistic about this; it is not a case of wishful thinking on my part.

Will this decade mark the defeat of terrorism and global warming? I see no easy answers, but I am convinced that we will achieve control of these and other difficult situations in the years to come. I just have to believe that better days are ahead for all of us. Yes, it could very likely to wishful thinking after all.

Do you agree that we will “get it together” in 2010 and beyond?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Seeking a Soccer Mom*

This piece was originally posted on September 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!

As a kid, I led a very sheltered life. My sisters and I couldn't do much of anything that wasn't schoolwork or reading and any fun we did have was in the comfort and protection of our own home. That meant no tv on school nights, no visits to friends' homes (though they could come to ours), and no after school activities. This last one seems particularly strange to people I know who grew up with soccer practice, karate, or some other activity that kept them engaged and entertained.

But I guess I'm making up for lost time because I've recently set up a schedule for myself that makes me feel like I need a soccer mom to keep me on top of things.

It started when I got French lessons from one of those daily deal sites. I still have hopes to travel to Paris and live there for a while, so French lessons are necessary and they were a good deal. They were nearing expiration and I finally found a class that didn't conflict with my schedule, so starting in a couple of weeks, I'll be spending every Thursday conjugating verbs and working on my accent.

Soon after getting that deal, I saw one for voice lessons. Having been a singer way back in junior high and high school, I have always wished I could have kept up with it, so I just had to sign up. I had my first lesson a few days ago and am ready for the next few. I'm even thinking I might keep going back once a month or so. The most recent addition to my schedule is a creative writing course through Gotham (another daily deal), and although that doesn't begin for a couple of months, I've got it in mind even now.

The good thing is that these classes don't overlap too much because one set is winding down by the time the next one starts, but it's strange to realize my schedule suddenly resembles that of a very active child. At least I'll be doing things I enjoy rather than something my parents pressured me to do!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Flaw in Films*

The following was originally posted on October 18, 2010. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Summer Retrospective.

It's possible that many of you are already familiar with the Bechdel Test for women in films, but I found this video by The Feminist Frequency about a surprising phenomenon occurring in many popular feature films today:

If you watched the video, you might not need to read the rest of my post, but here it goes anyway. The Bechdel Test asks three questions of any movie to determine the true presence of women on the screen:

  1. Does the film have more than one woman in it (who has a name)?
  2. Do they talk to each other at some point?
  3. Do they talk about something other than a man?
The first time I heard of this, I felt sure I could immediately name plenty of movies that pass the test. Turned out, I could name some--not plenty--and they weren't always the movies I expected them to be. And it remains truly shocking to me how many of my favorites fail miserably.

How do your long-time favorites stack up? What about any new releases you've checked out lately? Any surprises?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Forum: Summer Retrospective

This summer at CHICKS ROCK! we're taking some time to celebrate our blogging history with a Summer Retrospective. We'll be reposting some of our past content, in addition to adding new posts, featured links and discussion topics as usual. What are some of your favorite posts from the past that you've read here on CHICKS ROCK!? We'd love to feature them again for our new readers!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Link Love for 6/14/2012

It's been a while since our last link love round-up, so we're back to share some of our favorite blog posts! If you know of any other 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 reveals how a humbling moment at her local car wash taught her how to ask for help.

One Writeous Chick returns to collaging and impresses everyone with her playlist at her friend's vision board party.

NYWSE salutes both The Lotus Odyssey and WORK+SHELTER for their sincere commitment to women's concerns and fair operating practices.

In Good Company shares tips on how to re-gain 3 more hours to your day, even to those who are the busiest of all.

Savvy Ladies identifies the symptoms of those who suffer from a scarcity mindset, and how to overcome the affliction. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wishes And Their Consequences

Over the years, I have heard the quote “be careful what you wish for because it might come true” and processed it in my mind in different ways. Now, I am faced with some major changes in my life, some of which I wanted to happen for many years, and this same quote has re-entered my mind. While I am happy that some of my wishes are coming true, I am a bit apprehensive of what is to come as a result.

The first change has to do with my family dynamics; without being specific, I will say that I have wanted it to happen ever since I can remember, and now that it is imminent, I am both relieved and wary. The consequences of this major transformation will most likely be positive and negative, but I am hoping that the former will outweigh the latter. My physical reaction to this upcoming wish come true is similar to how I feel right before a roller coaster ride begins: even though my stomach is in knots, I am also looking forward to the good times ahead.

The other change has to do with my moving out of New Jersey to New York City. I am not very nervous about this at all, because it is a transition; I will most likely move next year to another state or possibly overseas. I have wanted to move for a few years now, and I am glad that it is happening. I like the idea of a new address, and re-adjusting my daily routines in another environment. The logistics of moving are never simple, but I am looking forward to reducing my possessions to what I need in my new, temporary home.

When wishes come true and changes take place, details always come into play. When they do, I have a tendency to get too caught up in them to enjoy the overall experience sometimes. I am going to try to avoid this pitfall moving forward. How does “be careful what you wish for, because it might come true” resonate with you?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Doing What We Love*

This piece was originally posted on October 4, 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!

Why do we stop ourselves from doing the things we love? I’ve been struggling lately (and by “lately,” I mean at least a year) with this question.

I have a friend who wants to be an actor and moved to New York partly to pursue that. When I ask him about it, he’s never much closer to taking his acting seriously than he was the time I asked before that. Another aspiring actor studied theatre in college and hasn’t gone on any auditions or even gotten headshots. I also have a friend who used to dance and was quite talented but had to stop years ago. Even though she now has some time and resources to start dancing again, it’s too emotional for her to even try.

All my life, I’ve loved to sing. When I stopped singing regularly with a chorus (or “for real,” as I like to call it), I lost confidence in my ability and eventually it became harder and harder to think about doing it again. Similarly, for the past few months, I’ve found it harder to sit down and write something substantial – one of the things I love doing most. I write here once a week, but it’s nothing like what I used to write when I used to write “for real.”

So I have to ask why it is that we stop ourselves from doing the things we love. I wonder if we don’t think we’re good enough, but it doesn’t seem that simple. I think maybe we don’t think we’re worthy of doing something we truly enjoy – something that has the potential to make us truly happy. Whatever it is, I’m trying to get us all out of our funk. However big or small our steps are, I’m hoping my friends and I can all get back on track… I imagine we’d all be at least a bit more fulfilled.

Monday, June 11, 2012

As Resilient As Glass*

This piece was originally posted on August 2, 2010. 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!

I visited a glassworks in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this summer, where you could sit and peer through a huge picture window into the active glassblowing studio. I sat for over an hour and watched an artist and his assistants sweat over a single vase, thrusting the glob of red-hot, molten glass in and out of the flames, pinching and turning and shaping and blowing it just so with each extraction. Fascinating.

In the time I watched, the artist drew the vase in and out of the fire once every minute or two, working it, studying it, and finally he held it up for a long inspection. I thought he was finished, he had paused so long, but then he shook his head and slammed it back in, allowing it to lose its shape entirely. He drew out the pulpy mass and started over, scrapping an hour's work, at least. Not angry, just matter-of-fact. You could see it in the set of his shoulders. Not bad, but I can do better.

The heat must have been unbearable. I felt pain for him, as he destroyed his work and started again, but his attitude about it gave me inspiration and hope. Because things don't always go as we plan, the first time. And if you don't give up, there are better things on the horizon. It's as true in life as it is in art, whether it be glassblowing or writing, which is my own stock-in-trade.

Attached to the studio there was a shop and museum of handblown glassware and glass art. I fell in love with about a dozen amazing works of art. In the end, I wasn't able to afford anything in the whole shop, apart from the trinkets at the checkout. I bought a small disk of pale blond-colored glass, swirled with strands of copper and gold, etched with the words SCRIBE DEEP.

It's small--about the size of a half dollar, only thicker, like a Nilla wafer--but it's quickly becoming a favorite touchstone for me in my writing life. A reminder that it isn't enough to go through the motions, but that I have to dig to find what's important. And, that it's okay sometimes to scrap a project and start it over, when I know I can do better. It's not the same as giving up, when the raw material (or, in my case, the idea) is still alive in the flames, ready to be drawn out and made into something beautiful.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Looking to the Skies

Last week’s Manhattanhenge and last night’s Transit of Venus have interested me enough to peer into the skies to see the unusual phenomena. None of us will see Venus pass directly between the sun and our planet again; the next one will take place in December 2117. Thankfully, the more awe-inspiring Manhattanhenge (otherwise known as the Manhattan Solstice), will happen again on July 11th and 12th. The reason why I find this more interesting than the Transit of Venus is because the sun will actually align with the New York City street grid, which really blows my mind. Watching Venus’s trek across the surface of the sun did get a little boring, except for the solar flare near the end of it. Regardless of this, I was and still am interested in more sky and space related natural events.

I would love to see the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights) this coming winter where I can properly see them, such as in Canada or Norway. A beautiful natural light show in the skies above would be incredible to see. I would gladly welcome seeing all the streaks of light and their overall beauty for myself, even if I had to be bundled up in multiple layers of fabric to stay warm. There is something exciting about staring into the sky and seeing something so beautiful and almost unexpected.

Witnessing these natural events in the skies create great escapism. I think we as people get too overwhelmed with Earth-bound concerns, so looking above to witness something that happens once in a lifetime, yearly, or every few years is a nice way to look beyond ourselves. I am looking forward to the next Manhattanhenge in a month and any future sky gazing spectacles to come.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Heart View

Part of the experience of being an author is going on school visits. I went to a school visit in New Mexico recently where the students welcomed me with great enthusiasm, and had prepared art, music and theater projects on the themes of my books in celebration of my visit.

My second novel, CAMO GIRL, is about a girl who doesn't fit in at school and only has one friend. She's self-conscious about her appearance, since she has a skin condition that causes her face to have dark and light patches of skin on it. Mean kids at school tease her about it, which only makes maters worse. Her best friend, though, accepts her for who she is, and she him in return. They sit alone at the outcast table at lunch.

The themes in the book--things like friendship, peer bullying, and self-acceptance--resonate with middle schoolers, and they sit quietly in their rows while I talk about my own experiences of feeling left out as a kid, and how badly I wanted to have lots of friends.

It was especially touching to see the wall of art these particular kids had created in anticipation of my visit. They had read and discussed the book, and they created a collage mural with the main characters' names and decorated an entire hallway to reflect the settings of the book. My favorite piece, though, was the wall of faces they labeled "If you saw me with your heart instead of your eyes." The students decorated a series of identical cut-out faces by putting another, hidden, layer behind them and writing in things about themselves that you might not know by looking at each of them.

I found myself choking up looking at these faces, because it was such a beautiful tribute to the book. And also, because the idea of looking more deeply into people before judging them had been introduced to these young sixth-graders. I hope it's a lesson they will carry with them throughout their lives.

The original hardcover
The new paperback cover!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Forum: TGIF

Remember the TGIF lineup on ABC Friday nights? Sometimes it's fun to reminisce, so tell us what some of your favorite shows were!

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