Friday, December 6, 2013

Feeling the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

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


One of the most significant trips and greatest adventures of my life was when as a result of a TWM Visioning Workshop,  I travelled to South Africa by myself as a delegate from The Women's Mosaic to attend the UN Conference on Racism in Durban, August 2001
I first went to Cape Town where I took the public ferry (with Chris Tucker who also happened to be on it - random) out to Robben Island where I was deeply moved learning about Mandela's time there as a prisoner, and understood even more profoundly what an amazing human being he is.  
But the true testament I believe to his legacy was that just about wherever I went, (which was still very early in the new South Africa) and whoever I interacted with - no matter what their race - was incredibly warm, open and I felt carried within them the spark of light that Mandela so wisely and compassionately lit in his nation's people to work towards reconciliation, tolerance and ultimately, unity. 
It is a very special country because of the presence and work of two of humanity's greatest leaders, first a young Mohandas K. Gandhi, and then a wise and evolved Nelson Mandela.

Friday, September 27, 2013

All Roads: Same Place

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

The following was originally posted on September 25, 2013 on Kristina's blog.

September is always an exciting time of year for me as world leaders convene on the island of Manhattan for the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Many of you know my degree is in International Relations. Early on I was a passionate student of languages and cultures, got bit by the travel bug at age 12 after a trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco with my grandmother; by senior year in high school I was studying Spanish, French and Italian (foregoing chemistry and physics..), Mandarin Chinese freshman year in college, organized international student orientations, studied abroad my third year…you get the picture.

My dream was to one day work for the UN, as my intention and mission in life was to contribute to world peace (I simply didn’t understand why people and countries couldn’t get along just because of race, religion or anything else), so that was a seemingly logical goal. Who grows up wanting to be a career/life coach? Like so many professions today, that didn’t even exist when I was a kid! Ah, but the Universe has a funny way of working things out.

Once I discovered that being employed by the UN did not ultimately fit my skill set or desired environment, I set out to create my own international experiences - teaching middle and high school Spanish, working and traveling with an upscale educational tour operator, teaching Tourism Destinations & Cultures for NYU, and founding my own mini-version of the UN called The Women’s Mosaic, bringing together women from different cultures and backgrounds to learn from and be inspired by one another.

As a result of that creation, I got hooked into the UN, met several times and received praise from Kofi Annan, have attended many of their conferences (I still get verklempt when I am in the auditorium wearing an earpiece…), and before any of this, without consciously trying, ended up living in the very neighborhood where the UN’s headquarters is situated – so for my entire adult life I have been surrounded by diplomats and their missions, sharing my coffee shop, gym and grocery store with them 24/7.

Fast forward to more recently, as my interest and passion for personal growth, empowerment and healing along with my ability to relate to just about anyone, combined with x-ray vision, supersonic hearing, and broad knowledge base of industries, careers and other resources have combined to make me into this very interesting and profoundly effective person I will call a career/life coach for lack of a better title….and I have been helping people professionally in this capacity for over six years.

Last week I had a big ah-ha moment after a Skype session with a new client in Hungary who had attended one of my talks while here on holiday. Although that was only my second international call, I realized just how diverse and, yes, global my clientele is! I have worked with well over a hundred people from all backgrounds – whether foreign nationals here visiting or working temporarily, or folks that were not born here but came as children or adults to live. They hail from Macedonia, Italy, Puerto Rico, Mexico, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, China, Taiwan, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, El Salvador, Russia, Japan, Philippines, and Israel as well as embody the many diverse ethnicities and religions found here; African-American, Haitian, Indian, Persian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Quaker, and so much more; many of my clients have accents, as English is their second or third language! So DUH, here I am using my degree in ‘International Relations’ yet once again, simply in another form. Pretty cool, huh?

I share all of this not just to illustrate how the thread of my interests and passions have run through everything I do, but also for this: My work with individuals only confirms my theories, thoughts and ideals about countries and humanity as a whole. The more I learn and observe intimately the intricacies of all these seemingly different folks’ journeys and backgrounds, the more I see the hard evidence of how we are all wired as humans with the same desires, dreams, hopes and challenges – no matter what corner of the globe you are from we have far more in common than you can imagine.

Think you’re so special? You are. You have a uniqueness that you bring to this planet. But you are also made of the same stuff as that guy or gal is sitting next to you on the subway, or across the ocean. And because of things like technology and climate change, we are more interconnected than ever. So this week take a moment to expand your horizons - who can you learn about, chat with or help in some way that is out of your normal sphere of influence? How can you Imagine your world for the better? What can you do to think globally but act locally?

Not sure what is the micro in your life that will affect the macro? Give me a buzz and we’ll translate the language of your soul to see how it will weave into the tapestry of history and become that much needed piece of the peace puzzle we are all a part of, no matter who you are or where you come from.

FINAL WEEK: Be sure to take advantage of my special Back to School September discount offer!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Salary Negotiations and Self Confidence

I recently learned the importance of negotiation, especially when it comes to salary. When I received a job offer letter from a small company offering a part-time position that will become full-time after a month, it looked good to me at first. Then, my eyes scanned down to the hourly rate listed, and I knew I had to start negotiating. While I understand that most companies of all sizes have had to downsize due to the lingering consequences of the recession, I knew immediately that I could not accept the offer as is.

From all that I have read and know from firsthand knowledge about salary negotiations, I am aware that many job seekers won't even attempt to start the process, which should happen right after an offer is made by a potential employer. Sometimes those who have been looking for employment for an extended period of time may be prone to jump on the first opportunity to come their way. I have different circumstances; I work as a consultant for several companies, and while I am open to a full-time position, it has to be something that will justify me giving up (or cutting down) on my other work projects. The position I was recently offered did not convince me to make any changes, because they are only willing to go up $1 an hour, and they are not offering any benefits.

My advice to anyone in this situation is to always see if there is any "wiggle room" in a job offer. If an increase in salary is not possible or not as high as you would like it to be, then a prospective employer may be open to other options, such as offering public transportation reimbursement, parking fees or a health insurance plan with varying levels of coverage. When I was negotiating my salary, I calculated how much my daily travel expenses to and from the location would be, and the result is one of the reasons why I decided not to accept the position.

I knew that if I accepted their terms with no hesitations, I would not be able to respect myself. I also think my would-be employer would have continued to undervalue me, knowing that I am willing to work for so little from the very beginning. Ultimately, I walked away from negotiations with my head held high, knowing that I made the right decision. Thankfully, I handled myself well enough that they are considering me for a per diem position, which I can definitely live with.

Do you have any salary negotiation stories to share?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Give Yourself Gifts

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Cherise as a guest blogger:

Cherise is a Professional Interior Stylist and Lighting Expert. Her love for the individuality of people, a passion for design, and an adoration of the place we call home that fuels her work and her life.

A friend and I were talking today about her new home. She and her husband moved into their 2nd house 3 weeks before their first child arrived. Flash forward 9 months later: Packed boxes fill their home. With the arrival of their new baby, and being two hard working parents with full schedules, unpacking those boxes and getting settled hasn’t been their focus.

This summer when the baby turns a year old, they would love to host a house party to welcome family and friends to their home for the first time.

Like many of us, my friend has her ideas of the complete overhaul that is needed to one day turn this old home into their dream home.

my advice?

find happiness in your daily home life in the present

it’s so important for your sanity and health

give yourself this gift

Understanding that she craves a sense of organization (no surprise – most of us are not happy living out of boxes!), she admitted that it would make a big difference to at least gain organization in her daily home life. Rather than a complete home renovation, with a smaller investment of time and money she can get her home in order in the short term, and continue to make plans in the long term for the “dream renovation” where they can design new layouts and finishes.

I told her to focus on 4 things:

#1: Unpack everything. Get everything out of boxes first so you know what you are working with.

#2: Decide what to keep, and what needs to find a new home. Go through your items and make sure they have a reason to stay and a place to go. Some things will have an obvious place, and others may need to be re-purposed in order to make the cut.

#3: Organize & Rearrange. Now that you know what you are working with, make a list of areas that still don’t feel organized to you and create a plan to address these areas. You may need to invest some money in organization systems, but it will be money well spent. Next, design a space arrangement that supports all your key activities such as cozying up by the fireplace in winter, playing on the ground with the baby, watching the game, and having occasional guests visit.

#4: Continue to give yourself gifts no matter the size! There is something my friend has done to improve her space that is 100% on the mark! It cost her no additional money and minimal time, but helps her love her space and surroundings even in its current state of disarray.

She combined two items that had meaning for her: 1) hand picked tulips from her backyard that her husband planted as a surprise, and 2) vases she purchased from a recent trip they took together.

End result: She feels so good every time she looks at them – fresh tulips all season made by her husband with love. This is the gift that keeps on giving! Only she could know that this small improvement was going to be very special to her. She can enjoy it for all its beauty AND use it as motivation to keep working on the bigger items in her home, such as organization and redesign. Looking at them is a hopeful, encouraging reminder that her home space will continue to evolve into a place she loves.

I share this example with you because it is the essence of this blog:

create based on what has meaning to you

Making changes to the house is not always easy, but sometimes it’s gotta get done. As you press forward you have new opportunities to create more of these priceless expressions which are gifts for you to enjoy and will work together to make your house feel like a home.

What has meaning for you? Think about something you enjoy displaying. Or an activity you do in your home to relax and relieve stress, such as playing with animals, creating, cooking, being a coach potato, surfing the web, watching TV, drinking coffee or tea, listening to music, singing, yoga….

Maybe you have activities you do outside the home such as walking, biking, dancing, meeting friends for happy hour, playing sports…

Next time I will share a few things with you in my home that have meaning to me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Start at the Center

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Cherise as a guest blogger:

Cherise is a Professional Interior Stylist and Lighting Expert. Her love for the individuality of people, a passion for design, and an adoration of the place we call home that fuels her work and her life.

“home” can have so many different meanings

“home” is (but not limited to) …


the place you should always be who you are

wonderfully built to support your lifestyle

If you’ve ever found yourself trying to take a living space – apartment, condo, bedroom, house – and transform it into a place that shares any of the above qualities, you may have asked yourself “Where in the world do I start?!”

Like many, you may have turned to the internet and searched the 100′s of beautiful design blogs online, or perhaps to popular television channels such as HGTV and DIY Network. These are great places to get ideas, but if you’ve walked away less than ready to make your dream home, keep reading. Often times you don’t need to look any further than yourself.

Homes are extremely personal places. They become personal not necessarily by starting with a “great idea,” but by starting with the person – you. If you don’t have any connection to the idea, no matter how great it seems, chances are it won’t serve a purpose for you in your daily life.

The first question to answer is:

who are you?

and the second is:

what will make you happy in the space?

The answers to these questions can look a LOT of different ways, as many ways as there are people.

Some people are ready with their own ideas, and others may feel like they don’t have any at all. No matter where you’re at, I’m here to help you uncover what’s inside and translate the YOU into your space.

by putting yourself at the center of your home design, you will create the home you feel most supported in and truly connected to

A quick break from serious stuff for a fun analogy!

i love wine

I enjoy a glass at home with my dinner, or while catching up with a friend, wine tastings at wineries, or to celebrate a special occasion. To set a good example, I’ll tell you that my love of wine is reflected in my South Philly home (or maybe not since wine doesn’t hang around long in my house!).

Recently I went to the best wine bar ever during a trip to see my big sister in St. Louis. At Robust Wine Bar they successfully demystified wine tasting for the average person, a feat that deserves an award in my opinion. Our waitress did an excellent job asking us questions to get a sense of what we liked. Next she made suggestions based on the information we gave her about ourselves. One of our friends at the table admitted she has wanted to try more red wines, but has been intimidated and unsure of which ones to try. The waitress made a suggestion based on her preferences, and gave her a useful tip on how to become more comfortable trying red wines: Start with the sweeter reds and work your way up to the drier reds to develop the palette slowly. She ended with “Keep in mind that the best wine isn’t what I like or what anybody else has told you to like. It’s what YOU think is the best one. That’s the best one. Period.”

In this moment she gave us permission to be ourselves – exactly who we were at that moment. Her ability to create a non-judgmental, free-to-be-me environment and to guide our decisions based on who we were and what we liked resulted in the most enjoyable wine tasting experience I’ve ever had. Fun. Relaxing. This is what wine tasting is all about.

Likewise, in your home it’s about being in an environment where you feel completely comfortable being yourself, and where you can hopefully have fun and relax too. As your guide, I will make suggestions on how you can work your way forward on this path based on who you are. There will be many opportunities to try new things, but no pressure!

what you choose for yourself is going to be the best thing for you

To demonstrate how you can make yourself central in your home, my next few posts will be focused on design ideas in my home that have “Cherise” in the center. In addition, we will be visiting the homes of some of my closest, most creative friends to give us a broad view on various approaches. I’ll include tips and questions you can answer to keep you pointed in the right direction.

(all pictures are from my Dec 2012 trip to Argentina – I did a bike tour of Mendoza wineries)

Originally posted at ispaci

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shake Your Groove Thing

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 coach, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of career development, work/life wellness and personal growth. The following was originally posted on November 28, 2012 on Kristina's blog.

Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit? ~ Gabrielle Roth
In the movie Silver Linings Playbook, the main characters Pat and Tiffany are in training for a big dance competition that turns out to be much more than a fancy booty shaking contest.  A unique romantic dramedy, it's a film that shows there is a fine line between sanity and insanity, acceptable versus unacceptable behavior, and the beauty of living life to the beat of your own drum.
In the movie The Sessions, Mark O'Brien is confined to an iron lung 20 hours a day, existing on a gurney unable to move from the neck down, and yet he writes poetry, is a professional journalist and decides to hire a sex surrogate so he can experience the most human of experiences. We go along on his journey (based on a true story!) and find him to be one of the most alive, loving and liberated individuals to have ever lived despite such extreme physical limitations.
And as seen in the movie Lincoln, our 16th president is clearly not your Average Joe.  He was always thinking out of the box, used his quirky sense of humor to diffuse or illuminate situations, and took numerous risks throughout the most heart-wrenching circumstances our country has endured.  He stretched the Constitution to its limit, working within an established framework while implementing his own interpretation and/or bending the rules based on his hard-earned wisdom, keen observations and superior judgment as unprecedented needs arose and critical decisions had to be made in order for progress to occur.
In the conscious movement class I take, we are told to  'dance it your way' and have breaks of  'free dance'  where we boogie as we see fit; it's not chaotic because there is an organized structure and unity contained within the flow as we come back together intermittently as a group throughout the hour.  It's a super-small class because for many people, when given the opportunity to move and think for themselves, even for just a few moments, is a daunting and uncomfortable feeling; it's an empowering exercise that requires more effort and less inhibition, and many simply don't know what to do if they are not following the instructor. And that, my friends, is indicative of a larger problem with implications reaching much farther than a gym studio.
Spielberg's Lincoln asks, "Do you think we choose to be born? Or are we fitted to the times we're born into?"  As citizens of the 21st century, we are certainly living in extraordinary times that will require us to become the fullest and most unique beings we are meant to be.  We each have something that needs to be expressed, something that no other person on this planet, no one who has come before or will come after can express. Right now we need new ways of looking at old problems and to change old ways in order deal with new problems, so it's more important than ever for you to do your own thang, because there is no other way to generate inspiration and birth innovation.
In any era it's easy to get stuck in past habits and sucked into the zeitgeist of the day.  Resist the urge to follow the herd, fight to honor yourself, think and speak your own thoughts and begin to know and create yourself anew every moment of every day instead of getting swept up by social media, news, commercials, and even your peer groups, work and ethnic cultures or family and friends who are all, consciously or not, forces that can easily grab hold of your mind, body, spirit and/or bank account.  Don't let your physical characteristics, family roots or societal dictates squash all the rhythms inside you that might be quite different from what those outside influences might have you believe, say or do.
Not sure exactly what your groove thing is? Give me a buzz and I'll get you started with some basic choreography and point you in the right direction, because ultimately You Should Be Dancing your own steps throughout life, hopefully with a fun disco floor beneath your feet along the way!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Vegan Challenge

For almost two weeks now, I have been existing on a vegan diet. Why? Well, I have a variety of reasons for making the change, all of which stem from my wanting to avoid prescription drugs with side effects that can be worse than the actual ailments. After doing extensive research for several months, I decided to take the plunge by trying out the vegan lifestyle for at least one month. So far, I am not missing animal products of any kind.

My vegan challenge includes omitting all oil as well, which has been a big hurdle for me. When eating salads at home or in restaurants, I always chose oil and vinegar as my regular dressing; now I make my oil free options at home, and avoid eating meals out. I still go to caf├ęs armed with my laptop, but now I make sure to eat before I go so I am not tempted to buy pastries or savory items to accompany my herbal tea drinks, which I order iced during these scorching hot summer days.

Making sure not to munch on anything three hours before bedtime has also been difficult; I love snacking whenever I can, so I make sure to stay hydrated and eat filling, nutritious food throughout the day to avoid succumbing to my cravings at night. My reliance on a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, rice, oats, and other healthy starches make me feel lighter, even though my main goal isn't weight loss. All I want is overall good health, and I think I am on the right track.

Depending on how things go during the month, I may decide to stay a vegan. To make it work, I have to plan ahead and maintain discipline. I tend to be disorganized and lazy, so the long term challenge will be to change these bad habits to make veganism work for me. It is definitely not going to be easy, but I will continue to try to make it work.

Good luck to all of you out there who are trying to make positive lifestyle changes!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creative Flow

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome back Giovanna as a guest blogger:

Giovanna lives in New York City. Through her work experiences and
most recently through her studies, she has developed a passion for the
dynamic of work, the psychology behind it.

A creative mind is a happy mind. Researchers have found that, among other things, creativity increases job satisfaction, creates more positive emotions, and augments the overall wellbeing of a person. Henceforth, it should come as no surprise that people who are creative are happier than those who aren’t.

To attest to it, think about the times when you’ve been your most crafty: that time you whipped up pancakes from scratch or when you came up with that cool hack to save time in the morning before work. Chances are, you look back at those moments with fondness because creativity often comes from a positive place: love, impulse, curiosity.

Our history is full of artists, philosophers and mad geniuses whose ideas were so groundbreaking that they seem novel even today. However, lately it seems the world has lost that creative edge.

We live in a time where anything mainstream looks and sounds the same: the people next to you as you cross the street are wearing the same style, the song on the radio sounds exactly like the one you just heard, etc. It’s as if there are no new ideas anymore. And the shocking part is, most of us are O.K. with that. Many of us have become complacent with living our lives without creativity.

Researchers have even coined a term for it: creative bias; people want to be creative, yet reject creative ideas when they have them.

Sound familiar? It should, because we have all been guilty of this at one time or another. How many times have you thought about trying a new activity, for instance, yet brushed it off as implausible? How often have you wanted to try a new hairstyle but decided against it because you thought it would look ridiculous? We put so much restraint on our own thoughts, that we disregard any possibility of originality. It's as if we're afraid of the stigma that comes from thinking outside the box.

However, as much as we may try to suppress it, creativity needs to be expressed. Creativity is as much a part of being human as breathing; the challenge is learning to apply creativity to our everyday lives.

Creativity is said to come from the right hemisphere: the same side of the brain associated with images, emotions, color, music, expression, and intuition. That’s why musicians, artists and writers are often described as creative. Even so, you do not have to be the next Frida Kahlo or have a page on Etsy to be considered creative. Creativity is not just about making collages and writing sonnets, it’s about creating ideas! PsychologyToday defines creativity as the ability to generate new ideas, new connections between ideas and new ways to solve problems. In order to do this, you have to open your mind to a new way of thinking.

So next time you have a kooky idea - embrace it! Allow yourself to take a different cognitive approach to a given situation. Take inspiration from your environment, the people around you. Let go of mental hurdles you place on yourself and let the prospect of creativity sharpen your skills and abilities. Let it boost your resilience and satisfaction with life. Quiet the negative thoughts and let your creative mind flow!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When Everything Goes Wrong

This morning, I woke up and had a plan for the day: write a blog post about starting my business, make a couple of phone calls, have a session with a client, work on a website I'm helping a friend with, and reach out to a few more people about my upcoming program.

Then everything went wrong.

 First, my cell service was cut off, for reasons that belong in a whole other blog post. As I scrambled to reschedule my calls, I noticed a message about a problem with my student loan payment. I spent 30 minutes on the phone (via Skype) before the call was dropped and I had to start the process all over again. The issue was only sort of resolved an additional 20 minutes later.

Sometime during that call, I noticed that my laptop charger had stopped working. Yesterday, a cat nibbled on the cord and bit into it; it worked this morning after jiggling it a bit but hasn't worked since. By this point, there was not much battery left on my laptop, my phone still wasn't working, and I realized my goals for the day were taking a detour. It was only 10:30am.

When I'm stressed out, I clean, so I set off to do just that. I noticed a weird smell and found three piles of rotting fruit covered in maggots and completely freaked out. I hate bananas, anything rotten or moldy, and tiny bugs... this could not have been more of a nightmare situation for me. This is when I almost gave up and went back to bed, because it wasn't even my mess -- I'm staying at somebody else's place.

But I forced myself to do something to feel like I could get a handle on things.

I wrapped a scarf around my face, got out all the plastic bags and cleaning supplies I could find, and rid the place of all the fruit and maggots. Then I took a break from everything and drank hot water with lemon and honey. I cleaned some more, organized my bags, ate, and had a generally productive day despite not being able to do the things I planned to do. I'm now at a friend's place charging my laptop, writing this on my phone, which is finally back on.

This is partially a chance to vent but mostly, I'm proud of myself for getting through the day instead of quitting. It was also important to me to actually cross something off my to do list, woohoo! Blog post done!

Maybe next week I'll write about my business but I do want to let everyone know about my online course, Launch Your Website in 4 Weeks; check it out and sign up if you've been wanting to start or revamp a website! Now I'm off to watch a friend do some improv and laugh the stressful day away.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

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

The following was originally posted on March 22, 2011 on Kristina's blog.  Right now there is a lot of  turmoil in the world, much of it not even being reported in the mainstream news.  It's great to watch The Voice and Real Housewives for an escape once and a while, but important not to ignore what is happening in the world around us.


One thing we know for sure is that history, unfortunately, often repeats itself. War is rarely simple or justified. We've had so many movies and video games laden with violence that as a society we've become de-sensitized. What we see on the big screen is now starting to unfold in reality on the small; even still there has been so much massive tragedy and destruction the last several years, both natural and man-made, it doesn't even phase us as much as it should. As long as we still have our DWTS, American Idol and Jersey Shore we can numb ourselves and tune out. When will we ever learn??

Because we've been lulled into such a state of complacency and so many are dealing with financial survival, the gravity of what happened this weekend is barely registering our richter scale. But if you can't comprehend and connect globally, then at least reflect and act locally.

There's a old song that says "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." So the question is: Are you at war with yourself? Is your head battling your heart and gut as to the direction it wants to go, or your body struggling with your mind and not doing what you need it to? Where in your life is history repeating itself? What conflicts are constantly being re-created with different uniforms, labels, scenarios and countries?

As Bob Marley sang, we don't need No More Trouble, not only with our multi-front wars in the Middle East, but our wars at home on the middle class, women's health, Muslims, and homosexuals to name a few. Right now we're Rock in the Casbah but at the end of the day All You Need is Love , so start by learning to Love the One You're With - yourself and those closest to you. Then, and only then, can we start to truly stand united and break the chains of our past.

As Yogi Berra famously said, 'It ain't over til it's over', so if you're feeling like you've been stuck in a Nick at Nite M*A*S*H marathon loop, give me a buzz and we'll pull the plug, launch Operation Open Heart and finish this thing once and for all.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paradigm Shift NYC Interviews TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi - Pt. 2

We're excited to let you know that Paradigm Shift NYC  recently featured an interview with TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi on their blog where she talked to writer Kristen Verge about women’s empowerment, creating a nonprofit and the experience of being a career/life coach. Below is Part Two of that interview, click here for the entire piece on Paradigm Shift  and Part One on CHICKS ROCK!
Can you tell us a little bit about your coaching?
It happened very organically.  Because of my own journey and mentoring many interns and volunteers, I realized I have a natural ability to get through people’s massive blocks and issues, heal any work/life imbalance and help them figure out their true calling. I’m really compassionate, understanding and loving in the way that I do my coaching, but I tell it like it is, which can sometimes be shocking to people! I have my own style and structure for how I work with folks— initial sessions are two hours in person with a forty-five minute follow-up phone call. I get to the essence of who you are very quickly and understand exactly where you’re at right now. Then I connect the dots of where you’ve been and determine what you truly want to do, where you really want to go – and ultimately who you want to be – and provide the tools and resources for how best to get there. After that initial session you have to do the work, but I am here to help guide and support you as much or as little as you want along the way.  I also offer group coaching twice a month.

What are some of the issues that women, in particular, come to you with?
An epidemic I see for a lot of people, but especially women, is lack of self-worth and self-esteem. It might present itself as bad relationships, not earning enough money, a variety of health issues, but it’s always the root of the problem and has to do with not honoring and taking care of yourself. On some level we’re taught, as women, to take care of everyone and be selfless to a certain extent, but when you do that to the detriment of your own mental, physical and emotional health, you’re no good to anybody, and you can’t fulfill your own potential.

The biggest thing I try to do as a speaker and coach is to get people to know, accept and love who they are, and then make the effort and have the patience and persistence to become the best versions of themselves they can be. Another issue I find is that I often have to give my clients “permission” to rest. Especially living in New York City, it’s always about work work work, go go go: but you have to be able to relax, be still, have fun, and know that pleasure in and of itself is productive. You need to let your body be able to heal, and give yourself the time and space to think and feel.

What would you say is the most pressing issue facing women today?
Motherhood. The women’s movement gave us the opportunity to certainly be and do a lot more than we were able to before, but the workplace hasn’t really changed until recently, and only incrementally. So yes, you can have a career, but with kids you have at least two jobs—you’re trying to please everyone, you’re overcompensating and/or feeling guilty about both, and what’s left over for you? I think about and observe this a lot with friends and clients, but there’s no easy answer right now. Until the workplace radically changes, and the societal norm is such that women feel completely fine about and encouraged to take care of and put themselves first—you’re trying to be a good wife, mother, lover, friend, and employee? There are not enough hours in the day unless you are super-disciplined to carve out that time for yourself to recharge and do things that energize you.

And if you’re a stay at home mom, there are often identity issues, conflicted feelings about income generation and spending, whether you want a new career or to go back to your old job….I think motherhood is at least the American women’s issue of our time. And then there are fertility problems, when is the best time to have children in relation to your career, and how do you raise kids in this crazy world or make the conscious decision not to have them?!

Men are helping out more, but the natural default is always with the mother. It’s very complex; but at the end of the day each woman has to make choices that are best for her particular situation and create a structure that supports her own well-being.

As a career coach, are there any mistakes that you made early in your career that you regret now, or advice you would give?
It’s important to understand that you need to pace yourself and find a balance between pursuing your dream at any cost, which requires a certain amount of risk, sacrifice and belief in oneself and the process, and being too cautious.  Early on I experienced some burn out because of how much of myself I invested with my time, energy and finances in TWM, but I might not have even tried if I knew what it would really require to bring my idea to life – so you always have to take that first step and see where it takes you.  Being able to literally create something out of nothing is incredibly rewarding, and the fact that we what we did based on sheer will and chutzpah is pretty amazing, and I couldn’t be more proud.

All of the challenges – which are expected when you decide to really stretch yourself and step into the unknown – have taught me so much about myself, contributed to my own personal growth and profoundly informed me in my coaching and speaking work, so I wouldn’t be here now had I not gone that route and am very grateful for what I have and continue to learn. It’s been quite the journey and it gets more interesting every day, that’s for sure!   So I guess you could say my advice is to always do the thing that you most want to do because you will surprise yourself with every success, and any problems or ‘mistakes’ will just be opportunities to grow.

Any words of wisdom to leave us with?
Personal transformation is the key to social transformation. I’m always connecting the individual to the whole. If you don’t have a peaceful, happy, fulfilled world in and of yourself, how can we expect world peace?

Click here for the entire interview on Paradigm Shift's blog.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Paradigm Shift NYC Interviews TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi - Pt. 1

We're excited to let you know that Paradigm Shift NYC  recently featured an interview with TWM Founder Kristina Leonardi on their blog where she talked to writer Kristen Verge about women’s empowerment, creating a nonprofit and the experience of being a career/life coach. Below is Part One of that interview, click here for the entire piece on Paradigm Shift  and Part Two on CHICKS ROCK!
What inspired you to create The Women’s Mosaic®?
I really wanted to use all of my talents, skills, abilities, and passions in one place and combine my interest in intercultural understanding, women’s empowerment, and personal growth. But I couldn’t find it out there, so I created it. All the programs contain one or more components of those aspects…TWM was a way to share my knowledge of different cultures and express myself in a variety of ways, which has inspired and educated other women in the process. This is what I try to explain in my speaking and coaching–if everyone just shared who they are, other folks will automatically benefit!

Can you tell us about some of the earliest programs that TWM offered?
Initially, The Women’s Mosaic was about having ethnic dinners with guest speakers and highlighting a women’s issue in that particular culture. The goal was to have women learn in an informal, but structured way. Instead of having to go to a lecture in some big auditorium, we were having an intimate authentic experience in a relaxed environment, with food being one of the main attractions – something that everyone can automatically connect and relate to!

How has The Women’s Mosaic® evolved since its inception?
TWM grew from small ethnic dinners to include more comprehensive panel discussions, film screenings and workshops. For instance, we hosted a discussion with women from all branches of the military in “My Life as a Female Soldier in Iraq.” Other examples of panels were “Girls, Gods & Goddesses: Women’s Relationship to Religion & Spirituality,” “Politics Schmolitics” (where it was very hard to find a Republican woman in NYC!), and “Health & Nutrition: Perspectives from Around the World,” all of which brought together diverse voices to educate attendees about the topic from a variety of viewpoints and experiences. It’s always about bringing a human face and stories to a variety of issues so that we can all learn from, connect to and be inspired by one another. You can see a list of all past events on our website. We’ve been in transition the past two years and are evolving yet again, so stay tuned for what’s next…

What was your favorite TWM program?
In 2002, just a year after 9/11, we did a program called “My Life as a Muslim Woman.” We had nine ethnically diverse, mostly American, Muslim women represented. They were phenomenal. You have to remember the ignorance of your average American at that time—most knew very little or nothing about Islam except for the most extreme fundamentalist version of it, so the intent was to dispel the prejudice and myths that existed (and unfortunately, still do in many respects). Even just walking into that room, a lot of people arrived thinking they were going to see all of these submissive, weak women covered from head to toe— but only three of the nine women were covered—in varying degrees—and they could not have been more accomplished and articulate about their identity and understanding of their faith. They absolutely shattered so many stereotypes and misconceptions that were particularly pervasive at that time.

The most surprising thing, though, was that we had about fifty people there—half the attendees were non-Muslim, and the other half were Muslim. Because there is so much diversity within the religion itself, they had never really come together like this. It was fascinating and significant to help unite that community at such a pivotal time. To me, I think that was the far greater benefit: that the Muslim women got to talk to and connect with each other and share their individual and collective experiences. In my life, it’s one of the things that I’m most proud of.

What is the role of The Women’s Mosaic® in the feminist movement?
The funny thing is that I never considered myself a feminist per se—this organization was completely born out of my own desire to be who I am and empower myself, to educate women about different cultures and balance out all the testosterone that had run amok in the world. We’re at a tipping point now that acknowledges the fact that the empowerment of women and girls leads to a better life for everyone, but twelve years ago, no one was talking about that so directly. At the time we started most women’s organizations were profession-specific and issue-specific; there was nothing out there that was just for women to continue to develop themselves on a personal level. The women that we appealed to are the majority, regular working woman who is still looking to learn and grow and be exposed to unique ideas and people. The Women’s Mosaic provided a very palatable way for women to continue to expand their horizons and interact with women they might not have the chance to otherwise.

Have you encountered any negativity or difficulties along the way?
Well, not really negativity but more that it has been a challenge sustaining and funding the organization through foundations, partly because we’re offering something so intangible. How do you quantify changing someone’s perception about Muslim women? We didn’t easily fit into any traditional funding category because, for instance, we weren’t serving women with survival needs—yet these ‘average’ women are the ones who could actually have the best chance to make change in their lives and the lives of those around them. A lot of the women who went to events got involved in the issues we talk about…but to quantify and measure inspiration, motivation, dispelling of prejudice, identity and personal growth… it’s something invaluable that wasn’t as recognized in that sense. The good news is that there are other sources to tap into, and in recent years new funders are starting to support more transformational programs like ours.

How did you find out about and become involved with Paradigm Shift NYC?
I met Lisa [the Co-Founder of Paradigm Shift NYC] at a presentation about website design and she introduced me to Meredith. I dig Meredith. I’m really impressed with what she does with her programming and outreach. She’s really collaborative, which is great.

Click here for the entire interview on Paradigm Shift's blog. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TWM's Founder in Inspire Virtual Mag!

Check out TWM's Founder, Kristina Leonardi, who has several articles featured in this month's issue of the new international Inspire Magazine!

Based in South Africa, Inspire Virtual Mag looks at the modern woman, the woman who wants to find the balance between work, play and being. Content ranging from informative business and life style articles through to beauty, fashion, dcor and tech features is what makes Inspire Virtual Mag a unique and true something for everybody publication.
Download the magazine and read Kristina's articles on pages 16-17; 24-25; 118-119, 148-149                           

Friday, May 3, 2013

Remembering Uncle

It started off as a normal day this Monday, April 29. I was working on my computer when I started getting messages from my best friend, telling me that her father was not doing well. He had serious medical issues for years, and had just come back from the hospital several weeks earlier after suffering a heart attack and other complications. I thought at first the outcome of this visit would be the same as the last time; he would be released under my best friend’s supervision and return to his home in Delhi. But the messages became more troubling, and then finally, I got word that he was no more. I remember staring at my phone for at least a minute, in shock at first, and then remembering.

Dev Uncle was my best friend’s father and family friend. I just called him “Uncle” (never Dev) as I did other men in my family and friend circles in the Indian community from the older generations. Of all the other people in my life, I felt that he was more of an uncle to me than most of my blood-related uncles. I met him almost 16 years ago when I first started becoming friends with his daughter. From the beginning, I was struck by how kind and gentle he was with me. He genuinely liked me as his daughter’s friend, and then like an honorary niece or other younger family member. When I went to visit my best friend, I always looked forward to seeing Uncle, even if it was for just a few minutes, because I had no positive father figure to speak of up until that point. Being in his presence was like a comforting balm on my soul at a time when I desperately needed it.

To tell the truth, I knew just the basic facts of Uncle’s life. I knew he was an engineer with a successful career in New Jersey, and was able to travel to many countries during his lifetime. I also knew the sad fact that he suddenly became a widower as a younger man, with two small children left to his charge. Like all of us, he struggled with what life threw at him, and persevered as best as he could. What I do know and will always remember about Uncle is how he used to pronounce my name in his gentle voice, and how much he loved long walks, visits from his friends, and more than anything, his children.

I will always miss Uncle, but I am glad he is no longer suffering from the many ailments that plagued him in life. He is at peace, and that makes me smile.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Wanna Dance!

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Sonia as a guest blogger:

Sonia is an economist from Barcelona. She discovered flamenco and decided to make it her profession at the age of 24, completely changing her life. She's convinced you can do anything you want if you fight for it and never lose your passion!

When I sat down to write this, an avalanche of questions and doubts came to me... Who am I to be writing? What do I have to say?

Well: I’m 31, with a degree in Economics; at 24, I fell in love with dancing; at 26, I quit a great job to become a professional flamenco dancer. And after seven years of struggle, I AM HAPPY and want to share with you my journey.

Leaving work was perhaps the easiest part. At 24, I was dancing at the same level as a 6-year-old and my body prevented me from moving as fast as my mind was going. Needless to say, though I didn’t lack desire or dedication, I felt powerless. Accepting my physical limitations and learning to handle destructive feelings of impotence and frustration, are perhaps two of the battles won I'm most proud of because they provided me with the tools to face other challenges. In my case, these challenges included the death of my mother two years ago and, of course, leaving a career my family and friends were proud of to be an artist. (I won’t tell you what my father said when I announced: “Papa, yo quiero bailar” -- “Dad, I wanna dance!”)

After quitting, I had more to overcome. I was good and people believed I had danced for several years but I kept hiding the truth because I saw my age as a handicap and something to be ashamed of. We’ve been sold the idea that the age when you started doing something defines how well you do it and how authorized you are to teach it to others. The younger, the better. I was not even allowed to participate in many contests for “new talent” because I’m too old, despite my limited years of training.

But isn’t it just as valid to have started something in later in life and achieve success?

I realized that my age was something to be proud of. When you start a new life at a later age, it means you’re sailing alone. But as your arms move your boat forward, those arms get stronger, providing better support for the weight of the challenges, disappointments, failures, as well as opportunities and success that will come to you.

I hope my story will encourage you. If you are someone who’s a little unhappy and needs a final push to start changing it, know that you can! In these troubled times when everything is changing, maybe we should take advantage of this global confusion and embrace change. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who understand and support you.

The next step for me is going to New York. I don’t know what will come of it, but neither did I that first day I put on flamenco shoes thinking that it was just a leisure activity for after work... and it changed my life!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

From Hate to Happiness

This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on my personal blog:

An observation: It's been so long since I did work I actually enjoy doing that I forgot 1) how wonderful it feels, and 2) that it's possible to work for long periods of time without needing distractions.

Starting Tuesday afternoon, I worked almost non-stop on a new project until Wednesday at midnight. In that time, I took three breaks: a 3-hour nap, a walk in the gorgeous, sunny, 75-degree weather in Paris, and a picnic dinner along the Seine with friends. And while I was tired by the end and welcomed sleep once I got to bed, for most of that time, I was so energized and excited that I kept working because I didn't want to do anything else. I was, dare I say it, HAPPY. Imagine that!

I used to love working. Even if I didn't love the job or the people or office politics or maybe just wasn't feeling it that day, working made me happy. I was a workaholic because it was a chance to constantly challenge myself, learn something new, and do the things I enjoyed, even if only for a few hours a week. In the last year, I started not only hating work but hating myself. I knew something was wrong long before I got the nerve to fix it but even then, I didn't fully appreciate how much I had changed until now.

my new, balanced schedule - took me two hours to create & it was FUN! I even danced!
I remember now why I've never believed that everyone is miserable at work, because they don't have to be! It is perfectly possible to live your life not hating work! That doesn't mean you love it all the time or maybe even most of the time (ebb and flow and all that jazz) but you certainly shouldn't hate it.

So if you do hate it, hopefully you'll take the risk, get out of there, and get back on track. Or at least find a way to add more of what you love to a situation you hate as a tentative step. Even with how stressful things have been for me these last few months -- and these last two weeks in particular -- I feel so much lighter and calmer and happier than I did all of last year. I feel like a totally different person.

Here's hoping you aren't in a miserable situation (fingers crossed), but that you find the courage to take yourself out if you are.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Paradigm Shift NYC Presents: It Was Rape

Our friends at Paradigm Shift have a great event coming up and we want to make sure you get tickets before it sells out! Check out the details below:

PARADIGM SHIFT NYC PRESENTS: IT WAS RAPE, A Screening and Discussion with JENNIFER BAUMGARDNER, Filmmaker & Activist and a panel of women featured in the film. 
Rape is wrong, illegal, reprehensibleand yet still tragically common. In this film, eight women tell their diverse personal stories of sexual assault, from a Midwestern teenager trying alcohol for the first time to a Native American woman gradually coming to terms with her abusive childhood. Gripping and emotional, this film is an opportunity to empathize with peoplenot just absorb faceless statistics and to puncture the silence and denial that allow sexual assault to thrive. Ultimately, these stories shed light on how this epidemic affects us all. View the trailer here: 
Location: The Feminist District, The Tank- 151 W. 46th St. (b/t 6th & 7th Ave) 8th Floor, NYC 10036

Monday, April 15, 2013

Confessions on Tax Day

Yes, the deadline for filing tax returns is finally here. It was my original plan to complete the process before April, but due to my out-of-state move, an increase in my work load, and other complications, I did not get to finish it until last week. To be completely honest, I dread tax season, and I am glad it is coming to an end today. I always get more anxious than I probably need to be, especially right before I find out how much I have to pay (or not pay) in taxes. Last year I had to pay a sizeable amount to the federal government; this year was much better.

This year also marks a change on how I handle taxes; I decided to pre-pay taxes quarterly this year, due to my status as a contractor and being responsible to deduct the amount myself. It should make next year’s tax return filing a more stress-free experience, or at least I hope so. For me, splitting the tax amount in four installments is better than paying it all in one lump sum later on. I have already marked my calendar for the remaining three deadlines this year, so I will be ready to mail my voucher and check to the U.S. Treasury each quarter.

So while I breathe a sigh of relief as the tax season comes to end, I wonder about millions of my fellow Americans on this day of financial reckoning. Have any of you waited until the last minute, or did you file your returns soon after receiving your W2s or 1099s? Do you have big plans for your tax refund checks?

See you next year, Tax Day. I will be better prepared to face you the next time around!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Donate Today in Honor of Women's History Month!

Thanks for being a reader of CHICKS ROCK!
With your generous contribution we can continue to share the awareness and value of our work providing opportunities for women to be inspired, motivated and educated by connecting to themselves, each other and the world around them.

Please scroll down or click the button below for an easy way to make a special $50 renewal/donation in honor of Women's History Month!
(Also, we still have 2 trips left for anyone who is able to donate at the $250 level or higher, scroll down or contact us for more info! And remember, you can always renew or donate in any amount, every bit helps!)
Thank you for your support - we are a member funded organization and wouldn't exist without you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Notable Women of TWM.. are YOU one of them?


Have a TWM story to share?  Be a guest blogger and tell us all about it!
Contact us for more info :)
TWM Logo

Women's History Month 2013

There have been hundreds of women with stories of how TWM has impacted and empowered them over the years - whether they were inspired, motivated or educated by an event they attended, a person they met, or the exposure and skills they were able to develop as a volunteer or intern with us.
So before the month is over we thought we'd share with you 12 notable ladies (+1 for good luck!) who got their start, shared a unique milestone, or have been connected to TWM over the 12 years we've been around.
Please be sure to check out their links and support them in all the relevant ways! :)

Regina Calcaterra - A panelist at our 2004 Politics Schmolitics event who shared her very personal story for the first time that night, and went on to run for State Senator and just published her memoir
Sandra Endo - Was an anchor for NY1 News at the time she moderated our Politics Schmolitics event and is now a correspondent with CNN
Galia Gichon - One of TWM's first official members, spoke at our inaugural ESP Conference at the start of her business and is now a nationally recognized personal finance expert
Kirsten Gillibrand - Was a fan and friend of TWM as a lawyer, and was planning on speaking to our group as a Congresswoman in Spring of 2008 before she was catapulted into the national spotlight replacing Hillary Clinton as New York's Senator
Sarah Jones - Gave her first private 'talk back' to our group after performing her highly acclaimed one-woman show Bridge & Tunnel
Daisy Khan - A panelist for our 2002 My Life as a Muslim Woman event while she was still working in corporate America, she has gone on to become a recognized and sought-after voice for the Muslim community on the national stage
Kekla Magoon - Came to us as a volunteer right out of college and contributed greatly to TWM in numerous ways before becoming an award-winning YA author on the rise
Lindsey Pollak - A friend and early member of TWM has become a nationally recognized Gen Y Workplace expert and LinkedIn Spokesperson
Bridgette Raes - Gave one of her first presentations as a personal style expert at our 2004 Be Your Best Self event and went on to publish a book and make several TV appearances
Terrie Williams - This well-known author, mentor, and businesswoman moderated 2006's My Life as a Black Woman event and has always been a supporter of TWM's work
Adaora Udoji - A friend of TWM, this award-winning journalist moderated 2008's My Life as a Female Soldier in Iraq event
Alisa Vitti - One of her earliest speaking engagements was a TWM ESP Conference in 2006; she just came out with a book and made her national debut on Dr.Oz
Randi Zuckerberg - Was a volunteer with TWM in 2005, helping to organize our Spotlight on Sri Lanka event and One Hot Havana Night fundraiser and then went on to work with her brother when Facebook took the world by storm...
kathy griffin tiffany

And here are just some of the other fabulous women we've met in person along the way who are proud owners of a CHICKS ROCK! button, TWM key chain or INSPIRER Newsletter:
Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Madeline Albright, Pat Mitchell, Geena Davis, Brooke Shields, Helen Gurley Brown, Kathy Griffin, Soledad O'Brien, Martha Beck, Eve Ensler, Arianna Huffington, Elizabeth Gilbert, Candace Bushnell, Erica Jong, Marie Wilson, Maria Shriver, Donna Karan, Elizabeth Lesser, Rosario Dawson, Marlee Matlin, Sherri Shepherd, Barbara Walters, Phylicia Rashad, Ivanka Trump, Rachel Ray

Who did we forget?
Do YOU have an experience, success story or ah-ha moment to share because of your connection with TWM?
Email us or post it on Facebook so we can send another blast with more stories!
The Women's Mosaic® (TWM) is proud to be a part of the women's empowerment movement for over a decade. Since January 2001 we have offered more than 100 unique opportunities for women of every background to connect to themselves, each other and the world around them.
Please show your support for TWM by becoming a member or renewing at the $50 level today!
Use the button above for the special $50 TWM Women's History Month Membership. You can always become a member or donate any amount by visiting our website.
(Scroll down for a great opportunity to take a discounted luxury Caribbean vacation when you support TWM at the $250 level or higher!)
Thank you to all our past, present and future members and donors for your support

Disclaimer: Blog entries express the opinions of the respective Bloggers/Contributors/Authors/Commenters solely, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Women's Mosaic. As host and manager of CHICKS ROCK!, TWM acts solely as a provider of access to the internet and not as publisher of the content contained in bloggers' posts and cannot confirm the accuracy or reliability of individual entries. Each participant is solely responsible for the information, analysis and/or recommendations contained in her blog posts.
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