Ode to Transitions

In order to tell you where I’ve been over the past few months, I have to share how I got here.

Most of the biggest transitions in my life over the past five years began and ended in a taxi cab. When I moved to New York City after graduating from college, I was filled with excitement and a young naivete about journalism as I stood in line at the airport waiting for a cab. I had never been to New York, but I was moving to Manhattan to become a writer — more specifically a journalist, and later, after hard work, I wanted to become the editor of a women’s magazine. I had it all planned out. I was going to conquer this foreign and unwelcoming city — even though I was just 21-year-old and had grown up in a rural Northern California town without a stoplight (or cabs, for that matter).

Big Apple? I was ready to take a big bite.

I wanted to learn from journalists who wrote for national newspapers and magazines, and gain experience at a magazine while studying for my Master’s at New York University. And, I was ready to take whatever the city was going to throw back at me, despite never having been there before. Ever.

What followed during my first two weeks in New York, were the agonies of finding an apartment during the height of the real estate market. (We’re talking pre-recession, people!) My boyfriend, Daniel (who later became my husband) and I needed to find a true one bedroom (that did not look out onto a brick wall and had a kitchen) for under $2,000 somewhere near the Village, where I would attend class for J-school.

However, we also needed to be near a subway stop so Daniel could commute to downtown Brooklyn easily. Boy, was that a lot to ask. We had only two weeks before my classes started, but the school wouldn’t give me any money to pay for a deposit on an apartment, let alone my books. I had graduation money, which was running a little low after experiencing my first summer without a job. I had worked all through school and decided to give myself one summer free from working minimum wage. Thankfully, my future in-laws helped make the work-free summer and new apartment a reality — without them, it would have been impossible.

We finally found a place amidst the sticker shock, humid heat and our aching feet. It took a pushy broker and $10,000 to move into our first apartment in the East Village on 3rd Street at 2nd Avenue, but it was ours! Who knew we’d need three months’ rent and a huge brokerage fee to get a place on such short notice? Yet, we were starting a new chapter in our lives. The apartment was tiny, but we loved it. We didn’t have air conditioning or much closet space. No matter, our little second floor walk-up was home. We even had a view of a park — well, ok it a quiet, squirrel-filled historic cemetery, but for $2,100 a month it was totally worth it.

Fast forward through new restaurants, friends, classes and jobs — our East coast lives had rapidly changed our outlook on the world and each other. During our time in New York, I buzzed around the city reporting stories on a woman comic writer, a stabbing in Williamsburg, a young jewelry designer and then got the amazing opportunity to work as a web intern for my favorite magazine, Marie Claire. Each week was filled with new stories, books, lessons and adventures, as I learned the subway lines and fell in love with living in NYC.  And I wasn’t the only one to find a passion for my career path. Daniel worked his way up at an e-commerce start-up, got to know Brooklyn, found us cool concert venues and discovered trendy restaurants and hot spots before they were popular. It was as if the world continued to unfold before us through grid-like patterns of the city streets and the boom of internet businesses where we started to find our niche.

Los-angeles
Image via Wikipedia

Over the past few years, our lives in New York were not limited to the city. I spent part of a summer in Africa reporting stories from Ghana. Daniel moved to India for nine months to help manage a new office in Jaipur. He also traveled to Australia and New Zealand. After grad school I joined him in India for a couple months before we were married in the summer of 2008. Life continued to change.

For me, post-grad life in New York included freelancing and working as an Associate Online Content Editor for teen news network, Channel One News. For two years I worked for Alloy Media + Marketing, learning the inner workings and demands of a daily network news program and what it’s like to edit and maintain a website with a really small staff — it was the best opportunity a young journalist could attain. Writing, editing, publishing and working cross-functionally with teams in marketing, sales, broadcast, design and engineering.

I could go on and on with how much I will forever live in an “Empire State of Mind,” but living in the city that never sleeps can be tough. To be honest, some of those people aren’t sleeping because they are just out having fun — they are working second jobs, writing in the middle of the night and searching for their next big break. Mine came just before Christmas as the snow began to fall.

I was offered a job in Southern California. Daniel and I had started our careers in New York and then, on December 22, with only a few weeks to prepare, we left it all for my new job as an editor for Demand Media. So much has happened since moving to California: new jobs, friends, an apartment, two cars…. but I realized in the move I lost touch with my writing, some of my friends and great things that made my life special because I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of changes we’d made. Then I remembered that the things I love most don’t just disappear. We just have a to make a little effort and find new adventures in the City of Angels.

Glad to say things are back on track (just on another coast with significantly fewer cabs).

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Photo by Steven DiCasa

Raising the Bar in Dance

Originally Published By: InterviewHer.com on January 20, 2011

“I’ve danced my entire life,” began Lauren Pellettieri, as she described the co-founding of her dance company, Liberated Movement. “In college I was part of a student-runliberated-movement dance group for four years. I performed, rehearsed and taught classes.” After she graduated from Fordham University, she moved to Manhattan – the home to some of the most prestigious dance academies and companies – and discovered that advanced instruction cost at least $18 per class. “I was still dancing, but not nearly as much,” explained Pellettieri in an interview. “ I missed my regular routine.”

Pellettieri found herself attending more yoga classes than dance because a St. Mark’s Place Studio, called Yoga to the People, offered donation-based instruction, which worked better for her budget. Then, as her need to dance grew, and she heard how much her friends struggled to pay for dance classes as well, she had an idea. What if she could create, with the help of her friends and trusted teachers, a dance initiative with donation-based classes that would fund space at a dance studio?

After doing research she discovered that such a company didn’t exist…yet. “This is New York City,”
she said, “it should exist. This is the dance capital of the world!”

Next, Pellettieri brought her idea to her best friend, Elizabeth Fielder who later helped her start Liberated Movement, and asked, “How feasible is this?”

Now, over a year later, Liberated Movement, a dance initiative founded to teach anyone with a desire to have fun, learn new technique and exercise, has classes almost every day for a suggested donation of only $5. With a variety of classes throughout the week in a Battery Park studio in lower Manhattan, seasoned dancers and first-timers alike, gather to move freely together – in more ways than one.

liberated-movementPhoto by Steven DiCasa 

There’s no membership fee, just positive attitudes, passion and a desire to sweat. “Our goal was to make dance more accessible to experience, without the expense,” explained Pellettieri . “Everyone is free to give what they want. An envelope is passed around at the end of class – all donations are anonymous.”

Classes at Liberated Movement include a wide variety like Masala Bhangra (which is taught by Pellettieri), ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, hip hop, theater dance and West African. Plus, she and her band of dedicated friends are always adding new courses like this month’s Glee themed class or their special Thriller event for Halloween in 2010.

For Lauren Pellettieri, Liberated Movement is not just about getting her dance fix. “Personally, I wanted to break barriers about dance,” she said. “Taking a dance class can be intimidating. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable. Sometimes you want to take class and just bust it out!”

To date the program has had two private donations, but runs solely on donations to pay for using space at the Battery Park Dance Studio, where Pellettieri was once an intern. Each class offers the same quality of instruction from some of the most sought after studios in the city because the instructors volunteer their time. In the future, Ms. Pellettieri hopes to expand Liberated Movement and build upon this notion of empowering women. A private space, more classes and eventually a way to incorporate a clinical practice for therapeutic movement are some of her big picture plans.

“I want to do dance and movement therapy. I would love to have classes that empower positive body image and confidence with moves that promote health.” This combination approach of physical and mental wellness will surely come – especially since Pellettieri is in the process of getting her Master’s in clinical social work. “It wasn’t something I originally saw under the umbrella of Liberated Movement, but then I realized it could encompass the entire thing.”

For anyone looking to embrace their inner dancer, get a little exercise, or simply feel liberated — check out the classes offered each week at LiberatedMovement.com. And, remember feeling good about your body is only a few steps away with a friendly group who simply love to dance.

Written by:  Christa Fletcher

LIBERATED MOVEMENT

www.LiberatedMovement.com

Image By fashionsnightout.com

Fashion’s Night Out 2010

I’ve lived in New York City for four years, but have never been to Fashion’s Night Out until now. What a great time! Free drinks, glitterati and all the fab fall fashion collections.


Bryan Adams Exhibit, Image By Christa Fletcher

Our night began at Calvin Klein on Madison Avenue where my friend Krystle Monzon and I saw a beautiful exhibition of celebrity portraits shot by Bryan Adams, who also performed.

Clad in black, guests filled the uptown flagship store as Calvin Klein greeted and posed for photos. Adding to the excitement, Cynthia Nixon was there, taking interviews in front of her portrait featured in the exhibit by Adams. Nixon was impeccably elegant and poised.

During the party as Bryan Adams took the stage, my friend and I chatted with Anthony Williams from Project Runway. He is my favorite person out of all the contestants since the beginning of the series. And who wouldn’t love the dress featured on the cover of Marie Claire that he designed for Heidi Klum?

Williams was kind and dressed to the nines. We talked about mixing silver and gold jewelry and shared a couple of hugs before my friend and I made our way to Michael Kors in search of a glimpse of the camel clogs I’ve been coveting and for a chance to see Idina Menzel.

When we arrived, the store was packed and we went straight to look at shoes and a leather jacket in the back.

We were welcomed to the back of the store with champagne as we unknowingly got in a line. To our surprise and excitement, we were second to meet and talk to Michael Kors. As we waited for our turn, we learned he takes his iced tea with four Splenda packets and was just as excited to greet us, as we were to shake his hand.

As he waved us over, jubilant to meet his guests, we asked him how his night was going and he claimed to be nervous. He was anxious about his performance with Idina Menzel. At nine o’clock they sang “Defying Gravity” together.

Kors signed two branded makeup pouches for us and wished us a fun evening as we clutched them gratefully. This was definitely the highlight of our evening.

I only wish I had remembered to tell him how much I love the white patent leather wedges of his that I wore to my wedding. Perfect shoes by an amazing designer on my big day. Thanks Mr. Kors!

Next we walked down Madison Avenue and visited DKNY and Ann Taylor. At Ann Taylor we saw Vanessa Carlton play “1000 Miles.”

Next, we hit up Fifth Avenue and hung out in front of Bergdoff Goodman and watched live performances in the windows and admired living window displays.

We would have gone inside, but the line was super long, stretching around the block. It’s no wonder since Sarah Jessica Parker, Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Nicole Richie and Heidi Klum were inside!


Bergdorf Goodman Window, Image By Christa Fletcher

However, our trip to the ladies room in Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s store wasn’t without excitement — we saw Tom Ford. After stopping by the Rickshaw Dumpling truck and eating by the fountain outside the plaza, we headed to the Meat-Packing district. The streets were filled with a veritable best dressed list.

Inside, designer stores had free photo booths set up and drinks were aplenty. We ended our night hanging out at the Diane von Furstenburg store, listening to great music with a fun crowd of people.

All in all, an amazing night!

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Boot Season is Back

Labor Day has come and gone and Fall Fashion Week is upon us — all dressed up with tons of places to go for Fashion’s Night Out, the ultimate set of chic celebrations fashionistas adore. As I got ready this morning, excited by the thought of visiting shindigs across the city, I noticed that fall temperatures are here. So, I pulled out my boots.

That’s right, boot season is back and better than ever.

This year, anything goes — ankle, slouchy, studded, flat, stiletto or platform — the gang’s all here. To some, it may seem overwhelming with the possibilities. The fall fashion magazines and blogs are flooded with an amazing array of boots that we’ve added to the boot style file: from bold biker and bohemian, to the outrageous-over-the knee trend. How does a girl choose?

If you’re short, like me, you’ll probably skip the sky-high over-the-knee trend because that may be a little too Puss in Boots (a la Shrek) for the petite, but everything else is a go. And, if you haven’t guessed, fall is my favorite and it has a lot to do with the put-together looks that go along with such pronounced and polished footwear.

It has taken me a few years to build my boot collection and though it is small, I’ve thought a lot about them, read magazines and seen the eclectic styles walking down Fifth Avenue. So, now, here’s what I’ve gathered on keeping your autumn footwear staple up to date.

Chinese Laundry, Image by Amazon.com

First, buy a couple classic styles in two neutral colors, that way, every season, you have your go-to shoes that match everything in your wardrobe. If you want to buy something plain without many details, those boots will be timeless, but a buckle, stud, or two, won’t render them out by next year.

I also recommend picking up pairs that have different fabrics. If you buy all

suede shoes, you’re totally out of luck when rainy season hits, so vary the color and fabrics, for sure.  And, seriously, don’t buy fake leather to save $20-40. It may look o.k., but trust me — from my experience, they only last one season. Good leather can last a long time and can save you from having to buy another pair.

As for the style of the boot, go with what catches your eye. An interesting shoe can totally change the look of an outfit, go for something chic, especially if you already have two classic staples. I recommend trying an ankle boot, they are perfect for the autumn because they go well with pants, dresses, skirts and tights. Plus, they are a nice transition from your sandals and wedges. Ankle boots are more durable than pumps.

Image By Mod Cloth

There are two ankle boots I’m obsessed with right now. The first is a pair of suede boots from Chinese Laundry. They are very modern and also fit the classic code. However, for those of you on a budget, like me, who may also ruin suede from time to time by stepping in a puddle, these micro fiber boots are adorable. I found them on the Mod Cloth blog and they are very now — beige with studs (and you can’t beat the easy care of micro fiber).

Another good pick for boots are lace up styles. Whether they are flat, platform or stiletto, they all look fab with anything in your wardrobe. I’m wishing I’d held on to a pair of brown lace up boots from high school I’d totally wear them now. See, that’s another tip, don’t give away stuff unless it cannot be repaired. Lesson learned here!

Well, it goes without saying that you should make sure you select boots that fit with your wardrobe. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a beautiful pair you can’t wear because it doesn’t fit in with the style or colors of clothes in your closet.

Alright, that’s all I have on my beloved boots. Enjoy boot season because it won’t be long before you’re pulling out those sunny sandals again!

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Flashing Forward: Women in Media

Recently, you may have noticed less posts on my blog. Sorry for the lack of writing, but I took an Adobe Flash animation and programming class and had some visitors that took up my free time. Since taking the course, I’ve learned how to animate graphics and create interactive content, but I also thought a lot about women’s  roles in media and technology.

It all began that morning in Flash class when I entered the computer lab at CUNY‘s Graduate School of Journalism. To my surprise, the class was filled with women editors, writers and publicists. In fact, everyone was a woman except for our instructor.

Given that this was “Flash for Journalists,” a course offered by Media Bistro that gives a basic knowledge of a technical skill, I felt proud that these women were defying the convention of two male-dominated industries: journalism and technology.

Even at lunch many of us commented on this unique situation that is contrary to what we know about the status of women in the U.S. workforce. We asked our instructor, the Director of Digital Media at Columbia University, if this was typical. He said men rarely take Media Bistro classes, no matter the topic.

Interesting.

Did you know that “women held only 25% of all new media jobs created from 1990 -2005,” but they made up 65% of all journalism and mass communications students?

And, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT): “In 2008 women earned only 18 percent of all Computer Science degrees.

Preposterous!

The fact that there are so many intelligent women out there, yet so few in journalism and computer technologies is insane.  While some may believe women aren’t interested in these fields, I think the problem lies in a lack of encouragement, not disinterest or a lack of talent.

The NCWIT supports women in technology because it will increase competition, innovation and create a more stable workforce with diversity. They promote outreach, retention, curriculum reform, research, and leadership programs among K-12 students and at various companies. And, the organization is partnered with Microsoft.

I completely agree with the organization’s sentiment and goals, connecting young women to new industries where they’ve historically been limited is the exact thing we should be doing.

The fact that we can put robots on Mars, but cannot achieve equality in the workforce is just silly — this isn’t rocket science. (Speaking of which, we should get more women engineers too!)

I get so tired of seeing men dominate as journalists, running media companies, or as the leading technology experts. I guess that’s why it was refreshing to meet talented women in my Flash class. Maybe, with women like Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder of the Huffington Post, and Jehmu Greene, the President of the Women’s Media Center, leading the way, we’re moving toward some progress.

For those of you interested in women tech bloggers, articles and other websites at the intersection of the two mediums, below is a list, please add more in the comments!

The journalist picture above is Najahe Sherman, a reporter for NBC Action News and member of The National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalist Association.

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Image By amctv.com

“Let’s Get Liberated” Like Peggy

On this week’s episode of Mad Men, copy writer Peggy Olson dealt with the new lazy art director, Stan Rizzo, who claimed to only be inspired by nudity.  And, despite the drama of Don Draper’s downward alcoholism spiral, I found that to be the least interesting aspect of this episode. In fact, poignancy derived from Peggy’s story line, which examines women’s self-esteem and how they feel about their self-worth.

Peggy Olson
Image via Wikipedia

From the onset, Peggy’s looks and talent are challenged by Stan — who everyone thinks has great ideas and is attractive. Peggy, who has invested her life in the company and worked her way up to copy writer, begins questioning her abilities because she is often an outsider from the men and women, who gets little praise from anyone in the office — including her boss Don.

In between clips of Don and Sterling scenes, as they search for their own self-worth in the ad world, we see Peggy, after days of trying to stimulate Stan’s creativity while suffering through degrading and sexist comments from him, in complete anguish over Stan’s horrible personality and lack of inspiration. When he decides that she must record his thoughts as he dictates them aloud, he says, “Toots, grab a pencil.”

Bewildered and annoyed, Peggy retorts, “Why don’t you write down my ideas?” (We know the answer to that question!) At this point she is unable to stand his idiocy, so she goes to Don for help.

Lost in his own world of drunken denial, Don doesn’t provide any advice to Peggy and tells her to have the pitch ready on Monday. He suggests that she work around Stan’s idiosyncrasies to get the job done. However, by this time, Stan has insulted her many times, flirted with the secretaries and laid on tables smoking in the office. By the end of the day on Friday, they still have nothing.

In an effort to meet the Monday deadline, Peggy and Stan stay in a hotel room where she tries to generate ideas with him, brainstorming as he flips through the pages of a Playboy.  “Are you gonna work or just stare at pictures of women who can’t stare back?”

Now, if this were a typical, sexist rom-com, the pair would come to find each other attractive after being locked in the room together and fall into bed (and love) as they finished their award-winning ad and Stan takes all the credit, but Peggy’s happy because she has a boyfriend. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Out of frustration (and after he insists that she’s ashamed of her body, or that she should be), Peggy says, “Let’s get liberated,” and begins taking off her clothes in hopes of getting their work done and proving that she’s not what he thinks and can get the job done, no matter the cost. (Click to watch clip here.)

As she strips down naked, he is stunned by her moxie and isn’t able to concentrate on anything except for her naked body as she chats about Vicks cough drops.  Despite all of his insults about her appearance and lack of talent, he is unable to come up with anything but an erection. Despite being in his “creative element,” he concedes to her and hides in the bathroom as Peggy smiles triumphantly.

What’s great about this scene is that she doesn’t kowtow to his chauvinism. I’m never interested in women gaining power through their sexuality, but Peggy keeps things professional and in the end she confirms, for herself, that she is confident, beautiful, hard-working and talented.

Stripping down naked wasn’t about sex or making him want her. She’s not sexually attracted to him, nor does she want him to find her attractive, she merely wants to prove that she believes in herself and she is not ashamed of who she is. As Peggy bares it all, the only thing she is actually revealing, is her own inner strength.

I think the fact that her character is doing this in the early sixties is even more impressive. Now it seems women use their sexuality to gain status, attention, money and power, but for some reason, this scene seemed really about truth and being honest with herself — stripping down all the b.s. of awards, who’s who, appearances, etc.

I wish we could all find the courage to stand up for ourselves and believe in who we are as people — especially women — because we are often taught to shy away from challenges or to be modest of our talents. What other people say, or how other people perceive us has nothing to do with who we are as individuals.

So, take it from Peggy and get liberated — whether that’s telling yourself you’re amazing in the mirror every morning, completing a goal, checking off that last item on your to-do list, or making a statement to the world — whatever the case, do what you need to feel strong, autonomous and true to yourself.

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Eight Ways To Cope Without Internet

Over the past week and half I haven’t had internet in my apartment. One morning, we woke up without a signal and Time Warner Cable didn’t have any open appointments until this morning. The time during our outage really affected me. I never realized how much I use the web until I couldn’t check my email, blog, update Facebook, or even look up directions to restaurants and museums.

What’s funny, I consider myself an organized person, but without my internet connection, I felt lost and disoriented — like part of my brain was disconnected. Once I understood why I felt so weird, I was horrified!

Am I really that dependent on websites and my email? Turns out the answer is “yes.” However, if I’m going to learn anything from this experience, it’s how to feel connected without my high-speed wi-fi. So, I came up with a few things to remember for next time…

Brooklyn Museum
Image via Wikipedia

Last weekend I wanted to look up how long it would take to get to the Brooklyn Museum from my house so I could meet up with a friend for the free events on Target First Saturdays. Without a web connection, or even a Smartphone, which I ditched in the recession panic of 2009, I had to guess how long it would take to get there since I’d never been there before.

The result? I showed up to the museum about thirty minutes early and sat outside enjoying the sunshine. No biggie! In fact, it was quite nice and I got a little Vitamin D.

This little anecdote brings me to my first tip for coping without internet:

1. Be free with your time by arriving early for an appointment and enjoy a moment in the real world.

Often, I get caught up — filling my days to the brim, being efficient with my time and always rushing to the next thing. When you’re without internet, or simply taking a break from technology, give yourself time to find your way about town with real maps or ask someone for directions. Make your day an adventure, rather than a to-do list to check off. Sometimes it’s nice to only have a few things planned in a day and then going where the day takes you.

2. Read a good book, magazine, or the newspaper!

I’m sure we all read a good ol’ paper back when we get the chance, on our subway ride to work and on vacation. And without internet, I found I had so much more time on my hands. No 20 minutes on email here, or hour on Facebook there — that’s a lot of time to walk to the library to finish those items on your to-read list, or catch up with your favorite glossies from a local newsstand.

3. Chat with friends and family.

Though it’d be better to do this one in person if you can, talking on the phone is good too. I bet the number of texts and minutes on my phone will surely increase this month. Instead of sending emails and posting on Facebook at night and on the weekend, I was texting, leaving voicemails and even having lengthy conversations (I’m not usually one for liking the phone).

4. Save a copy of important dates, phone numbers, maps and addresses on your computer.

There were a few times I wished I had some information which I have stored in my Gmail account. Lesson learned, save stuff to my desktop.

5. Use free time to cook a delicious meal from memory or use a real cook book.

Many nights I’ll quickly type ingredients into the Google search bar and find a recipe lickety-split. Well, this week I went solo and cooked a few meals from memory, by taste or referred to an actual cook book. It was fun!

6. Take a lunch break.

There are times that I admit, I do not take a lunch break at work. Well, when your internet is out, take a lunch break and follow up on personal stuff for a few minutes, then step away from the computer! This is good practice even if you aren’t experiencing a connection outage at home.

7. Use snail mail.

Everyone appreciates getting real mail. Write a handwritten note to someone you care about. I know my pen pal will be happy I haven’t had internet. Must remember to mail her letter tomorrow…will I set an alert on my Gmail? Nah, I’ll remember…

8. Get over the fact that the online world will continue moving without you in it.

I know, we all like to stay on top of the latest YouTube videos, witty blogs, our friends’ silly status updates, movie reviews, etc. but without internet, you’re not going to see them, so don’t worry, they’ll be there and there will always be more…

Alright, that’s my advice. Hope your future internet free moments are liberating, rather than stressful.

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