March 28, 2007

Photos of Harpers Ferry

A little after-the-fact but here are some photos of our visit to Harpers Ferry while in DC earlier this month. Besides the beautiful landscape and interesting history the highlight for me was seeing the trains!
Matt created a video (there he is with his camera) that is uploaded to YouTube if you want to live the experience with us.
Marlene, Matthew and Stephen at the entrance to the Appalaichan Trail.
This last photo is of an old iron Stephen and I found in a pile of ruins near the shore.
More holiday photos to come.

Overheard on the Tube

Time Out London magazine has a weekly feature which I usually read half-heartedly, called Overheard on the Tube. It is little tidbits that someone, I suppose on their staff, has heard while travelling along the Tube lines. Frankly, I didn't get it since I rarely heard people talk on the tube. Clearly it was invented.

Well, tonight on the tube I finally overheard two chick-a-dees talking and it was worthy of the Overheard on the Tube column.

Girl A: (heavy make-up, super short skirt, purple stockings, black coat and Ugg boots) Your earings match my lips.

Girl B: (over-processed hair, camel hair coat, black earings) No they don't, they match your coat.

March 25, 2007

Comfortable in Both Countries

Returning to the UK today actually felt very comfortable. London does feel like home, as does the US. Perhaps I am becoming a citizen of the world, able to live in more than one country.

Of course I still had to wait on the Other Passport line at Gatwick airport which is no fun. Stephen zipped into the country with his UK passport and I took an hour of waiting listening to folks scream and cry about why they deserved to be in the UK despite the lack of correct paperwork.

Once out of the airport and onto the Gatwick Express train I immediately recognised the familiarity of being in the UK system. Trains run on time, they are clean, people are efficient and the little beverage cart shows up when announced. The countryside was ancient, as always, dotted with houses, fields and horses lingering under the thick fog.

The sun finally announced itself this afternoon in between marathon naps one and two. I have a cup of tea steeping and we’re watching European sports on TV. Yes, we are home.

March 23, 2007

US Tour Coming to a Close

I feel like I’ve been on holiday forever. Where exactly do I live and where do I work? Please remind me before I am supposed to return to life in London on Monday. Stephen and I started in DC on March 8 (best day of the year) and finally return to the UK tomorrow.

There were three parts to our vacation. DC was tourist segment plus lots of quality hang-out time with my sibs. Of course we also spent every afternoon napping. Then San Francisco was catching up with friends. Thank goodness we’ve had the last couple of days to catch up on naps again in Connecticut. Hopefully my boss won’t mind me taking afternoon siestas at the office.

Illustration from Jim Kweskin Jug Band Filmore poster

Stepping Back in Time

The last time I was at my Elementary School was 1983 when I graduated, walked out the door and never looked back. Hanging out with my childhood best friend (aka cbf) Lori yesterday we took a trip down memory lane and visited the old school.

How freaky to see the same, yes the same teachers walking down the halls. At this point they are a bit more “seasoned” but still as terrifying. I instantly bonded with Lori’s daughter who is currently a student as we discussed the scary-factor of the different teachers we shared.

The funny thing was that the teachers didn’t exactly remember me. They could recall my parents (also their students) and some details about my grandparents but very little about me as a student. To think they had such a huge impact on my life and I was just a bobbing head amongst hundreds of rug rats. Gosh, instead of years of therapy I should have visited the school sooner.

March 20, 2007

Flying the Friendly Sky

We’ve now completed four of our five flights during our American vacation expedition. It began nearly ten days ago with a flight from London to Newark then DC to JFK, continued with JFK to SF and today SF back to JFK. We’ve flown Continental, Jet Blue and United.

Something happens in first class that us Economy “Plus” folks just don’t get to experience. Each time we exit the flight we pass the remnants of the parties that seem to take place behind the curtains of first class. Blankets are strewn around the floor, pillows misplaced amongst seats and even articles of discarded clothing litter the isles. Exactly what goes on in first class?

Us, we sat in the back end of the flight amongst the common folk, because we like to. We do not laugh at the lady in our row who has a face mask on and lifts it periodically to insert stinky garlicky bites of wilted salad. We do not get upset when they charge us $5 for a box of junk food. We rejoice in the free water that we can flavor with real bits of lemon or lime, no ice thank you very much.

Jet Blue is the winner. It was a short flight but we had leg room, leather seats and hundreds of live tv stations. Just for effect I tossed my pillow and blanket on the floor as we exited the flight. I too can do the first class dance.

March 18, 2007

Keys to our Lobby

Now I know how it feels to be a Al Gore. Everyone is lobbying me and Stephen to move back to San Francisco. Should we live in London, move to another country, return to the States and if yes, which State?

A few more months visiting with lobbyists and we'll announce our decision. Please send all contributions to our campaign manager.

March 17, 2007

Rednecks like Us

The San Francisco Bay Area did open up its Golden Gates for us yesterday and also gave us some fantastic red necks. We're quite sunburned.

Stephen and I each did our own adventuring and ended up walking miles around the city. I met up with my friend Claudia who use to work with me at Business Arts Council. It was so easy to fall back into flowing conversation after all these months.

Next Stephen and I met up with my cousin Diana in Berkeley. We sat at Berkeley Marina and soaked up the rays. The day was capped with our friends Stacey and Stefan in Alameda. There two little boys kept us busy while we all enjoyed sushi.

Today the super fog has returned. We are heading out to the beach to brunch with our cousins Julie and Michael. Looks like we need not worry about the sidetrip to pick up suntan lotion. Then this evening we hook up with our world-travel friends John and Nicole.

DC was the holiday portion of our trip, now we're on the mini-gatherings. Good thing we have Connecticut next week to get some more rest and relaxation before heading back to London.

March 16, 2007


Stephen and I arrived in San Francisco last night and it was a pleasure to see the city at sunset. We're staying in Japantown which we almost never visited when we lived here. It feels like a vacation in a new town.

Limited computer access here so short posts.

Today begins our whirlwind visits with friends and relatives.

March 15, 2007

Open Up Those Golden Gates

Stephen and I head out to California today. It is his first visit in more than a year and I honestly can't remember when I was last there. Maybe it was last Summer when I presented the Busines Arts Council Board Leadership Training Program. So far it has been very easy to slip back into life in the States. California will be the final frontier.

March 13, 2007

Exit to Re-Enter

Yesterday I popped into the Americans for the Arts ( Emerging Leaders reception in DC that was part of Arts Advocacy Day. In the 20 minutes that I was there (while Stephen and my brother Matthew enjoyed some Guinness in a nearby pub) I was handed some unexpected advice.

I struck up a conversation with an emerging arts leader (go ahead, ask my how I know she is emerging) who said that she read some interesting information recently from Americans for the Arts saying that the leadership pipeline is underdeveloped for emerging and midcareer leaders. Funny that - I wrote the report. She then informed me that she is considering a career move but maybe out of the arts. Advice she received from a mentor was that to get ahead in the arts you had to leave, develop your skills and then return.

I was nervous about attending the reception but as soon as I walked in the door I remembered why I enjoyed working in the arts - people are funky and friendly. I instantly felt at home. The person I had hoped to meet was there and she was welcoming and chatty. It was so easy to make a connection with her and to fall into place amongst my former peers.

After I slipped out of the reception, some ten minutes later, I met up with Stephen and Matthew in the Pub. I openly reflected on that same old Amy question - should I return to the arts or keep moving further to try new industries? In an earlier arts meeting yesterday I mentioned that I decided not to pursue a PhD in Arts and Culture Leadership. The woman I was meeting with immediately crossed out a series of numbers she had written on her pad. They had nothing to do with our discussion but it felt like a comment - something so final and decisive.

March 10, 2007

Back in a Flash

The good news is that my brother reports I most certainly don't sound like Madonna. It has been an easy transition to get back into life in the States. The only big shocker was going into CVS drugstore and seeing all the choices of products. I had a near melt-down with all the options. To top it off my favorite snack food is in season - peeps - which were difficult to resist (never buy them before Easter since they are grossly over priced - they must be purchased post-holiday for appropriate bing prices.)

Yesterday I drove for the first time in six months. That too came back without a thought. I knew we were back into our States mode because Stephen micromanaged my driving and I bickered with him for doing so. Yup, we're easily adjusting.

March 7, 2007

On the Eve of Returning

Tomorrow Stephen and I head back to the States for a visit. It is very strange to be going back to my country for a visit as opposed to coming out to the UK for a holiday.

I'm worried about how it will feel to be back. Will I feel different? Will people seem different? Will I sound like Madonna with a fake English accent?

My work associates predict that I'll be shocked by how big and open the States are compared to the twisty little streets in London. I've hardly been out of London for the six months that I've be in the UK. It may be a shocker to see green and wide open spaces.

What I'm psyched about is the trip since we fly on my birthday. Although this wasn't planned we will be able to celebrate my birthday for much longer then 24 hours. Hip Hip Birthday!

March 4, 2007

Life Coaching around the Quilting Circle

Now I you may think that I'm going through a meaning-of-life phase because I am reading all these books and attending courses. More like building my management toolkit. A course I took recently was an intro to life coaching. So many of my friends are at the same point in their lives - trying to figure out the next step. Some have kids, others are thinking about it and a few are figuring out how to balance their life/work with their partners'. Here are the basic steps to do-it-yourself life coaching. It is nice to work with a professional coach since they can guide you along and hold you accountable to your own goals. Yet anyone can do it on their own and be successful.

Coaching methodology
Set your goal - and it should be pretty clearly defined such as, “pursuing a creative endeavour in my spare time that allows me to express myself in ways that I can’t do at work.” It should be a goal that makes you smile, not one that makes you sweat with anxiety or feel so comfortable that you are still in your safety zone.

Define success - How will you know you’ve reached the goal when you get there? What will success look like? How will it feel? Can it be quantified and/or qualified? What will success allow you to do that you aren’t doing now?

Current situation - Where are you currently in relation to the goal? (Often called a GAP analysis, the gap between the goal and the current situation.)Are there any things in your life that you may already be doing that are moving you towards that goal – things that you didn’t recognise before?

What are specific actions you can take to get you towards your goal? Clearly identify them. How will you pursue them? What is a specific date/time that you will pursue each one? Once you think of a list add five more actions just to give yourself a good stretch in your thinking.

Hay, this looks a lot like the E-Myth methodology. Yes, just a different framing. I keep thinking that we should have support circles, some how over the web, for women who are asking these questions. Maybe thats what quilting circles use to be.

E-Mythology Realized

My buddy Simone requested, actually nearly demanded, that I read The E-Myth Revisited: Why Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it by Michael E. Gerber. Any recommendation from Simone is always worth the pursuit so I went yet again to Paddington Library here in London and picked up a copy. As always her advice was spot-on. Now I turn to you and say read it if you have or are considering starting a small business.

Gerber is a story teller which makes this book very easy to read and internalize. The E-Myth methodology is simple and builds on the concept that a small business owner is more than an entrepreneur, but rather is someone who must balance innovation with systemisation while being a technician and a craftsperson.

All small business owners need to articulate their Primary Aim prior to even thinking about starting a business – what is it that you want to do with your life? How much do you want to make, what do you want your role to be in the business? This ensures that you understand that you are building a business and working on it as opposed to it running you.

Then create a quantifiable Strategic Objective that drives your passion for the business. Non profit arts organisations are great at this one – its about making the art. But quantifying that statement becomes more difficult. What does success look like? And most important, what is your exit strategy.

The biggest idea in the book is that you should create your business with a franchise model in mind. This means that you think from the start that you will need to be able to slot almost anyone into the various posts that will exist when the business is in full swing. Of course from the start it may just be you. Build an organisational chart, create job descriptions and then even if you are the only person you should sign a post agreement for every job you are taking on. This way you know that you are an employee of the business not just an owner. As you find people to fill the posts you handover the work as well as a detailed manual of how that job needs to run.

Every time I think about starting a business, which is at least six times a year, I craft it around me and my skills as opposed to functions and systems that can be taught to someone else who is filling a post. The book encourages you to hold on to that passion, build it into your business culture but make sure that you create hard, soft and information systems that allow others to carry out your vision.

Library Espresso

As I mentioned previously, my favorite London library is the Paddington branch near our flat. Yet again it has captured my fancy. As you walk in the door there is the ubiquitous "no food or drink” sign that you would expect. But once you enter there is a brand new coin-operated espresso machine with multiple serving options. There it stands, sleek and inviting soon to blend into the surroundings.

The machine has a beautiful sign saying “Now enjoy an espresso while you read your newspapers, magazines and books.” Is this like a movie theatre where you can only drink the beverages from the snack bar as outside food is banned?
No one took notice of the machine as the line to check out books became unusually long on this rainy Sunday. As we waited to a library staff person sauntered over to the new machine, deposited a coin and served himself an espresso. Now that’s service.

Fruitcake Lady

Having just started watching Jay Leno, which we see here in London a few days late but commercial free, I can appreciate a YouTube link my friend Jenny sent me. Apparently there was a woman called the Fruitcake Lady who was a guest on the show and she was quite a character. Unfortunately she passed away recently but you can experience her charm. Take seven minutes out of your day to watch this link you will understand that life begins at 90.

March 3, 2007

Photo Request

Here are the requested photos in which you can actually see my wedding makeup. I think it is very subtle.

In the photo of me and Stephen saying our vows and also in the one in front of San Fracisco City Hall, the 3D sculptures in the background are Hearts from the Hearts in San Francisco project that Rachel, Catherine Lee (our wedding photographer) and I worked on a few years ago. The one with the black and white design has the names of the gay couples who were married in San Francisco and the red one is the exact secret colour of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now they are installed in people's homes.

March 1, 2007

60% Chance of Sunshine

My friend Rachel is in the final stretch of wedding preparations for her big day in the Berkeley hills. She and her sweet heart David have created a wedding blog which they call 40 percent chance of rain since that is how likely it will be to rain on their big day. (Photo taken from rachel's Vampituity blog.)

In reading about her hair updo trial runs I was inspired to share my wedding experiences since I have been married twice.

Both in my first and second weddings I simply made a hair appointment the day-of with no pre-run. Both times the hairstylists were shocked even floored that they were doing my hair for a wedding.

At least the second time around I had the stylist do my makeup. The first time I went to the Clinique counter at Macy's an hour before the wedding. Not a good idea since they tried out all kinds of new colours on me - I didn't tell that I was the bride - simply that I was going to a wedding - although I'm sure they were suspicious because of the fancy hair. Now that I think about it I should have timed the wedding around Clinique bonus time and really made it worthwhile.

Here is a photo of me and Stephen looking so cute – like a pair of kids out of Alice in Wonderland. Note the good hair and makeup, and I look pretty good too;-)

(Photo taken by our friend Catherine Lee.)