January 30, 2011

Is it All About Title?

I'm sitting here in the doctoral program class and we are getting a lecture about how important and cool it is to be called Doctor. Is it all about prestige? I thought it was a question of the heart. Is this a selfish act or a selfish one?

Paris' Catacombs

On my way to class this rainy Sunday I heard a fantastic story on NPR about the 180 miles of secret catacombs in Paris. Check out this fantastic video developed by NPR in partnership with National Geographic.

Paris Underground from NPR on Vimeo.

January 29, 2011

Questions of the Heart

Today I am in a two-day on-site course for my doctoral program. Our Professor disarmed me with his casualness. Frankly, at first I was expecting him to be a little more intense and serious. But then I realized, he's super easy going. Here are some fantastic words of advice he shared with us in the first few hours:

“Your focus should be on questions of the heart. The purpose of higher education is to search for truth. A doctoral program is to conduct and write research to search for truth. On your topic, you will be developing world-class expertise on your topic. You only get one shot to do this in your life so you should think big.”

Frankly, my heart is telling me to take action, live my intentions and not focus so much on research. 

To be continued...

Houseboat Living

..And I could live on a houseboat next door. Loving this vision.

Dream Cafe View

Amy's Dream Cafe?

Located at the former location of the original Chevy's on the shore of Alameda?

January 28, 2011

Lack of Responsiblity or a Sense of Adventure?

For some reason I find myself reminiscing this evening. Perhaps it is being back in the US for two and a half years and that London feels like a lifetime ago. Or, that I have had so many lives, really. I've lived in so many areas of the country, so many homes, with different people, and even in a different country. Each time I reinvent myself and I wonder what I take from the past life to the new one?

Looking at my siblings and their lives - filled with children, partners and homes - and then mine, which really is more like a college student - I wonder if I am stuck in time. Is this a lucky life I lead - where I can pursue anything and everything with little accountability - or is it a life where I keep dodging responsibility? No, I am quite responsible. Three years ago I would never have expected that I would be on this journey of continuous self-discovery.

I suppose it was being sick these past few weeks that has made me think about the past, present and future. My friends are my family and my family are my friends. I live without a partner, kids, a pet, a mortgage, following whatever path interests me.

Last week I had my culinary students write out their goals and if they had a panic-zone goal, how could they bring it into the stretch-zone. One student wrote that her greatest fear is becoming the crazy cat lady who sits in a rocking chair and looks out the attic window. I wrote on her paper that I share the same panic-zone visual. It is just difficult to imagine, as I age, that I will not become more unusual and eccentric as I live for myself. Maybe that is a good thing - being my own character? Sometimes I wish I could see the future and the twists and turns that I will maneuver. But at the same time, I don't really want to know what lies ahead. Is this denial or a sense of adventure?

January 27, 2011

Sitting on Market Street

Rarely do I just go outside, during the school day, and enjoy San Francisco's Market Street. Perhaps most people would not see Market as being enjoyable but it is a central artery for San Francisco.

Our school is located in a car-free but taxi and bus-full section of Market that is used heavily by cyclists. Just now I saw a former co-worker, Claudia, riding her bike to a client meeting. We have been emailing to set a visit date to catch up because we haven't seen each other in over two years. If I hadn't taken a few minutes to enjoy Market I would never have noticed her toodling along the cross street Hyde on her way to The Mission.

Yes, it is time that I took Ike the Bike out for a ride. He must feel neglected all folded up in a storage closet. To Market we shall go!

January 25, 2011

Honey Tastes Like Grammie

Have you ever tasted a food and were instantly reminded of a person? Honey always reminds me of my Grammie, who turned 94 earlier this month. When we were little Grammie would make us hot cereal with loads of milk and honey. Now, when I taste honey, I am instantly transported back to Grammie's kitchen with all of its fantastic counters and cabinets filled with delicious foods. She would let us sit on the counter while she cooked and when a cabinet door over our heads needed to be opened, she would reach over us and say, "watch your kippa" which I think means head in Yiddish.

I am still sick with a sore throat and have lost my voice. To sooth the ache of coughing I purchased some honey. The first lick of that glowing, golden, smooth, magic alixer instantly made me feel better because it was a little love from Grammie.

Glorious Day

Feels like spring in Oakland. Sunny, warm, birds chirping, flowers blooming and a breeze blowing.

January 22, 2011

New Post-Yoga Hangout

Our yoga class has discovered Vines on Lincoln in Alameda as a fantastic post-yoga hangout. It features a great gift shop of Art Deco collectibles and a garden store. Plus, decaf Chai!

January 21, 2011

Unsubscribe Cleansing

Now that I'm getting rid of this illness, I'm also encouraged to cleanse my in-box from spam pollution. Unsubscribing is so satisfying. Well, not all of it is spam but most of it was whimsical subscribing to something of interest. I'm in information overload - moving towards balance. Also just donated two bags of stuff to The Cancer Society Store. Find a good home, old stuff.

On the Mend, Almost

If nothing else, this sore throat helped me find a fantastic doctor whose office is on my street. He was totally nice, had a sense of humor and even thinks he can help me with my chronic shoulder issue. A silver lining on this cloud. Once again, optimism gets me out of this bummer of a bind.

Quiet Not By Choice

This entire week I've been battling a sore throat with all kinds of vitamins but it hasn't gotten any better, only worse. This morning I finally talked myself into going to the doctor, a challenge since I don't have a primary care physician - laziness - I'm not sure? When you can't swallow or talk, this is a sure sign that you need to seek professional help. Quite a concession for a woman who thinks perseverance and a positive attitude will overcome anything.

January 15, 2011

Won't You Smell My Pants?

Earlier this week I purchased a form fitting, flattering pair of Jeans from Old Navy, but they smelled toxic. The store Associate told me the stink would go away when I washed the black jeans. However, it didn't go away and now a bunch of my clothes have the toxic smell.

When I returned the pants to the Alameda Old Navy, just walking into the store I could smell the overall toxicity of the place. The Associate asked me to describe the smell and I said, "why don't you smell them?" He said, "I'm not smelling your pants." Suddenly I felt dirty and angry - they're your stinking pants, not mine. Instead, I just stood calmly and looked at him. He asked me to describe the smell and so I said, "it smells like they've been dipped in chemicals" Fine, was his response and my money was refunded. How could he even possibly smell the toxicity when he's working in a place that is so smelly?

January 14, 2011

Assessment of the First Week of Teaching

This quarter I began each of my classes by administering a "non-graded" pre-course assessment quiz. In other words, I asked the students to give me all they have about a topic before we even start digging into the course content. It was a great way to help them gather their thoughts and for me to understand their existing assumptions, or lack there of.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I had some stage fright about teaching my courses. The Thursday double-header was giving me the most concern. But in the end, as my Aunt Kendra's sister Nancy said to me via Facebook - "no worries, you'll do great." Yes, I did!

This quarter I definitely feel like I've relaxed into teaching. Advice I received last quarter from my colleagues was, "relax into teaching" and "don't over teach". These were abstract concepts but now I think I'm starting to get what they mean. Instead of me filling the silence and trying to fill students' heads with boundless information, my teaching philosophy this quarter is to "go deep" and "keep it simple" or Keep it Simple Sister as Marlene likes to say. Maybe deep and simple sound like polar opposites, but actually, they work in tandem. Going deep into a topic, instead of trying to teach every little detail, will ensure that my students get the concepts instead of receiving a broad survey of the field. Keeping it simple is the same idea - allowing students to go step-by-step, reinforcing concepts and not trying to bite off more than they can chew. That was my exact advice to several students in yesterday afternoon's Advertising Sales and Ratings course. They were proposing that they invent new businesses and also develop advertising campaigns at the same time. I said, "I want you to be successful and layering so many levels of work into this class could put you into a free-fall in an eleven-week quarter. Let's scope this down." I could see them think about my suggestion and relax into being focused.

Ah yes, practicing and teaching balance.

January 11, 2011

Starting Ceramics

One of my intentions this year is to be creative, kinesthetically, not just intellectually. Tonight I start a three-month ceramics class at Studio One in Oakland. The last time I took ceramics was at Horizons Summer camp the summer before high school. This time around I'm focusing on throwing. Very excited to have a weekly activity for me to explore my art, the other weekdays are my helping others explore their's.

Balance is About Anticipation and Patience

Hisun loaned me the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and at first I thought it was a cute concept - a book written by a dog. But it offered so much more. The story explores finding balance which is ultimately the interplay of anticipation and patience. As the protagonist learns about racing cars - "the car foes where the eyes go" - a powerful metaphor for setting intentions and following through as you ride the waves of anticipation with patience.

January 10, 2011

OK So Far

I'm two hours into teaching the first class of the quarter, Corporate Social Responsibility, and it is going well. I asked the students why they enrolled in the course and the responses were that it fit into their schedule and they wanted to take a class with me. Well, hopefully the topic will also be of interest.

The greatest feature of this course, which I designed as a new elective, is that I get to teach my students about non-profits. These are future fashion marketing and management leaders and at least they will have some CSR knowledge when they enter the workforce, and perhaps will be inspired to change the world.

January 9, 2011

The Final Holiday Hurah

Well, my three weeks of stay-cation are over. Actually, last week I worked quite a bit, but it still was vacation because I wasn't teaching or studying. Tomorrow begins the Winter 2011 quarter and I have a bit of stage fright. Maybe my students are nervous too. It is a bit silly that I feel this way since I know 90% of my students from previous classes. I just want to make sure I do a great job and am a good role model for them.

To celebrate my final day of stay-cation I'm heading out, in the freezing weather, to have an ice cream sundae at Fenton's. Earlier in the day I took a long hike in the Oakland hills and went to the Oakland Museum of California with Leah to again see the Pixar exhibit, which was so much better the second time around.

Now to get a sugar high so that I can crash and get, hopefully, eight hours of restful sleep.

January 8, 2011

Speaking the Warmest Regards

If there is such a thing as talking-on-the-phone-phobia, I think I had it. The idea of talking on the phone has always given me anxiety thoughts like, "what will we talk about" and "what if the other person gets bored" and "when do we say goodbye?" I'm not sure where, how and why I developed this fear but this year it is coming to an end. Already I've started calling people just to chat, instead of sending emails, posting on Facebook or using the dreaded texting.

Reflecting back on my Telephone History, I wonder if it was the work I did in high school as a telephone interviewer for my mom's company? After school I would go to her office, hidden away in an ancient, moldy house, and make hundreds of phone calls to strangers to get their opinions on the latest political issues, their entertainment choices and use of products. It required bravery to call number after number, hoping (or perhaps dreading) that people were home and that they would actually want to talk. The secret was to smile when you were talking, people can hear it in your voice.

Growing up, my mom was the super phone talker. She was always on the phone, at work or at home, easily chatting with everyone and anyone. My mom is incredibly friendly and can pick up a conversation and engage a person with her easy-going style and sweet voice. I was always so jealous of her phone and would create distractions while she talked. I was like a lonely cat searching for attention. She would extend the phone cord to its fullest length, all the little curls stretched out, as she sequestered herself in the laundry room to get away from my distractions. On more than one occasion, the phone base pulled off the kitchen wall as she curled around the corner.

So, perhaps my dread of phone calls has a few sources. But it is also that I really do prefer seeing people face-to-face when I'm speaking with them. Pacing a conversation is difficult for me when I only hear a voice. Often I end up talking over someone or rushing to fill the silences when I can only hear their voice.

During this stay-cation I've called numerous friends across the country and have loved connecting. The secret is to allow for the pauses and to be in the moment with however the conversation flows. Saying goodbye is still a challenge. It reminds me of when I use to work for a photographer who, at the end of every personal or professional phone conversation, said goodbye with a crack of his voice as if he were about to cry. Hearing him always broke my heart a little. Saying goodbye is always hard for me too, what if we never speak or see each other again? In the UK people end a phone call with a high-pitched sing-song "goodbye!" That seems like the other extreme. Should I say "take care, talk to you soon, or see you later?" Or perhaps, "you are in my thoughts or I love you" unless of course they are just a telephone interviewer. Actually, they need the warmest regards.

January 5, 2011

Never Enough Holiday

I'm so spoiled. Three weeks of stay-cation and it isn't enough. To be fair, I've worked several days, including today. Spent seven hours on the couch, hunched over the laptop updating three syllabi. Two more to go before classes start on Monday. This quarter I am all about simplifying, going deep and self-learning. Let's see how that holds.

Drinking a G+T and about to tuck into some significant nachos. Stay-cation, don't leave me yet.

Meeting Geek - Scheduling Balance

Monday and Tuesday of this week my school had two days of meetings for faculty. My colleagues were commenting about how much they dread stand meetings. Not me, I love meetings because I'm a meeting geek. My colleagues got a good laugh from that title. To me, meetings are a time to build rapport, connect on a vision and mission and to share best practices. Plus, the one-to-one conversations that occur as we move from one meeting to the next are the ones that help me feel like part of a team.

Between meetings a colleague and I were talking about how we build a theme for each year - clearly, we are business management instructors. Ironically, she too made this the Year of Balance and now we are balance buddies. Listening to her and how she is actually not making room for pursuing her own art, I realized that I have to make time for being creative and social this year.

Talking to my career coach, Bob, in Houston, he suggested that I build an Amy Portfolio composed of three buckets: Personal, Professional, Educational. From there I need to figure out the definition of each bucket and the percentage that I want to invest in each one - with the understanding that they are flexible. As Bob says, "you don't want to cheat on yourself." My inclination is to make these buckets Love, Learn and Create as opposed to the other designations, but there is so much overlap with these categories that I can put anything I do in any of the buckets.

The first step I've taken is to eliminate anything from my life that was only draining and not uplifting. As of December 31, I took big strides in that direction. Next, I've scheduled out my weekly calendar with the classes I'm teaching and designated class prep/grading time. From there I've blocked out Tuesday evenings for taking a ceramics course at Studio One in Oakland - plus I registered! Thursdays are designated group fun activity nights for salsa dancing, hanging out with my cousins at Blush in the Castro, and any other activity that may be of interest.

My schedule is quite fantastic because I have two full days during the week when I am not teaching - allowing me to take on consultancies and coaching clients. Now to make sure I incorporate my EdD Doctoral homework. Mantra: Value my worth. Have to keep reminding myself that if I take something on, something has to go - even if I love meetings.

January 1, 2011

New Yoga Home

Alameda Yoga Station opened its new studio doors today for free yoga. What a joy to practice three hours of moon salutations and restorative poses to bless the new space and make new friends. Transformative love and energy.


Since Christmas Eve people have been telling me that 2011 is going to be a great year. This has been unprompted so either people are compelled to tell me this as some kind of premonition, or there is a general belief that "things are going to turn around".

At the Christmas party a woman said to me, "This is going to be the start of a good year for Pisces since the past ten years were bad for us." Interesting, because she didn't even know I was a Pisces. She made me think, "were the past ten years bad?" I wouldn't say that but I certainly would like the next ten to be better.

Today the clerk at CVS said, "This is going to be a better year." When I asked her how she knew, she said, "because all the bad laws are ending." Probing further, I asked why that was and she said, "because bad politicians put bad laws in place and now that we are having changes in the administration, their bad laws leave with them." Well, it didn't make great sense but I liked her thinking.

Last night at the salsa party I was chatting with a woman who wrote a letter to 2010 on NYE. She said it was a letter in which she reminisced about the highs and lows of her relationship with 2010 and now that they are breaking up, with 2011 being her new partner, she wanted to highlight what they had experienced together. I liked this idea. When I shared with her how I set my intentions for 2011 and also that I give each year a theme, she thought that was a spectacular idea. "When people set their intentions, they actually move towards them. That's so smart. Year of Balance, Wow, now that's mature."

So here is my intention - regardless of the Zodiac and our politicians, 2011 is going to be an awesome year because I intend to live to my fullest potential.

Welcome into my life 1-1-11 - I look forward to a relationship where we strive for balance and are driven by love, learning and creativity.


The NYE party I attended tonight featured fun salsa dancing! I loved it - so free and fun. I've resolved to go salsa dancing at least once a month in 2011. To kick it off I've purchased some salsa music on iTunes to practice at home.