September 30, 2008

Crackberry Like Opium

I am laying on my side on the floor with my head on my meditation cushion, tears dripping from my tired eyes with crackberry in hand and the cord wrapped around my arm whilst I email, search the web and try to modify my crackberry preferences. I am sick and need help.

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Business Volunteers for the Arts Feasibility Study

About eight years ago I ran a program called Business Volunteers for the Arts here in San Francisco. Unfortunately the program folded along with its host Business Arts Council about 18 months ago. It is a real loss for the community.

Since my return I've been told by arts, business and funding folks that the program is missed. In response I'm put together a committee of arts and business leaders to conduct a feasibility to study to see if we can re-launch the program. We're keeping a blog and would love your input in the study. All are welcome to share their feedback.

September 29, 2008

Rewriting the Script and Changing the Anchor

Since arriving back in San Francisco I've been out on the Bay for numerous water adventures. From sailing to kayaking the experiences have been a reclamation of sorts. Prior to moving away from San Francisco in 2005 I went sailing with friends and it was the beginning of a long journey into self-doubt. When given "control" of the boat I lost my cool and freaked out. This became a negative anchor for me as I moved on to Houston and then London. How could I act that way? How could I be so weak? What did my friends think of me? All those damaging scripts being played and re-played in my head.

In the past three months I've been back out on the Bay and this time I'm craving the challenges to push my physical limits. Sailing with friends on the same boat as 2005, I took the helm and guided us in and out of the Berkeley Marina. It was like writing a new script.

Yesterday I went for a full day sea kayaking class with California Canoe and Kayak in the Oakland Estuary. I wore the wetsuit purchased at a yard sale in June on my final day in DC. It was a tight fit and left no room for figure mystery. That was brave in itself. But the most exciting challenge was stepping past my stretch zone, into the edge of my panic, to deliberately capsize in the kayak while skirted into its cockpit. In other words, I was attached to the boat, upside down in salty water.

This was actually something I had done successfully as a teenager away for the summer at adventure camp in Colorado. But as I've gotten older the experience has become more of a personal urban legend as my fears of losing control took over. Yesterday was a big step to see if I could regain that strength and confidence. I did it! And once I had done it I insisted on capsizing and practicing again and again until I was black and blue, water logged and sunburned.

During our lunch break, Paula and Tim, the instructor and other student in the course, and I had a philosophical discussion about kayaking as a metaphor for change management. Paula shared with us that kayaking is really just placing the paddle in the water and moving the boat past it to a new place. The paddle stays still and the boat moves. This is difficult to visualize unless there are unmoving objects around the paddle, such as seaweed or floating wood. Only with those obstacles nearby can you see that the paddle is anchored and the boat gliding. We shared how this was true when promoting personal or organizational evolution. Lead with a gentle touch, ever so slightly correcting the path to move past the obstacles. Strength and bravado are not necessary.

This is the powerful metaphor I use in my personal inspiration of the Sleek Yellow Kayak. Paula gave me a choice of kayaks for our course and I chose a yellow one. The kayak became an extension of myself as we moved along the water playfully. It also became my lifeline as I clung to its side while capsized in the Bay. What a tremendously positive anchor around which I write my new script.

Tina Fey is Brilliant

Actress and comedian Tina Fey keeps outdoing herself with Sarah Palin sketches on Saturday Night Live.

Here's the "real deal".

September 27, 2008

Gussied Up

Heading into the city to see Kathak Dance at Yerba Buena and sporting some serious eye makeup. Self Portrait at Fruitvale BART.
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September 26, 2008

Double Fisted Crackberry-ing

I am on BART heading into San Francisco and there is a guy doing a conference call on one Crackberry while furiously typing away on another. I can only imagine that he is texting with some of the folks on the call. Even more impressive, he seems to be the one running the conference call. Now that is a crack addiction.

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September 25, 2008

Gay Pride

This shot highlights the gay-leather-bears flag (a particular group of Gay men) flying in celebration of this weekend's Folsom Street Fair.
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Unusual California Sky

Beautiful clouds today above San Francisco as I walk to work through the Mission.
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September 23, 2008

Political Snap Shot

Does this look awkward or what? Read more from the New York Times here.

Governor Palin met with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. (Photo: Stan Honda/ AFP-Getty Images)

Reading the Tealeaves

Check out some familiar faces talking about online customer service. The video is 7.32 but there are some fun stories towards around 3 minutes that may give you a chuckle.

September 22, 2008

Hiking for Social Justice

On a recent climb of Mt. Kilimajaro in Tanzania, my roommate from college, Holly Murdoch O'Brien, witnessed the horrible working conditions of the people who support treks on the mountain. Many of the porters did not have warm clothing, rain gear, or boots, but the filmmakers were really stunned when they discovered many of their porters had been sleeping without sleeping bags in temperatures below freezing.

To bring attention to the porters Holly is creating a feature documentary film "Cloudwalkers of Kilimanjaro" through the eyes of the local Tanzanian people who make their living by working on the mountain.

Nearly 20 years after graduating from Ithaca College Holly and I are reconnected, finding a shared concern for promoting social change in developing countries.

By supporting my hike, you can take part in the solution.

To raise funds for the film Holly and I are hiking Mount Baldy located outside of Los Angeles, California on October 25, 2008. Our goal is to raise $15,000 so that Holly and her film crew can return to Mt. Kilimanjaro in January to begin researching and scouting in preparation for the film shoot.

My personal goal is to raise $1,000 and every donation helps. Please consider making a fully tax-deductible contribution which can be easily done online

You are also invited to participate in the hike. Just ask me for details.

Thank you for considering this request.

September 21, 2008

Thoughts on Yardsales

Our collective household hosted a huge yard sale yesterday. Our house is located in a primo yardsale location, at the intersection of two major roads. With just eight signs posted and one listing on we had a tremendous turnout and off-loaded over 50% of our stuff.

Selling your things is always a reality check on taste. I kept looking at my stuff (I only had a few things for sale since I have so few posessions) and thinking, "wow, I have good taste." When people purchased my things I noticed they did so in bulk. Hardly anyone walked away with just one of my items, they always had at least two. That tells me that we have the same taste good and the items were going to good homes.

My housemate Jessica, Stacey's sister, was so funny when it came to pricing. People would hold up items and call across to her (she was sitting a safe distance away on the front steps), "how much?" She would take a good 30 seconds on every item, looking up at the sky, biting her lip, shrugging her shoulders and then coming up with a price. Stacey and I held our breaths each time as we hoped the process would quicken. But no, this was a historic exploration for Jessica. She was running through all the memories of the piece, where it came from and how much she still liked it. This process was particularly amusing to one customer who was charged $1 for old flipflops and 50 cents for a new frame. "How come the pricing seems reversed, wouldn't you charge more for the new frame?" No, said Jessica, "I still like the flipflops but I don't care about the frame."

The whole day was easy going. Easy setup, friendly customers, fast cleanup and a quick trip to Good Will with our leftovers. That's key. You have to bag up the stuff and take it away immediately, otherwise you start to have sentimental feelings and hold on to it. What I noticed about my stuff was last-in, first-out. I was happy to sell items I had just recently purchased. Hum. Commitment issues?

September 18, 2008

Women Rock

I had a huge realization last night. Women rock my world. Guys rock too but it is my women friends who have been anchors during this tempestuous time of my life. My women friends and relatives have picked me up, brushed me off and re-fueled my engine.

It hit home when I was in DC last week for my brother's wedding. My cousin Liz, who I hadn't seen in 5 years (so unacceptable and my doing) told me that I could do anything I want. She's pursuing a PhD, which I've flirted with for a few years now. She said Amy, go for it. Liz is making it happen as a single mom and here I am with basically zero responsibilities hemming and hawing.

My girlfriends are inspirations. Not to sound sexist but they are strong with and without men. Gosh, I am free to live my dreams too.

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September 16, 2008

Art as Health Insurance

Last night Nicole and I attended a Kathak Dance rehearsal at the 0brava Theatre Center in San Francisco's Mission District. The dance is a combination of yoga, singing and meditation. More accurately the yoga and chanting become the meditation.

The combination of movement and voice are built on layers of mathematics calculations. As the dancers become proficient in each new level they add another layer. Proficiency is realized when you have reached the capacity for your mind to wonder. This moves the dancers out of their meditative presence requiring new layers of complication which they describe as splitting the mind. One woman was able to sing, dance and play an instrument with 16 beats of movement. I'm confused just trying to explain it.

Watching the dancers, who are all women, you can see the joy and intensity they are experiencing by their facial expressions. It was awe inspiring to see their transformation into the meditative state.

Their guru, who taught them the methodology and inspired their self-created choreography introduced two of the youngest group members who have been studying with him since they were little girls. He asked them to share what it iis they do for their profession. One is a film maker and the other prices health insurance. The guru said, "this is your life insurance. It keeps you healthy. If only these women could make a living from their art."

It was an interesting concept to thin of art as being so vital to life that it was considered health insurance. Today I was struck again by this realization when I received an email from a friend in Houston. I had written her asking if she was okay after the storm. Her response was that they had no electricity and their house gate was broken but they still had enough sunshine to paint. Art as health and life insurance.

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September 13, 2008

The Happy Couple

I love this photo!

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The Vows

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Sean and Steff play a song.
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Matt and Rachel!

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We're in Line!

Here is the wedding party getting ready.

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Guests Arriving

Just moments until we start!
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Tick Tock

Clock is counting down and Matt is still calm.
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Self Portrait

Getting close!
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Rachel in the Cupcake Room

Sitting before the wedding starts in 10 minutes.
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Rachel Getting Ready

Emily, Rachel's sister puts flowers in hair.
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Matt is Ready

44 minutes until the moment and Matt just realized he needs to put in his contacts.
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More Rehearsing

Jane rehearses the vows with Matt and Rachel.
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Rachel gives us instructions and Matt listens eagerly. Ooh, what's that smell? Lucy left us a gift in the yard and Matt stepped in it.
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Bed of Sweet Dreams

Here rest the cupcakes as they await the final touches!
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Sage's Cupcake Fantasy

Mel's son Sage sneaks a peek at Rebecca icing cupcakes.
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Flowers Chilling

Rachel's mom's house is home for the ceremony and reception. Here is Rachel's childhood room which is now called The Cold Room for the wedding. Mel's flowers sit here chilling in anticipation of the ceremony.
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Seats are Ready

Rachel's former housemate Mel prepared all the flowers in true Matt and Rachel style.
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The Big Day

Ursula ices Matt and Rachel's cupcakes.
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Connecting with Cousins

Last night I connected with two of my first cousins, Kim and Liz, for the first time in five years. Really, that is far too long. We all look the same as before but now they have kids. Although my cousin Lori wasn't there, her little girl Natalie attended with my Aunt Tina and Uncle Mal. More like she had them in tow. It was amazing to see that she and I have the same round face, blond hair and blue eyes.

We were all together at a giant gathering-of-the-family-and-friends party on the eve of Matt and Rachel's wedding. Funny how kids turn into a pack animals and run like wolves on these occasions. I jumped in and spent some quality time with the gaggle watching young Japanese women compete for the title of Ninja Warrior on some obscure TV channel. As we cheered and jeered I couldn't help thinking that the show was a bit racy for three year olds. The kids got completely riled up and I was covered in wiggly, cuddly, love-biting tots which was both wonderful and, well, a bit overwhelming at the same time.

September 12, 2008

Matt and Grammie

The day before the wedding and Matt looks relaxed.
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Change of Scene

You may be wondering why my family is now in the picture. I neglected to mention that we are all in Washington, DC for my brother's wedding on Saturday. It is an all-hands-on-deck affair as we are doing almost everything except the catering, with the exception of cupcakes of course.

Yesterday we were at Rachel's (Matt's partner) Mother's house, the location of the ceremony and reception. The tent is setup and we were working on the flowers, rolling silverware in napkins and generally spending time together. Then the cupcake baking in the afternoon at Teaism. Today it is back to the house for more flower arranging, hanging lights and setting up tables and chairs. This evening a party at Rachel's brother and sister-in-law's house.

My mom arrived on Monday. I got here Wednesday. Dad and my two grandmothers arrived yesterday afternoon and today the Plotkin side of the family (mom's kin) arrives in full force.

More photos to come.

September 11, 2008

Dad and Grandma Explore the Crackberry

Of course my dad is the original crackberry addict. Here he tries to get his mother addicted.

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Cupcakes Cooling

Ursula, Liz and Marlene admire the chocolate cupcakes.

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Cupcakes Galore

Here's my sister Marlene in the Teaism kitchen in front of 75 cupcakes.

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Mom and Lucy Hit the Road

As me and Mom get ready to head to Teaism to make cupcakes for Matt and Rachel's wedding cake, Rachel's dog Lucy wanted to go to. Here she is in the car taking my seat.

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September 10, 2008

Americans are Visual

I keep noticing that Americans like to look. This is in direct contrast to my experience with Britains who avoid eye contact, at least in London. This difference is especially noticeable on public transit and in crowds. Our eyes are curiously scanning people and we even feel free to chat with folks.

This culture of looking works for visual folks like me who love soaking up details. In the UK I felt odd diverting my eyes and noticed that no one even sneaked a peek at each other.

Sitting on this Southwest flight heading out to DC there is lots to look at because we Americans are so visually interesting.

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Heart Artist at Oakland Airport

The artworks of the Hearts in San Francisco project heart artists are in every corner of the Bay Area. Here is the work of Hung Liu in the Oakland airport. Her beautiful and compelling gold Heart was placed in front of the Asian Art Museum during the installation and then I believe it was senator Dianne Feinstein who purchased it at the auction.

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September 9, 2008

Me and David

Here I am with my former intern from London David! He lives in SoCal and was up in San Francisco for work. We haven't seen each other in a year but he reads this blog and is more up to date on my life than my parents! It is always strange to talk to an avid reader live and in person because they know so much about me.

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September 8, 2008


That's how I feel today - sparky! My pilot light is finally getting ignited. It is the cumulative impact of spending quality time with "old" friends.

Over lunch today with my friend Michael I felt a change. He was reflecting on the work I use to do with Business Arts Council running Business Volunteers for the Arts. It was extraordinary to hear how his volunteer project changed his life. It was my tipping point. For the past several months the love has been coming my way and then reconnecting with Michael pushed me into the zone. I would call it the Amy Getting Her Groove Back Zone.

After lunch I immediately emailed all the Alumni Business Volunteers for the Arts that I could find in my address book and proposed a reunion. Instead of running away from the arts and saying what I'm not doing I now realize I should embrace the arts as my area of expertise while continuing to expand my skills and scope of work.

This has been a big day of revelations. Good thing I had an ice cream sundae for dinner to keep me energized.

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Meant to be Together

In the Oakland Hills yesterday, I attended the most unexpected event - a picnic for Jewish folks living I San Francisco's East Bay. What surprised me was that I attended and actually had a fun time. It has been decades since I attended an event that was mostly Jews and most likely on those previous occasions it was at the bidding of my parents. This one I attended with my cousin Ben.

I met some fascinating folks. Never have I been in a group of people where the majority had PhDs and MBAs. Not only were they book smart but also heart smart. I had numerous "deep" conversations about life, love, core values and careers that advance tour personal missions.

one guy, David, chatted with me about recovering from a broken heart. I was saying that I am letting my heart recover from my breakup and using this time to gain firm footing and not be in a relationship with anyone other than myself. He referred to an article he recently read that said human nature is for us to be in a relationship - to find our wholeness with a partner. That hit me in the heart. For the past few years I have been grappling with my need to be partnered and punishing myself for feeling un-whole. but I do believe that one of my core values is to be with a partner who believes we are meant to be together creating a stronger whole.

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September 6, 2008

Artesa Winery Napa

Following our di Rosa Preserve visit we ventured out to Artesa Winery which is built on top of a hill or more accurately into the top of a hill. Like an ancient pyramid it hidden by greenery that covers its slanted walls. As you walk up to the entrance there is a giant pond and fountain (not very green). The glass artwork of Artist in Residence Gordon Huether is everywhere. In the foreground of this photo is a torpedo-like object covered with bits of colorful glass.

Our friends Thelma and Walter are wine club members which gave us privileged access to their Library wines. By far our favorite is the 2006 Chardonnay Carneros. It was like eating a slice of cake.

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Nature Remains

This is just a piece of an art installation by Ray Beldner at the di Rosa Preserve. The letters are about four feet tall.

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Meadow at di Rosa Preserve

After many weeks of planning a group of us went out to the di Rosa Preserve in Napa. This is a vineyard and meadow site housing a collection of contemporary artworks by San Francisco Bay Area artists collected by Rene di Rosa and his wife Veronica.

It is an amazing facility in the true casual-elegance that can only be Napa Valley. Farmhouses that are somehow old and modern in the same breath house absolutely fascinating pieces of art. Ranging from art cars to flying Virgin Mary's, the world's tallest filing cabinet to a house made of glass bottles, this is a feast of whimsy.

I was surprised by how many artists, from the Hearts in San Francisco project that I managed, were represented in the collection. Only now, four years after the event, do I fully appreciate the significance of the artists who were asked to participate. The project's creators were in effect commissioning art from the Bay Area's most edgy emerging and seasoned artists.

Most of the preserve pieces are out in a meadow and we were warned to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. However, I felt like being quite girly and decided to wear my one and only pair of high heals. Everyone was concerned about my ability to teeter totter on all the bits of rock and to step over the high grasses, but I am proud to say that I did not fall, twist an ankle or even clunk around like a ostrich on stilts. I looked quite good thank you.

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September 5, 2008


I just experienced my first earthquake since returning to San Francisco. I'll be honest it freaked me out. The front steps rattled and then the house shook. I am babysitting and the child I am with didn't even notice the shaking. I had to play it cool but tears did come to my eyes and my heart beat went into overtime.

Turns out it was a 4.0 centered near Danville.

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Late Afternoon Sun

From the door of my bedroom.

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September 3, 2008

Grabbing a BlackBerry Moment

Using a BlackBerry is probably the antithesis of meditation unless you fully believe it demonstrates "being in the moment".

I notice that I am not alone when I reach for the Crackberry while waiting for public transit, riding an escalator, waiting on line at the grocery store, or cooking pancakes (comfort food of choice). Everyone around me has their Crackberry out too. Perhaps we are all talking to each other.

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Pleasant Day at the DMV

The secret to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is to make an appointment online! I walked in 15 minutes before my appointment and saw the long lines and unhappy faces. The I noticed the sign for appointment check-in. No one was waiting. I filled out my form and had to run to the next counter because my number was called that fast. Then on to get my photo which required three minutes in line.

All the employees were friendly and chatty. However, the folks online were very grumpy. I imagine that they are unaware of the internet appointment option. It is likely that many don't have computers. Now back to my bike and into the city!
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September 1, 2008

Understanding the Grieving Process

In a conversation with my Dad yesterday we were talking about loss and he referenced the Seven Phases of the Grieving Process. I hadn't heard of this before and was inspired to Google it. Here's what I found by Elizabeth Harper Neeld, Ph.D. as pulled from Helps clarify so much of the process which, when you're in it, just feels painful and unending.

Grieving Process - Phase I
The grieving process usually begins once the person is informed of the death. During this phase, the person experiences a vast array of emotions - anger, sadness, shock, disbelief, etc. The first phase of the grieving process can last for several weeks.

Grieving Process - Phase II
After the initial reaction to the death, the numbness begins to wear off and the person may feel that the pain of the loss is nearly unbearable. Although many people may keep this painful feeling bottled up, it is best to express the pain. Hiding it and trying to "be strong" for others is not healthy. It's best to find someone to talk to who can understand the emotions and pain. Seeking help from community resources for support is recommended.

Grieving Process - Phase III
Once the unbearable pain of the loss has subsided, a person may begin to reminisce and try to re-experience past events with the deceased. Looking through photo albums, re-visiting places, and wearing jewelry of the deceased are some examples of how people may choose to remind themselves of past times with the deceased.

Grieving Process - Phase IV
The fourth phase of the grieving process involves a "reinvesting" of ones life. The bereaved begins to show signs of adjustment to life without the deceased. Discussions of "starting over" may occur, as well as changes to the bereaved's physical environment. It is not until this phase of the grieving process that the bereaved seems to be coping with the loss.

Grieving Process - Phase V & VI
During phases V & VI of the grieving process, the bereaved begins relinquishing attachments to past roles and relationships with the deceased. The past relationship is replaced with a new "memory" relationship. The bereaved begins to actively reinvest themselves in the "new" world - a world without their loved one.

Grieving Process - Phase VII
During the final phase of the grieving process, the bereaved is able to think and speak of the deceased person without pain. Although the person may still feel sadness, the pain has subsided.

Release Your Inner Blogger

If ya'll are in Houston, TX on November 11 come on down to the National Arts Marketing Project Conference called Priming the Pump and join my Roundtable discussion Release Your Inner Blogger.