December 31, 2009

The Year of Living Your Dreams

For the past two years I've come up with a mantra by which I frame the 12 next months. Leading up to my 40th birthday it was the Year of Amy. For the past nine months I've had the Year of Research and Development. I declare 2010 The Year of Living Your Dreams!

I am reluctant to state the dreams I will pursue because, what if I don't actually pursue all of them? Or, the details of each dream change? Hum, is this already a lack of commitment to Living Your Dreams? OK, I'll outline some of the dreams I have for myself; a few that are within my control and others that depend on the convergence of opportunities, fate (or is it destiny?), happenstance and circumstance.
  • Continue to discover who I am and embrace my uniqueness. 
  • Deepen my relationship with people who I value - family and family-by-choice (aka dearest friends), colleagues and students.
  • Commit to ongoing learning. 
  • Take and post photos!
  • Teach as much as possible.
  • Travel internationally for business and pleasure - blurring the lines between the two.
  • Learn to salsa.
  • Host guests at my house and cook delicious meals for them.
  • Be financially sustainable, while saving money.
  • Live as simply as possible.
  • Smile from my heart.
  • Celebrate life.
  • Forgive but learn from each situation and be careful with my heart.
  • Care for my body and never skimp on health.
  • Honor my mind and never skimp on compassion.
  • ...and the one I can't control - meet someone who is strong, compassionate, fun, honest, and celebrates who I am. If this one doesn't happen, that's OK because I am happy with my life and am not alone.
So, I honor the closure of 2009 and celebrate the launch of 2010, The Year of Living Your Dreams, and raise my heart to the Blue Moon that shepherds us into the next decade. Namaste.

December 30, 2009

Daily Roses

Hisun shared with me a wonderful tradition that the Obama family practices each night at the dinner table. They each share a Rose and a Thorn - something that went well in their day and something that was challenging. Hisun and I have narrowed this down to just Roses.

Sometimes we share these over dinner and other times by phone before bed. Now I've made it a habit to do this for myself as the last thoughts before going to sleep, after turning out the lights. It is such a nice way to go back over the day and look at all the moments that worked really well. Sometimes these are challenges that I have overcome and often they are meaningful interactions with friends, family, clients and even strangers. This is such a positive way to float into slumber.

Here are some Roses from today - in order of occurrence:
  • Sharing email correspondence about photography inspirations with my friend Irfan
  • Emailing my doctors and thanking them for their good care over the year and letting them know that, regretfully, I will no longer be in their care as I switch insurance carriers (thankfully, for better insurance.)
  • Receiving good wish emails back from my doctors.
  • Meeting with my friend Margo do discuss strategic planning goals for her organization in the coming year - and knowing that I helped ease her mind, clear some of the chaos and be a good friend a colleague who her values her good work.
  • Riding my bike to and from the meeting with Margo
  • Saying goodbye to my neighbor who is moving to a new job in LA
  • Speaking with my best peep Simone in Cambridge by Skype
  • Receiving a lovely email from Hisun about our friendship and talking by phone about our NYE plans - feeling complete in ourselves
  • Sharing deep secrets and dreams with my sister Marlene by phone
  • Finishing the book Lost in Translation
  • Staying calm in financial crises
  • Speaking with my friend Bob in Houston about my career goals - he's offered to be my coach
  • Feeling comfortable having phone conversations - something that has been difficult for me
  • Enjoying my new electric blanket, maybe a bit too much
  • Making a pot of decaf chai in my coffee making and drinking it all up.
Wow, that's a lot of roses!

December 26, 2009

Mountain View Cemetery Founder's Day

One my new favorite destinations is Mountain View Cemetery. I suppose it sounds a bit morbid but actually, it is more like a history park. Today I took a walking tour with blogger Michael Colbruno who brought us to all the graves of the cemetery's founders in honor of its founding on December 26, 1863. We heard many tales of fame, fortune, politics, religion and demise.
I was very excited to see architect Julia Morgan's grave, so unassuming.

December 25, 2009

Strength and Bravery

This morning I awakened to thoughts of strength and bravery - two of the qualities I valued in the Jake character of the Avatar film. As I thought about the balance of physical and mental strength he developed it became clear that it is out of balance unless paired with bravery. It is one thing to be strong and another to be brave as well - because you can certainly be strong and live in fear.

A willingness to address fears, limitations, mistakes and missteps, to me demonstrates bravery. It is also demonstrated in being able to reach out to others, to go beyond yourself, to embrace relationships, partnerships and community. Strength does not require muscles, although that is one demonstration of being strong. It is also the strength of character, of self and is intermingled with flexibility.

As the quote says, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." So many people live in fear, they make their bodies strong and they close their minds. That to me is like killing yourself. Opening your heart is bravery and to me that is a celebration of life.

December 24, 2009

Amazing Avatar

Tonight I went to see the film Avatar, not knowing anything about the film. It was absolutely outstanding. So many layers of issues, birth, re-birth, stepping into yourself by stepping into other realities and merging with the great network that is mother nature.

Seeing Clearer, Healings Wounds, Earning Wings

Have you ever woken up in the morning and suddenly you are seeing things differently? That's how I feel this morning. I finally got out of bed, after daydreaming for hours, and my room seemed bigger, the sun brighter and my thoughts clearer. I think this was influenced by the book I read yesterday, "The Last Chinese Chef" by Nicole Mones, the author of "Lost in Translation" which is next on my reading list.

Her book is about a woman, widowed at 40, who travels to China for both work and to settle a personal matter relating to her husband's passing. Through her journey she learns to forgive, let-go and love again. It touched me as I can relate to her situation. Although I am not a widow, the closure of relationships are like letting go of someone who was once close to your heart, but now lost, almost like a death.

This morning I woke up and I felt healed, like my heart was mended so much more. I think this emerging euphoria is coupled with the diminishing spider bite on my face. What a relief to look in the mirror and see me again, instead of a blotchy red face.

Actually, I've been reflecting on this year and how physical it has been for me. For so long I was living in an intellectual space - up in my head. This year I have had so many physical...I'm not sure what to call them...challenges? Opportunities? Wounds? Scabs? Healing? Lots of yoga and then a shoulder injury that has just started healing, my bike wipe-out early in the summer and then a second wipe-out late in the summer. The intense, fast and fleeting relationship I had between the two bike wipe-outs.

I labeled this the year of Research and Development and it has been. I've learned how to fall, get up again, scrape off my bumps and bruises, bandage the cuts, and try again. Necessary scabs and scars have formed on my 40-year-old body that was far too soft and vulnerable for so long. No, I'm not jaded, I'm stronger because of it.

Ironically, the jeans I was wearing in the early summer wipe-out, which were ripped at the knee and symbolized so much, are being repaired today. They fit so wonderfully and I missed wearing them. Yesterday, I bought a patch and brought the jeans to a seamstress in my neighborhood. There were two patches I found that could fit the hole - one said, Vampire and the other Angel. I purchased Angel. When I brought the jeans and the patch to the seamstress she said, "I can repair these back to 80% new, return the patch, you don't need it." I said that I would wait to see how the jeans looked repaired and then decide if Angel should be returned.

This brings me to another thought from yesterday. I sent a brief email greeting to Stephen and he sent one in return, while he he was riding on the train up to Edinburgh. In response I wrote to look out for my favorite statue, the Angel of the North, which is along the train route north from Kings Cross to Edinburgh. He didn't respond, I didn't expect that he would.

This Angel flies on her own, she has earned her wings.

December 23, 2009

Reaching Another Goal

Amazing, when you imagine your goals, they actually can come true. As my friend Leah says, you may think that something just happens but it is actually been in development for years. She's correct, I've been working up to all these goals - it just feels like they are happening unexpectedly. Kind of like those "overnight successes" you read about in the fields of acting and music - but then you learn they were on the small stage circuit for decades.

Well, my achievements aren't quite that large but I will be teaching a course at California State University East Bay - Hayward in their new Arts Administration Certificate program. Check it out!

Here's the seminar I will be teaching: Leadership in the Arts-The Arts Sector at California State University East Bay - Hayward. The course begins February 22 and registration closes on February 19. This is a very affordable option for career transitioners, emerging leaders and mid-career managers to work towards a certificate in Arts Administration.

Course Description:

An overview of the arts industry and its creative, curatorial and commercial sectors including artists and performers, professional artisans, craftspersons, technicians, managers, audience, entrepreneurs, critics, the general culture & society, law & politics, economics & finance, science, technology, and the environment.

The basic principles, concepts, processes and practices relating to organizations in the arts industry dynamic including planning, non profit and commercial organizational structures, leadership, fundraising, artistic programming, arts education, advocacy and marketing, will be discussed.

Students will know how to:

  • Identify and research specific discipline related issues.
  • Differentiate between not for profit and for profit entities and projects.
  • Access arts industry networks in the public and private sectors.

December 21, 2009

Physically Here and Virtually There

The holidays impact in ways you never expect. Since I don't celebrate Christmas and got all my cards and cookie baking out of the way, I thought that I had little stress this holiday season. But for the past three weeks I've been losing all kinds of things. First the iPhone and now I keep leaving the Blackberry places, as well as my sunglasses.

My hairdresser, Kathy, made an observation - I'm lacking focus. I thought about this and realized that I'm highly distracted. Yes, the spider bite does cause some distractions but it is more than that. It is being away from the UK and my former family - as well as being so far from my siblings and folks in the US. Yes, I have so many wonderful, amazing family and friends out here in the Bay Area, but Christmas and New Year's were something special to celebrate with my former in-laws. Gosh, divorce impacts you in so many ways, for so long. You may be letting go of something or someone that doesn't "work" but you also let go of relationships that do work when you end a marriage.

Today, when I was in a colleague's office, I noticed a watercolor painting of Edinburgh on his bookshelf. We talked about how beautiful the city is and the fun of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It brought warmth to my heart remembering all those special times I was there. At least I my heart is open and I can celebrate the love that was there for me.

Earlier today I was on a conference call with Martin, Leah and another colleague Lois. Leah and I were skyping from our Oakland homes while Martin and Lois were in London. How wonderful that we keep these long-distance connections and continue to collaborate.

So, although I may not be physically in the UK, I am at least there virtually.

December 20, 2009

Cracking the Coconut

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Coconut Milk

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Curds and Whey

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Cooking Date

Megan and Hisun have taken over my kitchen for our cooking date. Hisun will make smoothies and Hisun is showing us how to make cheese!
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December 19, 2009

Mountain View Cemetery

Today I went on a photo expedition of Mountain View Cemetery with a photographer friend. We were lucky enough to get decent weather and some helpful lighting with blue skys.

This is the most amazing cemetery as people us it for recreation. It is one of the most peaceful areas for meandering.

Here are some of the women who caught my eye. Ethereal.

December 18, 2009

Spider Bites

It seems that I was bitten by a spider, on my face. I'm obsessing about it because the bite is in the center for my forehead and it is, well, quite obvious. Today in class I announced to my students, "I may be 40 but this is not a zit on my forehead, it is a spider bite." At break, one of the students said, "it actually isn't noticeable." Very sweet.

The bite has caused an intense breakout of bumps on my eyelid and nose. It is so itchy and I am quite distracted by it. This week I've been going on some dates and prior to each date I've emailed the "date" to say, "I have an impressive spider bite on my forehead." I figure it is better to put it out there, rather than hoping they don't notice.

Part of this defensive approach I am taking is probably due to the fact that I pride myself on having really clear skin. Now I have bumps and they are becoming the topic of conversation. All kinds of theories and cures have been thrown my way. We'll see which works.

December 16, 2009

Creative Cookies

I must say that I'm very proud of myself for figuring out how to make dual-color, dual-flavor cookies! I used the Icebox Sugar Cookie recipe from Joy of Cooking and it was beyond simple. I know the vanilla side tastes great but I haven't tasted the chocolate, but they sure smell good. Ooops. Just burned a batch.

December 13, 2009

Family Values

I am searching for a wedding gift for my cousin. So, I typed in "Family Gifts" on and to my surprise, the 19th item on the results list was a Pole Dancer Alarm Clock. Yes, that would be alarming.

Amy Kweskin Photography

Amy Kweskin Photography is back! Although this website looks more like a blog than a portfolio, it makes me happy to see all the colors. 2010 is the year of Creativity!

Making Music

Amazing! After last night's performance at Freight and Salvage I was inspired to take my flute out of its case, after 20 years, and see if I can make some "noise". Despite only having about four lessons twenty years ago, I was able to make a beautiful sound. I still have the instruction book and I wonder if I can learn on my own.

Last night's show featured slide guitarist Cindy Cashdollar of the Texas Sheiks. What a talented woman! Now that's another instrument that I could imagine playing. Soulful, melodic, and expressive.

Video from Jim Kweskin Gig

Ahh yes, my Blackberry has finally outsmarted the iPhone. Couldn't do this with the old iPhone.

December 12, 2009

Jim Kweskin and Bonnie Raitt!

Jim Kweskin played tonight with Geoff Muldaur and the Texas Sheiks at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, Bonnie Raitt, who was sitting in the audience, got up and joined the band for a few tunes. Here they are during the encore.

Expertise in the Room

My first semester class as an instructor at the Art Institute of California - San Francisco, ends next week and I'm getting a bit nostalgic already for my students. We've been on a career development journey together and their growth is so impressive. Hopefully, my teaching style has evolved as well. This school is so supportive of instructors, offering us excellent feedback and continuous access to professional development training. I'm recognizing that I love teaching, facilitating and coaching. This is the direction in which I am evolving my career. All the ingredients are already there - now to continue developing my skills, network and reputation.

This week I met with a woman who has just quit her job and is starting a non-profit. I used our meeting as an opportunity to blend coaching with my advising. Instead of me professing all the ideas, answers, next steps, I asked her where she sees herself. She has all the answers. This is how I approach strategic planning with arts organizations and I am now applying it to individuals as well.

In next semester's Art Institute career development class I am will emphasize the expertise already in the room - my role is to be a coach and guide to help each student articulate their goals, identify their next steps, increase their skills and tools (resume, pitch, portfolio) and let them get on their way. So much more powerful when the answers come from them.

December 11, 2009

Peeple's Place

My mom, brother and friend Nancy all emailed me about the new Peeps store in Maryland. Clearly, I have a reputation amongst the Peeple. I love peeps, but please don't buy me any as it is an addiction I can't control. The crunchy, sugary, slightly bitter taste with mushy center fills me with joy. I can eat an entire package in about 1 minute.

I so want to ride in the peep-mobile.

Here is a link to the New York Times article and video about Peeps store.

What Do You Want to be When You Retire?

Goodness, I barely know what I want to be when I grow up or even tomorrow much less what I want to be when I retire. It is this question that seems to be the root of the migraine I usually get after visiting my financial advisor. Thankfully, I prepared myself for this meeting with a pep talk "stay calm and breath" and I have not yet had onset of a headache. However, I did post-medicate myself with fish tacos.

My financial advisor is a lovely woman with whom I meet two to three times a year. She helps me figure out my income, expenses and financial goals for the year. But of course she is basing that on a long-term goal of where I want to be when I'm 67. She asks, "how much medical support will you need at 67? How much travel will you be doing? Where will you live? What will you do with your time? How much spending money will you need? When do you see yourself being unable to travel - 85?" All these questions seem impossible for me to grasp when these are the very same questions I ask myself every day about tomorrow.

When I'm 67 I imagine my life will look very much as it does now. Lots of cool projects, never the same day twice, exciting travel, and endless learning. How do I plan for that financially? I suppose I can keep doing what I do now - living simply and making the most of every opportunity.

December 9, 2009

Cafe Trieste Again

Back with Cafe Americain and Cafe Trieste in San Francisco's North Beach. It's been six months since I've seen these guys. They have some amazing new tunes and a much larger "band".

Feeling the Love from Copenhagen

Although I wasn't physically in Copenhagen this week my colleague Martin has made sure that I am there virtually. For the past three days he has skyped me at 1am Denmark time, to give me highlights from the Culture Futures conference for which he is Master of Ceremonies. He never seems to be tired in these calls, but I think it will hit him this weekend when he returns to London.

He makes me feel valued in each of these calls as I offer feedback, suggestions and observations. What a tremendous opportunity I have to be linked to someone so inclusive. He is an inspiration.

As this global initiative moves forward I hope to keep supporting Martin behind the scenes and perhaps have occasion to be there live and in person some time soon. My intention is to visit the UK in March.

Tomorrow I am attending a training in learning to facilitate Open Space meetings. It is an approach to convenings that allows the participants to create the agenda priorities and generate solutions in real time. Martin would like me to share my learnings with him and to see if we can use the approach online to move Culture Futures forward. Our friend and co-collaborator Leah is trained in this as well so here we again have a chance to work together.
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December 7, 2009

iPhone Sadness

I miss my iPhone. We were a team. Noticing that I barely check the Crackberry. I suppose that's more healthy.

Climate Change Call to Action

My friends Martin and Juhi are in Copenhagen at the COP15 Climate Change Conference running a parallel conference call CultureFutures. I'm there in spirit and in blogging.

Extrovert Introverted

Yesterday I participated in an introduction session to Interplay - a movement-based, community-building vocabulary. That's a non-profit lingo way of trying to say, connecting with people through movement. My friends Theron and Elizabeth are deeply involved with the organization and I wanted to appreciate what they find so inspiring. In the process, I learned some interesting things about myself. The grand conclusion is that I love verbal communication and am not so keen on physical communication.

I met a gentleman, at the start of the session, who immediately told me that he was relieved because two of his fears were instantly dispelled: he was neither the oldest participant nor the only man. It made me realize that everyone comes to these sessions with some trepidation. For me I am comfortable when we begin organized activities that involve verbal interaction, or even listening to a presenter. But when we start doing any kind of physical interaction I clam up. In fact, we did so much interaction that my brain went into a lock-down mode. Heck, I have been taking the same yoga class with the same group of people for years and still get nervous when we have to do partner stretches.

Usually I'm super creative, highly interactive and very extroverted - I have to hold myself back from dominating the room. I'm a verbal performer. When we were asked to stand up, find a partner and touch palms I went beyond my stretch zone and nearly into panic. Panic fully hit when we had to stand in a group of four and touch fingertips "in creative ways" for about five minutes.

So, what I learned, is that I want to be able to occasionally offer a comforting touch - kind of how people reach out to you to make a point. That's something I'm not comfortable doing. But in terms of lots of extended physical communication - call me a physical introvert.

Cute Cat Video Gone Mad

December 6, 2009

Crack is Back!

A crackberry, that is. Went to the Apple store and it would have cost me $499 for a new iPhone - even with my "service" plan, because I still had 18 months on my contract and wasn't ready for an upgrade. I ended up talking to ATT for two hours by phone - first for an hour in the Apple store and then another hour in the ATT store. It became clear, after conducting a cost-benefit analysis, that closing out my account and paying the early contract termination fee and then starting a new account and getting the $99 iPhone was going to save me about $200. When I went to do it, ATT put me through to various departments until the final customer service representative offered a "deal I couldn't refuse."

So, now I'm back to having a crackberry. I'm actually quite excited for a few of reasons. First, the keyboard is so much better on the crackberry. Second, it is kind of nice to be going backwards a bit and not having the latest hottest technology (is that weird?). Third, as you know I love endless change. Here I've changed again. Oh yes, the camera on the crackberry allows me to take better self-portraits and I can post more easily to my blog. That's why you haven't seen portraits in about six months - very challenging on the iPhone.

Here's a YouTube video comparing an iPhone to the Blackberry Bold.

Never a dull moment in Amyville.


Oh bummer. I lost my purse with my iPhone in it this evening when I went dancing with Hisun. It isn't the end of the world but now I have to replace it. Hisun was kind enough to drive me all over Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville to look for the lost phone. This crazy path was because we tried out so many dance clubs. We ended up having a lovely evening at The Den in Oakland. When we returned everyone was so nice to us, trying to help find the phone. In my previous life I would have cried and called myself stupid for the loss. Now I have no emotions because it is just stuff and what does stuff really matter? Replaceable.

December 3, 2009

Swatch Switch

My fantastic vintage Swatch that I bought with my brother Matthew in April (here we are displaying our watches at an Easter Brunch) broke a couple of months ago - the little cover that holds in the battery broke off. Today I finally took it to the Union Square Swatch store. They said it was unfixable but that I could pick out any $55 Swatch to replace it. I was very sad to give up the Swatch because it was so unique. However, it was great fun finding a new one! I picked out one that has big bursts of color shaped like peacock feathers.
Above you can see my new swatch in the plastic case and the beautiful vintage swatch with its battery spilled out. This was so easy and painless - I congratulate Swatch on excellent warranties and helpful customer service professionals. Also found out that the Swatch heart ring I wear every day, and that I bought in London, is a rare find! Swatchalicious.

Culture|Futures in Copenhagen

My friend and associate consultant, Martin Farrell, is facilitating a convening in Copenhagen next week called:


an ecological age by 2050

Play a lead role in expanding
cultural engagement to
sustain human and all life

This is a partner-conference to the UN Climate Change Conference 2009. I've been helping behind the scenes and now Martin has asked me to help with the social media aspects of the convening. I'm so excited! I wish I could be there myself but it is quite expensive to fly and apparently there are no hotel rooms left. Well, I'll participate from the comfort of my own home.

December 2, 2009

Cute Cat Video

I had no idea that there were all these cat videos on YouTube. My friend Leigh introduced me to this one and I've watched it about 30 times and can't get enough.

November 29, 2009

Holiday Photo Expedition

Three years ago I started the tradition of taking a photo expedition to get a beautiful shot for my holiday card. Last year I took a ferry ride from Alameda to Oakland. The previous year it was the London Eye. This year I ventured up to the Oakland Hills for some breathtaking vistas and also Baker Beach for the beauty of the ocean. Living in such a beautiful area, so close to the ocean and mountains, I often take for granted the majesty of the Bay Area. Looking at some of these photos reminds me of how fortunate I am to be here.

Everything in Moderation

Hanging out with Calm and having a car for ten days has helped me recognize that moderation is a perfectly good approach to life. I've been thinking about adopting a dog and also about buying a car. Now that I temporarily have both it is clear that they are wonderful occasionally but not what I'm needing full time. Having the opportunity to be with Calm now and then for a few days fills my needs - and hers as well. A car has allowed me to visit some friends and locations out of touch of public transit but I certainly don't need a car everyday.

November 27, 2009

Extended Family

Tonight we celebrated my friend Stacey's big 40. It was her house I lived in for the past 14 months, before moving into my own place. Her party was filled with her extended family, many of which have become my extended family, something I didn't realize until tonight. As we danced to great 80s tunes in a restaurant overlooking Lake Merritt, I recognized that these folks have grown to know and care about me.

Each asked about my new place and the summer "relationship" that I had had - hoping that I was still in it. I forgot how much they know about me. The best moment was when little Lex, my former five-year-old roommate, sat down on the steps next to me and put his head on my lap. We rarely had close moments when I lived in his house but there were times when we were out and about and he touched me so sweetly. With family you know you can just reach out and they are there for you.

Curry Squash

I am eating the most heavenly curry dish made from Thanksgiving leftovers. I took the roasted squash and pumpkin I baked yesterday, removed the skin and mixed with a can of coconut milk, added a tablespoon of red curry paste. Mixed until creamy. Scooped it on top of my quinoa stuffing. Delicious. Took about five minutes to prepare.

Being Partnered

Hanging out with Com/Calm dog and observing her loyalty has helped me understand something about myself. I like being in a relationship. Just like Calm looking after me in the apartment and being tuned into me as we take walks, I like to be the same way with a partner. I previously was seeing this as a weakness that I had to overcome but actually it is a characteristic.

Calm is great one-to-one. She's good in groups too - she was in our game circle during post-Thanksgiving socializing. But she is very loyal to her primary person. After Thanksgiving dinner we went out for a walk and another person was going to hold Calm's leash. Calm kept looking for me to be the one holding her lead. It was amazing loyalty considering we've only been together for a few days. I believe I am the same way. I just have to be careful to whom I commit my loyalty.

November 26, 2009

Wild Turkey

Com/Calm and I went for an early morning walk and to our shock, and that of some other early-risers along Oakland's Piedmont Avenue, there was a wild turkey running down the street. He actually tried to stop a city bus and get on to escape. The bus finally got around Mr. Turkey who then started squawking as he ran down the center of the street, then on to the sidewalk and then across the street. The few cars on the street stopped to watch the bizarre and ironic site. Mr. Turkey impressed us all by puffing out its feathers.

I've cropped this iPhone photo so that you can see the turkey running along the sidewalk towards Fenton's Ice Creamery. He's about to cross the street. Run turkey, run.

This rivals my Thanksgiving in Houston where a man walked down our street exclaiming, in a deep Texas drawl, "somebody's turkey's burning up, somebody's turkey's burning up." In fact, someone burned down their house while trying to deep fry their turkey. This time the turkey got away.

Looking back on some past Thanksgivings, I've had some real adventures. Last year was in Berkeley with my cousin Diana - we had Tofurkey. The previous year was London, previous year in Scotland, the year before that was Houston. This year I'm hosting my cousin Diana and friends here in Oakland.

November 25, 2009

Com Dog

I have the pleasure of dog-sitting for Megan and Dallas' dog named She goes by Com and I like to pronounce it Calm because that's what she is. We've been together for a few hours and we've already taken two walks - one with Megan and another with Hal. Now she has taken over the papazan chair as her own while her lonely doggie bed sits waiting.

Com/Calm is here until Sunday. This is a great opportunity for me to try life with a dog.

November 23, 2009

First Podcast

I'm interested in trying podcasting. This is my first effort. No script and off the top of my head. Future ones will be more polished.

First thing I notice is that I emphasize some of my words with a British precision - very interesting. I also see my sister in the way I talk, think and laugh. My voice is pretty good - not as nasal or high and girly as I thought.

November 22, 2009

Car Vacation

While my cousin Ben is away for Thanksgiving I am watching his cats and in exchange he is lending me his car. As you know I've been back and forth about getting some kind of motorized vehicle versus living my life with my two feet and Ike the Bike.

What I've realized this week is that borrowing a car every now and then is like having a Car Vacation. I get to go far and wide to visit my friends, run errands, and get up to the hills for hiking. However, I live my daily life just fine without a car. Finding parking, paying for gas and the stress of traffic, plus the lack of exercise, are challenges I never have to think about while walking, riding my bike or taking most forms of public transportation.

This realization definitely is coming from my new approach to goal setting. Instead of thinking about all or nothing - the ultimate success and having it now - I'm having my clients, students and even myself think about shades of reaching your goal. We all know there is the "ultimate" and then we know that there is the realistic - which can be a good stretch. I'm finding that as I use this approach in my work and life, big hairbally goals that seem overwhelming can be broken down into smaller, achievable, exciting goals.

November 21, 2009

The Hook

Yesterday, while teaching my Career Development course at the Art Institute of California my students and I came up with the concept of The Hook. It derived from the exercise where each student had 60 seconds to answer the question, "so, tell me about yourself". This would typically be your elevator pitch or speech. But at the heart of it there needs to be a Hook.

As one of my students wrote on the board, THE HOOK, is your unique selling point framed in a story that is engaging and easy to remember - both for you and your "audience". Ideally it has a beginning, middle and end. It demonstrates your core competencies beyond, "I am a team player" and all the other typical cliches that spew forth from us when we are on the job search or prospecting clients.

After each student got up in front of the class to do their 60 seconds, the rest of the class helped them define their Hook. Some didn't have one and so we kept probing until we got to something that made them memorable and unique. Helping a student translate how their gas station experience has prepared them for a job in interior decorating takes some clever thinking. My students are becoming pros at helping each other find the connection, the transition, the Hook.

I suppose that this links directly to defining moments. Framing a defining moment as a unique selling point in your professional career is a great way to connect with your audience. we also realized, if all else fails try humor.

November 18, 2009

Defining Moments

Today, following the co-facilitation of a staff team-building retreat with Dewey Schott, I had a realization that our lives are filled with "defining moments". There are times throughout our existence when something deeply informs our direction. They are incidents that are so influential that they impact how we perceives ourselves, define our values, direct our course or develop behavior. In the best cases these moments are positive and at the worst they are negative. Often we don't recognize these defining moments until someone asks us to reflect on them - which is often the case in a retreat setting.

What I recognized is that your response to these defining moments can be positive or negative, panic or excitement, inspiration or suffocation. As a defining moment the impact is going to be extreme in either direction. As I chart my own path I'm recognizing that stepping back in the "now" to reflect on these defining moments is essential, especially when you are moving towards panic. It is a choice to frame the situation as negative or positive. My theory is you only live once and you choose your own path. We also choose our reaction, although sometimes it feels like we don't have a choice.

My personal objective is to reduce stress, live peacefully and to do onto others as I would have them do on to me. Recognizing these values I am choosing to see potentially negative situations as learning opportunities, a chance to be a stronger, more pro-active, well-defined person with a vision and mission that drives me forward. I am taking hold of these defining moments and determining my own definition instead of letting them define me.

November 15, 2009

Travel for Work and Pleasure

Over the past two weeks I've been living work-travel life that really suits me. Rhode Island for a conference, then DC for a family visit. A few days later travel by train to Sacramento and hotel stay with a colleague to present a training session. Later in the week an overnight out in the Marin Headlands and a retreat facilitation. Now to get some of this travel into the international arena. Plus, how to store my luggage without dragging it around all day. I'm sure there must be some secret that consultants know about storage options. Starbucks could make some money with this added service.

Retreat to Move Forward

The title of this post - Retreat to Move Forward - is a quote I once heard and it always sticks with me when I facilitate a retreat as I did yesterday for an arts organization. We were out in the Marin Headlands and it was the ideal setting for our session. After lunch we took a hike out to the beach and it was totally inspiring.

Prior to the hike I asked the group to think about goal setting - comfort, stretch and panic goals. As we walked I asked them to notice if there were times that they were in any of these zones and if so, what were the signs that alerted them that they were either in comfort, stretch or panic. As I hiked I realized that sometimes when I facilitate retreats I move in and out of all these zones. It is quite a challenge to facilitate an entire day, keep it flowing, finding the connections and having all the answers as to how to get un-stuck and move forward.

Thinking about this I realized that I need to figure out tactics that I have on hand to pull me back into the comfort and stretch zones in any challenging situation. All of us need these little comfort anchors - affirmations, reassurances, tools to keep us grounded in moments of panic. A friend posted on her Facebook update: To do something new you have to try something different. That's what I help my clients do when setting goals and I am going to take some time to challenge myself in the same way.

The title of this post - Retreat to Move Forward - is a quote I once heard and it always sticks with me when I facilitate a retreat as I did yesterday for an arts organization. We were out in the Marin Headlands and it was the ideal setting for our session. After lunch we took a hike out to the beach and it was totally inspiring.

Prior to the hike I asked the group to think about goal setting - comfort, stretch and panic goals. As we walked I asked them to notice if there were times that they were in any of these zones and if so, what were the signs that alerted them that they were either in comfort, stretch or panic. As I hiked I realized that sometimes when I facilitate retreats I move in and out of all these zones. It is quite a challenge to facilitate an entire day, keep it flowing, finding the connections and having all the answers as to how to get un-stuck and move forward.

Thinking about this I realized that I need to figure out tactics that I have on hand to pull me back into the comfort and stretch zones in any challenging situation. All of us need these little comfort anchors - affirmations, reassurances, tools to keep us grounded in moments of panic. A friend posted on her Facebook update: To do something new you have to try something different. That's what I help my clients do when setting goals and I am going to take some time to challenge myself in the same way.

November 11, 2009

Salsa Queen

Oh I had the most wonderful evening at the San Francisco Internationakl Art Festival's salsa dance party! I took a mini dance lesson at the start and then watched the fantastic couples dance up a storm to the live music.

There was one man in particular, Mario, who had a harem of three fantastic dancers. Later in the evening, as I stood on the sidelines practicing the moves, one of the women in the harem, who had the sexiest dress, shoes and moves, pulled me onto the floor to dance with her in Mario's group. I was so surprised and flattered. I love dancing and have the moves, if not the steps. Soon I was dancing along with them and having my spins with Mario. What fun! They took a photo with me and hopefully it will arrive by email. If so, I'll post it here.

Once off the floor my friends told me how impressed they were with my moves and that I looked so happy. They also said that I was clearly not telling the truth when I said I didn't know how to salsa. Reminds me of when I went skiing with Simone in Tahoe. We took a lesson and I said I wasn't good. Turns out I was great! I seem to be getting more coordinated as I mature.

One of my goals for this coming year is to take more salsa lessons and get really good. I'm sure there must be a place in Oakland where I can get in a monthly dance.

Photo of Mario on the dance floor.

November 10, 2009

Fish Tacos

Yet another happy meal for Amy. This time I made talapia fish tacos, yummy. A half pound of talapia for $2.65 was way too much food and way too delicious. I ate it all. So much better than going out to a restaurant. Cocina Amy.

1/2 lb Talapia - sautéed with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and paprika
Corn tortillas - heated in olive oil
Chopped chili peppers

Sacramento All Aboard!

Leah and I had a fantastic time presenting our strategic planning for arts organizations course in Sacramento today. We're getting so good at anticipating each other's presentation needs. A real tag-team.

The best part of our mini-road-trip was that I took the train up to Sacramento and Leah drove up to meet me. What a beautiful trip it is up the Capitol Corridor on Amtrak. Much of the trip is along the many bays that dot our area and also through some marsh lands and it was at sunset so beautiful reflections in the placid waterways.

I also wandered along the river near Old Sacramento, located a half a black from the Embassy Suites we stayed in last night and Drexel University which hosted our workshop. Tower Bridge was across from our hotel and this tall ship was moored nearby.

November 8, 2009

Boxes of Art

Last night I attended the annual ProArts Box Art Show and auction and was the winning bidder on a fantastic piece by Barbara Maricle. The auction featured 50 pieces of Box Art, works all derived from the same source material, a 5"x5" square block. I made a piece which started as a felted block but, because of technical difficulties, eventually became a block covered by Polaroid transfer images I made about 10 years ago. The piece is called, "She's Pushing the Memories Outside the Box" and unfortunately I didn't take a photo of it to share with you.

Here's Barbara's piece. I particularly like the crack in the wood which is has covered with little pieces of handmade paper. She's created an interesting contrast between the solid wood and the delicate paper. Are the little "x's" an effort to hide the crack, heal it, or to keep it together? I like works that encourage me to create a story.
About seven years ago I purchased another piece of Box Art from the same event. It is displayed on the top of the shelving unit in this photo of my apartment. The artist is Linda Glickman and she had a piece in last night's event as well.

Here's a close-up. It is called "The Life of Olive" and you can turn Olive's head with the little piece on the top which says, "Ripen". The dress inside the box is made of woven paper with English, Hebrew and Arabic words on it. On the left side of the box is a vanity style hand mirror for Olive and the right side has a slip for her dress. So much care and craft went into making the little details and I sense a narrative. Does Olive have many sides to her personality, perhaps she comes from a family of many cultures?
I've also hung a beautiful textile on the wall. It keeps working its way around my house. First a table runner, then a bedspread and now a wall hanging. I love the blues. Hanging it on the wall has changed this area of my apartment into an active zone. Previously it was a very empty space that I just passed through.

November 6, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Every day my apartment is becoming more and more wonderful. It has all my favorite things, arranged in my favorite way and enjoyed by me and my friends. I am remembering how wonderful it is to have a place to myself.

I'm also loving cooking for one - allows me to get as risky and weird as I like with my recipes. Yesterday I cooked up a barley mushroom soup (Grammie inspired), curried carrots (not so good), cornbread (OK), roasted beets (very yummy) and coleslaw (Marlene and Mandeep inspired).

Cool Animal Companions

Lucy and Zack are housemates at my brother and sister-in-law's house in Maryland.
This cat is too cool for words - hanging out on my neighbor's motorcycle.

November 4, 2009

Vacation Brain

Hanging with my sibs in the DC area, following the Rhode Island conference, is clearing my mind. I have only a couple of days with them and within the first hours I was already more relaxed. Suddenly all the thoughts about this and that seem distant. Actually, the thoughts are gone. It is a brief respite and so worth the trip.

November 2, 2009

Staying Connected

Saying goodbye to my national friends, after we meet up at conferences and programs, is getting harder. This network of inspirational arts management folks are my extended family. We easily find our rhythm together, even if we only meet up once a year.

I may be feeling particularly emotional because of lack of sleep. All kinds of thoughts about past and future running through my mind. Ah, that difficult zen of being in the present.

November 1, 2009

10,000 Hours

Today's plennary speaker at the NAMP conference brought up Malcolm Gladwell's latest book Outliers, and the importance of building expertise by doing something for 10,000 hours.

What have I done for 10,000 hours which equals 5 years?

Non-profit management
Team building
Personal documentary photography

The speaker, David McIntosh, added that each time you do these things you should add one component that is new - that's when creativity happens.

Fire Water in Providence

Providence has a cool arts installation called Fire Water which are burning fires installed along the Providence River. It happens several times throughout the year. We were lucky enough to be here during the Halloween Fire Water. Sara, Nancy and I, friends from Houston and LA, walked along the river. The Fire Water event set the Halloween tone by piping classical music through the city and people meandering in their costumes. Very mellow compared to San Francisco's scene.

The best part was that we smelled like we had been sitting in front of a fireplace when we got back to the hotel. Very autumn.