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.