Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Year Of The Phoenix: From Fires, Floods, and Mayhem To Gingerbread, Pumpkins, And Afro-Cali Dance

Okay, so I'm not naked but it is a cute picture, isn't it?! :)

*So after spending weeks working on my holiday newsletter in three different programs and beating my head against the wall b/c of technical issues, I thought it might be best to take the path of least resistance and post my newsletter here where I can upload pictures and maintain the format I wanted...besides, newsletters are supposed to be fun, right?! ;)

2009 seems to have been a year of transitions and challenges…I've decided to call it the Year of the Phoenix where elements need to be destroyed to be reborn again. I’ve experienced many changes within my family that have presented incredible opportunities to deepen my connections with loved ones. I’ve also had several health challenges this past year which have reinforced my desire to take care of my health and to have compassion for those friends I know who are given similar “health opportunities.” That all said, I thought it best to write my newsletter in a different format and one of gratitude:

Twelve Things I’m Grateful For From 2009 In No Particular Order:

1) That after nine months of fighting some health challenges and major fatigue (long story…) I am feeling vibrant and full of energy again for the first time in about a year. I am able to dance, to sing, and to socialize with friends with the vibrancy that I used to!

2) That I was able to travel back to Indiana four time in five months and reconnect with an incredible group of friends, families, and neighbors there. That I was with my Dad and good friend Mike when my stepmother Susan passed away on June 1st. That I had the opportunity to be there for that amazing transition with my father and with her and that we were able to throw one of the most incredible Memorial Life Celebrations for her that any of us could have invisioned….bluegrass band, scrumptious food, wildflower bouquets, limericks and stories by some of her best friends and family members, a neighbor flying over the party and dropping colorful streamers on 150 people, sharing laughter, tears, and limericks….I've included a picture of Dad, Susan, and I from three years ago~

3) That my Dad’s in Texas on a hunting trip for Christmas and doesn’t have to suffer through another year of watching “Pride and Prejudice” for the 49th time, decorating and gift giving…he has the luxury of stuffing himself with frozen burritos, and spending hours on end reading his favorite books on economics and travel adventure in a one-room cabin with some of his best friends. Enjoy it now, Dad…you may get roped back into the holidays next year. ;)

4) That Steve and I have such amazing families….that they all share such great sense of humors, relish scrumptious food, travel, reading, and being with us. We had the opportunity to go on another Abbey family vacation to Punta Mita, Mexico for surfing, kayaking, and gorging on Chilaquiles. Steve and I also made a trip out to visit my Mamacita for the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival this past October...four days of non-stop travel adventure filmmaking (I posted a blog about my favorites in October). My Dad also came out to visit Santa Barbara for the first time in about six years…and we had a blast watching movies, going target shooting (it's an Indiana thang), and whale watching.

5) That we have a roof over our heads and are financially solvent. It’s been a hard year for so many people who may have lost their homes in the fires here or through financial woes. I can’t help but feel blessed that we are living in Santa Barbara in a beautiful home. That our house and our kittens are fine and that although our house was evacuated during the third huge Santa Barbara fire that ravaged the hills above us...we're still here!

6) That I’m amazingly blessed to be heading on another adventure with my beloved Mama Chihuahua (Karen) and Baby Love (Steve) to Ecuador after the New Year for adventures in the Ecuadorean Andes….chasing wild horses, photographing wildlife and Quechua markets, trekking along ancient Incan roots, immersing ourselves in the gorgeous sounds of Spanish, and giggling together as much as possible~

7) That I’ve had the opportunity to engage again in the incredible Afro-Cali community of dance and drumming with my friends Lisa Beck and Budhi Harlow of Panzumo….that I’ve made such incredible friends through this family of musicians/dancers and that I continue having the opportunity to perform with Panzumo and the Djun Djun Mamas. If you're curious what kind of dancing and performing we do, I've included a couple of links to some short clips of our latest performances:

Djun Djun Mamas Drumming Ensemble on Winter Solstice:

Panzumo Dance Performance of "Djole" at the Unitarian Church (Scroll to one third of the way through the clip to see our dancing):

Tribal Arts Fair Performance (On Facebook ):

I'm also super grateful that Steve is engaged in something which brings him equal joy: Jiu Jitsu! He recently earned his blue belt and is completely obsessed with studying new moves…regularly practicing “choke holds,” “rear naked chokes,” and “triangles” on me when we really should be cuddling instead. ;)

8) That King Bee continues to perform into our ninth year….We’ve been through so much over the past nearly a decade now…and we continue having the opportunity to play for such wonderful people and venues. It's been an incredible nine years, guys! I'm so grateful to have music in my life on a regular basis and to be playing in a community which truly values good music.

9) That Steve continues to be my intrepid partner on the good days and the more challenging days and that, no matter what issues arise in our lives, we’re able to communicate with each other through love, respect, and humor.

10) That I’m so blessed to have the friends in our lives that I do. Some of whom live several states away but whom are always close to my heart. These friendships are the bedrock of my life and give me the strength to keep going and the inspiration to do better on a daily basis!

11) That I’ve had the opportunity to grow professionally on several levels. This year I had my first national magazine feature in Women’s Adventure Magazine as well as several other fun stories in Destination Wine Country. More importantly, my photography has continued to evolve and grow. I’ve had the opportunity to photograph several incredible individuals this year with whom I’ve been able to deepen my connection. I look forward to this next year when I plan to devote even more of my time and creativity towards my photography. You can see some of my latest portrait sessions on this blog throughout the year or check out some of my new portrait galleries at I'll be regularly adding to my galleries there.

12) That my Mum and I continue to deepen our relationship with each other and continue to follow those pursuits which bring us so much joy! She’s doing lots of horseback riding, hiking, cooking, and dancing with her performance group, “Al Rakasaat.” If you haven’t seen her dance website which I finished this past spring, you’ve got to check it out here: I'm very proud of it! Besides putting the whole thing together for her, I also did all of the photography on the home page.

Overrall, I’m ending the year feeling incredible grateful for the gifts of this past year and I go into 2010 with the feeling that the ground has been cleared for some really powerful things to happen in this coming year. I was recently given a very heartfelt gift by my stepmother’s aunt who is a talented, whimsical artist. On the back of the canvas was a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche I’d like to live by in this next year of creativity and gracious living: “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

And as my stepmother was famously known for saying, “Life is good, isn’t it?! “
Hoping that you have the courage to face things in your life which you need to change, the wisdom to recognize things you can’t, and that you start and end each day feeling grateful for all of the blessings in your life.

With Love, Great Affection, and New Year's Wishes,