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Life List: Have a Big Party for a Birthday – Check!

Who let me drink and then use a big knife?!

It turns out that 30 isn’t so bad.

I headed to my favorite bar the night before around 11:30 and counted down to midnight there, surrounded by a handful of friends who all wore goofy party hats, bought me way, way too many shots (fuck you all), and made elderly jokes. We stayed out pretty late, and I got this text at 9 am:

There is a direct relationship between how much I love you and how much I hate today. Happy birthday, old girl.

At the spa they booked me with Richard, the world’s hottest masseuse. He introduced himself by asking me, “Are you ready to feel good today?”

Why yes. Yes I am. Richard.

Whiskey & Salt is a quirky supper club run by my friends; they told me I could pick whatever food I wanted, which was easy: soul food, the kind my grandmother (the black one) used to feed me. Fried (organic, free-range, humane certified) chicken, collard greens, green beans, yams, biscuits, corn bread, sweet tea (with vodka – my grandma left that out, but I thought it was a splendid addition), and the best goddamn mac and cheese ever. Plus four cakes. (Conversation post dinner- Me: Am I supposed to be able to bend? Kathryn: No.) And then they went Pinterest on my backyard with the decorations.


photo from Lara

photo from Christina

They showed up with supplies at noon and served dinner at 8, and while they bustled around my kitchen all day, I did the following: had a nap in the hammock, had a nap on my bed, fixed my hair, took my annual birthday photo, and occasionally wandered into the kitchen to get in their way and stick my finger in whatever was around that looked good. Usually frosting.

Friends arrived at seven – there were 16 of us at dinner all told –  bearing wine, balloons, cards, gifts, flowers, and sweet toasts that made me cry into my cake. It is an amazing thing to be loved.

This is my 30’s? I’ll take it.

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Life List: Make a Baked Alaska with Jen – Check!

“I know you want to flambe. This will be very scary for me. I’m trying to find what looks like a dependable recipe. I’ve decided anyone who says ‘Walla!’ in place of ‘Voila!’ is not to be trusted.”

– Jen, in an email to me, discussing the details of our grand plan.

I’m not sure why I wanted to do a Baked Alaska; I didn’t know what a Baked Alaska even was when I added it to my Life List; there was only the vague notion that it was a dessert served with sparklers. I know why I wanted to make one with Jen, though: she is one of the coolest people in the world, and we have a long, successful history of  teaming up for large, ambitious projects (In 2002, we built an entertainment center from scratch after watching too many episodes of Trading Spaces. It was awesome.)

Jen made the foundation part of cake and ice cream earlier, and I whipped the egg whites for the meringue.

(She made my hair thing for me as a birthday present. It’s actually a necklace. This is my “sexy in the kitchen” face.)

Sparklers might have been prettier, but lighting 151 in a metal cup and then dumping it all over the thing was way more exciting.

At Micah‘s suggestion, we sliced it like a watermelon. There was some rum that escaped down the side of the meringue and got soaked up by the cake underneath without burning off first, so as you ate towards the edge, you got a few shocking, uber-boozy bites. This one was vanilla cake and chocolate ice cream; next time I’d like to try the reverse. If boozy vanilla cake was that good, chocolate cake soaking up 151 should be stellar.


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life list the dogs

Life List: Commision a Piece of Art – Check!

When Paul Ferney last offered slots in The Commission Project, I bought one and picked this photo to be turned into a 5×7″ oil painting in Ferney’s pretty, impressionist style.

Only one living figure was was allowed in the painting for the discounted price, so I chose Tino. Of all three dogs, he was the most rejected and downtrodden when we found him.

You remember the story. It was 2007 and we were on a tour bus in Puerto Rico that stopped at a beach. I wandered away from everyone and heard a crying noise over by some trucks. When I saw what was making all the racket, my stomach flipped over, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, nothing was ever the same again.

Years later, I still think about what I saw; often it promts me to scoop Tino up into my chest and nuzzle my nose on the top of his fuzzy head. If I think about it too long, I start dripping tears down his ears and snout.

Someone had broken his back, and his hind legs were completely paralyzed and laid out behind him, useless. He was dirty, skinny, starving and dehydrated. We gave him a water bottle out of cupped hands, which was all we had, and asked around about him. A few locals shrugged.

“He’s been there for five days.” they said. “No one really cares.”

I became a whole other, stronger person that day as I jumped through hoops and endured a disheartening level of scorn from family to get him rescued, fixed up, and sent to live with us.

Today, he is the worst-behaved and least-loved* of our three dogs. He’s wary around strangers, barks crazily at strange dogs, and bites anyone who dares attempt to pet him (Rob and I can, but no one else.)

But he can’t help it. He tries to be a good dog, I can see it in his body language. He’ll cuddle with a few of our more trusted (and mostly female) friends, and as long as they keep hands off, he’ll fall asleep with his chin on their knees. That was something we never thought we’d see when we first got him. He learned a few tricks, too, and despite how frustrating he can be sometimes, I’m enormously proud of him and how far he’s come.

I know it sounds a little ridiculous, and Tino doesn’t understand, but I thought he deserved this anyway. A throw-away dog turned into a cherished oil painting is a good happy ending.

*By others, of course. I’m not allowed to have favorites!

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The Hawaii Block, and How It Was Lifted

A trip to Hawaii has always seemed “blocked” to me: too pretty, too exotic, too far… too whatever. I never thought I’d get there.

Do you have blocks like that? Those things you feel you can’t have even though they’re technically within the realm of possibility and do-ability? I’m beginning to suspect that most of us do. Other blocks for me that I’ve gotten over have been living in New York and owning a well-fitting bra, both of which I TOTALLY do now, no big deal. Funny, right? A lot of people have one about finding love; I do it with lingerie and the 50th state.

So that’s why I put it out there at Mighty Camp that I wanted to go to Hawaii in 2012, because it’s a block for me, and a DUMB one, too; you know how to be the kind of person that goes to Hawaii, right? You buy a plane ticket to Hawaii.

Still, out of the five things from our Life Lists we were invited to share, it was my “reach”, because of how expensive it is to get there. A place to stay was taken care of, so I figured it would be a matter of putting bits of money aside here and there until the dollars added up for plane fare.


Daffodil Campbell – the very lady who offered her guest cottage in Maui to my then-pipe dream – tipped me off to fares on Hawaiian Air for $212.

Excuse me what?

My silly fears of going to Hawaii flipped themselves into fear at loosing that price, and I fell ALL OVER myself getting a ticket.

So, goodbye, Hawaii block! You will not be missed. And Alhoa Maui! I’ll see you in June.

P.S. For a small fee the airline gives the option of having a greeter meet you off the plane and put a lei around your neck. I was about to click past it, but… oh gosh, I’m crying writing this!… I remembered being young and thinking that was so cool, and a voice in my head, an echo of my younger self go, sighed “Oh please?”

I just couldn’t pass it up. It’s cheesy, yes, but WHATEVER.

I’m totally making “getting leid” jokes, too.

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Re: the Sanata Ana Winds: “YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN”

After my post about the Santa Ana winds, Meg informed me that they are not warm, swirly breezes, but hot, gross winds that pummel through and, as a child, picked her up and dropped her onto a sidewalk. Totally not the level of crazy I felt, so this Life List item is officially unchecked. It looks like I’m just going to have to go back to California.

Oh well!

I also really want to see the dessert in the sun, too. I made the trip from LAX to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs via a more populated highway, and we drove from the Ace Hotel to Phil’s house in LA the middle of the night, so I only caught glimpses of the wild John Wayne-looking landscape in the moonlight. I would have gotten out to run around in the dessert in the night as a consolation, but Phil pointed out that there are scorpions. And no thank you. So two more things to do once I’m there, now.

Even so: have amazing Mexican food in California? Finally see LA? Not on my Life List, but check anyway. I’m still dreaming of that burrito.

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career fun life list photos

Camp Mighty 2011 Summed Up

Oh, Camp Mighty. It’s hard to explain what it is because it is so much more than words can tell, but basically it was a weekend where we brought our Life Lists and focused on accomplishing things. From the website:

The objective is to improve your life until it cannot be further improved…The retreat gives you time to think about what you want, a team to help, and a pool. For floating.

Camp Mighty was a larger version of the Mighty Summit I went to last year, a life-changing event, as it was what started my business in earnest and what helped me realize on a visceral level that living epically is totally possible, even for little old me.

This year’s event brought into focus that I’m in a Good Place right now. My Life List is chugging along; I have successfully created the space for doing Amazing Things. The time is there, the room is there, the fortitude to press onward and accomplish is there. That didn’t come easily, but my 2010 goal of making my lifestyle such that I could Life List as I wanted was accomplished.

And it feels SO GOOD.

“So, Amber,” I asked. “What now?” Because, ok, excellent, but one can’t stop.

The larger conference was broken down into four teams; we met together and were encouraged to share five things with the group that we wanted to accomplish. Here are my picks, and if you can help with any of them, get in touch, please. It would be so nice of you.

  • Holi color fight.
  • Hike in Hawaii, jump off a cliff, and yell “Geronimo!”
  • Officiate a wedding ceremony.
  • Fly kites in a group of friends.
  • Be in a book club.

They’re all “doing cool stuff” things because that’s where I am right now: I want to have FUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNN! Wouldn’t you know: I was seated a few chairs over from two ladies who live in Maui – one of who is building a guest house.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Amber, and I make an excellent house guest.”

“See you this spring?” she said. “I know a cliff you can jump off of.” (Later that evening we decided capes should also be involved.)

Someone else had “have a professional portrait of myself taken”, and, of course, I had my camera. The only thing cooler than having someone help you with a Life List item is to help someone else yourself. (A lot of people had this on their list, actually, but between timing and the rain, I didn’t get to snap as many faces as I’d have liked.)

Best parts: hugging people who have inspired me. And hugging people I’ve inspired. (So much inspiration!) And rocking out to the TonTons (plus chatting with the singer between sets – she’s adorable). And drinking champagne in the hot tub while chatting with super smart ladies. And the speakers. And dancing my ass off at the space-themed dance party, in my pretty space-themed dress. And soaking up the sun poolside. And road tripping with three hilarious gals from LA to Palm Springs, with a pit stop at In-N-Out (as one does when one is from the east coast and lands in California).

(My dress is from here.) (I totally brought my one-frillion dollar camera into the hot tub. I was careful. The photos were worth it. Don’t judge me.)

I did end up floating in that pool, too, alone on Friday night, with the rain in my face and my body warmed up by the hot tub. It was incredible, and an excellent way to think, by the way, should you have the opportunity.

“What next? What bigger? What more?” I whispered these questions to myself softly, but heard them loudly because my ears and my lungs were both underwater. You want to know what popped into my head?

Adventure. Business bigger.

That’s it.

Everyone who has heard the details of AMP growing the past year is astounded at the trajectory, but I still want more. I decided, as the pool wormed its way into my ear canal, that I will be consciously unafraid of making more money and getting more business. (It is terribly difficult to be consciously unafraid when your stomach is in knots.) I will take on larger, longer weddings, I will stop dragging my feet about offering customers prints and albums. And I will have more adventures, because those are rad, and I deserve them.

You all know me by now; you know I do not believe the “Universe speaks to us” or anything like that, but goddamn if there isn’t an unprecedented inquiry for a 120 person wedding sitting in my inbox as of 9:30 am Tuesday morning.

So I will open myself to adventure and success this year.

Oh man oh man. Here I go.

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Life List: Feel the Santa Ana winds – check! Update: uncheck :(

Update: I didn’t actually do this.

After Mighty Camp (recap soon) I drove two hours to hang out with my old friend Phil in Los Angeles, and he showed me around for a day.

As we were driving through Encino I rolled my window down.

“Is it too hot?” he asked and reached for the air conditioning knob.

“No. I’m relishing the thrill of driving with the windows open in November. It’s warm!”

“That’s the Santa Ana winds you’re feeling.”

And boom. Life List item done.

It’s Steely Dan’s fault. My friend Kevin made me a mix tape when I was 15 that had Babylon Sisters on it; I was too young to realize it was a song about prostitution, I just knew that I liked it, and that I wanted to feel whatever it was they were talking about. When I made my first draft of a Life List at 15, this item went on there.

I figured they were magical, as was the entire West Coast in my mind when I was that age. They weren’t, actually, but the Mexican I ate was, so I’m calling my whole 24 hour L.A. experience a win.

Thanks, Phil!

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fun life list only in new york

Fun Event: Drinks with Amber!

Camp Mighty is in a few weeks. About 150 people are descending upon the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for a few days to talk Life Lists and party. I’m so excited! I can’t wait to soak up some sun and inspiration.

Requirement for my attendance is raising money for Charity:Water. My first thought, of course, was some sort of photography thing I could do, but that sounded less fun than hosting a happy hour in Manhattan, which is exactly what I’m doing. Here are the details:

November 3, 7pm – 11pm

Billy Hurricane’s
25 Avenue B (btwn. 2nd and 3rd street)
New York, NY

Open bar from 7 – 8

$5 suggested donation.

There will be drink specials all night, and they have a full burger menu, too.

Five bucks for open bar?! You can totally drink more than that in an hour. I think even my teetotaler friends can put more than that away in Diet Cokes.

To raise more dollars for this awesome charity, there will be raffle prizes and a photobooth set up. We’re taking cash, checks and, because the world is awesome and I can swipe a credit card with my iPhone, we’re taking plastic, too.

Hosting a charity event is on my Life List anyway, so this is perfect.

See you there? You can RSVP on Facebook here (preferred) or leave a comment on this post.

If you can’t make it but you’d still like to donate, you can use PayPal to send in a donation (use my email address theAmberShow at gmail). If you leave me your address, I will hand-write a poem just for you and put it in the mail.

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Life List: Sing “Laid” by James at Karaoke – Check!

I’ve wanted to do this song in karaoke for AGES, but it was never an option. For three years I’ve looked through the gigantic binders at every karaoke night I’ve been to, fingers crossed, but no. Then, last night, finally! There it was, at a karaoke event hosted by Google Places.

The trick is find a song you know really well and then drink to a sweet spot of not drunk, but not entirely sober either. Two drinks. And more, or any less, and it’s a shit show. I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

Thanks to Traci for the photos, and for loaning me your cat hat. It was a confidence booster. (My tee shirt is by Willo Toons. She doesn’t make them anymore, and this is sad.)

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Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (Life List)

If you’re just tuning in, I’m on a mission to memorize ten poems for my Life List.

I nailed “i carry your heart” by e.e. cummings in a few days, ensuring it was really, truly “in there” by demanding myself to recite it randomly throughout the day.

I’ve been surprised by three things with this project: I really enjoy the process of memorization; it’s a near-perfect mix of challenging and rewarding. It is a euphoric moment to recite a poem perfectly for the first time; there are literal self-high fives! And I love carrying these poems around with me. I love that they are mine.

Number three is a poem I’ve liked for a long, long time.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

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