Irreverent Parenting Movie Night

My kids know their parents are rules people. After all, we’re forever nagging them to clean their rooms and do their homework. We make our bed (Ok, Jeff does), most days. They eat a variety of healthy foods, provided by us. But our choices for family movie nights may be considered, um, irreverent by some  people. I’ve made it clear that we’re not big on policing language (grammar, yes, but not actual language).  So, our children can quote a line or two from Trading Places. They’re well-versed in the world of 007. They’ve seen The Martian and Interstellar. And they may or may not have caught a few minutes of Get Shorty before turning to their parents and saying, “Are you sure you want us to watch this?” Which may have been why my younger son was interrogating Nate the venue manager, at the Park City Film Series, while we bought our tickets to see Meet the Patels, last night.

“What’s this movie rated? Is it PG-13?” Seth asked. “Because I am here with my parents, just in case it is. I’ve seen lots of PG-13 movies.” He need not have worried (nor thrown his parents under the bus) as the film is, in fact PG. But, you know, it’s good to have your film-ready bona fides, when you’re 8. (I like the idea that our kids think we’re more lenient than we are—after all, they’re not allowed to watch Homeland with us. That is solidly off-limits.)

FYI, You don’t have to be in town for the Sundance Film Festival to enjoy independent film in Park City. In fact, some might argue that you’ll enjoy it more if you’re simply taking in a film on a weekend evening, as part of the Park City Film Series, purchasing tickets and popcorn (local’s tip: BYO-Bowl for free refills!) just moments before the film starts, with little or no time spent waiting in line. (Yes, I’ve met lots of interesting people while waiting in line for a film at Sundance, but that’s a story for another blog post.) At the PCFS, your ticket also doubles as an entry in an “opportunity drawing,” for a series of door prizes. On this night, a local Indian eatery had donated baskets of naan and chutney, there were gift certificates for pizza and coffee, plus a freshly-baked loaf of Volker’s bread. Which, to our surprise and delight, we won. (Most of it made it home, improbably enough.)


Patels delivered on the promise of a great night out for our group of several families with kids in grades 3-8 (who were pretty stoked to be out on a school night–bonus points in the Irreverent Parents column!).

A documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi Patel (an actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Grandfathered) and Geeta Patel (Mouse) , Meet the Patels focuses on Ravi’s quest for love and marriage, within the confines of a modern Indian matchmaking system. It’s highly relatable—and in plumbing the arranged-marriage system of Indian culture, underscores the similarities between many ethnic groups who value marriage within their own cultures. Ravi navigates Indian-specific online dating sites, plus a series of set-ups engineered by his parents using a system called “Biodata,” a collection of dating resumes circulated among Indian-American communities, and a marriage convention—all while wrestling with the fact that he’s fresh off a breakup from the white woman he was secretly dating. (With a few minor tweaks, it could have been a film about the Jewish dating scene—after all, Jeff and I met at one of a series of Jewish camps we both attended, and while the overt message wasn’t ‘find a spouse,’ such controlled environments upped the odds that we would.) With hilariously poignant color-commentary from Ravi and Geeta, plus scenes in which his parents explain the success of their arranged marriage, and interviews with other Indian-American young adults, it provided a unique window into the joys and peculiarities of Indian-American immigrant culture.

The kids were into the fact that the live action scenes were intercut with animated bits of narration and dialogue—segments that served to give Ravi the room to deal with some of the more emotionally-charged conversations, off-camera, and still convey them to the audience. I doubt there was a person in the theater who wasn’t completely charmed by the family–and Ravi’s story.

As a parent, I saw a lot of value in the heartfelt but humorous take on the way cultures grapple with identity and change. Ravi makes a lot of jokes in the movie that, as an actor, he makes up for his parents dashed dreams by playing the doctor he figures they expected him to become. Yet, it’s clear throughout the film that his parents’ American dream for their Indian child is that he be happy in whatever path he chooses.

Later, driving toward home and bedtime, Jeff declared the film “99% appropriate,” and the kids quickly (and accurately) jumped in to identify the 1% moment. Which means, of course, that even with all the positive family messages, the thoughtful pondering of cultural norms, the theatrical absurdity that crept hilariously into Meet the Patels, we’d managed to stay on-point, at least a little, with our irreverence. Thanks, Patels.

Morning Meetings: Creating a Safe Space for Learning | Edutopia

  I can’t get enough of this video.  “Morning Meetings,” was reposted by a fellow parent of public school students/graduates, who was also my houseparent in boarding school.  (OK, so perhaps it’s tied with “https://www.youtube.com/embed/p6ZojleXMn4” target=”_blank”>You do NOT understand weddings. At ALL.” because JoJo rules the world,…

My tooth(less) believer—for now.

Tooth and Consequences

“Dang it!” We were doing something, or rather Seth was, and whatever he was doing didn’t go as planned. So, this expression flew out of his mouth. Before too long, it became his go-to; a one-size fits all phrase to express his great disappointment in a moment, an action, a circumstance.

It took me a while to correct him. Finally, when I heard it three times in the course of an hour, the very first hour he was home from summer camp, I said, “Seth, when you use that phrase, it sounds like you don’t know enough words to express how you feel. We know this is not true. Will you please, please use the words you mean, next time? Like: That’s disappointing.”

“Ok, Mom.” I think he was too tired to argue. Or to point out that his parents have been unapologetic about our actual potty mouths, for just about his whole life. To be clear, in our house, there are no “bad words,” but we try to emphasize that there are certain words that cannot and should not be uttered by children in public, and that a person should do his or her level best to be descriptive in conversation. Sometimes, that means my kids’ parents are explaining to one another how few fucks we give about a certain situation. But other times, we just plain say what is on our minds: “That’s annoying. That’s disappointing.” “This is crap!” Ok, that last bit is what we might say when the dogs poop in the house. Anyway, you get the idea.

At bottom, I don’t want my kids using cop-out language. The more specific they are, the better communicators they become, the better understood they are by the world around them, and frankly, the more able they are to process their actual feelings. So, that’s the “why.”

So, last night, we’re at dinner, and Seth loses a tooth. Or he pulled it out, perhaps. Anyway, the tooth that was previously in his mouth was now, along with some blood, in his hand. I wrapped it in some tissues, tucked it into my purse, and sent him off to wash his hands, and rinse his mouth. Which he did. Upon returning home, he asked for the tooth, was presented with a piece of cling wrap in which to encase the tissue-wrapped item, and tucked it under his pillow.

Lance, by now, was goading him about whether the Tooth Fairy is real, and whether it’s actually you know, me. “How will the tooth fairy know to come to the house?” Seth asked. You could tell by the way he asked that he was walking that line between knowing it’s me and wanting to believe it’s a real fairy. Lance says, “Oh, no problem, I’ll send her a text.” I heard this as background to my putting away my shoes, brushing my teeth. And then, I realized I never should have given that kid a phone. Ping! Ping! My iPad and iPhone were competing with each other to tell me I had a text. Let me be clear: I give a fuck about my kid believing in the tooth fairy until he is 40, so this was not ok. Thusly, when my beautiful firstborn child arrived at my side, smirking,

My tooth(less) believer—for now.

My tooth(less) believer—for now.

to tell me, “You have a text,” I did what any good mother would do: I flicked him on the forehead, with my finger, while announcing, “I flick you on the forehead!” in a silly accent. Because silly accents make flicking your child’s forehead okay, somehow. No, not really. But I stand by my flicking. Because Tooth Fairy, dammit.

Actually, Seth thought the flicking was so much fun, he kept taunting me: “You’re the tooth fairy!” And then I would flick him. And then I would flick his brother, twice, for not knowing better than to ruin his brother’s (MY) fun. One important detail, here, is that Lance is almost my height. So he thinks he’s almost as powerful as I am. Eventually, he will learn that is never to be. No child is ever more powerful than his or her parent, ever. For now, he thinks it’s a real thing. So he tried to flick me. Seth got in on it. They conspired, without exchanging a single, actual word, in fact, to tackle me onto my bed so they could flick me. Well, no. No. Definitely not happening. “Get out, go away, leave my room!” We’ve just finished a remodel, and there are still odd objects, like mirrors and sculptures propped against walls in my room. We were in a particularly tight corner, and there was a mirror, and I said, “If you don’t leave now, that mirror is going to get broken, and this won’t end well.” So, they started to leave. Because they are not idiots, in actual fact. As evidenced by the ploy Seth attempted: “Mommy,” he said, arranging his features into his “I’ll always be your little baby Sethie” face, “I just want a little hug.”

“Nope, nope, sorry, not now, not happening, I love you, get out.”

And as he walked away, he tossed me a faux sad look and said, “That’s the first time you ever said no to a hug.” And then: “That’s disappointing.”

And then I was so busy doing my happy dance about the fact that he not only skipped the Dang It, but used the little lesson against me in a knowing, ironic zinger, I almost forgot to leave the money under his pillow, and definitely forgot to write the traditional tooth fairy letter that some idiot decided was a good idea when she only had one kid, and no actual idea about how many teeth fall out of a kid’s head during childhood. But that’s another story. Which I promise to tell, later. Sorry if that’s disappointing, but right now, I’m not sure I can find a fuck to give.

Would you turn down free gold? I think not.

Free Gold? It’s a Trap.

The “Leprechaun Trap” assignment sheet came home from school, about ten days ago, with Seth, my second grader. I remember grumbling my way through the experience of building one, four years ago, when Lance was in second grade. Lance, if memory serves, thought the whole exercise was cruel and unusual punishment—for the Leprachaun. “Why are we trying to trap him, Mom? What do we do with him once we have him?” I thought it was cruel and unusual punishment for the parents.

Truly, I was at a loss to answer his questions. Obviously, I don’t have any Irish heritage on which to hang an elaborate story of why the Leprechaun needs trapping. And, by this point, we’d already had the opportunity, shall we say, to make it “our little secret” that Santa isn’t real, and then hang out with him, anyway—did I really want to go this route, again? Was it necessary? I fell back on, well, science. I explained that building the (humane) trap was a good way to figure out how things work. And then I teased my firstborn, non-trouble-maker,  that maybe it would help me figure out a way to build a trap for him, in the event he got up to too much mischief. Talk about cruel and unusual.

We seem to have, in our house, arrived at the juncture where we’ve deemed that Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day, are not Jewish holidays, obviously. For these holidays, we fall into the category of American Jews who sort of hover around the sentiment of certain holidays, making clear to our kids that there are religious roots from another faith, but there are also reasons to participate, in the same way that we might invite non-Jewish friends to a Pesach seder or a Purim Shpiel. Heck, we’ll even go to a Christmas party, but in our home, the sanctity of that holy day in Christianity is observed by not observing it for sport (no “winter tree” or “Hanukkah bush” in our home, no sporting exchange of gifts.) This, from a girl whose mother bought egg-dye kits every year around Easter, because it was fun—and because it made all the egg consumption around Passover just a tad bit more colorful. Whatever.

Still, the whole Leprechaun Trap thing stressed me out, to be honest. My selfish, evil side has been hard at work, wondering whether it would be frowned upon to petition to get a condition called “lack of craftiness” recognized by the ADA.

Yes, the overdrive of Holiday Land—the kinds of Let’s Make Everything a Dress-Up, Interwebs-Worthy Production Number may be driving me to make jokes that could be, conservatively, classified as being firmly planted in the County of Poor Taste.  Yet, I’m not alone in my rallying cry for the overwhelmed and under-enthused. Writer Kristen Howerton summed it up pretty well, over on HuffPo, today. Not that I don’t appreciate the magic of childhood, and the hilarity of some people’s Leprechreativity.

But there’s another layer that gives me pause—not my family’s specific situation, because my kids know who we are, and what we’re about, so navigating Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day isn’t, by any stretch, a hardship. Christmas, for instance, may get us a little riled up about the fact that there seems to be no other topic to explore at school, no corner of the curriculum that isn’t touched, in some way, by this holiday. But, actually, I get good and freaked out when I think about families who can’t afford the time and resources to go gangbusters, even if they’d like to do so, and yet are bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle messages about the look and feel of the season—whatever the season.

So, my question is, how much of this is fun diversion, and how much is pressure to conform to an ideal that may seem out of reach, for one reason or another?

That pressure seems, in some way, to be avoidable. I’m all for the educational value of learning customs and traditions, of exchanging messages of friendship and good will, of holidays whose celebrations revolve around candy. These are all good things. But it’s the ramped-up, everything-is-a-craft situation that adds a layer of pressure that feels unnecessary. (Some parents aren’t lazy, or un-talented, like me. Some have strong religious convictions that dictate against even causal observance of holidays; others simply have no time, amidst the working of multiple jobs and trying to keep their heads above the water line, to get all crafty.) I’ve gone so far as to write impassioned emails to the teachers and administration at our school, pointing out the insidious trickle-to-tsunami of well-intentioned, all-in-good-fun overblown Spirit of the Season for just these reasons.

Still, during the rest of the year, my protests are, for the most part, perfunctory. I buy store-bought Valentine cards, and if the theme my kid wants to use has an option for including a pencil, then, I’ll go all out and buy the pencils. Under no circumstances do we craft our greetings. St. Patrick’s Day, when I was a kid, was all about wearing green—I don’t remember the pinching-if-you-don’t tradition, but I’m sure it was there. I don’t remember building a trap. When it came up, four years ago, the assignment was a required piece of curricula. Yes, I I felt a twinge of “why do we have to make a big thing about this?” but I, kind of, got behind it on the premise of encouraging creativity and engineering, in a way that captures the imagination of a second grader.

This year, however, when the Leprechaun Trap assignment came home labeled “OPTIONAL,” I swear to you, I almost danced a jig. You know, because I’m so Irish. It felt like a very tiny step toward progress.

Still, when I was on the first of what will be many Marie Kondo-inspired closet-cleaning binges, two weeks ago, I collected some found objects (almost-finished rolls of paper towels, never-used Velcro rollers for my hair, a shoe box) and offered them to Seth. “You want these for your Leprechaun trap?” He accepted them, but said he wasn’t sure what to do with them. I told him I was sure he’d figure it out. He’s an engineering-minded kid, after all. I tried to get myself to suggest we work on it a few times. Then, I tried to suggest that he work on it with one of our friends who was helping with the kids while we were out of town for a long weekend. I tried to remember to do it on Sunday night, the night before it was due, when we got back from the trip. But, of course, I was too tired and blissed-out from looking at scenery like this, all weekend.

View from a spa pool. Not a bad place to start the day.

View from a spa pool, Terranea Resort. Not a bad place to start the day.

Monday morning, I took a final swing: “Do you want to try to make a trap before school? We have time…” Seth demurred. He was okay, skipping it. And, for once, I was okay letting go of something “optional,” thinking of it as another in my line of quiet protests against the overdoing of holidays in general, and a good exercise in giving my Type-A, do-it-all nature, a small respite.

Then, this morning, Seth lingered in his room after getting dressed. This isn’t unusual, and, often as not, he’ll emerge from his messy den of creativity, having created a new Lego structure or art project. Today, he announced, “I built a Leprechaun Trap!” And, sure enough, he’d used the box as a base, and the towel tube as a tunnel/ramp for entry. The rollers were propped up on either side, inside the box, with paper towels sticking out like flames.

Would you turn down free gold? I think not.

Would you turn down free gold? I think not.

And, dear reader, different versions of me had different reactions.

The “Type-A” Me: Crap, you couldn’t have done this, YESTERDAY? What a bummer you won’t get to share this with your class!

The “Proud Mother” Me: My kid is SO creative.

The “Ashamed” Me: Why don’t I do enough to capture his creativity?

The “Don’t Be Silly” Me:  Duh, left to his own devices, he is plenty creative.

The “STEM Fan” Me: Look! My kid is an engineering GENIUS!

The “Facebook Addict” Me: I must post a picture.

The “Trying to DeClutter” Me: If I take a picture, we can recycle it.

Seth, said: “Don’t worry, I’ll just save it to use next year!”

Practical me will have to duke it out with Decluttering me, over that one.

So, what do you think of Leprechaun Traps? What’s your take on holidays in school? Are you gung-ho on all the crafting, or wishing all the craft stores would simply…fade away? Let me know in the comments!

One of these things is not like the other...

Reality? Check!

Twice a week, for the past seven, I have revisited an old fear—the fear that I have, somehow, messed up the transfer of the baseball schedule from the Basin Recreation Pee Wee Baseball League website to the iCal app in my phone.

This is a fear based in my very real lack of executive function. A fear based in the fact that, yes, I’ve messed up the times of games more than once in my kids’ Park City sporting careers. I’ve been known to miss the first day of ski school, to get the start time wrong for the karate class/piano lesson/tennis lesson that starts at the same time every week. Tonight, the fear became a reality again—and I reveled in the moment. Because, you see, we’d gotten almost to the end of the season and this was the first time I had screwed up. Yep, we claim the very smallest of victories, as they belong to us. This is my reality.

My first clue had been when I didn’t see any of the cars belonging to the parents of the Mets, which is Seth’s team this year. I saw, in fact, nary an orange jersey heading up the hillside to the baseball fields. It was three minutes to first pitch, and, well, usually there are more than a few of us straggling up the hill together. I articulated my concern to Steve, dad to one of Seth’s good buddies, who noted that he was substitute coaching for the Astros. “The regular coaches always seem to be out of town on the rainy days,” he quipped. Given that, this morning, the weather had looked like this….


…it could have been a lot worse. 

My neighbor, Jenny from the Block, was there to witness my parenting foul ball. “Um, I think I just saw a bunch of Mets,” she said. “They were leaving.”

Seth got very upset—”But it’s my last game!!!” It isn’t. Potato, po-tah-toe. It might as well have been. The world looks very different to a seven year old at 6:30 PM, than it does earlier—like at 6:29, when we had discussed, in the car, that he would have one more game after this.

Then, he said, “Wait! Maybe I can play for Xander’s team!”

Jenny from the Block encouraged him. “Go ask.” Validation from Another Mom. Which, we all know, is better than validation from one’s actual mom. I love my village.

“They’re all always short a player or two,” she reminded me. In fact, the Mets had loaned the Astros a couple of players the previous Friday evening.

Seth jogged out to the spot where the boys were warming up, and asked Steve if he could play. “Sure! The more the merrier!”


One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

I settled into my spot, next to Jenny, while she regaled me with tales of the Great Squirrel Takeover in her house, this week. You know, the week she’s home with three children under five, while her husband is on a business trip, and there turns out to be an invasive squirrel presence in her house. We giggled. She let me hold her baby. I watched mine gamely become an Astro in a Mets Jersey.

Earlier in the week, I had riffed on Facebook about a blog post I’d seen, touting Seven Days of Reality, reminding us all that parenting, in particular has fewer shiny, happy moments than Facebook posts—particularly those labeled #100happydays—would lead you to believe. My reality, tonight, seemed pretty good— I scored an evening holding a cuddly baby, I let my kid see he could solve the problem, himself, and achieve the goal of having fun learning to play baseball, regardless of what his jersey says on the front. A previous version of myself would have been really rattled by the whole thing, and gone the whole high-blood-pressure, self-flagellation route. This version of me? She giggled at the absurdity, and the dumb luck that she’d already, on this day, gotten to kids to two different camps, two miles apart, with simultaneous drop-off and pick-up times. She’d lucked into lunch with friends, run a writer’s workshop for five children at her dining room table, gotten her younger son to karate more or less on-time, fed both kids, and then gotten the kid to a baseball game. The fact that it wasn’t the correct baseball game? Minor detail.

Did I mention, though, that this game was a 6:30 start? PM. In the EVENING. For first-and-second-graders. (“I want the name of the MAN who set the Pee Wee baseball schedule,” I’d quipped, earlier. “Because nobody’s MAMA set a game for this hour!” I got an Amen from the other moms. Yes, I did.) So, it surprised me not at all when, following the insult of a pitch hitting his wrist during his last, reluctant, at-bat, the child came screaming off the field, howling in pain, and progressed from a happy, seven year-old playing ball with his pals, to a miserably major-league walking melting-down. It was soooo not his fault. We both knew it.

“This is all YOUR fault, mom!!!”

“Yep, you’re right, it is. It’s my fault you are having fun playing with Xander.”

“It is NOT FUN! It’s not my REAL TEAM. I want to play with the METS!”

“Think of it as the All-Star Break,” I suggested, silently patting myself on the back for this totally relevant sports reference. “Regular season resumes on Friday.”

“No! This is awful, and it’s all your fault.”

“Yes. Hey, look at the puppy!!!” (Silent thanks to the mom holding a puppy. Brief giggle break.)

“It’s all your fault. And I want to sit on the blanket. Will you get up? My WRIST HURRRRRRTS!!!”

“And it’s my fault. So, yes, I will get up.”

Another mom, who had zipped up to the game on a break from work, popped over to check on his injury. “Are you feeling better?”

“Noooooooooooo!” Other Mom and I giggled, silently, to each other, so as not to further offend the child. I complimented her shoes. She said, “My husband calls them my clown shoes.” I said, “My husband would call them that, too. I love them.” We smiled, our sisterhood of the clown shoes, of the miserable seven-year-old, of the Pee Wee Baseball Motherhood.

“Love the 6:30 game, don’t you?” I asked Jenny. “Never mind. I’m going to let him play on the playground for a minute to see if his wrist is really hurt.” We agreed this was a good plan. It was pushing 8pm, by now. I was, still, calling the evening a success.

As we left, I said goodbye to Steve. “Thanks for letting Seth play for the Astros!”

“Hey, this isn’t the pros—anything goes.” Man, oh, man, I love my village.

The wrist, for the record, is fine. Reality? It doesn’t bite.


Superhero Seth at 7: Seven Fun Facts

So, Lance always gets all the credit for making me a mom. He’s my first born, so that’s how it goes.

Seth, on the other hand, gets (and claims, at every turn) the credit for being my best Mother’s Day gift, ever. May 13 was a Sunday, Mother’s Day, in 2007. It was, of course, memorable. Although, I have to say, the pain-free version of Mother’s Day is always preferable. (Yes, yes, worth it all. Childbirth amnesia. Yada, yada.)

His birthday is today. He’s taking pencils as gifts to his classmates, a book to donate to the classroom library, and he’s been promised a cake by his reading tutors at Educational Advantage. He will cheer for his brother at the Park Record Spelling Bee. These are the trappings of Seth’s seventh birthday. The trappings of his life are first grade, religious school at Temple Har Shalom, and sleeping every night with our “bonus” family member, a blanket bunny named Dine Dine, that I hope he sleeps with, always. These are seven facts about Seth at seven.


Image courtesy Nixi Photography

Photo credit: Nixi Photography

1. He is, in his own mind, a superhero. Not just one in costume—but the Clark Kent side of Superman. And the kind of kid who’s so charming and fun, he’s bound to come up with some hair-brained scheme, and then charm his friends into going along with it. We try to guide him toward using his powers to good.


2. His greatest superpower is empathy When we spend time with his grandparents and great-grandparents, he is solicitous and mindful. He knows, instinctively, that when his great grandmother forgets who he is, it’s her brain’s fault, not her intent. He offers to take my mom to find the restroom when we’re someplace that he knows she hasn’t been to recently—he knows she’s given to forgetting things.

3. He is both humorous and earnest. Sometimes he is both things at once, unintentionally. The other day, he was filled with angst about having to keep his Mother’s Day gift to me, a secret. I tried to play it off as no big deal, but that made him more upset. So, I proposed a solution: “Tell me about it, but save some details and I’ll be surprised by those.” His response: “MOM! I can’t do THAT! You know that I am FILLED with DETAILS and I always HAVE TO SHARE THEM. I CAN’T NOT SHARE THE DETAILS.” I bit my cheeks so I wouldn’t laugh. My cheeks bled. Other times, he just goes for the joke, because it’s there, and it must be told. I have no clue who modeled this behavior for him. Somewhere along the line, he picked up on the homonyms “duty” and “doody.”

4. He is coordinated. By the standards of his gene pool, he’s an Olympic level athlete. Sports just come to him. Balls? He throws them with a strong arm. He got every other recessive gene in our family—blond hair, blue eyes, colorblindness. So this “athletic” gene must have hitched a ride. And he’s a snappy dresser and a ridiculously good dancer. The kind of dancer around whom circles of people form on Bar Mitzvah dance floors. He gets that from his grandmothers.


5. He is an expert cuddler. And he’s excellent at giving shoulder massages and foot rubs. He is learning the art of the stealth tickle, though “stealth” as a skill, is an uphill climb, for our boy. But if you tell him he’s cute, his stock answer is, always: “I’m not cute, I’m tough!” and then he slams his fist into his palm, for emphasis. (Sorry, Seth, but that makes you even cuter.)

6. He is an obsessed fan. Of Star Wars, of Billy Joel, of Lego—he builds countless creations out of his imagination, every week, and of all things superhero. For years, it was Buzz Lightyear. The kids’ rooms at the dentist are decorated with Toy Story decals, in his honor. He is, too, an obsessed fan of his family. Especially his big brother. This could help mitigate some of the issues I foresee with item #1, above, since his brother is not given to impulsive flights of fancy. This, I think, is lucky, too.


7. He is just getting started. Right now, he’s finishing up his first year of a Dual Language Immersion program in French. What he lacks in vocabulary, he makes up for in accent. It is perfect. And hilarious. He is mentally preparing to ride his bike, well, this summer. He is ready to tackle the next challenge, and the next. I am so grateful he showed up when he did—but any day of the week, that kid’s arrival was a gift, and every day of the week, I’m grateful.

Happy 7th Birthday, Seth. You’ll always be my baby.





Juice Fast, Schmuice Fast….I Want a Burger!

It started out innocently enough. Or, perhaps, not innocently, at all. My kids got sick.

Obviously, there was only one thing to do: I bought enough produce to feed an army, and then I set out to puree it into a variety of tasty combinations. It was my reflexive response to both children falling ill on the second Monday of the new year.

Salad in a glass

Salad in a glass

After the strep cultures (one positive, one not yet positive), there was a prescription to be filled, and a request for yogurts, and for chicken soup. Which I was more than happy to make, from scratch, because it’s one of the few things I do well, always.

As I chopped, sautéed, simmered, and stirred, I thought: Immunity. Must. Boost. Immunity. This would be my own kind of Survivor challenge—husband away for the week, children sick and hanging out ON MY PILLOWS in my bed, Sundance Film Festival looming. I would make many juices and shakes, in an effort to scare germs away.

Then, my dear pal Florida Keys Girl posted, on Facebook, that she wished she were the type of person who liked kale smoothies. I felt, in that moment, fortunate (and a little sorry for her). I LOVE kale smoothies. I like to drink my lunch—most of a salad, plus some protein powder and almond milk, and I’m good. It’s quick, effective, and I can sip while I work. Salad requires two hands (or one hand and more coordination than I posses), and a table. A smoothie is a one-handed operation, to be executed anywhere. The couch, the car. I can type and sip. I can drive and sip. And I am easily distracted. Often, I make a salad and forget to finish it. I’m not like this at breakfast or dinner, mind you. I like to eat. But lunch is hard–it’s a flow-stopper. One would argue (and I have argued) that the midday meal should be savored, enjoyed and treated like a proper break, a mental reset, if you will.

But, seriously, I don’t have time for that. So, I drink my lunch. And, yes, dear reader, it would be more fun to drink, say, martinis, for lunch. Or wine. Florida Keys Girl makes this point even more persuasively, by the way.

But I have to drive places in the middle of the day. So.

Anyhoo, I set out to follow this one-day Juice Cleanse. It had shown up in my e-mail, because health writers get those sorts of things in our e-mail in-boxes. Nevertheless, a juice cleanse is something I never, ever thought I would do. When other people announced their juice cleanse intentions, I would say things like, “I like food.” But I was starting it in the middle of the day. So, I reasoned, I could make half a go of it. So, I had about half the juices and smoothies (“Dad,” said Lance to Jeff on the phone, later. “She was running the blender, ALL DAY!”), and then I made soup for the kids, and decided I should eat some. Hey, it was liquid. With noodles. Yum. Of course, because I’d only half-cleansed, I was still hungry. So I had grape nuts. And almond milk. Which is a smoothie ingredient. Which is good for you, right? Right.

Grape Nuts in Almond Milk = smoothie? Maybe not.

Grape Nuts in Almond Milk = smoothie? Maybe not.

The next day, I made another round of smoothies and juices. All hail the Blendtec. These juices were filling, I figured, because I had not used a juicer to get rid of much of the fiber. Yes, I thought. I can do this. Then, for dinner, I made quiche for the kids, and, well, eggs are liquid until they’re cooked, so I ate some. And the roasted fingerling potatoes. Because, vegetables have a lot of water in them, so same diff.

Still, I couldn’t help notice that the Juice Cleanse had some mojo.

People, over those first days, there was, I dare say….a lot of peeing. Wow. Who KNEW? By the second morning, I found myself feeling decidedly not bloated. Which was sort of a surprise, because I hadn’t realized that I was bloated, at all, in the first place. Maybe this had some merit. Especially since running the infirmary here at the Rothchild Ranch had 86’d my gym workouts for the week. And (the ultimate insult) my Wednesday ski clinic. Anyway, I figured that not-bloated-feeling meant my two half-days were adding up to something. Then, a three-day cleanse came into my in-box. And I thought…maybe I can do this. I could try to do three full days, next. Or maybe two—since I had the equivalent of one day under my belt. Hmmm….

Day three as Nurse Mommy—one child goes back to school, the other does not. I make my morning smoothie. And then, I make a green juice–my favorite from the previous day. Avocado. Broccoli, kale, chard, arugula, lemon.

there's broccoli in them there smoothies

there’s broccoli in them there smoothies

Then, a berry smoothie. The cleanse instructions say you’re not supposed to wait more than two hours between smoothies (Courses?). But this is my issue—I can’t remember to stop working to eat lunch most days. Hence, the salad smoothie at 2:50 pm, most days. So, I got three drinks in eight hours, not six, and then I had a big gap in the hours that consisted of: pick up kid, collect assignments for other kid, pick up antibiotic for second kid who FINALLY got a strep diagnosis confirmed, buy more smoothie ingredients, unload said ingredients into fridge, prepare snacks for kids, take healthier kid to karate, call spouse on business trip….HOURS, and no food. Nothing but the smell of burgers grilling at the bar next to karate. Suddenly, there were no other foods in the world that seemed as appealing as a burger. Still, I went home, I made up for lost time, sort of. Green juice with celery, spinach and cucumber. Then, coconut water, berries and protein powder.

Then, while helping a child with homework, I roasted the remaining head of kale. Because it’s yummy. And I couldn’t blend another damn thing.

Kale, chewable version. How novel.

Kale, chewable version. How novel.

More peeing. I must be doing something right. Except there are four drinks left unmade in my day. And I’m good at juice cleansing until 10 pm. Which is, I’m told, a very bad time to eat. There is actual food in the fridge. Things I could chew, swallow. Feel in my belly. Enjoy. I’m all for this. Except—I’m feeling, good. Energized. Plus, I don’t want to feel bloated. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that the only juice worth drinking is grape–aged grape juice. From Napa. Or Sonoma. Or Burgundy. Or the Loire Valley. Or Trader Joe’s in any other state than Utah. (I can hear my pal, grapefriend, cheering madly from the bleachers.)

I’m pretty sure that I’ve confirmed that I cannot live on salad smoothies, alone. But I’m glad I have this little weapon in my arsenal—fun new recipes, and a nice little pick-me-up to remind me why I should not eat too many burgers.

All of which just underscores my favorite mantra: Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

In which I meet the Baker Twins—and get inspired

You guys—the coolest things happened during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. No, I did not meet Robert Redford (this time). I did not hang out with Zach Braff, or Kate Hudson. Instead, I got surprised by a film and some very cool up-and-coming talent—and inspired to push my own creative endeavors, further (more on that in another post). THIS is what Makes. My. Sundance. It’s the week when I have my choice of films that may never see a mainstream movie theater. And the week when I get to meet interesting producers and directors just standing in line. The week in which I always say, “Yes,” to interviewing an actor I’ve never heard of.

Enter, Shauna Baker, from a film called Drunktown’s Finest. Like Braff’s film, it was funded, in part by a Kickstarter campaign. Unlike Braff’s film, it was inspired by a story on ABC’s 20/20 that reported on Gallup, NM as “Drunktown, USA,” because of the high incidence of alcoholism and crime rooted in the nearby Navajo reservation. Filmmaker Sydney Freedland, who grew up on that reservation, made the film to highlight the struggles of coming of age in such challenging circumstances. Her presentation was artful—because while the circumstances these characters face may seem dire and hopeless, the overriding message is one of strength, resilience and community.

A few hours after screening the film, I met the Baker twinsImage

Shauna has a sister, Shannon, and they have built their careers together. The twins were born in the Stellat’en First Nation Reservation, as part of the Carrier Dene Tribe in British Columbia. I set out to get their perspective on why this is an important film—but I got a great chat on lots of topics, ranging from Cross-Fit (“You have to go to an all-women’s gym,” Shauna explained, in a no-nonsense manner. “It’s all about empowering each other. And you have to eat Paleo—which is basically how we grew up eating—or else you’ll bulk up.”) to building a successful acting career. (“I got my degree in business,” Shauna explains. “So from the start, I knew we’d have to treat this like a business.”)

These are women who can hunt and fish—and clean the animals they have killed—but cannot speak their tribe’s native language. “Our grandmother speaks it, but it’s a dying dialect,” explains Shauna. “She’s the one who insisted we go to college. It was a priority in our household.”

It’s that blend of tradition and modernity—an understanding of the value of both—that has led them where they are. “It was my dream to be in entertainment,” Shauna says. “But I didn’t know how to do it, and Shannon was the one who said, ‘Let’s do this, together,’ We can figure it out.”

I didn’t know how else to ask, so I just put it out there: Did their teamwork approach, the fact that they have each other, help them succeed in life “off the rez?”

Their answer was unequivocal—and practically in unison. “Without a doubt,” they said.

Interestingly, the interview could well have been for a business magazine, as the women detailed their strategy for creating their careers. Their story is equal parts bootstrapping discipline and adventurous moxie. “When we were first booking modeling jobs, we had a “business line” which was our only phone line,” Shauna says. “So when people called, they thought they were talking to our agent or an assistant, not us—it made negotiating our rates so much easier.”

Some modeling gigs followed, then an appearance on Tyra Banks’ talk show, a “fluke” of a role on Smallville—“And then I said, let’s try acting,” Shannon says, making it sound for all the world like a whim. It’s clearly anything but. “Being at Sundance just gives us the opportunity to be around talented people, to inspire us to work on our craft, more,” Shauna explains. “That’s what people don’t get—it’s not luck, it’s work, it’s dedication.”

So, tell me, when is the last time you were inspired to improve at something? What’s the “Sundance” in your life that gets your creativity flowing, your drive rebooted?


Good Body Image: You know you want it.

I have to give a big shout-out to my scratched cornea for upping my self-esteem and giving me a new perspective on that catchy Robin Thicke tune, Blurred Lines.

Bear with me. First, I’ll admit, I have been conflicted about the lyrics—for all the reasons you’d expect. Still, I totally dug this version with Jimmy Fallon:

But I hadn’t given the song much thought until I scratched my cornea and was stuck wearing my glasses to exercise. By the way, I happen to really like my glasses. They’re sorta retro, with funky purple and green frames, and there are flowers on the inside of the temple pieces. Flowers, people. Do you know how happy this makes me? Yes, I bought them in the tween department at the optometrist. And yes, I totally rock progressive bifocals in them. Which, it turns out, makes it way, way easier to read the monitor on the spin bike, even if I feel kinda grossed out by the combo of sweat and specs.

But, out of necessity, I muddled through TRX and spin and circuit training classes for the better part of a week, before I got to my favorite Wednesday morning yoga class. Whereupon, I rolled out my mat and parked my glasses next to it. Because, seriously—I couldn’t possibly manage a yoga practice in my glasses. Plus, I do a lot of it with my eyes closed, so I figured I could just take it a step further, and up the ante on drawing my focus inward. (I can do this—extroverted as I am, it’s a little complicated, but I get there. Sort of. A guy who works out in a lot of the same classes as I do, stopped me after a recent yoga class and demanded to know what I do for a living, because, it seemed, I gave off a big old aggressive ball-buster vibe, even in the Zen yoga room. Sigh.)

“You’re far from plastic…”

So, anyway, there I am, humming along to the big, group Om, trying to find my inner something or other. I’m in up dog, down dog, and then, somewhere in the middle of Warrior I,  I opened my eyes, and let my gaze fall just past my fingertips, toward the mirror in the front of the room. Again, I have a hard time maintaining inner focus, so I usually use the mirror to spy on my fellow classmates and see who’s better at Yoga than I am. You notice how I completely miss the point of the class and get all competitive about it? What the hell? Right. So, I’m trying to spy with my uncorrected vision, which, admittedly, isn’t going to be super-effective. And I notice this lithe, strong figure. “Wow,” I think to myself, “That woman has a cute figure! She’s so petite, her waist is tiny, she has cute curvy hips and super-toned legs. Where’d she come from?”

Suddenly, I realized I knew her—“That’s ME!” I almost said it out loud, but caught myself.

“You’re a good girl!”

And it hit me—when I have corrected vision, and I’m in the middle of a workout, my focus is trained on my (admittedly, perceived) flaws. The “squeezy parts,” courtesy of childbearing and a bout with Cushing’s Syndrome. Lumps and bumps that don’t even show up in street clothes.

In the past year, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of energy on getting in the best shape of my life—partly because I desperately don’t want to get sick again. It’s unlikely I could get Cushing’s Syndrome, again—it strikes only one in one million people, so the odds of a tumor growing on my remaining adrenal gland are not high. Also, I know that exercise won’t prevent Cushing’s, in the first place, but I figure if I can keep myself in good overall health, I can put myself in better stead to fend off other diseases.  Fitness, as my friend Kathy Smith likes to say, is like building a great foundation for your house, so no matter what happens to the structure above, you’re always working with a firm, solid foundation.

The result of all this sweating is that I’ve gotten rid of some 30 pounds—and all the clothes that used to fit them. I’ve developed a minor shopping addiction—skinny jeans, cute tops, dresses—all in sizes I hadn’t seen since high school. But there are lots of days that the only evidence I have that I still look the same as I did the day before, or the week before, is that all these teeny-tiny clothes, still fit, no problem. Because when I look in the mirror, I zero in on the “trouble spots,” which, really, are no trouble to anyone but me.

And so, the blurred lines. I could see a pretty shape, a healthy shape. And not a single detail to distract me from the overall picture—the picture of health. So, in the spirit of Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes:

Thank you, scratched cornea, for giving me a reason to not see what I shouldn’t, and to focus on what I should.

The seven stages of spin class

There is nothing quite like the workout you get in a spin class. So few activities offer a ten-plus calories-per-minute burn rate, with a soundtrack and motivating instructor. So few activities offer you the opportunity to pedal for miles and miles without leaving the room. In Park City, you’re not just taught, but coached. Competitive cyclists take these classes, weekend warrior triathletes. You get tips for your mountain bike ride and your road ride—whether you engage in those sports or not, the assumption is that you do, and you’re crazy if you don’t. And, somehow, I keep going back—maybe it’s the view of the luscious lap pool, empty, beckoning to me as I crush mile after mile on my stay-put bike, in a room full of other sweaty people. Maybe it’s the fantasy that I could be one of those super duper athletes one day. Or maybe it’s the full seven stages of class—not the cycling-defined stages, mind you, but the mental stages. Herewith, my play-by-play:

1. Anticipation: I’m setting up the bike. Every time is like the first time. I usually get a bike that was last ridden by a 7-foot tall bodybuilder who has tightened the bolts to the point where I have to call upon a stronger-than-me person in the room to help me loosen them. Yeah, I’m badass. Once I’ve brought everything into alignment, I take a stab at figuring out whether the computer will work this time. I start pedaling. I wonder about the playlist, and how many climbs versus isolations we’ll be doing.

2. Self-Hating
Class begins—warmup is way more RPMs than I’m mentally prepared to hack. Yet, here I am, hating myself for getting on this bike in the first place. I am gasping for air, grabbing for my water bottle at ridiculous intervals. I am convinced that I’m not keeping up with the class—then I’m mad at myself again for getting competitive in an individual sport. Oh, yeah, and indoor cycling isn’t exactly a sport, so much as it is an imitation of a sport. The instructor just announced our first sprint. I want to die.

3. Self-Loathing
The sprint. My legs can’t pedal fast enough. The super-triathletes in this room are going like mad. I’m sucking wind, barely. Cue water bottle distraction. We’re sprinting, we’re sprinting, and I’m thinking: “My kingdom for a hill climb.” And then, it happens. “Turn it up to your 9 or 10, and let’s climb.” Suddenly, I’m in the land of “be careful what you wish for.” My quads are burning, my breathing is too rapid. I’m pushing myself to keep some insane cadence. I check the clock, which is reflected (backwards, of course) in the mirror. I’m good at reading reflected time—but now I’m wishing I did not have this gift. It is the sixth such time I have checked the clock since class began at half-past eight. Dammit all to hell, it’s been 9:05 for the past TWENTY MINUTES. I hate myself for myriad reasons, now.

4. Nausea
And reason number 7,364 is that I now feel like I need to puke. Which is, by and large, considered bad form in the spin room. More water. We’re still climbing, but there’s talk of something called isolations, wherein you make your upper body stay still and only “spin” your legs. I can do these fine, when we’re climbing. When we are supposed to do it at speed, I turn into a spaz. Or, should I say, revert to my spazzed out self. Oh, well…here goes nothing.

5. Euphoria
Somewhere in the last eight minutes, the endorphins kicked in. Give me a climb! I’ll turn the dial up to ELEVEN! Tell me to spin it out while isolating! I’m IN, baby! BRING IT. Oh, and I just said all of that out loud. My fellow spinners give me looks of mild amusement—or maybe that’s just the smile they have in their expressions arsenal reserved for people they think are deranged.

6. Free Love
It’s minute 46, and I love each and every one of you. Not just “you” who are spinning in this room with me, but you who are reading this post. I love the world. I love climbing. I love isolating. I love when the teacher says, “Sure, we can recover—after class!” I love the fact that the miles-ridden indicator on the computer is nearing 20. I love that I’m thisclose to having burned 600 calories in an hour. I love that I’ve just ridden almost 20 miles to NOWHERE. I am the spin-room equivalent of the drunk frat boy, and his alcohol-infused love of all in the room—nay, the world. I AM LOVE.

7. Sweet Relief
“Sit up straight and give yourselves a hand! You did it!” Oh, yes, thank you to all holy spirits—from all religions and spiritual worlds, actually. This workout has reached its best moment: It has ended. And now, I’m off to find food—and eat with impunity.

Well-padded children, photographed by Heli-Mom

Just Remember, This Was Your Idea…

We watched the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, and while I remain baffled by most of the content of last night’s presentation, I feel like we’ve embraced the spirit of sport with renewed zeal in our house.

To wit:  I went out on a limb to conquer my fear of riding my mountain bike down hills. This is not to be confused with the super-extreme body-armor-required sport calledDownhill Mountain Biking. I just want to ride some single track and go downhill and not think, “I’m gonna die.” So I took a lesson—which I’ll write about for the Deer Valley Blog, soon. I did this because, unlike in the family skiing hierarchy, I’m the wuss biker in our family. The kids haven’t done single track, yet. But they will, and they will leave me in their dust if I don’t up my game. Which is the same motivation I had to learn to ski in the trees. So, the lesson. And the charity of a bunch of girlfriends who love the sport and want me to love it enough that they will actually do wussy rides with me to build my confidence. Which seem to me to be karmically appropriate (and still, so generous), since that is my vibe when I ski with my friends who ski, shall we say, with a lesser dose of balls-to-the-wall than I employ. (Which, until the Mahre Training Camp at Deer Valley Resort, wasn’t that much, but that’s another story, altogether.)

And while I always had a healthy respect for friends who learned to ski as adults, I had no idea, NO IDEA, what I meant by that until I tried to overcome my fear of the downhill ride. The whole way down, I wanted to call my pal, Grapefriend, with whom I’ve discussed that very phenomenon, to say, “I know what they feel like, those newbie adult skiers! This is freakin’ scary, sister!”

And, in the spirit of scaring the rocks out of myself only once in a week, I decided not to try to keep up with my kids in their new chosen sport. They can skateboard without me, I thought. And then I realized, since they don’t yet know how to skateboard, and they had these shiny new boards to try out, that I had to accompany them to the skateboard park. And it was 4pm, and I thought (incorrectly) that I had already maxed out on feeling old. As in: every minute I spent in Zumiez, the skater shop in the Tanger Outlet Mall near our house. It is this chaotic, well-stocked place (staffed with polite, clean-cut kids, in fact) that seemed to scream at Jeff and me: “You are out of your depth here! Abort mission!” Our kids, high on the whiff of excitement and rebellion that emanates from the sound system in Zumiez, would not stand for anything less than leaving with sweet new rides. Still, we giggled a lot. Jeff found a “Nerdy Bird” T-shirt for me, which he said he’d only buy if he could also buy me the Daisy Duke-sized gym shorts with the Corona Extra logo on them. And I said, fine, if you’re willing to hire me a personal trainer five days a week, and then he put them back. He tried on three hats with a logo that spelled out OBEY, and we had a good laugh. Mostly because they are that big-huge-boxy style baseball hat that makes a 40something guy in ironic fashion-forward horn rims look…well, absurd, really.

photo: courtesy Zumiez.com, where you can buy this hat, if you want. Jeff’s birthday is in February.

Connor, the nice high-school kid, egged us on. He tried to get us to buy our own boards.He was unbelievably patient with my kids, and kept extolling the virtues of helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards. I LIKED this boy. And when he asked me if I followed his mom on twitter (and we figured out that, yes, we follow each other!) I tweeted to her about how great her Connor is. And felt for all the world like an old biddy. But whatever. The kids were happy, and also asking if they could learn to race Downhill Mountain Bikes like Connor, who also coaches the youth mountain bike club in town. My darling husband made sure to put me in my place when I told Connor I was working up my nerve to ride down hills. “You know that’s different than Downhill, right, Nan?” “Yes, I was about to say that the Downhill guys totally smoked me on the hill the other day, and yet, were VERY polite about that, and I like that Mountain Bike Racer people are polite.” Sounding ever more like the old biddy. So you can see how that maxed-out feeling had been achieved.

Connor, left, trying not to laugh too hard at the crazy Rothchilds

Which brings me to 4pm, when I marched into the skate park at City Park, determined to support my kids’ latest dangerous sports endeavor. And there was no way around looking or acting like a helicopter mom. So, I owned it, and very loudly told my kids to rub dirt in their scrapes and try again. And very loudly explained that every good rider in the park had fallen a ton when they first started. Because maybe the people who belonged there would decide I was ok if I was loud and pushing my kids to be tough. This, of course, was all guesswork. I made friends with another skater’s dog. I didn’t narc out the guy who was smoking in the corner. And I wished, fervently, that I had been a cool skater chick as a kid, so I would know how to teach the boys–and so that I might have a hope of earning a place of belonging in this foreign land.

By the way—no skater chicks in the park, save a lone in-line skater in derby garb, who was adorable. And who looked not at all like Florida Keys Girl and I looked some 20 years ago, when we took to the outdoor rink at Chelsea Piers in New York City,  in effort to become fit, cool in-line skater chicks—in a day. Um, so, anyway……There I was, not sure how to feel about the fact that Jeff was on a plane, bound for a conference. We would have been TWO useless grown-ups there, if he’d been present, after all—but I hated for him to miss the whole scene. I cemented my heli-status by videotaping incessantly and sending footage, via text, to Jeff-on-the-plane.

One little guy’s mom sat on a blanket on the other side of the ramps’  gates, venturing in once—to give her boy a rain warning, shooting me looks of empathy and solidarity (and not at all pity-fueled) before scurrying out again to her blanket. That kid was a seasoned-enough boarder, age 9, who told me, with a world-weary air about him, that he had learned a lot about riding by getting knocked over by the expert skaters in the park. Seth asked him why he wasn’t wearing any pads or helmet, and he said, “I’m practically a professional.” But when my kids—the only ones in full protective padding (I resisted the urge to buy a couple of rolls of bubble wrap and just swaddle them in it—aren’t you impressed?) on elbows, knees, wrists, and only two of five wearing helmets—told their new buddy that he should be in a helmet, at least. “I agree,” he said. “But my mom can’t find mine.” He was matter-of-fact, noting that he’d like some pads, too, but his parents weren’t in a hurry to buy them. With a “whattayagonnado?” shrug, he rolled over to try his next trick.

Well-padded children, photographed by Heli-Mom

I watched as Lance gained confidence and a little speed—trying new angles and turns over and over, figuring things out, making up “beat you to the other side” games with the other boy. Seth vacillated between fear, frustration, falling and regaining his courage, teaching himself to scoot, balance, glide. Quickly, he deemed himself “A PWO-Feshhional.”

All the while, my mind raced—did I have any friends who skate? I have thrown myself into improving or learning other sports—maybe I could learn skateboarding? I recalled the time my friend Juliann broke her leg, benched for the entire ski season, because she’d decided to hop on her longboard, in flip flops, to go get the mail. And how the paramedic had to repeat the report twice in his radio-call to the ER, “38 year-old female…..SKATEBOARDING accident. No, not 18…THIRTY-EIGHT…” Sigh. Frankly, the prospect of missing a ski season is the thing that’s keeping me from acting on my Eureka moment….The one when I realized I have a Facebook Friend who is a legit skater chick, who is definitely in my age bracket, and often— like me—decries the fact of our age bracket, because, we feel SO MUCH YOUNGER AND COOLER THAN WE ARE. We have mutual friends here in Park City. Skater Chick lives in the Skater Chic capital of the world: Southern California. And in my new fantasy, she comes to Park City to visit our other tragically-hip-minded friends and, charitably, teaches me to ride. Or, maybe she can just tell me about shredding, over drinks.

All the while, Jeff’s parting words as he left for the airport, rang in my ears…”Just remember, this was YOUR idea…” So, as soon as we got home, from our Apres-Skate Slurpees and First Aid Stop, I signed them up for Skateboard Camp at Park City Recreation, which, of course, has classes for everything, as long as you are willing to sign the waiver.

Ski jumper!

Nine years as a mom? Really?

Watching Lance turn 9 has been a treat. And a study in amazement, disbelief (9??? ALREADY???)

Our first family photo

One of my dear friends is fond of saying, “Every age is my favorite age.”

I get it. Because that’s how I have felt every minute of the last nine years—ten, really, because the moment I learned I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was in thrall with the very idea of being a mother. From the moment Lance was born, I was in thrall with the idea of being his mother. And there hasn’t been a minute of his life that I haven’t found something to wonder at, to marvel at—even in the inevitable moments of exasperation and frustration.

This morning, talking to my mother-in-law, I shared the fact that Lance’s birthday party guests are all friends he’s known since birth.

And I noted that he had a couple of play dates this weekend that were so easy—the kids getting along seamlessly, the parents having the ability to trust them to entertain themselves, that I wanted to just freeze him at this age. “At least you know it won’t last forever,” she remarked, wryly.

Still, I could remember how every year has been a good year, how lucky we are to have been blessed with a child who has been healthy and happy for his entire life, who has known the security of a safe, loving home, supportive parents and a village of people around him invested in his success as a human being. The tween years may loom, but these facts, I hope, will carry us forward through the challenge of helping him grow into each phase.

As I toured an online album of his first weeks of life, I found myself reliving the profound amazement, disbelief and gratitude that this precious little person had been entrusted to us. That feeling has never faded, but sometimes it takes a backseat to the daily juggle of school-homework-karate-dinner-bedtime.

On this day, I want to wish our Lance a Happy 9th Birthday, a year filled with wonder and fun. His curiosity amazes me, his passion for all things tech-y, his ability to push himself to do things that scare him, to absorb the lessons life hands him, to talk about his feelings, to devour books—big, long, complicated books, to tell jokes—good ones, to find the humor in almost any situation, to be able to dive into his religious studies with interest, to have a clear idea of what he wants, and to have a handful of friends who truly “get” him is more than I knew how to wish for him in those early days of his life.

Ski jumper!

Pizza chef!

My rider of bikes, skier of mountains, teller of jokes, giver of hugs, cooker of meals, lover of dogs, guardian of little brother, and cuddlier of mom and dad—I can’t wait to see what you do next. Happy 9th birthday, kiddo. You’re the best!

My four year-old stylist rocks!

I’m not ashamed to tell you that my four year-old dressed me today. I’m very lazy about my style. I live in the mountains and feel like I need an excuse to dress nicely. Seth, on the other hand, is big on dressing up, looking “handsome,” and finding the occasion in the everyday. Hence, he often shows up to school or some other function in full cowboy regalia, including leather vest, or a preppy look with sweater vest and khakis. When he dresses me, he does it because I just helped him get dressed, and his sense of fair play dictates that he should return the favor. He knows my basic style includes some sort of sweater—light fabrics in spring, heavier knits in winter—and jeans.  And that’s when I’m “dressing up.” Much of my day-to-day look involves fleece. And yoga pants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Just ask my friend, Florida Keys Girl, who once said, “I don’t actually do yoga, I just like the pants.”)

So this morning, he marched into my closet and announced: “I’ll get your sweater.” A moment. And then: “Mommy, how about this jeans sweater?”

Ah, yes, my very favorite denim jacket, purchased about 12 years ago, when I was shopping with my friend and colleague, Sue, after we wrapped a photo shoot. Wearing this jacket always takes me back to that day—we’d rented a convertible to tool around LA, driven up the coast to Gladstone’s On the Beach, and then, to the Santa Monica Pier for shopping. The denim jacket looks broken-in in just the right way. I smile every time Iwear it. Sue, you see, is a lot of fun, and a great friend who I don’t see nearly enough. Later, I enhanced the jacket with a brooch in the shape of an apple, festooned with rhinestones in the pattern of an American Flag. I bought it in an Israeli-owned accessories store in Grand Central Terminal, on my first trip to NYC after 9/11, just weeks after we’d moved to Utah.

Ok, so what to wear with a “denim sweater”? Jeans were out. Dammit. The Old Navy black cropped-and-cuffed pants (yes, I know, I’m 5’1 and have no business in a cropped pant. I should go to Banana Republic and buy these.); a black t-shirt from eco yoga, with an abstract black and grey silk-screen that has some rhinestones scattered in the pattern, just-so. And, my trusty running-around-after-kids shoes, Dansko Sela sandals.

So, thus suited, I plopped down on the floor to put together a big puzzle with my “stylist,” then managed the dogs, loaded us into the car for errands and day-care drop off, and headed to my mobile office at Park City Coffee Roaster. In the parking lot, I ran into my friend Joanna, who said, “Look at you, GLAM GIRL! Do you have a meeting?” Which shows you how much more frequently I cheat with jeans and a fleece, or yoga pants and a fleece, or shorts and a fleece.

I think, too, that my accessories for the day—my new every day accessories—might have added to her shock. I used to carry some amalgam of canvas totes and reusable shopping bags, plus a tiny little purse from H&M. But last week, while I was visiting Naples, FL with my husband, I splurged. Actually, it was at his express urging, plus a well-timed chime in from my high-school pal Rosana, who happened to be there, too.

So, I now carry this great LV monogram zip-top tote to take the thinking out of what bag I’ll carry.

The tote, for the record, holds my laptop, an iPad, snacks for the kids (and me), miscellaneous paperwork that I always seem to need on-hand, and a pouch filled with band-aids, ibuprofen and lip gloss. After dark, I take out the electronics and it’s lightweight and still polished-looking.

I’ve never been a label-hound. Frankly, I don’t love logos. But I scoured for a logo-free tote that met all my needs, and, still, this one best fit the bill. And, I reasoned, if I can afford this bag, I can afford to donate a similar sum to charity—so everyone wins, right? Oy, the guilt.

Then, I splurged again on Tom Ford sunglasses—because I’d never had a really, really nice pair of shades before, and these were really pretty.

I mulled this as I booted up my MacBook in the Roaster, and wandered over to my former colleague Marlien’s site, LeCatch. Because procrastination is the writer’s first line of defense.

Still, I’m glad I went there. Marlein’s style choices reflect the closet of my dreams. That is, a mix of designer and trendy-chic-on-the-cheap. She’s likely to pair a skirt from H&M with a JCrew top and a designer bag. I wasn’t an expensive-bag kind of person until a week ago—and I bought the one I did because it meant I didn’t need a bunch of bags. And, frankly, the whole of my wardrobe is early-century outlet mall, at best. Every few years I buy something a little more upscale—a piece here or there—and pair it with basics from TJ Maxx. But reading LeCatch is giving me the courage to figure out which items in my closet  should be swapped out for better-grade items, and which I can wear with impunity. Granted, I’m still recovering from investing in an expensive bag and shades—so you’ll find me trawling TJ’s for deals as a way to “cancel out” the splurge. But maybe I need to get used to the idea that investing in a few great things is better than a closet full of also-rans. And maybe, just maybe, LeCatch will help get me there.

As for you, dear reader, LeCatch is your must-read. Why? Because my stylist is not for hire—it would violate all sorts of child-labor laws.

So go check it out–and let me know when you last splurged—and on what?

Toasting the Filmmakers

The Sundance Film Festival knows how to throw a party.

Yes, the place is silly with parties—but there’s a certain vibe to the official SFF parties. For one thing, they keep the films—and filmmakers—center stage.

To wit: The Salute to the Filmmakers party was held at the swankiest slopeside venue at Deer Valley Resort—the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort, on the Astor Terrace. You have to ride a funicular to get to the hotel from the entrance drive. It’s elegant, understated, unmistakeable luxury. There’s no better way to send the message that the filmmakers make the festival what it is. Also, they custom-ordered the weather.  It wasn’t a typical January day, no sideways wind, no swirling snow (though we locals would like that), still cold, yet the outdoor venue was nothing short of festive. This was helped along by a welcoming open bar and a buffet of perfectly cooked lamb chops, seared beef with sea salt, and nitrogen-frozen raspberry Grand Marnier ice cream cones.

I ate. I smiled broadly. And then we ran into our friend Shannon Bahrke, an Olympic medalist in freestyle skiing (I’ll tell you the story of the first time I met her another day), founder of Silver Bean Coffee in Salt Lake City, and Ambassador of Skiing at the St. Regis. She was fresh from a trip to Europe, where she cheered on teenaged freestyle skier at the Junior Olympics. And I do mean fresh. “I don’t have jet lag!” she boasted, as we posed for a photo op. “I’m working! I’m skiing! I’m going to the gym! There’s no time, really.”

Shannon Barkhe, Bari Nan Cohen

Maybe the party should have been called Shivering with Filmmakers?

I had every intention of shooting the breeze with filmmakers—but, I have to say, I felt funny interrupting them, as they shared the moment with their families and friends. It’s a special thing to make a film—even more special to have it screened at the Sundance Film Festival. And, really, it felt good just to bask in their glow.

Buy the November issue of Prevention Magazine!

Jillian Michaels is on the cover of the November issue of Prevention, and I wrote the cover story. It was an incredible experience, and not just because Jillian and her team are a group of lovely, warm, funny people. All of this is true, and made it ever-more enjoyable to do my job that day. Of course, we talked about The Biggest Loser, her new gig on The Doctors, on Dr. Phil, where she’s arrived in the adoption process (and even how she’d advise people to do it differently than she has!), what kind of mom she thinks she’ll be…and even her own troubled teen years.

Jillian's Prevention Cover

Pick up a copy on newsstands today!

But being privy to Jillian’s process, as she coached three Prevention readers toward better, more fulfilling lives, was, quite frankly, humbling to watch. Yes, we called three readers and got into the nitty gritty of their lives for this story, too.

Truly, this is a woman who puts her heart into her work. She so quickly saw to the core of their roadblocks, and engaged them with compassion. When the interviews were completed, she and I got the chance to talk. That’s when she said, “You really love what you do, too. It shows.” I was over the moon—because she’s 100 percent right. And I’m glad it shows. What got me pumped that day was being part of a project that included learning about the three dimensional life she leads, and the way that she invests herself in helping people.

Not to get too soap-boxy, but every work day is another opportunity for me to find ways to engage other people about the things that matter most–our health, our well-being, our relationships. It’s even more fun when I’m collaborating with people who get that.

100% Chance of Snow

That’s tonight’s forecast. And tomorrow’s.


I am SO ready.

View from our kitchen door

This is what autumn snow looked like last October

Except for the fact that I don’t currently own a pair of functional skis. But I can’t get bogged down in the details (and, also, I can take comfort in the fact that Florida Keys Girl stores her skis in my garage, so I’ll be able to start the season by making sure her oft-neglected boards get some action.  (Anyway, she just got a dog, who is so cute my Little Guy insisted on eating dinner with this new pup’s picture displayed on the screen of our kitchen computer…my point is, I will be surprised if she and Florida Keys Guy can tear themselves away from little Babka for as many ski days as they usually spend in Utah. Which means it falls to me to see to it that her skis don’t feel neglected, what with the new family member and all.)

Anyway, I had to smile this afternoon, when I heard “100 percent chance of snow” during my favorite afternoon show on KPCW, as host Randy Barton started handicapping the snow line—official reports called for somewhere in the mid 7000 feet range, but Randy noted the temps and started calling for a lower line. We’ll see.

The truth is, I’ve been antsy for a couple of weeks—and started gabbing about it with some of the folks at Deer Valley who are charged with preparing the resort for the season. You can find out about my skiing daydreams—and get some inspiration from some people who really have the inside track (ahem)  on perfect ski days at my Deer Valley blog. What’s YOUR perfect ski day?

The Bagel

Picky eaters no more?

I’m Babbling about how to eat out on vacation…with kids. No typos there, I swear.

The behind-the-scenes babble is that we just got back from a vacation where, in spite of the kids behaving mostly like kids, they did, in fact, branch out, try new things, and, once they relaxed into the process, had fun. They also indulged in a fair amount of comfort food. Witness: The bagel.

The Bagel

Little Guy chows down on an old standby

At Bonefish Grill in Boynton Beach, one kid in our formerly-known-as-kosher brood tried fried shrimp. But it was from the kids’ menu, and tasted so bland he peeled off the breading and then declared the seafood unseasoned. One grownup taste frm proved the junior taste buds to be accurate. So dad fed the Big Guy some steak off his own plate, and both kids tried the garlic mashed potatoes – Little Guy tends to say he hates things on sight, so the fact that we got him to eat “different” (read: homemade) Mac-n-Cheese that night, plus “hated” mashed potatoes served as a win. And a dessert-earner. Hello, Rita’s! As Ski Dad put it: “I never thought to put custard and Italian Ice together in the same dish. Why did I never think to put custard and Italian Ice together in the same dish??

Anyway, we didn’t go full-on fine-dining, but even someplace like Bonefish, which is a casual dining restaurant, was a stretch given the extreme heat and everyone’s general grumpy temperament at the end of any given day. I am looking forward to many more opportunities to exercise that checklist.

Gratitude, Dammit.

I don’t make a conscious decision to be grateful every day. Gratitude is a fact of my life. Every morning that Jeff gets up to take the dogs out, make sure the espresso machine is warming up, and gives me a time-check so I get out of bed on time, I’m grateful. For that matter, every morning he doesn’t do it, because he’s away working, I am grateful for the days he’s home. Every time he plays the piano, we have a family sing-along, we enjoy a meal together, my kids come home from school and tell me about it—I’m grateful. And health? Don’t get me started. Even a paper cut is a gift, after facing down an endocrine disease.

But I spent a solid 20 minutes, Thanksgiving morning, silently condemning myself for being  mad about a fireplace. Because what I just wrote, above, is the tip of the iceberg of the aspects of my life that deserve my thanks. I mean, what the actual fuck—so many blessings, one minor inconvenience.

But,  (whine, whine) our new, highly-touted, not inexpensive fireplace wouldn’t turn on, for the third time in a month and the second time in a week. I’m not someone who needs things picture-perfect, but it didn’t seem like a lot to ask that the damn thing work when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner. After all, the service guy had been here Tuesday. It worked for six hours. And on a chilly Thanksgiving morning, I found myself emailing the dealer, tweeting the manufacturer and giving myself shit for doing so.

Maybe I would have been less pissy, overall, And more inclined to hold my complaint until after the holiday, if my interactions with the owner of the company that sold me the unit had been better. (He never apologizes, makes excuses, and trips all over himself to justify poor customer service. Um, you’re a fireplace company, so no need to mansplain to me that the cold season is your busy season; but do let me know why you’re telling me how many techs you employ when it’s clearly not enough to meet the demands of your business. Please. I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to drag the company’s name through the mud. I have faith this will be resolved.)

Still, trying to square the incongruity of material discontent on a day of gratitude was not my idea of a good time. So, I dispensed my electronic complaints—conscious that I could be grateful, too, for the ability to express myself, succinctly—and threw myself into the true warmth of the holiday:

First stop: Pie Breakfast, in which five families bake 90 pies and invite the whole town. It’s a fifteen year-old tradition that each of the five used to take turns hosting in their home, but has grown so big it’s now at Hugo Coffee, fittingly, in the town’s visitor welcome center.

Next, to the market for some last-minute ingredients, then home to prepare for our dinner. IMG_0319

I set the table, had Seth decorate the place cards, and then set about being the bottle washer to Jeff’s Chief Cook role. And what a player:

By the time our guests arrived—each bearing bags heavy with side dishes, dessert, and even more flowers, we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the ability to create a warm, delicious meal for our friends. The trappings of the friendships represented at our table were reason enough to be grateful. We had a family who are new to the United States, new to Park City, and new to our lives, and it felt great to welcome them to our home. The other folks, Keith and Shari, we’ve known since our first year of Park City—whereupon we discovered that Jeff and Shari knew each other in childhood, in New York.

And, as is our custom, Jeffrey settled in to play the piano after dinner. The minute he played the first notes of “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri, Seth materialized by his side, to sing it.

It’s Friday afternoon as I type this. The damn fireplace isn’t on, still, but as we listen to The Piano Guys’ new album, their version of A Thousand Years, comes on—it’s our first listen, so a pleasant surprise—and Seth starts singing from his watercolor-painting perch in the kitchen, I’m warmed by gratitude.


Music People

This morning, my little boy said, “Mommy, have a beautiful day,” as he got out of the car. And then I burst into tears. Because, well, it already was a beautiful day: my family got up this morning and did our normal Thursday morning thing. We listened to our local NPR station. I fried eggs. I waited semi-patiently while one child chose between scrambled, omelet or oatmeal, as though, you know, it mattered. I hulled strawberries (my new favorite activity, since my friend Keri gave me a tool for just this purpose, just because), added things to the dishwasher. I sipped an espresso made by my doting husband, before he disappeared downstairs for an unreasonably early conference call. I drove a boy to one school, and as I pulled out of the driveway, “No One Is To Blame,” by Howard Jones, came on the radio, and I was transported to the concert I went to, way back when, at the now defunct Starlight Music Theater in Latham, NY. It’s one of the reasons I love listening to the 80s station. There’s always a memory, a feeling. This song was my comfort food in junior high and high school, and I needed it, today. I drove a boy and his cello to another school, backed up by more 80s music. On this snowy, April morning in Park City, Lance made a joke: “April showers bringing May flowers, but April snow says, “Flowers? Those are for June.” I soaked it all in. I try do to this every day, but it’s too easy to take it all for granted. But this morning I cried because I would not, could not allow myself to take the beauty for granted. This morning, I’m reeling from some tragic news that a friend and her young daughter lost their devoted and loving husband and father last night. That the blindingly “normal” life they had fought together to earn, is all different now. And, for that matter, so is music.

My friend is a colleague of more than 20 years, someone I consider an industry friend, and think of more fondly than even that term can describe. So, when, last night, she posted this unexpected and tragic news, I was, like so many of us in their wide, wide circles, shocked. “They were like us,” I told Jeffrey. “They were together forever—they have a four year-old.” And, like us, they’re music people. I always say Jeff’s the musician and I’m the one who sings, loudly and off-key. That true love is when he sits down to the piano, cheesy 80s sheet music in front of him, and says, “I’ll only play if you’ll sing.” He is generous, like that. And music is a big deal in our house. We are people who joke (ok, half-joke. Or, maybe we’re quite serious, actually.) that our parenting work is done because our sons have memorized the full catalog of Billy Joel’s music, not just the hits. Because, priorities.

That music was central to Tracy’s and John’s lives—and their life together—is a given. That the industry has been changed and improved upon by both of their presence, both of their contributions, is a fact. (Some of my best moments in music—meeting Collective Soul and Matchbox Twenty, going to dive bars for showcases of bands that became favorites—happened because of Tracy, and were as magical and bonding, in my mind, as can be. She took me to places, she believed in these artists and showed me why I should, too. If the truth be told, every time we worked together, I kept thinking: YOU are who I want to profile, I want to know the story of why all this matters to you, because it matters to me, too. This is true of a lot of my music people, who labor in the background to make sure their artists are heard. It’s certainly one truth about John, too.) That both of their interests are wider and larger and smaller and narrower than music, that their daughter centered their lives, that they had the good fortune to recognize their good fortune when they saw it, that the server at the local blog he founded, is overloaded with people wanting to read about him, well, that’s just music, you know? (And when the traffic slows, I’ll update this post to include a link to the blog.) It’s a soundtrack, it’s “take me out to the ballgame,” it’s “turn down that noise,” it’s “who wrote this?” it’s “you gotta hear this.” It’s Tracy’s recent, now haunting Facebook post, letting us know that all was basically ok, but they were having a bit of a grump, housebound with her pink-eye and his broken foot, and could we please suggest some inspiring pick-me-up playlists? It’s love and warmth and compassion, and the language that bonds so many families and strangers.

I don’t own this grief, of course. It is not my loss. But I am saddened by it. I am pained for my friend, her family, their community. I want, very much, to honor Tracy​, her husband, their daughter, and the community that brought this friend into my life. To be a music person—whether you are someone who simply loves it, who performs it, who absorbs it, who promotes it, who shares it, who hears it in the elevator, who goes to a coffee shop because they have the best jams on the sound system, always—is to be a person who feels things, deeply, who is gratified when an artist puts into melodies, harmonies and lyrics the very thoughts and ideas and feelings you have, but possess lesser capacity for expressing. Music people connect with all people–and my friend and her family have a community of folks from all walks of life stepping up to offer shoulders, hugs, favors large and small, and so many beautiful memories of his warmth, generosity and hilarity.

I have always felt, as a non-musician, that when covering music, I am a guest, honored to be in the presence of people whose art touches so many in ways they will never—and always—understand. And that I am welcome, regardless of whether I know the back catalog of an obscure band or a legendary artist. Whether I know an E chord from my elbow. (I don’t.)  My music people are welcoming, generous, and kind, thoughtful, funny, warm, beautifully flawed, filled with kindness and smarts. My music people don’t care that I’m not as much of an expert as they are, they care that I love it as much as they do. They care that we share a passion for life–for figuring out the hard stuff and celebrating the good stuff.

Tracy has been posting on Facebook things that she loved about her spouse that she hopes others will carry on in his honor: overtipping waiters, helping someone find a job, finding a laugh—the laugh. She is asking us to reach out to people in our lives we don’t call enough, to let them know we’re here. Their friends have been gathering, in the custom of our digital age, on her Facebook page, posting photos and memories and stories and experiences of this beautiful life, gone too soon. Way too soon. For this window into other pieces of their lives, I am grateful. It’s one of the reasons I love social media.

Here’s another: It gives you what you need, in the moment you need it. To wit: This morning, someone at my son’s middle school posted this beautiful video from Britain’s Got Talent, by a duo of young boys, who call themselves, “Bars and Melody.” t

 It gets at the very essence of all that I love about music, and the arts community: if you create something deeply personal, the universal message appears, and it offers anyone who encounters it exactly what they need in the moment. Well, from everything I knew about John, peripherally (from years in the business, from Tracy’s Facebook posts, from friends), he was that music for so many people. This is what music does—this song, beautifully written and performed by children, that pleads against bullying, that should be required viewing for school kids everywhere—it offers hope when someone might not think there is any left. His wife and daughter are the hope. We, their community, are the hope. Music, man. It’s all just music.

So, in honor of a good man, a great father and husband, and a purveyor of hope for so many, please watch the video. Remind your kids to reach out to the bullied kid, call your neighbor and check up on her, do some of the things John’s wife asked, and share your love with the world. If you’re feeling like you have nothing to give, watch this video, and know that your light and life make a difference to the people around you. Then, go get some coffee, and overtip your barista. And pay attention to what’s playing on the sound system, or on your car radio on the way there, on your iPod playlist on the subway. Because, music heals, even when you don’t realize you need it. This much I know. I’m a music person, you see.

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Has Mass Media Turned Us Into Label Mongers? [TEDx SaltLakeCity]

Bari Nan:

On a recent afternoon, I found myself in an airport boarding lounge with a certain swath of humanity. Flying from hub to hub, as I do, there are usually a fair number of nationalities and cultures represented on the passenger manifest. This day was no different. Soldiers in uniform. Women in saris. Middle-aged white men whose button-down shirts strained against their midsections. Middle-aged white women wearing capri pants and colorful t-shirts, sensible haircuts and sensible shoes. Young families. Children and adults with special needs. Buff, sporty guys. College students. Business women and men of varying ethnicities. Young families. Grown men who were calling out to each other from across the room, in recognition. “Yo, let’s crack open a couple of beers on the flight!” And the guy who stood in front of me, so close that it seemed that he had determined, from his perch of 6’5″, that my 5’1″ stature indicated that I required less personal space than he did. Taking in Mr. SpaceHog and the Dude-Brahs yammering on about their beers, I suppressed a chuckle, and shot a quick text to my husband. “In honor of the pending return of “Flight of the Conchords,” to TV, I’m gathering material for my series, ‘Flight of the Douchebags.'” Boom, right there, I had reduced the flying public to one label, one caricature. I watched as we all boarded the plane, and settled ourselves.

Once aboard, people were, in fact, polite, respectful and self-effacing as they interacted with their seat-mates. “You’re stuck with me,” one man joked to another. “I’m in the wrong middle seat,” confided the man sitting next to me. “Maybe I can get away with it.” Then, unable to perpetrate a minor breach of social contract, he moved. A woman in a sari walked past, trailing a lovely perfume after her. A soldier settled into a nearby seat, his posture rigid and perfect, his diction clear and polite as he answered inquiries from his own seat mate. Collectively, at the suggestion of the flight attendant, we applauded the members of the military who were flying with us. Truth be told, she didn’t even get to the end of her sentence—”We have several members of the military on board, so would you join me in a round of applause?”— before the passengers burst into spontaneous applause. At once, we were more than the sum of our parts, we were more than the individual nationalities and ethnicities and agendas and schedules among us—we were a grateful public. I’d been reading horror stories about people having ugly confrontations on planes—from the religious conflicts on El Al flights to Israel, to the personal-space seat-back debacles that had made the news here. There were ethnic slurs that reportedly disrupted another flight. I was, to be honest, a little nervous about the way others might behave on the flight. Nothing untoward materialized. This isn’t always the case, and people, in moments of acute fear in the cultural consciousness, tend to express it more. This flight wasn’t happening in one of these moments. But I remember the way people behaved a little more than a decade ago, when our nation was gripped by the fear of worst-case scenarios. Hell, even now, watching HOMELAND, we’re asking ourselves to question how to manage our fear of “others,” and which of our collective trust issues need to be confronted.

In this TEDx talk, my friend Bassam talks about his experience as an Arab-American, how immigrating from Egypt to America changed his life—and even precipitated changing the way he asked others to address him, so that he was able to make others comfortable with the idea that he’s more like other Americans than not. One piece of this includes what happened as he was boarding a plane in late 2001—and how his presence, his appearance, made the other passengers uncomfortable. He’ll make this point as part of a larger point—just watch—but it reminded me that the flying public, and the public in general, is often battling against greater undercurrents than whether people will feel inclined toward politeness. If we feel threatened by other people, how much of that threat is influenced by the media we consume? How much of it is about perception, rather than the reality of a multi-cultural society of people just trying to make it home in time for dinner with their families, to spend time with their friends, to meet their work deadlines?

I thought about the ways in which my thinking toward my fellow passengers had shifted in the space of a few minutes. In the tension-filled moments during the boarding calls, I needed labels—and humor—to keep my wits about me. As the relief of reaching our assigned seats took hold, there was a sudden solidarity among us—spurred on by the flight attendant’s suggestion that we do something small, but meaningful, together.

As I watched Bassam’s talk, and he urged his audience to “triangulate the truth,” I realized that it’s not only good advice for media consumption, but for our own thought processes. It feels like a smart challenge to listen carefully to the ways in which we assign value to ideas, and what notions in our own minds we need to challenge with a new perspective.

Bassam’s experience and perspective—on lots of topics—are things I am fortunate to hear and learn about over dinners and lazy afternoons that our families spend together in and near our homes in our town. I’d heard a lot of these ideas, in different conversations, before. But hearing it as a cohesive, thought-provoking presentation is a privilege. Watch. Think. React. And tell me what your take-away is in the comments.

Originally posted on Against the Herd - On Business, Finance, & A Better Self:


I dedicate this talk to –and in honor of– my parents, Toudy & Suma,
who taught me to be a citizen of the world,
to be critical-thinking and non-conformist,
and, most importantly,
to be empathetic to and stand up for the plight of others.
I owe the person I’ve become to them.

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Writing Relay!

Tag! I’m it!  This post is part of a blog tour of writers, about writing. My talented, smart and funny friend Thelma Adams invited me to join the tour, and I’m grateful for the chance to reflect about my writing, and to share those reflections with others. One of the best things writing has done for me is to give me a wonderful circle of inspiring, sharp, funny and insightful friends. Thelma is one of them. Another is Scott Appel, who is the photographer who took the photo, below, during the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. Scott and I have had an intertwined career path since he is, primarily, a publicist, and when I was at YM, he repped people like Jennifer Love Hewitt, and a boy band called LFO—among other awesome folks. Anyway, he took this photo of Thelma, me, and a Banksy original that has become a part of the Main Street cityscape in Park City, just before Thelma’s reading and book signing for Playdate, at Dolly’s Bookstore—one of the best independent booksellers in the country, if you ask me. 


·        1) What am I working on? Fixing dinner, doing laundry, dishes, taxi-driving for my kids, Facebook posts about my kids, magazine stories for outlets such as Woman’s Day (look for two stories—a celebrity interview and a health piece—in the September issue) and Weight Watchers (get the latest on breast health in the Sept/Oct issue), my summer assignments for my blog at Deer Valley Resort, and a YA novel about a young girl from a small town who is wrestling with the conflict between her life as a famous actress and her desire to be a normal teen. In actual fact, I am working on trying to make that last project the first thing I do in the day. This, it turns out, is difficult, since the other projects provide, in varying measures, good health, a semi-orderly home, excellent activities, and income for my family. The YA novel could provide more of all of that, of course, if only I would sit down and work on it with more discipline.

·         2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? My magazine work is informed by 20 years on a unique, combined beat, in which I have learned to navigate the world where celebrity and healthy lifestyle intersect, or, just plain try to get important health information into the hands of a readership that needs it. In talking with so many celebrities and health experts over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to a wide variety of points of view. My novel-writing voice is, in part, informed by many years of writing “as-told-to” pieces by celebrities, and, as an editor, coaxing the writer’s voice in or out of the story, depending upon what the specific piece calls for. This means I am slavishly devoted to bringing out each character’s personality through dialogue. I am heavily influenced by film and TV dialogue—in fact, I used to place my old-school Sony tape recorder by the TV speaker, and record episodes of Facts of Life and Diffr’nt Strokes, and listen to them for entertainment on long car rides with my family. I remember the first time I watched the pilot episode of Dawson’s Creek, written by the awesome Kevin Williamson, ahead of the rest of the world, when I was the Entertainment Editor at YM. The dialogue had a common thread: rapid-fire and precocious. But the character’s voices were distinctive and carefully drawn. From a story perspective, I am drawn to the struggle between assimilation and difference, something I have navigated as a Jewish child growing up in Vermont, who also attended Jewish camps with kids who knew much more about religious matters than I did, who attended an all-girls’ boarding school, Emma Willard School, with students from a diverse set of backgrounds. I went to Brandeis University, a small, liberal arts college that attracts a lot of Jewish students, and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, for my junior year. The result of all this moving through the world, and then realizing my dream of living in New York City—and ultimately, discovering a new dream of raising a family in Utah—means I became an adult who loves to meet people from all backgrounds. My social sense, I believe, is at the center of my writing.

·        3) Why do I write what I do? I write because it is how I make sense of the world, and in the magazine world, I am able to use that power to help others make sense of their problems—large and small. I write my Deer Valley blog because it is a way to share my love of my adopted hometown and my favorite sport with many, many people. I write fun Facebook posts because it is a way to connect with my wide, scattered, disparate circles of family and friends in a fun, thoughtful way. I write my barinan.com posts in my voice, and therefore, they are a lot of fun to write. I write fiction because I can act out fantasies from my childhood that I was too fill-in-the-blank to try myself. I write because it’s a giant game of What-If, which is, in essence, a way to harness my monkey brain. I write because I love nothing more than to draw pictures with words.

·        4) How does your writing process work? I’m no Einstein, but inspiration and perspiration figure heavily into my process. I heard Billy Joel say, recently, that he thinks that sleep is where a lot of creativity happens, that your conscious brain shuts off and then the elves get the real work done. This rang true for me. I dream detailed scenes for my novel, and the characters chase me around all day, until I can write them down. I sort out issues of reporting and packaging roadblocks in my magazine stories, or issues of voice in anything I’m doing, while I run, take a spin class, hike, or ski.


This is the view from the trail where I run, hike and mountain bike, depending on my mood—is it any wonder I can think, clearly, here?


I never feel more creative, or more challenged, than when I’m making fresh tracks through the trees at Deer Valley.

My process, in general, involves removing myself from the tasks that can be completed with little or no thought—and are, therefore, enormously appealing. So, I escape laundry and household tasks by taking my MacBook to hideouts around town—some are in plain sight, like the Park City Coffee Roaster, or Starbucks, and others, less so. And I could tell you where those are, but you’d find me, and I’d be excited to see you, and have a great conversation, and boom, there goes my quiet writing hour. I usually try to “warm up” with a blog post. When I open Scrivener, to work on the YA novel, I will often look at previous scenes, not to enhance them, but to pick which kind of writing mood I’m in—flashback? rapid-fire dialogue? action?—and then see how far I can take the characters in 45-60 minutes. When I’m working on a magazine story, I toy with display copy, first, to give myself a sense of how the central theme will come together. It’s not always the display copy I stick with—often, the theme shifts midway through the writing, and I have to revise. But I like forcing myself to summarize the story, off the bat, to figure out what the reader will most need and want from the piece. By this point, I’ve mentally worked through much of the piece, on a run, on the ski hill, or in a quick chat with a friend, who asks, “what are you working on, today?”

This last thing, the camaraderie that writing can evoke—among readers and among other writers—is probably my best, and least-used tool. I have two friends, Mark and Kristen, with whom I have met a few times, in effort to have a monthly, writer’s circle. Life gets in the way, our group is a little too small, and if one of us cancels, then the rest of us cancel. Writer’s Circle, Party of Two, does not a great workshop make. So, we need to reboot. I’m curious as to how many of you have writer’s groups—how many people are in your group, how often you meet, and what you get out of it? Leave those thoughts in the comments, please?

I’m inviting some other friends to post on June 30th—and I’ll update you as soon as I hear back from them!


Cheers! (Fizzy-juice style)

Running with Ed

I will do anything—anything—to support education. And, as it turns out, so will tons of my fellow Park City residents. I’m not talking about endless hours of school volunteering, committee meetings, homework help, or even schlepping around town to tutoring sessions. Many, many of us do that, too. But we all turned out on Saturday in teams of five-10 humans of varying age ranges, for Running with Ed, a 38-mile relay that passes every school in the district, plus a few other scenic spots. Created by the Park City Education Foundation, the race raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support programs in our awesome school district.

Go, Team! Powered By Proforma, ready to race

Go, Team! Powered By Proforma, ready to race


Let me tell you this: I never run more than 5 miles in a day. So, as I recruited a team—including my kids, another family with two kids, and our friends Kathy and Mel—I looked for a mix of fun people who would take on legs of varying length. I committed to a 5.15 mile leg of the race, from City Park to Treasure Mountain Junior High School. Which sounded fine to me, until mid-leg, when I realized I would be climbing FOREVER AND A DAY through a mountain trail in the blazing midday sun. Thankfully, I got to share a few strides with my friend Carey (who smoked my sorry butt, but whatever), which made the run more fun. But, I digress. I was in awe when my friend Kerrie said she’d run two legs, back-to-back, and do an extra mile with all the kids. And when my pal Kathy said, she’d way rather run the short, impossibly steep, leg up to Utah Olympic Park.

Like everyone, we had our pre-game rituals—ours included running behind schedule, forgetting hats and going back to fetch them, eating bagels in the car on the way to meet the rest of the team, plus some impromptu breakdancing.

Pump up the jam!

Pump up the jam!

The team spirit of the event—not just our team, but all the teams, exchange station sponsors, race volunteers, spectators around town—blew me away. As Jeff said, “It felt like a block party for the whole town!” One where the official food is donuts. No joke—donuts were featured extensively at every exchange station. Plus, candy, orange slices and water. Our friends at Educational Advantage offered dozens of Krispy Kremes, for instance. At Trailside Elementary School, there was sparkling cider in plastic wine glasses. Teams had elaborate costumes. I ran behind one woman in a demure tutu (thank you Pink Tutu Lady for keeping me going), alongside a woman in a bumblebee-striped t-shirt, behind a man in camo base layers, that, perhaps, were not the most well-thought-out costume. As I jogged behind one runner in this getup, I dubbed his thin shorts, “TMI shorts.” Sorry, dude—maybe a base layer under your base layer next year?

We hooted and hollered at various decorated vehicles, like this one.

DSC_1196 DSC_1211

Cheers! (Fizzy-juice style)

Cheers! (Fizzy-juice style)

We giggled at the presence of a limo, provided by a sponsor to the team who raised the most money in the weeks leading up to the race:

Relay in style

Relay in style


At each leg, the rest of the team picked a spot to meet the running members and escort them into the exchange point. It wasn’t planned—I decided to go meet Lance and his pal as they approached Ecker Hill Middle School, then the kids decided together to run the last 50 yards of the killer Olympic Park hill with Kathy. Our kid-led runs included the leg from Jeremy Ranch Elementary School to Ecker Hill Middle School, Park City Mountain Resort to City Park, and Trailside Elementary School to the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Newpark.

Running up Utah Olympic Park Hill with Kathy

Running up Utah Olympic Park Hill with Kathy


And, then, we made a “thing” of it. Here we are with Mel…

Running with Ed, Running with Mel

Running with Ed, Running with Mel


And then my boys and I found a way to run the last mile or so with our teammates, and gathered a few more team members to cross the finish line, together.



Our family’s business, Proforma Peak Printing and Promotions, is a race sponsor. We created the step-and-repeat where teams pose for pre- and post-race photos, the route guidance signs that keep runners headed in the right direction, the lawn signs that racers place in their yards, declaring, “I’m Running with Ed!”

Look how much fun we had—and how cute we look in front of that step-and-repeat! We even did a few other projects—like team running shirts for a few clients, and the swag bags for the event. As the de-facto team captain, I was too distracted by, you know, all the other things I do in a day, to order screen-printed t-shirts, so I did the next-best-thing (or maybe even the better thing) and had the kids decorate our team shirts. They designed the logo—a battery—and wrote “Powered by Proforma” on the back of each shirt. Very cute.

We finished! (Two team members departed early for a birthday party!)

We finished! (Two team members departed early for a birthday party!)

This Ragnar-sponsored event, has a home-grown feel. Though, as a non-competitive runner—really, seriously, I have such short legs and small feet, that I look like a cartoon character, blurry from the waist down, when I run—I had to say, it was cool to see the actual athletes glide by me with their perfect runner form, and still yell out, “Good Job!” as they passed me. Our town takes a lot of pride in this event, and it shows. In fact, when Mel took me to a hot yoga class at our neighborhood studio, Tadasana, the next day, the instructor gave the event a nice shout-out. “Who ran? Show of hands?” she asked, before we began. “Thank you for supporting our kids’ education! Let’s stretch those hips!”

Here’s a cool video recap of the event, from Park City Television. For the record, the editor of this video had access to footage of me, mugging for the camera, arms raised in victory, looking like I was absolutely enjoying the endless hill. You will see, at about 00:58, that the editor made the choice to show, well, a different perspective.

Any way you slice it, the day rocked.

(all photos courtesy Jeffrey Rothchild)