Skate skiing mojo

I needed a mojo boost. The start of the year had me feeling sluggish and grumpy—for no reason that I can think of, except, perhaps, a lack of exercise during the two-week school break. So, today’s activity—skate skiing—was just what I needed. What is skate skiing? Well, it’s a version of Nordic Skiing that is a cross between hockey skating and falling on your ass. Oh, wait, that’s just me. If you want to see how it’s really done, watch this video:

I’m not naturally gifted or graceful in athletics. Therefore, I sign up for lessons a lot. For instance, I’m a lifetime alpine skier, but I’ve done Women’s Weekend and Women on Wednesday, twice each, at Deer Valley. I’ve skied the Mahre Camp at Deer Valley. I’m a good skier, now, but it took all those lessons (on top of the weekly ski schools and racing camps I did as a kid) to get me there. Actually, as a child, I took lessons in everything: skiing, figure skating, swimming, tennis, horseback riding, and ballet. Oh, the ballet! So much of it, and I’m still the opposite of graceful. And, nearly every winter since we have lived in Park City, I have taken a lesson or two in skate skiing. I tried to get Jeff into it, calling in a favor to arrange a lesson on the 2002 Olympic Winter Games course at Soldier Hollow, with no less an inspiration than Luke Bodensteiner, a two-time Olympian. Jeff liked Luke a lot, but we didn’t win a convert that day. Jeff’s suggestion: I should find some friends who like to skate. It bummed me out a bit, because I had visions of going for skate dates, pondering life and nature together—or something.

Lucky for me some friends run a very cool women’s skate ski group: Park City Nordic Betties, which works like a team, with coaching, but has a decidedly no-pressure vibe, allowing members to self-select into ability levels. Plus, we get this cool hat!

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I am prepared to make good use of the awesome skate skis I bought last year (the week before I wrecked my knee), and to share a new sports adventure with my pal Kellie.

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The last two years, Kellie and I spent a day a week improving our alpine skiing at  Deer Valley’s Women on Wednesdays and the funny thing is, two of the first people we saw, today, were women we knew from WOW. I guess I’m not alone in my lesson-addiction.

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We went with the Beginner crew, led this week by my friend Inge—who announced that we’d be leaving our poles behind. Nothing—and I mean nothing—says “beginner” like skiing sans poles. Quickly, all those ballet lessons came into play—I had to balance. And I visualized the way I used to flex and point as I figured out how to better launch the skis. Ok, fine, it makes more sense in my mind—don’t judge. And I only fell once. Net net, the day was a success.

“It’s so much more fun to suck at something in a group of people doing the same thing,” I said, as the lesson ended. Everyone laughed, and then a couple of women chimed in. “It’s more fun when you’re with a group of women,” said one. “I hate to admit it, but when my husband says he wants to skate with me, I get a little bummed,” said another. When I told them about Jeff’s dislike of the sport, they simply said, “Lucky you!” I left in a great mood, knowing I could go home and proudly tell Jeff he was right, he really doesn’t want to skate. And, I haven’t taken off my hat, yet.

 

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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. 

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·        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.

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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?

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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!

 

The Unhealthy Health Writer

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You know how, sometimes, you read health stories in magazines, or you listen to a report on TV about the latest research, and you think: “I can’t possibly do all the things the world recommends to keep myself healthy?”  Well, imagine you are a health writer, and your job is to be on top of the latest research—to find that magic bullet that is protective against breast cancer and heart disease (oh, right, it’s exercise, and maybe chocolate, and possibly wine, but only if you have no family history of breast cancer and you’re half orangutan. Ok, I made that middle part up, whatever.). You spend your days mentally checking off the boxes in the “I’m not supposed to do/eat/think this column.” Or, if you’re me, you think: ‘Oh, great, I just ran three miles, but I forgot to stretch, and now I’m sitting on my butt writing for the rest of the day, and I read somewhere that that could be worse for me than not exercising at all.’

And then, of course, the science changes. Things you thought you were supposed to avoid (hello, eggs), turn out to be just peachy, thankyouverymuch. Still, you can’t shake the notion—or, at least, I can’t shake the notion—that while I’m doing research on a story on heart disease prevention, it’s a sort of sacrilege to down three mini-quiches at the coffee shop while I send email queries to experts. I know, I know, I’m a rebel without a cause. Here are some other things I do, dead wrong:

I don’t sleep much. At all. Instead, I struggle to stay awake to see how House Hunters: Renovation turns out. (Hint: It cost more than they budgeted to spend. There were unexpected delays. It’s more beautiful than they can imagine. And they are now trapped in a museum quality masterpiece of a house that they cannot afford.) Sleep is one of those things experts like to tell me, for attribution, that make a difference in weight gain, weight loss, inflammation, heart health, and a host of other health issues. That’s all well and good, but if the Property Brothers are on my DVR, well, they’re not going to watch themselves!

I over-caffeinate. This works out well for no one. Except for the imaginary people who are chasing me.

I forget to floss. My awesome dental health professional, Mike, likes to tell me I can get by with a few days a week. This, to my ears, is code for “not at all.” Oops.

I try to “win” yoga. This is defeatist in about six different ways. First of all yoga is where you are supposed to find your Zen, go inward, and forget that other people are in the room. Missy, the instructor in my Wednesday morning class, overheard me telling a pal, before class, that I had gotten so enchanted with the idea of “flipping the dog” and doing “wheel” pose, because the substitute instructor said something about “reaching for a goal,” in the previous week’s class, that I spent the rest of the week with a pinched nerve in my neck. So, the whole class got a lecture about checking our egos at the door, and just doing what our bodies want in the moment. My body, it wants to WIN, dammit.

I bite off more than I can chew and burn the candle at both ends while thinking up other cliches to describe my predicament. This is a version of the lecture I received from my parents for my entire educational career, every time I took on a role in the school play, plus wrote for the school newspaper and joined three fun clubs, at the expense of my GPA. That last part just makes me a bad writer.

I don’t stretch after I work out. Not enough, anyway. My hamstrings are forever tight. I have failed massage. Twice.

I eat sugar. Not tons. Unless there’s a bag of marshmallows in the house. Then, watch out, people.

I want fries with that. Every time. Never, ever, ever do I substitute the salad.

I spend too much time on social media. It’s an occupational hazard. I am endlessly curious, and also always in pursuit of a story idea. And if three friends whine about the same thing—sore hamstrings from spinning, guilt over eating something yummy, or whatever…it could be a trend!

All in all, none of these are terrible health sins. I still subscribe to the “everything in moderation, including moderation,” mantra. But I know, too, that I let myself get away with too many of these things, too frequently. Especially the sleep thing. So, what are you letting slide? What health habits do you consciously overlook, and then berate yourself for doing so?

 

 

 

 

 

 

S@&t working moms say

Twice in two days, I was struck by the hilarity of the juggle.

First, a chat with my friend, ski coach and favorite congressional candidate, Donna, about why we can’t seem to do one thing at a time, and how frustrated we feel about doing things only partly to our standards. We live fragmented lives, and hope for the best.

Then, the next morning, I haul my butt to the gym. The butt is tired. It did TRX on Monday (ouch), spin on Tuesday, in which its buddy and neighbor, the lower back got tweaked, and then skied itself into oblivion on Wednesday. There was a twisted ankle at some point in the ski day, and I resolved to keep my butt in a chair for one day.

I am not good at the whole butt-in-the-chair thing—sometimes I write while standing up. And in order to write (butt-in-chair activity of choice and necessity), I must have my brain turned on. Which only happens if I exercise, first thing. Sadly, I don’t exercise before I get dressed. More on that, in a moment.

Anyhoo, I was attempting to take the day “off” from exercise. Which meant I was not going to attend my friend Keri’s “Buns and Guns” class. This involves many squats, lunges, curls, flys, and plyometric jumping. It is an aggressive, grueling 75 minute workout. And I love it. But, on this day, I would simply rock the elliptical ARC machine in the cardio loft. Keri pulled into the parking space next to mine, and we headed for the loft, together. We hopped on adjacent machines. We chatted. She looked at me, her expression a little bit off—”I didn’t eat breakfast. I don’t feel right. I’m going to grab a snack.”

This is not unusual—she’s a busy working mom. Meals get skipped. It happens. She returned, fed.

“Why don’t you just drink a smoothie?” I asked, after she explained that breakfast had fallen victim to the morning rush of trying to sign forms, write checks, and all the other crap we have to do in order to ship our children off to school in the morning, prepared.

“That’s the funny thing. I made one for them. But not for me,” she said.

And then, she looked at me. Really looked.

“Um, did you know your t-shirt is on, inside-out?”

“No. But that doesn’t shock me. I can’t think until I’ve exercised. And, apparently, getting dressed requires thought.”

“Shoot, you’re ahead of me: You ate breakfast.:

And, scene.

BLURRED LINES AND BODY IMAGE

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.

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.

I want J. Lo’s Trainer, Michelle Obama’s Arms, and…

…a stand-up paddle board, plus some lessons in the sport.

Ordinarily, I’m not one of those folks who relies on putting things out “to the universe” and seeing what I get in return. I’ve always been a fan of picking a goal and working at it. I’m not judging people who swear by the law of attraction. In fact, I happen to envy their ability to write a random seven or nine figure number on a piece of paper, tuck it under their pillow, and believe that they will come into that amount of money.

(And now, I’ll admit that I was insomnia-busting with my DVR last night, and found a long-ago recorded episode of The Lottery Changed My Life, on TLC. This episode profiled  a woman who had adopted her late brother’s children, quit her job to care for them and then did the whole Law of Attraction thing, right down to the big-money note under the pillow…And. She. Won. That. Exact. Amount.)

I think in terms of process and product. It may be because I’ve worked in women’s magazines for so many years, interviewed a ton of celebrities about their healthy lifestyles, and arrived at the conclusion that one gets a hard-body like J. Lo’s through a combination of hard work, determination, discipline, deep pockets for the trainer fees, delivered meals, and the ability to schedule hour after hour of physical training.

I look at photos of Michelle Obama and think: I need to find the discipline to rise each morning for a predawn workout. I once read that when her first daughter was born, Michelle noticed that her husband didn’t miss a workout—so she figured out the 4am workout as a way to take care of herself before she started meeting the needs of others. Still, I wondered…how does she look so, well, sculpted? As it turns out, the answer to that question (and any others a person could possibly dream up about what makes the First Lady of the United States appear so polished, confident and engaging) arrived in the form of a review copy of What Would Michelle Do? by Allison Samuels.

Maybe there’s something to this attraction thing after all?

Let’s put aside that I’ve been reading Allison’s writing for years in Newsweek, and I’ve always admired her style—it’s bright, informed, engaging and sharp. She has interviewed the First Lady several times for Newsweek, and that credibility is clear in the book. And, yes, the book delivers the exact routine that can get me those “guns.” Slam dunk.

Reassuringly, What Would Michele Do? is chockablock with the kind of advice that’s best described as “common-sense-plus.” Informed by her interviews with the First Lady for Newsweek, as well as other research and interviews with various members of the First Lady’s team, the book attempts to bridge the gap between aspiration and activation. We get a peek at how Michelle learned to create her signature style, cultivate meaningful friendships, balance (and blend) her professional and family lives according to the rules that work for her. The book is respectful, not dishy. For me, the best message of the book is this: The guidelines don’t give you a recipe for a perfect life. Instead, they acknowledge the fact that the one hard and fast rule is to know yourself and your own needs—and that doing things “like everybody else” is a recipe for failure. Taking in information through your personal filter, and using it to your best advantage—that’s likely the best example of WWMD.

Because Allison has interviewed the First Lady several times, the book is filled with insights that are informed by those meetings as well as information gleaned from key “insiders” (her mom, her hairstylist)—but delivered in a way that makes it clear that these tips are actionable by women of any means. Take the workout—headline: No Gym, No Problem. Very un-Hollywood.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m going to snap a photo of that page with my phone so I can reference it for my own workouts.

Overall, the book delivers on the promise of the title—a 3-D view of how Michelle navigates the worlds she inhabits.

And in the spirit of the WWBND reference on my own site, I’ll tell you how I’m changing my tune about attraction.

I have announced to my family that I want that paddle board, that the ultimate Mother’s Day gift is a package of paddle boarding lessons. And I will keep announcing it. Some way, somehow, those lessons will happen.

What will you do?

Counting snowflakes

“Look, I see one!”

 

“There’s another!”

 

“I KNEW it would snow today!”

 

“I love snow! I love it because then we get to go skiiiiiiiiiiing!”

 

There were probably—and this is just a rough guesstimate, so bear with me—four snowflakes today. But, apparently, that was enough to get my kids gabbing, yet again, about skiing.

It set off the running checklist in my mind—the missing gloves to be located or replaced, equipment to be checked for fit, and traded up for size at Utah Ski and Golf, where we enrolled Big Guy in the Grow-With-Me program (you pay a flat fee, they provide equipment as the child grows until age 12 or so.). Little Guy has 70 cm skis that we purchased, since he started skiing so young that no rental shop carried gear in his size. Thankfully, Surefoot, where his “Ski Aunt and Uncle” purchased a pair of boots for him two years ago, offers a trade-up program for kids, as well.

Then, I’ll remind myself, like I do every year, what it takes to enjoy skiing with your kids. Click on that hotlink, above, and you can see what I wrote about it on my Deer Valley Blog this week.

This weekend, we’ll go have our photos taken for our season passes at Deer Valley. We’ll sort out the gear issues. And then, we will wait, not terribly patiently, for the first snow.

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.