Do you Ski at the Sundance Film Festival? | The Official Blog of Deer Valley Resort

In my life as an avid skier and a journalist, my worlds collide in funny ways. The Sundance Film Festival—which brings a huge contingent of my professional community to my front door—is a great example of this. Last year, for instance, an interview with a favorite actor proved to me that not skiing can be a win. (WHAT?!)

[Click the link below to see the full post, and to find out which actor saved me from myself.]

Source: Do you Ski at the Sundance Film Festival? | The Official Blog of Deer Valley Resort

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Endurance Test

Dudes, I’m getting after it, today. I went to my annual physical, and I remembered to fast and to abstain from coffee, beforehand. That was hard, man. Hard, like mining coal, you know? I mean, mining coal without the benefit of coffee. (My kids and husband were all, “Gee, we’re really sorry you can’t have coffee, today.” Because, they KNOW. I mean, once, after knee surgery, Jeff got me home, settled with my ice machine and brought me a double shot, freshly brewed, because I’d had to fast prior to the procedure. We don’t mess around.)

The doctor’s office is located across from Whole Foods, so after the exam and the nine vials of blood, and leaving with homework—mammogram— (WTF, Middle Age? You suck!),  I grabbed an oatmeal from their awesome oatmeal bar. No kidding: they serve peanut butter oatmeal alongside the regular oatmeal. And some sort of quinoa concoction. (I tried one of those for breakfast, once. I like my quinoa in the evening, thankyouverymuch.) I made mine with half peanut butter and half regular, and then piled on fruit and nuts like I was at a squirrel convention.

Anyway, while I was at Whole Foods, I stocked up on necessities. Ingredients for Jeff’s meat sauce-over-polenta dinner, for instance. A tray of sushi for my lunch (thinking ahead!) and this publication, so I can keep current on important events of our time. And, you know, other times.

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Of course, it’s for the kids, silly. In fact, I’m just going to slide it into place on the coffee table shelf and see how long it takes them to notice it. (Who wants to handicap this one? 22 seconds?)

Anyway, they have a coffee bar in Whole Foods, and I had every intention of purchasing a cup. Or a gallon. Instead, I purchased this Kombucha tea, because it promised me better brain function. Sorry, a “clear mind,” which made me laugh so hard I got really thirsty. By the way, it’s delicious, but I wish I’d been awake enough to read the ingredients and notice there is sugar within. (Coffee, stupid.)

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I’ve been home for 30 minutes, have consumed most of the tea, and I’m just as slow-witted as I was an hour ago. Whose fucking idea was it to skip the coffee???

 

 

 

Dr. Zizmor and the Bethenny Effect

You guys. Dr. Zizmor is retiring. I don’t even know how to process this. I haven’t lived in New York City for 14 years, and yet, so inextricably linked is this man—or, rather, his image—to my life there, I am feeling a distinct loss, imagining New York City subways without his rainbow-themed ads, his smiling (smirking?) face.

For the uninitiated: Jonathan Zizmor, MD is a dermatologist whose ads, like this one, have appeared on NYC subways for, well, a very long time.

When I first moved to New York and saw Jonathan Zizmor, M.D. looking down at me as I clung to the grip pole, I was mystified. My thoughts ran the gamut:

“What kind of doctor advertises on the subway?”

“What kind of person chooses a doctor based on the ads on the subway?”

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“I feel wrong even reading these ads.” And, yet, I was a captive audience. I had to read them. Even as I was reading the newspaper or a book, my eyes drifted upward to this man’s smiling face, and his promise of an improved face, body, skin. Wondering, all the while, “Doesn’t he know this is cheesy? Does he really think people sitting in the subway are going to read these ads, and think: ‘Yes. TODAY is the day for all those dermatology procedures I’ve been putting off, and I’m calling Jonathan Zizmor, MD to help me.'”

My zealous wonder (I would bring up these ads at dinner, with alarming frequency) was informed by the fact that I worked for women’s magazines, where the editors cultivated relationships with the best and brightest medical experts. The very thought of calling a doctor from a subway ad was preposterous.

Only today, as the announcement of his retirement at age 70, appeared and reappeared all over social media, did I figure out the fact that creating familiarity was Dr. Z’s stock in trade. It reminded me of an experience years ago when Jeff and I were at a party during the Sundance Film Festival.  We saw a familiar face across the room, and commented to each other that we couldn’t place her—one thing was certain, we knew we’d had dinner with her at our house. It was mildly embarrassing, therefore, that we couldn’t remember her name. Still, we found it irksome that she hadn’t come over to greet us.  Finally, we saw her speaking with another friend of ours, and when their conversation wrapped up, we asked the friend to ID her. Oh, said our friend, it’s Bethenny Frankel. We laughed and went over to introduce ourselves. “Bethenny, we were over there at our table getting mad at you because we thought you’d been to our house for dinner, and now you didn’t have the decency to say hello!” Bethenny cracked up. “You know, we have had dinner—if you watched me on TV while you ate. Right?” Right.

This is the genius of Dr. Z. It’s the Bethenny Effect. If you’ve ever taken the subway, you know Dr. Z. I’m willing to bet that he improved the skin of millions of subway riders, for all the years he worked, just by dint of the fact that he was an omnipresent evangelist for good skin.

And, maybe this was the magic—riding with Dr. Z made you forget, for just a minute, that you were in a grimy subway car. Maybe you were thinking about making the world a better place—surely that was the idea behind the rainbow? Whatever the case, Dr. Z was there to take you away from the guy with leg sprawl, next to you, and from the other guy crushing up against your back. So, thank you Dr. Zizmor. I wish you all the best in your retirement.  Though it begs the question: What ad will replace Dr. Z, in the city’s zeitgeist?

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

XOXO, Charla

I have so much to share about the Sundance Film Festival, which is happening right now, right where I live. But for now, I’m stuck in 1996, when, as a newly-minted editorial assistant at Glamour Magazine, I barely knew what Sundance was—all I knew was that my boss, the Entertainment Editor at the magazine, was here in Park City, going to movies, meeting celebrities, and, it turned out, planning a party. And today, the party came to a screeching halt, because Charla Krupp, the boss who was so much more than that to me, passed away from breast cancer. And it’s hard to believe that cancer got her—Charla, you see, was a force of nature all her own.

That January, she called me from Utah, way out here in the “801” (it was before Park City had acquired a different area code from Salt Lake City), to ask me to overnight a bunch of CDs to her condo—”Bari Nan!” she said, in that energized voice that always made her sound like she was about to impart crucial celebrity gossip, or maybe a state secret. “I need you to do me a favor! I decided to have a party, and I need some CDs! Can you go into my office and just pick out some good party CDs and ship them to me today?” We had stacks of CDs in the office, so it was pretty easy to find good party tunes. And it was easy to want to do whatever favor she asked—Charla was a great boss, and a terrific tour guide for one country bumpkin hire to learn from. It’s not lost on me that her birthday was the day before mine—because from the moment I met her, she’d somehow lead me wherever I was supposed to go. Heck, just shipping that package to a town that held a piece of my future, now seems like a literary allusion. Her husband, Richard, has referred to her today as a trailblazer—and in truth, her gift was opening doors, unlocking secrets (as she did in her books).

When she hired me, I was a shade of green that is particular to small town girls who move to Manhattan to make their way in the magazine world. I had memorized the company handbook, absorbed the culture as quickly as I could. And I was, at first, surprised by the ease with which she made her own rules—employees at the magazine were supposed to answer the phone with our names. Charla, though, sang “Hello!” into the receiver. Answering by name was beside the point—her greeting, her voice, were practically trademarked. She made her own hours—”If I’m out til all hours at screenings, I have to find some time to go to the dry cleaner and get my hair cut,” she said, by way of explanation of her 10:30am arrivals in the office. Soon, I would understand that she always made her own rules, blazed her own trails, did her own thing—well. Including the way in which she made many, many friends. In time, I became one of them.

But first, she would teach me—she would send me to screenings, offer me assignments that were just north of the coffee-getting and copy-making that were an inevitable part of my day. She made up excuses for me to go visit the office of our legendary Editor-in-Chief, Ruth Whitney, in the far corner of our office floor, to deliver manuscripts or special screening invitations. “Please tell Ruth that this is a premiere she should attend,” Charla would say, as though she wasn’t breaking a hundred unwritten rules that Editorial Assistants didn’t strike up a chat with the editor. These errands were not assigned just because she was too busy for these things. She wanted me to have exposure to the right people, the right opportunities. Once, she claimed to have left an important folder in the office when she was having lunch with Katie Couric, around the corner at the unofficial Conde Nast dining room (this was in the 350 Madison Avenue days, when there was no Frank Gehry-designed cafe in the big Times Square Tower the company currently calls home). She called me from the restaurant, “Could you please come around the corner and bring me that folder from my chair?” she asked. “I’m at the table with Katie.” Wowed, awed, stunned–and maybe a little curious as to why Charla needed a file full of manuscripts that had nothing whatsoever to do with Katie Couric, made my way around the corner in a flash, pausing to collect myself outside the restaurant and then adopting an “efficient bravado” from I know not where, when I addressed the hostess. “I have something to give to Charla Krupp,” I said. “Can you please direct me to her table?”

Her smile, when I arrived there, was beaming, genuine.

“OH, Bari NAN! You’re Here! You’re amazing! THAAAANK YOUUUUU!”

And then, as if she hadn’t planned this all along, she said:

“Katie, this is my fab-u-lous assistant Bari Nan. Bari Nan, this is my dear friend Katie Couric.”

There were nice to meet you’s, Katie turned her own dazzling grin on me, asked a few questions about working for Charla, where I came from, where I’d been to college, and then I excused myself, still absorbing what had happened. She had, I told Jeff that night, made up an excuse to introduce me to Katie. For no reason except to be nice.

As her assistant, I observed her doing favors for friends who hadn’t even asked, doting on her family members several states away, hosting her mother’s friends for tours of the magazine offices. And always, always the calls to Richard, several times a day, at his office at Time Magazine, or at home if he was working there.  Checking in, making plans, worrying that he hadn’t eaten—just connecting.

And there was nothing to keep her from doing the right thing—including wrangling an all-star lineup of special guests to pay tribute to Ruth Whitney, when she passed away, as if to right the injustice that was Ruth’s untimely death from ALS, and the unceremonious way in which she’d been replaced at the magazine not long before she’d died.

Over time, there would be more acts of personal and professional generosity, catch-up lunches to swap stories and industry gossip, which I loved, too. There were occasional lunches and phone calls—and lots of shocked “Whaaaaaat?”s when I told her that I was giving up my second Entertainment Editor job to move to Utah. There were promises to come skiing. There were calls when friends were coming to town…”can you take care of them?” She called me, once, unwittingly, when I was in the hospital, hours after I gave birth to my second child, asking for some information for her next book—unaware of what had just transpired. “Oh my GAWWWWD, Bari Nan. What have I done?! Why are you helping me NOW! You just had a BABY!” But she was the kind of person, the kind of friend, for whom anything you could do seemed like not quite enough. Afterward, she sent a lovely gift for the baby, including in the package a pair of simple pink leather travel slippers for me. “Pamper yourself,” the note read. “XOXO Charla.” Which was the way she signed all her notes and emails. XOXO, Charla. I took a lot of delight in calling her to tell her they were my favorite slippers to wear in the motor home. “Oh, Bari Nan, REALLY? A MOTOR HOME? Can’t you have a house in the Hamptons like everyone else?” This, from the woman who did nothing “like everybody else.”

One of our last conversations was a phone call I placed the minute I heard her dear friend, the publicist Ronni Chasen, had been shot to death. “Oh, Bari Nan! It’s awful!” Then, “I can’t believe you called. I can’t believe you remembered…” But she knew—she knew she was important to me, she knew I would always remember. She was grief-stricken. shaken, shocked—I listened, I offered condolences, I made her promise to come visit. I told her I loved her. Which I did, very much. I also liked her a whole lot. I know I’m not alone — she had many fans and friends. If you’re one of them, I invite you to share your favorite Charla memories in the comments.

For now, I’ll say this:

XOXO, Charla. You are missed.

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.

Yes, I get paid to watch TV!

This is the part where I trend #Ilovemyjob over and over again, right?

So, first, click over to Yahoo! Shine to see what I said when Prevention asked me to report on the Bachelorette’s-eye-view of Marriage. I wonder, do you think there’s any inherent value to the way the “reality” show approaches holy matrimony?

Then, go on over to Prevention.com, and see what shows made the cut when I watched (and watched and watched and watched) TV to find healthy messages.

You’ll be surprised to see how much good news there is on network TV. But you should have seen the looks I got from people at my “remote office” (a/k/a Park City Coffee Roaster), when I sat, for hours, streaming episodes of TV on my MacBook, and looking like a total slacker. #Ilovemyjob!

Even cooler….ABC NEWS picked up my story. Maybe it calls for a new hashtag? #struttinmystuff

Time thief

Today, I stole a few minutes in broad daylight and in full sight of my children, to sit on the front porch and read a magazine. If I’m being honest, I read one magazine article.  I usually read magazines after the kids are in bed or while I am working and they are at achool–hey, it’s legit, I’m a pop culture magazine writer!–when I can digest an entire issue in under an hour, the fact of reading an entire article during the day is a quantifiable BIG DEAL. I won’t tell you how long it took me and how many interruptions I overcame—because instead of feeling triumphant, I’ll just get depressed because I still have not gotten my kids to understand the value of not interrupting their mother.

I chose to read the current Summer Double Issue of New York Magazine,

and I was immediately determined to read—and finish—the story that belonged to the cover line: Making Up with Miranda July. I had to see what this was about. You see, I have seen The Future, the film by performance artist Miranda July, which opens in limited release on July 29, and should be required viewing for anyone considering “adopting a cat.”

(Crazy sidenote: I’m writing this during the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, and as I type, Brad Paisley is singing his hit single, “Welcome to The Future.”)

I thought it was brilliant. I saw it at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. You have to believe me when I tell you that the presence of a talking cat in the film only enhances the cloak of hyper-realism that engulfs the film. The story focuses on Sophie and Jason, a 35 year-old couple who contemplate whether adopting a stray cat will keep them from achieving their dreams. The cat is ill, and requires quarantine, and Sophie and Jason, hipster slackers, have determined to use the period of quarantine to try to reach their creative zenith. ‘Cause, you know, life ends when you get a cat. Doesn’t it?

When I left the theater on that cold January morning, I felt like I’d seen The Future—the truth about what Sundance films mean. You need to see them to know what’s coming next in the film world. But I also felt like I got a very intimate and honest look at how a relationship unravels.

That same week, I was invited to a dinner by Chase Sapphire, a festival sponsor. I was expecting a cattle-call buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres. What I got was an intimate dinner at Park City’s Wahso with director Miguel Arteta, who had a film called Cedar Rapids at the fest, and some Chase Sapphire customers who cashed in reward points and got, in return, a festival experience that included lodging, lots of movies, plus chance to chat up a famous director. It was pretty cool, I must say. Arteta proved to be engaging, charming, and genuinely interested in what everyone had seen. But never more keenly than when I said, yep, I’d seen The Future.

“What did you think??” He asked with an intensity that I found both endearing and a little surprising.

I returned his intensity, telling him I thought it was everything a Sundance film should be: a little disorienting, a lot thought-provoking, and so specific in its intention and execution that there wasn’t a wasted raised eyebrow. Ski Dad picked up on something more, though: “Why are you so curious?” Miguel (we were on a first-name basis by now) was quick to explain.

“I used to go out with Miranda. We were engaged. And that film is the story of our breakup.”

Ski Dad looked a bit alarmed. “Please tell me that you knew that before you saw it!?”

Indeed he had–he went on to say that he and Miranda had met when he mentored her at the Sundance Fillmmakers Lab. And that the only bone he had to pick was that he wished the actor who’d played him had been more attractive. Hamish Linklater, the actor who played Jason is very good looking. So is Miguel. Here’s proof, by the way, as photographed by Ski Dad.

Miguel Arteta at the Sundance Film Festival 2011. Photo: Jeffrey Rothchild

By now, I felt completely attached to the film. It really is one of those films that, if you love it, you love it completely. And you feel like you own it a little. In a good way.

I also felt hip. By association. Because, let’s face it. I’m not now, nor have I ever been, hip. And certainly, I’ve never once been a hipster. But when I saw Project Miranda July in New York Magazine, by Michael Idov  I was smitten. Everything about his story—he’d once written a song depicting his hatred for Miranda, and now asked her to co-write a revision, a love note—was the perfect complement to the film. Here, too, is something cool. I’ve never considered myself a performance-art kinda gal. And in the same way I thought you had to know everything about wine to enjoy a visit to the Napa Valley (boy was I wrong!), I used to think you had to be immersed in the genre to “get” performance art. Turns out, a person can dabble.

And that, my friends, is what made the stolen time worth it. Not only was I transported by the story itself (well-written magazine articles are a joy to behold), but I was transported back to one of my favorite moments of 2011–and transformed into the kind of person who thinks, I really should partake of more peformance art.