Chapter Nine: Meeting Baddy

(This chapter was written in a 2017 Aspen Words Summer Workshop taught by Chinelo Okparanta, of whom I absolutely adored!)

My body lay horizontally across the bed with my head hanging off the edge. The world felt so upside down at that moment, this was my feeble attempt to turn it all right side up. Glancing away from the yellow water stain on the ceiling that had expanded into interconnected circles, I glanced outside at the mountains outside my window, all connected in a wavy symphony of silhouetted peaks as the warm summer breeze rustled the leaves in the trees.  I wondered if everything in the world, except for myself, was connected to something? It was the kind of evening I longed for all winter long, warm enough to be outside without having to wear layers of down. I should have been out there in it, allowing for the sweet summer evening air to brush lightly over my bare skin and help to blow off the self doubt invading my mind. I was listless, my spine sinking heavier into the mattress, weighting me down into the springs as I reflected upon yet another failed romance.

I was supposed to be on a balcony in Italy, inhaling the sweet scents of Jasmine while wrapped in the strong arms of my boyfriend who I had met the previous winter on top of Highland’s Bowl, my white gauze strapless dress blowing in the Mediterranean breeze. But somewhere along the way, the needle of my life got stuck in a groove and it was skipping, leading me to hanging upside down pontificating life, and how this man, this relationship I had fled from in Turkey the week we were supposed to go to Italy, was all that my father had ever wished for me. Only, it wasn’t what I wanted.

A panic had set in as I felt the wheels of the plane land from my First Class seat, boxing me into the murky depths of my mind which incessantly replayed my father’s lectures that began when I was still learning to ride a bike. “You have to take life more seriously. It’s not all about fun,” he’d admonish me as I wove and swerved my way onto our neighbor’s lawns packing down freshly mowed grass into tiny tire tracks. “Make sure that you look for a man to take care of you. Somebody with money. Somebody Jewish. I’m not going to be here watching over you forever,” he’d lecture, waving his hands in the air like a spastic windmill.

Tomás was my father’s dream come true for me,  his youngest daughter. A man who I had almost moved away from Aspen to live with in his bachelor pad in Pacific Heights, a cozy apartment that felt like a mini version of the living room I had grown up in, all grown up with Tiffany stained glass lamps with bulbs casting a glow through red firefly eyes, and oriental carpets sprawled underneath antique furniture imported from all his parents travels all over the world.

He had looked good on paper. An Investment Manager, making millions. A graduate of Harvard with a postgrad degree at Columbia. Jewish. Or at least, his father was Jewish, which would certainly pass my father’s criteria. What wasn’t spelled out was his bipolar disorder that leaked out the more the Turkish culture where we were traveling seeped in.

It was his idea, inviting me to come along on a trip he was already planning, to Greece, Turkey, and then on to Italy. “But it’s only been two months into our relationship,” I stated. His eagerness to speed things up concerned me. What was his rush? That time he had slipped out that idea of my moving out to live with him felt like it was more an empty promise in the heat of passion as we broke in every nook and cranny of his pied a terre, rather than a true invite.

Tomás was moving way too fast, but I was done with my life lived in Aspen where my endless search to find that guy to take care of me kept leading from one college grad exploring his new found freedom, to another. NOT the place to get serious about life. Tomás was a real man. Doing something real with his life. A man who knew what he wanted. And so I let him book my first class round trip ticket. I was experienced enough in relationships that I should have recognized the red flag warnings as they flapped loudly in the windless air.

The criticism of my behavior began about two weeks into the trip.  Tomás began reprimanding me for everything, the way I enjoyed the prayers broadcasted over the loudspeakers at night that flowed into my dreams, the way I woke up early ready to go exploring everyday. It annoyed him that I needed to go running in the sweltering afternoon heat, despite the dogs chained up baring their fangs and lunging after my heels, their chains barely keeping them from eating me whole.  His judgement began to feel like I was wearing a wet wool blanket. I wrote his words down at night to sift through them and decipher what was real and I needed to improve upon and what was bi-polar.

It was a cooler afternoon and Tomás was going on about my not being properly dressed for the stroll we were taking along the wharf. It was when he began haggling the price down on the muscles he was trying to buy off of a barefoot Turkish man with no teeth, where I strolled away. I didn’t like the seething feeling I felt bubbling beneath my surface as I took him in, his smug expression on a head too large for his small stockish body, a body that reminded me of those Dachsund/Corgi mixes. Standing there in Gucci leather loafers, a Brooks Brother pale pink shirt and a navy smoking jacket arguing he argued at the price of .5 cents per muscle. I didn’t care to see his shrewd business side play out on somebody who would probably be eating those muscles he didn’t sell for dinner, and breakfast.

“Come with us for a sail,” the tanned Australian boy said with a wink as I walked by his schooner, his eyes flashing of trouble and adventure as he lured me onto his boat. This was exactly the offer I was hoping for, a quick escape to the ancient city of Ephesus to send the message to Tomás that I was right, it was too early for us to travel together and that his nitpicking ways were slicing into our romance.

Placing my white Adida sneaker with red stripes onto the meticulously polished mahogany deck, ready to be the next character out of a Paul Bowles novel, the word “Kidnapping” shrieked into my brain. “I’ll report you for kidnapping,” Tomás was yelling as Turkish police with sweat stained khaki armpits and black stained teeth rolled cigarettes at the nearby market. I saw him pointing his finger at the boat I had stepped on, and I felt all eyes follow the end of his finger and land on me. Even the slaughtered goat heads as they sat on the shelves amongst the pickled onions seemed to be staring at me vacantly. I stepped off the boat.

On the flight home Tomás had admitted that he had put me on a pedestal that day we had met at the top of a mountain peak in Aspen, but that my joie de vivre that he had first found himself attracted to had driven him to a dark place. That the more carefree I became the more he had plunged into depression. He thought he had wanted somebody who could bring levity and surprise into his predestined path laid out for him by his intellectual parents, but he acknowledged that his romantic illusions of what he thought he wanted were a far cry from what he was really needing. He needed everything in its place where he felt he had control.

Wondering whether the connecting circles would crumble into an avalanche of mold and suffocate me in my sleep with the next summer storm, my 32 year old self recognized that love was not something that one could force, and that I was a failure not only to myself, but also to my father for not having been serious enough while searching for it. One thing was clear, as much as I was not cut out for the men in Aspen, I also was not made for the men that my father had prescribed. I was destined to live my miserably happy life all alone.

Needing to reacquaint myself with who I really was, and not somebody who everybody else wanted me to be, I threw my favorite lacy dress over my shoulders and drove down to a party at a friend of a friend’s house in the countryside.

The pink velvet couch that snaked it’s way around the entire oval shaped room was so low I had to do my best to gracefully plop my lacy self down so as to stop standing out like a sore thumb amongst the crap brown shag carpet and faux terrier fur pillows. I was dressed all wrong.

Introducing myself to the girl I landed next to, dressed far more appropriately in frayed jean shorts and a plaid cotton shirt tied into a knot at her navel, she said her name was Lisa, a perfectly petite girl about my age with enormously round translucent blue eyes, an athletic body and silky blonde shoulder-length hair. The type of girl most men took to immediately. Lisa had been sitting alone on the couch and was eager to talk. “Are you here alone too,” she asked? “My boyfriend hates parties,” she explained, “But I needed to get out of the cabin. Sometimes the quiet can be a little too noisy to deal with.”

She was chatty that Lisa, and I sat and listened to her monologue about Chuck, her wood chopping, flannel wearing boyfriend. “He’s perfectly yummy,” she exclaimed, ” With a scruffy beard and eyebrows that give him such character as they shoot off in different directions as if electrified by their own  currents. “The one thing is, I can’t get over his scent. He smells as if he eats bacon every morning, but he’s a vegetarian.” She said, her brows knit in perplexity. “What’s the attraction then,” I asked stroking the pillow next to me. Usually it was the scent of a man that drew me in closer. I couldn’t imagine the confusion that must bring, feeling one’s salivary glands juice up, while being repulsed at the same time. Maybe everybody was a bit bi-polar. Maybe I had been too picky all these years.

It was the gust of mountain air I felt that made me look up to see him enter into the house. His elegant stature offset by slightly stooped shoulders, as if apologizing for his chiseled jaw and strong physique. The sign by the door said “Shoes Off” and I watched as he placed his well worn sneakers by the front door and set his dish onto the brown linoleum countertop in the subterranean kitchen where guac and chip eating guests mingled. Bending his a-framed shoulders over the hostess of the party, he placed a large hand on her back and kissed her hello on her cheek. Was his hand intentionally gently placed, or did it retain some kind of ownership? I couldn’t decipher from where I sat.

As Lisa rambled, I did my best to keep my eyes on her middle forehead so I could also watch as he said hello to friends who seemed so eager to get his attention. His haircut, shaved very closely to his head with a #1 blade felt severe. Were his long bird like legs peaking out from his long white corduroy shorts shaved? I knew his type, another bike racing dude on a strict regime of oatmeal, bike magazines and spinach.

As he moved around the party something black flashed into my periphery and I zoomed in for a closer look. Black socks?! I quickly averted my attention back to Lisa’s watery baby blues and dove back in.

Suddenly he was standing above us, his long tapered legs reminding me of the Blue Heron Crane I had seen by the river earlier that morning. I wondered if his feet were webbed. “You think everybody was on acid in the 70’s when they built homes like these?” he asked, directing his question towards me. His smile was George Clooney-like, with deeply grooved lines around his eyes that spoke of laughter and happiness.  My eyes swept the room noticing the sunken living room, the nouveau Buddha statues, the very bad painting of the hostess placed over the fireplace, her left dark nipple protruding out from the bubble bath she seemed to be frolicking in. “It feels as though we are in a badly staged genie bottle,” I replied, giving him only a half committed smile.

“If I had all that drug money, I would have NO house and take off on my Honda to see the world,” he said. Black socks …. Shaved Head … No ambitions, I tuned back into Lisa.

Ignoring our new visitor, she continued, “Sometimes he searches his beard with his tongue for pieces of his breakfast, and licks the morsels back into his mouth.” I looked up to see his reaction. He was smiling, seemingly amused.

Resorting back to our own conversation he continued, “Personally, I’d rather be like Don Juan sitting on a rock eating Peyote while discovering the hidden messages of life that I would certainly miss if I sat dropping acid in a room like this.” My ears perked up and I looked back up at his tall tree trunk of a frame. Searching for life’s meaning was far different than living a lie instilled by controlling parents. I stood up abruptly, ending Lisa’s monologue, my eyes level with his broad chest covered only by a thin pale yellow dress shirt, undoubtedly gifted to him. “What dish did you bring?” I asked, staring into his deep green eyes speckled with brown, like Pine trees in the forest. I waited upon his answer as if it were a clue to our future. “Mashed potatoes gratin with corn,” he replied. An impressive answer. “Made from a box.” He continued. Perfectly imperfect, I thought, noticing that he had a faint hooked scar on his forehead that looked as though an owl had swooped down on a pitch black night and tried to carry him away as a child. I felt something stir within me. A desire to get closer.

He introduced himself as Wes, and told me that he had just been recruited here from San Francisco by a top Architect firm, and that it was a tough decision to make the change because he had a very large family and he was contributing his earnings to his parents who both worked full time for a bro-bono law firm who helped victims of domestic violence. My earlier thoughts of becoming a spinster fell from my shoulders falling into the shag carpet that I was kneading between my toes.

Before asking me my name, he asked if I wouldn’t mind stepping outside to take a stroll under the velvety starry sky. “But you just got here,” I replied. “That’s okay. I’m not much into crowds, and the night is young. I told him that I wasn’t dressed for that. “That’s okay,” he said with his movie-star smile. You can wear my fleece.”

Maybe the journey I had just taken, and all the journeys prior to that, had led me to this very moment. A moment where preconceived notions of how life should be were only just that. Notions. Maybe, it was possible to shed what should be and accept what is. And maybe … just maybe … it was time for me to start taking life a little more seriously and just be me.

A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen’s Professional Social Club

Hosted by CEO and Founder of Equus Private Wealth Management, Ron Speaker, our Aspen Business Connect professional social network gathered together on a beautiful June evening in the garden of the Equus building in Carbondale, Colorado.

A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club

At the front door greeting guests were three lovely Aspen High School students. Supporting young adults is a true passion of ours and bringing in their vibrant energy always adds so much to our events. There were also Aspen Business Connect Ambassadors assigned to float around and ensure that our guests felt relaxed and welcome.

We began the evening as we always do, mingling and connecting. Then we introduced our sponsor, President of FirstBank Roaring Fork Valley,  Dave Portman, who spoke of their “Banking for Good” motto and how FirstBank has been empowering home owners by providing resources for home buying.  Sponsoring Aspen Business Connect for three years in a row exemplifies FirstBank’s desire to connect community. He also spoke of FirstBank’s Bloom campaign where they partnered with the non-profit, “Trees Unlimited”. With the Bloom Package bankers who sign up for Online Banking with eStatements have no minimum balance and no monthly service charges.

A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club A Beautiful June Evening Spent with Aspen's Professional Social Club


When Ron Speaker took the stage he mentioned how he has made many new friends through our network and how he originally became a member to better connect with our Women Empowering Woman events, Ron is the creator of Aspen Women’s Wealth Forum, a new resource for empowering women’s financial education in the Roaring Fork Valley.

We all know at least 5 business professionals whom we admire for their knowledge, expertise, big heart, and customer service. Please invite them to join Aspen Business Connect. And if you have not yet joined, now is the time. ~ Ron Speaker

Next up was Aspen Success Coach, Jeff Patterson, who shared a childhood story where a vision towards his future was gifted to him from his father. With his empowering words encouraging us to transform into the new selves we are ready to become, a magnificent yellow Monarch butterfly soared over his head. It was at that moment that it hit me that this event was the result of my manifestation over Covid where I spent hours and hours of time meditating and visualizing intimate gatherings of business professionals, invited for their professionalism, expertise, and creative minds. This sign confirmed my belief that one cannot realize their “next big thing” unless one envisions it first. You have to dream it up and watch it on the larger-than-life mental movie screen before you can go after it, and then, when it happens it means it is time to gather that momentum to grow what you have created. I am now determined more than ever to complete programming for the summer/fall of 2021.

There are many ways that you can become involved. We need sponsorships to underwrite these events, and venues to hold them at. We also encourage you to become a member to attend these meet-ups and meet the other professionals. Our windows have opened and the light is flooding in, let’s get back to connecting!




Artist Sarah Uhl: “Now is the Time”


Mental Wellness in a Post-Covid World

The Hurst Community Initiative is collaborating with the libraries and chambers of commerce in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle, and Parachute to host an 8-part speaker series.
Each community selects a topic and local speakers, and the Aspen Institute finds a moderator for each event.

April 20th 12-1PM


pro ski bum

I was getting on the chair single, when an older man skied up to ride the chair with me. As always a conversation ensued. I can tell immediately if I should whip out my video camera and interview the person for their interesting and/or inspiring story, but opt first to get to know one another, create a comfort level, and in the last 10 mins ask if I can interview them right then and there on the chair.

The man’s name was Akos “from Seattle” but he had a thick Germanic accent. Having a British mum who often answers “Massachusetts” when people ask her where she is from, I knew not to push, although I have never understand that. My mum is proud to be British so why not just say she’s from Leicestershire.

Akos was a self-proclaimed “Pro Ski Bum” and had figured out the most economical way to travel throughout Colorado in his motorhome on an annual four month ski trip. His secret? He purchased six Colorado ski passes i.e.; Collective Pass, Max Pass, Elevation Pass etc…

A genuine and friendly man, Akos told his stories, revealing that he had no problems making friends on his journeys, but his ultimate desire was to find a traveling companion, male or female, to embark on his journey with him where he stays at each resort for 2-3 days and moves on.

When we got off the chairlift he considered hiking the bowl with me but seemed more in the mood for corduroy groomers and so we exchanged contact information and parted ways with an open invitation for an interview the next day if time allowed before he moved on. Time did not allow.

How to use Social Media for Business

How to use Social Media for Business

Watch this video created by BrandMaker Media and see why businesses are signing on to be included in our boutique storytelling marketing agency. Also, BrandMaker Media now has an 8-week course that begins July 7th, “Jumpstart Your Brand Online: NEW Immersive Experience”. This is what we’re talking about. Collaboration and referrals. Join in! Click here for more information and to register. Use code JILLIAN for 10% off.

Changing Your Frequency

I have been fascinated by the concept of changing my vibration and raising my frequency.

Last May, after throwing my most successful sold out event, I felt empty and had to retreat from my work of connecting others and discover what I required to continue.

What fun to share the results of hours and hours of meditation, visualizations and raising my frequency as the magic returns and I again become a super attractor, drawing in the most incredible people (and abundance).

As I reached the top of the bowl (my temple) I felt electrified and downloaded the thought that when one changes their vibration and raises one’s frequency one begins to witness the true magic of life, and one thing I am certain of, if you believe in all of this, the magic becomes real, and you can stay in that space as long as you keep believing.

A Spiritual Encounter

In our gorgeous contemporary farmhouse in the countryside, Wade had built me a beautiful office with a huge window that framed 8 point bucks and coyotes as they stood outside peaking in while I wrote. It was situated purposefully next to the kitchen so I could jut in and out preparing meals while writing, allowing me to take multi-tasking to the extreme.

Wade’s office, on the other hand, was outside our property in a spooky old barn with no heat and no comforts, other than the sexy poster taped to the back of his door of a badass half dressed blonde with an enticing stare and a pierced belly button.

On this particular freezing day, I needed to send a 137 paged fax to our mortgage company in the attempt to get a refi and save the house. Putting on my Sorrels and double down, I trudged out through the new snow to walk into the dark. Sliding the barn door open, I tried my best to shut my mind off to Wade’s warped sense of humor and sardonic teasing of hanging me on the meat hook as a trophy if I ever pushed him to hard.

I swirled round and round in his office chair making smoke rings from the cold as the cogs in the fax machine squeaked the pages through, when suddenly the hair prickled on my neck. I wasn’t alone.

I froze as the adrenaline pumped through my body, my heart thumping so hard I thought it may just abruptly stop. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath, and breathed out a muted “Hello,” the word floating up into the air.

I had communicated with him many times before in my mind but never out loud.

….and then he spoke, “Hi.”

A slight warm breeze brushed my cheek. He was there, behind me, enveloping my being with his presence. I refrained my impulse to run out of the barn into the blinding white snowstorm. I had been waiting for this moment for so long and I was melting in his presence, unable to resist what came next.

Closing my eyes again I waited for his words.

‘….why aren’t you scared anymore?”

“I guess I have grown to trust you,” I responded.

“Tell me,” I asked, “Is it you who beats me up in order to hear the messages?Stinging me, or knocking my head on the corner of the counter?”

“….yes. you are stubborn, and sometimes you don’t listen.”

“I am never certain that it really is you or just my conscience,” I said.


“Can you tell me something?” I asked, my voice still sounding meek and helpless. “Can you tell me who you are, and why you have chosen me to guide and protect?”

“You already know who I am.”

“Yes, but do I really? I have so many questions to ask you but am afraid to hear the truth.”

“Jillian, you already know all the answers. You just have to believe in yourself, and in me.”

“Can I see you at least?”

“We have been together many times before, in your dreams.”

“I love you, you know,” I said

“Yes, I know,” he replied.

“Jillian, there is something important that I have to tell you before I go.”

“Are you sure I’m ready for it? I mean, maybe I am not cut out for this and am better remaining in the not knowing.”

“Jillian, you are not like the rest.”

Just at that moment the door flung open and Wade blew in from the cold outdoors. He glanced over at the fax machine and back to my face assuming my paleness was from our financial stress.

I told him that I was waiting for him to save me from myself as he always has done and always will do for me.

I came out of the barn needing to feel the ground beneath my feet. Slowly, slowly I walked back to the house, Wade’s arms wrapped around me in comfort.

If you Believe in the Magic, Than the Magic is Real

Usually I look at the astrological charts when my life feels flat, but not these past few months … well, this past year really. It’s as if I’ve been bound up in a crystalis, just opening myself up to the universe to transform me and tell me what’s in store for me.

Then suddenly it’s as though I get lifted up and blasted through the barriers, like a flaming meteorite on fire, and then what ensues is an apoplectic Meteor Shower of serendipitously momentous breakthroughs, where the phone starts ringing with offers, and all the brain swelling obstacles I have been painstakingly bullying my way through since March, all settle down… at once, culminating in a day like today. Pure gold. Pure unadulterated happiness.

Mental Breakthroughs

These breakthroughs always inevitably involve a drive over Independence Pass, while listening to books on audible like; The War on Art, and Atomic Habits, helping me to understand my blockages and habits, and learn more about what it is that I am resisting.

Take my last trip. It was dusk. I was towards the end of @gabbybernstein’s, The Universe has my back. In the scene I’m listening to, she and her male friend go into the woods after a few drinks, blaring elk calls from a speaker, when an angry, territorial elk comes stomping towards them out of the bush, steam angrily snorting out his nostrils ready to fight his opposer. And I kid you not… just as that scene ended … an enormous lone buck slowly lumbered across the windy road, directly in front of my car.

Learning from a friend’s insta post that this Mercury retrograde and eclipse season lures us to go into the inner terrain. I begin to understand that this has all been a life changing growth test, an opportunity to learn compassion for myself and others. The serendipitous moments confirming that one must believe and not give up hope, as the magic is most definitely real.

Will Nolan Executive Chef Viceroy Snowmass at Heritage Fire

Will Nolan, Executive Chef at Viceroy Snowmass tells us of his love for Heritage Fire in Snowmass (2018)

Six Simple Tips to Teach Your Teen Good Money Habits

Managing Money For Teens

A recent study found that 84 percent of teenagers want to learn about managing money. What’s more, your kiddos are eager to know the ins-and-outs of personal finance from you, their parent.

Financial Literacy For Teens

In fact, children who begin learning personal finance early on are more likely to be financially literate in later stages of life, and have a higher probability of being successful.

FirstBank sat down with local author, Craig Kaley of “Money Athletics: Your Game Plan to a Financially Fit Tween,” to bring Aspen parents six easy tips to teach your kiddo good money habits.

Read more HERE.

Uni for Breakfast and Santa Margarita at the Food & Wine Classic

The Local Scene Over Food & Wine

Just living life as best as possible over the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Stay tuned to all of our social media for fun live feeds and interviews as we seek out lobster, caviar and bubbles.

Santa Margarita Brunch

Nikki Cardamone
Kory Kemp & Jennifer Engel Santa Margherita USA and Leslie Hartley Sbrocco

Chefs Club Presents Park90 Chef Tom Coohill

Teen Mental Hygiene Through Mindful Parenting

Teen Mental Hygiene Through Mindful Parenting

Teen Mental Hygiene Through Mindful Parenting

I  have wanted and needed answers to my questions on what resources and programs are available in our Roaring Fork Valley and in our schools to keep the mental hygiene of teens healthy. I have needed to learn what to do when I question the behavior of my boys, their friends or other adult influencers in their lives. I have needed to stand up and say no when other parents were saying yes, and to be empowered to hold my ground when it was crumbling beneath me, as I heard words from other adults that made me feel delusional, alone, paranoid and very much on my own island with my parenting. But the most important reason as to why I planned this symposium in 60 days, was that I felt the need to bring us all closer together to create that village, in a valley known for community and for stepping up to help others. I needed to get a clearer perspective on the climate of the health of our teens in our valley, and begin to gain a greater understanding of how we may work better together as a whole to weather the storm and become that village to change social norms.

This past November five high school students swerved on a curve in a Tesla by the T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen, careened off a cliff, hit a tree, and landed in a hypothermic river. They all miraculously survived, but two were injured with a broken eye socket and a broken arm, amongst other injuries. The 19-year-old Aspen High School senior who was driving the vehicle, and his parents, are now being charged with giving drugs and alcohol to minors as per the Aspen Times. The three family members were charged last month with a total of 41 counts related to parties allegedly thrown at their Aspen Highlands-area home that included minors.

With three teen boys of my own, and as the Aunt of one of the teens who was a passenger in the Tesla crash, my concerns have escalated for the health of teens in the Roaring Fork Valley where I live. As a blogger and community influencer, I knew that the time was now to produce an Aspen Connect symposium revolving around helping families to better learn how to be more mindful and cohesive, and communities to bond better together to also help in a State that has one of the highest rates of suicide in the Nation. 

On May 20th at the Aspen District Theatre the Roaring Fork Valley merged together to listen to stories of parents and teens, and to hear what local health professionals, prevention specialists, youth counselors, juvenile investigators and critical care physicians are seeing so that we may get a clearer perspective on the climate of the health of our teens in our valley, and begin to gain a greater understanding of how we may work better together as a whole to weather the storm and become that village to change social norms.

Taking the Leap towards Success in Business

When one makes the decision to take a leap there is no preparation for the work that ensues – preparing for this symposium was a whirlwind of staying in my genius and meditating so as to not sabotage my efforts by thinking I can’t rather than I will – thank you Gregg & Cath Photographers for keeping me from falling off the tracks. It was so very rewarding to be able to provide a platform for those bravely sharing their voices.

I am so glad that I listened to my intuition and produced this event in so little time, and I could not have done it without the mental organization of our Roaring Fork Valley community who stood up ensuring that this would be an experience that we all could share together. It was a long 60 days with my nose to the grindstone but got ‘er done and all I can say … well, actually there is a lot I can and will say, but let’s begin with how rewarded I feel for helping others and for proving to myself that I’ve got this. The world is now my oyster – and you all, helping others, are my pearls 💕🥰

We all must listen to our inner drive – it is of the utmost importance if we want to make a change in the world.

Sponsor Aspen Connect

As per many requests, I am now laying out a series of Aspen Connect conversations and workshops focusing on teens and family. Please email me if you would like to become a sponsor, subscribe to Aspen Connect events, get on my committee for more conversations for teens and families, or if you have stories that you would like to share to the blog:

Helping Teens Thank Yous

And now for my thank yous: To Cath Adams who sent me leads to many of the people on the panel, and to all of the contacts at the schools, everyone of which I followed up on. I know there are so many others helping the youth of our valley, and we’ll get to you … but let’s wait until the fall, where I can drum up more support in my efforts. To our guest speakers in the first conversation who have been so stoic and brave, sharing their stories to help others. To Chris and Elana Royer for printing out and hanging the posters and the resource guide. To Christina King for all the meetings she came to with me to get to know more intimately the speakers on her panel, and for giving me a crash course on counseling and unexpected outcomes. To Sonja Linman who has rocked my world with her knowledge and passion for our youth. And to Sheriff DiSalvo and Deputy Sheriff Cam Daniel – my admiration grows for you both every meeting (and encounter) we have, if only I could write about all the stories on my blog, you’d make me famous). And to the other invited guests, and moderator, Liz Means who jumped in to be involved, devoting their time and advice on the focus of the evening. To Jonathan Geller for donating his time in the theatre, and to my sponsors, who without this, I would not have been able to accomplish so much in so little time, with nothing but lint in my pockets. To the Aspen Times for the ads and stories in the paper, And to Michael and Ariel Burns OF CAV for providing the audio and visual so that the important information tonight goes out on a global level on our live feeds on social media. As for the other sponsors and partners, Along Their Way,  Aspen Youth Center, Aspen Hope Center, Aspen Strong, Family Counseling Center for Roaring Fork Schools and Stepping Stones. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for jumping on board and providing me with such eye-opening opportunities to see who you are more clearly, and the many ways in which you are helping others, and for your patience through my technical difficulties as a one woman band trying to accomplish perhaps more than I should. (Just think how much more I could accomplish with more of you – speak to me after if you are interested in sponsoring future conversations and endeavors). And thank you Heather Cramer for standing by our youth who make mistakes, and giving your all to providing them with a second chance and a new license on life. To Firstbank for your banking for good campaign and for having your boots on the ground and integrating yourselves into OUR communities. And to Marcus Thackston at Blend Web for being my go to website guy, and for always being there for my 911 calls.

As for my partners, thank you Lindsay Lofaro of The Buddy Program for the outreach, and for your incredible mentoring program for kids. And to Mountain Family Health for providing quality medical care with special consideration for the medically underserved.

Aspen Connect Ambassadors

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was the integration of Aspen Connect Ambassadors (teens 13+ in age) for greeting our guests with smiles and for attending the event. I do hope that you all gained greater insight from this event and I look forward to growing the ambassadorship in the fall in the schools so that you all will have a voice in all of this as we begin to change social norms.

Helping Teens Symposium: Aspen District Theatre

Helping Teens Agenda & Guest Speakers

Helping Teens Through Family & Community, an Aspen Connect Global Symposium Presented by AspenRealLife, took place Monday, May 20th at the Aspen District Theatre, and was filmed live on our @AspenRealLife Facebook Page. Helping Teens addressed anxiety and depression in teens, and spoke of how it can lead to substance abuse and addiction. Helping Teens held conversations about hope, and changing social norms, not just for teens and families, but also for communities.



Invited Guest Speakers

Christina King, Founder of Aspen Strong

Moderator: Aspen Strong Founder Christina Marie King MA, LPC

Christina is a licensed professional counselor with a practice in Aspen, CO. She is the founder of Aspen Strong, and co-founder of the mental health symposium, Changing Brains Changing Lives. Aspen Connect is excited to be co-sponsoring that symposium.

Christina began her career in community mental health and detention centers in Philadelphia PA, her hometown. Her psychotherapy and coaching practice is grounded in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, neuroscience, exposure therapy, and a live BIG mindset: boundaries, integrity, and generosity.

Christina is a member of the Denver Speaker Bureau, providing education on work life balance, trauma and shame resilience, and maintaining mental hygiene as a leader. She has been recognized for her leadership and advocacy in mental health on various panels and magazines, specifically distinguished as Aspen Peak’s Woman of Influence in 2015. Christina is an Aspen Rotarian and humbly serves on the Pitkin County Health Board. She hopes to bring her expertise in mental health and her love for Aspen to address vital needs of our community.

Jamie and Eli Blume, Along Their Way

Jamie Blume, experienced holistic wellness coach, professional mentor, and Founder of Along Their Way. Jamie will be sharing the platform with her 19 year old son Eli who speaks of the struggle, hardship, and un-comfortability that are all a part of a healthy life.  Important feelings to meet each day. Four years ago Eli lacked that understanding and instead ran from struggle and feared hardship, avoiding being uncomfortable with his emotions that many—maybe all—kids feel:  Rather than face uncertainties and the emotions that came with them, he hid from them and resorted to drugs to cope, ending relationships, hurting people, and hurting hisself. In December 2015, Eli started his time in the wilderness of Utah.  Immediately thereafter, enrolling in two years of “aftercare” at a therapeutic boarding school in Montana. He has no idea where he would be if he had not been there. He knows where he is now, and who he is.

Eli returned home for the last semester of high school and graduated with his class.  It was not easy to be home. But it was only by overcoming these challenges, alone and with the support of his family and others in the community, that he was able to grow and create a pathway towards a healthy life.  He now lives alone and is a student at CU Boulder.

Cath and Ashley Adams

Catherine Adams, Photographer and founder of Aperture of Hope, photography workshop programs designed as a creative outlet for kids who are facing challenges in life. Catherine will be sharing the platform with her 14 year old daughter Ashley who has reached out to and spoken with kids in small group settings about how substance affects the family letting them know that they are not alone on this journey.

E.B. Nix

E.B. Nix, the Family Engagement Coordinator/Child Welfare Caseworker for Pitkin County’s Adult and Family Services Department. A recovering addict and alcoholic almost 4 years sober, E.B. began coping with life with alcohol and marijuana, ending up being admitted to Valley View Hospital’s ER from alcoholism, a day where she knew she needed to make a choice of living or dying. She chose life. E.B. celebrated 4 years of being sober this past May 5th, 2019 and is honored to share her message of hope, the importance of connections, self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and to never give up on yourself.

6:20 – 6:25

Bruce Benjamin, Pitkin County Juvenile Investigator


6:25 – 6:40

Powerpoint Presentation


Sonja Linman, Lead Prevention Specialist Roaring Fork Schools



Moderator: Liz Means, Executive Director for A Way Out.Elizabeth is the Executive Director for A Way Out, a non-profit organization addressing substance abuse and providing access to care for area residents. Liz has been in non-profit leadership for over 20 years working with the Aspen Institute, Aspen Center for Integrative Health, Aspen Science Center, Telluride Science Research Center and Pathfinders for Cancer.

Today, Ms. Means’ focus is on supporting youth, adults and families in overcoming the effects of substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issues by coordinating and providing a comprehensive graduated program of care for each individual ensuring access to high level evidence based care to get well. All services are free and open to the public and over 500 are served per year.

Dr. Sabrina Adams

Dr. Sabrina Adams is a colleague of Dr. Ben Peery who couldn’t be with us this evening. Dr. Adams, is a Doctor primarily located in Glenwood Springs, with another office in Denver. She has 6 years of experience. Her specialties include Emergency Medicine and Residency.

Lance Nabers, Aspen Mind Springs Director

Lance Nabers is the Aspen Mind Springs Director. Integrated Care has been a passion of his  for the last 10 years and he has worked in the Behavioral Health field for over 20 years at every level of care, and recently served as the Chief Behavioral Health Officer for two Federally Qualified Health Centers in rural Connecticut. Lance has worked extensively in Primary Care settings and in various hospitals around the country. As a therapist he specializes in working with Trauma Victims, Domestic Violence Victims, Substance Abuse and working with children, adolescents, adults and geriatric populations. Lance is an Art and Sand Tray Therapist, trained in EMDR, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Katherine Sand, Aspen Family Connections Director

Katherine Sand is the Director of Aspen Family Connections. With thirty years of background work in local and internationally-based non-profit organizations, Katherine is finding her work at  Aspen Family Connections to be the most powerful and rewarding of her professional career. Since moving to Aspen in 2001, she has been involved with a number of wonderful organizations in the community, including Theatre Aspen and the Aspen Thrift Shop, for which she is proud to still serve as a Board member and chair of the Grants Committee. Katherine is married to Scott and they have twin sons, Alex and Jeremy, who are sophomores at Aspen High School.

Created by an impressive coalition of nonprofits and agencies in the Roaring Fork Valley, led by Pitkin County Human Services and the Aspen School District, Aspen Family Connections opened their doors for business in November 2017 and work in a range of ways, from holding events to providing parenting education and support opportunities, and setting up Family Meetings to wrap highly targeted support around families dealing with a wide range of challenges.

Sonja LInman, Lead Prevention Specialist

Sonja Linman is the lead Prevention Specialist for Roaring Fork Schools and has worked as a youth advocate for over thirty years, beginning her career in the mid-80s as an intern at Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, and at an inpatient adolescent treatment center in Madison, Wisconsin. By 1989, she had moved to Colorado and was present at the inception of Yampah Mountain High School and served students and families there for over 23 years.

Sonja pursued a larger systemic understanding of the interconnectedness of our society by working for a detox center, a local community foundation, venturing into traditional education for a time, sitting on numerous non-profit boards, and running for political office in an attempt to steer more cultural commitment and community will toward wellbeing and health. This web of experience has continually fed her curiosity and research into the complexity of human nature. Throughout, she has maintained a commitment to unlocking the solution to adolescent crisis, and imbalance that results in self-destructive behaviors such as addiction.

Sonja received her bachelors in Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a MA in Curriculum and Assessment from Adams State, and an Educational Leadership Principal licensure from Mesa State University, both in Colorado. Sonja also possesses a Colorado Addictions Counseling License and continues to work for kids as a Prevention Specialist in Glenwood Springs, CO. Sonja has thirty years of experience working beside, and standing behind our most vulnerable students and families. She and her family live in the mountains of Colorado where they embrace every day as a gift.

Craig Farnum, Aspen Hope Center

Craig Farnum, PhD, NCC School Based Clinician, Craig Farnum is a school-based clinician at Basalt High School for the Aspen Hope Center. He has a passion for helping students improve their mental health so that they can be successful and happy in school and life.  Craig has been an educator for 18 years and has worked with students and families in the roles of middle school counselor, high school counselor, college counselor and college psychology instructor.  Craig is a Nationally Certified Counselor and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling & Educational Psychology.

Pitkin County Deputy Cameron Daniel

Pitkin County Deputy Cameron Daniel, Roaring Fork Valley 3rd generation native and Level II Certified Addiction Counselor.

Aspen Connect Producer

Jillian Livingston is the Founder and Executive Producer of the blog and the networking organization, Aspen Connect. A brand influencer, connector, motivational speaker, travel writer, vlogger and mom of three teen boys, Jillian produces Aspen Connect inspirational human interest conversations that are live-streamed and distributed to an engaged audience of over 30K monthly followers.

Thus far she has produced nine monthly Aspen Connect conversations to sold out houses at prominent Aspen locations.

Aspen Connect will now be planning a Teen & Family Health Conversation Series in the Fall. Many has expressed interested in sponsoring. If you would like to join us, please email:

Regulate, Reset, Repair, Remap Powerpoint Presentation by Sonja Linman

Sonja Linman is the lead Prevention Specialist for Roaring Fork Schools and has worked as a youth advocate for over thirty years, beginning her career in the mid-80s as an intern at Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, and at an inpatient adolescent treatment center in Madison, Wisconsin. By 1989, she had moved to Colorado and was present at the inception of Yampah Mountain High School and served students and families there for over 23 years.

Sonja pursued a larger systemic understanding of the interconnectedness of our society by working for a detox center, a local community foundation, venturing into traditional education for a time, sitting on numerous non-profit boards, and running for political office in an attempt to steer more cultural commitment and community will toward wellbeing and health. This web of experience has continually fed her curiosity and research into the complexity of human nature. Throughout, she has maintained a commitment to unlocking the solution to adolescent crisis, and imbalance that results in self-destructive behaviors such as addiction

Why Helping Teens?

Helping Our Teens Through Communities and Families

Knowing that there have been many conversations occurring throughout the valley addressing the health of our teens, I felt the need to quickly produce the next Aspen Connect conversation, Helping our Teens Through Communities and Families, and bring the health professionals of the entire valley together with our local families at the Aspen District Theatre to hear the stories of teens, parents, prevention specialists, youth counselors, juvenile investigators, critical care physicians and health professionals, so that we may get a clearer perspective on the issues teens are facing today in our valley, and how we may best as a community become that village and help them to thrive.

Helping our Teens

Last month, as I began strategizing my next Aspen Connect conversation to take place in the Fall, I couldn’t but help feel this inner drive to do something about the concern so many of us feel for the teens of our valley. For me personally, I have felt frustration in the lack of attention given to the Tesla crash that happened last November where a teenager with four friends in the car swerved off the road near T Lazy 7, careening off the cliff, hitting a tree and landing in the river. Why were there no headlines on the front page of the papers saying, FIVE TEENS MIRACULOUSLY SURVIVED CAR CRASH. Why were there no auditoriums filled with messages from mental health professionals, caregivers, teachers and parents discussing what happened and how this should never happen again? Why was it so damn quiet? As the Aunt of one of the passengers, and the friend of the parents of a few of the other kids in the car, two of whom were badly injured with a shattered arm, broken ribs and broken eye socket and concussion collectively, the others no doubt completely traumatized, I felt the need to use my influence as a local connector and leap into action, putting the rest of my life on hold. But this was not my story to tell, and the children and parents of the incident need more time to get through the surgeries and medical bills before they are ready to talk. However, with three of my own teen boys, I still wanted/needed answers to what programs were in place in our high schools to help teens who are struggling, and either just need someone to talk to, or deeper help to get to the root of their anxieties and possible depression. Someone they trust who is not a parent or teacher. Someone who they feel comfortable visiting on a whim, knowing that the door is always open. The time was now to produce Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community and bring together our community with the ultimate end goal of helping to begin the process of getting answers to my questions. A beginning attempt to change the social norms of our valley and create a more cohesive valley-wide village and to begin to get to the bottom as to why we have been losing so many of our teens, either to wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools, or to suicide. An attempt to bring everybody in one room to feel out the climate and begin to get a greater understanding of how we may work better together as a whole and learn from one another.

As I began to line-up the speakers for the panels, I knew I had to bring in the right people that could effectively speak to parents and teens about substance use prevention, and how we may improve the vitality and wellness of our youth. With little preparation time I followed every lead given to me and talked on the phone or went to visit as many people as I could.

Glenwood Springs Prevention Specialist Sonja Linman

Helping Our Teens Through Communities and Families
Sonja Linman, Glenwood Springs Prevention Specialist and Aspen Connect guest speaker

One of my most enlightening visits was visiting lead Prevention Specialist for Roaring Fork Schools, Sonja Linman at the Glenwood Springs Middle School. After checking in outside the secured doors of the school, (all Roaring Fork Schools are secure, I can’t for the life of me figure out how and why Aspen is not), I walked into Sonja’s room and immediately felt peaceful again. With the lights dimmed and couches with stuffed animals strewn about, I felt as though I had entered the womb of the school, and as Sonja spoke I realized what a jewel I had just discovered and felt so fortunate that she was going to speak at the symposium about the WHY of all risks and how some kids get stuck, and others don’t.

Along Their Way

I have also spoke with moderator Christina King, Founder of Aspen Strong, and Jamie Blume, Founder of Along Their Way. Also in the conversation was Jamie’s 19 year old son Eli, and together they shared Eli’s story on depression, anxiety and prior substance use.

Jamie spoke of watching Eli at 15 spiral downward, leaving behind his good nature and loving charm. As mentioned on the Along Their Way website, as Eli made more frequent life-threatening choices and withdrew further and further away from the family, Jamie and her husband tried everything they could to help.  As parents, they assumed they had the tools to “make it better.” They did not. So, in December 2015, they faced what turned out to be one of the hardest decisions of their lives and sent Eli “away” to a wilderness treatment program.  The worst—and the best—decision of their lives.

For those struggling, and for their families, the path towards “healing” feels overwhelming, draining, and lonely.  But rather than cast it away, Jamie, her husband, and her two other children worked together to not only help Eli, but to heal the entire family and bring it back together.   

It was this experience, along with her education and professional qualifications, that led Jamie to form Along Their Way.  As a trained mentor and a holistic wellness coach, Jamie now supports other parents and families going through similar challenges. Through Along Their Way, Jamie has the opportunity to help parents navigate the daily needs associated with a child in crisis or treatment and young adults struggling with difficult challenges and life circumstance. She hopes to inspire all her clients to cultivate change through self-awareness and live a life that honors their values and passions.

Helping Our Teens Through Communities and Families
Jamie. Eli and Family

It was heartwarming to hear Jamie express her happiness of having Eli back home and thriving, and to hear Eli exuberantly and passionately share pieces of his journey towards wellness and the importance of self compassion, self awareness and how opening up to others serves as the anchor and key to resilience. Eli now talks with anyone who will listen, including cashiers at 711, “Showing that side of myself, helps me to help myself.” As a mentor, Jamie speaks to how to detect for cries for help, and how to notice when children are making different choices and pulling away. Eli will teach us how to have more compassion for ourselves and the importance of developing a skill set to cope when struggling.

Christina and I also met with Catherine Adams, Photographer and Founder of Aperture of Hope (top photo) and her 14 year old daughter Ashley, who will be part of the conversation sharing both of their stories. Ashley, bravely sharing her own journey as a child with a sister facing addiction and how having friends that she trusted to talk to changed her feelings of being all alone with her fears and concerns. Catherine speaking of how it wasn’t until she developed breast cancer two years after beginning the journey to help their older daughter Emily with her addiction, that she found the support group she was missing.

Teen Alcoholism

When I spoke with EB Nix, the Family Engagement Coordinator/Child Welfare Caseworker for Pitkin County’s Adult and Family Services Department, I was amazed by her strength. Becoming an alcoholic at age 16, EB navigated herself through college, grad school, and then on to Aspen where she went sober and began her work as a caseworker. EB’s will teach us that we are all worthy and that the hardest relationship to nurture is the one with yourself.

Aspen Family Connections

Meeting with Katherine Sand in her Aspen Family Connections office in the Aspen Middle School, we spoke of the programs she continues to put into place for the family and her outreach to the Roaring Fork Valley.

Marijuana Episodes in ER

Speaking with Dr. Ben Peery, Critical Care Specialist at Valley View, he spoke of what he is seeing in the emergency room with our teens, and how much of it revolves around marijuana.

Stepping Up to to be the Parent

I also met with Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and felt empowered as a parent to continue to stand up and say no when feeling pressured by my boys. I hope to empower other families to also step up and learn how to set boundaries and hold true to their stance and expectations. I also hope that we as parents will learn how to become more mindful and purposeful with our children, and to lead from a place of intention rather than one from fear of being met with anger and resistance. As much as kids need to have the freedom to explore their horizons, they also need boundaries, guidance and consistent rules and consequences in that process.

Culturally, the pendulum has swung from focusing on children’s behavior (in previous generations) to focusing on children’s emotions (today). With this, however, there has been an exponential rise in anxiety disorders in children and teens. Although it’s extremely important for children’s emotions to be heard and validated, a parent still needs to be in charge to create a secure and stable environment for their kids. In particular, parents are responsible for setting boundaries in the household, in order to foster an environment where their children can be heard, but also encouraged to develop patience, self-awareness, and so on. ~ Mind Body Green

Aspen Connect Sponsors

The immediate participation and outreach from our local high schools and non-profit organizations who jumped in to sponsor the events and help our teens, has been an enlightening experience. I truly thought that I might be soloing this due to my last minute planning but thankfully was proven so wrong by our incredible community. Colorado Audio Visual, as they have done in the past, will be recording and broadcasting the event live, and The Aspen Times is a media sponsor. Other sponsors include; Along Their Way, Aspen Youth Center, The Hope Center, Aspen Strong, FirstBank, Heather Rose Cramer, P.C. Attorney at Law, Blend Web Marketing, Family Resource Center, Stepping Stones.

Partners include; Buddy Program, Mountain Family Health Centers and Callie’s Backyard Foundation.

It Takes a Village

What I hope to achieve in this symposium is for our community to understand the true depth of what we are facing with the health of our teens in our valley, and the infrastructures in place providing help for those families and youth who need it. For our youth, I hope that they will learn the importance of self-awareness and not keeping it all inside, but rather communicating their concerns and anxieties with those they trust, and to realize that there is help in our valley to teach them coping mechanisms that will lead them away from substance use, unhealthy practices, or highly addictive device usage for their escape. I hope that this is the start of us all working better together as that village.

I have seen in action how incredible the people of our valley are, but now I am witnessing it for myself. Absolutely nobody should ever feel as though they are alone. Not in this valley. This Symposium is a true testament to how our community rallies when they hear the call for help. All one has to do is put the message out there to the right people, the ones you will be meeting on May 20th.

Aspen Connect Ambassadors

All high school students are invited to become an Aspen Connect Ambassador and sign up to volunteer at the Aspen District Theatre on the evening of May 20th, for the Aspen Connect symposium, Helping Teens Through Family and Community.

In addition, we are looking for a few students from every high school in the valley to be included in a short film we are making where students will have the chance to voice their concerns and possible solutions that they think could help our teens.

To sign up contact Jillian Livingston at Ambassadors will be asked to meet and greet guests and attend the symposium (they will receive a total of 4 volunteer service hours + more for recruiting others). This will be an excellent community service to add to your portfolio, not to mention an extremely informative evening for all.

Aspen Connect Registration

Click here to view the event invitation.

Aspen Connect Complimentary Tickets

Please note that ages 13-21 are free (not recommended for kids under the age of 13). Complimentary ticket are also available for health professionals, teachers and families in need. Click HERE to get your tickets (must be reserved in advance).

A Letter From A 15 Year Old About How Substance use and Addiction in Teens Affects the Family

A Letter From A 15 Year Old About How Substance use and Addiction in Teens Affects the Family

Substance Use and Addiction


My name is Ashley Adams and I am a freshman at Glenwood Springs High School. I am reaching out to you to bring up an important and necessary topic where we all need to have a conversation, and this is substance use and addiction in teens and how it affects the family.

On May 20th myself along with mom and others will be guest speakers at an event hosted by Aspen Connect called “A Conversation About Today’s Family and Helping Our Teens.” I will be sharing my story with the audience about being a sibling of a sister enrolling in rehab her senior year of high school, and her recovery. I feel that this is very important to share with others on how addiction affects the entire family and how we are not alone.

I have talked with kids my own age in small group settings. Honestly being transparent, sharing my story with people I don’t know and inviting them into my life is really a huge step for me. I’m nervous but know that this is something that we all need to know.

Bringing Community Together

I would kindly ask you since I am taking this BIG STEP to create an awareness for everyone, will you show your support for all teens by attending this event? This way we can all connect together in making this valley a better place. 

There will be two conversations and many community experts being a part of this conversation.

You can reserved you tickets FREE by April 20th. After that tickets are $15. Below are the details:

Date: May 20th, 2019

Location: Aspen District Theatre

Time: 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm


Details About the Conversation

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


A Mother Gives Thanks

A Mother Gives Thanks

If we could, would we raise our children any differently knowing then what we know now?

The woman who submitted her story for me to publish to my readers listened carefully as I trepidatiously asked her for more details. I appreciated her wanting to tell her story, and I knew that I was venturing toward raw territory when I asked her to touch more upon what lead her son to use drugs and become angry at her, and the world.

Her story was not about what she could have done differently with her son, but it was a story about what she needed to do as a parent to keep her son alive.  The story, as currently written actually made me angry at her for not trying harder, and I didn’t want the same judgment to be passed by other readers. We needed more information.

As we progressed in our conversation it was revealed that she did try. She tried everything she could. But it was thirty years ago, she was a single mom going to school and working, and had neither the money nor the resources to help her son, the love of her life, deal with his behavioral issues. Realizing that it was not only about writing it all down, but about revealing all the truths that have caused her so much pain, she asked me not to publish her story. A story that I felt should be told.

As my husband and I experience our eldest son’s teen years, I feel this mother’s pain as if it could be my own, but I cannot fully empathize. I am not her. I did not raise an only son all alone at a time when the internet was not available to assist in research, and ADD was not yet a common label attached to kids who could not stay focused. I have not had to endure the bullying of my child from relentless children who have not been taught tolerance or acceptance of others different from one’s self, and I have a husband as my ally as we work together to help our children get back on the right track when they fall off.

As parents of three boys, my husband and I have been riding an erratic roller coaster – the kind that all of your senses tell you not to trust. From the rickety noise it makes as it careens across the track, to the sketchy operator who appears as if he left a child locked up in a cage at home after drinking a fifth for breakfast, to the feeling of being harnessed in by a simple bar that you’re not sure if you heard click into place between the rusted bolts.

This ride called parenting has taken us on hairpin turns that jerk us into steep descents leaving our stomach at the top, and slow ascents allowing us to recover before we get pitched back into another thrilling drop, screaming and hanging on for our lives.

This mother is paying the price for steering her son away from hurting others and himself, but she is living peacefully knowing that he is more than just alive but is living well with a wife and a child, of whom she is not allowed to visit. As I worked on her story, I was filled with fear that I too could be that mother who loses her son from disciplining too hard, or not disciplining enough. But I refuse to allow fear to run my life, and at the moment, I want to drop down on my knees and thank whomever is listening for allowing me the strength to do what it takes to raise three healthy boys.

I am thankful for learning the tools to help guide our eldest son into taking accountability for his life and turn it around before it was too late, and have him still tell me how much he loves me.

I am thankful that my boys still expect me to kiss their warm cheeks and say good night and good morning every day.

I am thankful for a husband who has changed his tune from calling me paranoid to praising me for being present and mindful with our children.

I am thankful for having had the time and the resources to conduct the research into raising teen boys and the effects of drug use on developing brains. Research that empowers us to stay the course as we implement guidelines and expectations.

I am thankful for children who aren’t afraid to speak to me and tell me their fears so that I can help them.

And I am thankful to live in a place that breeds spirituality to allow me to not get caught up in all of the noise so that I can hear the cries for help, even when they are not spoken.

My heart goes out to this mother and I praise her for not being afraid to do what she knew she needed to do to save her child. I hope that one day her son will thank her for being strong and accept her back into his life. She deserves that right.

Follow ConsciousED for more stories on mindfulness.

Going on a Date with Your Husband

Jillian’s Real Life

The problem was that I was on my own island. I needed a team. My head was becoming very cloudy with the not knowing where I was heading with all of this that I had felt driven to build. Nine incredible conversations in 12 months. And I was spent. And still broke. The community loves my events, but I was not receiving what I required to continue. And thus was unable to clearly see where all of this hard work was going.

With three teens and financial struggles that arose from shitty insurance with Reserve National and Christian Healthcare Ministries (do NOT use these private entities) I took off to Mexico, and then to a private intensive retreat in LA with spiritual guide Aspen Decew of whom I met at an Aspen Business Luncheon. I was desperate to gain clarity (the clarity came more clearly than I expected after experiencing a 24 hour violent Mexican bug). I released myself from everything; my work, my responsibilities, my family … if only for ten days.

As I meet my edge with the intensive one on one work I also am focusing on my health with nutrition, less alcohol, hiking the bowl more and increasing my meditation to both morning and nights, intensifying the clearing of my mind to reach greater clarity.

Jillian & Aspen
Aspen in LA on retreat with Jillian
The Butcher’s Gallery
Greg Cipes, WingmanG and Ramona Vibes
LA LA Life

The beauty lies in my separating the noise which leads to my sloughing off the thoughts that nag and pester. Why not just get rid of the cause of those thoughts once and for all if they no longer serve me – and if they do need attending, I am able to deal with them from a place of intention rather then anxiety.

No lie though – the transition is not smooth, with large spaces of time spent lingering listlessly in a thick large white cream colored cloud, not entirely unfriendly as long as I remain comfortable in the not knowing. My dreams are of being lost and unsafe, where I’m unable to find my phone to contact Wade and find my way back. With Aspen’s guidance, I grow more comfortable in the not knowing and trusting that if I stay focused all will soon become aligned.

What helps me to stay on course is being mindful of the beautiful changes that are unfolding. One thing I know is that I could not be attempting to reach greater heights on my own. We all need others to guide us and elevate us to reach that new place where negative thoughts become more sensible, less destructive, so we may hear them more clearly so more focused exciting ideas unfold.

Epiphanies are happening every third day after my intensive retreats with Aspen. Today I awoke with the thought that I still am unclear as to where I am going and I honestly have not a clue as to what my purpose or intentions are, so much so that I cringe when I hear people asking others those questions, but I am no longer spiraling and am moving forward with almost a delusional idea that I actually can make a larger contribution to this world. I’m trusting the Universe more as it shows me its comical and beautiful magic.

One thing I do know for sure is that my trusting that which is innately driving me, and following the paths that unfold before me, the things that I am wishing for are manifesting before my very eyes – whether I am mindful enough to recognize them and grab the opportunities is entirely up to me. Even if my dreams do not feel so clear, what is absolutely clear is that there is something driving me from the inside that seems to know where I belong.

BUT … and here’s the secret key, you have to believe that if doors are opening, you are on the right track. Don’t give in just because you cannot see it – just feel it until it shows itself to you – it’s directly to the right of your vision and will click into place when you’re ready for it.

Finding Clarity – surfing salidadas

After my ninth sold out Aspen Connect conversation held at a venue that I had set my sights on from the inception, rather than feeling as though I had arrived, I felt so very lost.

If I could define what it was to drive me to produce eight back to back events in 9 months, I would say that it was the disconnect between business owners that I was feeling as I got more and more embedded into the valley with my work. I also wanted to make my circles smaller. Life is so much more adventurous the more people one knows. But there I was, feeling all alone on my own island I had created, still in financial distress and wondering what that driving force was all about. Could it have been possible that I was so confused that my manifestations were not detailed enough? What if I had a clearer vision as to where I was heading? With no answers coming forth, as per my usual extroverted introverted self my desire was to flee from it all, and so I took off to head back to a place in Mexico that I once swore I would never return to.

My destination was to a completely open-aired palapa roofed home situated right on a beach with it’s own surf break. A place where the last time I was there I had spent eleven unsuccessful days of surfing, even though I had worked hard on meditating my fears away prior to my arrival by meditating and watching surf films like Momentum Generation and Kissed by God. Everybody else was in the outer wave, including my youngest boy of whom I was using as an excuse to protect in the inner wave, that really wasn’t a wave at all but a cool whipped crest over treacherous rocks. After using my daily oms to convince myself that sharks in Mexico were as friendly as the tequila slinging locals in the surf shack, it wasn’t the sharks I was afraid of but rather all the creatures I could get speared by if I put my feet down, therefore I didn’t, only to create bloody shaved skin appetizers from grazing the rocks in ankle deep water.

Since we were there with 12 teens, my husband and I bunked out with half of them. In the beginning of the trip as we lay in our bed, the mosquito netting serving lamely as our only privacy, he did his best to console me with encouraging pleads to join him in the outer wave, but as the once spunky adventurous wife he knew drew more and more inward, he grew further and further away.

Each morning I would drag my depressed self to the dining table in an effort to not worry my hosts that one of their guests had gone dark – and then we’d all drive to the surf with a cleaner break and there’d I’d wave goodbye to my husband as he paddled off behind our hostess, her long sun-kissed lyoness mane blowing behind, tight glutes as round as the ripe coconuts we drank from every afternoon, spilling out of her one of many Brazilian string bikinis. Good-Bye I’d sing cheerfully, my inner voice busting out bassist expletives in sonative measures. Tossing my long frizzy locks back, while separating my white thighs lest the sweat stuck them together forever, I’d grab my beast of a board and wrestle it to the water, taking breaks from being raked over the rocks to sit on the dirty sand with no comfy lounge chair to fall asleep and snore loudly on. All I had was myself to discuss all the things that were wrong with me, and I caved in deeper and deeper pontificating over my escape route.

Before the trip I had turned up the meditation, hoping that it would help me to face my shark and wave fears – and my pebble mantra was put to the test one day where I was so absolutely relieved that we were departing from the regular afternoon surf to instead go to a party at a friend’s house up the beach. Gearing up to join the other lobster red non-surfer party-goers, I grabbed a margi and scanned the room for another alligator floaty. That is when I saw all the kids stripping down to their bathing-suits to body surf in the enormous swell that had come in. “Let’s go play in the waves,” She-Ra exclaimed to her surf partner, my husband, but he knew better and instead suggested that she take me. He had moved his King and the Queen was moving in for the Pawn. The second we got in I got tossed like a piece of tissue in a funnel storm, repeatedly chanting, “Be the pebble, float like a pebble, be the (*_* pebble.”

Don’t get me wrong. The conversation that evening was absolutely beautiful. Another manifestation unfolded. Picture this mother/daughter guests talking about a life lived like none of us will sadly ever know of. A life that is now being documented for a podcast about life lived on a cattle station situated alongside the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal community in the remote Australian outback.

The event was Moderated by Elise Spencer, the Publisher and Co-Founder of Unearth Women, and former Membership Director for Aspen Public Radio. Unearth Women is the first feminist travel magazine created by women, for women.

The problem was that I was on my own island. I needed a team. My head was becoming very cloudy with the not knowing where I was heading with all of this that I had felt driven to build. Nine incredible conversations in 12 months. And I was spent. And still broke. The community loves my events, but I was not receiving what I required to continue. And thus was unable to clearly see where all of this hard work was going and what my purpose was. One thing I was clear on, it’s impossible to set intentions if one cannot see the ultimate target.

With three teens and financial struggles, I released myself from everything; my work, my responsibilities, my family … if only for ten days and took off to Mexico to join my best friends for a 50th birthday celebration at a private home on a surf break. This all sounds ideal I know, but I was returning to a place I swore I would never go back to. A place where the last time I was there I spent 11 days feeling worthless, depressed and all alone due to my inability to release myself from fear in order to surf with everyone else in the outer wave. Instead, everyday I battled catching the inner wave in the shallows without help, my feet getting bloody on the rocks, my fear increasing as my boys left me to go to the outer wave. 

Looking back I was able to sort it all out, why I plunged.

As I meet my edge with intensive one on one work with Aspen, who sat next to me at an Aspen Business Luncheon, I also am focusing on my health with nutrition, less alcohol, hiking the bowl more and increasing my meditation to both morning and nights, intensifying the clearing of my mind to reach greater clarity.

The beauty lies in my separating the noise which leads to my sloughing off the thoughts that nag and pester. Why not just get rid of the cause of those thoughts once and for all if they no longer serve me – and if they do need attending, I am able to deal with them from a place of intention rather then anxiety.

No lie though – the transition is not smooth, with large spaces of time spent lingering listlessly in a thick large white cream colored cloud, not entirely unfriendly as long as I remain comfortable in the not knowing. My dreams are of being lost and unsafe, where I’m unable to find my phone to contact Wade and find my way back. With Aspen’s guidance, I grow more comfortable in the not knowing and trusting that if I stay focused all will soon become alligned.

What helps me to stay on course is being mindful of the beautiful changes that are unfolding. One thing I know is that I could not be attempting to reach greater heights on my own. We all need others to guide us and elevate us to reach that new place where negative thoughts become more sensible, less destructive, so we may hear them more clearly so more focused exciting ideas unfold.

Epiphanies are happening every third day after my intensive retreats with Aspen. Today I awoke with the thought that I still am unclear as to where I am going and I honestly have not a clue as to what my purpose or intentions are, so much so that I cringe when I hear people asking others those questions, but I am no longer spiraling and am moving forward with almost a delusional idea that I actually can make a larger contribution to this world. I’m trusting the Universe more as it shows me its comical and beautiful magic.

One thing I do know for sure is that my trusting that which is innately driving me, and following the paths that unfold before me, the things that I am wishing for are manifesting before my very eyes – whether I am mindful enough to recognize them and grab the opportunities is entirely up to me. Even if my dreams do not feel so clear, what is absolutely clear is that there is something driving me from the inside that seems to know where I belong.

BUT … and here’s the secret key, you have to believe that if doors are opening, you are on the right track. Don’t give in just because you cannot see it – just feel it until it shows itself to you – it’s directly to the right of your vision and will click into place when you’re ready for it.

With three teens and financial struggles that arise from shitty insurance with Reserve National and Christian Healthcare Ministries (do NOT use these private entities) I took off to Mexico, and then to a private retreat in LA to gain clarity, while releasing myself from everything; my work, my responsibilities, my family … if only for ten days.

As I meet my edge with intensive one on one work with Aspen Decew, who sat next to me at an Aspen Business Luncheon, I also am focusing on my health with nutrition, less alcohol, hiking the bowl more and increasing my meditation to both morning and nights, intensifying the clearing of my mind to reach clarity.

The beauty lies in my separating the noise which leads to my sloughing off the thoughts that nag and pester. Why not just get rid of the cause of those thoughts once and for all if they no longer serve me – and if they do need attending, I am able to deal with them from a place of intention rather then anxiety.

No lie though – the transition is not smooth, with large spaces of time spent lingering listlessly in a thick large white cream colored cloud, not entirely unfriendly as long as I remain comfortable in the not knowing. My dreams are of being lost and unsafe, where I’m unable to find my phone to contact Wade and find my way back. With Aspen’s guidance, I grow more comfortable in the not knowing and trusting that if I stay focused all will soon become alligned.

What helps me to stay on course is being mindful of the beautiful changes that are unfolding. One thing I know is that I could not be attempting to reach greater heights on my own. We all need others to guide us and elevate us to reach that new place where negative thoughts become more sensible, less destructive, so we may hear them more clearly so more focused exciting ideas unfold.

Epiphanies are happening every third day after my intensive retreats with Aspen. Today I awoke with the thought that I still am unclear as to where I am going and I honestly have not a clue as to what my purpose or intentions are, so much so that I cringe when I hear people asking others those questions, but I am no longer spiraling and am moving forward with almost a delusional idea that I actually can make a larger contribution to this world. I’m trusting the Universe more as it shows me its comical and beautiful magic.

One thing I do know for sure is that my trusting that which is innately driving me, and following the paths that unfold before me, the things that I am wishing for are manifesting before my very eyes – whether I am mindful enough to recognize them and grab the opportunities is entirely up to me. Even if my dreams do not feel so clear, what is absolutely clear is that there is something driving me from the inside that seems to know where I belong.

BUT … and here’s the secret key, you have to believe that if doors are opening, you are on the right track. Don’t give in just because you cannot see it – just feel it until it shows itself to you – it’s directly to the right of your vision and will click into place when you’re ready for it.

Girl on surf board – shark biting into board carrying her- leg had been chomped into. I told her to put her other leg on my boat that was a twitter board with a tweet on it and an emoticom – I grabbed a large stick – shark turned to huge humback and floated under our boat – I harpooned it with stick digging deep into its body – penerating – made a huge hole – easy to dig it in – I continued to dig holes when suddenly he breached = could see it’s eye – it rose so high and I knew it was going to fall back on us – drowning us – if it fell the other way – we would be ok – just have to survive the wake it made – it started to fall toward us – shadowing us with its girth – and then it simply sunk down into the sea and the message came, there are no rules in the sea. it didn’t look evil – – it just was – and it start-

Firefighter Stories of The Lake Christine Fire

Firefighter Stories of The Lake Christine Fire

“All traffic is shut down at the El Jebel light due to a structure fire,” I read in the text, but I didn’t think twice about it, I was heading down to a thank you barbecue for the Lake Christine Firefighters at Jill Soffer’s house, and nothing was going to deter me. Thus far, I have been covering the fire from afar and I needed to get closer and capture the stories from the firefighters and those who had been evacuated. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

Jill Soffer is a philanthropist largely focused on environmental progress, carbon reduction, and sustainable farming, and she was having a firefighter appreciation party for 200+ firefighters. Currently serving on the boards of The Sierra Club Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, and The Wilderness Workshop, a group protecting the White River National Forest in the Colorado high country, Soffer was a developer and interior designer of sustainable “green” homes and a LEED Accredited Professional.

As we turned up the road to the barbecue, we proudly found ourselves behind five of the light green Carson Hotshot fire trucks and followed them up to the event, passing local firefighters along the way as they stood watch over the fire still burning in the hills one mile northwest of Basalt above the reservoir, where a Chinook Helicopter was drawing water from.

Soffer’s house is set in the most spectacular of surroundings with Mt. Sopris in the distance changing colors in the smoke-hazed sunset. I began to circulate, listening to conversations and getting a read on whether anybody would like to share their stories, discovering quickly that people welcomed the opportunity to talk.

Although, I had been in communication with friends who had to evacuate twice, first from Basalt and then from Willits, it has been difficult to gauge the despair, fear, anxiety, panic and stress that our friends downvalley have been experiencing these past few weeks. With each story, many from friends, the trauma caused by The Lake Christine Fire becomes viscerally real. The first couple I approached, also friends of mine, began their story. Both Architects, the husband explained the tall order it was to be the one to decide what to save and what to leave when having to evacuate. His wife and two children were out of town that week, a definite blessing, but what it meant was that he was on his own when making what could be life-changing decisions on saving cherished possessions. Upon reaching his wife on the phone he was told to get her office folders and so he went to the drawers and dumped everything into the only container he could find, a postal plastic box without a top that he just happened to have brought home recently. He then took down art from the walls, gathered together all the wedding and photo albums he could find, along with any valuable possessions, plus a backpack of clothes, and shoved as much as he could into his open-air jeep, praying that nothing would fly out as he drove off to find friends that would take him in. At the same time, business associates were dismantling all electronics in the architect office, electronics that were rebooted and dismantled three times with each new evacuation report. Once evacuated, he had nothing else to do but wait while witnessing a ball of fire rapidly roar down the hill toward town and his home that he and his wife designed together. His wife, who had just gotten back, chimed in with big earnest eyes saying that she felt the need to get home to support her husband who clearly was in a high state of emotional distress, his head nodding in agreement – yes, he needed her back, the stress has all been a bit too much to bare alone.

Hearing the stories and then interviewing the firefighters indeed confirms the magnitude of the dangers and stresses that thousands of people have endured. According to inciweb (Incident Web Information), Eagle County completed the repopulation of the communities surrounding the fire; at the height of the incident approximately 2100 residents were evacuated and 6,822 acres thus far have burned. Full containment is expected by Tuesday July 31st. Other sites claim that at least 583 fire personnel have been deployed, including 16 hand crews, 35 engines, three water tenders and five helicopters.

Throughout the evening each story emphasized so emphatically the gratitude for our firefighters, many of whom are still out there fighting as the fire still burns, as well as for all the volunteers who stopped everything that they were doing to help feed the firefighters, take in evacuees, and move horses and animals. The appreciation for that gratitude by the firefighters confirms something that this valley has always known, that we have the most incredible community of people who gather together in the most stressful of situations to help and be there for one another, and there are indeed heroes who stand amongst us now more than ever.

[su_box title=”″%5DThe Carson Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) was established in 1973. Carson IHC is a highly skilled, professional, dedicated, 20 person team that specializes in wildland fire suppression. Hotshot crews are a national resource that can respond to all-risk emergency situations within the scope of their capabilities. Because of their high level organization, training and skills, hotshot crews are often assigned to the most demanding tasks. Regardless of the specific assignment, the work consists of extended periods of physically demanding labor in complex situations under difficult or adverse environmental conditions. Carson Hotshots prides itself in its excellence in hard work, professionalism, and a positive, friendly work environment. Working on the Carson Hotshots means being committed not only to the job, but also being to the lifestyle that follows. Our standards are high and we expect only the best from each team member. Come prepared, come motivated, and come in tip-top shape.[/su_box]

Letting Go Of Our Children

It is with bittersweet emotions that I post these pictures taken by Michele Cardamone on prom night 2018. With our boys growing up so quickly before our eyes, I meditate religiously and do yoga to do my best to slow down and soak in every moment in time that I am with them, even if it is spent getting reprimanded for lingering too long in their room to stay connected, or staring too hard at their transformed faces in order to relearn their being.

My boys have been my everything for over 18 years, and although it has definitely NOT been easy learning how to raise teen boys after myself coming from a family of girls, I believe that they are on the right path to becoming the grown up men we have done our best to help develop.

As they grow and desperately try to break free and gain their independence, but still don’t know how to cook a meal from start to finish, or do their own laundry, I still wonder what I as their adoring mother have done to mess them up. Was I too demanding, or not enough? Was I their guide as they navigated through life, or too demonstrative? Was I too strict, or not enough? Were my expectations too high, or not enough. Did I hover when I should have backed off, or back off when I should have leaned in? Was I listening, or inflicting my agenda and wants on them, rather than actually hearing their needs, wants and desires?

All I know is that I have lead with such absolute love for them, as has Baddy, and we have, and still do, lead them the best we possibly can given the tools that we have to work with. Our work will never be finished but hopefully, at this stage in their lives, and ours, we have given them a solid, loving base from which to pull from when they need it, and we have provided the soundbites that will enter their heads when deciding which direction to move in. We can only hope that they will move forward with integrity, valor and honor in their every breath. We shall see, and then we shall know for sure. Until then, we watch and breath them in, and as we exhale we slowly allow ourselves to let them go, little by little until they fly off.

A Mother’s Love for Her Children

Singing a Huge Hallelujah in Basalt

Singing a Huge Hallelujah in Basalt

Waking up to Highland’s Peak, bathed in the deepest soothing pastel pinks and reds, I rose out of bed and packed up my road bike. I was heading down to Basalt to get the air conditioning fixed in my Hÿûndaī. My plan was to stay down there all day; coffee at Confluence; road bike ride up the Frying Pan River with a good friend; stop by our sweet little house on the corner that we are renting out; and then work at The Basalt Regional Library. With enormous windows facing the woods, this library is one of my favorite places to work. It had been a while since I had hung out in Basalt, the town we moved away from in order to keep the boys in the Aspen School District.

Right from the get go my journey had to shift traction. Basalt’s only coffee shop had closed, and so I sat on a park bench in the sun on Midland Ave, took my laptop out, and began writing while observing the slow bustle of morning Basalt life.

Getting hungry, I went to Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar, a place where I could write and eat a quick, healthy lunch. It was the warm red painted building and the Cherry Blossom tree bending over the sign that lured me in. Sitting at a round table, sun rays splashed onto me from around my big, orange umbrella, and ordered an herbal iced tea and a Kale salad with dried cherries, cucumbers, red cabbage, carrots and a balsamic vinegar dressing (I’ll eat or drink anything with balsamic vinegar or maple syrup in it).Singing a Huge Hallelujah in Basalt

After lunch I continued my lazy but curious wander along Midland Ave as I waited for my friend to join me for our bike ride. Falling upon Skip’s Farm to Market new store on the street corner, kitty corner to Xin Yu Massage (I heard they give an excellent foot rub), I grabbed a “Fatty” (an all-natural beef jerky stick), and a Peanut Butter Jen’s Bar and took off, but not before speaking with the petite woman checking me out with wonderfully alive brown curly hair, a huge smile and electric blue eyes who told me how she loves that one can still find a parking space in town. Leaning in she slightly whispered that we should get the bumper sticker that says, “Keep Basalt Shitty.”Singing a Huge Hallelujah in Basalt

Finally, we headed up the Frying Pan, scouting for mountain goats and angler obsessed  fly-fisherman/and women, wading and casting peacefully in sun-sparkled gold medal waters. One might think that was slightly ambitious for our first road bike ride of the season, but we barely noticed time passing as we soaked in the warm spring sun, passing spring green farmland with new babies milking off their mamas.

Skip’s Farm to Market Menu Show on Facebook

[su_note]Grab’N Go Food Are you going fishing? Or just for a stroll down by the river? Pick up a variety of nutritious, delicious and local snacks to go with your wraps or salad. We suggest: Lizzy’s Dill Pickles, Ela Family Farms Dried Apples, Pears & Peaches Citizen Raw Onion Wholes in Jalapeño, Fresh Organic Oranges, La Roca Tortillaria, Fresh Corn Chips with Lizzy’s Tomatillo Salsa Meat Lover Wrap #1: Flour tortilla, BBQ chicken, bacon, tomato, and spinach. Meat Lover Wrap #2: Flour tortilla, Sriracha mayo, chicken, bacon, tomato, and spinach. Very Veggie Wrap: Flour tortilla, grilled eggplant, Swiss Cheese, spinach, radish, onion, and champagne vinaigrette. Breakfast burrito: Flour tortilla, pork breakfast sausage, bacon, eggs, potato, onion, Swiss cheese, salt and pepper. Garden Salad: Spinach, radish, tomato, carrot, cucumber and red onion. Kale Salad! Gah! More to Come Soon! Your Choice Salad Dressing Options: Champagne Vinaigrette, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Molasses Vinaigrette.[/su_note]

After falling into one of my favorite shoe stores, Midland Shoe, and buying a pair of boots on sale with money I would now have to raise, piano notes spilled out of The Art of Hair, a funky art gallery/John Wyman hair salon. Of course, I had to walk in and sit down on a white bench while the man kept playing. When he finished, he looked up and said hello. His name was Marcus Chatman, an incredibly talented musician who just moved to the valley with his family. When he began to play again he chose Hallelujah, and his gorgeous, melodic voice broke out into song, while I broke out in quiet tears. Marcus had randomly chosen to play the song I was asked to rewrite by Rabbi Itzhak for our oldest son’s Barmitzvah program.

[su_quote cite=”” url=””%5DMarcus Chatman has been touring since childhood. Born into a musical family, he was singing harmonies as soon as he was old enough to speak. Chatman was the youngest of four children, dad was a baptist music minister.[/su_quote]

Driving home I soaked it all in. The morning, the bike ride, the time with Marcus, and I smiled large. My life was exactly where it was supposed to be. On that drive home, all was good, and humane and magical – and I hoped that the feeling would stay with me until the next time I decided to take  time to slow down and let the serendipitous life travel happen. If one moves too fast, one may miss it all.

Hallelujah For Brevitt

I’ve heard there were some secret prayers

To teach me of the world out there

But I don’t really understanding all the meaning.

I studied hard with every bend Doing all I could to comprehend

The baffled son composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

My faith was strong but I needed proof

It’s so confusing as a youth

Finding meaning isn’t always easy to do

As I studied I soon would find the words

to be molded and defined

And from my lips I drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Now I radiate with love

and move through life with God above

A new perception filtering all through me

It didn’t come quickly in the night

I needed help to see the light

and now I’m ready to sing my Hallelujahs

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah,

Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah [/su_box]


Surviving a Concentration Camp

Surviving a Concentration Camp

[su_heading]Surviving a Concentration Camp[/su_heading]

My Aunt Tutti tells her concentration camp story. A fate that easily could have been mine had I been born in Europe just a mere twenty years earlier.

I flew to Connecticut to join my Aunt Tuttie in helping to unpack my British mother’s boxes in Marvin’s house. Marvin was her love after my father passed away and she had just moved in, to save money, and because she loved the big tree in the backyard. A very tall and slim, white-haired man with a big grin who would walk around with his hand rested on his stomach, Marvin resembled my father, Harold, in many ways, and he adored my mother, but everybody adores my mother. Marvin was of a fading era, one that should always be vibrantly remembered. Proudly Jewish and family-oriented, he loved working in his company that he built, and he filled a dark hole vacant of family in my mother’s life.

Taking a break, we sat down for tea and biscuits and Aunt Tutti, with a thick German accent, began to tell us of her time spent as an eight year old in Westerbork, a concentration camp in Holland. A fate that easily could have been mine, had I been born in Europe just a mere twenty years earlier. Aunt Tutti’s mother and my mother’s mother were sisters in Germany, but my mother escaped the Holocaust by her parents fleeing to England at the right time, Aunt Tutti’s didn’t. We listened intently as she spoke.

A Concentration Camp Survivor’s Story

The following paragraphs are taken from Aunt Tutti’s speech that she made at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.

For the first few years after 1945, the end of WW II, nobody in my life shared or talked much about their personal experiences during the war. And even though today the slogan exists never to forget, in the 1940s survivors wanted to forget and come to terms with the horrors, mourn their losses and try to get back into the mainstream of life.

The war years from 1940-1945 correspond to my age 5-10, so my memories are similar to a movie that you might have seen many many years ago, and you only remember certain scenes.

Every Jew received an ID card with a big J and for every male the name Israel was added and for every female the name Sarah.

Then all Jews had to vacate their homes and had to move within a few blocks in East Amsterdam which became a Jewish Ghetto. These were small little apartments. No barbwire and no guards, just a concentrated Jewish population.

As soon as a Jewish family had left their home, the German truck came and confiscated anything and everything of value which could not have been taken along. Paintings, furniture, and other belongings were immediately removed and transported to the Reich.

Then the so-called Razzias or roundups started. German trucks with loud sirens randomly stopped in front of buildings and unceremoniously rounded up the Jews living there. They were shoved into open trucks that then drove off.

My father always had hoped to escape these razzias as he was a metal trader and even though the company was taken over by the Germans with German and non Jewish Dutch managers overseeing the day to day operations, my father kept his job. Metals were a much sought after commodity during war time and the Germans needed the company to keep operating.

In 1943 however, our life changed as it became apparent that no Jew would be left in Amsterdam. My mother, father, brother and myself went into hiding and moved into the attic of Gentile friends where we slept during the day so as to minimize any noise. We spent the nights awake.

We lived for a short while a la Ann Frank but my parents didn’t have the stamina to live that way (Also, if we would be discovered hiding we would definitely be sent to the east to one of the many death camps). And so we left our Gentile friends and moved back into the Ghetto.

One day our turn came and we were picked up and delivered to the largest theatre in Amsterdam which was used as an assembly point, soon we were transported to the Dutch concentration camp called Westerbork.

My father was given permission to go back and forth to Amsterdam to make himself useful in the metal industry. Incidentally, he organized a group of Jewish prisoners to sort the various metals in plants and thereby postponed and even saved many inmates from being sent on to Auschwitz. Twice a week trains left Westerbork for the east.

Food was based on potatoes and vegetables. The camp was encircled with barbed wire, tall towers with soldiers who had guns guarded at the prisoners. There were occasional executions when inmates tried to escape. I still remember and see in front of me several playmates and friends I made in Westerbork who all just disappeared as they were sent to the death camps. I don’t believe I questioned anything, and I don’t believe I realized that there was an Auschwitz.

As a family we were fortunate. In 1939 or 1940 a business friend of my father smuggled forged Paraguayan Passports through to us in Holland. That passport turned out to be our lifesaver as we were held not only as Jews, but also as political prisoners. In those days Germany and most of South America were on very friendly terms.

About 10 months after our arrival in Westerbork our number came up and we were told to report to the train platform to be relocated to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. Before boarding the train my father had a serious talk with me, I was barely 9 years old. He took my doll and showed me that the doll I had received for my birthday had a solid body but a hollow ceramic head. He took the head off and stuffed it with several $100 bills, told me to always keep the doll with me and to make a big fuss if someone tried to take the doll. He said that those $100 bills might buy us food and save our lives.

My father was very astute. Upon our arrival in Theresienstadt we were stripped and searched but nobody ever looked at the doll. What a responsibility for a 9 year old. We had to board cattle cars for our voyage, and in that manner we traveled to Theresienstadt, which took several days. A beer barrel sat in the middle of the boxcar serving as a toilet. On the floor was straw. We occupied a corner and stayed close together.

Upon the arrival I again was asked by my father to do a grown up job. As we stood in line and waited to be processed, my father spotted someone he knew and he made a crude ball from paper or a piece of cloth tied with a bit of string. I was to play with the ball and throw it in a certain direction towards a certain person. At the time I did not know that a hidden forbidden message was tucked inside the ball.

Theresienstadt was a camp for the privileged, a so called model camp which the Red Cross visited as the wool was drawn over their eyes so they could report to the world at large that all was well in the concentration camp. Of course it was all a sham. Weeks were spent in preparation. A cafe was created and there were stores erected with merchandise. Everything got a fresh coat of paint.

When the committee came through with the German Commandant and Staff, a group of children were told that they would get chocolate pudding for dessert that day, a lie that the children were well attuned to.

Theresiensladt was an old fortress with large army barracks usually forming a square with a large quad in the middle where roll calls were held. The elderly were housed in certain barracks usually named after German towns, able-bodied men in others, and women and children in other barracks. Conditions were appalling with overcrowding, infestations of vermin, lice, and worst of all, bed bugs in the straw mattresses we slept on. Everybody had to work, even kids.

The rooms had eight rows of triple decker bunk beds on each side which means 48 people living together in close proximity sharing one small wood stove, it was freezing. People were of different backgrounds, different values and religious persuasions from Orthodox to Atheist which led to many arguments and fights.

There was one big washroom. It was always very crowded and in appalling condition. My mother believed that in order to survive (she was always an optimist) we had to try and stay healthy. As she had to get up at 3:00 am to light the furnaces she would wake my brother and me and made sure we washed ourselves top to bottom with ice cold water as the washroom at that time of night was fairly empty.

During my year in Theresienstadt gas chambers were being built right outside the camp but nobody was actually aware of it, though there may have been rumors. We were aware of the many transports to Auschwitzk. Quotas had to be filled, and many artists, musicians, writers, actors, painters as well as Jewish philosophers and intellectuals were all sent to their death, including one set of my grandparents and many other relatives.

My father got the dreaded command to assemble for a train to Auschwitz and I remember clearly that he came to the women’s barracks to say goodbye. That was the one and only time I saw him shed bitter tears. He was excused at the last minute due to the forged Paraguay passport which saved his life.

I still have that passport as well as the doll and a diary that my surviving grandfather kept throughout the war years, which I have translated for my children and grandchildren.

On May 8th, 1945, on my brothers 7th birthday, we were liberated by the Russian Army which was greatly feared as they had a reputation of being barbaric and stories of rape and cruelty made the rounds. But we never had any bad experiences. They fed us heavy dark bread and lots of barley, something our systems were not used to. Many inmates got very sick, and quite a few died after having survived the camp.

Our return trip to Amsterdam took many weeks. We traveled at times on a train, this time not boxcars. Often the trip was interrupted due to bombed railroad tracks. We traveled by open trucks with stops that sometimes lasted days and days. Eventually we arrived back in Holland.

The first night in Amsterdam my father contacted a Gentile friend whom he had given a lot of our wordly possessions and savings for safekeeping. Little did we know that he had collaborated with the Germans and had gambled on the fact that we would not survive. He was totally surprised to hear from us. When my father explained that we literally had no roof over our heads and asked it he could take us into his home, his reply was negative, he was busy and could do nothing for us. And so we slept that first night back in Amsterdam at the railroad station on baggage carts.

We had to rebuild our lives slowly, first we lived in a rented room, but within two years we were back on track. I had lost 3 years of schooling and my parents had lost all tangible possessions, as well as many family members.

Much much later, in the 1980s when I spent many hours with my widowed father and I asked him questions pertaining to the war years, he was not well and not willing to discuss them only to say, “lass mich in ruhe,” leave me in peace. I didn’t pursue the matter and respected his wish, though I had a great number of unanswered questions.

I want to end this by saying that according to the statistics, of the 15,000 or more children who passed through Theresienstadt, only 100 survived and my brother and I were two of them? Pretty mind boggling!

Parenting Teens in a Legalized Marijuana Resort Town

Parenting Teens in a Legalized Marijuana Resort Town

When people think of life in Aspen, some may sneer at thoughts of kids being dropped off at the high school in cars that cost more than thir homes. They may feel envy for families with private jets who fly off on a whim on exotic adventure trips for the weekend, or for the year if their kids are misbehaving. I myself have felt that envy, especially when experiencing the wrath of teendom.

There have been many a day when my husband and I felt that this task was far bigger than what we could handle and I spent  many a day exploring the options of sending our oldest son to a place specializing in teaching civility, grace, and the importance of contributing to humanity. Every lead circled back to the reality that we could not afford any programs and that we would have to deal, using the resources available to us in our valley.

Being a Stay at Home Working Mom has its benefits, but financial freedom is not one them, and thus, with no budget for summer camps, I have played the role of camp counselor for many summers taking the boys on travel gigs for the blog, and out on daily wilderness excursions through enchanted forests of pristine white Aspen Groves and fields of wildflowers, sometimes ending into icy plunges into mountain lakes.

When the oldest turned 15, those adventures came to a rebellious and abrupt stop. To our newly teenaged boys, just the mention of adventure or hiking brought forth a litany of grimaces and rejections. This is when our freestyling son’s summer consisted of hucking off ledges at the Aspen skateboard park and throwing misties off of the Stillwater bridge into hypothermic rivers, until we demanded that he throw himself into a job instead.

That 8th grade summer is when parenting kicked into high gear. No longer were conversations enough to talk him through unnecessary outbursts of dramatic eruptions. Our breathtakingly adorable, entertaining curly headed little boy had transformed into a volcanic mythical creature with beautifully carved horns that he butted into us with every attempt we made at parenting.  Enduring punched in walls by bloody fists and explicatives that left us gasping for air as if we too had been punched, we navigated the storms swirling around us as best we could.

Just after that summer, Colorado Amendment 64 was passed and pot shops quickly began to emerge on the streets of Aspen. Soon after, Denver released its first public education campaign in the post-marijuana legalization era, “Don’t be a Lab Rat”. At the time, our boys ranged in age from 8–13 and were the lab rats that they were targeting for their campaign warning that the risks of marijuana on teenagers were still unknown. We knew they could be rat-like at times, but lab rats? I worried.

Soaring into the high school like a gorgeous scaly, charcoal black dragon with leathery wings he discovered his tribe and together they puffed out sparks of fire and herbal scented smoke rings and his sweet breath turned skunky. The angrier and harder the punches, the more we knew he was about to do something he shouldn’t be at his age.

Giving in to our obstreperous teen to avoid the painful outbursts would have saved the vice that was growing between my husband and I. Our relationship had suffered before from financial stress, but nothing until now had threatened our marriage. With each fist thrown we grew further and further apart, he thinking I was paranoid and hovering, and my thinking he was in denial that our son was partying, and not being the disciplinarian that our son needed.I began the process of meeting with the counselors in our valley to learn how to raise a teenaged boy in a town where supervision ran thin. It was then that I realized why many parents chose to take a big step back in their parenting when their kids turn into teenagers. Teenagers were angry and scary and extremely difficult to manage. The less discipline and expectations there were, the less confrontations and anger one had to deal with. To take the path of least resistance would have allowed for my husband and I the freedom to rekindle our passions together. If we let our boy loose, thinking that the best way to learn is through trial and tribulation, it would have lessened our parenting responsibilities, but also would have set a horrible example for his younger brothers.

What I knew from the bottom of my heart was that he was going to learn life’s lessons even if we were to be mindful and present, and I was certain that to turn a blind eye now would be the worst thing we could do. Just as we guided our toddlers from veering too close to the wood burning stove, I was determined to guide our boy away from danger as much as possible.

My fear that addiction may set in, either in our boy, or in ourselves, intensified my search for a counselor. One year and six counselors later I found the right fit, and received a grant from a local community foundation to pay for in-home counseling.

When the counselor walked through our front door, rubbing his belly bulging over his belt as he took in the family vibe, I worried that I had made yet another mistake. His resemblance to Robert De Niro was uncanny. It felt as though we were the cast in a Quentin Tarantino movie where everything was about to go very wrong.

He asked that the family all sit down together and as we all slumped down in our chairs, our youngest wide-eyed and confused at the age of 9, the counselor began by asking the boys if they knew how many rights kids had until they were 18. The boys, and my husband, looked over at me simultaneously with “what the hell” expressions on their faces. What cocamamy thing had mommy set up this time? The counselor answered for them, “They have the right to be fed, they have the right to an education, and they have the right to be safe.” I held my breath grasping at straws for what his point was. The air began to thicken as he launched into his next question that made my walls of parenting and hard work crash down around me like the bombing of the Parthenon. “Why do you feel the need to tell your mother the truth?” He asked. My son was all ears. “Because she doesn’t want me to lie,” was his answer. “Buuutttt,” the counselor went on, as I gawked at his Eagle-like features waiting for him to swoop down and grasp my boy in his talons to carry him away forever, “If you give your parents the ‘impression’ that all is okay, than they do not need to question you … do they?” And there, with one statement, he transferred the responsibility and accountability from us to our son —and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Turns out his point about their rights was to let them know that they actually did not own the world like they thought they did, and that while they were under our roof, they abided by our rules.

Things got better as our son realized we were watching his mood, the smell on his breath and his grades, and he was doing a good job of giving us the impression that all was good, until the calls started coming in, from the principal, the teachers, and from the police. Each weekly visit at 9pm, the counselor walked through the door asking who needed the counseling. Since the oldest already got the message on what he needed to do to get me off his back, and since my husband resumed to looking at our family through rose colored lenses, it usually would be me asking for more guidance on how not to worry and trust that the training I was getting was legit. Working with me late into the evening as I recorded each conversation to playback over and over again when troubles heightened, he helped me to understand his personalized method for consequences, and how not to worry so much.

This was four years ago, and my husband and I have crossed the gamut of emotions, veering closely to destruction and back to oneness at any given month, and now, with our third child turning thirteen in a few months, we can only hope that we are that much further ahead in our parenting than we were then.

What we do know is that we live in a town where unsupervised parties are allowed by parents who believe that it is better to provide a safe place for kids to party, than to not know where they are at all. Two false negatives that we don’t need to abide by. We also know that these obstacles exist no matter where one lives, and that it may take time that none of us have to move beyond the tip of the iceberg on how to effectively parent them. For the moment though, we all seem to be on the same page as a family, and recognize that we have progressed by leaps and bounds, and we are hopeful that by being present and mindful our boys will grow into healthy, responsible, happy adults, without addictions, and with THAT I’ll leave you until the next story.

Getting My Palm Read with Cynthia Clark

Getting My Palm Read with Cynthia Clark

As many of you know, I’ve been working with experts to help me to stay on my creative path. In this podcast Cynthia Clark, Author, Teacher, Hand Analyst Expert and Intuitive Life Coach, reads my palm and helps steer me along.

With a desire to help people to understand how people can grow and progress, Cynthia has written the book, The World is in Your Hands, and has been on tour traveling throughout the country to helping others to find and live their authentic destiny.

I will say that, although spiritual, I can be quite the skeptic when it comes to looking toward the future to see your destiny. It was Cynthia’s non-nonsense business background that brought me in, that and a conversation I had with a friend whose life pretty much changed full circle after getting his palm read by Cynthia. “You HAVE to go to her,” he exclaimed.

I am fascinated to learn that our hands map out our lives, and our forever changing destiny. The fingerprints telling your soul level, the lines on the hands mimicing pathways of the brain, and the hand shape representing one’s personal archetype. The thumb represents one’s will power, the bigger and stronger the thumb the more dominant the will power. If one has a long thumb it’s easier to manifest one’s destiny, and, if one such as myself has a totally curved hitchhikers thumb, one is easily adaptable, which could be considered a good thing, or bad as we with flexible thumbs tend to get easily distracted. I’m also Water, both meaning that I make my decisions based on how I feel, rather than logic, and I’m very adaptable, which could lead to my having trouble with direction and staying on course. AHA moment.

Through this journey I have been on, beginning with Rod Stryker’s Path to Enlightenment course I took through the Aspen Chapel a few years ago; I have tried to meditate weekly, if not daily; have had conversations with life coaches; have listened to many books about the creative and meditative mind; and now have had my palm read on the air, and have written down my intentions during the new moon at Aspen Shakti.

What consistently throws me off is the desire to reach financial gain due to the guilt I have of working extremely long hours without receiving solid monthly monetary compensation. This bogs me down in thoughts and sabotages my momentum.

The setting of intentions and quieting the mind through meditation allows for greater ease of flow. As I mentioned in my last live Facebook conversation with Jeff Patterson, I had a dream where I was riding my mountain bike up a single track trail with a drop off to one side. Knowing that my bike would follow where my eyes went, I tried not to look at the “yikesy” side with a mantra going on in my head to keep riding and looking forward. But, my mind betrayed me and looked to the right and off the trail I went. Slowly tumbling through the air, I thought about how sad I was that this was the end, and that I was not going to be able to be there to guide my boys anymore to become the beautiful beings that I knew they would be. But, I also thought about how my life had been so full and that if I had to go, it was okay. And then I landed on my feet, unscathed and got back on my bike.

At the time, I didn’t know what the message was to the dream, but as I listen to others talk about success and happiness, I understand that the message to the dream was to not allow for my mind to disrupt my goals, and to continue doing all I am doing; the yoga, the meditation, the giving of myself to help others, and soon the rewards will pay off.

Listening to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D. talk about “The Flow State” he declares that ecstasy means stepping into an alternative reality where the conscious mind is not driving. He also states that one finds happiness  and success by helping others.

My conversations with Jeff and my interlude with Cynthia’s reading of my palm, provides me with the tools I need to help me navigate this wildly beautiful path I am on, and not worry about the outcome. And this is why I shoot from the hip. This is why I invite people to tell their own stories on my site. This is why I keep writing the stories, and this is why you all keep reading.

[su_box title=”The Flow State from”]The flow state has been described by the world’s greatest thinkers as the most productive and creative state of mind in which to work. In addition, positive psychologists–most notably Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.–argue that achieving the flow state on a regular basis is a key component of happiness. That is, by learning how to enter the state of flow you can increase your productivity, be more creative, and be happier, all at the same time.[/su_box]

[su_box title=””%5DMihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”[/su_box]

Listen to our first podcast with Cynthia here. To find out more about Cynthia click here.

Listen to the palm reading here.

Chapter Six: Protecting Our Innocence

Chapter Six: Protecting Our Innocence

The mornings in my bedroom were the antithesis of the nights; warm, safe and my own haven, where I’d spend oodles of time alone letting my imagination go, dancing wildly to my 45 records, spending time on my CB radio, or playing with the barbie dolls I so wanted to look like. The superficial messages of how to look began early, with barbie dolls.

Like many Baby Boomers, our childhood was pretty unsupervised. Other than that horrifying “Stranger Danger” movie that traumatized us all for life with pictures of a lone sneaker found in the woods and missing children on milk cartons, parents seemed to have had less to worry about back then. My sisters became quite independent at an early age, taking care of their little sister by holding my hand and pulling me along with them on all of their adventures, saving my life when I would do silly things like skate straight into the thawed icy waters of the pond in the back woods of our house. I remember well being so happy to be included with the big kids as the blades of my skates dug into the frozen pond. I also remember flirting and not paying attention and not being able to hockey stop before plunging into the frozen water. With my skates and water-logged clothes dragging me down from the breaking ice that I was trying to get a grasp onto, I didn’t despair, trusting my sisters would save me. And they did. When left to their own devices kids can be quite resourceful and at my Michele’s demand, they quickly formed a chain by all holding hands and pulled my dead weight out of the water.

Comforting me as wet as a drowned rat sniffling on the path back home, they assured me that all would be okay and kept me going by telling me we could do our favorite thing, sneak packages of unmade jello and hide in a closet to stick our fingers into the powder and eat the box (like Pixie-Sticks). That one was risky because there was no lying due to our dyed orange and red fingers, lips and tongues.

Sneaking me up the back stairs to my room I left puddles of footprints (that back staircase became more and more useful as I got older). “Silly girls,” my parents admonished with no questions asked when they found the heap of wet clothes entangled with the tornado of a mess that was my bedroom.

To deepen the bonds and our loyalty to one another, we became blood sisters, pricking our thumbs with pins and blending the blood together and making sacred vows to love each other forever and NEVER tell our secrets. We were forever sworn to secrecy and never defied that trust. Never. Not even when our favorite cat Nike was entrapped under a box filled with pot smoke to see how he would react at one of the many parties that were thrown at our house on those weekends when my father coerced my mother to go off on romantic escapades without us. My sisters were left behind with a wad of cash, the keys to the BMW and little instructions to take care of their little sister.

As we got older our roles reversed as I tried to protect my sisters from our father’s horrible temper. Being 21 years old than our mother, he really was in a different time zone than his wife and three girls and had no desire or idea how to relate to us. He interrupted our harmonious lives together and we began to become resentful of his moods and intolerance as we got older.

There were many times when he would be reprimanding us about walking into the house with wet shoes, or leaving a light on, and Michele and I would keep silent not wanting to send him into a rage, but not Melanie. Melanie would rebel and provoke him, sending him to a dangerous place with his temper. When this would happen Michele and I would scream at both my father and Melanie to stop, shielding the blows as best we could. What we could not understand was his inability to refrain from allowing himself to get to that angry state, both mentally and sometimes physically. Things improved a bit when our mother began to slip him a little blue pill as she fed him all the others for his heart and his back pain, and we would get glimpses into what our mother had fallen in love with. A playful, adventurous, flirtatious, gentle man with an infectious laugh and a wonderful sense of humor. I was the most like him.

Melanie was our warrior, protecting us from our father’s short temper, and his discipline. A natural born rebel, she’d toss fuel onto his anger and get his fires roaring, sending him to a dangerous place. Michele and I would scream at both of them to stop, shielding the blows as best we could. The damage that parents can cause to their children, even without any physical contact, is tributable to the monstrous adults in our world today.

Heading off into the woods, we’d prick our fingers, smashing our blood together in a pact of allegiance, and swearing to always be there for each other.

But Harold wasn’t all bad. His sense of humor, and his love for his daughters and our mother, often redeemed him. It was a traditional marriage that they had, with he working all day in commercial real estate and she doing everything else; the cooking, the entertaining, the taking care of the girls.

Bringing in her people to help her with the cleaning of our large white house on the hill, the ironing of my father’s shirts, and the dinner parties, it was always an enigma as to where our mother found her people who all seemed slightly askew. She took them all under her wing and supported them when she could, and even when she couldn’t, no questions asked, and no judgement, even when she’d come home to find one of them frolicking in she and my father’s bed with his concubine. “Where else is he supposed to go?” She’d ask us as we beckoned her to wake up to reality.

Our mother’s philanthropy was hidden from Harold who felt that these people did not need to benefit from his hard-earned money. He was generous with his family but the buck stopped there.

If he could, Harold would have lived a nice, quiet but adventurous life with his family, but Nicky craved a much less provincial lifestyle surrounding herself with her children and quirky friends. We chalked it all up to her lonely upbringing in England and her desire to take care of other lost souls.

On rainy days she’d bundle us up. The more inclement the weather the more magical our walks became. Gathering our wellies and umbrellas we’d head outside to splash around in the rain, following her like ducklings through the puddles and soaking up her l’aissez-faire energy as she poetically described the changing light on a grey day and the soft whisper of the trees, or in the winter, the snow diamonds sparkling in the snow. With our mum, the stormier the weather, the happier she’d be.

When we turned to teens, it was Harold who demanded our attention for walks that were more like training sessions on how life was not all about fun. The entire walk would be a lecture on marrying well, which meant finding eligible, rich Jewish bachelors. With hands waving in the air like a spasmodic wind mill he’d animatedly talk about the importance of money and finding a man with ambitions. He was too removed from our world to notice that the men of our generation were growing up with different ethics about work and marriage.

We were from the Baby Boom generation, a generation who had only heard about hard times but had never experienced them. Growing up in a time of affluence, we rejected traditional values and lived our life the way we wanted to live it. Filled with fun, and lots and lots of boyfriends, Jewish or not.

Harold’s visions of wealth for us meant that he was not going to release us into the arms of just any brave high school boy pursuing us. He became the watchdog of the house, managing to scare off the weak with his intimate questions like, “What stocks did you buy this week?” If ever any of the men were brave enough to go out to dinner with our family, the ordering part of dinner became one where we’d hold our breath lest some unfortunate boy would order the most expensive thing on the menu AND a drink evoking Harold’s mischievous side, “So, when are YOU going to take US to dinner?” he’d ask. The embarrassing questions increased as we reached the end of our high school tenor when he’d half jokingly request our boyfriends to pay for dinner and offer up marriage proposals. The smart boyfriends learned quickly, appeasing him by watching football with him or by offering to do our chores of cleaning out the gutters and raking the lawn. The not so smart boys stopped calling.

It turns out that Harold had good reason to worry about his girls. Melanie, moody and dreamy with flashing almond green eyes and a passion for clothes, considered herself to be the black sheep of the family, claiming she got the raw end of the stick with our parents who didn’t seem quite ready for a child yet when she popped out. Like her mother, she was the nurturer of other black sheep, attracting beautiful, troubled souls into her life, leaving the house as often as she could with them as they grunted their hellos to our parents, patted her little sister on the head not noticing her batting eyelashes, and screech off.

Michele attracted the perfect boys. The ones who were surely headed for greatness and who had their shit together in high school. The kind I was too intimidated with to flirt with. Excelling at everything, they knew how to impress our parents, dissolving any suspicions so that they could then be naughty in their own teen-aged boy ways and do things like scale up the trellis outside her window late at night to wake her up, or if that didn’t work, knock on her little sister’s more accessible window to let them in.

And then there was me, a girl whose life purpose was to be around boys as much as possible. Harold had his hands full.

As long as I can remember I have always loved boys. The only reason why I got excited for school was  so that I could flirt. When I was sixteen I fell madly in love for the first time. He was a year older than me and I was smitten before he even knew I existed. Breathing in everything he did, I observed him for months; the way he leaned into people by bending his tall frame over to get more intimate; the way his pecks bulged as they crossed in front of his waste; the way his friends adored him the most; the way he smiled; the way he laughed. His voice. And then I went to a friend’s house for an unsupervised party, and there he was. Sucking down Blackberry Brandy I gained the courage to descend to the basement and feign interest in the pool game he was playing.

Eventually my lingering presence caught his attention and that night began my love affair with love as we  slept wrapped up in each other on an L-shaped couch shared with all of our friends.

Sexy, spiritual and fiercely independent, my first boyfriend taught me all about love in the basement of his house, his parents upstairs. I learned of loyalty and that people don’t fly away when conflict arises. He introduced me to deep thinking, and to question meaning. He introduced me to The Doors and drugs. And then our best friends fell in love too, and we watched as it fell apart after she got pregnant her Junior year.

Much to Harold’s dismay, my first was neither Jewish, nor was he rich. In fact, his lovely, tiny mother was a Born Again Christian and taught Sunday school in tongues. I tried to convince my dad that being a Sunday school teacher meant that she was a wonderful person. He still wouldn’t ever take him out to dinner. But my soul-mate was in love with me, and if my father didn’t get it, than Fuck him. We breathed as one now.

When he went off to college I tried to stay true and resist the attention of the others swarming in, but what was a nineteen year old to do? My mother’s words of wisdom became the soul of my existence, “Relationships are like traveling, the more men you meet in your life, the more life experiences you will have.” She denies ever having said that.





Cruising Around Aspen

Cruising Around Aspen

Below Photo Credit: Gus Goldman

[su_carousel source=”media: 44234,44233,44232,44231,44230,44229,44228,44227″ limit=”50″ height=”380″ items=”1″]Bikes lined up outside of the Aspen Brewing Company on Hopkins Ave. People stuffed six packs of Brew Co.’s delicious blondes and IPA’s into baskets on the front of their bikes. String Cheese Incident, Grateful Dead, and Justin Bieber permeated from different speakers rigged any way they could be to people’s bikes. A man with a backpack designed to look like Yoda clinging onto Luke’s back when he’s training on Dagobah rolled by us. I’m not sure how practical the backpack is, but it was one of the coolest backpacks I’ve ever seen.

Below Photo Credit: Igor Gevonshyr

[su_carousel source=”media: 44606,44604,44603,44602,44601,44598,44597,44596,44594,44588,44586,44585,44584,44583,44582,44581,44579,44578,44577″ limit=”50″ height=”380″ items=”1″]

Tuesday Cruiseday

What started out six years ago as a small group of working locals and transplants making sure to get together at least once a week, has turned into Tuesday Cruiseday, a weekly ride where 400 riders, with everyone on the same page of having fun while being courteous to cars and other trail users, and packing in and out all trash, rally together at 6:30pm at the Aspen Brewing Company to meet and mingle while drinking artisan craft beers and then head on out to bike through town into the sunset.

This past Tuesday we gathered part of our AspenRealLife team together and experienced what this tour was all about. Too many Tuesdays had already gone by where we observed from the periphery sucking down happy hour cocktails as all ages joined together to take off on this ride. This time we joined in.

The bicycle armada took off from outside of Aspen Brewing Company. People whooped and shouted as we tore through the streets of Aspen. Bikes struggled for space on the Marolt path. People were cutting each other off and stopping to drink beer, but everyone was having too much fun to care.

We passed the Marolt Mining and Ranching museum, which was a really cool old structure with Aspen Mountain in the backdrop that I actually had no idea even existed. We came to a roundabout and circled it for a few minutes while music was blaring and people were slapping hands as they passed each other.

Next stop was a big field near the Marolt barn where we found some time to safely enjoy a few beers. The clouds looked ready to storm and a few light raindrops fell, but this only made it look more beautiful as the smell of marijuana smoke filled the air. It is legal after all.

We continued biking along the highway downvalley. Falling behind one group of friends led to instantly running into another group. I’ve only lived in this valley for a year and it’s great to see so many people that I already have met all enjoying a beautiful evening together.

My favorite part of the ride was zipping downhill on Cemetery Lane. At this point, most people were more than a few beers deep as we hit peak speed going downhill. We stopped at Stein Park just outside of Aspen, the starting point of the intense Slaughterhouse rapids on the Roaring Fork was now full of people drinking their beers and socializing around the park.

The journey ended at the park located at the base of Smuggler mountain where we all sat to watch the sun begin to set as pipes were lit and any unfinished beers were consumed. The party continued so I thought it best to return my WE-cycle bike into its station near the brewery where we started.

Riding bikes around town is a beautiful way to pregame, creating the perfect prelude to the late night scene on a Tuesday night where I bounced around between our favorite spots; Justice Snows, New York Pizza, Hops, Kenichi, Red Onion, ending at Eric’s. Every place was fairly crowded and radiated good vibes. Someone jumped on stage with the musician playing at Red Onion and tried to sing “Free Fallin'”, but he forgot all of the words. The guitarist had to talk him off the stage. If you’re going to try something like that, at least remember the words.

Tuesday Cruiseday is an amazing tradition that allows all members of the community to come together weekly and have a great time enjoying the beauty of the valley. So if you can, come on out next week at 6:30 PM to Aspen Brewing Company and get ready for a great time.

Photo Credit: Jillian Livingston

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Encountering Wildlife, and Pain

Encountering Wildlife, and Pain

Encountering Wildlife, and Pain

When I read the text, “Let’s go for a walk today???” I had to pull the phone closer to my face to confirm that the message came from Pam, my long-legged, golden-hair She-Ra of a friend (think Amazon Goddess meets Tarzan, Scrat and Sacagawea). With all of those traits packed into one, Pam is not the type to take walks, preferring to push her physical limits in everything she does in her life, but she was being a good friend to her Jilly3 who was in the midst of recovering from a virus that felt similar to typhoid. 
The virus started with a sore throat that felt like strep, and as the inflammation invaded my body I woke up on my birthday with my Sciatic Nerve screaming, “HAPPY *(&%’N BIRTHDAY!!!!” Feeling as though some evil force was digging the sharp tip of a carving knife deeper into my nerve I called in my people, beginning with Denise Searle, Owner of The Fix, whose treatments many of you have been experiencing through my blog
Having resisted the Cryotherapy Chamber due to my fear of being cold, Denise told me it was time to get in there to bring the inflammation down, and so I consented/relented and relinquished my body to the chamber. I should have listened to Denise from the beginning and gone in there sooner.
In the eight months that I have trained with Denise in Pilates, I have experienced her professionalism and have gained immense respect for her as a trainer and as a professional with great attention to detail. Denise has earned my trust for her knowledge in the treatments she provides, and the practitioners she brings in at The Fix.
Before entering the Cryotherapy Chamber Denise explained the mechanisms of it and how it helps to decrease inflammation in the body. Handing me the best wool socks and mittens on the market, a bathrobe, and cushy memory foam slippers before entering the chamber, I felt relieved in knowing that it would only be three minutes and that she would be there to talk me through every second of it.
The first time I was nervous and so I needed Denise to keep reminding me to try to relax to stop my teeth from chattering. The more I relaxed the more my blood would flow more efficiently to my heart, and, when I walked out of the chamber, rush more freely hydrated and restoring my body.
The best way to describe the experience is that I felt as though I was actually inside an ice pack where my body felt a slight burn of coldness, but there was no pain. When I walked out of the chamber a wonderful warm feeling rushed throughout my body and stayed with me all day. I slept like a champion and was invigorated the next day. After three visits I felt the inflammation decrease and it was easier for me to stretch my muscles and feel results from my stretching.
In addition, Denise scheduled a deep tissue massage for me with Anita Rayburn. Anita read my body well and applied the perfect pressure to get in to my Piriformis, ham strings and throughout my body to break up the knots and get the blood flowing. I liked Anita’s massage so much that I bought a ten pack for Baddy. He is now hooked on her as well. The other massage I experienced was with David Berkson who practices Inner Awareness Body Work and Massage.
Before his hands even touched my body, I could tell that David was a healer. Walking around me contemplatively with his chin in his hand he read my energy and the way I carried my body, saying things like, “Why are you standing so far forward? Don’t be in such a rush to get to where you are going, sit back more on your heals.”  In the massage he went directly to all of my painful spots and with his touch he showed me where the muscles wanted to be, rather than where they were. I walked out of there feeling absolutely incredible and as though I had just gone on a journey with somebody who completely nurtured me and gave me their everything. David is now my guy to go to when I need that healing touch. On top of all the healing therapies, Denise gave me packets of Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C, Glutathione and B Complex Plus.
Feeling like I was on the road to recovery, I didn’t rest as I was told to do and decided that if I couldn’t mountain bike, I could at least hike … to the top of Buttermilk … and stretch …. aggressively, sending me back into The Fix, humbled. That was about when Pam called to support me in taking it easy.
We parked at Slaughterhouse Bridge and walked our more preferred section of the Rio Grande Trail. With winter hanging on for as long as it could, we dressed for the chill, I in my Columbia Sportswear Omni Heat light blue AspenRealLife jacket, with my Lilybart Foundation bear logo embroidered in the back by Aspen local Paula Godfrey Eaton, and my nordic race hat from Performance Ski (plug).
As we walked, the winter runoff raged down the river, separating like a water fan over the huge boulders that had been covered in snow all winter.  Passing a sweet little Chipmunk at eye level on a rock, I took a closer look to see if his cheeks were filled with food and if he had an acorn in his paws. With nuts and seeds as her snacks, Pam is usually by my side noisily reaching her hand into a bag to shove a handful of some sort of natural concoction into her mouth to give her even more energy. I was hoping for her to get a closer look at the Scrat side I often hang with.
We were talking about how I feel the need to know what Baddy and my next move should be after that imminent day when the owners send the message that it’s time to level the house that we are living in (we’ve moved 8 X’s in 14 years). Pam was encouraging me to live in the moment and let that worry go when the Sakawega in her stopped in her tracks. Leaning back to whisper loudly to me, “BEAR!!!!“.
I stopped and froze with the thought occurring to me that if anyone was going to get mauled, it was going to be my own sick self. I knew what to do if needed, raise my arms up in the air, get taller and wider and be the bear. My Gary Larsonesque stream of consciousness began to chant, “be the bear, act like the bear, be the bear.”
One thing I was certain of was that running was the worst idea. Walking backward didn’t feel right either so the two of us stood very still and watched as mama bear began to lumber away, her cub frolicking by her side, jumping up to bat it’s paws on her nose to play. Whispering out of the side of her mouth and nudging my rib with a sharp elbow Sakawega told me to get my camera out as she had forgotten her phone. Actually, the only thing Sakawega ever brings with her on her excursions is water and her nuts. She doesn’t even carry her knife with her anymore that she uses to strap onto her outer calf. She’s clearly not worried about survival, even though she purposefully likes to get off the beaten track and often gets lost and has to call Baddy to lead her back onto the trail.
It was almost too beautiful and magical a moment to video record it, but I managed to watch with my eyes while filming with my phone, capturing Mama Bear taking her mouth and picking up her baby cub by the scruff of his neck to wander off into the woods. I felt badly for disturbing them, and yet these powerful moments one has capturing the love between wild animals is so magical and powerful. I am so happy to carry this image with me where ever I go, and share it with all of you.
It’s not easy to say what was the best therapy to cure my body. I’m thinking it was a combination of everything; the good friends, the magical and powerful moments with nature, the healers, the therapies, and my change of diet to decrease inflammation.  What I did learn is that sometimes one has to hit rock bottom in their health to learn important lessons like; there are people out there whose life ambition is to help others and they are just a call away, and that friends and being out in nature is a must for the healing process.

What is Cryotherapy?

[su_box title=”Cryotherapy “]I am impressed by Denise’s knowledge and meticulous attention to detail and trust that she is on the right path to naturally healing the aches and pains of her clients, and get those on medication to be able to throw those pills away. One of Denise’s most valued therapies that she offers to Aspen is Cryotherapy. Invented in the 1970’s for people with rheumatoid arthritis, it is said that Cryotherapy removes inflammation of the joints and also helps with athletic recovery for those who are taxing their body through training. It is also said that it can relieve fatigue, insomnia and stress and increase the metabolic rate for weight loss. With many Roaring Fork Valley athletes recently returned from running in the New York City Marathon I am thinking they could use a good bout of sessions in the Cryochamber for relief of sore limbs and torn tissues. Starting at -166 Farenheit and dropping to temperatures as low as -300 Farenheit, the Cryochamber exposes the whole body or a specific area to subzero temperatures, which stimulates skin’s sensors, activating a response in the nervous system. This causes the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain inhibitors and mood elevators. Cryotherapy also enhances blood circulation which helps to decrease inflammation by clearing toxins and metabolic waste from the blood supply. The additional supply of oxygen and cleared, nutrient enriched blood then stimulates faster healing through cell regeneration. These types of treatments are at the forefront of healing technologies and have been adopted by elite athletes and pro teams for muscle and injury recovery. Cryotheraphy is becoming nationally well documented as being used for the daily management of pain, inflammation, energy, and stress related conditions, as well as a treatment for fine lines and wrinkles when used as a facial application.[/su_box]

Why Lypo-Spheric?

[su_box title=”Lypo-Spheric “]Superior nutrients and liposomal encapsulation technology makes Lypo-Spheric the most comprehensive and powerful supplement of its kind. Vitamin C encapsulates the C molecules in liposomes made from Essential Phospholipids, which protect the vitamin C from destruction in the digestive system. Within minutes of taking Lypo-Spheric™ Vitamin C, liposomes filled with vitamin C are transported directly into your bloodstream, and into your cells. Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C™ has been called “Vitamin C on steroids!” Lypo-Spheric Glutathione encapsulates the Glutathione in liposomes made from Essential Phospholipids, which protect it from being destroyed by digestive juices. Within minutes of taking Lypo-Spheric GSH, the tiny liposomes filled with Glutathione are transported directly into the bloodstream, and into the cells. This makes Lypo-SphericGlutathione one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to boost your levels of this essential antioxidant. Glutathione (GSH) is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, cleansers and immune system boosters. It also works quickly to neutralize free-radicals and recycle other antioxidants like Vitamins C and E. Although the body manufactures GSH, many aspects of living quickly deplete the body’s stores. Pathogens, toxins, and aging also greatly diminish GSH levels. Until recently, because unprotected GSH is destroyed in the stomach, precursors in the diet were the only way to help restore optimum GSH levels. LivOn Labs “Smart” Lyposomal Nano-Spheres transport GSH bio-availability without depending on the body’s capacity to find and put together a series of precursors.
The Lypo-Spheric™ B Complex Plus innovative formula incorporates superior, active forms of B-Vitamins such as Benfotiamine, a fat soluble form of Thiamine (B1), Methylcobalamin (B12), Niacinamide (B3) and Pyridoxal 5 phosphate + Pyridoxine HCl (B6), selenomethionine as selenium, and a new source of phospholipids – all to ensure that every ingredient is non-GMO.
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Healing with Horses

Healing with Horses

There are many incredible organizations helping children in our valley, WindWalkers is one of them. Located on a beautiful ranch in Missouri Heights where sage brush infuses the Colorado air, Windwalkers is an equine assisted learning and therapy center where individuals with challenges, be they physical, neurological, emotional, behavioral or psychological, partake in therapeutic activities with horses to achieve goals they never thought were possible. 

While sitting astride a horse, a rider with a disability is not only gaining confidence and self-esteem while controlling such a magnificent animal, but they are reaping the many benefits that the unique movement of the horse provides. Ambulation, speech, improved range of motion, and improved muscle tone are just a few little miracles that happen at WindWalkers.


Windwalkers is an organization where patients challenged with everything from cerebral palsy and autism, to drug and alcohol dependency and post traumatic stress syndrome, receive equine assisted therapy.  What this means is that horses are matched with children and adults who have physical, emotional, behavioral, and neurological disorders and through this therapy startling results occur. Individuals with challenges often struggle to communicate – but put them with horses and they can achieve so much, because it seems more like fun than therapy. The childlike awe and the widening of the eyes when a client sees, and touches, their horse for the first time is beautiful to observe.

While there is little controlled research on the subject, progress notes from physical therapists, as well as reports from physicians, teachers and parents, testify to its benefits. These include improved balance, muscle strength, self-confidence, interpersonal skills and agility. The impact on everyone who participates in equine assisted activities is visible from their infectious smiles and laughter that occurs daily.

WindWalkers Therapy

Since 2005, volunteers and staff at WindWalkers work 6 days a week, 12 months out of the year and have had an unwavering commitment to those with challenges in the Roaring Fork Valley, helping to improve the physical well-being, behavioral development and emotional health of clients, their families and the communities.

Therapy takes 3 people to take one client out, two side-walkers and one leading the horse. Not everyone needs that much help, but it does require a dedicated experienced group of volunteers, an instructor and our four-legged companion. And, in some cases there may be three to five clients riding at one time, so the profound commitment from volunteers and staff is impressive.

Currently, there are 15 full time horses willing to let clients climb up on their backs, groom them, or just be with them. We call the horses the doctors, the healers, the modality treatment – our friends!

Clients have become more outgoing and children with autism have been known to communicate spontaneously for the first time with a horse. Often students enjoy an independence they never thought would be available to them. While on a horse, they’re able to leave the bonds of their disabilities behind. They become an explorer from the back of their horse. They’re free!

As Aspen Times writer Tony Vagneur described it, “ Whether bound to a wheelchair, locked inside emotionally or anywhere else on a scale of troubled children, these kids and adults, once abroad their horses, are truly walking with the wind, with a feeling deep inside that must be akin to the thrill of birds on the wing.”


How to Help WindWalkers

The program is run by grants and donations from our community and right now (through May 28th, 2017) WindWalkers is having their “$50K Challenge Match Opportunity”. Click here to help them reach their goal.

Become a sponsor of Windwalker’s 5th Annual Benefit Horse Show being held at Strang Ranch on June 23rd– 26th (Friday- Sunday). The annual benefit horse show is one of our major fund-raisers that contributes toward operating costs directly. The deadline for sponsorships is May 30th, 2017.

Healing with Horses

Become a volunteer. Become part of the solution for a healthier individual and community. Make a donation of any size online or simply call and talk to a two-legged staff member at 970-963-2909 or  visit Make someone’s day by “keeping butts in the saddle and feedbags full” act now!

Lower your blood pressure, lower your stress levels reduce feelings of tension, anxiety and anger. Replace them with feelings of empowerment, patience, trust and higher self-esteem, at WindWalkers. 

WindWalkers is a not for profit, 501c3 organization. For questions contact Gabrielle or Mary Jane at (970) 963-2909


Finding Strength and Compassion Through Struggle

Guest Writer: Matt Fisher

Matt is a yoga teacher, college student, and most importantly a student of life. He likes to think he has interesting and unique thoughts to share about life. Read more of Matt’s thoughts here.

Finding Strength and Compassion Through Struggle

My friend I recently had a conversation.  He is a Reiki healer and has helped me through a lot. He told me that he is able to help others so much because he has stood in their shoes before and understands what it is like to be in their struggle, yet also knows what it is like to make it to the other side.  

In a lot of myths someone would come across the path of a shaman or healer, because they themselves needed healing. Having walked through pain and struggle themselves, the Wounded healer has the ability to empathize with others, yet having come out the other side they are able to provide prospective and healing.

In my generation there is an unprecedented amount of suicide, violence, depression, anxiety, addiction and countless other signs that show we are suffering. I have heard countless stories from friends, girlfriends and people I barely know about how much struggle and pain they are going or have gone through , and have had my own struggles. But I have also seen incredible strength, compassion, awareness and a deep desire for change from these same people. Struggle and hardship have valuable lessons to teach us if we are willing to listen. They tell us to value and be grateful for those we love, to care more about the people and environment around us, to be gentler and kinder in the face of hate. We have the choice to allow these experiences to be a catalyst for growth and change, but we have to be willing to face, heal, and learn from them. A lot of the times our first reaction is to numb ourselves so we don’t have to feel anything so horrible every again. Yet when we numb out the bad we numb out the good. When we can’t feel fear or sadness we can’t feel love and joy. But when we having the courage to face the darkness, we find incredible light. And right now the world and the people in our lives need this light more than ever.

Welcome to Our New AspenRealLife Podcast on RadioCMC

Welcome to Our New AspenRealLife Podcast on RadioCMC

Welcome to Our New AspenRealLife Podcast on RadioCMC

Well … our media kit has been designed, thanks to the amazing Max Inc, and our new Marketing and Sales Rep is hitting the streets getting the word out about all of our incredible multi-media platforms to help spread the word of local and national businesses. And as the other mountain media outlets catch on that social media is all about engaging with others, we veer yet again onto a new path, talk radio, and we have chosen none other than Radio CMC to bring us on and take us to the next level in multi-media production.

With incredible podcasts such as; This American Life, Radio Lab, Sam Harris and Esquire, we know well that people all like to get their information differently from one another; some like to read, others like to listen or watch and many like to get in any format they can. Of course over here at AspenRealLife, we like our factual information to be told through stories and we want to listen, watch and read in our own time when we are driving in our cars or cooking in our kitchens, and so we are all over the opportunity to present these local stories to you by podcast, blog and social media so that you can bring it in at your own convenience.

And so here starts our next phase, into the radio world and we can’t thank Radio CMC enough for taking us on  – we are standing beside ourselves in excitement on where this is heading and cannot wait to take our live podcasts to the streets!

So please click on the link above and listen to the introduction to our first podcast via an interview on Radio CMC on their Small Business Spotlight.

Stay tuned for our first AspenRealLife Podcast with …. drumroll please …. our Roaring Fork Valley’s one and only Celebrity Chef, Susie Jimenez.


Listen to Radio CMC’s Small Business Spotlight with Annmarie Deter, Radio CMC Marketing and Sales Director, and AspenRealLife Editor, Jillian Livingston, and get the whole picture on all that we are doing and how we can help you to spread your word!

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Turning 18 in Aspen

Written by Guest Blogger: Isabella Reynolds

Turning 18 in Aspen

“Dad, I want to go to Aspen for my birthday.”
The facial expression I received in response was essentially what you’d expect from the father of a seventeen-year-old daughter that had never been west of New York. It was August, and I had just come home to Connecticut after living with my grandmother in Cape Cod for the summer. I had exercised my independence to a great extent, traveling solo to Vermont for a week-long debate competition and later moving myself into Dunster House for two weeks at Harvard Summer School. I had put a great deal of time and energy into proving my maturity and responsibility, and now was the time to reap the benefits.
“I don’t think so,” he says, which naturally I interpreted as “convince me.”
I approached the persuasion the same way I approach a formal debate: I began with research, looking up prices for hotel rooms, plane tickets, and lift passes. I explored feasibility, calculating how many hours I’d need to put in at my local coffee shop (and what could be subsidized by my parents in the name of birthday generosity). I introduced a chaperone to quell parental fears, and drew out an itinerary solely for their sanity. When it was time for the final debate, I was ready to present my case.
Four months later, my friend Reilly and I were boarding our flight out of Laguardia, and I was still in utter disbelief that I’d actually pulled this off. The entire day felt surreal. I’d been taking Accli-Mate for a week and spent days poring over what to pack, but it still didn’t feel real until I stepped outside of Denver International Airport. It was 9:00, 11:00 east coast time. I was exhausted, and felt scoliosis was imminent after four hours in the tiny United economy class seats. Nevertheless, I dropped my bags, wrapped my arms around Reilly, and loud enough for Aspen to hear me, shouted, “We’re here!!”
Reilly’s cousin, the designated chaperone, drove us out to Aspen the next morning. Route 71 looked something like a dream to me, and I rarely went fifteen minutes without shouting, “Guys!! Look out the window! It’s so beautiful!” Reilly and Andrew are seasoned Coloradans, and the views hardly phase them anymore. But for me, it was like seeing the ocean for the first time.
Three hours later we arrived, and checked in to the Aspen Mountain Lodge. The woman working the desk was incredibly friendly, and the roaring fireplace on the ground floor kept the whole place warm. We opened the door to our room and spent about two minutes shrieking in excitement – until we realized we’d left the door open for all the other guests to hear. After closing it, we continued to celebrate with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Little Debbie’s oatmeal cream pies.
That night we headed out to the games, and saw the men’s and women’s superpipe. Thanks to my uncle and his amazing friends at ESPN, we landed Industry Guest credentials and got to cheer alongside the athletes’ families and friends. We went home, frozen and delighted, and prepared for the next day.
Saturday we headed out to Snowmass for some real-live Rocky Mountain skiing. Back East, all you hear is how spoiled you’ll be after skiing Colorado. These people were not wrong. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. It had snowed up until Thursday, meaning there was plenty of powder to go around. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the lift lines were practically nonexistent.
The day wasn’t without a few downfalls – Reilly and Andrew are far more experienced skiers, and they witnessed more than a few face plants from me (including one that occurred in front of a crowd when I attempted to get on the Poma lift). I also made the fatal mistake of dropping my phone on the shuttle, shattering the screen. However, these were all forgotten later in the evening, when I went to the Inn at Aspen to retrieve my credentials and found myself face to face with G-Eazy.
For those of you who have no idea what that means (looking at you, Mom and Dad), he is a rapper from California, one who I happened to be obsessed with. I played it cool for a few minutes, like any VIP would, ordering the Uber back to my hotel before turning to him and asking for a picture. I told him how I had tickets to see his shows two years in a row in Boston, and each time the show was snowed out. He asked if I was going to see him perform the next day, and I enthusiastically flashed my wristband for the VIP area. Still in a daze, I said goodbye and got in the Uber.
The Uber, which cost $43, took me about five minutes away to meet AspenRealLife founder and editor Jillian at the Red Onion. She and my dad were good friends in college at Boston University. Jillian introduced me to her sister, her husband, and her friends, and my friendly, tight-knit impression of the people of Aspen was only further confirmed.
We finished the night with a fantastic meal at Mezzaluna, where the tiramisu was so good I didn’t even mind that I’d just paid $22 for spaghetti.
On Sunday, I woke up and realized I was an adult. After half-asleep birthday serenading, we headed to Aspen Highlands. The mountain was the perfect combination of scenic trails for me and death-defying, endurance-heavy trails for the other two. They went off to hike the bowl, and I merrily made my way around the mountain. I had lovely conversations with the woman serving hot cider and the more experienced skiers that accompanied me on the lifts. People were ecstatic when I told them it was my first time in Colorado.
We finished the day at the G-Eazy concert, where Reilly and I finagled our way to the front row. We left Buttermilk with our faces still frozen into smiles, and agreed that this was truly the best birthday ever.

Turning 18 in Aspen
Isabella with G-Eazy

Chapter Five: Three Sisters

Chapter Five: Three Sisters

It is when I am in nature where suddenly a feeling of total elation passes over my being and I recognize what that feeling represents, memories from times in my chidhood where I was completely one with nature as it beckoned me in to play and get lost in my imagination.

The memories are of times spent with my sisters, Melanie and Michele, playing in the woods of the isolated places where my parents had their houses. Maybe our deep-rooted bonding came from the isolation where we had no one else to play with but ourselves, or maybe it was from our desire to escape our father’s thunderous roar,  whatever the reason, my sisters have always been my everything, breaking trail to make life easier for me as I was growing up.

Chapter Five: Three Sisters

Having two older sisters who were the kind of girls who didn’t whine and liked to climb trees was a bonus. Melanie, the oldest by three years, was, and still is, powerful and has taught me how to accept personalities so different from my own. With long, thick and curly chestnut hair and a Stallion-like body made for a bikini, she turned me on to Led Zeppelin and what it felt like to be cool. She introduced me to the world of acting, producing and casting plays where we softly bullied the neighborhood boys to dress as girls to perform Zoom plays in our backyard that made for the perfect stage. The best part about Melanie growing up were the scary boyfriends who revved up the driveway on their motorcycles, cigarette in mouth, hair blowing in the wind, sans helmets.

While we were in high school Melanie loved to show off her baby sister. In between classes I’d suddenly find myself barraged by a gang of Seniors, embracing me with bear hugs and delicately running their fingers over my cheeks to check out the peach-skin softness that Melanie spoke of. She ruined me that Melanie-Mouse, making me feel so adored. One can’t possibly live up to that reputation all their lives…. but one can certainly try.

Michele was the total tomboy. Independent, petite and always willing to try anything, she was the one that lured us deeper into the woods, finding sand dunes to leap off of and sledding hills with no run off where you’d have to bail before hitting your demise. We played on the hills of the golf course that belonged to the private country club located behind the woods of our backyard. A club that was restricted to Jews and Blacks. At that age I had no idea why they wouldn’t want intelligent and entertaining people around. I just chalked it up to the fact that they must be stuffy and boring. Our revenge was to let loose our completely untrained German Short-Haired Pointer who would race off to their golf course and deposit lifeless ducks on our doorstep.  Other revenge tactics included blowing dandelion seeds onto their manicured lawns and poaching their swimming pools on warm summer nights. Kids have their passive aggressive ways of retaliation.

Like the most playful of kittens, we three sisters couldn’t stay away from each other, pawing at each other one second, and tearing each other’s hair out the next. We became proficient in holding our hair from the top when facing the anger of each other so it didn’t hurt so much and we tumbled through life intertwined with one another, always playing, always wrestling. We were not of the computer/cell phone generation and so were present and everything we did, we did to its fullest.

Most of our time was spent swinging off the boughs of our favorite pine tree that stood where our yard met the forest. Climbing its branches, we’d reach the tippy top to get a much larger scope outside of the insular world that we were too familiar with. It was safe under that massive pine, and our go-to place when we weren’t playing flashlight tag at night with all the rough boys of the neighborhood, or launching off of the sand-dunes that eventually got leveled like the home we lived in. We chased stars and boys with the fireflies until the dinner bell rang summoning us to come home.

But life wasn’t always charming. Being the third child, I was placed in the worst and coldest room in the house that was situated above the garage with a dark back staircase that led to the kitchen. My only comfort was to hear my mother cleaning the dishes as I fell asleep, which led me to yell out a litany of actions she had to do in order for me to actually drift off, “don’t go in the den (too far away from me), don’t turn the lights off, kiss me good-night again before you are finished” …. the list got longer as I grew into a toddler … and shorter as my high school boyfriends began to climb onto our roof and sneak into my window.

It was scary back there in my little room. To get to my parents room I had to choose either to traipse through Melanie’s bedroom that connected me to the other side of the house, or travel down that dark back stairway with a Narnia-like closet at the top (all of our closets were Narnia-Like, some felt more villainous than others).

Depending on Melanie’s mood, who became a teen-ager way too early, that hallway door was not always open to me, and so I often lay in bed staring at the darkest closet of all, my own. With a vast imagination, that closet brought on recurring nightmares of the door slamming open and dragging me violently into an evil vortex, tossing me about in the darkness. The nightmare lasted well into my adult years and only terminated when the house, and the hill it stood on, was leveled by new owners who built a contemporary monstrosity.

On those dark days when Melanie had the door closed, I’d summon up the courage to knock. Trepidatiously she’d open the door to find me in my footsie pajamas, thumb in mouth, curly hair wildly spilling out in all directions, demanding passage, a Swiss Army Knife in my hand as my sword. Assessing the benign situation, she’d laugh at me and slam the door on my cute little cherubic face. There I’d be left standing alone in the darkness. Just me and the sharp-toothed beasts that waited to pounce on me inside the stairway closet, just a hairs-breadth away.

All would be fine in the mornings though when I’d awake to find myself uneaten with the sun streaming through my windows and the birds chirping outside.


Chapter Four: All About Harold

Chapter Four: All About Harold

Chapter Four: All About Harold

My father, Harold Melvin Wernick, was born in 1917 and lived through two wars, as well as the great depression. A tall and sporty man with a shark grin and a mischievous twinkle in his baby blues, he was single into his forties and had a treasure chest filled with photographs telling tales of his bachelor life. From skiing in Switzerland with one gorgeous woman, and sailing in the Netherlands with another, he was quite the eligible playboy. But romancing multiple women at a time came to a dead stop when he met our mother, Nicolette Atlas.

At the age of nineteen, Nicolette, nicknamed Nicky, had just flown from her life in England to work for a division of Brevitt Shoes in the Empire State Building in New York City. A huge departure from the elegant American women that Harold had been showering with affection, Nicky was different from the others. There were no pretensions with this one. Very young and naive from her sequestered childhood, and deeply homesick for Gerta who was still back in England, she was his biggest challenge. For Nicky, Harold, with his American charm, adoration, grace and adventurous spirit, was unlike anybody she had ever encountered before and he awakened her to a luxurious and vital world of adventure and travel, but he was not the only man after her affections and he had to work hard on Arthur and Gerta to win her over.

Gerta, who was also a strong and positive force in my mother’s life, when she was well, was the one who convinced Nicky that marrying Harold was the right path to take. Not only did he have beautiful long black silky eyelashes which would make for beautiful children, and grandchildren (which of course was most important), he was a strong, funny and confident man. He was also the antithesis of my mother; grounded, solid, straightforward and charging through life with a purpose. On a rainy day in June they wed and my mother wept, begging to spend the first two days of their honeymoon with Gerta. My father, love-struck and confused by her behavior, consented.

Then we came, the three daughters, and it didn’t take Harold long to recognize that he was deeply in over his head with a young wife half his age and three baby girls that his traditional upbringing would never allow him to relate to.

My sisters and I as well as our mother, consistently pushed him over his threshold with our rambunctiousness tomboy behaviors, always finding the noisiest activity to engage with, from singing from the album Jesus Christ Superstar at the top of our lungs, to parading through the house as a marching band, smashing together the largest and noisiest pots and pans, or wrestling and tumbling throughout the house, and throughout the upscale resorts of Europe that we visited in our travels.

My mother never wanted to leave her daughters behind at camp and so summers were spent traveling all together on luxurious vacations planned by our father. We stayed at the “poshest” (Harold’s favorite expression) resorts in Europe; The Waldhaus in Sils-Maria in Switzerland, Marbella, Capri, St. Tropez, Zermatt, Barcelona, Ramatouelle, we lived the lives of princesses in an enchanted, but also often tempestuous world.

I believe now that Harold felt like an outsider in a young female world, and it would sometimes get the best of him, tipping him over the edge when we least expected it from something innocent that we were doing like wrestling a bit too much and spilling our Tortellini Soup, or not finishing our Strawberry Shortcake. The female harmony would be broken by his unleashing his temper upon us, standing up and waving his arms as he shouted at the ridiculousness of our behavior, usually embarrassing us to tears as the patrons of the upscale restaurants stared in pity and disbelief. But every fairy-tale has its dark side, or it wouldn’t be a fairy-tale.

As teens, we didn’t tolerate his turbulent intrusions, and were either adding fuel to his fire by shouting back, or escaping from his tirades with our friends, and our pints of blackberry brandy, into our coveted woods to drink away the pain and seek comfort from the bottle … and our male friends who were there to support us.

With time came the understanding that our father’s frustrations lay not only with us but also with our mother who lived for her children, and her friends. At times, we pitied him for living on his own island amidst a sea of women. At other times, he reeled those of us of whom he had pushed away back in by making us laugh until we cried with his charm and witty humor. If only my mother had slipped him that little blue pill earlier on in life, he would have been better equipped to make light of the frustrations that he endured being a father of three girls and a husband to a wife who forever remained an enigma to him.


Oblivious to the fact that we all shut his noise out as best we could by escaping to other worlds, or leaving the house, he’d lecture us for not being serious about life. “Life is not about having fun,” he’d bellow animatedly with his hands. This advice coming from a man who did not settle down until his forties, was very hard to take seriously. If life wasn’t all about fun than why did he marry a women twenty-one years his junior?




Chapter Three: Living in a Fairy Tale

Chapter Three: Living in a Fairy Tale

My childhood was its own fairytale. Yes, it’s true, I grew up in a fairytale within a fairytale.

My two sisters and I grew up in Massachusetts in a white house set up high on a hill. A white picket fence enclosing our mother’s wonderfully British bright and cheery hand-planted gardens. She was always in the garden with a colorful handkerchief tied on her head to keep her hair back, and playing by her side in the yard were her three little girls, of whom she adored, and their German Pointer, Stormy, an untrained hyperactive love bug, who just happened to only bite uniformed people like the milkman, the postman, and the trashman.

The house with blue shutters on Overbrook Road, Longmeadow, Massachusetts was as idyllic as it sounds. The back door was the entrance to a sunny kitchen where skylights let in the sun, and windows framing the backyard with blueberry bushes and a terraced area where I put on Zoom plays for the neighborhood. 

In the middle of the house was a wide staircase, our indoor playground when we came in from the outdoors. Under the paintings we sledded down the stairs as fast as we could on our bums, or we played jail games with our dolls through the bannister rails. When our parents would throw a dinner party, we would get in our flannel pj’s, and gather our pillows, stuffed animals and lay with Stormy at the top of those stairs and listen to our parents entertaining their friends.

My mother, who I am so happy to say is still alive and well has always had wonderful dinner parties, filled with intellectual conversations about 19th Century art, current affairs, antiques, and films and books. The dining room was the perfect size, with an antique Hunt table of the richest, most beautiful wood. Of course, it was covered with the finest of linen table clothes, Baccarat wine glasses, and my favorite … in front of every place setting stood petite enameled salt and pepper shakers in brilliant shades of red and blue.

Beaded napkin holders held linen napkins with lace edging, to the side were silver utensils that my sisters and I would polish prior to any dinner party. The china had a light blue and gold rim with dragons flying around. In the centerpiece stood crystal candlesticks and always fresh flowers.

The insects that my mother loved to collect appeared on the side tables; a giant copper ant, gold sculpted bees on marble stands, and encased tarantulas and other enormous furry spiders. On the walls hung my mother’s art collection; 19th Century Fairy Art with fantastical painted images canvassed with iridescent wings and evil-spirited spindly creatures, peaking out from behind gnarled tree trunks in the thick of dark misty forests, painted by; Arthur Rackham, John Anster Fitzgerald, Richard Doyle and Edmund Dulac. Everywhere one looked one stood the chance of being swept away into the magical worlds that my mother’s artwork collection evoked, whether it was Tiffany lamps with glowing red dragonfly wings, bronze sculptures of mythical creatures, or magnificent insects flying through space with fluorescent wings, the house was its own theater of magic and mystery.

At the table Harold would have everyone crying from laughter, but there was one particular evening, where he, 21 years my mother’s senior (born in 1917) must have thought it was time for everyone to leave, so he disappeared for a bit, and reappeared in his silk pajamas and a shower cap, just in case the guests didn’t get the hint by the clock that it was time to leave. That was my father, and I was very much like him.

It was our mother, Nicky, who was the collector of all these beautiful and magical art pieces. Having grown up in England after they won the war our mother remembers living through one of the coldest winters on record with no fuel, heat and limited food supplies. The food that gives children such pleasures such as ice cream and oranges and bananas were not enjoyed until her later adolescent years and the houses were freezing and the heat they did have came from coal fireplaces that emitted a heavy fog into the wet British air.

As an only child it was her books that she read voraciously and sought comfort in outside the house, after often finding herself locked out after getting off the school bus. The books were here companions helping her to escape her loneliness, and it was her paintings that helped to grow our imaginations as children.

Our mother’s childhood was a complete departure from ours. In March of 1938, the week before Hitler and his German troops marched into Austria to annex the German-speaking nation for the Third Reich, Nicky’s parents, Gerta and Arthur Atlas, were in England buying for Arthur’s leather shoe factory, “Brevitt Shoes” (hence the name of our eldest son, a.k.a Thumper). With news that Hitler was coming, they cleverly never went back home. Leaving their Jewish roots behind, and all of their possessions, in the little town of Grinzing, a leafy suburb of Vienna where the wine was celebrated in little vineyards in the autumn, they assimilated life as much as possible in England, starting over with nothing. Gerta was pregnant with Nicky.

A 1960's ad by Andy Warhol of Brevitt Shoes showing the "Continental" appeal of Brevitt shoes.
A 1960’s ad by Andy Warhol of Brevitt Shoes showing the “Continental” appeal of Brevitt shoes.

My mother grew up thinking she was Christian and sang in the church choir, and didn’t find out that she was Jewish until she was twelve years old. For her parents it was more benign neglect than a repudiation of their heritage as to why they did not raise their daughter to be Jewish.

Chapter Three: Living in a Fairy Tale
Arthur & Gerta

The loneliness stemmed from a father eighteen years her mother’s senior whose life revolved around his work, and a life filled with whiskey, women and cigars. He loved his Gerta but she suffered from depressions that grew darker after she lost her adored baby brother, Bobby, who was betrayed by his best friend during the war who lured Bobby back to the border with the promise of giving him back his belongings. Bobby was shot dead at the border.

Haunted by a past of loneliness and neglect, Nicky somehow emerged as an extremely generous, positive and poetic person, passionately appreciating life’s beautiful gifts and taking comfort in her possessions, and her three daughters. Our father, Harold, 21 years her senior was quite the antithesis of the women in his family; a solid and humorous man with both feet standing solidly on the ground, and a desire to bring his family back to the planet they came from.

Chapter Three: Living in a Fairy Tale

Chapter Two: Our Dream House

Chapter Two: Our Dream House

We moved into our dream house in Jan of 2009. Built by Baddy and meticulously designed by me, every window had a designated view. The house was our new baby, and our other three boy babies were making their claims on it very fast, hanging off of every ledge and jumping off of every precipice. How wrong I was in thinking I had them in mind when designing the house, apparently short sighted. “Great designing Mommy,” sadistically joked Baddy, “too bad we didn’t put in your requested interior skateboard ramp, instead of stairs.” And it was indeed too bad. Once again, Baddy shoulda listened to mama bear.

Chapter Two: Our Dream House
My dream staircase

But I was happy, and felt as though we had arrived. While it’s true that home is where your heart is, this house was the shit, where our entire family could run around inside and out in our skivvies and throw cannonballs into our very own pond built by Baddy and his beloved skidster. As a family with boys, we didn’t have to worry that our loudness would bother our neighbors, and that the only purveyors of our lives were the wildlife who occasionally peeped into our windows.

We were like real adults, with a bonafide East Coast staircase with the softest carpet winding up it and through the upstairs hallways. Below our feet lay wide-planked recycled hard pine wood floors. And the kitchen? The kitchen had windows where we could watch the boys playing while cooking. We had a side by side freezer/refrigerator, and sparkling Caesarstone “White Shimmer” quartz countertops with ultra fine mirror chips. I took immense pleasure in cleaning that shimmer. We also had a breakfast nook with queen Anne windows where the boys could eat in the sun and do their homework. The rooms had soothing J Crew faded colors that I painstakingly chose with heaps of hours spent combing through magazines and in paint stores. And it was all ours. I felt like we were cheating

I had to sheepishly apologize to the crew for moving in before they were ready for us but I was ready for more space and needed release from the tiny condo we were living in while building the house. Two years was enough. I agree that living in small areas keeps the family closer together but I’m not convinced this was healthy for our particular rogue family.

In the condo all three boys slept, and leapt off of, bunk beds adjacent to our room. The bathroom was where I went for privacy while on the phone. The worst part of suburbia was my neighbors who hated the thumping. “What is going on in here?” They’d inquire as I turned down my loud music to yell at the kids to stop doing 720’s off of the couch. Why did I never hear a thing from their two little girls?

Having space made us so much happier and we actually all liked each other again. Perhaps I should exclude Baddy from the equation. He wasn’t ready for us yet, but I didn’t mind that the oven was disconnected and sitting unusable in the middle of the kitchen.

Chapter Two: Our Dream House
My beautiful kitchen. Photo by Michele Cardamone Photography.

A yard with sod would have been nice. April in Colorado is not beautiful like back East. It was muddy and messy around the house. Even the children didn’t like it, unless they were deeply immersed in it, buck-naked. As soon as all their crevices were filled with mud they traipsed through the house yelling for me to hose them down with the warm water bib outside and throw their clothes into our enormous washing machine.

Chapter Two: Our Dream House
Our Bedroom

Chapter Two: Our Dream House
The view from our breakfast room of our local coyote neighbors

You might like Moving From Our Dream House.

The First Chapter – Looking Back on AspenRealLife

The first Chapter - Looking Back on AspenRealLife

The first Chapter – Looking Back on AspenRealLife

It was summer of 2010 when my eyes opened, slowly focussing in on black storm clouds rolling in, threatening well needed rain. As the shadows were cast over Goldie & Kurt’s ranch land and the elk and packs of coyotes who frequently grazed and played in our backyard, I slid down deeper under our down-filled comforter and rolled on top of my very own electric furnace, digging my nose into his neck and inhaling his still intoxicating scent that first drew me to him back in 1995. When he sleepily arose to step bare-foot on our radiant-heated, wide-planked recycled wood floors, I asked “Baddy” to switch on the gas fireplace in our room and I drifted back to sleep, feeling happy, safe, and very very lucky.

I didn’t know that our stay in our contemporary farmhouse was to be short lived, I thought we were going to be there forever. As somebody who likes to look forward into the future I had NO premonition that we would end up where we are today, in a tear down lodge-like rental on Red Mountain, with the richest view in town. And where we were last night, popping champagne corks off our balcony, celebrating life, love, family, and friendship.

So here we are in our new phase of our lives. Four moves later. In a house with single-paned views of Aspen mountain, that lets all the freezing air in, and the smoke from our real working fireplace out. And I still feel very very lucky, but forever?What a foreign expression. Does anything last forever?

The Forgotten Season

The Forgotten Season

To live in a mountain town is to be bound to the change of the seasons. November snows invigorate the powder hounds as the sound of clicking ski boots return, and May thaws once again fills the rivers with rushing water and the trees with bright, green leaves. Each season complements one another in the duality of Aspen’s Ying and Yang. The seasons also bring visitors, and with them an apparently tireless stream of work that can unfortunately make the Valley’s residents almost forget about the beauty that surrounds them.

That is just one reason the off-season almost without exception brings with it a collective sigh of relief. Cold October weather and warm April snowmelt are inevitably welcomed by all. It is the sign of transition and of change and a tangible shifting of gears that rings in the next phase of the year. Autumn and Spring bring with them beautiful changes in the landscape. Golden leaves dust the mountain ridges as cold winds begin to blow, and new flowers emerge from the dirt to greet the coming warmth in the air. This also means the snow has grown soft or the days short, and Aspen’s wide range of visitors no longer arrive in droves.

It’s easy to forget that Aspen even exists at all in October or May. Many businesses close, seasonal workers depart, and activities that were enjoyed nearly every day become impossible. This brings with it a profound sense of relaxation for the Valley’s residents. In the off-season there is no friendly (and sometimes not so) competition with friends and colleagues about who can bag the fattest fish, deepest powder, biggest air, sweetest concert, wildest party or finest babes. Instead, many set out for month long travels, hone their crafts, or simply enjoy a good book. The off- season provides a break to the thrill of winter and summer that over time can make those seasons suffocating. However, in order to take in a truly calming breath in this lifestyle, it is almost obligatory to take an off-season trip.

Grab a group of your best friends, load your gear, and get out of the mountains. Explore the rivers, adventure in the valleys, and remove yourself entirely from the place you have inhabited over the last few months. Wyoming and its beautiful mountain vistas are only a state away. Utah and its variety of National Parks’ proximity to Aspen make it a delightful option for outdoors lovers seeking a change of pace. Colorado’s impressive peaks give way almost instantly to roiling desert and impressive mesas. Moab, the world-renowned Mecca of mountain biking, is only three-and-a-half hours away and is almost possible to visit as a day trip.

Off-season relaxation is, however, something that shouldn’t be rushed. Taking days on end to be in the outdoors far away from home allows one to step back and refocus for the coming months, an opportunity that almost all non-seasonally-focused workers never have. It’s an essential respite, and one that can bring friends closer together and create unforgettable memories. In many cases, simply never returning may appear like an attractive option.

The idea of an “off-season” is an ungrateful misnomer, thanks to these adventures and a much needed span of silence. Indeed, for those working in high-stress, tourist driven sectors, off-season is perhaps the most anticipated time of year of all. Somewhat unfortunately, Aspen’s off-season itself is shrinking due to the rise in Fall visitors seeking to take advantage of lower hotel rates and beautiful Autumn scenery. Various events in town keep visitors entertained and workers busy. In fact, October 2016’s occupancy report showed an equivalent number of hotel guests as what can be seen during the skiable Winter months, leaving many with the refrain “so much for our off-season.”

Indeed, despite the expected griping from residents, off-season does continue to exist. With it, the most addictive aspect of the seasonal work lifestyle remain strong. The opportunity to recharge, reset, and attack the next 5 months with a renewed vigor and excitement. Spring and Fall in Aspen are not forgotten seasons, but instead those which are seeking most desperately to be found.

Wait…What Day is It????

Wait…What Day is It???? TGIF

Well we may be expecting a little rain through Sunday but since when does that ever stop us? According to Weather.Com the future looks pretty bright with sun and temps in the 50’s for most of the week (of course…we all know that can change in a second). So wrap up in layers, grab your friends, grab your kids and get out there.

What to do? We’ve been working so hard on finely tuning our calendar to share with you ALL that is going on in our valley. Be sure to bookmark our Roaring Fork Valley Calendar. You can also add your event for free by clicking here.

Roaring Fork Valley Calendar

What else is going on with AspenRealLife you ask? Soooo soooo much. We have interns and local contributors writing, taking pictures and video so that they can tell the local stories for all those who want to know more about the amazing people and treasures in our valley.

We are fielding calls from concierges and our beloved readers and writing content to inform you on where to book your reservations over the holidays. Have something you want us to cover? Email us or submit your story:

What have we been doing? We have been hustling like mad to spread the word about who we are and what we are doing (if you see our AspenRealLife car give us a friendly 3 small toot hello). Our goal? To fill that bottomless gap of research that we have all been suffering through all these years to find out what is going on and what the locals are doing, and have all of that information you are looking for in one place, asking restaurants, hotels and business establishments to send us their information so we can share it…EVERYWHERE. Click on link to see our latest newsletter.

So check us out… check us out… check us out… and share, share, share…. and don’t be shy, get your info to us lest you miss being part of the buzz we are creating (are your ears ringing??)




Pilates and Cryotherapy in Aspen

Getting Fixed in Aspen

In an effort to find a whole body wellness program, I found Denise Searle, Owner of The Fix and The Art of Fitness, and have committed to working with her twice a week in both her Pilates Studio and her Body Therapy studio to “Repair, Restore and Revive” my body which is a bit of a mess at the moment from a few accidents and from sitting for hours on end editing content.

Living With Pain

It’s time. Time to give some love back to my body. Time to stop ignoring the pain. Time to get a tune up and reset my foundation so that I can continue to play the way I like to play. I’m not old, I’m just broken.

Until recently, I have been doing well to ward of the pain by strengthening my core and mashing my tissues with a roller but I’ve  been pushing it a bit too hard lately in all aspects of my life – both in my work and in my workouts and have been getting hurt.

I know I’m not alone in my bad habits. Many active people live for the endorphins they receive from cardiovascular work but if there is any inflammation, and more than likely there is,  body work needs to be done so that our playing and workouts are effectively strengthening our bodies instead of hurting them.

My first warning to slow down happened in the yoga studio muscling myself into a place I had not been before, without guidance. I was thinking so hard on how I wanted to master a  handstand, and not on how to be light and strong in my core, that I crumbled, hit my head and sliced it open and had to run to Aspen Medical Care to get 7 pieces of metal stapled in my head. I know, right? How? But that wasn’t what stopped me because as long as I stayed away from hikes where lightening could strike my staples, I could still play. It was when I crashed onto my tail bone when  plunging down Iowa Shaft on my mountain bike that lead me to find The Fix, fitness and wellness body therapy designed to give you everything you need to improve your physicality, and thus your quality of living life.

In our first session in The Art of Fitness Pilates studio Denise put me on the reformer and I revisited the movements that I practiced over five years ago back when I had committed to strengthening my core. All these years I carried my body thinking that I had retained what I had learned, but it appears as though I had lost most of it. “I watched you walking over here,” Denise said to me, “You hang heavily within yourself. Stay light. Lift from your pelvic floor muscles, your kegel. Get your body together as a team and we’ll go from there.”

Thus far I have experienced three sessions and one week of homework, and already the pain has decreased. From Pilates, to Gyrotonics to Gyrokinesis, Denise has been measuring my moves and accessing my structure, my issues and my bad habits. She has shown me the importance of rolling out my feet and my body, giving me homework on the roller to mash and soften my tissues so my body is better prepared for the work we are doing in her studio.

Although the knowledge that goes into training someone to retrain their muscles is quite complex, Denise is able to simplify it all and break it down into a language I can understand and I have made a commitment to re-patterning my behavior and eliminating repetitive habits.

I solemnly swear to you, Denise and all of her practitioners, that I will replace my soft addiction to studying my analytics with homework and as we deliver to you this weekly series, it is our hope that you work with us on the homework we assign and break your bad habits. Let us know if you have any pain by commenting here, or on our Facebook page, and we will try to answer any questions you may have.

Homework of the week:

  • Don’t cross your legs which stops circulation
  • Become aware of your bad habits
  • Get Aligned
  • Get on the roller
  • Get a ball to roll your feet on

[su_box title=”The Fix Services”]

Cryotherapy: Manage pain and inflammation, increase energy and decrease stress related conditions.

INFRARED THERAPIES: Release toxins and chemicals, relax, relieve pain, increase circulation and purify skin.

ACUPUNCTURE: Correct energy imbalances in the body with this ancient Chinese medicine.

PERSONAL TRAINING: Pick Your Fix: Personal Training, TRX, BAR, Yoga, Stretch, Meditation.

COMPRESSION THERAPY: Increase blood flow, reduce swelling and relieve muscle and joint pain from injury.

MASSAGE: Relieve tension, relax, rejuvenate with several different types of massage therapy.

FELDENKRAIS: Repair impaired connections between the brain and body and so improve body movement and psychological state.

PILATES: Improve core strength, stability, posture, balance and flexibility.

OXYGEN THERAPY: With or without essential oils, oxygen treatment refreshes and revives.[/su_box]

To reach Denise to make an appointment click here, or call 970-544-6800. Tell her AspenRealLife sent ya.


Getting Fixed in Aspen
Denise Searle, my fixer


** Disclaimer, I have been receiving in-kind services but all thoughts are my own and I tell it like it is.


Dietrich Minor: A Shooting Where We Can Help

This afternoon I received a FB msg, as I often do, asking if I would spread the word about Dietrich Minor, a native to Carbondale who was robbed and shot Monday evening in downtown Nashville while on his way to a friend’s house. You can read the news article here in The Tennessean. Please keep Dietrich in your thoughts, he has had a few surgeries and there have been complications. He is now stable on a ventilator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dietrich Minor: A Shooting Where We Can Help

The message came from a new friend Albert of whom I met with his mother during our garage sale and instantly liked them both. Albert bought our Yamaha Portable Grand Piano for his brother who lives in Denver is a brilliant classical pianist and only gets to play the pianos on 16th street. He only plays with his left hand due to a brain injury that doesn’t allow him to use his right arm but he uses pedals and different notes to make it sound like an able two handed pianist, not through left handed music sheets but only through his brain and ears. Albert, requested that I share this story in the hopes that Dietrich Minor, a very close friend of his originally from Carbondale, gets the proper funding he needs to recover. Although, I don’t know Dietrich, I feel as I do from the outpouring of love that keeps dinging in my mailbox from friends who want to spread the word on how special Dietrich truly is, and help pay for his medical bill (he has no insurance – as many people currently probably don’t) and bring him back home to his mother who lives in Aspen.

Dietrich is a 4th generation Carbondalian, lived here for the first 18 years of his life. His brother Chad and he went to Roaring Fork High School where they played football and baseball. He is one of Albert’s best friends and 1 of 5 friends who happen to live multiple states away that he talks to once a week, as Albert states, Dietrich is, “arguably one of the funniest, friendly, happy go lucky friends I’ve ever been lucky to call my Bro.”

Dietrich Minor: Go Fund Me (Click on this link to donate)

Dietrich’s family has currently raised $13,077 of their 100K goal to pay for the hospital bills. This campaign has been shared 1.1K times. This go fund me link  has the small story of what happened to Dietrich Minor in Nashville where he currently lives.

My name is Ashleigh and one of our very close friends was recently a victim of a horrific crime. Dietrich was walking to one of our local spots, (as we all do) and was robbed and shot by two un-known men. He is currently at Vanderbilt with many serious injuries and is stable on a ventilator. Dietrich has no health insurance and I’m sure his bills are going to be outrageous after the surgeries. It is so unfortunate that we can no longer feel safe to walk our own neighborhood streets at the expense of Dietrich. He is a wonderful friend, kind soul, not to mention can make anyone laugh at anything and never deserved this tragedy. Please help us raise funds for this awful incident and pray that they find the ones responsible. Thank you!

[su_box title=”From Albert Wasko”]Dietrich Minor, Carbondale native, is battling a gun shot wound to the stomach that occurred whole an armed robbery was happening whilst he was walking down a street in Nashville to meet friends. He is fighting and a survivor, but still in critical care with ongoing surgery. I, along with countless other people, blessed enough to live in the Roaring Fork valley have found happiness, joy and laughter while in the company of Dietrich Minor. My best self proclaimed snow day in High school was with him. Anytime our crew was in a gondola or on a chairlift he always made us laugh. Our most unforgettable nights always stem from a belly-up show. We recently had an unforgettable time at The Little Nell residences and a night out on the town capped off with a 2 am swim while looking at fresh snow blanketing Aspen.

There are so many generous and amazingly philanthropic people in our valley who give to important charities. We hope that our community will rally to  help bring a native to Carbondale back to full health and back home to his mother who lives and works in Aspen.

I too have lived in Aspen and am getting prepared to move back there hopefully before the year’s end, when I buy a house. All of the best adventures we have had together were either in aspen or on an Aspen Snowmass mountain.

Dietrich has also flown home from California to work lights/sounds for the Xgames 3 or 4 times[/su_box}

[su_box title=”From Dylan”]Dietrich is one of the very few people in my life that I automatically felt comfortable talking to and hanging out with from the moment I met him. I’m grateful to know him and I wish there were more people like him in my day to day life. [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Ashleigh Rhodes”]Dietrich can light up a room with his sense of humor and his laugh alone. He would never let anyone down. He doesn’t have one bad bone in his body. Dietrich is someone you can rely on for great advice.. sometimes theatrical and totally off subject advice, but he is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Barbi Runions”]Nashville is growing fast with transplants from all over the world, in a short period of time. With that comes the ugly; that Dietrich is currently experiencing. If I could only ask that every transplant had the sweet beautiful soul of Dietrich’s; Nashville would be the same wonderful place that stole my heart 18 years ago when I made this place my home. He always remembers your name, when you walk into his local hang out, he makes sure that he speaks to you, so you feel welcome and makes time to listen to what is going on in your life and always doles out the best, good hearted, advice! When this happened, my husband, Jeremy said “I knows he’s a fighter and he’s not going to give up”. I just pray that he fights through this mentally as well and has no residual fear or bitterness in life. He has a whole city praying for his recovery! Thank you! [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Constance A. Markou”]Deetz! What is there not to say about Dietrich. His smile is infectious. I can be having the crappiest day, and he’ll bust out something off the wall that will make me crack a smile. Not to mention, he hands down has the best “threeeeeees” and “sevens” in our favorite game of “Thank you, Mr. Smith.” A lot of us in our group of friends are what the Native Nashvillians call “transplants.” The beauty of our group is that no matter how different we are, from age to occupation, the common denominator is that we’re not from Nashville, and we don’t have a lot of family close by. We may have had a few friends to start with upon moving to Nashville, but at the end of the day, we’re each other’s family. This year, since I couldn’t be back at home to spend Greek Orthodox Easter with my family, a few of us planned a Greek Easter picnic, and Dietrich was probably one of the most excited! We all got together away from our normal hang out, to spend that Spring Sunday in the park, trying different foods, playing Greek egg-cracking games, throwing a football, and enjoying each other’s company. He came up to me at the end and gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you, this was really cool.. to get all of our friends together.” All I could do was smile – he was right. I am truly blessed to be friends with such a genuine, kind-hearted soul and thankful we have such a loving supportive community. Can’t wait to hear him make jokes here soon! #TeamDietrich #OneForAllAndAllForOne #Framily[/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Matt Pittman”]I never saw D without a smile on his face. The man lived life the way you should. A compassionate heart, joy-filled soul, and 100% of the time wearing a smile. To say he could light up a room is a gross understatement. I love him and wish him all the very best this world offers. I am extremely saddened right now for what these animals have taken from him, me, and the rest of this world. [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Terra James-Jura”]I’ve known him for two years as a friend and coworker. He is easily one of the most warm and genuine people I have ever met. He’s a poster child for living with kindness and celebrating anything that comes his way. Thank you for sharing his story. All the best! [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Stevie Jewel”]I’ve never met anyone quite like Dietrich, he’s a very special soul. He’s adventurous, creative, kind, and a great friend. When Dietrich first started school for Audio Engineering I remember how his excitement lit up his face. He graduated with recognition for the incredible effort he put in. I’ve seen Dietrich accomplish many things, and I can’t wait to see all the great things he will do once he’s fully recovered. [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Shanna McEwen”]This entire situation has me worried and scared but praying hard for a fast and healthy recovery. I’ve known Deets since he was 19 when we met at UNLV, he was always super sweet and could make anyone laugh so when he moved to Nashville I was beyond thrilled. He is a good guy to have in your corner. [/su_box]

[su_box title=”From Cara Roadarmel”]I had the pleasure of working with Dietrich at The Band Box and became very close with him over the summer and continually after the season ended. A few words about my dear friend: I have never met someone who can make me smile so big with one look. One hug or pat on the shoulder from Dietrich can change my entire day around; his energy and genuine love for others shows in his eyes and his touch and cannot be appreciated enough. [/su_box]

Tibetan Monks in Aspen

Tibetan Monks in Aspen

Tibetan Monks in Aspen

It is an incredible site to see when the Tibetan Monks come to Aspen and blend in with our culture, visiting our schools and holding personal and business blessing sessions.

The Gaden Shartse Dokhang Monastery

[su_box title=”The Monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery”]The Monks of the Gaden Shartse Dokhang Monastery come to the U.S. with the blessing of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to share their culture, as well as practices and paths to inner peace and compassion. Beginning in the San Francisco Bay Area and hosted by the Sacred Stream Center in Berkeley, the monks will tour the U.S. offering cultural performances, blessings, and the creation of sand mandalas. The U.S. tour will serve to help preserve the monks’ traditions, and fund the building of a community center, prayer hall, and dormitories at their monastery in South India, as well as other needs, including medical and geriatric care for the monks. Cultural performances include teachings from Tibetan Buddhism, cultural performances, musical presentations with Tibetan singing bowls and chanting, rituals, etc. The monks also offer empowerments, private and group healing rituals, private consultations and house and business blessings. There are 4 spiritual masters on the tour, two sand mandala masters, and a ritual and chant master. The Gaden Shartse Dokhang Monasery is part of one of the oldest and most revered monasteries in Tibet, now located in South India. This house has produced many important teachers in the Gelug tradition, including Geshe Thupten Jinpa, the primary English interpreter for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The Sacred Stream Center is seeking volunteers interested in sponsoring the monks in their community who will help find places for them to stay and venues for their events, including private homes, universities, concert halls, etc. We are actively seeking venues for the monks throughout the U.S. to give teachings, perform Buddhist rituals, bless homes and businesses, and create sand mandalas. The Sacred Stream is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the wisdom of ancient spiritual and healing traditions into the consciousness of those interested in being of service to the world. Thousands of students have taken classes since its founding in 2003. The Sacred Stream Center opened in Berkeley in 2009. [/su_box]


** All photos were taken by Alex Blanco of Alex Blanco Photography.

*** Donors, or general information questions, please contact Serene (970) 948-9279 or Please make checks payable to the Khacholing Center.


Happy BIG Birthday Baddy!

Happy BIG Birthday Baddy!

Happy BIG Birthday Baddy!

Since we have been directing our attention away from our rascally family and more to the other locals of our valley, I haven’t written about him for a while…Baddy, the star of AspenRealLife. But today is a big day as he turns the big fat fitty. Yes, you have been following him for nine years as he has barreled his way through many a challenge (click here to go back to the beginning or here for his birthday toast that seems to be a favorite of our readers….and this one’s incredibly embarrassing but click here to watch me givin’ it all up for Baddy).

Finding Our Locals at the Labor Day Jazz Aspen Experience

Finding Our Locals at the Labor Day Jazz Aspen Experience

Finding Our Locals at the Labor Day Jazz Aspen Experience

Whenever we work an event, it is always our goal to zero in on the locals that have managed to get away from the rigmarole of their lives to enjoy a little play time (yes, we mountain folk also need our escapes).

It’s not always easy though, capturing these elusive locals. Most of them prefer to be incognito, because truth be told, they are ALL rockstars – celebrities in their own right – doing extremely cool things to make it work here, in paradise, and when they get away from it all; work, family, work-outs, they just want to have fun and not have the attention on them. But sometimes they need to give it up for us over at AspenRealLife where all we’re doing is trying our best to keep it all real.



BLK MKT in Aspen

BLK MKT in Aspen

For we locals, it’s not cheap shopping in Aspen, but when we do decide to spend our hard-earned money we make sure to support our locally owned boutique stores. Another new concept that we keep on the look out for are the pop-up stores that appear, and disappear, usually leaving us want for more.
When contributing writer, Rob Hollis, discovered that Sammy Steen and Mike Delaney of BLK MKT and “This is Where I ROAM” are selling their very cool clothes and shoes out of Boogies through Labor Day, he went in to interview Sammy and find out more about their mobile shop.
The gifting of a sewing machine to Mike by his mom over Christmas back in 2012 allowed him to become an independent designer and launch his travel-based brand, ROAM, with Mike. It began with hand-stitching backpacks and has grown into a full production where they source their materials in the U.S. such as; recycled tires and inner tubes, and transport the materials  to Bali to produce the goods.

What is BLK MKT?

BLK MKT first appeared in Aspen at the Crystal Palace building where Testosterone now lives, the shop looked like a cave filled with gems made of wood, brass and leather. A year later, the guys, , are back in town, with a load of goods unloaded from their ’86 diesel box truck into Boogie’s for Labor day weekend. A pop – up shop to say the least, Black Market, with their line of clothing called ROAM, has turned the Boogies lobby into a modern day museum of high-quality, hand-crafted clothing with a conscience. Check them out through Monday at Boogie’s 534 E. Cooper Ave.

Affordable Yoga & Meditation Classes

Affordable Yoga & Meditation Classes

Every year at this time we are fortunate to receive the teachings, healings, and blessings of visiting Tibetan monks. This year, since I now live in Aspen, I was determined to attend the daily morning meditations at the Aspen Chapel with the Tibetan Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery brought here by Lexie Potamkin, a human rights activist and former vice president of the International League for Human Rights in New York City, to promote world peace and raise funds for their monastery of 3,000 in India.

From ChukkerTV

[su_quote cite=”Lexie Potamkin” url=””%5DIt really changed my life when I first met them. They are so dedicated to enlightening people. They generate peace and wish everyone happiness. They are so beautiful in their ways.[/su_quote]

The morning meditations I attended were led by Geshe Lobbing Tenzin, Founder and Spiritual Director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

In 1994 Geshe Lobbing Tenzin received the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest level of learning in Tibetan Buddhism. At the suggestion of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Lobsang also completed a Ph.D. at the Institute for Liberal Arts at Emory University. His dissertation examined western scientific and Tibetan Buddhist understandings of the emotions and their impact on health.

And there I was, being led through a guided meditation on self-compassion with this incredible monk as he combined the knowledge worlds of both East and West and strangely, after having beads blessed and after experiencing an enriching meditation, I was incredibly agitated throughout the first day, unable to deal with anything or anybody. I wondered if all this spiritual stuff was shaking everything loose leaving me exposed. If this was part of the road to enlightenment – I realized I had a very gravelly road ahead. But I kept going to the daily meditations. Soon the rawness melted into wholeness and everything calmed down in my life, that is…until I split my head open attempting a hand stand in my absolutely favorite yoga room and had to have lidocaine shots injected and metal stapled into my head (but that’s another story).

I think I’ll go for more when the monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery come to the Third Street Center in Carbondale, Colorado, August 26 – 28th.

In the meanwhile, below are five organizations in Aspen and Snownass who offer free, or low cost, meditation and yoga to ensure that everybody has the chance to stay on the path of peacefulness and enlightenment:

Aspen Chapel Meditation and Yoga

Linda Sandell (Inspire Yoga) specializes in the mindful practice of yoga for body, mind and spirit. Specialty practices include therapeutic yoga, Yoga of Awareness for Cancer, yoga for athletes and considerations such as back pain, low bone density, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and total joint replacement. She enjoys the challenge of creating yoga practices for everyone. Each class is $10 every Tuesday at the Aspen Chapel.

For even yoga and meditation classes click here.


Affordable Yoga & Meditation Classes
Tibetan Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery

Affordable Yoga & Meditation Classes
A Tibetan Buddhist Monk Blessing


Yoga & Meditation on Aspen Mountain


Nestled in the heart of the Rockies, Aspen Mountain provides the perfect natural setting for scenic hikes, outdoor adventures, relaxation, rejuvenation and — naturally — yoga and meditation.

This popular program includes an hour of open-air Hatha yoga at the top of Aspen Mountain! (Note: must purchase foot passenger ticket to ride the gondola.)

$5 per yoga/meditation class.

When: Mon., Wed., Fri.; June 20 –August 26
Where: Meets at the top of the gondola at 10:20am

When: Tues., Thurs.; June 21 – August 25
Where: Meets at the top of the gondola at 10:30 am

Affordable Yoga & Meditation Classes

Shakti Shala

High altitude yoga + meditation atop Aspen Mountain five days a week. All classes taught are open to any level and are only $5 per session. No need to lug a yoga matt up the mountain or carry it on the gondola as they will be available for use once you make it to the top.

Yoga at the Red Brick

Yoga Body, Zen Mind: This all-level yoga practices includes traditional Hatha Yoga, Slow-Flow, Restorative, Yin Yoga and includes Insight Mindfulness Meditations, pranayama breathing and guided deep-relaxation. “Beginners Mind” encouraged. All props supplied. Monday 7:00-8:30 am, Wednesday 7:00-8:30 am, Saturday 8:00-9:30 at the Red Brick.

Yoga in Snowmass

Erica Berens, who usually tends to focus on private clients over the summer months, has been offering a free yoga session every Sunday at 10:30 on Snowmass’ Base Village Lawn. Click here for more information.


Carbondale, Aspen’s Real World Relative

The Dichotomy of Two Mountain Towns

Carbondale, Aspen’s Real World Relative

The choice to live in a place as unrepentantly gorgeous as the Roaring Fork Valley likely seems to be a rather straightforward one for anyone who has been lucky enough to visit. Gorgeous, slanting mountains set an epic scene for skiers, mountain bikers, fishers, drinkers, all like minded in their desire to spend more time outside than in. Yet, what sets Aspen apart is what appears to be almost a constant yearn for the pretentious, a perceived playground for the pompous.  

Aspen itself boasts an enormous amount of activities and beauty beyond the outwardly wealth-centric stereotype. Aspen’s worldwide renown ski town makes it a hotbed for visitors from across the country and the globe, to experience world-class events featuring a wide range of high quality music, food, and art that seem to be happening every week. The town always has something new and exciting to try, making it an addictive lifestyle that would be unlikely to bore even the most enigmatic of residents. Even just for its natural beauty, simply uttering the name Aspen to friends at a party evokes a reaction. To that end, the town boasts a refreshingly wide range of residents who seem to only agree on the fact that Aspen is truly a jewel hidden within the secluded Roaring Fork Valley.

However, many year-round Aspenites operate within the underbelly of Aspen’s work and leisure culture, or most basically, the “service industry.” Therefore there exists a fascinating dichotomy between the two types of lives being lived simultaneously in Aspen.

The righteously outdoorsy and the self-righteously wealthy.

Some residents enjoy a cathartic release from “rich-spotting” women embracing the “Aspen Style” in their ankle-length furs while their husbands gallivant in the Bentley that, like their $22.7 million dollar home, sees use two weeks out of the year. It’s part of the experience. However, not all of Aspen’s full-time residents are so enthusiastic about that Aspen facade, the flaunting of wealth occurring on their doorstep, often so much so that they don’t want to be associated with such a lifestyle. They choose to live in Carbondale.

Aspen vs Carbondale

The choice to move “down valley,” a term which can carry some of it’s own colloquial baggage, isn’t as one-track-minded as the bottom line for buying a home (Carbondale’s median home value is one third of Aspen’s). It’s instead a decision about culture. If you enjoy having easy access to top quality culture with high ticket prices, high-end retail stores, massively luxurious homes, and the stylish people that also do, then it’s time to bust out the checkbook. Seeing and being seen on the streets of Aspen is indeed a lifestyle choice. But if what you’re looking for is access to more land, a relaxed community atmosphere, fun locally-sponsored events, a sanctuary insulated from the megarich, and most importantly a place to grow your dreadlocks without fear of societal scorn, Carbondale will welcome you with open arms.


Roughly a 30-40 minute drive from Downtown Aspen, Carbondale is smaller and simpler than the famous mountain playground. Carbondale’s own character differs from the surrounding and seemingly similar towns of Basalt, Willits, El Jebel, and Glenwood Springs. The main drag gives off the feeling of walking in a 19th century frontier outpost. Wooden storefronts occupied by small business line the strip in a distinctly welcoming fashion. Local saloons and small restaurants are within easy walking distance from one another, and various local events fill the streets with residents of all ages. It all arrives organically. The streets don’t swell with atrocious drivers on the dates of large events, bars don’t fill with vacationing drunkards, and neighborhoods don’t become closed off by mansions and private gates. Residents of Carbondale have sought this out, an alternative way of life in a valley so beautiful they wouldn’t dare to leave. Carbondale provides opportunity for employment outside of the hectic service industry, a welcome option for anyone burnt out on discovering just how shitty people can be as soon as they enter a restaurant. It’s a place to have kids, to raise a family, to really live a normal lifestyle. Carbondale replenishes reality to life while Aspen may tend towards unconsciously sucking it away, which can be a refreshing alternative for anyone who has spent too long outside of the real world.


On one hand, this is also changing. The gradual gentrification of culture that has slowly eroded crunchier, alternative communities across the United States also has its sights set on Carbondale. Lower rent attracts the young people that want a taste of the Aspen life but don’t want to pay for it. Aspenites who want more space for less money and don’t mind the drive are relocating. And as public transportation trends toward greater connectivity across distances, the link between the two towns will likely only get stronger. The residents of Carbondale will resist, of course. Events like the full moon rides and the First Friday community art and drinking celebrations will endure for the alternative seekers, but there could soon be a few more Bentleys on the streets.

* The opinions expressed on are not necessarily those of Jillian Livingston.

** Editorial is open to comments. We welcome your opinions.

Delving Deeper into Meditation with Thomas Droge

Delving Deep into Meditation with Thomas Droge

[su_heading]Delving Deeper into Meditation with Thomas Droge[/su_heading]

Taking Taoist Insight and Five Element meditation classes with Thomas Droge and interviewing him live on our Facebook feed afterwards helped me to delve deeper into the intellectualization of meditation during Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016.

As our conversation unfolded it was apparent that Thomas Droge has a very intellectual mind that breaks down meditation both scientifically and physically. A practitioner of Qi Gong, Tai Ji and Meditation for 25 years, Thomas is a doctor of Chinese medicine and a seeker of truth and has studied around the world with many great masters. He holds a Masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, has a degree in massage therapy, and has trained at Harvard’s Mind Body Medicine program, he teaches in many of the ancient lineages of Taoist wisdom traditions including, Zhao Bao, Er Mei, and Dragon Gate. It was truly a gift to be in his presence and get to know him as a friend and listen to his wisdom and intellectual insight into meditation (see interview).

[su_quote cite=”Thomas Droge” url=””%5DIt’s about Balance: The misconception is that there is one way to do it, or that once you discover “balanced” you are done. What we learn from Tai Qi and Qi Gong is that balance is a dynamic state of transformation, that we must experience, adapt and respond to, and experience again and again. This is the practice of finding the infinite in the moment.[/su_quote]

[su_youtube_advanced url=”″%5D





An Interview with MC YOGI

An Interview with MC YOGI

[su_heading]An Interview with MC YOGI[/su_heading]

I had heard MC YOGI’s music before and downloaded it to my yoga practice playlist. His voice was soft and soothing and his music made you feel light-hearted and happy, so it really was a pleasure to practice yoga in the first row of his yoga class with Amanda Giacomini and DJ Drez in “The Nest by Yoganonymous” and hear him sing during Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016. After the class we went outside and conducting an interview with him.

Widely becoming known as yoga’s modern day ambassador to the West, with three #1 World albums and hundreds of appearances each year, MC YOGI’S music is moving yoga to large, mainstream audiences. He and his wife Amanda Giacomini have performed and taught at The White House, Stanford University, The Smithsonian, SF Asian Art Museum, Dallas Asian Art Museum 
& more. MC YOGI has given a Ted Talk as well as taught at Juvenile hall and at Hanna Boys Center for at risk youth, in Northern California.

MC YOGI on stage with his wife Amanda Giacomini
MC YOGI on stage with his wife Amanda Giacomini

iTunes calls his latest album, ONLY LOVE IS REAL, “true mantra music – transformative and genre-defining”. ONLY LOVE IS REAL debuted #12 Billboard Heatseekers + #24 iTunes Hiphop and featured guest performances from Matisyahu, Trevor Hall and Dominic Balli. In 2001, MC YOGI and his wife Amanda were named health ambassadors by Michelle Obama for her Let’s Move initiative and have taught yoga at the White House four times since (see interview).

[su_quote cite=”MC YOGI” url=””%5DWe want to make sure that we’re not skimming the surface. As yoga evolves in America it’s really our responsibility to dig down and discover where it comes from, how it relates to us, and how we can really move it forward so that it can benefit humanity…[/su_quote]

[su_youtube_advanced url=”″%5D


An Interview with Eoin Finn at Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass

An Interview with Eoin Finn at Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass

I’d like to thank Eoin Finn for helping to dissolve my shyness and willingness to stay insular while in yoga practice, and insight me to throw all inhibitions to the wind in his blacklight “Yogi Rockstar Classic Rock Vinyasa Flow” class during Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016.

In 1999 Eoin founded Blissology, a yoga system that mines for the source of love inside of all of us that is especially evident when we are quiet and present in Nature.

A Blissology Yoga class strikes the perfect balance between our ego drive and the infinitely kind and wise side of ourselves so that we treat our bodies, our communities and nature more sustainably and with more reverence.

Being in Snowmass surrounded by people who practically live outside, Eoin expressed in his interview his passion to bring spirituality down to earth and reclaim quiet time in Nature as the greatest spiritual portal and our best source of health and happiness.

An ocean-activist, he started the “Blissology EcoKarma project” in 2014 raising aid and awareness through yoga and activism for the world’s precious but imperilled coral reefs.

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Remember that I missed a few classes that first day? Well one of the classes I missed was Eoin’s “Sweat Your Intentions”. A class I heard about for days after where those who had taken it would go into a dreamy state describing how it was absolutely fantastic. Funny how life works that I should have missed his serious class and landed in his class that was all about sharing the love, and rocking out while being guided to another place, similar to when your having wild sex and can’t remember how you got into a certain position, or at least that’s how Eoin described it.

As I experienced Eoin’s class his positive and energetic vibe rubbed off on me immediately and as soon as the white lights turned to purple in his class, I stripped down to my yoga pants and jog bra and went tribal with the help of spiritual graffiti gangsters who covered my skin in tribal symbols, bringing my inner love-warrior out. Next thing I knew I was dancing half-naked with other yoga practitioners.

In the interview shown below you will see that Eoin’s Blissology practice is modeled off of Joseph Campbell’s wisdom and his quote, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Seems like a good quote to base your life on, don’t ya think?

A philosophy graduate, yogi, surfer and blissologist from Vancouver, BC.  Eoin has been deepening his understanding of Meditation, Yoga + Eastern Philosophy since 1989. His commitment deepened in the mid-nineties when he moved to Maui and learned Ashtanga and Power Yoga, and later Vinjana Yoga.

[su_heading]Eoin Finn’s Life Mission[/su_heading]

[su_quote cite=”Eoin Finn” url=””%5DTo stay in touch with the deep vibration of Love so that I can be a conduit for it in all I do in life. I want to inspire people to be continuously lit up by this mysterious but powerful force.  One of the best ways is to get out in nature and let its beauty fuel you.[/su_quote]

His visionary writings about health, happiness and interconnection have appeared alongside noted authors Deepak Chopra, Prince Charles, and Eckhart Tolle, and include features in Vogue, InStyle, Yoga Journal and Oprah Magazine.


Fusing his passion for athletics and yoga, Eoin has prepared over 100 Olympians as well as pro-athletes from around the world for high-levelcompetition.  Eoin’s teaching offers a heart-opening, invigorating and experiential practice, grounded with humour, dynamism and a focus on both physical and energetic alignment, not to mention some great yoga grooves inspired by his love for surfing and the ocean. Yoga, when practiced with this holistic awareness becomes fluid therapy, movement guided by the innate knowledge of our anatomy and evolution

He counts among his teachers Ravi Ravindra, Nadia Toraman, David Swenson, David Williams, Pattabhi Jois, Nancy Gilgoff, Donna Holleman, Orit Sen Gupta, Gioia Irwin, Myofascial Alignment teacher Tom Myers and Body Mind Psychotherapist Susan Aposhyan and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body Mind Centering.  He also studied Karate in Osaka, Japan for many years; disciplines that are infused into the holistic mind body heart experience of Blissology Yoga.

I should emphasize that although I have/had difficulties enjoying physical contact with strangers in yoga (we’re not talking college days people) I have no problems making friends with happy people, and Eoin Finn is definitely my new BFF. I mean seriously…how can you not love somebody whose mission is to be a conduit for love?

Eoin mentioned that he checked out my site and that I too am a Blissologist. I think he’s spot on. If you too are a Blissologist than join Eoin in exploring strategies for bringing more joy, awe, love and bliss into your life.

An Interview with Eoin Finn at Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass
Eoin Finn after our interview in Base Village Snowmass

[su_quote cite=”Eoin Finn” url=””%5DLove is the ultimate renewable resource™ [/su_quote]

Read the Blissology Happy Map for more about Eoin’s core philosophy, and remember, you have to genuinely believe in your bliss to become a blissologist.


A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap


A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap

Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass always looked intriguing to me but as someone who is more partial to practicing yoga and meditation in my own space – without having to get touchy feely with strangers (sorry, it’s my East Coast/British genetic structure), I have always been a bit reluctant to purchase that ticket. This year though, master teacher, Rod Stryker, was going to be there. This was my chance to have my long awaited interview with him, and so I procured media passes.

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Basalt Yogi Bel Carpenter with Rod Stryker

Admittedly, at first both Christopher Gsell and I were not drawn in by the groovy vibe that was pulsing in the “Uncommons” with people standing in circles together and then using each other’s bodies to practice balancing postures, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather not do than play my favorite kid game of airplane with people I didn’t know.

I warmed up a bit after walking into the “Happy Place” to receive my bulging media bag which included a six pack of my favored beers, Tres Agaves Tequila and two large bottles of organic Margarita Mixes, and lotions from Sweet Spot, the first pH balanced feminine skincare line, but that happy loving feeling quickly reverted back to agitation when I couldn’t find the elevator with the magical P2 button in it to find my car in the parking garage and put my goody bag in it.  Missing classes I had signed up for while lugging around the heavy weight of my gifts, and my yoga mat, cracked my latent dark side wide open, and the more I heard songs of peace and love emanating from the Ford Zen Den the more my body-hair and mental state stood on edge, pushing me towards flight mode.

Christopher, a writer and intern at ARL and a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sophomore majoring in physics, left me in my aggravated state to find his true north on the slack line and on trail runs with competitive marathon runner Boise Bettie, Gretchen Hurlbutt (stay tuned for his article), and I, after finally finding my car, re-emerged to rush to a Taoist Insight meditation class with Thomas Droge in The Quiet Space (that was far from quiet with beeping construction trucks and drills going off).

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Slack Lines



A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Media Bags in The Happy Place

Meditation and meeting Thomas (who you will soon read all about) helped to ease me into a calmer state and I zeroed in on taking the classes of the other teachers I was to be interviewing live; Rod Stryker, Eoin FinnMatt Giordano and MC YOGI (stay tuned for stories and interviews to be posted on AspenRealLife).

Not wanting to get hung up (ha) on the molasses slow Skittles gondola, I got my workouts in before ever entering the classes by huffing up and down Fanny Hill in the rain, and flip flops shooting invisible arrows towards the happy peaceful spandex-clad people floating above me, all decked out with patterns of ocean life and celestial planets printed on their yoga pants, paired with T-shirts expressing their mental spiritual state, just in case the peaceful expressions didn’t send the message.  Next year I’m designing a t-shirt that reads, “Welcome to Aspen-Slowass Wander-Lost “.

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
The Fanny Hill Walk Next to Skittles


With each class and each exhaled breathe my agitation began to wear off and with Christopher by my side navigating through any technical issues, we conducted live Facebook interviews and I transitioned from dark-to-light with the help of all my new professionally spiritual friends.

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Gina Caputo, Yogini on the Loose in the blacklit room.

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Yoga Class with MC YOGI

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Rod Stryker’s Class – Tantra Vinyasa: Awaken The Creative Force

Wanderlust 2016

A global event, Wanderlust hosts 40 events annually, reaching countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, Chile and Argentina, it was crucial to thoroughly read the Wanderlust site front to back before attending so as not to miss the incredible line up of yoga “stars,” meditation teachers, spiritual musicians and artists and chefs (I missed too much).

In between the classes I visited as many vendor booths as possible to meet the people and see if their products would suit my site and be appealing to our readers. My favorites included; Manduka, Spiritual Gangsters, Kashi (with their new plant powered shakes and organic breakfast super blends), Temple Turmeric Juice and Elixers, Epic Bars, Rad Roller (unlocking body muscles and pains), Canyon Bakehouse (gluten free), Go Raw and dr. Praeger’s purely sensible food.

The booth I was most attracted to was, Wolven Threads. Entering in I met McKinley Tennant and Kiran Jade, both gorgeously natural, one hand-making and selling with her boyfriend very cool recycled, breathable and waterproof yoga pants printed with Eastern sacred geometry fabric patterns, and the other, a woman who left her Corporate job at a tech company in San Francisco to be free, practice yoga and start a  luxury metallic flash temporary tat company called, TribeTats (which we will wear at our next event).

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In the end my aggro side got tucked back into my inner-depths and Christopher and I found our happy places and were able to get unplugged from the ordinary at this all-out spiritual yoga- music festival celebration covering as much as we physically could without overdosing on downward dogs and triangle postures, leaving the festival different from when we came — with new ideas, new friends, newly-discovered abilities, and a greater peace of mind and can’t wait to tell you all the stories.

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Carrie Varelaof Healing Arts and David Bernstein of Life Force Project, and friends

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
Xavier Rudd Testing the sound before the concert

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
The Temple Tumeric Crew

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
The Manduka Crew

A Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass 2016 Recap
The Om Collection Booth

An Interview with Rod Stryker

An Interview with Rod Stryker

If you have been reading AspenRealLife you will know that I left my blog after nine years to work for a digital marketing firm, at a time when my analytics were strong with over 14K unique visits a month. Having never marketed the site before, as passionate as I was about writing inspirational stories I had absolutely no desire to become an advertiser, I was all about creating content but asking people to help support the site? Not so much. And so I left…. and now I’m back with many thanks towards Founder of ParaYoga, Author of Four Desires and Master Teacher, Rod Stryker for assisting me in staying true to myself and my passion to connect people and tell positive and inspirational stories.

Last May I enrolled myself in Mr. Stryker’s “Enlightened Life,” a nine month class that was held at the Aspen Chapel through the Aspen Center for Living Peace along with the Aspen Yoga Society.  Now, after over one year of setting my intentions, narrowing-in on my purpose and staying consistent with my meditation practice, I have a successful digital magazine where I can help to spread the messages of those I admire, and I am excited to have had the opportunity to cover the Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass  Festival and interview the leading master behind my success

[su_quote cite=”Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass” url=””%5DThe founder of ParaYoga, Rod Stryker, is widely considered to be one of the preeminent yoga and meditation teachers in the United States. He is renowned for his depth of knowledge, practical wisdom, and unique ability to transmit the deepest aspect of the teachings and practices to modern audiences and students from all walks of life. Rod has taught for more than thirty five years, training teachers leading corporate seminars, yoga retreats, and workshops throughout the world.[/su_quote]

ParaYoga Master Training Online Curriculum

[su_quote cite=”” url=””%5DThe ParaYoga Master Training Online Curriculum and each of its four courses have been developed are led by Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga and one of the world‘s leading teachers.  The online curriculum launched on the YogaGlo teacher training platform on June 1st, 2016 with Vinyasa Krama; each successive online training (Tantra Shakti, Secrets of the Sutras and Prana Shakti) will make its debut in the months to come.[/su_quote]

The ParaYoga Master Training Online Curriculum is comprised of four in-depth trainings:

Vinyasa Krama: The Energetics of Sequencing
Tantra Shakti: The Radiant Soul of Yoga
• Secrets of the Sutras: Light on Self-Mastery
• Prana Shakti: The Power and Path of Yoga

To find out more about Rod Stryker’s Master Training Curriculum visit, or https://Teacher

Play Interview with Rod Stryker

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How to Make Money While Retaining Freedom

[su_heading]How to Make Money While Retaining Freedom[/su_heading]

An interview with local Aspenite, Dr. Ryan Moriarty, PhD, CEO and Founder of LOLSpots, an audience development network and quality traffic source for pop culture, humor, and entertainment sites, brought insight to my burning question of how to make money while retaining freedom.

And now, with AspenRealLife blowing up “for reals” because I am sticking to my dream of working on my passion, connecting my audience to the businesses I love, but remaining free enough to still be a present mom, my interview with Dr. Moriarty confirmed my belief that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now, and gave me a burst of confidence to keep on keeping on.

Ryan (as I was introduced to him) and I met one evening while I was out at my favorite new Aspen Speakeasy, Hooch, celebrating my sister’s birthday. Turns out Ryan grew up in a neighboring town from us back in Massachusetts, which naturally led to immediate bonding.

How to Make Money While Retaining Freedom
Leaving my fun new friends at Hooch

Dressed in a tres-cool Gucci black dress shirt with blue embroidered flowers running through it, I enjoyed his friendly nature and happy constitution and had he not been so casual about his company, LOLSpots, and had I not been in full-fledged party mode, I would have whipped out my camera for an “on-the-fly” interview.

It wasn’t until a few days later when my sister reminded me that we met some fun Millennial-type from near our hometown that I remembered to look up his company – and then his LinkedIn profile – and what I found ignited my curiosity.

An Interview with Aspen Local LOLSpots Entrepreneur

At the young age of 35 Dr. Moriarty is a self-made start-up entrepreneur. Creator and Founder of LOLSpots, he and his 6 employees, specialize in driving exposure and attracting long-term users by leveraging their network of 25 million Facebook fans capable of driving over 1.5 million clicks per day. In other words, LOLSpots is a site where Facebook pages with over 100,000 followers, like, can leverage engaged fans by providing targeted content, driving traffic to their business and ultimately growing their social influencers and monetizing their audience. It kinda goes without saying that I am in complete awe of this young man who used his intellect and Computer Science education; from Amherst College, to Columbia University to getting his PHD at UCLA, all to achieve his goal to work to retain his freedom.

When I traced Dr. Moriarty down and asked him for an interview he graciously accepted and so I met him in his current house  in the West End of Aspen, walking into a scene that has yet to be captured in a film; young, clean-cut entrepreneurs seriously focused on their laptops as they worked sitting on coaches or at a large communal working table in the living room of this large house with huge windows looking out towards gorgeously manicured West End gardens and views of Aspen Mountain. The new free-range office environment.

How to Make Money While Retaining Freedom

Dr. Moriarty couldn’t have been more charming and excited to talk about his background and what led him to his company. [su_quote cite=”Dr. Ryan Moriarty, PHD”]”The whole struggle of a company is to figure out how to get companies to pay you for what they want and how to deliver something that people actually want for themselves.”[/su_quote]

Dr. Moriarty’s goal was always to work so that he could retain his freedom, and that is where he is today, and soon where I hope to be…keep your eyes on LOLSpots….and….AspenRealLife.Com.




Youngest Certified Female Yoga Instructor

Jaysea DeVoe, a Manduka® Ambassador
Jaysea DeVoe, center, teaches a class at Bergamot Spa in Encinitas, Calif. She completed a five-month yoga certification program in February. Credit John Francis Peters for The New York Times

[su_heading size=”28″]Youngest Certified Female Yoga Instructor[/su_heading]

Jaysea DeVoe, a Manduka® Ambassador, is the youngest certified female yoga instructor in the U.S. and she is also a Manduka Ambassador. I happened to meet her while in Mexico and I interviewed her so that she could help me with my Manduka product review and tell me why we love Manduka Yoga Mats.

She strolled in, her sun-bleached hair blowing in the sea breeze, her sea-green eyes checking out the new arrivals at her neighbor’s beach-side home. I glanced over from my sprawled out position on a cushioned lounge chair, and then over to Axel to see if he registered her entrance, she was about his age.

I found out later that her name was Jaysea DeVoe and that she is the youngest certified female yoga instructor in the U.S. (after completing a 200 hour five-month yoga certification program), and the youngest certified SUP yoga instructor in the world. I also discovered that she is an Ambassador for Manduka®, an eco-conscious yoga mat and accessory company of whom I have been needing to write a review on but was procrastinating in search of the perfect angle, another serendipitous moment that I embraced by asking Jaysea for an interview. She graciously said yes.

Manduka®, a leading eco-yoga products company, was created by Peter Sterios; a writer, with articles appearing in Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal, Fit Yoga, and LA Yoga; an award winning green architect, specializing in retreat centers and yoga studios nationally and internationally; and co-founder of karmaNICA, a charitable organization for impoverished kids in western Nicaragua (

Jaysea DeVoe, a Manduka® Ambassador
Peter Sterios practicing yoga at Aro-Ha, a retreat center near Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand

I first fell in love with Peter’s yoga mats when, after scanning the jewelry in the “conscious boutique” laden with enticing sparkling stones with healing properties, my eyes landed on a cluster of gorgeous yoga mats emerging from a large grass woven basket. I discovered that the eco-friendly mats are made from biodegradable, non-Amazon harvested, natural tree rubber free of toxic chemicals or dyes, cushioning and supporting the body while protecting the planet.

Meet Jaysea

When I asked Jaysea, who has received recognition in the New York TimesElle Magazine and on Good Morning America, why she became an Ambassador for Manduka®, she spoke of the amazing grip of the mats, the incredible long-lasting durability, and the comfort and performance. Registered with Yoga Alliance and a part-time instructor at the Bergamot Spa in Encinitas, Calif., where she teaches students ages 4 to 60, she typically earns approximately $100 per class at the donation-only yoga studio in her town, she takes her yoga mats seriously.

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet the lovely Jaysea DeVoe, sometimes procrastination can be a good thing!  I also hope to have the opportunity to meet Peter Sterios and experience a yoga class or retreat under his tutelage, hopefully he will come to Aspen soon and if he does, I will be sure to let you all know.

To find out more about Jaysea, visit her at her online store:

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Are All Mothers Superheroes?

Are All Mothers Superheroes?

I had a blessed hour of time to myself the other day. Taking multi-tasking to the extreme, I began to attempt to complete my long to do list.

I was returning phone calls, organizing old family photos for a picture book I was making for my mothers 70th birthday, paying bills and making cd’s for my mother-in-law, when our good friend and employee waltzed into my office. Since I find Baddy very hard to understand as he walks around quoting text from his pamphlets, I have appointed this friend as my technical advisor. But, as much as I appreciate and love him, at this particular moment I wanted to scream, “Do you have an appointment?” Maybe, if I were dressed in my superhero leather cat suit he would have better recognized that I was bussssyyyyy. Clearly, he was not in tune with my desperation to accomplish the impossible.

mothers are superwoman.

My hair rose as I felt his presence standing there, waiting for me to acknowledge him but I turned around sweetly, retracting my fangs. Hiya Lovey, I said sounding unnaturally syrupy. He was ready to train me on the main alarm for the house. The alarm that was there to protect me if ever I should have an emergency. Ha!? He proceeded to give me a dramatization of the shrill sound of the alarm so that I could recognize it.

The phone rang amidst the chaos. I was not about to pick up the 800 number that was showing on caller id as I’m certain that solicitors invading my privacy will be the ones to push me over the edge. Baddy, who can build a house but who is completely inept with the telephone, is the appointed person to reject these people politely telling them to go sell Jesus elsewhere, being that his wife is a Jew.

This time though I picked the wrong time to not pick up the phone. Five minutes later the volunteer fire department arrived to save me. I was impressed and annoyed at the same time. How could my one-hour go so awry? Would everybody pleeeeasssse go the fuck away! At the moment I do not need saving. Come back at 3:30pm when the kids get?home.

A vodka cellar might be helpful at these particular times. Not everyone admits to having a vice but I know they do, otherwise parents would surely self combust like an Austin Power fembot. Whether it is smoking the ganja, taking painkillers, maniacally working out or, in Baddy’s case, aiming the car toward small animals, all parents need release…or a cape to make them fly away, or be invisible, if only for a moment.

Water Nymphs at Conundrum Hot Springs

Imagining Life Without Children

A Mother Gives Thanks

[su_heading size=”28″]Imagining Life Without Children[/su_heading]

When people ask me if I love having children my answer is always conflicted. Honestly, I love having children. It is my vocation, my life, it is what I signed up for. There would be no magic for me without my children showing me the world through their eyes and helping me to understand the value of nature to a higher degree. They also bring back memories of how I viewed the world when I was little, like when I was four I was mesmerized by a Christmas tree that actually grew it’s own candy.

A house without children would be, would be…quiet! I would die in a quiet house. Granted I could play the music I wanted to play without a nine year old DJ changing the songs. I could watch movies, listen to NPR and read without being ridiculously interrupted. I would barely have to clean the house and my beloved objects wouldn’t “got broke all by itself”.

There would be no Koala Bumpers stuck to our new, beautiful wood floors and no boogers or bottoms to wipe. I would not walk into a bathroom and find a dump the size of a large colon curled around the toilet.

I could feel sexy and strut around the house in lingerie and lounge in erotic poses on all white furniture when the mood presented itself. I would have no processed food in the house. I would sleep, and best of all I would share more intimate moments with Baddy, and perhaps we would no longer have to resort to heavy groping in closets, bathrooms or alleys when out on the town!

Without children my purpose may shift to something less valuable. I would see things differently and perhaps not so optimistically. I may not care so much about trying to revive our planet to ensure that my children will not suffer when I am gone.

If I were asked if I would do it all over again knowing what I know now my answer would be a definitive and resounding yes. Baddy’s answer might be slightly different.


Finding Talent on the Streets of New York City

William Walford Artist

[su_heading]Finding Talent on the Streets of New York City[/su_heading]

In impromptu interview with Walford Williams, a talented artist I found selling his art on the streets of New York City.

I woke up Sunday morning in New York City after an impromptu night of singing Karoake with the National Women’s Rugby Team. It was just what I needed, to be released out of the cage of the surreal social networking world and into the arms of women who play it real….and hard. By the end of the night, when it was finally my turn to break through the Karoake groupies and sing “Lump” by  the President’s of the USA, I had it going on and my new buddy, Sophia, came up to me proudly when it was over and took me under her arm. “This is my home girl,” she announced to the whistling crowd, she with her Grace Jones table top do and tight jeans stretched over rock hard thighs and me in my tulled long skirt and Mary Jane camisole.

I lived in New York City for three years before moving to Aspen and cabin fever hits me hard leaving me with an Inspector Clouseau twitch if I don’t get my annual fix. Usually I do not choose to go back in the sweltering heat of August, and quite often I bring my children with me. Once, I even somehow managed to convinced Baddy to come with, I think I termed it as, “just a pit stop” on our way to somewhere else. When there his badass self looked so small standing frozen in his ski coat, closed in by skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of the city, I had to take him to Central Park to show him that there is an “outdoors”, and defrost him.

But here I was alone in the city this time, not a bad way to jump in, and I put on my sneakers, shorts and a t-shirt and ran through the lobby and out into the street, lest I be deterred from my mission of doing what I love to do, walk and explore, falling into obscure boutiques, galleries and even bars to meet people from different worlds.

I didn’t get very far before I reached Barney’s on 61st and Madison. I was looking in the windows when I saw in the reflection a beautiful yellow skyscape of the city and I had to turn around. “Are you the artist of these paintings?” I asked, and that is when I met Walford Williams.Walford Williams NYC Artist IMG_1811

Walford and I talked for an hour about his life in the city and his artwork and we shared our thoughts on life and love. He was a beautiful person of whom, of course, I had to interview. Why the hell hadn’t I thrown my video camera in my bag? Walford agreed to let me interview him on my iPhone.

When I was finished I bought one of his pieces so I can always have his energy and his talent near me as I write to all of you. His interviews are below and I am sorry Walford, that I could not portray you without all of the noise and the bad lighting but I had to share your beautifulness with my friends, good filming or not.

To see more of Walford’s creations visit his website.

Don’t forget to watch both videos and to visit Walford next time you’re in the city!

Walford 1-iPhone-cell

Walford 2-iPhone-cell

n100000259081467_509Walford’s Avatar on FaceBook

Living Life to the Fullest

[su_heading]Living Life to the Fullest[/su_heading]

As many of you know, these past nine months have been devoted to being true to myself and my dreams of sharing the local’s perspective on living in Aspen. In order to do this, I have tried my best to stay committed and live each moment as honestly and completely as possible.

Over the weekend I attended a memorial service for Ryan Jennings in Carbondale, Colorado. I did not know Ryan well and am sad that I did not have the chance to spend more time with him – but in the glimpsing moments where I met him with his wife Robin, somebody of whom I adore, I felt his warmth radiate from within.

According to an article in Alpinist, written by one of Ryan’s climbing friends, Chris Van Leuven, Ryan was climbing a pillar that [rarely] forms in the Redstone Slabs. Ryan was alone on the WI5 ice pillar when it collapsed, located more than 1,000 feet above the road.

At the service each person near and dear to Ryan’s heart stood up on a rock walled stage and spoke of Ryan’s good heart, his consistent positivity and his spirituality. He was, and always will be remembered as a “Gentle Warrior,” living each moment with every part of his being. This was portrayed by his father, his sister and his climbing buddies with whose life they entrusted to Ryan on each and every climb.

It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to this beautiful soul but it is clear that his spirit lives on in his two children, his wife and all who knew him well.

Ryan was a beautiful writer and as I read words that he has written in the past, his passion for life resonates deeply within me:

[su_quote cite=”Ryan Jennings”]Why do I do it? I climb because, for me many of my dreams revolve around climbing beautiful lines on beautiful mountains and all that entails. The rewards are immeasurable and the challenges are often immense. I believe the process of setting goals and overcoming obstacles and fears required to attain such dreams is the cornerstone of accomplishing anything in life and should always be fostered. I reach for sometimes unattainable goals because believing in the impossible should also never be abandoned and I hope to inspire others to do the same. And always because I meet so many wonderful friends along the way and really get to see the good in people when we all come together to help one another achieve our individual and communal goals and dreams.[/su_quote]

We have lost many friends in our mountains. Friends who lived with a deep respect for nature and an everlasting desire to be one with it at any given moment.

As I continue to progress with an intention of living life to its fullest through love, mindfulness and positivity, I am reminded of how fragile life is, which makes me more than ever determined to stay on course and live it well and hard.

And that is why I have been letting the flow of life guide me, committed to saying HELL YEAH to every invitation that comes my way – as long as it does not take me away from my family for too long.

And now, with the winter X-Games starting on Thursday, it is time to huck into double black diamond terrain, gathering content along the way and I will be taking all of you there with me.

While no amount of money will ever ease the pain and loss that Robin, Beck, and Brooke are going through, every contribution is a show of love and support that will remind them they are not alone:

Living and Breathing Freestyle Skiing

Young Freeskiers X Games

Cassidy Jarrell Freeskier
Cassidy with Thumper and Friend During Slopestyle Comp in 2012

[su_heading] Living and Breathing Freestyle Skiing [/su_heading]

With the Winter X-Games rapidly approaching, January 28-31, 2016, we are going to be introducing to you our local badasses of whom we respect and admire, beginning with our beloved local teenagers who have been living and breathing freestyle skiing all of their short 16+ years.

Meet Joey Lang, Cassidy Jarrell and Keenan McIntyre, three boys who by the age of ten were all competing and striving to do their best in the sport of freestyle skiing with goals of going pro one day.

Joey Lang Gets Interviewed at the Winter X Games 2011
Joey Lang Gets Interviewed at the Winter X Games 2011

Teen Skiers Aspen Winter X Games

I have known Cassidy since he was a wee lad and it was good to catch up with him after he captured the gold in this past weekend’s Aspen/Snowmass USASA Slopestyle Competition.

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Living in Paradise in a Mixed Marriage

Mixed Marriages

[su_heading]Living in Paradise in a Mixed Marriage[/su_heading]

When Baddy and I were freshly married, we were on our way to a Livingston family reunion and we were staying at the La Quinta Inn. On our way we stopped to have a family dinner at the take out window of Burger King. I looked at Baddy and the three boys chomping on their gum and said, “Ya know Baddy, I don’t really do La Quinta.” “Well, ya do now,” he cheerily sang while hucking a loogie out of the window.  “What ever happened to the Jewish Princess my father raised me to be?” I asked. “Oh, don’t you worry,” he guffawed, “Once a Princess always a Princess,” and he squeezed that spot on my knee that makes me scream and jump out of my seat.

Every year when I pull out the two boxes from the attic, one filled with Christmas Ornaments for the Christmas tree and the other with Jewish ornaments for the Chanukah bush, plus a Menorah and a Star of David, I can’t help but question the confusion my children must feel by having parents from differing religions. Baddy a Presbyterian and I a Jew from Massachusetts. Had I married a Jewish man would life have more meaning for my children? Would they be calmer because of their inner peace?

Growing up Conservatively my parents took us to temple on the high holidays, and although the services were painfully long and boring and not geared toward children, I loved sitting next to my handsome father as he sang the songs from the Prayer book. I felt safe in his strong, steadfast presence, breathing in his cologne and playing with his shiny gold cuff links given to him by my German grandmother, it didn’t matter that I found absolutely no meaning in the prayers.

When we needed a break my sisters and I would push open the enormous doors and expend our energy by running around outside in our beautiful dresses looking for trees to climb and then we would hang out in the bathroom to play with all of the expensive soaps. Somehow the songs and the Hebrew words spoken from the Rabbi permeated into my being and became part of my soul, but I never truly understood the full meaning of what it was to be Jewish.

I endured my horribly nervous teacher at Hebrew school who would scream at me to shut up every time I flirted with the most dreamiest of boys in my classroom, Steven Goodman. Any kind of school was easier to endure when boys were around to flirt with. My friends and I did what we could to keep awake by passing notes back and forth as she paced the classroom yelling at us and rapping her yard stick on our desks, “Sheket,”she’d cried. Saying shut up in Hebrew seems to be the most significant thing I learned from her.

I had a  Bat Mitzvah because it was par for the course in my hometown and it meant everything to my parents, not to mention that I was rewarded with the best party I ever had with my very own DJ, a disco ball and flowing gifts. I’d like to think that my inability to appreciate the significance and spirituality of my training was due to my incredibly dull teachers, I couldn’t live with placing all of the onus on myself.

If only I had been fortunate enough to have a professor like the Israeli Tal Ben-Shahar who held the most popular class in the history of Harvard called “Positive Psychology”. He taught students how to create a fulfilling and flourishing life teaching them positive thinking, ”Learn to fail or fail to learn,” and ”not ‘it happened for the best,’ but ‘how can I make the best of what happened?’ ” It saddens me that in my many hours of studying the Torah at such an impressionable age the ancient words of wisdom were not interpreted for me.

Living on a Kibbutz:

It wasn’t until I traveled to Israel with my sister that I found a deep love for the Israeli people and Judaism. We had never been to an armed country before and the sea of soldiers with huge guns slung across their shoulders was very disconcerting at first. But the soldiers were beautiful, most of them being our age, and we shyly flirted with them admiring their strong bodies, sparkly green eyes and olive skin. It didn’t matter that their big warm smiles were marred by teeth filled with the shells of the sunflower seeds they snacked on. We soon got used to being guarded and began to rely upon their presence to keep us safe.

We lived on a Kibbutz and worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life which, at that point, wasn’t saying much. We visited the Dead Sea and watched the very white tourists pretending to read the newspaper while floating like big fat Otters on their backs, we hiked in leopard country in the Negev desert playing in the lush forest and waterfalls hidden behind the desert walls, we walked through the markets of Tel Aviv while Arabs beckoned us from their butcher shops with headless goats hanging from the ceilings, we posted prayers to our aunts and uncles that we had lost during the Holocaust and placed them between the stones of the Western Wall and we fell in love with the magnificent gardens that sprouted out of the dry desolate desert. We were filled with an enormous pride to be connected to the Israeli people and their culture.

Through the years, I have also grown to appreciate my husband’s religion – but it was my gathering together with Reverend Dr. Stephen-Poos Benson that gave me a much greater appreciation for the spiritual meaning behind the Christian doctrines and what I know by being a Jew married to a Catholic is that I am living in paradise in my mixed marriage and those living with hatred are not truly living – and never will experience the beauty of what life is all about. 

With Chanukah here and Christmas rapidly approaching, I feel the pressure building once again to create a heartfelt festive and spiritual atmosphere around the house, just as our mother’s did when we were growing up. But it is not an easy task to successfully bring on the magic of both holidays and since I can’t focus on one I fear that I will inevitably fail at both, a worrisome problem.

[su_quote cite=”Martin Luther King, Jr.”]I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won’t let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion. Malcolm X[/su_quote]


Cousins before a Bar Mitzvah

Seeing Aspen Through a Teenager’s Eyes

teenage Aspen boys

[su_heading size=”18″]Seeing Aspen Through a Teenager’s Eyes [/su_heading]

It has been a long time since I have actually written about the children of Aspen Real Life, as soon as the older ones turned 14, all bets were off. They went from take me, film me, let me see, to MOOOOOMMMMMMMM! Now they get soooo pissed off if they are remotely aware that I am writing about them (I really don’t think they understand that I have been writing about them for over nine years), but while driving B-Boy up to school, I did my best to drill the reality in to his developing frontal cortex that if we successfully monetized Aspen Real Life, we could conceivably have a whole lot more money AND if anyone was going to put Aspen Real Life on the map, it would be he and his friends. This gave pause for reflection as expensive ripped jeans, dirt bikes, new skis and money to take his girlfriend out flashed before his eyes. The magnitude of how life could change for him got his wheels spinning, and then he declined.


So tell me teenagers of the Roaring Fork Valley, what do you want to see on Aspen Real Life? Want to be featured for some incredible idea you have or a feat that you have accomplished? Working on achieving a goal? Let us help you, or, even better, become my intern for the summer!!


Have Sex With Your Spouse

Have Sex With Your Spouse

[su_heading size=”18″]Have Sex With Your Spouse[/su_heading]

You know that sex is good for you, right? For many of us, it is far more exciting than getting on the treadmill, and can be just as exhilarating as bungee jumping, depending on how much of a leap you want to take.

WebMD says sex has all kinds of benefits such as; helping to keep your immune system humming (ha!), boosting your libido, improving your pelvic floor (so you don’t pee when you sneeze), lowering your blood pressure, lowering heart attack risk, lessens pain (orgasms can block pain), can ward off prostate cancer, improves your sleep, eases stress AND you can burn approximately five calories per minute — so taking your time with it can help to burn off that muffin top.

Daily Mail claims that a half hour of sex is, “Roughly the same as playing doubles tennis, or walking uphill, for 20 minutes, 33 minutes of golf on a driving range, 40 minutes of yoga or 19 minutes of light rowing.” “Indeed, research is now showing that sex provides a ‘triple-whammy’ of benefits by combining a workout for the heart and lungs, the release of hormones that could lower stress and the production of new brain cells. And – for women – the added plus is a toning effect on the muscles in the pelvic floor.”

I can attest that having sex with your spouse provides the conduit to a healthy relationship but many are filled with dread at the prospect of introducing intimacy into an already overly scheduled day, especially when that day is filled with people and children making high demands on you. Exhaustion sets in and arousal is the last thing on our minds as the day comes to an end. Yes, there is a button that can be pushed but unfortunately it is not always accessible. We don’t feel that we need sex in our lives, and yet our ears perk when we are privy to hearing about, or watching other people’s sex lives in books, films or TV shows like Fifty Shades of Grey or Desperate Housewives.

So how to fit it in when life creates barriers for those intimate moments, especially if a couple has children. Spontaneity is wonderful but the opportunities do not arrive as often as we would like. Let’s exit off this trail of ennuis and get the heat on, shall we?[su_list]

1. If you have family that lives nearby, don’t be afraid to get on your hands and knees and beg your parents, siblings or nieces and nephews to take your kids for the evening so that you can enjoy a night of intimacy with your spouse.

2. Promise that you will return the favor. It will be worth it. Write the date down, in ink, on both of your calendars.

3. Communication is another great tool to find intimacy again. Talk to your partner and ask them what is their favorite time or place to have sex. The seed will be planted and just the thought of it could spur on flutters in your kundalini.

4. If night time is too exhausting for you, and not your time to show your amorous affections than let your spouse know what time would be better for you. If it is in the afternoon, schedule dates to meet at home at lunchtime. If it is morning, than set your alarm half an hour earlier than usual to fit in some good loving time.

5. Do not underestimate the importance of showing your partner how much you still are attracted to them. Flattery and affection work wonders on a relationship.

6. Don’t be mystified by the word “romance”.  Be creative but don’t knock yourself out, keep it simple. It takes so little to show that you care. A note or sexy photo slipped into your spouse’s wallet setting a time for intimacy later, would suffice.

7. Another way to increase your affections is to try to fantasize about meeting your partner all over again. Create exciting, forbidden scenarios in your imagination and see if that doesn’t spark your desires.

8. Be careful, sensitive and caring and try to stay in tune with your partner’s needs. If you are not in the mood when they are lavishing you with affection be careful not to make them feel rejected. Let them know you love them but at the moment you need to switch off and read that book or watch that tv show and suggest another time that would be more suitable for you.[/su_list]

If you follow this list you may find that you are looking forward to these interludes. Be prepared to feel more frisky due to the increase in your intimate times together. What could be more fun than knowing that your partner is daydreaming about you while at work. If you do plant the seed, don’t forget to act upon it later and deliver the goods.

Life is too short to not enjoy the pleasures that we once shared with our spouse. Do your best to bring the best natural, high back into your life and don’t be surprised by the new spring in your step, and your relationship.




A Funny Story About Wanting Sex

[su_heading size=”18″]A Funny Story About Wanting Sex[/su_heading]

On her 50th birthday Ethel found herself on her own in a hotel. She was feeling a little lonely, so she thought to herself: “I’ll call one of those guys you see advertised for escorts and sensual massages.”

She looked through the phone book, and found a full-page ad for a man calling himself Tender Tony.

In the photo he looked very handsome, with assorted physical skills. He had thick wavy hair, long powerful legs, muscles in all the right places, dazzling smile, six-pack abs – and she felt certain she could bounce a sixpence off his well-oiled bum…

She thought to herself “What the hell. Nobody will ever know. I’ll give him a call” and she dialled his number.

“Good evening ma’am, how can I help you?”

Oh my” she thought, “he sounds sooo sexy!” Afraid she’d lose her nerve if she hesitated, she rushed right in.

“Hi, I hear you give a great massage. I’d like you to come to my hotel room and give me one. No, wait, I should be straight with you. I’m in town all alone and what I really want is sex – I want it hot and I want it now. Bring toys, rubber, leather, whips – everything you’ve got. We’ll go hot and heavy all night – tie me up, cover me in chocolate syrup and whipped cream – anything and everything – I’m ready! Now how does that sound?”

He said: “That sounds absolutely fantastic. But you need to press 9 for an outside line.”

Top Ten Ways to Help Keep Your Teen Safe


There is a quiet buzz of concern one can hear if one listens carefully enough to the conversations of many parents in our valley regarding the health of our youth. Last year, while on the board for the Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention I tried to start a movement along with the Executive Director, Michael Connolly. We began a Parent to Parent Alliance to empower our community to raise healthy youth.

Together, we put into place impressive committees, coordinated meetings, brought in counselors and educators to answer questions and concerns and created campaigns to change the social norms but without funding and overall general support I had to stop leading the Alliance. Instead, I decided to continue writing over here on Aspen Real Life and soon hope to bring in guest speakers and educators to talk about parenting our youth.

As the word got out about our efforts I heard feedback from parents voicing their frustrations with handling their teens and the angry repercussions they encountered from consequences asserted. Other parents admitted that it was difficult for them to hold their kids back from experimenting as they did the same thing when they were that age.

There is also the common philosophy that kids need to discover for themselves how to become responsible through trial and error, and while I can relate to these sentiments, Baddy and I agree that we need to do what we can to keep our children safe.

Best-selling author and renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel states, [su_quote]Adolescent bodies are stronger and healthier than any other time of life but research shows that they are three times more likely to die or get injured by a preventable cause. This is a dangerous period as they take risks to stimulate and release dopamine levels[/su_quote]

Furthermore, today’s scientific studies on the adolescent developing brain reveal information that keep my husband and I on the same page when it comes to being mindful and present as parents and setting parameters for our boys, with their input.

According to VPDP, studies show that a teenager who has his/her first drink at the age of 15 has a five times greater chance of eventually becoming physically addicted and that if kids start using at the age of 14, they are 40% more likely to have substance addiction – add family history and the odds go up.

As I continue on with my mission to keep our boys on the right track, I have learned so much that could be helpful to other parents. Here is my top ten list to get parents started:

  1. Begin conversations about drugs and alcohol with children between the ages of 9 -13. It is important to reach your children while they are still listening, BEFORE they reach their freshman year.
  2. Be on the same page as Parents. If a kid sees that two parents don’t agree on discipline, they will find the holes and creep through them.
  3. Get out of the way of your children. If you have any kind of addiction, be honest with yourself. Is your vice getting in the way of parenting your children? If so, get help so you can help your kids.
  4. According to Siegel, children are generalists as a child and become specialists in adolescence. It’s a use it or lose it principle. If there is something your kid loves, keep them doing it so the circuits stay firing.
  5. Keep your kids busy so they don’t have time to get bored.
  6. Listen to the included video by Daniel Siegel explaining how the adolescent brain develops and how one of the major things that releases dopamine in the adolescent brain is novelty.
  7. In adolescents the dopamine reward system lowers but release levels increase. Middle and High School educators need to change the school experience to keep kids interested.
  8. Stay in touch with the parents of your child’s peers. Don’t be afraid to call and check in to make sure your children are where they say they are.
  9. Let your kids be absolutely clear on where you stand on drugs. Don’t create false dilemmas by thinking that allowing kids to party in your home keeps them safe.
  10. Don’t try to be there friends and please, please, please do not buy them alcohol or give them drugs if they are of an illegal age (if you are buying my kid alcohol Baddy and I will personally come over there and kick you lily white asses to the Aspen street corner and shame you – trust me).

If you have anything to add, please add it to my Facebook Page.

Fantasies of a Mother

[su_heading size=”18″]Fantasies of a Mother[/su_heading]

Baddy and I got robbed of the opportunity to celebrate our Anniversary together so the other night I reenacted the plan, only by myself, by going to Carbondale and sitting by myself at the bar at Phat Thai and having a glass of red wine for dinner, and then I went to see the film, 500 Days Of Summer.

When an attractive young man sat down alone right next to me I began day dreaming about the what ifs…and imagined what it would be like to still be single and living in New York City, which brought me to thinking about one of my favorite movies, “After Hours,” where a man by happenstance travels outside of his secure box of the upper east side of the city and travels downtown. The entire evening he cannot make it back home as he gets thrown into weird, bazaar and sexual scenarios, idea not too far fetched for that glorious city. Sometimes I get so depressed that my life of spontaneity is oh so very OVER.

As a true romanticist I tend to drive Baddy crazy with my fantasizing leading him into fantasy games asking questions like;

[su_box title=Playing That Fantasy Game With Your Husband]What if we didn’t know each other and I was your waitress at a restaurant? Would we have that magnetic attraction? Would we do it in the bathroom? What if I was your boss at the magazine and you came into my office and I was bending over in a tight pencil skirt? What would you do? What if I worked for you and I wore low, sexy tops and flirted with you? Would you be able to control yourself and keep your hands off of me?[/su_box]

Creating these scenarios helps to spark the animal magnetism that I have always had for Baddy, but he is not so keen on playing, reminding me that only women fantasize like that. I’m calling bull crap on that one. You?

With this cooler weather and the inability to have any time to myself, my passions are resurfacing full force. I am fed up with the daily mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning and caring for everybody, did I really sign up for this life? Wasn’t I once a traveler and an adventurer? Didn’t I at one time in my life thrive off of an occasional wild romantic interlude with a stranger? Yes…as a matter of fact, yes I did.

I wrote an email to my oldest sister in Boston requesting her to escape with me to an island where we pack nothing but: my lap top for writing, bikinis, flip flops, any necessary fashionable accessories and a few great novels. We would wake up in the morning and take a two hour run on the beach and then fall asleep in our lounge chairs with our hands caressing the soft sand. We could drool and snore loudly  with our mouths open because we would be incognito, total strangers in a strange land where nobody would have to know our marital situation, or that I had three crazy boys running amuck at home.

In the afternoons we would hang out at the Tiki Hut Bar and drink fresh boat drinks while talking to the philosophical bartender with degrees in Psych and philosophy and laugh as we objectively analyze all of the bullshit that we have to deal with in our lives at home.

At night we would dress in our sexy sundresses and make a stir at the local dive bar, slam dancing to the local rock band, and when we were through meeting and playing with all of the locals we would stumble home under the warm tropical breeze and laugh until we cry, like we did when we were in high school.

When we would not be drinking, running, drooling or reading, I  would write to my hearts content and figure it all out…life, marriage, kids. And when I got truly good and bored I would return home refueled and ready to be the mother that I am meant to be.

What??? A girl can dream can’t she???

A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch

[su_heading]A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch[/su_heading]

When I was a little ten year old rag-a-muffin of a girl my parents took my two sisters and I on a trip to Colorado. Part of the trip included a stay at The C Lazy U Guest Ranch & Resort, and this is where I fell in love with Colorado and little cowboys, swearing that one day I would grow up, move to Colorado and get me my own cowboy. And that’s exactly what I did, or almost exactly. When our youngest boy was ten I returned to the ranch to experience the ranch all over again through his eyes.

The Night Before

“Giddyonup yourselves to bed,” Baddy said to the boys, a dart from a toy gun whizzing by his head. We were hoping to have some alone time before I took off in the morning for a week long trip around Colorado, just me and four boys under the age of twelve.

The boys with visions of Western films flashing through their heads were too excited to go to bed. “I hate horses,” Brevitt our oldest son exclaimed, running by me to escape his brother Axel who was in hot pursuit for retribution. Brevitt often worried about new things he had never experienced before. When I took him aside later to talk about his anxiety a litany of questions ensued; “Are the wranglers going to line us up and pace back and forth with their cowboy hats on, spitting chew and telling us the rules, like in the army? Do they hold your horse by the reigns the entire time you are on it? Do we have to actually ride the horse?”

I also had anxieties. What was I doing taking four boys on a trip throughout Colorado? Weren’t our best memories best left as memories? If I gave it to much thought I would surely have changed my mind, but I stayed the course and we took off the next morning.

[su_heading size=”18″]Returning to C Lazy U Ranch[/su_heading]

Driving to the ranch nothing looked familiar, but as we gained elevation and turned down the long dirt road to the ninety-year-old dude ranch the flood gates flew open and the memories came rushing back and I grew anxious to fetch me a horse and venture out into the high alpine meadows laced with Sage and lavender Lupine.

A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch IMG_9035
Photo by Aspen Real Life

Approaching three men, their cowboy hats touching as they laughed together in some western secret, I opened the window to “Vini-Man” seeking directions to our cabin. They nodded friendly hellos and showed us the way.

As I unloaded the car the boys raced down to check out the scene. It was my first quiet moment after the long drive and I sat down in a wooden chair outside the cabin to breathe in the crisp, cool air and take in the scene. It was difficult at first for me to shake that my memory was so different from what I was viewing now. The picture I had painted in my mind all of these years had taken on a life of its own and although everything remained just where I had left it, a quiet oasis of time untouched, my memories were of a different vessel. Back then, my sisters and I also raced around, roaming from cabin to corral to grand lodge, but this all seemed so different, so much more spread out. I needed to get in it, to feel it again.

So accustomed to having the kids attached to me I was amazed to find them happily integrated into the kid program, without my having to do a thing. The counselors now wore the Velcro and so I strolled over to the guest ranch for orientation.

The scene was energetic with guests mingling and chatting as if they were all long time friends. The orientation began and we were introduced to the head wrangler who had been at the ranch since my last visit in the 70’s. Known for his ability to successfully match the guests to the 165+ well-trained and groomed horses on site, the wrangler compared riding horses to riding a bicycle, “You need to put life into it before you can guide it,” he said. Mountain biking was something I could definitely relate to.

The Wrangler approached each guest to personally assess our riding skills and determine which horse to assign us. I mentioned that I was at least thirty years dusty, but nevertheless asked if I could have the full experience and join the fast group. I was chomping at the bit to gallop through the fields as I had as a child. In the end, I was glad that he kept me within my skill level.

At dinner I walked into the handsome log dining room with trepidation, I wasn’t used to being all on my own. Who would I sit with? Standing there in the doorway looking for an open seat a nice looking man stood next to me, also alone. We made our way together to a table with two open spots. His name was Jake and he was there with his four children on their annual trip to the ranch together. I discovered that he was a member of the fast group I so badly wanted to ride with but he suggested I start off slowly. Sitting on my other side was a woman who had traveled solo from Miami, a true adventurer. As I spoke with her I grew more curious. She had a slight twitch when she spoke and the questions she asked had me thinking she was breaking away from a sheltered, possibly difficult past, but I could tell that the answers may never come.

A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch IMG_9317
Photograph by Aspen Real Life

The next morning we fueled up and said hello to all of our new friends, already it felt like one big family. Venturing down to the coral in the crisp cool mountain air wafts of memories surfaced only to disappear again with the wind. The counselors wrangled the children and the adults all gathered together to meet our horses.

So caught up in the adventure of the story, I was not prepared to get on top of a large beast with a mind of its own. Mounting up I said howdy to my speckled white horse, Lady. Her ears twitched back and I puffed up my chest to let her know who was boss.

This was going to be awesome, riding in the great outdoors all day, the breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness looming in the near distance, no little bodies interrupting my train of thought, which at the moment was delivering a whole lot of monkey chatter to my brain as the horses slowly headed up the trail, “This is great….isn’t this great?” Big sigh as my eyes scanned for Jake galloping through the fields.

Climbing higher into the mountains I began to relax letting the scenery calm my soul. Watching the other riders I tested out my horsemanship. Lady was very responsive, a bit less than an expensive car. I thought about the wrangler’s words and gave her a kick and a Yawww and she took off. “This is how we do it,” I sang to myself, very quietly.

Returning back to the ranch for the afternoon siesta I scanned the crowd in search for Jake. I wanted to know how his day of galloping was. I spotted him sitting at a table with his riding group and I strolled over.

A handsome woman welcomed me in, think Linda Carter in a Western. It was obvious that she was the ringleader of the tightly knit group. Let’s just say her name was Linda to keep things simple.

I envied Linda and her confidence. I also admired her dark hair framing an intelligent face and her sexy western-wear. With tight fitting jeans and Ostrich skin cowboy boots complimenting a cream colored silk shirt with delicate gold sequins trailing down her plunging neckline, she looked born to ride. As we spoke she expressed her desire to use her horsemanship skills on the greener horses that had not been ridden very much since the previous summer. My envy grew stronger.

“Barn sour” is what they called it, which I had experienced one ride when a horse stubbornly refused to leave the road to go off on a trail. I piped up to my wrangler, “Ummm, I wouldn’t mind a bit if you traded him in for something more agreeable.” I was no Linda with a mission to break that lazy mindset.

Later that day word spread like wildfire that Linda had been thrown by her horse. When I asked her if she was okay she seemed stirred but not shaken. “You’re resilient,” I said. “No, just relentless,” she returned swaggering away to get back on her horse, her Ostrich boots kicking up dirt.

The next day when riding out on the trail I saw horses racing through the field and felt that desire again to be where the grass was greener. That was until I noticed that the horses were missing their riders. When pointing it out to the group we all had the same thought, Linda.

Pushing the envelope, Linda had been thrown again. This time she went in for stitches. “If people request a horse that has not yet been broken in for the summer, we expect them to be established riders,” said a wrangler when I asked what was going on. In true dude ranch style the pampering was there if you wanted it, as were the challenges.

Getting the big Whoa Nelly for wanting to push it before I was ready, I instead took a cattle-herding clinic. Our wrangler, Ronnie reminded us that we were doing this for the fun of it. “Howz about you go first,” he said, tipping his hat down in my direction. “Bring me two calves out of the pen.” Lady was ready and we moved in. Yeeehawww. My dyslexic directions confused her at first, but we figured it out and it was exhilarating.

A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch DSC00586.JPG
Photo By Aspen Real Life

Everyday I fell deeper into the luxury of enjoying “me” time, looking forward to the evenings where the adults gathered around at the ranch house drinking wine paired with delicious appetizers as the kids parallel played in the pool with their beloved counselors, drinking an un-monitored number of shakes. Mutual heaven!

I often brought my laptop to write so guests could approach me to share their multi-generational C Lazy U stories. These people had been coming here for years. One investment banker kept appearing by my side and then disappearing after asking with a mischievous smile and a wink if I wanted to hear a really great story. He never did tell me that story and I was certain that there was a lot I was missing, but I was there to experience the story, not to chase it.

On our last morning at the ranch, waking early to write I heard the sound of horses outside our cabin. It was the morning Jingle, where the horses were herded back to the stables after a night spent in the lush green pastures. Grabbing my camera I snapped pictures trying to capture the hauntingly beautiful scene of horses galloping by, leaving nothing but a trail of dust settling in the early sun’s rays.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to instill my first Colorado experience with my little Aspen boys and although they didn’t need a trip to a Dude Ranch to discover their love for Colorado, they agreed that C Lazy U Ranch indeed was, “Miles above ordinary,” as described on the C Lazy U website. I can attest this to be true, both then and now, and I am thankful for the four families who own the ranch for ensuring that this uniquely western experience that many of us fall in love with as children, stays steadfast and true to our memories and will live on for generations to come.

A Family Stay At A Colorado Dude Ranch DSC00618.JPG
Photo by Aspen Real Life

*A version of this story was published in Destinations Travel Magazine

** Disclaimer: Although we received complimentary meals and a room for this review, our opinions are our own.

Can True Love Survive Children

Can True Love Survive Children

Can True Love Survive Children

[su_heading size=”18″]Can True Love Survive Children[/su_heading]

Everybody wants to know how to find that true love, but what about finding it and keeping the love while raising children? So far, Baddy and my love has endured the true test of time, from building and then losing a dream house together, to the trials and tribulations of raising boys in “Paradise”.

After watching writer Mandy Len Catron’s video on TED it came to me that the subject of my blog, and perhaps my book, should be on whether it is possible to make true love last, especially after having children.

Len Catron spoke about Psychologist Arthur Aaron’s theory that thirty-six specific questions plus four minutes of sustained eye contact is a recipe for falling in love, or at least creating intimacy among complete strangers. Finding the questions online she proposed to test it out with an acquaintance of hers, and guess what? They fell in love.

When posting her story she did not consider how viral a topic “finding the key to love” would be, she also did not foresee the problems that would arrive when exposing she and her boyfriend’s relationship to hundreds of thousands of people. Mandy became disillusioned by that attention and concerned that people were more interested in how long her love would last rather than what the key ingredient was to making that love last.

This gave me pause with great reflection in the days before our 17th anniversary. Having had Thumper one year almost to the day after our wedding day, the ebb and flow of our love has always been vulnerable to financial stressors, societal obstacles, and natural forces that get thrown our way at any unexpected moment, toss in three boy babies that morph into dirty, rambunctious, awkwardly cool teens looking like adults on the outside but on the inside the frontal lobes are formed only enough for them to take risks with their lives, and you have the makings of indeterminable disaffection, love gone sour.

Ultimately, it is best if we are not experiencing the pressures of life at the same time so that one can hold the torch and be that grounding force while the other slips off to crumble, twitch and hover in some dark place until ready to grab the hand that is being reached out and get coaxed back through humor, understanding and a whole lotta of love, petting and affection.

If I were to talk about the key ingredients, I would say that it all has to do with having a mutual respect for one another and treating each other with as much love and tenderness as possible, and with great integrity. Admittedly, I have my moments when I let my mind wander to thinking about how life could be different, easier, had I met somebody who was more my mentor than my equal, who was the same religion as me, and who had a whole lot more money. Ultimately though, having a magnetic attraction to one another and the ability to make each other laugh hard when the chips are down, not to mention having an unadulterated loyalty, is what has kept us together (in the end, the answer is….sex!)

As with everything, our world has opened up so completely by having children, but it is one heck of a payoff.


Here are the 36 Questions To Bring You Closer to Love


  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

  3. Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you’re going to say? Why?

  4. What would constitute a perfect day for you?

  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you choose?

  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

  11. Take four minutes and tell you partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

  13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

  14. Is there something that you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

  15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

  16. What do you value most in a friendship?

  17. What is your most treasured memory?

  18. What is your most terrible memory?

  19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

  20. What does friendship mean to you?

  21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

  22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

  23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

  24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

  25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “we are both in this room feeling…”

  26. Complete this sentence “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”

  27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

  28. Tell your partner what you like about them: be honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

  29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

  30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

  31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

  32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

  33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

  34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

  35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

  36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

    … and a few variations:

      • If you could choose the sex and physical appearance of your soon-to-be-born child, would you do it?
      • Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
    • While on a trip to another city, your spouse/lover meets and spends a night with an exciting stranger. Given that they will never meet again, and could never otherwise learn of the incident, would you want your partner to tell you about it?

daddy and Jillian cowboy hat

Chapter 1: Morphine Drip

When I think back, he was always there in my imagination, the man I would fall in love with one day. A tall, dark and handsome cowboy version of a straight Carey Grant with a chiseled jaw and smiling eyes.

My search for the literal man of my dreams began well before my father, whose life was about to be extinguished by Melanoma Cancer, set his ideals on his daughters for what he thought we should search for (life might certainly be a whole lot easier had  not rebelled and listened).

Quietly sitting in the cheerful living room in the white house on the hill with blue shutters that I had grown up in, I watched my mother and two sisters as the sun filtered through the windows illuminating the thousands of dust particles we inhaled and exhaled with every breath.

“I’m so sorry girls,” the nurse in the crisp white uniform announced, “but your father has passed on.” A cold veil of black enshrouded my vision. I went numb.

Where was my desire to drop down to my knees and weep? Thirty-four years of living with a force that directed every decision I ever made, and now he was gone, leaving the rest up to me.

I was void of emotion, a cold mass of emptiness and guilt, guilty that I had no tears and guilty that I had never mastered the art of handling his destructive temper.

From what felt like above, I observed as my sisters and I gathered closer to our mother in search of a deeper understanding of times already fading into a dark course of memories.

The nurse returned, “false alarm,” she sang, “Harold seems to have come back.” Comic relief, typical of our father. All our lives he had emotionally swung us between anxiety and humor, why should the day of his death be any different? We ran to his bed to say our final goodbyes.

An outpouring of sentiment flowed out from my sisters, but I was at a loss for words, and then the dog began to bark and we all felt the chill as an oil painting fell off of the wall above the lifeless fireplace. This time he truly had left us, never to return again.

The den had always been his favorite room when he was well, where he spent many an afternoon watching football on the soft beige leather couch as my sisters and I practiced the piano, the large old growth Maple trees standing sentry in our backyard.

In his last few months of living, I had returned home from Aspen to help my mother take care of him. As he lay in his bed in his den on morphine, I took on the role as his DJ, making sure that he had endlessly beautiful classical music playing to ease his pain. He couldn’t speak with all the morphine dripping into his system, but he would raise his arms in the air and move his beautiful hands to the music like a conductor in a symphony as the Melanoma Cancer metastacized throughout his body, extinguishing his strong life force.

What was he thinking as he lay there dying? I knew that he was angry with my mother for her inability to save him from his inevitable death, but I wondered if he was having any reflective moments in his last three months. Did he have any regrets for the demands that he had put on us, his three daughters, as we were growing up, or did he feel proud that he had done a good job of raising us?


Moving From Old Snowmass to Basalt, Colorado

Moving From Old Snowmass to Basalt, Colorado

Moving From Old Snowmass to Basalt, Colorado

We’ve moved a lot, this is true. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so heart-wrenching that our kids get uprooted every 4-5 years if my parents hadn’t resided in the same house forever, giving my sisters and I the comforting feeling of stability and a deep rooted sense of place and belonging.

As difficult as it was to leave our “dream home“, once we were in our new place we rarely looked back. The downside from moving from the countryside to downtown suburbia was that our neighbors homes were so close that we could no longer run around naked, or have a private conversation when outside, and Baddy and I had to keep our windows closed lest we get too noisy playing with each other on our unexpected date nights. The upside was that our transportation system (RFTA) provided the kids with more freedom, and all my peeps were just a stones’ throw away.

According to The New York Times, Basalt, Colorado began as a rough Colorado railroad town in the late 1800’s. I was quite happy living in this small western town in the “banana belt”with a history. The air was warmer than where we came from in Old Snowmass, and fruit trees, and bears to devour the fruit, were everywhere.

In Basalt I had my village with neighbors who put our boys to work, and close friends who popped in unannounced for coffee and wine at any given moment, regardless of the time of day. Five minutes away I had my Fitness Studio, a well run affordable studio that boasted kickass teachers. I had Whole Foods Market down the highway where I walked in and the people working there would go out of their way to help me to find the perfect recipes. I got my free-range eggs delivered weekly from a nearby rancher, and the downvalley City Market, unlike the one in Aspen, did not bring forth my Masshole side the second I walked through the door.

I also had Big John and Steve over at High Tone Autobody who were there for me when my stolen totaled car arrived in their “impounded” lot, after being jacked from our driveway (located next to the police station), and there for me when I screeched up in the Hyundai with 6 boys piled inside to get a door fixed that wouldn’t close when on our way to go summer skiing at Copper Mountain.

That was my life both in Old Snowmass and while in Basalt, driving with a carload of farting, burping boys and listening to extremely loud music that would assault the ears of anyone older than 25. A fact that Baddy in his Black Fly sunglasses and signature visor hat often taunted me with, “What on earth has happened to our little Princess?” he’d lovingly joke, patting me on the ass just to show who won in this game.

At least the most important man in my life recognizes that once upon a time, I indeed lived the life of a princess.


My favorite Basalt Garden
My favorite Basalt Garden

Hunting Turkeys on My Favorite Hike
Hunting Turkeys on My Favorite Hike

Watch Video: in the car



Is it Possible to Live in the Moment?

Is it Possible to Live in the Moment?

“They want you and Thumper for the hot tub shoot,” I said to Baddy as we sat watching Axel during football practice. “Really?” He asked nonchalantly. I nodded my head yes and we went back to watching Axel pummel and get pummeled on the field. “I wonder who they matched you with for your wife and other children,” I said.” He looked at me to see if I seemed hurt by the offense that they only wanted half the family. I was smiling. He asked me what was so funny and I mentioned how things seem so much more humorous when one doesn’t have any expectations. I explained further, “What’s funny is that you are so nonplussed by the fact that you got the job and I am so nonplussed by the fact that Axel, Hootie-Hoo and I were rejected, other than the fact that we could have made an extra well-needed $1,000 dollars.”

This new way of thinking, to let go and live in the moment, has been helping me significantly, that and the concentrated effort to work out to the point of exhaustion to calm my mind and soothe my nerves.

It’s not easy to fit in that time, but at the moment a necessity so that when I continue doing all the things that I am called upon to do to stay on top, I do it without agitation, putting mind and soul into it.

As I go through the days little things happen that fill my tool box with metaphors:

[su_box title=”Living in the Moment”]

Don’t get stuck in a rut. In fact, stay away from the rut at all costs. But if you fall in, either accelerate and give it your all to get out or get off what you are on and walk, and while walking try to notice everything around you along the way.

When going, go until you feel satiated but know when to stop. It’s not just about lowering your expectations, it’s about not having any.

If an opportunity arises to make some time for yourself, don’t make excuses, make it happen.

And most importantly, if somebody is making you feel badly about yourself. Analyze what they are saying. If there is any truth in what they say, think of this as an opportunity for growth (this comes from Stefan Grafstein). If there is no truth in what they say, put out your suitcase and fill it with their bad energy and then stow it safe and far away from your inner self. That baggage is theirs, not yours (this I derived from Lisa Smit who suggested we hold out a basket for those we love when they may say things that could hurt us).[/su_box]

Oh…and one more thing, if you are like me, a bull who charges into everything, be aware of the people around you, they may not understand you and run for fear of getting pierced by your horns, leaving you all alone wondering where everybody went.

Do you have anything to add?



A High Prana Food Dream

[su_heading size=”18″]A High Prana Food Dream[/su_heading]

Leaving the raw dinner party at True Nature Healing Arts I analyzed how I was feeling. Usually after a dinner party I am feeling….well….how do you say….drunk! And happy, and full and slightly nauseous, but at this meal the only drinks I sucked down were probiotic, sans alcohol – probably a first in my book. Regardless, I still felt slightly buzzed and satiated.

[su_heading size=”18″]Getting pregnant and almost dying after eating a “high frequency” raw food at a media dinner.[/su_heading]

Driving home down the back country roads under the starry sky, I called my friend who lives too far away from here. It’s been a long time since we last spoke and I felt the need to check in. Lost in conversation, I took a turn into my neighborhood, only…it wasn’t the correct turn. Driving around a curve that I did not recognize, I saw to my horror that I was in the wrong lane. The other lane was across a small median and my only choice was to keep driving until the median was gone. I had no idea where I was.

This all happened in a matter of seconds but I’ve been on the wrong side of the road before and the same absolute panic set in. Once again, I was lucky and made it home unscathed. Climbing into bed exhausted I immediately fell in to a deep sleep, and then I had the dream (the driving thing was real life).

I was very pregnant and baffled, and worried. Baddy had already told me that if I ever got pregnant again I would be on my own. Since he had his vasectomy after Hootie-Hoo there would be no chance in hell that he would raise a kid that wasn’t his own. He was done. And here I was pregnant again – only, I was pregnant with three more babies, two of which I had birthed the day before. With each continuing day my stomach shrunk and I wondered what was happening with that third baby. Not having any car seats I asked Thumper and my niece, Nikki, to get into the car with me and hold the babies – I was over it, this baby thing, perhaps that was why I was so unprepared. And then I woke up.

Maybe it was all the talk of the raw food being so alive. Perhaps it was the fermented Jun. Either way, I’m absolutely fine with the three boys we have, and extremely elated that it was all just a dream. NO MORE BABIES FOR THIS MAMA!




College/Career Counseling for Students

[su_heading size=”18″]College/Career Counseling for Students[/su_heading]

I would like to introduce you to Marilyn Seltzer, a friend and Career Coach in the Aspen schools. Marilyn is passionate about helping to guide high school students towards a prosperous and happy future.

[su_heading size=”18″]A cool new approach to introducing teens to the world of work and their potential for impact.[/su_heading]

I believe in the unique power of all teenagers; their curiosity, imaginations, creativity and boundless energy. If I can unlock their potential with basic self-knowledge tools and open their eyes to their amazing gifts that can impact, then I have done my job—which is why I spend many days at Aspen and Basalt High Schools co-teaching a new class for Juniors called Discovery.

Discovery introduces Juniors to the ideas of College, Career, and practical ACT test taking techniques. As a certified career coach, I teach the self-knowledge and career portions of this class.

Fear and anxiety steam from the unknown. I have noticed that sixteen year olds typically don’t have a clue what the world of work really looks like, much less how or where they might fit in. The future seems mysterious and far away. Why? This does not have to be.

Frustration, stress, and anger all come from things we feel we have no control over. Students do not have a whole lot of choice and creativity while completing their high school requirements. Have any of you ever met a frustrated and angry teen? Yes, it is their stage in life, but Im hoping to open their perspectives to a more exciting future, one that engages and empowers them and gives them purpose.

My goal in Discovery (Career) is to: inspire teens to pursue a dream, give them the knowledge to understand how to realistically go after it, and the wisdom to make strategic well thought out choices that will lead them to a fulfilling future. I teach them that this exploration is a Practice, it takes Action; their Action. I challenge them to start now.

Purpose with engagement = long-lasting contentment. This is a future I would like to see for our children. It takes a village—–which is why all students must engage with someone in their community who is doing something they think is pretty cool. The Roaring Fork Valley is an amazing community filled with spectacular people and creativity. We tap into our community.

I am always looking for new ideas and better ways to reach teenagers. I will almost never say no to a cup of coffee/tea to discuss this subject. Invite me to tea. Email

This is why I wake up happy every day to do my job!

Bio: Marilyn Seltzer – is a certified career coach and consultant. Marilyn works with adults and students empowering them to understand their greatest skills, talents, and interests which enables them to identify and obtain careers they crave and are excited to wake up to.?

Additionally, Marilyn has a passion for teaching high school students how to get excited about their futures, how to make informed, meaningful, and conscious choices as they approach their college and career transitions. You will often find Marilyn teaching in the classrooms of Aspen and Basalt High Schools inspiring kids to take an active role in their futures. She always has a smile on her face when working with teenagers.

Marilyn is living out her dream in Snowmass Village, Colorado with her husband and two children.

College/Career Counseling for Students

[su_box title=”Top 10 ‘Greatest Hits: of College Admissions via Your Teen Magazine.”]

1. There are 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. If you read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you might think there are only 20 to 30 colleges. But there are thousands of colleges at which your teenager can be happy and successful.

2. Don’t encourage your teenager to fall in love with ANY college if she’s younger than 16. Your teenager will change a lot in the next few years. Don’t encourage your junior or senior to fall in love with an elite college, where the chance of admission is slim. And, finally, don’t encourage your teenager to fall in love with a college you can’t afford.

3. Yes everything counts, but don’t panic if your teenager stumbled early on Colleges do look at an applicants entire high school transcript, but they also love to see growth. So if your teenager got low grades early in high school encourage him to finish strong. Thats a trend admissions officers like to see.

4. There are no right extra-curricular activities. Some parents ask, “What activities do colleges like?” The answer: Colleges like what your teenager likes and they especially like what your teenager is passionate about whether that’s sports, debate, cooking, or Medieval reenactment. Also, two to three activities is plenty.

5. Paid employment is a positive. Admissions staffers do not value extra-curricular activities over employment (contrary to popular belief). Volunteering can also be impressive to an admissions committee but only if its meaningful to your teenager.

6. Encourage your teenager to focus on what she can control. Grades, test scores, the essay, letters of recommendation. These are the aspects of the college process your teenager can improve.

7. And discourage your teenager from worrying about what she can’t control. There’s no going back and fixing that bad grade from 10th grade. Instead, focus on writing a fabulous essay, keeping up this years grades, or improving an ACT score.

8. Understand that so-called institutional priorities are also outside of your teenagers control. These are factors like legacy status, race, gender, religion, geography, development potential i.e. can you donate a building that colleges use when putting together a freshman class. For example: students from the Midwest have an advantage at East and West Coast colleges simply because they come from a region that is underrepresented at those schools.

9. Reading is the most powerful thing your teenager can do to prepare for the college process. Strong readers perform better on standardized tests, as well as academically overall. Encourage your student to read 20 to 30 minutes a day.

10. Make affordability a part of the process from the beginning. Thanks to recent legislation, colleges are required to be much more transparent about how much it will cost a family to attend. Do the research. Understand if you can afford a particular school before your teenager applies.[/su_box]

Is Being a Parent a Thankless Job, or a Rewarding One?

Lead with Love in Aspen

Is Being a Parent a Thankless Job, or a Rewarding One? img397

[su_heading size=”18″]Is Being a Parent a Thankless Job, or a Rewarding One?[/su_heading]

As difficult as parenting can be, it’s all worth it in the end. Meditation certainly helps one to appreciate the beautiful moments and accept the ugly ones.

[su_heading size=”18″]BEING A HAPPY PARENT[/su_heading]

My meditation practice began recently when I was working for a hot digital marketing firm in Aspen. It was a stimulating position with incredibly creative and quick witted, intelligent people, located in a yellow refurbished Victorian on Main Street, smack dab in the heart of Aspen, Colorado. One of those wet dreams kind of job (I’ve never had one but remember, I live with all boys).

With a full time job, I was juggling a lot, and could not turn my mind off with all the worry that raising teenagers in a legalized marijuana resort town like; kids finding their parent’s stashes hidden in the garage, and smoking them…or while on a foreign country “family trip”, snooping through a parent’s suitcase and finding dabs smuggled in or dropping LSD at a concert that parents lovingly dropped them off at in the hopes that there would be enough intelligence to honor that the reigns of restraint were just inched back out and this was a chance to earn back trust (for all of you weed lovers, I’ll tell you right now…this is not about you…and this is not about rescinding Amendment 64. This is about helping our youth, who are under the legal age of 21) so please don’t even give me your spiel about how marijuana is not a gateway drug for underaged minors, because what we are experiencing with our youth is living proof that you know not what you speak. Go ahead, challenge me on this topic – I dare ya.

Even our wide-eyed and innocent Hootie-Hoo was showing signs of emotional behavioral problems, falling to pieces if somebody looked at him wrong, or running out the door yelling that he was going to find himself a new family during homework time.

Being no mastermind in the art of child psychology, and not having the funds to enlist experts to test for behavioral issues that we feared all three of our boys had, the wheels would not stop whirling in my head as I tried to figure out how to fix all that seemed broken.

My method of escape from it all was to plug in to Pandora and turn it up while powering up mountains, or find girlfriends to sidle up with at a downvalley cowboy bar…and buy horses and shit…It’s one or the other for me, I ain’t lyin’.

Don’t forget, we do live in a party town and although I am a work in progress when it comes to reaching some sort of enlightenment, I’m a party girl at heart and when things just get too much and I still have too much aggressive energy even after releasing endorphins or meditating, there is always something going on in our valley and a friend to go out with.

Always plugged in, always online, often escaping, and always thinking, I desperately needed to learn how to quiet the noise, lest I make myself sick.

One day, after a 1,000 vertical hike, I searched for and found the perfect meditation spot which appeared to have been used before for this very purpose. I was pretty sure that the little stone circle meticulously laid out around the spot I was to sit in, was built by the same people that are always writing messages in all the multi-colored rocks they find like: Jesus Loves You and Peace.


Sitting with my legs crossed, I set my timer on my smartphone, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing giving myself 10 minutes to calm the noise. Twenty minutes later I opened my eyes to snow-capped mountains and hawks soaring over sage brush. Thus my meditation practice began, and the windows to the magic from my childhood reopened.

I spent a lot of time as a child absorbed in fairy paintings from my mother’s art collection painted by famous painters such as; John Anster Fitzgerald, Richard Doyle, Arthur Rackham, placing myself in a world where fairies enticed me to play amongst moss covered rocks and trees threatened to capture and trap me in their gnarled branches, my meditation practice awakened these memories. I began to look upon the world with a heightened alertness and fascination.

To intellectualize what is happening, I listen on Audible to books like; “Waking Up” by Sam Harris, 10 % Happier by Dan Harris and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I also speak to the higher beings that enter my life from Rabbis to Pastors. I have had the nectar dripped on my forehead by Tibetan Monks and have been told by the minister of my in-law’s church that I am surrounded by a golden aura and angels.

It has been a fantastic journey that I am on and although all of this is helping me to wake up, the true awakening comes from deep within and spurs on the most beautiful peacefulness that I have ever had, since I was a child.

As difficult as parenting can be, we are teaching our children to become accountable for their actions and I no longer allow myself to worry about the future. Now, I am constantly getting the chills from all the beautiful moments I am having throughout the day and letting out little guffaws of laughter at the funny sense of humor nature has, uncertain as to whether I am going insane or in the beginnings of a true awakening.

When I weigh it all out; the thirteen year old who finds EVERYTHING that we do unbelievably annoying and tells us that we have to be less embarrassing and stop dancing at parties where he is also invited to; the fifteen year old who is barely ever home and who we miss incredibly until he bangs through the door as loud as a bad storm and throws himself at all of us with his 6 foot 150 pound frame; and a husband who as adorably positive as he is, lives in his own sheltered, disillusioned world where he honestly believes that his wife, (dubbed Jiggil-ian for my large breasts) is a “sex pot” (even though I wake up at 5am and NEED to be in bed by 9pm) and his sons are all as they are supposed to be, being a parent to three boys consistently comes out on the positive side of the scale and the answer is a resounding YES, I am happy (most of the time) but it definitely is the most challenging job I will ever have.

brothers against a brick wallClick to see the peanut butter and jelly dance


A Different Kind of Nanny in Aspen


The Gentry Family 2015 Host Family in Excellence Winner – Aspen, Colorado. Nominated by their Chinese Au Pair, Fulan Li.

[su_heading size=”18″]A Different Kind of Nanny in Aspen[/su_heading]

Tell me if this scenario sounds like something you have experienced? Knowing the trials and tribulations of rounding children up to get dressed for an event, you make the announcement?early that it is time to get ready. Looking?on with satisfaction, you are elated that for once you will be on time, and then down clonks the?littlest one in your high heeled shoes, wearing the same make-up you are wearing, or at least that was her intention. Suddenly, that?peaceful, happy?sense of accomplishment?goes up in flames, along with your patience, and as you undress and redress that little cherub of yours?(your hair getting bigger, your clothes getting lipstick stained) you start dreaming of how nice it would be to have?help.

In my case, me and my pack of wolf-pups were?never on time, always arriving as a?whirling dervish of disheveledness.?I often found myself staring with great discern, and longing,?at?the?well coifed mothers,?swathed in luxurious silk clothing,?hair and nails perfectly manicured,?precious?kids dressed in Oilily by their side as they strutted through town with a?nanny in tow carrying all the shopping bags AND pushing the stroller. My thoughts would roam?to the what ifs in life. What if?I could afford?a nanny? Would I?still be late? Would my pack?still be motley? Would I be more manicured? Would my hair be less wild and crazy? Would I look as if I had it all going on? What if I could have somebody else to do all of the?cooking,?cleaning and laundry? Would?my time be freed?up to greater connect?with my children, and Baddy? Recognizing it as an?unattainable dream, regardless of what choices I would make if given the opportunity, I’d shake off the vision onto someone else like a wet dog shakes?off water.

When I got?pregnant with our third boy I?worried about retaining the ability to stay patient?and?fun for the boys, and attractive for Baddy, and so I found an alternative solution to the proverbial nanny and found us an Au Pair. Why I had not done that?earlier I’ll never know.

Now I’d like to introduce you to Summer Blackhurst. Summer has three children of her own and she?interviews Au Pairs for family placement throughout the country:

What is an Au Pair?

Au Pairs?provide live-in affordable Child Care and offer more flexibility and benefits to a?family than any other form of child care.?They?work up to 45 hours per week and 10 hours per day which offers flexibility?and they?participate in one’s family life and activities creating a consistent, safe and loving environment.

Coming from places throughout the world, Au Pairs share?stories of their cultures,?where fish eyes arent thrown out before dinner, and?frog legs may be considered a great appetizer. Several Au Pairs from Go Au Pair (one?of the 14 State Department sponsored agencies) enjoy the mountain backdrop of?Aspen.

Some will come to Aspen and see their first snowflake fall. For others it will be the first?time they have heard whimsical American phrases like “The Sky is the Limit” and Party Pooper?(not to be mistaken with someone dashing for a bathroom while at a party).

The cultural experiences?are mutually exchanged. One of Aspens Au Pairs, Fulan Li, said with?her Host Family, We exchange our thoughts and our culture, even though things are so?different, we are always getting along well with each other. I get a chance to experience?the culture here, at the same time, I can bring my culture to the family.

Compared to other childcare options, Au Pairs become one with the family?and?often become a best friend, a trusted confidant, and a partner in parenting.

The best part of being an Au Pair, is to be with my host kids, Sheldon 5 and Ava 3?years old. They are very precious children. Fulan Li feels like she is lucky to have?been chosen by such a great family. I have been enjoying so many wonderful things in?the past two years because of my host family.

Having?an Au Pair is a one of a kind childcare experience that pales in comparison to?other forms. Initially the effort and upfront costs are greater, but the cost levels out to be?the same or less than using a daycare or a nanny.

Next time you take a hike think about having someone from China, Germany or South?Africa as a companion to help out with the kids and to laugh with you even if you?are?a?party pooper sometimes. Having two nations share and learn under one roof for a time?is a one of a kind experience. The kids will benefit from it and the family will be all the better for?it.

More parents should consider this option if they can spare an extra room. It will?surprise them how often the Au Pair will be able to step up to cover complicated working?schedules.

BIO of Author: Summer Blackhurst is a writer and mother of three very small people (an 18 month girl,?3 year boy and 5 year boy). Reading Jillys Aspen Real Life blog has her both terrified and excited to watch her own boys grow up.?Writing is Summer’s?best shot at sanity at this?phase in her life and she does most of that for Go Au Pair where she is a firm believer in?the benefits of cultural exchange. She has interviewed close to 200 Host families and?Au Pairs.

** Note From Jillian: We just found out that our Au Pair from 10 years ago, who was only 19 at the time, just had a baby boy. Congratulations Katharina, we still miss you and NEED you to visit?us in Aspen so we can have our baby boy fix!!!!

A Different Kind of Nanny in Aspen

Living in Basalt, Colorado

[su_heading size=”18″]Living in Basalt, Colorado[/su_heading]

For some of you school has already started and you probably weren’t prepared for it. For others, such as I, school doesn’t start until next week and we are overly prepared. Ready with backpacks packed and possibly lunches already made.

HELL YES I’m ready. Ready for the twitch to stop from the stress induced delusion that summer is all about bathing suits and nature impacted jaunts into the woods.

I keep trying on that laisse faire state of mind but it doesn’t seem to fit, it only makes the twitch in my eye grow stronger as I abandon the stack of papers to dive into exploring summer with my children…which leads me to have a strong propensity to drink a bottle of wine at night, with no help, to ignore the pull to work in my new office, which has been dubbed as my cave.

The kids are not fooled. They see my frustrations and react. We thought it would be fun to spend a day in Glenwood Springs shopping for school supplies and sporting equipment. NOT. Last minute shopping in 100 degree heat is NOT fun. On days like these you have to hope that you don’t run into anybody that you know, but of course I always have witnesses that talk for days about how they saw Jillian having a meltdown at Moes when in reality it wasn’t me having the melt down but Tucker who decided that he was going to revert back to being two again and cry in line because he couldn’t see the food and therefore couldn’t decide what he wanted for lunch. Let’s just suffice it to say that he got deeply grounded with the life long punishment of no more bad television.

The next morning, passing me in my cave, he stood there half naked with tousled hair, his long legs protruding from flooded pajama legs with rockets blasting all over them. I wrapped him up in my arms to feel his warm, soft body against my skin and kissed his sleepiness away.  I was speaking with my mother about our new life, telling stories of all the new children stopping by to suss us out and the bear who loves our plum tree and stretches up to a massive height to reach the sweetest plums I’ve ever tasted, it’s okay, I’ll share with our new wild friend that we have to keep our windows closed from lest he find us just as sweet. He also loves to move our toilet from one end of the deck to the other. Why is there a toilet on my deck you ask? Because Wade ripped it out to fix the leak in our beautiful new home, that needs work.

As much as I relish the chance to get back to some serious work, I am more ready to get out into this warm weather and play, hard,  before the frost comes. It’s still summer and Basalt has a steadfast grip with temperatures about 5 to 7 degrees warmer than where we came from in Old Snowmass. It’s been nice living in the Banana Belt where we can sit outside with friends late into the evening to the light of stars and flickering hurricane candles.

[su_heading size=”18″]Basalt in the Summertime[/su_heading]

Serious road bikers still cruise through town after a 27.35 mile round trip ride up the Frying Pan Road to the Ruedi Reservoir dam, while fly fishermen pull up to Syzygy’s sister restaurant, The Riverside Grill, to tell fishing tales over ice cold beer. Cowboys pull up on their horses to the Brick Pony Pub while across the street Yogis release sore muscles from hardcore playing in the mountains. For a Massachusetts girl it’s all so adventurous, and sexy.

I will say this, as I look forward to the kids getting back into a more regimented lifestyle I will miss the long, sweet quiet mornings and the beautiful evening walks  into Basalt, our small western town, where deep green Pines seep in the light as we search for boughs to play on and where the sun, especially lately due to the haze in the air from the  fires, turns into a blazing ball of red before sinking below Basalt mountain, a mountain that once was a shield volcano long ago.

Nevertheless, I’m still going to sing HALLELUJAH that school starts soon. Come on, you know you want to sing it with me, loud and slowly because summer is still here and now it is your time to get out and play in it, without packing the dog, the kids and the cooler into the car – those of you who are going to miss being with your children day in and day out, don’t have to sing out loud, just sing it to yourself quietly because I know that deep down in all of us, whether we admit it or not, we are all ready for some sanity and some time to ourselves.

And now it’s time to play, and get shit done. It’s just you, so enjoy.


Talking to our Children About Drug Use

Aspen Parent to Parent Alliance

[su_heading size=”18″]Talking to our Children About Drug Use[/su_heading]

Recently, I received the heads up that I should attend a meeting in Aspen, Colorado to be held at the Little Nell Hotel and presented by; The Buddy Program, empowering youth through mentoring experiences in order to achieve their full potential; The Valley Marijuana Council, creating a cohesive community approach to facilitate the safe, responsible and successful inception of recreational marijuana into the Aspen/Pitkin County community; and Community Heath Initiatives, promoting healthy behavior by sponsoring workplace and community programs and providing outpatient counseling to youth and adults. The title of the meeting was to be, “Talking to your Kids About Marijuana Health: Effects and Available Resources,” and so I went.

[su_heading size=”18″]Talking to your Kids About Marijuana Health: Effects and Available Resources [/su_heading]

I sat behind Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and amongst less than a handful of parents and listened to Erin Flynn, Retail Marijuana and Youth Prevention Coordinator for the State of Colorado, alert us to the important resource websites for adolescent marijuana and substance use information, and Flynn affirmed that the conversations about drugs and alcohol must begin with your child between the ages of 9 -13, when they still view you as their role model and are listening, and emphasized the importance of reaching your children BEFORE they reach their freshman year.

[su_heading size=”18″]HOW TO TALK TO YOUR YOUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA[/su_heading]

  • Teach them at an early age how to talk to adults if they need help or have questions, and how to say no.
  • Talk about second hand smoke and how both marijuana and cigarette smoke is bad.
  • Teach them refusal skills and how to talk to adults if they need help.
  • Talk about the risks and health effects and how it can get them into trouble at school:
    • Regular marijuana use for adolescents and adults is associated with impaired learning, math and memories and reading achievement, even 20 days after use.
  • As they get older tell them the legal consequences such as; losing your drivers license and how any federal or state drug conviction, whether it be for the possession, conspiring to sell or sale of illegal drugs, can disqualify a student from receiving federal student aid grants and loans.
  • Ask them what they think about marijuana and about the kids who use it.
  • Decide how you will talk to them about whether you have used marijuana or other substances.

Next, Executive Director of CHI, Shelley Evans opened her presentation by stating, “I’m scared to death to give you the data but please do not go running to the superintendent or sheriff and police chief with your fears. It is not somebody else’s issue. It’s ours, as parents.”

“Hot off the press” Evans presented the 2015 data collected from surveys given to Aspen High School and Aspen Middle School students (see below) by Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), the leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. The room grew quiet:

2015 Local Student Data Marijuana Use: 8th – 12th Graders:

**U.S. averages/Aspen averages

  • Marijuana use by Aspen 8th graders is below U.S. averages for past-12-months (13%/9%), and past-30-days measures (7%/4%)
  • Marijuana use by Aspen 10th graders is higher than U.Sl averages for past-12-months (30%/34%), and past-30-days measure (18%/22%).
  • Marijuana use by Aspen 12th graders far exceeds U.S. averages for past-12-months (36%/63%), and past-30-days measures (23%/44%).
  • The number of students reporting that they typically never use marijuana decreases with age, from 91% of 8th graders to 37% of 12th graders.

2015 Local Student Data Alcohol Use: 8th – 12th graders

  • Alcohol use by Aspen 8th graders is lower than U.S. averages for past-12-months (22%/19%), and past-30-days (10%/8%).
  • Alcohol use by Aspen 10th graders is higher than U.S. averages for past 12-months (47%/55%), far exceeds U.S. averages for past-30-days (28%/43%).
  • Alcohol use by Aspen 12th graders far exceeds U.S. averages for past-12-months (62%/77%) and past-30-days (39%/57%).
  • Past-30-days alcohol use rise from 8% in 8th grade to 57% in 12th grade.
  • Of students who drank within the past 30 days, 46% (61 students) consumed 5 or more drinks in a row on a least 1 of those occasions (that’s called binge drinking).
  • The more a student drinks, the more likely he or she is to have used other drugs.

Aspen High School 2015/2016 Concerns:

  • 11th-12th graders’ use of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco is higher than Colorado and U.S. averages.
  • 12th graders’ use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and LSD is higher than Colorado and national averages.
  • 19% of Aspen students say that they have used alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs at home WITH a parent or guardian knowing.
  • For 11th and 12th graders, this figure rises to 29% and 41%, respectively.
  • 33% of Aspen students say that they have used alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs at home WITHOUT a parent or guardian knowing.
  • For 11th and 12th graders, this figure rises to 61% and 54%, respectively.

Evans ended her presentation by stating something extremely powerful, “There is recent research that indicates that when students leave home for college their actual marijuana use at college is affected more by whether you as a parent approve or disapprove of it; whether you did or didn’t monitor them while they were in high school and while they are at college, more than any other factor including; their peers, their environment and their perceptions of use. Altogether, you are the most important person in their lives; what you did and you didn’t do, what you said or didn’t say and whether you monitored them. It’s never too early to talk to them and tell them that you don’t want them to use or drink and that you want them to be safe….We went in and did surveys in the Aspen High School and asked kids how many of their parents had had that conversation with them and it wasn’t many. It’s all about you. Take your power back!”

Soooo….how to take your power back? Visit the websites shown in this post and sign up with our Parent to Parent Alliance by emailing me at As soon as I have back-up support I will re-gather the troops and continue on with our mission to empower parents to unify and together and be mindful, present and aware AND work with the schools on engaging the students to begin their own campaigns to stand up and be proud that they are part of the percentage who chooses not to abuse drugs and alcohol.


**Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention has merged with CHI to combine forces with their mission to reduce substance abuse from Aspen to Parachute and stop duplicating services in the area, Shelley was the Executive Director of VPDP from 1997-2006.





Connecting with My Spiritual Side

Leave the Siblings Behind

[su_heading size=”18″]Connecting with My Spiritual Side[/su_heading]

I try to make it a habit to not speak on the phone when I have all three of my boys around, it’s just too frustrating for both me and the person I am speaking with, but my mother is in town and when she is here she brings us all together and so I was speaking to my sister about our plans. “Stop shooting each other,” I pleaded to my boys, gangsta rap blaring out the speakers with Thumper as the DJ.

Connecting with my  Spiritual Side with Reverend Dr. Stephen-Poos Benson
Reverend Dr. Stephen-Poos Benson

[su_heading size=”18″]Finding Peace and Serenity[/su_heading]

It has been yet another summer spent trying to survive, and write, only this summer the darts from nerf guns have graduated to pellets in airsoft guns and the raucous wrestling going on at my feet, knocking everything off anything in their path, continues outside to extreme summer ski ramps built in the backyard.

To retain my sanity I search for peace and serenity wherever I can, and guidance. I am currently taking a class with Rod Stryker, “Peace, Power and Prosperity: The Enlightened Life. Mr. Stryker is also the founder of ParaYoga and the author of “The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom.”

Once a month I take a seat in the Aspen Chapel and listen as he guides his class through a stronger meditation practice and resets our being, encouraging us to find our purpose in life.

As the early evening light seeps through the stained glass windows, basking our room in gold I begin the transformation into a more peaceful me and when I leave I practice his teachings throughout the remainder of the month, trying to figure out what the hell my purpose is.

Rod stryker

For seven years my writing has been my catharsis. Always looking for the story has helped me to find humor amidst the chaos of my every day living, thus helping to dissolve the frustrations that derive from being a parent, sometimes what seems like such a thankless job, albeit my self-proclaimed vocation in life.

It helps to have a creative, quirky mind where just when I am about to lose it on the boys, myself and the world, the sight of a broom creates an animated image in my head of my jumping upon it and flying around the room while hackling hysterically and tossing smoke bombs. These images do a lot to help diffuse my anger, and tell a better story.

My focus has always been on raising our boys into strong, loyal, determined, passionate men and much of what I have done in these past seven years has kept me on this path. This is what lead me to blogging, travel writing and now writing about parenting to help other parents. With each post, I conduct my research, and every insight is applied towards my own parenting. But what is my purpose?

When last in Denver my mother-in-law introduced me to the Senior Pastor of her Columbine United Church, Reverend Dr. Stephen-Poos Benson, a Reverend, author, teacher at the St. Regis University and blogger of, “Cowboy Jesus: The Rodeo of Life and Religion”.

[su_quote]Our congregation believes all people are beloved children of God regardless of any type of orientation. It is simply not an issue for us that you are Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Grey, Black, Purple, Republican, Democrat, Baby Boomer, Gen X, short, tall, or anything of any stripe. You are a beloved child of God and we invite you to be a part of our faith community.[/su_quote]

When Baddy was growing up, religion was not a part of their daily lives but this Reverend and his liberal philosophy had essentially changed the lives of his parents and their views on Christianity.

While it is true that I am Jewish, an aspiring Jubu since reading 10% Happier by Dan Harris, I have so many questions spurred on from my meditation and desire to speak with anyone who is willing to share with me their spiritual wisdom, regardless of their religious affiliation, as long as they don’t try to convert me and are not even remotely preachy, so when my mother-in-law set up a meeting with the Reverend, I was ready to meet the man who had changed the lives of my in-laws and hope that he could answer some of my questions that have arisen since my meditation practice began like; I understand that when you open yourself to becoming more mindful your senses are heightened and everything becomes more vivid, but what about the serendipitous magic that occurs that you have no control over, what is that all about?

In his book, “Sent to Soar: Fulfilling Your Devine Potential for Yourself and for the World,” the Reverend, “Mines the wisdom” of the great spiritual heroes; Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, to reveal a pattern in how God works in the world, [su_quote]I believe that God has sent us to fulfill a unique destiny; in order to find meaning in life, we must understand why we have been sent and then fulfill that purpose. [/su_quote](Rod Stryker is mentioned throughout the book)

Sitting in the comfort of his office in two oversized sitting chairs I asked him his thoughts on faith and spirituality.

The Reverand broke it down to the basics for me:

[su_box title=”Spirituality and Faith”]

Spirituality – Is how “one” walks with the cosmos. It’s tacit, we know it’s there but we can’t put our hands on it. We know in our knower how we walk with the cosmos”.

Beliefs – “The intellectualization of our spirituality.”

Religion – “We take our spirituality and our beliefs and we