Category Archives: travel

Cruising with Top Chef!

I am a Top Chef fan.  I’m talking, big, HUGE, annoyingly fanatical.  I own all 10 seasons of Top Chef, 4 seasons of Top Chef Masters, and 2 seasons of Top Chef Just Desserts (eh, not nearly as good, but when there are no new regular shows, I watch it).  I watch them over and over again.  I listen to them when I’m jogging.  I can’t explain it.  I just love the show.  I love the personalities in the kitchen.  I learn something new every time I re-watch an episode.   But unfortunately, none of my close friends watch it with me.   I’ve had to turn to bloggers and recaps for my after-show discussions.

So last fall, when I saw there was going to be a cruise, not just any cruise, but  TOP CHEF THE CRUISE!, I started working on J to go with me.  After multiple discussions (begging), he finally cracked.  He had no desire to a) cruise, or b) cruise with me dragging him to Top Chef events.  So in order to get me to shut up, he offered to pay for me to take a friend for my birthday/anniversary present.

I didn’t really care which chefs were going to be on board, to be honest.  I just thought any kind of Top Chef related events would be really fun.  But I have to say, the chefs that participated couldn’t have been better.  Not sure if Bravo hand selected them, or if their schedules worked out to allow them to come, or they had new cookbooks they wanted to promote (it was probably a combination of the three), but hosts Tom and Gail, Masters Hubert Keller and Tim Love, and past winners and contestants Richard Blais, Chris Crary (Malibu Chris), Tiffany Derry (“I’m from Beaumont, Texas”), Mike Isabella, Kristen Kish, Spike Mendelson, Paul Qui, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sosa, Casey Thompson, Fabio Viviani, Brooke Williamson, and Top Chef Just Desserts winners Yigit Pura and Chris Hanmer were on board with 2,000 other top chef fans...just like me!

Me and C 24 years ago and now

It’s hard to explain, but when my girlfriend, C (who I last cruised with as a single girl 24 YEARS ago) and I joined a dinner table with eight other Top Chef fans who became our new best friends for the duration of the cruise (well, 6 fans and 2 ‘drag-alongs’ like C who had never watched an episode), I felt like I had been dropped into heaven.  We spent the first night talking about the chefs, the seasons, the episodes, their restaurants, their drama…all while C and the other drag-alongs looked at us like we were speaking Greek.  I was surprised that the chefs were mingling with us, enjoying the cruise (some of them really enjoying the cocktails!), taking photos, signing books, dancing, etc.  I thought they’d stay in their VIP quarters, come out to do quickfires and other events, but stay away from all the fans.  But they were out there, lapping it up.  Someone pointed out to me that they were huge celebrities to us, but maybe not to most of America, so maybe they were enjoying the attention. I still think it must have been tiring, or annoying at times, but they were always very gracious. 

After dinner the first night we attended a Cocktail Party and DJ set led by Hubert Keller…and there’s no way to explain the pure joy on his face as he played Electronic and Top 40 songs until the wee hours.  It was so cool to see this master of cuisine (who hosted the first quickfire of the first season of Top Chef, by the way) relax and enjoy himself like that!

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for this pic

As we tired of dancing we made our way to the bar for a drink and snapped some photos with Fabio, Mike, and Angelo, who were also definitely enjoying themselves.


Something weird happened to my biological clock that weekend, because we didn’t make it to bed until 3 a.m….and that was the earliest we made it back for the rest of the cruise!   Thus began our pattern of going to bed late, getting up early to squeeze in a workout (a necessity because of the sheer amount of food we ate!), relaxing during the day, and starting our adventures at night.  Since we had late seating, we normally attended the Top Chef “entertainment” at 6, then whatever was going on after dinner…we were there.    The dinners were, for the most part, incredible.  We had our choice of selecting items from the regular cruise menu, or dishes that were designed by three of the chefs onboard.  As the cruise progressed, and we realized how good the Top Chef recipes were, we all started ordered two or three each of the appetizers, entrees and desserts…just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  Thanks to Tim Love, whose lobster cake was my hands down favorite.  I could have eaten that every night!
The first night’s quickfire was with Casey, Richard, Hosea, Malibu Chris, Spike and Kristen for our group, and the next night we had the much rowdier group-Fabio, Angelo, Mike, Brooke, Tiffany, Paul and Chris H.  The second day our quickfire was AFTER dinner which, according to Fabio, “…having this quickfire at 11:30 after our captain’s dinner, was a BIG mistake.” 
Fabio at the late night quickfire

They had obviously enjoyed their captain’s dinner, but Fabio, Mike and Angelo had started their celebration around lunchtime surrounded by their closest fans all day at the pool.  I had decided my mission was to be selected to join one of them on stage (they chose audience members to “sous” with the chefs during the quickfires).  So thanks to C cheering me on, I made a fool of myself, jumped up and down in the aisle and Fabio pointed to me and said, “OK, sparkly dress, YOU.”  So me and my sparkly dress joined Mike at the quickfire table, where he gave me a giant can of dented artichokes and an old rusty can opener and I spent most of my time onstage opening a can.  So much for showing off my mad kitchen skills.

That evening was filled with so much heckling (the chefs who weren’t cooking were sitting in a box above the stage), f-bombs, and questionable actions that they never aired it on the in-cabin TVs, which they were doing 24 hours a day…just re-ran the calmer, less fun group’s challenges.  I laughed so hard I don’t even remember what Mike cooked.  I think I chopped a few things, but I honestly don’t remember.  I do know I’ll probably never forget that night!

  Angelo was having so much fun in the lounge, dancing to Salsa music.  I was standing at the bar, watching, kind of moving to the beat, when he came over, and grabbed my hand.  I proceeded to try to follow him, but since I have NO ability to salsa,  I looked pretty stupid.  Oh well.

The third night was a deck party with Tom Collichio’s friend Milton and his band.  They were great, but it was even better when Tom came out and joined them wearing a Panama Hat and looking cool.  He strapped on a guitar and played and sang a few songs to the crowd of adoring fans, whose cheers rivaled those for any major rock star.  He was actually really good!

Our day at sea was spent recovering in a lounge chair by the pool while the chefs rotated all day long, doing cooking demos, and Q&A sessions.  Their banter with each other is really adorable.  They seem to all get along and respect each other, but it’s funny when they give each other s&*t!  I managed to oversleep and miss both autograph sessions, but lugged the six new cookbooks I bought on board with me all day (some of them not released yet) and snagged an autograph whenever I could grab someone.  On the last day I had all the signatures except Angelo’s.  I was walking down to shower after working out and spotted Angelo (a beautiful man, by the way) sitting in the jacuzzi, all by himself.  He looked at me, nodded, and said hello.  So I promptly pulled his book out of my bag to have him sign it.  I was struggling to act cool, because I don’t normally do well with celebrities.  I thought I did OK, though, until I walked into the cabin, glanced in the mirror and realized I had something hanging out of my nose.  So I’m sure I made a lovely impression on the lovely Angelo!

Of the cookbooks I purchased, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Mike’s Crazy Good Italian, and Tim Love’s Journal  were the ones I read from cover to cover.  Angelo’s Flavor Exposed is beautiful and his passion for food and flavors shines throughout, and the recipes are sophisticated and easy to follow.   The chefs were all very gracious and accommodating, and other than the ones who brought their small children with them, spent a large amount of time socializing and enjoying the cruise.  I’m not a huge cruise fan, but have done a few of them through the years.  I think being on board with so many like-minded people made all the difference in the world.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!


Tiffany…love her!

Malibu Chris


My beautiful friend who now might watch Top Chef with me!

Aspen Valley Half Marathon

Last month while we were planning our trip to Colorado, I was browsing through the Aspen Times  and found a little reference to a half marathon happening a week after we arrived.  The fact that it was going to be run at 9,000 feet didn’t quite register with me, because I saw the elevation map…

This is the whole marathon map, but the half starts at around mile 7 and veers off from the full marathon at around mile 17.  So my brain saw downhill and I signed up!  The fact that I had six days to acclimate to the altitude as well as the fact that I did not train for it didn’t cross my mind.

I started getting a little bit nervous four days ago, when we biked the course, and the “downhill” portion wasn’t as easy as I imagined.  The altitude was still doing a number on me.  Then I checked the results from last year’s half, and the slowest person was around 2 1/2 hours…yikes!  That’s about what I ran the Country Music Half in April.  Combined with the altitude and the lack of training, I convinced myself I was going to be in last place.  I know, I should be happy that I can run at all after my heart issues last year, blah, blah, blah…but last place? 

I fought off the urge to can it entirely, and decided to just show up and do what I could do.  If I had to walk part of the way, hopefully I’d finish before at least one full marathoner, since they only started one hour before we did.  I drove to the intercept lot where the bus was there to take us to the start.  A quick look around didn’t make me feel very good.  No old people (like me), and no fat people.  Seriously, I have run 9 marathons, and it is amazing the amount of overweight runners who run faster than I do!  I used the portapotty 4 times (yes, nervous much?), and eavesdropped on other people’s conversations.

No lines at the Portapotty!  Score!

I heard someone talk about a seven minute mile pace being slow, and the chick behind me was talking about doing a 500 mile Rocky Mountain bike ride.  Not good.  While on the bus I talked with the guy in front of me who has done this for three years, and he told me that 1) they took out the big uphill at the beginning (what?  I didn’t know there was an uphill at the beginning!), and 2) there were about 300 half marathon runners, which was more than double the number from last year.  That eased my mind a little.  Surely there would be someone else as dumb as me who signed up without training or acclimating to the altitude.   Then I saw this guy…he’s probably a really nice guy, but I thought, “Maybe I can beat him!”

I wore those shorts in my first marathon in 1995!

Notice the red white and blue shorts in front of me!

The course really is downhill, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.  It’s one of those deceptive downhills that seem flat, until you turn around and go the other way.  It was painful.  My pace was faster than I planned, which made me nervous for the end of the race.  But the views were amazing.  Around mile 7 my stomach started rumbling a little bit, the way it does when I usually duck behind a tree or find a gas station with a bathroom.  Unfortunately,  there were no trees to duck behind, and definitely no gas stations.  I was afraid to drink water at the water stops because I didn’t know what my stomach would do, but I made myself do it, because it is definitely dry here.  Then, after a rare uphill at mile 9, there was a water stop, and Glory Hallelujah…

Proof that there is a God!

That 5 minute stop did wonders for me…gave my legs a rest, too!  The next 4 miles were hillier than the entire course, but I made it!  And the second I crossed the finish line, my phone rang and it was H!  She had no idea I was running but it was the best prize I could have gotten.  I know, it really shouldn’t matter if I finish last, it should matter that I finish.  And I get that.  But for some reason, the thing that keeps me signing up for these things, even though I get older and slower, is that I’m not the only one.  I’ll never win a race, but hopefully I’ll always beat someone, even if it’s a 92 year old.  I think that’s a reasonable goal…until I’m 92.

Not my fastest, but not my slowest, and not LAST

Snowmass Skiing January 2012

It’s Day 4 of our two weeks in Snowmass, and we’ve decided to skip skiing today.  We normally ski every day possible, but the conditions this year are just, frankly, horrible.  The base is around 30″, officially, but I don’t really see that.  They haven’t had any snow, other than the 8 inches they received on the day we flew in, and I think they’ve tried to move the little snow they do have around on the mountain to cover up the brown spots.   It’s still skiing, and we still have beautiful wide open spaces and blue skies, and as J says, it’s like a really good day skiing in Vermont, so I don’t want to complain.  But we are so spoiled to the Colorado powder that we usually get this time of year that it’s definitely taking some getting used to.  I’m seriously thinking about renting skis, because every time my skis go over the rocks and trees that are scattered around on every single run, I cringe.  There are deep scratches on the bottom of them, and that’s only after skiing two days.  They were hoping to get snow last night, the only night that snow is forecast between now and when we go home, but the light dusting that actually happened didn’t even register as any accumulation.  Oh well.

But we still absolutely love it here.  It is so beautiful, the air is so crisp and clean, there is much to do besides skiing, the summers are beyond belief,  and once we get acclimated to the altitude it just feels like home to us.  Yesterday we relaxed in the morning, did a little business over coffee, and headed out to Snowmass to get in a few runs.  It was a beautiful day, and the temps at the top of the mountain were in the low 20’s, so it almost seemed like spring skiing, except for the lack of snow.  But we tried out my new Christmas present…goggles with a video camera built in, so you can see for yourself.  Watch for the little trees that stick out of the snow every now and then, and the bumps as we ski over little rocks.  But it’s all good!

Enjoy this footage of Big Burn and Sheer Bliss, two blue runs that weren’t too bad yesterday, along with Train’s new single, “Drive By”

Here’s to letting go of the Routine!

It’s 3:20 on a Wednesday and I haven’t worked out yet.  I have no idea what’s for dinner and I just had lunch.  I slept in until 8 a.m….something I haven’t done in ages.  I’m starting to get glimpses of what it will be like when H leaves for college.   For the last 18 years, my life has been defined by the routines and schedules that come with being a mom.  My schedule was her schedule.  Bedtime, awake time, meal time, study time,  cuddle time, worry time.  Ah yes, the worry.  Worrying about whether she was hungry, tired, warm, healthy, safe, happy…that is a constant, but the worries have progressed over the years to worrying about whether she was doing enough, doing too much, getting where she needed to be on time, doing her assignments on time, driving safely, making smart choices, not texting while driving-it never stops.  It became so entrenched that I don’t really remember what I did or even worried about before she was born. 

H is in France.  Her school has a Winterim program every January, where the 9th and 10th graders take special interest classes instead of their regular classes (Women and Finance, Music of the 60’s, sewing, The Beatles, The Kennedys, etc.), and the 11th and 12th graders go off campus-to internships or travel programs either in town or out of town.  H is in France doing a combination tour and home stay.  She will live with a French family for 9 days in southern France, learn about their food, schools, routines, and hopefully, polish her French.  It’s an incredible opportunity for her, and I am thrilled she gets to do it.

She has traveled a lot in the last couple of years without us; Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Washington and China.  Each time was a little less worrisome.  At this age she is like a sponge, learning what to do and not to do when traveling (make sure her phone is charged, don’t leave her computer on the plane), and at this point it has become much easier.  As her parent, I always worry (probably always will), but I know she has the maturity and wisdom to take care of herself.  It’s also made it easier for me each time to let her go.  When she was a little girl I spent the entire time she was gone writing her letters, checking the camp website for photos, worrying and thinking about her almost constantly.  But the last couple of years I’ve begun to appreciate the unscheduled days.  The time with my dear husband for late, long, leisurely meals or hiking with the dogs, sleeping in, staying out late, eating popcorn for lunch, and even increasing the times I can volunteer is growing on me.

I could write a million pages about how difficult it’s been for me to “let go” (and I actually have!)…I know that part of parenting is to let her make her own decisions and mistakes…but knowing and doing are two completely different things.  J tells me I “micromanage”.  So lately, when I think I need to stay up late to pack HER suitcase, or make sure she submits HER college applications, I have to literally make myself STOP.   I didn’t pack her suitcase for France.  I didn’t go to Walgreens to buy the toiletries and things we didn’t already have.  As difficult as it was,  I didn’t stay up late to look over her shoulder while she wrote her college essays.   And you know what?  It all got done.  SHE packed, SHE shopped, SHE stayed up late and got the apps in on time.  It’s very liberating.  Not easy, but it’s a good feeling.

Halfway across the world, in a tunnel under the street in Paris, she ran into our neighbor and childhood friend!

Last night we went to sleep while she was still in the air on a flight to Paris (something I wouldn’t have been able to do a couple of years ago).  The world didn’t cave in.  I woke up this morning with a really good night’s sleep and had a text from her that she was there.  I know the day that I take her to college, move her into her dorm room, and drive away will probably be the hardest thing I ever do.    But I know she will be OK.  Even more, I know that I will be OK.   Eventually.

Focusing on “Firsts”, not “Lasts”

Last week we spent fall break in California, looking at colleges.  At this point in H’s college search, we’re narrowing the list down, instead of adding to it.  There were six colleges she was strongly interested in before the trip, and afterwards, there were only two.   

One thing I learned about California…specifically the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.  They don’t have enough roads for all the cars.  Seriously.  Driving  the 45 miles from Santa Clara to San Francisco took almost three hours.  The last 90 minutes were spent crawling the last 10 miles.  Luckily, we finished up our marathon driving with a day and a half to relax (aka:  shop) in San Francisco, and fit in a couple of nice meals. 

Since we realized the last three times we were in San Francisco we ate at the same places (Boulevard, Slanted Door, Bix), we tried a couple of new places.  Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie at the Embarkadero, that we loved.  Warm and intimate, with amazing sushi and a nice wine list.  It was a really nice evening. The fact that we were able to stay awake throughout a leisurely dinner made it even better, since that morning we started in Los Angeles, then toured U.C.  Davis, Santa Clara University, and survived the marathon drive to San Francisco, so we were exhausted.

Crunchy Tuna at Chaya… bad photo, incredible dish!

 The next night we walked around the block to Fish and Farm, which although it didn’t have the ambiance we felt at Chaya, had unbelievable food.  Even the salted butter for the warm rolls was superb!  Fish and Farm serves locally sourced Seafood, Meat and Produce, sourcing most from within a 100 mile radius.

Pan Seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes at Fish and Farm

 Even though neither of these places were on the “top 100” list of San Francisco restaurants, they would have topped most restaurants in Nashville.  The Nashville restaurant scene is getting better, don’t get me wrong, but I think there are only a small handful here that serve consistently good, unique, and local or organic food. 

But back to the college search process.  It’s all very exciting, looking at great schools, in great cities, with great academics…but it’s a nerve-wracking process for all of us.  With the common app, it’s a little bit easier to apply to multiple schools, but when the pool of possible colleges and universities gets so big, it gets overwhelming.  H really wants a school with smaller class sizes.  She loves being able to get to know her teachers, and doesn’t relish the thought of being in a class with 150-400 students.  But on the other hand, the small schools often don’t have the breadth of opportunities, and since she changes her mind about what she wants to study about once a month, she would like to have multiple choices, in case her first choice doesn’t end up being her passion.

I’ve been impressed with how thoroughly she has researched her possibilites, and her enthusiasm for exploring all aspects of the decision.  She has narrowed her list from 14-15 to 7 schools.  From Washington, DC to California, she has pretty much covered the United States with choices.  Anything but in the south, or close to home, which I’m O.K. with.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s an only child, or because she has traveled extensively, and lived in the same city her whole life, but she is ready to fly.  When the applications finally get sent, and the acceptance/rejection letters arrive, it will definitely get interesting.  Right now, even though I am trying not to be a helicopter mom and let her drive through the application process, I know I will be relieved when the last “submit” button is pushed. 

But I am trying to relish these days.  Everything is the “last time”.  Her last “first day of school”, her last Friday night football game, her last ACT test, her last homecoming, etc.  She’s decided to do senior spring break with her friends this year, so for the first time, we’ll do spring break separately.  That means we had our last “family spring break” last year without even knowing it!  When J and I hiked Little Green Mountain in North Carolina this morning, we realized the next time we hike and play the alphabet game (a tradition we had with H for years) will probably be with our grandchildren.  But instead of focusing on “last”, I’m trying to focus on “firsts”.  The first time we let her stay home overnight alone, the first time she makes her own meals,  the first time she moves away, the first time she comes home for the holidays.  We will have many “firsts” ahead.  The first time she brings a boy home will be exciting (hopefully!), the first time we drive away and leave her in her dorm room will be…I don’t know?  Sad? Exciting? Both?

Preschool graduation

senior photo

Last night we met a few new couples whose children are out of college: working, volunteering, or attending graduate school.  Listening to the pride they had in what their children are doing made me realize that we are not going to be finished parenting our daughter when she goes to college.  Her choices and her possibilites are endless, and it will be so much fun to experience all her “firsts”, even if from afar.  There is no way to explain how fast the years feel like they’ve gone, and I’m sure one day when she has her own family she’ll understand why I am so melancholy these days, but I feel so blessed and fortunate to be experiencing it all. 

On the Brink

Somewhere in the last two or three years, my 17 year old daughter has become her own person.  I can’t pinpoint when it happened.  It had to be more gradual than overnight, but at some point she stopped loving all the same things that we did.  Sure, we still like to do some of the same things, like hiking and snow skiing, but doing it with her parents just doesn’t hold the same excitement it used to.

Gone are the family trips where she was ecstatic to be with us, basking in the undivided attention of an only child:  the times where shopping with Mom, going to the movies with both parents, or escaping to the mountains with “just the three of us” were good things.

She’s on the brink…almost 18, aching for the independence to do her own thing, explore the world, or just hang out with her friends, but still anchored by the fraying ties of financial and emotional need. We’re very fortunate.  She’s a good kid.  When I do a Google search on “18 year old daughter” the first sites to pop up are dealing with ungratefulness, dabbling in porn, “out of control”, and runaways.  I’m actually excited for her, for the adventures she will undertake, for the opportunities she will have, and even for the hard lessons she will learn.

It’s still hard.  But instead of focusing on how much I miss our constantly being together and sharing, I am treasuring the rare moments when she opens up.  I try not to think of how few times like this we will have in the future, but appreciate what we have.  I pray that we will always be close (in spirit, if not in distance), and that she will always know how much we treasure her.

In the meantime, I am marveling at her enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and try new things.

Here are a couple of photos of her trip to Alaska this summer…we’ve spoken to her three times in 29 days (probably the number of times she has been able to shower) and she is in heaven.  Something tells me her re-entry into Mom and Dad 24/7 is going to be difficult!

Thank God for Ski Patrol

Final Curves at the bottom of “Longshot”

We spent our spring break snow skiing in Snowmass, Colorado, a tradition in our family for the last ten years. Even though my daughter, H, is 17 and most of her friends are at the beach, she still prefers skiing with her parents (horror!) because she loves it so much. In my opinion, Snowmass is the absolute best skiing in Colorado…maybe even best in the country. With over 3000 acres of terrain, 91 trails (I looked it up), mostly high speed chairlifts and access to your choice of cruisers, glades, steeps, and my favorite, bumps, it never gets boring. I love that going to different areas of the mountain usually only involves one lift or short run, and I love that even during spring break it never seems crowded, and yesterday I found out one more reason to love it here. The emergency response teams, from the 911 operators to the ski patrol, were absolutely top notch.

It was the last run of the day, a typical spring day of skiing, where the conditions up top were great, but getting down to the base involved a lot of slushy, messy, slow snow, so we usually try to get some momentum on the last part of the run so we can make it to the bottom without having to pole as much. My husband, J, was in front and we were actually moving at a pretty good pace for the bottom part of longshot, when he suddenly did a quick hockey stop and jumped out of his skis. I stopped, too, and then saw what he had seen. A teenage boy was on his hands and knees, at the edge of a ravine, vomiting up a lot of blood. Our initial thoughts were that he was just losing his lunch, but then we saw a ski at the bottom of the ravine, and one set of tracks leading up to where he was.  He had his cell phone in his hand and handed it to J, who was able to tell the 911 operator where we were.  The operator was absolutely amazing.  She told J what to say:  ask questions, comfort him, tell him he was going to be o.k., and generally just keep him calm.  The boy was obviously in an incredible amount of pain.  At first he was hanging over the edge, but was able to climb up to the level part of the hill and roll over onto his back.  I took off my coat and put it under his head, rubbed his forehead and held his hand.  He was able to tell us his name, age (16), and that he was staying with friends who owned a home in Aspen.  We couldn’t find any blood on the outside of his body, but he was moaning and in tremendous pain.  J took his coat off, we covered him up, and about 10 minutes after we found him the ski patrol was there. 

They were incredible.  The first two that arrived promptly started talking to him, assessing the situation, and very soon some more came with the transport vehicle.  They were in communication with the patrol main office the entire time, and by the time they’d assessed the situation and loaded him onto the snowmobile stretcher, we heard the ambulance in the background to take him to the hospital.  After they left we stayed with the accident investigators while they tried to piece together what had happened.  The most likely scenario is that something happened at the top of the ravine (out of control jump, skis crossed, or any number of things) and he lost one ski there, then was airborne for 20-25 feet and “superman” landed on rocks at the bottom.  It’s unclear whether he lost consciousness there, but he somehow made it to the top before vomiting. 

J and I were so lucky to have been there when we were.  I’m so glad we could do something to help, however little it was.  But as I was holding his hand and rubbing his head, all I could think of was that he was some mom’s little boy, and this could have been my daughter.  I was wiped out when I got home and couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I kept bursting into tears, imagining the worst.  I wanted to know how he was.  I remembered his name because we had asked him that at the very beginning, but I didn’t want to bother his family at the hospital.  So I called Ski Patrol at Snowmass and was able to talk to the director, who had been the one on the phone with J while the rescue was taking place.  He told me because of the HIPAA laws he couldn’t give me any information, but was very kind and thankful for our help, even though I couldn’t even finish a sentence without crying.  I tried to suck it up, and know that we had done what we could, but I couldn’t think of anything else.  I was emotionally drained and slept very little last night.   I had received an email from the Ski Patrol director, Mr. Chalmers,  after our phone call, thanking me again, and giving me his contact information.  I emailed him back, apologizing for my emotional phone call, and gave him my contact info in case the family wanted to get in contact with me.  This morning I was trying not to think about it, but not succeeding, and then I received a phone call from Mr. Chalmers to tell me that the boy was stable, didn’t have to have surgery, but had very severe internal injuries and would recover although it would take a long time.  I can’t describe how much that meant to me, to receive that phone call.  Even though I am still concerned and hope he will be okay, the fact that I know what happened will help me to move on.

J and I want to take some kind of emergency response course for civilians, so that we will know more of what to do when something like that happens.  But I know that I am going to need to be able to do my best and then leave it.  I don’t know how paramedics and medical professionals do it…how do they avoid getting personally involved?  The fact that this boy was close to H’s age might have had something to do with my response, but I can’t imagine doing things like that every day, and either not knowing what happened, or knowing if the worst thing happens.

I have so much more respect for the ski patrol after seeing them in action.  They were fast, professional, organized and efficient…as well as comforting to the victim.   I’m sure ski patrols at other mountains are great, too, but this is one more reason why I love Snowmass.  I hope no one in my family ever has cause to use them, but knowing they are there gives me a great sense of comfort.


I am so livid about H’s recent experience on US Air that I just have to put it in words.  We picked her up from design camp in Raleigh, NC last week, and drove to Charlotte to put her on a US Air flight to Denver for Operation Smile’s Student Leadership Conference.  That flight was uneventful. But on her return to Asheville, NC through Charlotte the nightmare began.

When she arrived in Charlotte, (after only sleeping 3 hours the night before=tired and emotional) she was told her connection to Asheville would be delayed. An hour later was told it was cancelled.  She called us trying to hold back the tears because she had no idea what to do.  We sent her to the “special services” line, and when she reached the attendant was told there were no flights until Saturday!!!! (2 days later!). Trying not to cry, she told the attendant she was only 16, and asked her what she was supposed to do. Another attendant didn’t even look up, but murmured, “well, her parents didn’t tell us she was a minor so there’s nothing we can do”. (**side note:  when you purchase tickets online there is no designation for a 16 year old, only adults or children up to-14 years old. )

We were ready to drive the 3 1/2 hours to pick her up, but that would have meant she would have to sit in the airport, exhausted, scared and alone for 3 1/2 hours.  As it was, it was 6 p.m. and she had been up since 6 a.m. and in airports since 7.  Luckily, we were able to find a car service ($600) to drive her to us, but when she went to get her bag was told it had been put on another flight and she couldn’t get it. No “lost luggage” code because it wasn’t lost. Now it’s three days later and we still don’t have her bag. Multiple phone calls to customer service, putting us on hold for two to three hours total, it has been a nightmare.

We were lucky that we had the means to find safe transportation for her that night.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if we weren’t available and didn’t have connections to find alternative travel.  The multiple agents that she encountered that evening were of absolutely no help at all.  There was no consideration that she was a child traveling alone.  No sympathetic adults, no kind smiles, no information other than the fact that she was s&*% out of luck.  The icing on the cake was that her cell phone died, so she had to ask a stranger to borrow his cell phone to call us.  

Needless to say, we will never fly US Air again! EVER!!!

The Rope’s getting longer…

We’re back in lake Toxaway. Picked up H from the airport last week from her 25 day backpacking trip in California. This summer she decided that instead of going back to her all-girls summer camp, she was ready to try something different. She did an adventure treks trip, which was definitely different than anything she’d ever done before. She was in a group of 24 kids, boys and girls, and they did several 4-6 day backpacking trips, on mountains and the lost coast of Oregon, went mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, and climbed to the summit of Mt. Shasta, which was 14,162 feet, then glissaded downhill!

I think they took a grand total of 2-3 showers…but she absolutely loved it! She not only pushed herself physically farther than she had ever gone before, she had a life changing experience with these kids.

The re-entry to normal family life has been difficult. The group she was with bonded like they’d known each other their whole lives. I think Adventure Treks does a fabulous job building community. They were from different parts of the world…and in a normal setting, probably very few of them would have naturally become friends, but the experience in the back country brought them together.

When J and I picked her up from the airport, I went to baggage claim to meet her. I pulled her bag off, and waited for her to get there. And waited. And waited. Finally, after the baggage carousel stopped moving and almost everyone had taken their bags and left, this dirty, beautiful, sobbing girl walked over to me. Her eyes were swollen, her face was so dirty there were tear tracks etched in what looked like mud going down her cheeks, and she was crying so hard it took a few minutes for her to get control and tell me she had just walked four of her friends to their connecting gates to say goodbye.

She’s never been so thankful for facebook and video chatting. They’re already planning next year’s trip. She never made this strong a connection with her friends from summer camp, even though she loved those girls, too. I think going through something so physically and emotionally challenging provides a deep connection that is hard to duplicate. She learned so much, about herself, about nature, about being a team and building community. She hasn’t shared a lot of details with us. I think she will, eventually, but only a little bit. I think she wants to keep this experience to herself…and her new friends…which is a good thing. She’s been taking baby steps to independence and growth over the last few years, but this was a giant step. By not sharing every little bit with us, she’s becoming more of her own person.

I’m not going to lie. As her mom, it’s hard. On one hand, I love when she shares things with me. But on the other hand, I am so proud of her. As I see her gradually becoming her own person, with her own thoughts, beliefs, goals and dreams, I am filled with awe at the miracle of watching her grow.

Flipping over Speed Bumps

Just got back from a week in Snowmass and Aspen, Colorado. I had to drag my husband, kicking and screaming, away from Lake Toxaway for our little visit to the mountains out west. If he had his way, we’d park it there and never leave. Don’t get me wrong, I love it in North Carolina. I love it so much I’ve agreed to build our “retirement” home there. We actually broke ground on it last week. If all goes as planned, we’ll finish building it when H graduates from high school, and we will move our “home base” to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But I’ve wanted to spend time in Colorado ever since I first visited in high school. The mountains, the crystal clean air, the activities both winter and summer, and the whole vibe…I just love it. There was a 75 year old man in line behind me at the grocery store in Snowmass, talking about his mountain bike race that weekend and his triathlon the next weekend. I wanted to be him. Being active and outdoors in Colorado is the norm, not the exception. I could definitely be comfortable there. But the extremes of weather make it difficult to live there year round, so we plan on spending a few weeks there in summer and winter, hopefully.

We met our goods friends from Dallas…T and P. They are so much fun and we love them so much, it was a really great week. We hiked, swam, did yoga, ate great meals and drank great wine. Our two hikes were incredible. The first day we did the Rim Trail in Snowmass…which ended up being 8.5 miles, but had incredible views, and enough flats to let us recover from the uphills.

After recovering from that one, we did the 6 mile round trip to Cathedral Lake…from 9,400 feet to almost 12,000 feet altitude. The altitude definitely did a number on us, but we made it, and it was spectacular.

After T and P left, J and I decided to do the bike ride we’d been looking forward to all week. We drove up to Snowmass Village and bought bikes, helmets and gloves, so we can store them here and won’t have to mess around with renting every time. We took off and made it about 200 feet to a parking lot with speed bumps. NOTE TO SELF: DON’T BRAKE HARD WHEN GOING OVER A SPEED BUMP!!

My bike stopped hard, but I didn’t. I flew over the handlebars, and my bike stopped, upside down, looking like I was getting ready to change a flat. J heard me fall, but no one saw it. (That I know of). Even though I feel SO stupid, I think it must have been hilarious and wish I had a picture. Since I don’t, here’s a few bike crash photos, so you can use your imagination.

Anyway, I survived, but my arm is broken. Bummer.