Ted is covered up with a Christmas blanket fully clothed, button-down shirt, sweater, khakis, belt and all. He looks like he’s going to work.
The social worker told me that Ted’s father and brother had also suffered from Alzheimer’s. When Ted started to forget the names of his patients’ medications, he saw it coming. He moved up to Vail and became a ski instructor for his last few sunny years.
I had done a quick google search on how to communicate with late stage, non-verbal Alzheimer’s patients. Apparently trying to hold eye contact was one way of engaging, but for the most part Ted’s eyes were closed.
But, every once in awhile he would smile spontaneously, his bright blue eyes would light up and for a moment, I felt like I could see who he was. His wife Debbie told me that he just liked to hear women’s voices. She said he always loved women. He was an obstetrician after all.
I didn’t know how to communicate with someone who lived in silence. I told him about my most recent ski trips, how excited I was to have Thanksgiving with the family, asked him about his wife and little beloved dog, Bella. I read him books of fun facts and talked to him about politics. (The only political conversations I would ever agree to have). I almost expected him to respond. When he never did, I always felt self-conscious like that my words carried more weight when there was no other noise to drown them out.
I never wanted to speak condescendingly, I wanted to let him know, that I knew that he was brilliant. That his decades of delivering babies would not be forgotten even if he had. I wanted him to know that even from what little I knew about him, I was sure that his life and legacy were remarkable.
My time with him was short, I had only been his volunteer companion for about eight Tuesdays. The last few times I saw him he was losing his ability to sit up. Nurses said he was most likely having mini strokes.
When the volunteer coordinator called me the day after Christmas to tell me he had passed, I felt so much relief for him and his family. Misplaced– appropriate or not–I felt relieved. Ted was free.
I imagined his death as a dance. His soul springing out of his physical body and flying up into the blue sky feeling freedom for the first time in years. His blue eyes shining, smile beaming, mind sharp. The way he looked in the pictures adorning his room. The way he looked before the Alzheimer’s stole his mind and left his body behind.
I was flying high, being pulled up by my throbbing ego. I had just been offered a job making significantly more money than ever before, working remotely, all the while doing something that I considered my niche expertise. I remember blasting Tupac or something super gangster on my ride home, ready to announce to the world, that I WAS NOW A MUTHERFUCKING BOSS.
Fast forward less than one month later to me sitting on the couch in my pjs sobbing to my mom on the phone. The type of someone died ugly who gives a fuck kind of cry where your face hurts from contorting in ways you didn’t know was possible. The kind of crying where you can’t recognize yourself in the mirror – all red and puffy and sad and wrinkly. My mom explained to me that getting fired was just a right of adult passage. Hopefully only to happen once. That everything would be okay. Her total tranquility immediately deflated my big self-pitying red balloon and I felt immediate relief.
The job, however short my time there, was a total fucking nightmare. It should also be noted that one of the major benefits of working remotely is that there is a solid bullshit buffer. Think of all the times you wanted to roll your eyes, yell “fuck you” or simply not wear pants in a meeting. Then realize that all of this is possible when working remotely. That said, the nearly impenetrable digital super dome had nothing on the toxicity of this job. The digital transferral of pure aggression, chaos and total ineptitude was next level. So they did me a favor. They cut me loose when I would have tried to make it work even though I could read the writing on the wall, the ghost ship was sinking and icebergs abound.
So I took a deep breath. Mom to the rescue.
I’m not going to say that in the moment or even over the past few months it’s always been sunny. I’ve had my fair share of anxiety, self-doubt, and everything in between. But, what I will say is that it has been and continues to be one of the most transformative experiences that I didn’t even know I needed.
I was cruising on autopilot, feeling (too) confident, going (too) fast, missing (almost) everything. And then I crashed. I realize now, that I had to crash to wake.the.fuck.up. And so, I somewhat groggily and unwillingly at first, have awoken.
When I arrived at Shoshoni, I immediately felt my blood pressure fall and my heart rate slow. I left my turned-off phone and all of my “valuables” in the car. Locked it. Walked away. It was the definition of tranquility. Perfectly quiet, cool, clean mountain air. Coming off a complicated few months of changing jobs, questioning my relationship and pretty much everything else in my life, I needed a reprieve. I needed to sit.in the shade. My shadow and the incessant pitter-patter of the footsteps of my mind needed to be quieted. They were driving me insane. I was driving me insane.
I am not someone who finds sitting in the throws of internal chaos easy. My natural reaction is to make a plan. To move. To take “control” of the situation.
Going to Shoshoni, an Ashram about an hour north of Boulder was part of this “plan.” Surely, after I practiced yoga and meditation twice a day for a week while camping in the blissful peace of the Rockies, I would have all of the answers I needed.
After setting up my tent in the beautiful pine forest, I noticed my heart rate already increasing, thinking “when was yoga?” “would I have enough time to set everything up and make class?” Not having my phone, I did have my watch. I noticed myself check-it obsessively. Then 4:00 rolled around. With yoga mat in hand, I walked out of the woods. Watch left in tent.
Our teacher opened up the class my sitting in silence for about five minutes. With only three other people there, it immediately shook me out of my stupid stupor of thoughts and time. She was not focused on starting the class at 4:00, she was focused on being there. When she spoke, she said frankly that she had started yoga a few years ago because she was focused “externally.” Focused on all the things she wanted to have and be. Surely then she would feel complete. She didn’t. Her transparency and honesty was as rejuvenating as the mountain air. I felt the same.
Over the course of the next few days, I dropped into the shade. No one had phones. Everyone came for different reasons, from different backgrounds. What little words were spoken were intentional, thoughtful, kind, honest. I did not speak for the first few days. I listened, observed and sat in the shade of my mind. There was no pretense or concern for who anyone was on the “outside.” Literally and metaphorically. Everyone breathed consistently, walked slowly and lived in the present.
A Tibetan leader, Kharma spoke to us before our evening meditation. He told us that when he meditates, he focuses on kindness and compassion. Kindness to one another and to ourselves. Compassion in our language and in our thoughts. To speak only words that make others feel good, that are productive and sincere. To cleanse our minds of the footsteps that haunt us. To rid ourselves of the ghosts that cling to our wounds and weaknesses. To profligate with love. To smile with our hearts and minds. To live like we knew that everything would be okay. He was humble, funny and the personification of enlightenment.
On day three, I woke up and my jaw wasn’t tight from clenching. Although my subconscious was stirring up some very creepy, stressful nightmares. I was purging ghosts in my sleep. Soaking in the present moment while awake. At 5:30 AM, I walked out of the woods again into the Fire Temple. Over the course of a few hours, I threw rice in the fire to physically cleanse myself of all the feelings and thoughts that did not serve me. Initially, I was skeptical of all of these morning rituals. This one proved me very wrong. I walked away on clouds. It all came up, out and away.
As I drove down the long dirt road away from Shoshoni on my last day, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was filled with pure gratitude and happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I shed my skin. I knew that coming back to “normal” life and continuing to live lightly would take work. And it has. It is much easier to be super zen when you’re in the middle of the woods with other zen people and absolutely no.stress. The real test is applying it to everyday life. So far, it has not been perfect. I have regressed. I have had to catch myself not breathing. I have had to focus on going into the shade and quieting the footsteps of my mind. I have had to really focus on being present and taking note of things that now seem toxic. I still do not have the “answers” I thought I needed. Instead, I have the tools I didn’t know I needed for a plan that does not actually exist.
A couple of weekends ago, I attended the first-ever Habit Hackers Summit in Denver. The idea and the people behind it were totally awesome. A full day of inspirational speakers from financial advisors and health coaches to a former NFL player, and tech entrepreneurs – all sharing how they have hacked their life to maximize their potential.
About halfway through the day, I took a quick “safety meeting”(aka hit my vape pen) and was chilling on a lovely floor cushion in the corner of the room – when I got hit with a warm wave and a whole new perspective. (I promise, it was less weird than it sounds – there was a lounge area for people who hate traditional chairs – like me).
I contribute this warm wave not only to the lovely toke session, but also to my literal position in the room. Ground level.
With this new perspective, I saw the situation is a totally new light. As I admired all the pink faces in the room, I realized that I was surrounded by type A, perfectionist, over-achievers who might have benefited more from a conference on how to just chill the fuck out.
And…I am totally one of them.
Not only do I shamelessly admit that I’m one of them, but I find that I am drawn to these similar personality types. The type who sets intense daily routines, compulsively makes to-do lists, keeps daily journals, dives head and heart first into Tim Ferris books, obsessively monitors their finances, experiments with cleanses and micro-dosing, takes long trips abroad, and of course… has an “epic” meditation practice. (Read that in your douchiest voice).
None of these are bad things, in fact all of them, no doubt, lead to personal growth. But they are also all often done in an effort to do more shit, more efficiently with the hope that one can maximize life’s potential. But, at what point are we doing wayyyyyy too much shit, too quickly and coincidentally missing out on life’s details in the process?
For me, it is all too often.
So, in a twist of coincidence, the biggest lesson I learned from paying $150 to listen to perfectionists tell me how to do more, better – was that I want to do less, more often and slower.
I also do not want to spend my life thinking of only myself. Modern day self-help practices often verge on self-obsession. In fact, I sincerely think one of the reasons a lot of people obsess over improvement is that they are seeking something that they will not find at a conference or in a book. They’re often seeking purpose which humans derive from giving back and being compassionate with one another.
Bottom line? Let’s all live life to the fullest, think more about other people than ourselves and just chill-the-fuck-out.
If you love great food, swanky wine bars, world-class skiing, and oodles of beautiful places to smoke – Aspen is your jam. During a recent four-night trip there, Wyatt & I made an unspoken, but unanimous decision to eat, drink, ski and do all of the things we possibly could. After all was said, done, drank and ate – here are my personal faves.
Here’s the deal, every Colorado white person loves to talk about how they skied Breckenridge, A-Basin, Keystone and all the others. But, if you haven’t skied Snowmass after a huge snow storm, you’ve simply never skied at all. I know that sounds elitist (welcome to the ski world), but I promise you its the truth.
Snowmass is simply a different world of snow and ski. The runs are long, the tree terrain is beautiful and the best part…it’s practically empty.
I highly recommend Going in February, since it is typically Colorado’s snowiest month. Not to mention, Wyatt and I happened to find some incredible little smoke huts off the beaten bath in the trees. I would tell you where they were but I would have to kill you. I also don’t remember. You’ll just have to ski off into the trees (don’t pull a Sonny Bono) and find them yourself!
Après Ski Hang at St. Regis Spa
First things first, you do not have to be Oprah to go to the St. Regis Spa, but I guarantee that afterwards, you will feel like Oprah. You also do not have to purchase an over-priced service to feel like Oprah. A little known secret? You can get a day pass for $75 and then loiter there foreverrrrrrr.
But, before you go MUST get high. I’m talking like either hot box your car with a sativa hybrid joint (Flo), high school style high, or eat some edibles. I would strongly suggest Stratos time-released THC capsules for an insanely relaxing time.
So here’s the deal, put in a full day of skiing an then head over to the spa at around 3 to soak your freezing cold, sore lifeless body and just relax. I promise you, it will be worth every dollar.
The St. Julian is rated one of the nicest hotels in the world, so being anywhere in the building is extravagant and the people watching is off.the.charts.awesome. Not surprisingly, the spa is gorgeous. There is a hot tub, cold plunge, warm pool with waterfalls, steam room infused with eucalyptus oil, a “relaxation room” filled with comfy couches, cozy blankets healthy snacks, tea and fruit infused water. Then there is the oxygen room.
At first glance it will seem weird (it kinda is). In a dimly lit, cozy room, there are a series of chaise lounge chairs around a fireplace… with people hooked up to oxygen tanks. Initially, I was creeped out to see everyone in total zombie mode, but then I laid down and never wanted to move my body again. It turns out having oxygen pumped into your body at 8,000 feet above sea level feels incredible.
This time, I balled out and got a facial and as a bonus, they let Wyatt in for free. (Or they forgot to charge him, but either way it was a win).
Dinner at White House Tavern
We ate at nearly every restaurant in town and the White House Tavern was by far our favorite. The ambiance is cozy chic, the menu was exactly what you want after a long, cold day of skiing and the prices were reasonable. We got the Macho Salad and the French Dip Au Jus and they were absolutely perfect. As a bonus, they don’t take reservations, but were very quick to seat us for a Saturday night.
Après-Ski at Meat & Cheese
Before you get dinner, but after you get off the slopes, you must head down to the Meat & Cheese Restaurant. From 3-5 PM they have their version of Aspen happy hour, après-ski. As you could imagine it means nothing about discounted fare or drinks, just another reason to eat and drink. We got the Thai Coconut Soup and Roasted Brussel Sprouts which were on point and their house red wine was my favorite.
We also got to sit at the table by the window, so we had the most epic people watching perch of all time. To be honest, that might have been the icing on the proverbial cake.
Drinks at J-Bar in Hotel Jerome
If you’re looking to check out a fascinating piece of Aspen history, while getting kind of wine drunk, check out the J-Bar at Hotel Jerome. Founded in 1889, Hotel Jerome has been a social hub for Aspen. As is typical for this era of Colorado hotels, the interior looks like the Titanic’s and I’m sure if walls could talk, they would scream all kinds of weird shit. But, I digress.
There are at least three bars in the hotel and we frequented them all, but J-Bar takes the cake. It was super packed the night we went, but well worth the 20 minute wait. For a cool, quaint, cozy, spot to sip on red wine and feel like you’re in a time capsule, be sure to check it out.
Wyatt and I are taking off for a long weekend skiing in Aspen (I know, so white). Since I’m expecting a full blown snowmageddon up there (they’re getting two feet as I write), I have to pack as if I’m going to a stylistically savvy, posh as fuck arctic tundra. Every time I pack for a trip, I try to be as efficient as possible. Most of the time, I totally fail.
That’s because I am not naturally one of those minimalist people (I’m a Taurus, we like our stuff). But, it is truly one of my missions in life to improve the way I pack because I think it is representative of a simpler, more focused state of mind. Plus, the more shit you have when you travel, the more shit you have to haul around with you. Plus, the more shit you have the more decisions you have to make. Anyways, you get it, less is always more.
I have read countless blogs about how to pack like a minimalist or at least someone who is relatively reasonable. I am almost positive none of them have been written by women. Women just have a lot of extra things that we “need.” I say that jokingly, but also seriously. We just need more shit, I don’t know why, it’s just the way it goes.
But, if you’re like me and want to have your proverbial cake and eat it too when it comes to packing, check out these tips.
I used to pack so many toiletries that I purchased a Patagonia toiletry bag that could fit a newborn baby (not that I’ve tried). Of course, I need to bring a full-sized thing of facial scrub, four different kinds of moisturizers, sunscreen, hand cream, a hundred tampons (just in case), eye make-up remover, cotton swabs, electric toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner.
I wish I could tell you I have found the magic elixir to not packing so many toiletries, but I really haven’t. The only thing I’ve done is cut down on the quantity of each item I brought (ie tampons), bringing travel sized everything and using packing cubes. I know, it’s not rocket science, but packing cubes are a game changer since they compress and organize everything inside my infant sized toiletry case.
Clothing & Underwear
Watching Wyatt pack his clothing is almost more infuriating than watching him pack his (three) toiletries. He literally threw some socks, boxers and pants in a bag and called it a day. FML.
Meanwhile, I’m losing my mind thinking about all of my options and then of course, there’s the underwear that has to go with it all. But, after all was said and done and packed and repacked and packed, I think I kept it simple enough after all.
Mountain Standard puffy – a Boulder-based company, I highly recommend! This jacket is perfect for more dressy occasions.
Every lady knows how hard it is to be reasonable about the amount of shoes you pack for a trip. I always stress out about how to avoid bringing at least five pairs on every trip. What if it’s cold? Or if it rains? I want to be comfortable, but stylish. What if I want to dress up? What if these give me blisters? All of these stupid thoughts. All the damn time.
This time around…I had all of those thoughts, but ultimately chose well. I successfully only brought three pairs (ski boots don’t count).
UGG booties – the pair I have are discontinued which sucks because I’m pretty sure they are the only functionally cute shoes UGG has ever made.
Korkease booties – for the fancier evenings out, but still incredibly comfortable. I have multiple pairs of this brand bootie and they never fail to amaze me.
Post Trip Packing Reflections
Reflecting on your trip is almost as important as preparing for it. When I return from Aspen, I’ll go through everything I brought versus what I wore and take note. Typically that helps me to decide what to bring next time.
Another tip: don’t watch your boyfriend pack. Ever. It will drive you insane.
Before I met Wyatt, I was Bumbling hard for about a year. It was exhausting, interesting, depressing, exciting, but most of all hilarious. For all the single ladies out there Bumbling hard, just know that what could seem like horrible experiences, can sometimes be softened by these two thoughts: when you’re 80, you’ll reflect on this time and think, “Those were the days…” and this, like everything in life, is temporary. Might as well laugh about it while you can. Here are some of my favorite journal entries about my Bumble experiences.
How to Spot Red Flags on a First Date
I’m eating sushi with an unmemorable guy. I tell him that sushi is my favorite food. Despite the fact that he took me to sushi, he says he actually hates it. He then says “all meat tastes the same to me.” Cool.
How to Hack Bumble Dating Code
Normally, none of the following questions suck. For some reason, in the seemingly scripted land of Bumble all of them are cringe worthy.
“What do you do for fun?”
“How long have you been in Colorado?”
“Do you ski or board?”
How many fourteeners have you climbed?
How to Avoid “Cross-Pollinating”
Me to my girlfriend.
Me: “I met this guy, an engineer from Michigan.”
Friend: “Oh yeah? What’s his name?”
Friend: “Hmm…what’s his last name?”
Since he’s one of six “Matt Bumble” in your phone and getting last names is strictly forbidden, you compare phone numbers. It is indeed, the same “Matt Bumble.”
Moral of the story, if you live within five miles of your best friend and her Bumble radius is the same as yours, you can guarantee that your Bumble game is overlapping. Just how much is what really matters.
How to Spot Guys Named Chad
When you walk into a bar in Denver looking for a tall, bearded white guy who tells you he’s “wearing a plaid button down” and you walk up to at least two other people.
“No, sorry, not Chad.”
Walk away, think to yourself, “Hopefully that was the last time I ever have to ask a random lumbersexual if his name in Chad.”
In a world full of Chads, I’m just looking for the Waldo.
Bumble Life Lessons
Believe it or not, this story ends less depressing than you might think.
After very apathetically dating a Bumble dude for a couple of months, I was on the brink of total psychological, romantic, and emotional exhaustion. I knew this guy was not “the one” and all of my friends told me so very candidly (thanks, Casey).
One night one on what I told myself would be our last date, we went out to sushi with his friends. Wyatt sat directly across from me. We talked about real estate (hot, I know).
I approached that night like I was meeting a friend of a friend of a guy I was planning on never seeing again. Nothing to win, nothing to lose.
Three months after I broke it off with Bumble dude, Wyatt and I both got back on Bumble for one last shot.
Now I’m just trying to be more open knowing that monumental moments (good band name) can happen anytime.
It’s that time of the year, when weekends are 50% skiing, 50% recovering from skiing. Most Friday evenings in our house are a discussion on where we should go, what time we should go and how to avoid shitty I-70 traffic (we never do). Yesterday we made the call to go to one of our favorite semi-local mountains, Winter Park Resort. Winter Park and Mary Jane have incredible terrain and are only about 1.5 hours from Boulder (without traffic). It’s also free of the big resort bullshit like paying for parking and then having to take a shuttle to the lift. I’m all about ski in, ski out, no bullshit mountains. If I wanted to go to Disney World, I’d be in Florida (read hell).
Wyatt and I are not the type to wake up at 5:00 AM to get the first chair up the “freshies,” the proverbial “pow-pow.” So we roll up there at around 10:45 AM. No matter what, I always leave myself about an hour before we head out to pack my “essential” white girl shit.
1. Pre-Ski & Après-Ski Tea
Over the past couple of months, I stopped drinking coffee daily. I stopped out of necessity when I got the flu, but then I just wanted to see how gnarly my withdraw headaches would get before I wanted to throw myself off a cliff. Shockingly, I quit my daily morning cup cold-turkey without having to start WWIII at 2:00 PM while blowing massive doses of Advil to get me through the day.
Now, I’m all about that tea. Conveniently, we live across the street from the Celestial Seasonings Factory which is glorious for my new-found tea obsession, but also because it permeates the air with a combination of honey, chamomile and pumpkin-spice smells. I swear, it’s the closest thing to heaven on earth. As an aside, they do free tours, tea tastings and the tea boxes are $2.00 each. But I digress.
My go to for pre-ski and apre-ski tea is a no brainer. Celestial Seasonings’ Honey Chamomile tea is the jam. Here’s how to do it:
Typically, I use my Kleen Kanteen for my après-ski tea since its better insulated.
I promise that after crushing the gnar in arctic temperatures, and schlepping around like the Michelin Man in all of your ski gear, drinking a piping hot, sweet, delicious cup of tea will make your day. (Make one for your partner too or I guarantee they will drink yours).2
2. Après-Ski Snacks
I’m a huge fan of eating a hearty breakfast before skiing. Typically, we make scrambled eggs, black beans, avocado and toast, which always think will hold us until dinner. But, much to my dismay, every damn time – it doesn’t. I always wrap up the last few runs of the day thinking about all of the delicious food stuff and drink stuff I want to consume immediately. But, as previously mentioned there is always the likelihood that you along with all of the other white people in the state of Colorado will be sitting together on I-70 while you dream of the burgers that await you. If you get hangry like I do, you’ll need to bring some après-ski snacks to hold you over until burger time. I always pack:
Whole Foods 365 brand resealable bag of roasted, unsalted cashews – delicious fatty treats
No matter how cute you want to look after getting off of a day on the slopes, I bet you will have wicked helmet hair, goggle lines and wind burn. Just embrace it, no one looks cute after skiing. BUT, that’s why the gods made beanies – to keep your head warm and cover up your nasty, dready, post-ski hair. This is especially crucial if you plan on being in public after you take your helmet off. It is customary for Colorado white people to want to “grab a beer” or a “bite” after skiing, so you’ll want to be prepared for it. My favorite beanies are from LL Bean (I know. So white).
For all the same reasons and because no matter what you think, snow is bright as fuck – bring your sunglasses. There will be no point in time while you’re in the mountains that your eyes will want to be uncovered. If they are, it will feel like they are burning out of your head – plus, it’s crows-feet central. My go-to for sunglasses is Zeal Optics in Boulder. They’re local and always willing to fix or replace the sunnies that “accidentally broke” (read, you sat on them).
As a cannabis industry professional, I like to think I know a thing or two about what, when and how to consume cannabis. For skiing or other (white person) outdoor activities, get yourself an “Relax” Lucid Mood pen. They’re about $30 depending on the dispensary you get them in, but I would recommend The Giving Tree in Denver. What’s great about these pens is that they’re super portable, last a long time, taste delicious and offer a functional, relaxed, happy high. Plus, you can just pull them out and puff on the chair lift instead of having to pack a messy bowl or even worse, light a joint. Warning, the “Relax” flavor tastes like your vaping lavender essential oil, so if that’s not your jam, I’d suggest trying the “Chill” or “Energy” kind5. Chapstick, Hand Cream, Packable Water Bottle
5. Chapstick, Hand Cream, Packable Water Bottle
A day in Colorado without chapstick is a day that you might not survive. I say this kind of jokingly, but mostly serious. YOU NEED CHAPSTICK WHEN YOU SKI. My favorite is from Whole Foods (shocker) called Soothing Touch Vanilla Rose Lip Balm. Even better, it’s “85% organic” (for real, what’s the point of that claim?) Your ski coat will have a thousand secret pockets, make sure this is in at least one of them.
Similarly, your cuticles and hands will dry out like a prune after being washed, exposed and cold as fuck all day. I’m loving Trader Joe‘s Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream and have a tube in my purse, my office, next to my bed side and right here in front of my face. It’s everywhere.
Lastly, one of my favorite additions to my ski stuff repertoire has been a HydraPak packable water bottle. Especially if you plan to do some high skiing, you’re going to get cotton mouth and want to stab a baby for some water. This thing is small enough that I can fit it in my jacket pocket, but big enough to last me a full day of skiing. As a bonus, it also is fun to play with and feels like a fake boob when full.
After skiing at Winter Park/Mary Jane, you MUST stop at The Dairy King in Empire on the way home (you’re going to sit in traffic anyway) and get a large sweet potato fry, bison burger, and a cup of vanilla soft serve. Be aware, they are cash only, but everything is really cheap. This place is a Rocky Mountain American classic and the experience will be nothing less.