At first I thought it might be a case of Mother’s Day appeasement as all five of us trotted off to the movie theater to see an early showing of “Woman In Gold.” However, the emotions evoked by this well-done true historical drama of one woman’s journey to recover a treasured piece of family artwork stolen by the Nazis, proved otherwise. Weeks after seeing this impactful film, I still find myself reflecting on numerous scenes and empathizing with Maria Altmann (played by Helen Mirren), a Jewish woman from Vienna who was forced to leave her family, her friends, and her country and begin life anew with her young husband in an unfamiliar land called America. I have started over again in my life many times. It is not easy. It is not pleasurable. It is a lot of work, effort and perseverance. Somehow my own experiences now pale in comparison.

“Woman in Gold” changed me in some way. Shortly after seeing the film I thought to myself, “I might even wish to see it again in the near future.” This is the hallmark of a great movie to me. I am not easily entertained. For anyone that knows me, it is common knowledge that I am a critical movie reviewer and it takes the promise of an extraordinary film to even get my attention. It is a topic of amusement for my husband and kids. “Woman in Gold” has been the second movie in the last six months that piqued my interest. The first being “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Jolie. Sitting in the theatre for “Unbroken” is when I first saw the movie preview for “Woman In Gold.” Being a fan of the great Artist Gustav Klimt, who is the creator of this portrait that would later become known as “The Woman in Gold,” I knew immediately that I wanted to see this film. I did not know the story and I did not read any reviews prior to seeing this film and that turned out to be a good thing! After seeing the film I was curious what the critics were saying. The reviews I read baffled me! In each critique the commentary was incredibly unenthusiastic, including everything from the poor casting of Ryan Reynolds as Attorney Randy Schoenberg, the film being slow-in-parts, to the film being just a simplistic retelling of the true story. Really? That’s not the film I experienced!

So let’s address the mechanics for a moment and then get back to the personal take away of the film:

First point being the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Randy, a character referred to as a “school boy” at one point in the film, an understandable comment given his age and lack of experience. Reynolds plays this character well. It seems the expectation is Randy will be a Perry Mason – but he’s not. Randy is young, inexperienced and nervous as he appears in the US Supreme Court for the very first time. Randy is a bit bumbling in other scenes as well and at one point drops papers across the floor in front of the Austrian Review Committee. Why is Reynolds expected to play the character as something he is not? Would a different actor have changed Randy’s personality?

The second point is “that the film is slow-moving-in-parts.” I did not find this to be the case at all. Hmmm…succinctly and creatively communicating the emotions of a scene is key to great directing. The emotions of Maria and Randy include boredom and frustration as obstacles sprout up and the tedium of the legal process becomes wearying. However, communicating boredom doesn’t mean the story is boring. Humor was injected brilliantly throughout the film. Such lines as “Randy, can you drive faster? The chocolate on your donut is melting!” were wittily delivered by Mirren. Additionally, the use of flashbacks intertwined the past with the present in a clever and interesting way that kept the film moving and provided the necessary detail of the back story. There was a rise and fall to the film’s flow as intense scenes of the past gave way to the current day frustrating and tedious realities. The story was the story. Sometimes life is mundane and communicating these relevant details effectively to the audience can help them appreciate the events in process. No wonder Hollywood is pressured to embellish even the most interesting and entertaining true stories!

Lastly – “that the film is just a simplistic retelling of the true story.” Some of the most moving scenes included the Nazis forcing the Jews to scrub disparaging remarks from the streets on their knees, flashbacks to Maria’s earlier life unfolding her relationship with her aunt (literally the Woman in Gold) and the smashing ending as Maria tours the home of her youth as she envisions greeting all of her family members one-by-one. The clenching ending delivers as Maria’s striking Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer turns to face the audience with Klimt’s portrait behind her – it is simply breathtaking!

So all of the negative reviews make me question the criteria that many reviewers use today. Are we concerned merely with the mechanics of casting, directing and the formula of what constitutes a good movie? Or have we ignored perhaps the greatest consideration of all in understanding how the viewer’s heart and soul might be transformed by the film? Is the viewer moved or inspired to think and act differently? Has the viewer’s perspective been challenged is some way?

In the end, if a film sticks and causes you to rethink something, is that not part of what defines it as a success? A couple of my favorite lines from the movie were when Maria’s mother lovingly stated “Learn to be happy again Maria (…in America),” and “Keep the memories alive!” Perhaps these are things that are best understood and appreciated by a veteran of life. And so I wondered what my sons thought. One said “Never give up!” and the other “Sometimes it’s worth fighting for what’s right and getting justice.” So, our lives were enriched by “A Woman In Gold.” Is that not worth a 5-star rating?

This entry was posted on June 5, 2015. 1 Comment

Spending Your Time Wisely – Cash or Credit?

Savoring life!

Savoring life!

Life rarely affords us the perfect circumstances – so why are we so often in a state of perpetual waiting? We wait for weather to change, we wait for financial circumstances to change, we wait for the moment of “feeling like it,” we wait for other people in our lives “to come around,” and all the while the clock is diligently beating with shameless disregard for what may or may not pass. Time – it is without emotion. It is without a brain or a heart. Relentlessly it marches on with or without us. Yet, if we truly learned to view time just as we view currency, would we make decisions about how we “spend” our time differently? If we made decisions with a sense of whether or not the time investment would appreciate or depreciate, might we spend our time more wisely?

After celebrating 58 years on our planet Earth this year and spending plenty of thought reflecting upon the New Year, I am all too aware of the rate at which time passes. In fact, my thoughts are consumed with better understanding and grasping the passage of time. I am doing the math. I want to harness time in the best possible way.  My husband Cliff and I met only four short years ago. We are both in good health – better than most. We both eat relatively healthfully and exercise – more than most. The longevity gene is certainly in my favor, not as favorably for my husband. Since I have both the gift and curse of being pragmatic, I know that realistically even with all odds in our favor, my husband and I are probably looking at enjoying potentially about twenty good years together, before our physical and mental capacities start impacting the lifestyle we both hope to continue to share together. Twenty years. From a young person’s view it is an eternity. From a middle age perspective, it is all too short.

Time – it is one of the few things in life that is dished out fairly to all of us.  24 hours a day, every day, our time is sliced and diced according to our wills, desires, motivations, or lack thereof. Oh yes, some of us end up getting more days than others as it turns out. But it is a Wild Card for the vast majority of us. Maybe the ultimate Wild Card!  One never really knows when we will make the final time withdrawal from our life bank account. Most of the time, we choose to basically ignore this Wild Card.

I realize the best possible resolution I can make this year is to learn to view time as a key source of wealth in my life that needs to be respected, managed, and expended frugally. Normally I don’t like the word “frugal.” It conjures up unpleasant thoughts – it implies being meager, stingy, and scrimping… just getting by. Yet, my husband and I want to live fully and with a sense of abundance, and to accomplish this we must be frugal with our time. So it is a curious set of contradictions. To experience a life of great abundance, we must carefully and with great conscience, withdraw time units from the fixed pocketbook of life. We MUST budget our time wisely! Practically – what does this mean?

I have no tolerance for things that waste my time. I used to measure my life in about 20 minute increments. Now, even one solitary minute gets my attention.  Should I take the time to zip my make-up bag before I toss it in the drawer? Before watching a movie, I want to know how long it is – exactly.  Anything over an hour and a half is a serious challenge as to whether or not the moments of my life it will consume will be worth it.  Even sleeping-in now becomes a form of robbery.

To really stick to any resolution, I know that a high level of discipline will be involved. As I seek to protect my time units as an experienced adult, I have come to realize that the more I define this, the more I plan ahead for the inevitable distractions and roadblocks I will likely encounter, the more I know I can better develop a game-plan, and the more likely I will succeed in my efforts.  Creating a visual image helps to encrypt this vision in my brain. What if I physically had to open a container filled with units of time currency and was asked to dispense these throughout the day? Most of us are simply and mindlessly swiping a credit card when it comes to charging our life activities and experiences. But what if I could see these units dwindling away as the day progressed? Would this help me better set my priorities?  Might I say “no” or “yes” to any given situation with greater understanding and sobriety of the consequences involved?

Are most people just blissfully ignorant of the value of Time Currency??  I have heard it said you can learn a lot about who a person is just by the way they handle money, how they organize it, dispense it, and in general just value it.  Can the same be said about the way one handles time? We can never beat the clock – but we can learn to keep pace with it. I want to maximize my time left on this planet. I pledge that going forward, I will be an even better steward of this non-renewable resource – TIME – the stuff of which LIFE is made! It is really a simple question of priority, because whatever it is I choose to do on a given day – I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

We all regret poor uses of time in our lives. Going forward is all that matters now. If we can wrap our heads around that fact that learning to see Time as the currency of life is the single most productive resolution we can make in our lives, we can  experience a more mindful and present way of living. As a middle-aged individual that has come to respect the value of time currency, I say ENJOY the journey everyone and spend your time wisely! Like the modern day budget gurus, I suggest you use cash instead of your credit card! 😉

This entry was posted on April 28, 2015. 1 Comment


Today is my birthday!  I have never been one to lament another birthday or feel like I was “over-the-hill.”  But, I’ve got to admit – this feels like a big one!!  The odd thing is this – in my head I still feel like I’m 17!  Yes, 17.  I’ve been saying that for a long time now and I’ve discovered that almost everyone has a number in their head.  I’ve asked a lot of people over the years and most say they feel like they’re still in their 20’s.  I asked my dad once, who was somewhere in his early 80’s at the time, how old he felt in his head and he replied “Oh, about 28 I suppose.”  Not a surprise to me.  I know I don’t look 17 anymore and thank goodness I don’t act like it either.  But, I still “feel” 17 in my heart and soul.


This month has been full of little birthday gifts.  Since I have been a Cook’s Illustrated fan and subscriber since the mid-90’s I was thrilled to visit with Bridget Lancaster, Co-Host of America’s Test Kitchen, at the KBIS Show in Vegas last week.  Bridget is a sweetheart – shorter than I am too! She told me she wears 3 inch heels on the show so as not to not be completely dwarfed by America’s Test Kitchen Host Christopher Kimball. It warmed my heart to meet this bundle of energy and enthusiasm that shares a mutual passion of creating and enjoying culinary delights.

I was also an “Accidental Auditioner” for HGTV at the NKBA Booth at the Show. After thinking I was just arriving early to attend a seminar event, I plunked down on the first available chair. The media people on stage asked “Are you here for the audition?” “Well, I wasn’t planning on doing an audition!” I replied thinking that it was just a bit of a prank. But after seeing the Media badges, hearing their spiel and caving to the fact that they seemed a little desperate and bored that no one was auditioning, they talked me into it.  I don’t think I’ll be winning an Academy Award any time soon – but it was true spontaneous fun and increased the enjoyment factor of my day.

Upon return from my trip, I came home to a bouquet of red carnations, thoughtfully arranged in a tall, angular, glass vase. It is a tradition my husband and I started early in our relationship.  When one of us is away, the other buys flowers to celebrate the reunion.  Arriving at DIA after 8pm and scurrying home, somehow I had forgotten about this tradition – it was a nice welcome home!

And then there was a frantic request to babysit for our neighbor’s baby, nine month old Sarah, one evening last week when both realized they had company dinner obligations on the same night. I arrived at their home to a crock pot of simmering beef and au jus with pretzel buns ready for slicing, and a bag of kale cabbage slaw along-side a bottle of French red wine begging to be decanted. It was scrumptious! Not a bad babysitting gig! Cliff arrived about an hour later in time to enjoy play time with baby Sarah before she fell asleep.  What a precious gift to rock this little creature asleep in my arms after enjoying a great meal!

Another unexpected gift arrived earlier this month when we experienced several days of 60 to 70 degree weather and were even able to golf one weekend! Living most of my adult life in Michigan, this was a first for me.  What a great early birthday gift!

So, my birthday is actually today – January 31st.  It has been a good day – a pleasant day. The weather was decent considering it is January! But the sky has been gray virtually all day – a “Michigan Day” as I have come to call them.  Being spoiled now by the amazing Colorado sunshine, it always makes me a little indignant when the sun does not shine and the skies are not their expected powder blue.

Blake, my oldest son is in Salt Lake City today exhibiting at Comi Con. Blake, in his diligent and first born responsible way, left a vm early in the morning wishing me a Happy Birthday.  My youngest son Chase called while we were on the way out to take advantage of a coupon for a quick lunch, and then buzzing over to Barnes & Nobles to find a wall size world map on which to scheme future travel plans.

As a mature adult, I have come to truly appreciate a “pleasant day.”  Things are easy.  I feel good.  Dinner was tasty. My wonderful husband and I made steak shish kebab on the grill along with a medley of harvest gourmet rice for a side. Fortunately, there was still a small glass of red wine left over (from the baby sitting gig) to sip on while dinner was brewing, followed by a flute of cheap champagne with the meal. Since my husband’s birthday is January 19th, earlier in the week our lovely neighbor Janet delighted us both with a magnificent chocolate Bundt cake creation, so we have been a little caked out since and opted to make homemade English Toffee for dessert. It was delightful!

Cliff surprised me with a Liberty Puzzle as a gift (produced by a local Boulder company).  They are very unique. While neither of us are really “Puzzle People,” this gift evokes our biggest passion – travel!  The best laugh came when Cliff declared “I got a piece!” after studying the heap of 435 wooden pieces, where no two are alike, for over twenty minutes.  Eventually we hope to complete the whole assemblage and reveal the true reason it was purchased, a classic vintage shot of the Angkor Wat Colonnade – a World Heritage Site near the top of our travel hit list.

As I stated earlier – it was a pleasant day – being in the moment and appreciating all of the simple joys life has to offer! So yes, I am one year older today, but also like a fine wine…a little less tannic, a little more mellow, richer, smoother and content to be paired with just about anything!


This entry was posted on February 1, 2015. 2 Comments

A Day of Ashes

A couple weeks have passed since my husband and I spent a Sunday afternoon spreading ashes on a sunny and windy fall Colorado day. Since then, snow flurries have come and gone and the Christmas decorations have been carefully hung and displayed. At odd moments I still find myself reflecting on the intimate and peaceful experience of spreading first the ashes of my mother, who passed on three years ago now as well as her first born child, my eldest brother James.

Day of Ashes Pic 2014

It had been a spontaneous decision. My husband and I were enthusiastically organizing and sorting through a mountain of Christmas décor – a dozen different red and green plastic tubs leaning against the basement wall; a result of combining two mature households, both with a penchant for all things Christmas! It wasn’t our first cut.  A better part of the last year had been devoted to paring down our accumulated belongings. It was a process that was at moments overwhelming and at other moments a delightful treasure hunt. We were down to the final round.  As I relocated items on the plastic shelving units I was forced to move “them” once again: numerous black boxes of ashes from our loved ones both human and canine. My heart paused – I stared at the words etched on square sheets of yellowed parchment paper – how did it come to pass that our basement had become a virtual burial site for three humans and two dogs?

It was time to deal with my share of these physical remains. The timing finally felt right, but how? My mother, Lorna Walsh, had remained a devoted admirer of her beloved country – The Land Down Under – ever since she had left it as a war bride over sixty years prior. My husband Cliff suggested we wait until we could plan a trip to Australia and distribute her ashes there. What about my brother’s ashes?  My father had handed me Jim’s ashes in 2006 in a somber tone asking “Could you take care of these?”  I had answered equally briefly and simply responded “Yes.”  It was an issue of duty and respect now. Allowing the ashes to remain in our basement any longer seemed simply negligent. Yet, I was still challenged by the notion of the most symbolic and thoughtful way to distribute these remains. I barely knew my brother. He was 13 years older than I and spent the majority of his life in institutions due to a number of physical and mental disabilities. My mother Lorna was not a particularly sentimental person and had left no instructions as to what should be done with her ashes. She had never seen Colorado, but had recalled many times the incredible blueness of the sky in Australia. Since Colorado is known for its blue skies, this site seemed appropriate. My sister knew that my brother had a love of horses and suggested such a spot. So that was it. We would find a spot with horses and blue skies. Simple enough ~ so it seemed!

We live about 12 miles from Boulder, Colorado. There are plenty of stables and corrals along the way. However, I guess we had not thought through the logistics of spreading ashes on what was most likely going to be private property. Then an epiphany! Boulder has a horse hospital and rehab operation – working with individuals with special needs – that sounded just perfect! Maybe no one would be around and we could peacefully distribute the ashes. No such luck. When we arrived at the center there were several activities going on.  No suspect looks were received, but there just wasn’t the solitude we needed for a reverent moment. We drove back to Westminster.

As we drove in what amounted to circles, Cliff recalled an open space near some public property with a clear view of Boulder’s Flatirons; beautiful iconic sandstone rock formations that have come to symbolize Boulder. “Let’s go for it” I said. There was a generously sized turnout off the road with ample parking space. We envisioned wild horses that roamed freely here in some earlier time. It appeared we might have intruded on someone else’s private moments as we pulled into the parking area since the previous occupants in a single car vacated rather quickly. So, I quickly reached for the first bag; suddenly the weight of this container was very apparent. I got busy cutting open the bag hoping no other vehicles would pull up during this process. The wind was blowing.  I was now very aware of the fine powder granules on my fingers. I bent lower to the ground and dragged the bag along the grasses paying particular attention to the direction of unexpected wind gusts.  First spreading my mom’s ashes, and then my brother’s over top hers. My husband held my hands and prayed. His words were loving and warm. Cliff had come to know these individuals only through the stories I had shared with him – he knew they were already in God’s care. It was done. Dust to dust.

Cliff took a couple pictures and we decided to share them with my grown sons via text. The responses were “Wow!” and “How did Mom take it?” It is hard for me to articulate the essence of this experience or why that particular fall day it seemed like the right moment to celebrate the lives of two loved ones and to release their ashes back to the earth.  I can only say that personally being able to complete this circle of life was an honor and a privilege. I can now drive to this spot and cherish the clear blue sky with visions of wild horses freely roaming its plains and know that life is to be celebrated.

This entry was posted on December 22, 2014. 8 Comments