The Event Horizon Story of Owen’s Golden Birthday

Today we have a guest post from friend, business partner and Really Living “Chronoceptor,” Monica Goebel. Monica leveraged all three pillars to design what will hopefully, in memory, turn into an “Event Horizon” with her son. She leveraged her strengths of planning and logistics and her resiliency from multiple arduous trips down to Central and South America, to create an intense and memorable moment of uniqueness, beauty, and intensity – enjoy!


Our son, Owen, turned 11 on May 11th this year. I wanted to give him a gift that would create a long-lasting memory, a time-expanding experience, an “event horizon” as we call them at The Art of Really Living.  

Like most kids, Owen wanted to know what his present would be before the big day arrived. Here are some of the clues I shared:

·         It has six syllables

·         It starts with C

·         You cannot use it in your room

·         It has 3 Os

·         It has three words

·         It looks like this  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _   _ _ _ _

·         You need at least four things, but it is better with seven

·         You will fly in the air at least two times

·         You might get wet

·         It ends with a P

·         You might get cold

·         You might get sunburned

·         It involves two moms and two boys

·         It has two “I”s

·         It is an activity

·         The last word rhymes with drip

·         You will skip school

What was it? A Colorado Ski Trip with Owen, me, my friend Cyndie, and her son Tim (one of Owen’s best buddies). 

So how did this come about?  During April, I was in Whistler, B.C., supporting John Coyle who was presenting Time 2.0: The Art of Really Living Manifesto, to the Acetech CEO group.  John did an amazing job – and everyone in the audience was talking about how to plan “event horizon moments” with your loved ones. What is an event horizon? In short, any event, moment in time, or epiphany that leaves a significant and lasting impression – creating a “dent” in your perceptive memory and expanding your sense of time in the temporal past. That afternoon, my husband Gary texted me a message that Owen was complaining about the injustice of the world because it was snowing at our home in Lake Geneva, WI, and he could not ski, but I was away and could.

I had a crazy idea, and sent Gary the following email: 

I want to give Owen an event horizon birthday gift when he turns 11 on the 11th. Pick him up from School on the 10th. Drive to MKE. fly to Denver. Drive to A-Basin. Ski all day on the 11th. Fly home from Denver that night. Cost -- flights $144 x 2, lift ticket $49 x2, hotel $75, car rental $65, ski rental for Owen $20. Total cost around $500.You could take him or I could take him. Waddya think?

Gary’s response:

DO IT!!!!!!!!! How cool is that?  You are the best.

[props to Gary – he is the best for encouraging me to go!]

 So, after school on Tuesday the 10th, we packed up our skis, boots and helmets (the seven things mentioned in the clues) and flew from MKE to DEN on Southwest Airlines. An on-time, non-eventful flight. The boys played with Rubik’s cubes and the moms chatted and read books. After landing, however, we had a few little snags: 1) It took forever for the EZ Rental shuttle to pick us up (the Hertz bus went by 4 times while we waited for EZ to arrive); 2) Our rental car, a Jeep Patriot, was pretty beat up, with substantial scrapes on the passenger side door, and dirty inside (but I just noted that on the rental form, rather than delay things further); 3) there was dense fog on the way to our hotel on the west side of Denverl; and 4) we tried to find a fast food restaurant to grab a quick bite, and had no luck - everything seemed to be closed, other than bars.

Boarding our flight

Boarding our flight

We ordered from Dominos when we got to the hotel. Our room at the Quality Inn was well worn, to say the least (iron burn on the bathroom counter, broken lock, and chipped tile floors), but we were too tired to care. The pizza arrived quickly, we chowed down, and crashed a little after midnight. The next morning, we had hotel waffles, hot coffee, and were on the road by about 7:30.  Expecting warm sloppy spring conditions, the boys dressed in swim trunks over long johns. The drive up to Arapahoe Basin was beautiful. A sunny, clear day, with the sun at our backs. The Jeep was awful – even though it had an automatic transmission, I had to keep shifting gears on the ascents – we were above 11,000 feet crossing one pass.

We got to the ski resort shortly before the lifts opened. It was colder than we expected for spring skiing, so we put on all our layers, and headed to the lift line (if you can call 6 people waiting a “line”).  Our first run was great – we started on a nice, wide, corduroy-groomed green cruiser, and then branched off onto a narrow, shady, bumpy chute.  On the chute, the conditions were rough – moguls, big chunks of broken up ice, and hard snow. We made it thru without injury and cruised the rest of the way down. Tim and Cyndie (first ever trip to CO) were a little unnerved, but after readjusting Tim’s boots, we headed up for more. Our next few runs were great. Bright blue skies, hardly any wind, and the snow on the sunny groomed runs was perfect. Ten inches of fresh snow had fallen in the 3 days before we arrived. 

At one point, I stopped near a few trees, in the middle of a run, to wait for everyone to catch up. A guy up the hill yelled “coming thru.” I had no idea what he meant, as there was no one else around and I standing by some trees. He yelled again. “Coming thru, COMING THRU, , Ff&*k! COMING THRU!!” then rode almost over the back of my skis and went over a little jump hidden in the clump of trees. I had no idea it was there and felt bad for being in his way. A moment later Owen skied up, ran directly into a pile of deep snow on the side of the jump, and hit so hard he flew out of his skis and landed with his head buried in powder. He came up laughing and we helped dig out his skis and headed down.

Nice, soft, deep snow.

Nice, soft, deep snow.

Later, as we were getting on the lift, Tim somehow stood in the wrong spot, the chair hit him, and he slid into the rest of us and knocked us off the platform (a nearly 3 foot drop). The lift operator was a jerk. He offered no help, and just told us to climb back on -- not easy at all given that the chair was practically up to Owen’s shoulders – you cannot just climb up on a swinging chair while wearing your heavy boots and skis.  Cyndie was a trooper, and helped me pick up the boys, then managed to scoot herself up, and heaved on my arm while I struggled to jump.  All the while we were trying to get on, the liftie just stood there watching with a sour face. [I would be remiss if I failed to give a shout out to my friends at Alpine Valley (where I am on the ski patrol) – I have seen the AV lift operators sprint to catch kids who are about to fall off a chair, and pick up the ones who do fall and put them back on the lift – all with a smile on their face and an encouraging word.] To add insult to injury, a lady waiting for the next chair decided that she would lecture us the whole time about how to get on a lift, telling Tim over and over that if he wasn’t moving fast enough to get on the chair, he should wait for the next one, that way he wouldn’t “hold up the line” (of about 10 people), and betting that he “wouldn’t make that mistake again.“ Tim was in tears by the time we got moving. Cyndie’s back was killing her from boosting the rest of us up. Nonetheless, she thanked the “line lady” for her “concern and advice.”  What a bitch.

All on board, no thanks to the liftie and the line lady.

All on board, no thanks to the liftie and the line lady.

We had lunch at the midway lodge, sitting outside in the sunshine, and then did some more runs – playing in glades of trees and soft curvy trails.

Oh yummm. Sweet potato fries.

Oh yummm. Sweet potato fries.

At 1:30, we took a break. Cyndie bought a huge brownie, and we all sang Happy Birthday to Owen.

We went out and played a bit more. At around 3:00, I was waiting by the lift when Owen skied over, sat down on the back of his skis, and then laid down flat on his back. He said “I think I’m done.” I wanted to keep going – the lifts were open until 4:00. So I asked, “One more run?” He stared up at the sky, pondered a moment, and said, “Nope. I. Am. Done.”  Cyndie and Tim went up again, but I decided to stay with Owen. I always have to remind myself that a good time to quit is right after I have completed a good run – which I had. End on a high note, even if I might have a bit left in me. While Owen was taking off his boots, he told me his stomach wasn’t feeling good. He did not want anything to drink or eat, and his head hurt. Owen is not a whiner, so I knew he was feeling crappy, and assumed that he might have a bit of altitude sickness.


While we were packing our skis, boots, poles and suitcases back into the lovely Jeep, Cyndie and I discovered that a seat belt was missing in the back seat – the boys failed to mention that small problem the night before.  We also encountered a drunk guy who was sitting on a lawn chair in the parking lot. First he was mellow, and playing Sheryl Crow super loud, but then he started to go bezerk. He was shouting F this, F that, and seemed to have a problem with car manufacturers, ski hill operators, and some unknown individuals.

By the time we were ready to leave, Owen was so queasy, we started talking about where he would puke if we were driving and could not pull over. The choices were (not): 1) his helmet; 2) his coat; 3) my purse.  I went over to ski patrol to ask for a bag (we keep them for ice at Alpine). They generously shared some special puke bags, with a hard plastic circular top to hold up around your mouth.  We got on our way, and Owen was silent, with occasional groans. About a half hour later, he puked. Thanks to the handy bag, we measured it at 26 ozs. Gross!! Luckily, we were near an exit to dispose of it and get Owen some Ramen noodles.

We made it to the airport and after we boarded the plane and I thought I would sleep like a log, but instead, Owen and I got the giggles – planning to ask the flight attendant for some hot water so we could “boil his noodles.” Obviously, being tired made this funnier than it was. But somehow, “boiling the noodles” of a boy wearing a ski helmet and swim trunks is super funny late at night.

This oufit + ski helmet + exhausted + noodles + plane = big giggles

This oufit + ski helmet + exhausted + noodles + plane = big giggles

Cyndie was not having as much fun as we were. Timmy was grumpy and the flight attendant was ridiculously rude. When the passenger in front of her rang the call button and asked for water, the attendant asked him in a condescending way “is this an emergency?” Later, when Cyndie was enjoying her beverage, the attendant wanted to pick up her cup before she was done.  We were not near landing, and there was no problem with turbulence, but this attendant wanted to clean up the plane, and she wanted to do it immediately. She went so far as to insist that the pilot had instructed her that Cyndie must give up the cup.  Unreal.

We collected our luggage, loaded up the van and headed home. When we were back in Lake Geneva dropping Cyndie off, we discovered that Timmy’s backpack was missing. She later learned that he had left it near baggage claim (not on the carousel), which required that the airline call the sheriff with bomb sniffing dogs to inspect the suspicious package that included school books, an ipod, a ski helmet, and assorted odds and ends that a 5th grade boy carries with him. Happily, a friend who was near the airport picked it up and delivered it to them the next day.

When I got home around 1:30 a.m. and I went to bed and slept till 9:00.  Owen – what a trooper – got up at 6:45 to make it to school.  His only problem was a mild case of sun-and-wind-burned nose and chin.  What a wonderful birthday bash!!!

So, was this an Event Horizon? I think yes. It will leave a significant and lasting impression – creating a “dent” in our perceptive memories and expanding our sense of time in the temporal past. Let’s consider some of the elements that usually come together to create this type of experience.

·         Uniqueness – An extra special whirlwind birthday gift; skiing in MAY!, first time to ski in Colorado for Cyndie and Tim. 

·         Physical risk – High altitude, very little sleep, skiing in trees and bowls, falling off the lift, scary guy “coming thru,” bezerk guy in the parking lot, driving thru the mountains in a crappy rental car.

·         Physically Intense – Owen skied so hard he just laid down and said “I Am. Done.” 

·         Emotionally intense – We had a couple weeks to get excited about the trip, and we had some hardships and adventures along the way. John always says that if you want to expand time, design fear and suffering into your vacations. I didn’t plan for puking, a bad rental car or rude service, but it made things memorable.

·         Beauty – Rocky Mountains, snow and sunshine.

·         With someone you love – moms and sons and best friends

We had it all going on.  And why were we able to pull it off? The mission of The Art of Really Living is to help people create strengths-based, resilient lives so that they can design time-expanding event horizon experiences.  First, I was motivated to create an event horizon for Owen.  Second, we were all strong enough to do it. I was strong and confident enough to make a decision, make a plan, and make it happen – despite the risks – potential bad weather, being tired from travel and late night driving, the craziness of a one-day trip to Colorado. Third, we were resilient. We experienced physical and mental challenges, but we absorbed them, learned from them, and grew from them.  We will remember this day for a long time. We will remember moments from this day as if they lasted for hours, not minutes. And we will have smiles on our faces when we think about Owen’s Golden Birthday.  Thank you to Cyndie and Timmy for coming along on the ride, and Happy Birthday, Owen! 

What can you do to create an Event Horizon for someone you love?