Here's the Thing

An experiment in making every day matter

Barbara Becker

Barbara Becker
New York, New York,
April 01
By day I run a small organization working on big issues - like international human rights and women's health care. By night I teach mid-career professionals at Columbia University. And in all the spaces in between - the most valuable of them all - I'm a mom to two amazing, if rambunctious, boys, and a partner to one pretty fantastic guy. Twitter:

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 Saving Face premiers on Thursday, March 8 at 8:30pm/7:30 Central (HBO and Channel 4, U.K.)

Academy Award-winning best documentary short Saving Face is, on its surface, a hero's journey involving a successful native son who returns to his homeland to tackle a seemi

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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 10, 2012 3:14PM

The Swastika in Our Neighborhood


While walking with my 8-year-old son near our home in Manhattan, he spotted a purple swastika scrawled across a billboard advertisement. As I took in the complexities of the situation, my son uttered words that made my heart break...

Across the nation,… Read full post »

It was a very risky idea, given how much he wanted Beats headphones ($200 headphones for a kid?) and a Wii.  But this past week I gave my tween-age son his holiday present, choosing to surprise him with the gift of an experience over a thing.

Here's whatRead full post »

DECEMBER 13, 2011 2:42PM

This Holiday Gift Could Really Backfire!

I think it's the perfect gift for the holidays.  But how will my son react when he finds out where this Santa will be sending him for the next five days?

Recently I took a cold, hard look around our NYC apartment to assess the cause… Read full post »

It happens every year around December 10th.  I'll be standing at the stove cooking dinner, or simply waiting at the bus shelter when I suddenly get a little choked up.  Or a lot choked up, depending on the year.

This Saturday will be one of those days --Read full post »

DECEMBER 2, 2011 2:38PM

How Not to Keep Up with the Joneses

Habitat Coin House 


How can we instill in our children an appreciation for what they already have -- especially when the people around them seem to have just about everything?  Here's our family's holiday tip...

This fall, my two children moved from a warm and… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 24, 2011 10:00AM

How to Add Meaning to Black Friday



Studs Terkel


 Listen to Studs Terkel talk about what has been lost in modern life and where he saw hope for our future


Ah, Black Friday.  The most ironic holiday of the year!

Shopping list in hand, sharp elbows at the ready -- this is the… Read full post »

DECEMBER 16, 2010 10:11AM

Postscript on my year to live


Letting go



Last month my year to live journey came to an end.

For nearly one year, a small group of us met each month at the Village Zendo in New York to discuss mortality and to think constructively about how we might go about living… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 15, 2010 2:56PM

The secret of life

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

photo by D Sharon Pruitt


Unbelievably, I’ve arrived at the end of the Year to Live project.  While I had originally thought our final class would take place in January 2011 – 364 days from when we started — it will draw to a close thisRead full post »

OCTOBER 30, 2010 6:12PM

The (Real) Skeleton in our Closet


Felix 2

One of the things that makes Halloween and the Day of the Dead interesting in my family is the skeleton we’ve had in the closet for 3 generations running.

While this may sound sinister or downright peculiar, let me assure you that Felix,… Read full post »

Atul GawandeTwo weeks ago some of my closest friends from college were in New York for our annual gathering, a tradition we began nine years earlier.  The amazing thing about my friends is that they’re game for almost anything, which is how we found ourselves on a beautiful… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 23, 2010 10:17PM

What 5 objects are most meaningful to you?

My altar


For a recent Year to Live class, we were asked to bring five objects that represent the most meaningful aspects of our lives.  The task was to place these 5 things on a small altar in the classroom, where we could then explain them to our/… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 12:55PM

A reflection on Yom Kippur


Angel Orensanz Synagogue, Lower East Side

 Angel Orensanz Foundation, Lower East Side NYC


 Dearest Friends,

For nearly two months now, I’ve completely neglected my Year to Live project.  Dead silence on my part.  I got so out of the habit of writing this blog that I had to root through piles… Read full post »

JULY 27, 2010 4:00PM

Skunk at the Garden Party

Summer Camp
Somehow, while I wasn’t paying close attention to the date, my Year to Live project odometer crept slowly and steadily forward and now I’m exactly ½ way through the experiment.  Six Months to Live.

From the start, I’ve wondered whether I&

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JULY 21, 2010 12:38PM

Life as Art: A family project



Banksy's Beat Up Buddha


On a recent trip to London, I was strolling in an outdoor market with friends when one of them pulled us into a stall featuring the work of her favorite artist, Banksy.

For me, it was love at first sight.

Banksy is a graffiti artist… Read full post »


Creative Commons
One of the recent assignments in our Year to Live class was to do a “life review,” and the instructions began something like this:


Sit quietly for a while and bring to mind someone from your past whose kindness touched your heart.

Envision yourself speaking

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JULY 9, 2010 2:32PM

Hitting the Restart Button

                                   Restart Button

 I used to have a neighbor who would yell at her young children a lot.

I would listen to her voice reverberating through the thin walls of our building and vow th… Read full post »

AmmaBy now, 20 years after first meeting him, my husband Dave has come to accept the out-of-the-ordinary plans I make for our occasional nights on the town.

Last month, for instance, he didn’t raise an eyebrow when I asked him to come with me to an exhibit called… Read full post »

There must be some way to integrate death into living, neither ignoring it nor giving in to it.             – Audre Lorde

If we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well:  Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peRead full post »