Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Super Sucky

Do you know what is super sucky, eh? When you find yourself terrified of something that you equally care about, so instead of owning up to this thing, you find yourself feeling senseless things that threaten to destroy all good things so that you don't have to face that which scares you most... being vulnerable to someone else. This is a compulsion that I've battled for most of my life when it comes to my relationships. I know why I do it, but we aren't really here for psych sesh, so we'll touch base on that another day. Today is just a writing therapy day to help me stop being an ass who wants to burn and destroy all things that are good that get too close to me. I needed to note my compulsion in writing to help me recognize my tendency to do this. 

I'm not doing it this time... this one is something extraordinary to me, but god dammit I hate this feeling about as much as he hates running. For once in my life, I feel like it is worth being afraid in exchange for the feeling I get when I'm with him. Now I must learn to not be an asshole to the one person that I really like. :/

Friday, November 8, 2013


For some strange reason, I always feel the need to write a blog post before I go back to New York to visit with my family. Maybe it is my subconscious thinking I might not make it out alive this time, so I have to leave my last will and testament in the form of a blog entry. I really have nothing interesting to write about today, I just feel the need to write something... anything. So I'm going to tell you all about my Myers-Briggs Personality Type test results. Apparently I'm considered an ENFP.

Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception, those are the traits that I possess. It is kind of uncanny how this test is about 75% accurate and that most people fall into the 16 personality types. I'd like to argue with it because 16 personality types are not very many and to fit nearly 7 billion people into that seems absurd, but I fell in the 75% pretty dead on.

According to the Myers-Briggs test "ENFPs are initiators of change, keenly perceptive of possibilities. They energize and stimulate others through their contagious enthusiasm. They prefer the start-up phase of a project or relationship, and are tireless in the pursuit of new-found interests. ENFPs are able to anticipate the needs of others and to offer them needed help and appreciation. They bring zest, joy, liveliness, and fun to all aspects of their lives. They are at their best in fluid situations that allow them to express their creativity and use their charisma. They tend to idealize people, and can be disappointed when reality fails to fulfill their expectations. They are easily frustrated if a project requires a great deal of follow-up or attention to detail."

The Kiersey description of my personality type: "ENFP's delight in novelty. They are optimistic, enthusiastic, and vivacious, craving expressions of strong emotion. With a dramatic flair, they share their experiences with others, hoping to reveal some universal truth or win others over in support of a cause. Attuned to possibilities, ENFP's scan their environment, probing the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. This sensitivity sometimes conflicts with their intense drive for personal authenticity. Spontaneous and personable, they attract others to their company. ENFP's are full of energy and can spend great amounts of time discussing ideas and possibilities with others. They always look to find meanings in the world, and are more likely to be the champion of causes rather than of individuals. Living fully in this way is extremely important to them and it is their nature. Champions observe all that is going on around them and are quick to bring peace to any unpleasant interaction. They are not afraid to speak up and defend what they think is right and correct, just, or fair."

I hate reading these types of things. After reading this, I sit and wonder if I react a certain way because this has told me I would react that way or if I make my own decisions and I am not confined by what is expected of my personality type. I suppose I'll never know. 

It was a fun test to take and to read what your personality is considered, check it out, let me know if you fall in the 75% and if you think I am an ENFP.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Disconnected from Reality

Last night I went to the Pearl Jam concert in Baltimore with a few friends. It was by far one of the best concerts I have ever been to in my life, even though we had nose bleed seats. Eddie Vedder is one of the coolest guys on this planet even at the ripe old age of 48. He may possibly be the only man aside from Johnny Depp who can don skinny jeans with hiking boots and not look like a huge dork. They rocked our faces off with their 2 hour and 40 minute set. We all left that show feeling deep satisfaction at FINALLY getting to see Pearl Jam in concert.

While watching the show from our extremely high seats, we couldn't help but notice how many people were on their cell phones taking pictures, making videos, shopping, surfing the internet, reading sports center. You read that right... shopping and reading Sports Center. Directly in front of us 4 out of 5 people we could see were on their cell phones. 2 were reading Sports Center, one was looking at a handbag online, and one was reading an autobiography on his phone.

I wanted to kick these people in the throat for this. Come on, people! You're at a Pearl Jam show!!!! You don't go to the show of one of the best bands ever (any band for that matter) and stay on your phone the whole time, completely disconnected from the people and the experience that is going on around you. It diminishes the experience.

I am guilty of being on my phone a lot, but I am also able to put my phone down and experience my surroundings, fully engaged with the people around me. I'm challenging you to start putting your phone down more and be fully engaged with the people around you. People have lived thousands of years without cell phones and without being fully connected to every facet of life 24/7. Waiting an hour to check your phone while you have dinner with your loved ones will not kill you... and if someone died, welp... they died, that extra hour won't bring them back. 

That devil Facebook has further removed people from having to socialize in real time with the people who actually care enough about them to take time from their day to come see them. Instead we give them half of our attention while we browse Facebook, reading the status updates from people that we knew in elementary school, who in the grand scheme of things do not actually matter in our lives. If they did, they would be at that table having dinner with you, not just a mundane, dull status update about what they made their kids for dinner that night, followed by their announcement that they are now going to bed.

Life moves so fast, we all need to slow down and look around us. Look at the people we love and that love us, take the time to listen to what is going on in their lives, be thankful for the love that surrounds us. Time is finite, to give your time to someone is the greatest gift you can ever give someone. Let's not cheapen that gift by giving them your time but not your attention. I assure you, your elementary school friend's status update about her early bed time and 977 pictures of her drooling child will still be there when you have time alone. I recommend reading Facebook while you're taking a shit, those two activities seem to be related to me.

30 days, that is the challenge. 30 days of not answering your phone when you are with other people. 30 days of not browsing Facebook while you are at the dinner table. 30 days of no texting while driving (this one is going to be difficult for me). 30 days of being fully engaged with your surroundings, experiences, and people!

Amanda signing off.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Linville Gorge Climbing - Team Pizza and Beer

I have discovered that climbing in a gym primarily makes people think they are strong climbers. They think because they can put up 5.11's on sport lead in the gym that they are the subject matter experts on the Yosemite Decimal System. They are quick to discredit a climb outside because it is "only" a 5.5. I'd like to take this moment to straighten this out. A 5.5 in the gym can be put up by a 6 year old with one prosthetic leg, 8 missing fingers, and in socks. A 5.5 outside (especially on the East Coast), on lead (not sport lead), all of a sudden becomes a 5.14 R when the storm clouds have rolled in, the rock is soaking wet, and you can't find anywhere to put some pro. When your last piece of gear was a shoddy nut placement 25 feet below you and your leg starts dancing like Elvis because you are pretty sure that the rubber on your shoes is the same rubber that they make Payless shoes out of, a 5.5 all of a sudden is the most terrifying thing you have ever faced in your entire life. All of a sudden, there are no feet placements, the jugs have turned into slopers that have no grip at all because there is a waterfall running down them into your face. Your chalk is all clumped up because you are soaked to the bone and you want to punch your partner in the face for making you lead the last three pitches, this one pitch being the one that makes you want to maim their face. The rope weighs 900 extra pounds at this point because it is soaking wet and dragging over the last 60 feet of wet rock, and all of a sudden your rack of gear weighs in at 238 pounds.

This is what the third pitch felt like on The Prow in Linville Gorge on Sunday to me. By the time I got to the top of that 3rd pitch I was in a fit of hysterical laughter. I was fairly certain that I was going to be pulled off that face by that god damn rope. It was like dragging a body up that face between the rope and the gear. When I finally made it to the top of that pitch and tied into the anchor, I was ready to have a bon fire with that rope. I have not decided yet if I am still angry with my partner for making me lead this or not... he seems to think I will remember it forever, which might be true... it was life changing, but I was very seriously upset with him on Sunday night for making me do it. On our hour hike out of Linville Gorge, in the dark and rain with headlamps, I was able to collect myself a little bit and talk to him again like a normal person instead of a crazy person. My desire to punch him also subsided.

The entire trip was not like this.... let's start from the beginning. :)

For the last two years my friend Mike has been talking about Linville Gorge and telling me how fantastic the climbing is there. He kept going on about a climb called The Daddy that we just had to do. Two years later, we finally get around to making it a priority to climb there.

Beautifully exposed rock faces

From the 3rd pitch on The Prow

Directly across from us, extremely polite climbers! "That's a nice #2 Brian! Thanks, Jeff. You're welcome Brian!"

We got a late start on Thursday. The four of us met at my house at 3:30; however, we never left my house until 5 pm. After 67 stops throughout the entire state of Maryland, we eventually hit Harper's Ferry and get into another state... 3 hours later. I didn't think we were ever going to get out of this state. Our disorganization continues through the state of Virginia and after 7.5 hours of driving, we decide to stop at a random hotel somewhere in North Carolina (I think). We roll up listening to "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons full blast because it seemed like a good song to roll into the Super 8 parking lot to. The next morning, Friday, we head to Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, NC. We are headed to climb The Great Arch (5.5).

Jason is always giggling

Racked up and ready to go

This climb was spectacular. It was 4 pitches, the first being a manky "approach route" that Mike got stuck leading. It was pretty terrible. There was a total of three trees all within about 10 feet of each other to be used for protection in about 90 feet of climbing, an off width crack that fit a leg in it and nothing else, and nothing else for protection. Poor Mike... he had about a 50 foot run out across a traverse that was a blank slab of rock. If he slipped and fell here, we were going to be hauling a mangled body out. He handled it like a Boss after 10 minutes of having his leg stuck in this off-width crack, and got to the base of The Great Arch. I left my Snail Trail up the corner of this off width crack and by the time I got to the top of it I was so frazzled that I didn't want to lead the next pitch on The Great Arch if it was anything like that last pitch. I decided to quit being a wuss and I racked up anyway.
Technically the 1st pitch of The Great Arch

Mike on the first pitch
We went with two rope teams instead of one because four people on a rope is a mess at belay stations, in my opinion. On this climb, it was Mike leading with Sarah following on one rope, and Jason and I trading leads on the second rope. We set off, Mike and Sarah first, then Jason and I. About 15 feet up, I place my first piece of gear, a solid #2 Camalot. This piece of gear is bomber, it makes me feel instantly safe. At some point early on Mike hollers down about how this pitch being "pumpy." I figured he meant your arms... I was wrong. Another 15 feet up, I place a sling around the tree in the above picture... at this point, I have only gone about 30-40 feet and my calves are burning, this is what he was talking about when he said pumpy. They hurt so much!!!! I place a couple more pieces of gear, but run out the last bit of the pitch because my legs were burning too much to take the time to place gear and the climbing was easy. It had bolted anchors, which is always nice in my opinion. I belay Jason up and he leads the next pitch.

Me at the belay anchor looking down at the first pitch on The Great Arch

At the belay anchor on the first pitch

Looking up at the 2nd Pitch on The Great Arch
The second pitch was very much like the first, it was a solid lie-back. The crack between the dihedral and the slab was nice and took gear easily, it was just sooooo tiring. The next belay station is at a tree, again with a bolted anchor. This was a really nice break. By the time I got up to Jason, my calves were filled with lactic acid. I look up at the final pitch of this climb, it looks daunting. It is my turn to lead, the crack has gotten exponentially smaller, there is a 30 foot run out where it didn't look like any gear would fit. Slipping at this point means that you are going to skin your nipples right off your chest as you slide down the slabby rock. I'm taking a rest and talking myself into leading this pitch when all of a sudden, Jason just decides he's going for it. He's all like "Ahhh fuck it! I'm just doing it" and decides he's going to run up the wall so we can be done and drinking beer. I am secretly thankful for this because I did not want to lead it... a decision that I later come to regret.

Jason at the final belay anchor, belaying me up the last pitch
The last pitch was about 100 feet with a lot of friction... as I'm going up it removing gear, I'm annoyed with myself for not leading it. It was one of the easier pitches because the friction was so good. We get to the top where Sarah and Mike are waiting for us. It is then a 2 mile hike out to the car. We eventually make it there, have a beer, and head out to find some food. Mexican... the food choice of Champions on this trip. It seems as though we ate Mexican food for 3 of our 4 dinners, and beans every single day. There was a cloud of noxious gas following us around.

The trail was about 300 feet of hiking up this slab of rock.

All done with The Great Arch!!!
At The Bier Garden
Saturday morning we wake up with tight calves and tight buns. We decide to take the day to go sight seeing in Asheville. I was super stoked to go to Asheville after reading this article: Asheville: Home to Satanists, Rapists, Gays, and Pedophiles. Asheville, NC is one cool little town. The local music scene is thriving, the street art is rad, the shops are so cool, and the food/bar scene is flourishing. We people watched, went to a Latino Heritage Festival, found a neat book store, drank some delicious local brews, and walked around the city before heading out to The Blue Ridge Parkway to watch sunset. Sunset didn't work out, but it was still beautiful up there. We went back into the city after to close down The Bier Garden. At 0200 we make it back to our hotel knowing we have to get up early on Sunday morning to go climb in the Gorge.

I decided my happiness factor would increase tenfold if I were to get my face painted

Spoon feeding chocolate cheesecake at The Bier Garden

Ahhh Sunday morning. It was Mikes turn to want to punch me in the throat for making him get up. Jason was up at the ass-crack of dawn and ready to go every single day of the trip. Next time we are going to ruffie his ass so he sleeps longer. Sarah and I eventually get ourselves up and around and we all start heading toward Linville Falls, the town right outside the Table Rock area of the Gorge. Stop at a bar that happens to serve breakfast on the way, have cold breakfast and cold coffee, and head out.

Team Pizza and Beer

Scrambling down funk to get to the bottom of the climb

After driving up an incredibly motion-sickness-inducing dirt road for about 8 miles, we get to the trail head to get down to the Amphitheater area of Linville Gorge to start our approach. Due to the government shutdown, the bathrooms are locked, the trash receptacles are locked and closed, and there are no rangers in sight. We sort gear, talk Jason out of bringing a Big Wall Rack again, and start our hike in. We don't get to our route until about 2pm after about an hour and a half hike in. The sun is shining at this point and there are black clouds in the very far distant. My oh my how fast a storm can roll in.
Everything is closed!!! 

We are again on two rope teams. Jason leading with Sarah following on one, and Mike and I supposedly trading leads on the second rope. I start the first pitch, after placing a tiny Camalot in a tiny crack 20 feet up, I continue upward. About 15 feet above that last piece of gear I can't find anywhere to place anything. I get scared and my leg starts shaking. I down climb a little bit but I know that I can't bitch out so early without ridicule when the climbing really isn't hard, it is just a mental game. So I skip out on placing any pro and move right up to a tree to sling. I continue up the first pitch with no incident, just slow going. My fear is starting to subside because I know I get to relax the next pitch while Mike leads.

Ummm, yeah.... I build the anchor, belay my partner up, and he pressures me into leading the second pitch. He made the executive decision that I should lead the entire climb so I get more comfortable. I actually don't mind at this point still because the first and second pitch of this climb are easy and uneventful. It was the 3rd pitch that was stressing me out. I finish the second pitch and Sarah is still at the belay ledge, so I give her some gear to take up on her next pitch and just use the anchor that Jason already built. As I'm tying into the anchor the sky opens up and starts down pouring buckets of rain on us. Everything is wet, I'm soaked, pulling the rope through my ATC is like playing Tug-o-War with Andre the Giant. I have Sarah leave all the gear in place as she's climbing up so Mike and I can get up the pitch faster due to the weather turning to shit.

I'm pretty much freaking out by the time Mike gets to the belay ledge on this pitch. It is raining, I'm having a meltdown on the inside, and somehow he talks me into leading the 3rd pitch because this is the "fun" pitch and I should lead it. He is singing me a song and telling me that it is pretty much like leading a sport route since all the gear is already in place. I think this is what made me do the pitch... this thinking that it will be like a sport lead and I don't want to have any regrets later about bitching out on it. Everything is fine the first 45-50 feet of the pitch... and then it happens.

Looking up at the 3rd pitch from the start

I come around the corner and there is nothing but air under my ass. I look down, I see the tree line, the river below it, and about 900 feet of air straight under me and nothing else. The rain is pouring down. I am on a tiny lip that is about an inch and a half wide and soaking wet. My chalk is clumped, my hands are shaking and cold, the 600 pound rope is pulling me downward, my rack is stuck on something and heavy, the tri-cam I'm trying to clip into is down by my feet and the only solid hold is near my face. I start pulling on the rope to get some slack in it because it was so heavy and I start laughing. Maniacally. It is what I do when I am afraid. I laugh. Hysterically.

 By the time I get to the anchor I am so agitated with Mike for making me do this that I gave him some penalty slack for his climb up. Not that it really mattered, his fear tolerance and my fear tolerance are drastically different. Plus, pulling the wet rope through my ATC was so incredibly difficult that slack was inevitable. Mike gets to the anchor and makes the remark of how slippery that pitch was. It crossed my mind at that very moment that maybe he just doesn't really like me all that much and I should rethink this friendship. I was not speaking to him any longer after he had gotten up there unless it was climbing commands. I was so stressed out. 

Sarah on anchor at the top of the 3rd pitch

Jason hanging out

Sarah and I just hanging out.
Mike coming up on the belay ledge of the 3rd pitch, me fighting with the rope.

Jason led the 4th pitch and we all top roped up to get out of there faster. It was sloppy jaloppy. Everything was wet, chalk was useless, the skies were darkening, and we all dead fish flopped up on to the ledge. We all just wanted off that rock face. We were hungry, cold, wet, and thirsty. It was dark and we had a long hike out still by the glow of headlamps. Never leave home without a headlamp.

Linville Gorge is an amazingly beautiful place. The rock quality is great and I wish we had more time to climb other routes, specifically when the weather isn't shit. Another trip is necessary to climb the other "classics" in the gorge, but god dammit if my life wasn't changed on the rock that day. Never again will I be nervous about a bolted sport lead with 6 feet between bolts. Also, never again will I allow someone to say "it's only a 5.5." It is a 5.5 in perfect weather, on a top rope, when you don't have to place your gear, or drag a body up with you on your rope, and a 5.12 gym rating when all of the opposite is true.

From the Blue Ridge Parkway, looking for sunset

Team Pizza and Beer signing off until next time.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Was Raped

When I was 14 years old I was raped. His name was Jeremy, he was 17. It was the first time of 2 total times in my life that I ever experimented with drugs. It was late at night, I was at my Youth Pastor's house with a group of friends for a sleep over. The adults were all in bed. A girl that lived with my Youth Pastor, her name was Sara, was on some sort of anti-psychotic drug that I am not entirely sure the name of. Needless to say, this girl was bat shit crazy and this drug allowed her to live happily among the "normal" people of this world. She offered it to me, telling me it would relax me. This was in March of 1995, 3 months after my mother's unexpected death. I wanted nothing more in this world than to not feel anything and be relaxed. I popped the pill and the rest of the night become one big blur.

I woke up in her room, on her bed, the lower half of my body hanging off the edge of her bed, with my pants off, and him on top of me with my legs spread, having sex with my comatose body. I told him that I didn't want to do this and to stop. I tried to push him off of me. He pinned my arms down and I passed back out. I woke up again as he was fastening the belt on his pants. He kissed my face, I don't remember where on my face, or what my response was, and then he walked out of the room. I sat there, stunned, unsure of what just happened. I then pulled my pants on and stumbled out of the room. I stumbled down the basement steps where my other friends were and where he was now sitting. I was completely dazed from the drug and from what just happened. I felt the understanding start to creep into my brain and I had to get out of there. I had to be as far away from him as possible. I walked back up the stairs and I heard one of the girls, Missy, call me a slut. I ran out the front door, down the road, and to the park where I hid in a plastic slide, sobbing for what felt like days. I sobbed for everything that I had lost. I ached for the protection from my mother, who had been known once to chase my first ever boyfriend down the road with a machete when he decided to see what my face looked like with a blackened eye from his elbow. This is how my virginity was taken from me.

The following day was Sunday. I was crying in Youth Group, but during those months, I seemed to always cry so it was easily explained away. I told my Youth Pastor what happened that evening after our Youth Group meeting. He was the only person I told all of the details to. He pulled Jeremy into the room with me, it was the large conference room in the front of the church, and asked him. He said we had sex but that I had wanted to do it. I was still crying. My youth pastor, wearing a light blue, long sleeve dungaree shirt tucked into his pants with a black belt, tackled him on the floor, got on top of him, and held him down while screaming at him. He told him to never come back to our church. My Youth Pastor was a prison guard who had a lot of aggression some times... he was wearing the black belt that went with his uniform. It is bizarre to me how the brain can remember such miniscule details sometimes and forget entire chunks of ones life at other times.

I went to school the following Monday. A girl that I was friends with at the time had a crush on this boy... she heard through the rumor mill at school that I had sex with him. We were walking to her house from school that afternoon when she called me a slut, and told me I was going to end up just like my mother. I got home from school that day and a boy who lived in my neighborhood that  had been there the night it happened was at my house... ironically, it was the same boy my mother chased with a machete only 6 or 7 months earlier. He told my sister that I was having sex. My sister forced me to go to Planned Parenthood and be put on birth control. I had no idea what was happening to me at the time. I was shamed into thinking this was all my fault, that it was consensual and that I was a whore for having sex before marriage. This was the mentality of everyone, with exception of my youth pastor who knew I was passed out. I tried to tell everyone that I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't give all the details away without also telling them that I was experimenting with drugs. I am not entirely sure why my Youth Pastor never went to my sister with the details, maybe he thought he had handled it in the conference room.

I was told that I was a slut, and that I was going to end up pregnant and amount to nothing. I was made to feel like maybe this is just how sex was and I needed to accept responsibility for my actions. Being 14 at the time, not knowing what real life was like, and trying not to slit my wrists on a weekly basis, pushed me into thinking that what happened was normal. After all, I watched my Mother get raped when I was 10 years old and watched him piss on her body afterward. I felt like maybe I had gotten off easy by not getting pissed on and being blacked out for most of it. It pushed me into thinking that there was something wrong with me because I didn't think this behavior was ok when it was SO OBVIOUSLY my fault due to the fact that I was a slut. So much, that this boy asked me to hang out again about a month later and I agreed to it just so I could feel like I had control over the situation and that I wasn't a slut who had one night stands.

This next time hanging out with him is what made me realize this wasn't my fault and that there was something wrong with this situation and with him. I don't remember all the details, but apparently he only likes to force himself on girls who are unconscious and can't fight back because I remember wrestling with him quite resolutely and him not liking my fight. My sister and her boyfriend came home around this time and took him home.

I never hung out with him again after that nor saw him except in the hallways at school, but I also never reported what happened. I took the birth control pills my sister forced on me for a few months, I accepted my actions, and I vowed to not have sex again until I was married. I also vowed to never use drugs again. At 14, my naivete was boundless. As I progressed through high school and learned more about life, I learned to forgive myself, and I learned to be extremely self-conscious about sex. I discovered that I would feel guilt and shame whenever I would be intimate with a man again until I was well into my 20's. It was a complex feeling, a mixture of home sickness, guilt, and shame that left a ball of anxiety in my stomach whenever someone touched me.

My story is the story of millions of women. The details are different, but the story is the same. Sexual assault happens every single day and the victims of it are often shamed into thinking it was their fault in some way, not just from the attacker but also from society. I don't know how to go about changing the way it is often perceived, nor do I know how to help people cope with being the victim of it. This is just my story, I needed to share it. I needed to write it for myself and for so many other women who have been the victim of sexual assault and can not write their own stories.

I was not the person then that I am today. I was painfully and awkwardly shy, I could not talk to people, and I was embarrassed by my circumstances in life. I could not just scream at the top of my lungs then like I can now that I WAS RAPED. Shame and humiliation have a way of silencing the weak.


Tail Between Legs? Check.

When I was 17 years old I tucked my tail between my legs and I ran away from home as quickly as I could without having to service old men for money. I went into the military to get as far away from my home town, my family, and my past as a 17 year old with a high school diploma could. While growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to get away from that place. I wanted to go to NYC and live the glamorous city life, not the life of a Republican majority small town, where the smell of cow shit was as normal as the maximum security prisons that dotted the town. After all, this was New York State.... where Rockefeller's drug laws from 1973 and Reagan's War on Drugs has left New York State's prisons over populated with drug offenders who have no business being in maximum security prisons.

Getting out of this place had been my main goal from the time I was 14 and took my first trip to NYC, until my high school graduation at 17. Not because of the town exactly, it was actually a very pleasant place to grow up... boring, yet safe. Kick the Can was a game routinely played by all the neighborhood kids well into the dark hours of summer. My main reason was because of all the craziness that was my family. It was the drugged and drunken binges that my Mother would go on, where she would "disappear" for 3 days and "Mildred" would step in... stabbing notes into the doors of our house with butcher knives, letting us know that "Mom is on strike and that Mildred was home." It was my homicidal sibling turning the dryer on with my cat inside it, killing it (I'm fairly certain that was on purpose). It was the violent fights my other sibling and I would have that often resulted in one of us getting stabbed or hog tied by the other. It was the men that came to our house when "Mildred" was home. I didn't know at the time that these things were not *quite* normal, they were just part of the life that I knew. As soon as I had some control over my future, I exerted it and left. I knew that if I stayed there I would end up working at K-Mart, having 3 children, and probably living in a trailer. I was a precocious child, I knew that life was not for me.

I have not always been this open about my life, but at some point in my life I found it therapeutic to discuss some of these things... subsequently,  I discovered that I was "abnormal." For many years after I left, I had a lot of guilt and a lot of homesickness that would just not go away. I would travel home often to visit, and often times the visits would end with violent fights and arguments that left us not talking to each other or with black eyes. I don't know when it happened exactly, but at some point I decided that I had to live for me and that I had to look out for myself because our families have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in us. My sister still has the ability to send me into a rage within 3 seconds of walking into her door, but I have learned to control myself a little better than I used to. I have learned that stupid cliche of "life is short" and I do my best to remember that when dealing with all of the bullshit that is spewed at us in our lives.

I'm extremely jealous of the people in this world who have stable, loving relationships with their families but I also can't say that I would change the circumstances or the experiences with mine. We don't get to choose our families, it is just a crap shoot of who gets what, but I can change my perspective when dealing with them. I can try to make the best of the situation at hand, and I can do my best to let things go that I have no control over. I still struggle with this... there are times when I am so angry with my siblings that I am left in a fuming rage of wanting to round house kick the refrigerator or their faces, but lucky for me (and them) I live 5 hours away from them and can walk away from what I don't feel like dealing with, or not answer the phone. Maybe this isn't the best approach for dealing with it, but it is what has allowed me to stay sane, stay out of jail, and still talk to them (sometimes).

Our families have the ability to destroy our lives or to enrich them. Trying to find the middle ground is something that I have struggled with for almost 20 years. At the end of each day, I have to remember that this is my life. It is my only life and I must be the best person that I can be. I must be kind, I must be compassionate, and I must be honest. These are all values that my family taught me, even if they do not practice them... but through their actions, I learned these lessons that they did not mean to teach and I am thankful for that. They inadvertently contributed in a positive way to the values and principles of how I live my life.

Family is such a delicate thing to deal with for most of us in this world. Sometimes I'm an asshole and get a little preachy about it, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and let people deal with things on their own. I just can't help being pissed off at shows like Leave it to Beaver, Lassie, My Two Dads, Full House, and Growing Pains for filling our heads with expectations of what the normal family looks like. That shit isn't normal, that is why they make TV shows depicting "normal," because it doesn't really exist. It is fiction that is meant to make us all feel like shit about the actual lives that we have. The same exact way that TV/Marketing still plays on our insecurities.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning to go home for a weekend visit, wish me luck! This is my life. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finding Your Happy Place

When people used to talk about "finding their happy place" I would just look at them like they were complete lunatics that had bad coping mechanisms. People who were unable to deal with the stress of modern life, so they detach from it with drugs, alcohol, mind numbing television, shopping their way to happiness, or some other bad habit so they can numb the frustration they feel with life and "escape." Until recently, this was my thinking when people talked about "finding their happy place." Because for me, my happy place has always been the fact that I was still alive, and still able to view the world in a positive way when I could have easily been jaded early on in life.

Recently, I have decided that being able to feel all of the emotions that a human being is capable of feeling is my happy place, and I go there often. Knowing that there are people who are not capable of feeling the entire range of human emotion makes me even more sure that it is my happy place because they tend to be unhappy individuals that are missing out on an integral part of life. Raw emotion... not to be confused with scripted emotion that is done by unhappy people trying to hide that they are unhappy.

I am a very emotionally animated person and I do not hide my feelings well. I cry when I am frustrated and sob when I am hurt, I am giddy and exaggerated when I am excited, I am grateful to have wonderful friends and obliged to have crappy family that make me appreciate my friends even more. I am quiet when I am thinking about something serious, and I become withdrawn when I am overwhelmed. I get a pit in my stomach and a weight on my chest whenever I am afraid, nervous, or anxious. I become ridiculously sanguine when a man takes me to dinner and opens a car door for me, or grabs my face and kisses me as the endless possibilities race through my brain even when I know things won't work out. The ability to feel these emotions makes me happy.

The feeling of sunshine on my face in the early days of Spring or late days of Fall, when the air is still crisp. Riding some gnarly single track smoothly, with no struggle or fear... just flowing over everything with strong legs. Running on an empty trail in the early mornings when there is dew on the grass still and everyone else is asleep (this doesn't happen often for me, I'm not a morning person... but when it does it is one of the most amazing feelings ever). Being in the passenger seat, staring out the window, lost in thought on a long road trip, content with your company and the sound of the engine. Watching the moon rise above the mountains at 10,000 feet and the absolute feeling of joy and relief when you reach the toilet to pee just in time. The absolute indifference you feel toward the ex that broke your heart... and the realization that you will love someone again someday. The sound of crickets on summer nights and the smell of a storm rolling in during hurricane season. These feelings make me happy, they soothe my soul and silence the doubt I sometimes feel about humanity. 

A happy place is not a place at all, nor a tangible item... those things don't last. It is what centers you and makes you appreciate this life you have and the emotion that comes with it. It is so cliche to say that life is short, but truly it is... I suppose that is why it is a cliche? It is a treasured thing that is often denied to many. So embrace it, live it, love it, and appreciate what you have. Appreciate the fact that you can run, or dance, or talk, or feel because there are people who can't do these things and would give anything to be able to. This is what makes life memorable, not going to your cubicle or owning the newest Gucci bag.

Whether your happy place is doing yoga, spending time with friends, going to the mountains to get away, reading a book, running long miles, or just a quiet place away from all the noise, be sure to try to go there as often as possible and experience the full spectrum of human emotion that makes this your happy place. Crying, laughing, sadness, anger, pride, elation, contentment, loneliness, rejection, feelings of failure, ecstasy, bliss, joy... this is life and I wouldn't trade any of those feelings to feel "happy" all the time. The loneliness and rejection I have felt at times makes the sweet times sweeter and enhances the contentment that I feel on most days. This is life. This is my life, and I love it. I am absolutely, positively, ridiculously in love with my life.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trip Report: Mt. Rainier - DC Route

So I got this hair up my ass in early June of this year after climbing Mt. Hood that I would like to climb Mt. Rainier this year as well. I started asking around to see if I could recruit anyone to come along for this adventure, or at least find a partner for it. After asking around, I had a partner lined up. Her name was Ashley. Which was perfect, we were going to do an all-female, alpine ascent of Mt. Rainier in 1 day. I couldn't have chose a better way to do it. After emailing back and forth for a few weeks trying to work out which route we would take, and what our plan of attack would be, we still didn't have anything solid nailed down. The weather had been warm on the mountain the week prior to me getting there, so we waited until we got to Mt. Rainier National Park to make our decision on our route. We only had one day to do the climb, as compared to the 2-3 days that most climbers take to climb the mountain. I should have known that this was going to be a grueling task, but I thought that I was in good enough shape that I could just force my way up the mountain with some discomfort but still make it.

The path up to the snowfield
Prairie flowers on the way.

For educational purposes, Mt. Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States and stands at 14,410 feet. It is an active volcano and is listed on the Decade Volcano List. It has about a 50% success rate for climbing it with most climbers being turned back because of inclement weather or poor conditioning. On average, Mt. Rainier claims about 3 lives per year.

The summit of Mt. Rainier. Please note, that is 6.5 miles away from this point.. This picture does not convey how big it is.

Once we got to the climber check-in and talked to the ranger we decided on the DC route instead of the Emmons route as we had originally talked about. He said for a single push the Emmons might be a little too long, that the DC was a better option. So around 5pm after reorganizing our gear and trying to eliminate 3 items from our packs we set off on the long slog up to Camp Muir at 10,080 feet. It took me 4 hours. I say me, because Ashley is a beast and could have run up that junk in about 3 hours if she wasn't being nice and waiting for me. The hike to Camp Muir was foggy and the snowfield was pretty slushy.

Sunset on the snowfield on our way to Camp Muir

The slog up the snowfield. This was the view that my back got the entire way.
At Camp Muir we entered the climber's hut around 9 pm and found some climbers who had hauled a keg up there to celebrate, celebrating. I laid down on the concrete floor at this point because there was no room left on the wooden benches. I had a headache, was dizzy, and a little nauseous. I guess I was starting to feel the effects of the elevation. We rested in here for about 3 hours. Ashley was kind enough to melt snow for us for water and to heat up some pad thai and another noodle package that had basil in it. I laid back down on the concrete floor after this and tried to sleep... instead I just shivered for 3 hours dozing in and out of sleep, hating life.

Around 11 pm, Ashley tried to wake me up but I was NOT feeling it. I felt like complete crap and did not want to get out of camp at this point. I was cold, stiff, and acting like a miserable cow to be honest. She let me lay there for awhile longer while she melted some more snow for water. She came back in at 12:30 with warm water bottles, and was able to coax me into life and encouraged me to get up and go climb. I'm very glad she did because anyone who knows me, knows that I lose all will power to live, let alone do physical activity when I am sleepy and have been given the opportunity to sleep.

Getting our gear together and getting ready to go
At 12:30 am I get up, get around, and start getting my gear organized. We head out of camp around 0100. Trekking along unroped at this point and in the dark we get into a rhythm, and about an hour passes. We hit a point where we need to rope up and put our crampons on, as there is a big crevasse coming up. It was a nice break for me... I have never felt so out of shape in my entire life as I did at this point. We get all setup and continue onward and upward, eventually coming to a steep scree section of loose rock. We start making our way up this at a slow pace due to heavy mountaineering boots and crampons just plain sucking to climb rock with. This is the part that makes the Disappointment Cleaver route, disappointing. There was so much loose rock and scree that it really was quite lucky that neither one of us fell. Being roped up probably wasn't the best idea, but it was rather steep so it seemed like a good idea at 2 O'clock in the morning and we couldn't see all that well. Around this time, the scariest thing happened in my opinion.

We are moving along, and I am out front. Well somehow I get us off route, not all that surprising considering we were on loose rock, in the dark, and both very tired. I come to a nearly vertical rock/ice face... the rating on this route is only a II... there should not have been a near vertical rock/ice face with a black abyss below it. I look up, there isn't much to hold onto with gloved hands, nor will my axe hang from anything. I start kicking my cramponed foot into the ice and I can't get my crampon to bite into the ice. I keep kicking a few more times with no luck. I tell Ashley that unless she's leading us across that, I'm not comfortable with it and think we should turn around. She agrees, so we luckily turn around and start heading back the way we came looking for clues to where we are on the route. We see headlamps from other climbers and just start heading toward them... over very loose, very steep scree. It sucked and I was wondering the entire time what the fuck I was doing up there. Around this time we hear a thunderous crash. I have never heard an avalanche. I have seen them, but I have never heard them. It sounded like thunder, and because I had not seen anything come down I actually thought it was thunder. I looked up at the sky, but everything looked clear. That is when I learned it was an avalanche.

Sunrise around 0530
Sunrise with an alpine glow
We eventually get back on route and continue upward in the dark. At this point the slope of the mountain was about 30 degrees at it's steepest, maybe 40 degrees on the scree sections where we got off route. We get back on snow, which makes life a whole lot easier for us. I'm going pretty slow still but feeling ok and still going upward. Just stopping to breathe every 100 steps. Yes, I was counting. I needed something to focus on. Around 0530 we come to the first ladder that is in place to cross a deep crevasse... this was after waiting about 20 minutes in line to get to the ladder to cross. The ladder is laying horizontally across about a 5 foot wide, deep blue crevasse. There are boards on it that are all splintered from crampons. Ashley goes first, clips into the fixed rope that is there, and reaches the other side. She ties into the anchor that someone had left there, and belays me across. Alright, fantastic we have made it across, we keep going upward. As we are traversing this very narrow side of the mountain where it was foot in front of foot, we come to another ladder over a crevasse. First, we needed to navigate around this big nubbin of ice that was sticking out on our already thin ledge. We dug our axe in on one side of it, hand on the other, and hugged our way around it. It was a very long drop down with a huge crevasse below this... not making it around this nubbin wasn't an option.

Traffic jam at the first ladder crossing

We head up the next ladder which is again horizontal and allowing us to cross a 4 foot wide blue crevasse. Again, the boards across the ladder are all splintered and really sketchy looking. One of the rungs on the ladder is broken, and the whole contraption is held in place by 2 pickets that someone had left in place. We make it across it easily and keep going upward. We then come to our third and last ladder. This one is vertical, covering a 2 foot wide crevasse that had icicles hanging from it. We go up the ladder, tie into the anchor and wait for the traffic jam to keep moving upward.

The vertical ladder.

What the vertical ladder was being used to get over.
We continue our long climb upward at this point with nothing exceptional or scary happening. Around 0700 we look at the time and discover that the sun is beating down on the mountain, it is entirely too warm. We ask some climbers on their way down how much longer until the summit. It was about 2 hours still and we were just under the "High Break" area which is around 13,500 feet. Only 910 vertical feet, but a 2 hour climb up still. At this point we contemplate continuing to go upward for 2 hours, which would make our total climbing time from Paradise to the summit being 12.5 hours. We made the decision that we should turn around because it was just entirely too warm, we were getting tired and unsure of how much we had left in us, and we were not sure what we were going to encounter lower on the mountain. So we start our decent. As we are descending we hear a second avalanche trigger on the other side of the mountain and this confirms our decision to turn around. The traffic jams at the ladders continued on the way down, and the snow bridges were in pretty bad shape on our way down. 

Long traverse

The point that we decided to turn around
Climbing is sort of funny in a way... we made our ascent during the night, so we really couldn't see what was around us and what terrors lay below us; however, coming down it was a bright sunny day. I saw everything around us. All of a sudden those huge steps I had to take to cross a crevasse were not nearly as benign as I had thought during the night. Looking up and seeing a huge serac hanging over our heads, barely hanging on to a rock face which had spewed rocks all over the path we were on, all of a sudden, was a whole lot more nerve wracking. The boulders that lay on the glacier, directly in front of us, were all of a sudden more ominous when you looked up and saw that they had sheared off of the rock wall that was directly above your head.
On our way down

We had just made it to the bottom of this glacier.
My helmet and hat didn't want to work together.
We get back to camp around 11:30 am and take our boots off, take a rest, and drink some water. Poor Ashley, her feet were blistered so badly at this point that she's taping huge blisters to be able to wear her boots still... and she has to wear her boots for another 4.5 miles to get back to the car! We take a rest here, but after about 30 minutes we have to get going otherwise we are both going to bonk because we had been awake for 26 hours, and exerting serious amounts of energy for 15 hours of that time. We continue our descent through this arduous snowfield and luckily get to glissade down for a good part of this... which was super fun! I'm surprised we didn't wear holes in the butt of our pants! We get back to the path where all the tourists are and keep heading down. At this point, we split up because Ashley has to pee something fierce, and I'm just too tired to walk any faster.
Glissading down the snowfield

That is a lot of crevasses! Taken from the scree of the Disappointment Cleaver

Long hike back.
This slog back to the car was the most arduous, tiresome, grueling part of the entire climb. It was terrible! My feet had blisters on the bottom from wearing plastic mountaineering boots for so long. I was annoyed with the people who had sandals on and were not carrying heavy packs. I was annoyed with the man who was carrying a 70 Liter pack stuffed to the brim on a day hike. Who would carry a huge pack like that on a day hike if you don't have to?!?! Plus, he was wearing Asic sneakers so it's not like he was training for anything. I was just annoyed with everything and everyone. I was tired, I was cranky, and I just wanted to eat a damn cheeseburger and drink something other than warm water. After what felt like eternity, I finally make it back to the car. It was a 19 hour round trip from Paradise to our stopping point and back. We decide to go to RMI guides to eat at their bar because someone told us they had awesome burgers... which turned out to be totally lame, our food sort of sucked but we were starved so we ate it anyway and then started the long journey back to Seattle. It was probably the longest drive of Ashley's entire life. We tried to keep the conversation going to stay awake, and luckily she had an apple in the back of the car that she was able to nurse for the last 30 minutes of the drive.

It was so warm I could take my glove off and not be cold. Weird.
Mountaineering is no joke. It is by far the most challenging thing I have ever tried to get myself into physically and mentally. After the climb a few people asked me if I enjoyed myself and I couldn't really give an answer because the pain of the descent was too fresh, the terror from that one near vertical ice/rock face lingering still... but after a couple days of rest, sleep, and food, I found myself dreaming of being back in the mountains. I found myself psyched about trying to do it again next climbing season, excited to see the moon with the mountains in the backdrop again, sunrise above the clouds, the sound of silence, and the simple thought process of just climbing. I think about nothing else when I'm doing this and it is a nice break from reality. I can't say that I actually enjoy alpine climbing... I really like the idea of it though. Alpine climbing is all about perfecting the art of suffering. The better you are at suffering, the better alpine climber you will be. I am going to continue to perfect my art of suffering as I find myself day dreaming regularly about my next excursion into the mountains.

All done. 19 hours later.