Monday, December 31, 2012


Sitting in my Subaru, sunroof open with a brisk 30 degree temperature washing in from outside--body bundled up in a ski coat and a scarf. Despite my hiking boots and wool socks, my toes felt tender and cold.

In front of me is a rock barricade serving as a reminder to visitors that beyond its wall the earth drops 100 feet into a canyon, home of Lake Billy Chinook. The lake sits protected in between the steep canyon walls and measures about 300 feet at her deepest point. This lake is my element. It is here that I learned how to slalom ski, spend countless summer days on our boat with family and friends, and drive her often enough to know her every bend and turn. I've never felt a more present calm excitement with anything else than I have with this lake.

Right now the lake is collecting the surrounding run-off snow, growing colder and colder as it waits for the Spring season. In May when we de-winterize the boat it is always hard to jump back into her waters, but she knows we can't resist. Throughout the years we've learned how cold her bite can be as your body submerges and she wraps her wicked cold arms around you. As a skier, you can't straighten your ropes and get your ski on fast enough! But by late August, her waters welcome you like a warm drawn bath.

Being that it is December, it clearly is too cold to play in her right now (hell, it's damn near too cold to play around her), so I witness her beauty from afar on a rest area bluff near our home. Directly in front of me is Mt. Jefferson; Prominent and tall against the blue skies. A small ring of clouds surrounds the base of the mountain, I've decided that it looks like a small white tulle tu-tu. As I study the mountain and it's cloud tu-tu, I feel the sun warm the left side of my face, channeling it's rays in from the southwest. I've come here to write, and to allow myself to just get lost mentally.

Thanks to the snow covered ground though, I can't seem to stay concentrated enough to write for more than 30 minutes without jumping out of my heated car to go play in the snow. I am the only one around for at least a mile, maybe more. I dance around and write words in the snow, snapping photos left and right, knowing in my heart that my photos will never capture the essence and the joy that I am feeling. I also feel my cold toes though, hibernating in my wool socks. I am usually one to ride my boundaries and push through the cold, but I know that I have to cram these toes into ski boots come Sunday, so I need to listen to them when they say "Yo--I am cold--Stop prancing around and warm me up."

I texted Adrienne a picture of me alongside the lake and with just the text: "me and my lake"
Her response: "You look beautiful in your element."

I feel it that connection when I am out in my desert world, whether it be absorbed by sun or snow. I feel grounded within my element.

My phone vibrates as Adrienne sends me a photo of her dancing in a yogi-esque pose against the red rocks of Moab. I suddenly feel that she understands the exact elation that I feel now. Two Willamette Valley nerds who can't seem to escape the allure of the desert. There is definitely something about that desert sunshine despite the outside temperature.

The desert has a way of calling people home to their inner Self and spirit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Back from hiatus

Getting back into writing is a funny thing. I guess I didn't know how to pick back up after so many months. Where do you even start? How do you even start?

"Once upon a time..." no.
"Hello friends!" no.
"Joining us live from Oregon, here's Melissa!" no.

Let's not pretend that I didn't have things to write about or talk about during my unexplainable blogging hiatus--we all know that my mind runs a million miles an hour constantly. My pens still fill the thin lines of my various journals. My pencils still attack the white spaces of any current book I'm reading as I relate and debate the material that the authors present to me.

I don't enjoy playing catch up. I enjoy telling the now and discussing the moment. Whether it may be current climbing endeavors, stories and realizations from the trails, or even just thoughts from my bed on those sleepless nights. As of late, I continue to piece my self worth and confidence back together as I work through the constant battle of unhealthy eating habits, feeling myself becoming stronger as the seasons roll along. My calendar continues to fill with various trips and outings. My love life has flourished; now blessed by a man who sets me free, all the while holding me close as we talk about both the now and the future.

The holidays are upon us, and I've got a 2 week date with the desert. One of which will be blanketed in the Oregon snow, and the other seared by the Arizona sun. Lord knows the desert brings out the best in me.

I look forward to getting back into the groove.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


As I covered my hands with the airy dust of climbing chalk, I could feel my body and mind ignite; My white small hands placed strategically on the warm desert rock. 
Why did I have to stop doing this? Was it really so bad?
I felt powerful and full of lust when I hit the wall, like returning to a forbidden lover. 

I climb and I twist, moving through the route, following the routine.
My muscles awake and my skin shreds across my fingertips and palms as if resurrecting callouses. 
My body surges heat and my mind silences. 

My whole summer was dedicated to balance, but what I lacked was participating in a sport that gave me the strongest sense of balance. My mind and energy drifted and before my eyes, and the season is changing now; fall is patiently waiting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nature and Body: A Beautiful Relationship

I promise that I won't let Monday's post take over my blog, but I did want to share this; Passed along from my mother.

As a community we can do more to instill love through pure beauty.

"It is up to you to nurture your particular branch of the Tree of Life and keep it healthy. If you would save the planet, begin by honoring and loving yourself. Please stop feeding your ancient shame. Please stop telling yourself you are ugly. Please stop analyzing your physical imperfections. Your body is exactly as nature intended it to be. You are perfect and beautiful. You are worthy of all the love in the world, and your story matters."

From: Aphrodite's Daughters

Your story, my story, his story, her cousin's friend's great-uncle's fish's story, matters.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I promised a follow-up

So here we are: three weeks along in acupuncture. A mess of needles, Chinese suction globes, and hickey-esque bruises scattered throughout my stomach and back.
I don't understand it; I can't explain it. But I feel it.
I feel the charge, and the pain, and the "blocks".
I feel the release, and the movement.
I don't understand it, but I don't need to, because it brings me peace.

With a summer which ranged from daytrips to my local and favorite national parks, bike rides to my local scenic escapes,  week long road trips to discover new places, the essential coffee (and wine) dates with friends, and dinners with the "family", this summer for me has been a summer of growth.
The summer started out shaky as medical issues uncovered themselves leaving me with medical bills and treatments accompanied with the ever looming possibility of further surgery. My physical world, my body, was out of balance. Not quite strong enough to fight for itself, needing just an extra medical hand to get my cells back into motion.

It's a scary thing to be told that "You can't fight this battle alone. You need help; Please take action and let us help you".

As if that wasn't enough, my physical world wasn't the only thing out of synch. It was through a summer of yoga, professional guidance, and acupuncture, that I admitted to myself, that "I can't fight this alone". Thankfully though, I didn't have to. I have the greatest support network in the world, but I needed to recognize that it was going to get a lot darker before I reconnected with the light.

I am choosing to write about this my summer battle publicly, and it has taken me months to decide whether or not to do so. I was moved to do so by a friends blog post from about a year ago as she wrote about the unfortunate hardships of pregnancy, and this latest elephant journal post about apologizing to our wonderful selves and our bodies (Read it here. No seriously. Read it).

Fact is world, I have an eating disorder.
And this is the first time that I have found the truest sense of defeat and yet the strongest sense of hope.

My body never held me back. I never needed to stop skiing, yoga, climbing, hiking, running, etc. because of my physical shape. My head held me back. Seeing 155 on the scale every single god damn day despite working out 5 days a week and climbing like a fool, held me back.

I heard doctors, and family say "muscle weighs more than fat" over and over again, but I didn't hear it. I longed to be 135. I never felt influenced by the media the same way that many women with eating disorders have. I didn't compare myself to professional athletes, well--because I wasn't a professional athlete. I am my own biggest critic. I accept everyone for their body type, I really don't see size in other people, so why do I see it in myself?

I recognize that without physical activity and engagement, I don't have much. I need activity in my life. I need to know that I can always at any given moment, take off and play; And play=calories. Anorexia was not for me. I understood the science that energy and mental alertness was a product of my food choices. Plus, I like good wine and good micro-brews (Thank you, Willamette Valley), and no one likes the drunk girl, so I knew I needed food in my belly. So I began to purge. The good ol' finger down the hatch trick.

It became a part of my nightly ritual. Wash face, vomit, brush teeth, read, zzzzzzz.
Here's the kicker. I didn't lose any weight. I just got more and more defeated.
So I cracked. I poured out my defeat to a therapist, and acupuncturist, my four parents, and a small small number of my closest friends. I didn't stop purging, and I would be a liar if I told you that last night I didn't purge. But I have turned my love inwards and taken my own soul to hold as if saying "Melissa, you can do this. You are beautiful."

And I can. I have made huge strides already. I just didn't realize that I was making them. By allowing my soul to take over during hikes, by surrounding myself with friends, by curling up on the couch with my main man, Sly, I realized that all along I was telling myself "you deserve yourself".

I write today for myself.
I recover today for my youngest sister, Madalyn.
I restore because love is transferable. Love is the most powerful movement.
I work daily though acupuncture, yoga, dancing in the car, ice cream breaks, and high-fives, because I have a commitment to myself.

Loving yourself is hard. Respecting your body is even harder. So here is my own letter to myself:

Dear Body,

You're really something else, ya know that?
I have put you through so much. We have been broken together and we have healed together.
We have fallen off a lot of things, and I mean a lot of things.
Remember your first red-point? Remember your first summit? Remember laying in bed after your first 26 mile hike and having to call your boss the next day to say that you literally couldn't get out of bed because you were so sore?
Remember your first partner? Remember the first time you were your own partner?
We've slept together on dirt paths, in the back of the Subaru, in the tent, in the bed.
We have traveled together, and explored new countries together.
I'm sorry that you'll never fit into a pair of size four jeans again. These hips are too powerful for that size nowadays. Hey-thanks for these hips and this ass by the way.
I'm sorry that part our nightly routine now includes bonding while heaving. I promise that with time, we can find a better alternative.
We've had a lot of fun. I never gave you enough credit, but you and I, are a damn good team.
I'm working on loving all 155 of you, I really am.
We have so much ahead for us. So many more countries to get to, so many more climbs to red-point, and SO much more great food/beer/wine to try.
I promise to respect you more.
The best is yet to come.


Monday, July 23, 2012

There's a first time for everything

Photo Credit: Leslie Vigient
I just got back from my first acupuncture appointment. Good lord.

Even with the strong referral, it took me nearly a month to get in with this particular doctor. A petite woman with salt and peppered hair which accented her vibrant red framed glasses, showcasing the perfect blend of art and professionalism. This doctor was soft in nature like a grandmother, but firm and direct like a mother. I felt comfortable in telling her my life stories alongside my deepest medical and personal goals and secrets. She welcomed my honesty, and yet she still left me wondering if I answered her question "right".

Her office smelled of Chinese herbs and soft music absorbed the white noise and anxiety of all clients (definitely including the anxiety of this first-timer). Countertops were covered in needle boxes, suction glass balls, kleenex, and standard medical additions such as gauze and bandages. I clearly knew what acupuncture was going into it, so the needle aspect of acupuncture wasn't an issue for me. Between the blood draws for my thyroid and various tattoos and piercings that I have, I for some reason I trusted this stranger to stab me.

And she did.

After the face-to-face consult, I stripped down to my underwear and stood in front of her allowing her hands to trace my chi flow and my blocks. We talked about pains and naturally I brought up my never ending ability (and need) to crack my neck and roll my shoulders. She smiled humbly and said "I am not surprised at all from someone who was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease at 14." She explained to me the relationship between nerves and chi flow as she pointed out that where I carry my thyroid in the front of my throat, just around the corner in the same place, there sat my top vertebrae (Disclosure: I am not a medical professional, and by no means do I know technical medical terms, so just roll with my "medical" explanations here). She later asked if I had a stressful and anxious upbringing, because apparently getting Hashimoto's at 14 was quite a  young age to be diagnosed, and I briefly revealed to her the "shuffle" of my childhood. Apparently having a dad who moved in and out of marriages frequently affected my physical self more than I thought. But of course it did. I scrambled at a young age to make a name for myself and hold on to any sense of identity that being a Carlin had.

She chuckled as she traced my back, letting me know that I was giving her quite the project to work on as she said "It's a mess back there!" Yes, yes it is. She had me lay on the table on my back and opened up the flow in my legs. The needles didn't hurt. The prick didn't hurt. It was the sudden pain and movement that caught me off guard leaving me wincing. I felt like there was sharp electric currents streaming from my hips, to my toes. Opening up vents of circulation as if they were a dam to a river. She opened up my "vents" on both legs before having me switch over and lay on my stomach so that she could tackle my back. After what felt like a back massage, she counted seven main blocks and then literally stabbed needles into those seven spots. Uncomfortable, but not awful. She then lit the suctions and placed them accordingly (I have no idea where, or how, by this point my back was on fire with those feel-like electrical currents) and lined key spots along my lower back, and hips to further continue the flow of chi and energy.

This whole process lasted 90 minutes. We finished and I felt overwhelmed with both relaxation and confusion on what the hell just happened to me. Yet, I felt good. Really good. We scheduled seven more appointments (2 a week), and I took my checkbook and purse to the car to just sit there and reflect. What were those "currents"? How can I explain this feeling to others? How can I explain that this was oh-so uncomfortable, yet oh-so recharging and stimulating?

I look forward to seeing how this progresses as the sessions move along. She told me that the first appointment is always the most "uncomfortable" because you are breaking the biggest blocks, and from there it becomes alignment and flow energy.

I don't get it, and yet I recommend it. Has anyone else gotten acupuncture treatment before? What are your experiences?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dharma Code

Last summer I worked my way through Rod Stryker's book, The Four Desires. Recommended and praised throughout the local yoga community, this meditation and exercise book aims to teach readers how they can take control to achieve a rich and fulfilling life. Skeptical at first (I was convinced it was some kind of  "don't jump!" book), I was pleasantly surprised by Stryker's approach and found myself looking forward to the various activities and meditative practices.

As summer carried along, my notebooks filled and my mind remained blissfully distracted as I let myself get wrapped up in the beauty that an Oregon summer has to offer. I finished off The Four Desires, making a new home for it on the book shelf and moved along throughout my summer reading list. Many people know my love for books and the spell that a bound book has on me. Whether it's the crisp scent and cracking sound that a hardback makes the first time you fold back its cover, or the rich character of a favorite book; Mine often polluted with bobby pins aiding as book marks, folded down corners, and pencil markings. I take pride in watching my collection grow and smile when new books find their place among the colorful spines of its new neighbors against my black shelves. 

I hadn't thought about The Four Desires since I had finished it. I didn't see myself ever re-reading it like I did so often with favorites such as East of Eden and The Sun Also Rises. Yet this past week, I pulled out last summer's notebook and plopped on the couch, in search of a quote that I knew came from another book that I had read the previous summer. As I searched for the quote my eyes caught notes from the work that I had done with The Four Desires, and there right in front of me in black ink was my dharma code.

[What the hell is a dharma code? Below is an except from the book describing it:]
"When you know and choose to serve your soul's driving reason for being -- what I call your dharma code -- you are able to collect and channel extraordinary power into your life because you are then linked to the infinite field of energy and intelligence that shapes our world. Once you are rooted in your soul's defining purpose, you are able to use your dharma code to direct every action and decision from the light of your soul.

A dharma code is each person's individual expression of his/her dharma or soul's purpose. It is a statement that clarifies your soul's reason for being. When acted upon, it is a principle that will benefit not just your own dharma, but the larger or universal expression of it as well. In uncovering and articulating your dharma code, you are providing the opportunity for your soul to direct you to be more fully yourself, and in so doing, to contribute more effectively to the benefit of the world.

According to the ancient teachings, each and every one of us is born with a distinct and glorious purpose. Thus, your soul's unique purpose -- your dharma code -- is hard-wired. It is not something you consciously decide. Your soul's purpose came into this world with you, even if you are not yet aware of it. It has always been a part of you. It's up to you to uncover it -- to bring it to a conscious level -- and then make living by it your priority."

I was disappointed with myself to see my dharma code tucked away in a shelved notebook, so I have decided to resurrect it. I spent a lot of time developing this damn thing!  May I remember this as I work through the summer, forced to adjust my activities. May I remember this as I look for new work, eager to blend my love of fundraising with the outdoor and arts community. May I remember this as I wake up in the morning and look at my reflection in the mirror.

I present to you, my dharma code:

"Embrace that you are always changing. 
Always giving. Always discovering. 
Stay purposeful, but live freely."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't Stop, Won't Stop

It doesn't take much to make me smile these days.
Despite new medical diagnoses, my smiles flourish.
You cannot stop. 

You cannot stop the blushing of romance.
You cannot stop the summer sun reflecting off of the crisp pages of a good book.
You cannot stop the power of friends gathered together.
The trails and the trees.
Notebooks with honest words.
The purity of live music and the freedom of dancing.

You cannot stop, joy.

I look forward to writing more now that my schedule has slowed from work. I look forward to climbing again--my hands too smooth after not climbing for two weeks--most importantly though, I look forward to connecting.

While I am here, I figured that I'd share a snip-it from the Big Easy Express that I appropriately came across this morning. Consider it your five minute banjo therapy for the day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I'm not surprised that I haven't blogged in roughly a month.
I have been busy.

Busy with wonderful, celebratory happenings such as birthdays, BBQ's, and dinners with the "Family".
So why haven't I written?

Because none of these events, though fabulous, had the ability to ground me.

It wasn't until I let my feet hit the soil this past Saturday that I felt my mind revert to a state of imagination, creativity and excitement. Alongside my dear friend, Adrienne, I felt her connection as our auras simultaneously aligned, preparing us for the day ahead.

With no concept or concern of distance, we hiked the switch-back trail catching up like old friends do. We stopped to take photos, and I got my dose of biology as she educated me on the families and origins of the plants that we passed. A true plant physiologist that woman is. (Ad--I found myself thinking about Bracken, Maidenhair, and Lady Ferns while eating my breakfast this morning. What have you done to me?). As you can also see in the photo, I got a lesson in which plants were edible. Though delicious, I remained skeptical, fearing that I would accidentally eat the wrong type and wind up dead.

With no true agenda for the day, we allowed ourselves to escape and cling to nature; I felt as my mind and soul dropped it's guard and welcomed the reunion; asking for acceptance and unity. Being typical 24 year-olds, Adrienne and I continuously find ourselves trying to navigate the world of love, meanwhile fighting to make a name for ourselves in order to keep our independence as women, professionals, and mentors. We talked about the tender love of a long-term partner and the excitement of a new crush, the turmoil and the elation that goes with dating, and the pain and the forgiveness of relationships; all while shamelessly thanking and praising our outlets: hiking, yoga, climbing, and writing, as our saving graces for our daily sanity.

Working our way past Fairy Falls towards the Devils Rest Summit, we found ourselves alongside a creek with a powerful current just gentle enough to invite us to play on her slippery rocks, logs, and mud. I felt my chest relax as I approached the water, ears stimulated over the rush, my eyes locked on to the waters path. Dancing with the elevation, flirting with large rocks and fallen trees, she made her deceleration to the forest that this was her course, but all are welcome. You couldn't stop this dance, she was full of direction, ready to adapt to protect her needs.

Adrienne and I found ourselves continuously in awe of instances such as these that displayed nature's ability to adapt and re-purpose itself within its environment. As easily as the fallen trees became a part of the creeks "tango", dozens of trees warped their strong foundation, altering the direction of growth in order to maximize sunlight. This environment is a continuum of adaptation. That very adaptation is what made them beautiful to me. On the trail we passed many perfectly erect trees, solid in their roots, beaming from the sun's rays--but my heart was with those who were twisting and leaning, and those that had fallen.

In attempt to figure out why I was so enamored with those unique trees, I began to parallel my own experiences to the trees.  As I fight towards my personal path of enlightenment, I pride myself on leading a life that continually challenges me. Just as those trees fought for extra sunlight, I fight to make myself stronger. I adapt to the changes at work, the dynamics of growing friendships, potential love interests, etc.

It was then that I realized that when Adrienne and I discussed our desire to love, truly love, I discovered why I was drawn to the logs in the creek as well as the trees that fought for their fuel source: It was because I see myself in those trees. Constantly adapting. Constantly working towards betterment. More so, I see my future partners in those trees. I love the unique qualities and the visible drive to obtain their enlightenment. I see the beauty of growth.

I haven't written, because I haven't been grounded.
I haven't been grounded because I haven't taken the time to listen to my surroundings.

Life reminds us that adaptation is necessary, nature reminds us that adaptation makes you beautiful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Only Good Fight

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don't even start.

This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe your own mind.
It could mean not eating for three or four days.
It could mean freezing on a park bench.
It could mean jail.
It could mean derision.
It could mean mockery. Isolation.

Isolation is the gift. All the others are tests of your endurance. Of how much you really want to do it. And you'll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds. And it'll be better than anything else you can imagine.

If you're going to try, go all the way.

There's no other feeling like that, you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. You'll ride straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."
-Bukowski, Factotum

Friday, May 4, 2012

Madalyn's Desert Focus

My youngest sister, Mads took this photo from our property in Central Oregon. I loved it too much not to share.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Screen Shot Anxiety on the Wall

It goes without saying that I feel that I have been re-born. My energy feels lighter and my meditation feels more natural. My connections with others are stronger.

But my growth is not done.

I had an out of body experience last week, and hesitated to write about it in fear that I wouldn't be able to accurately explain the feeling, only to realize that that was the essence of writing, is it not?

Even though it is spring here in Oregon, the surrounding rock climbing areas remain wet and there aren't any closer than an hours driving distance. So when you have that post work itch to climb you suck it up, grab a buddy and head to the rock gym.

I hit the gym with my buddy Karen and as I slid my harness on, I felt "off". My harness, which acts as a constant aid of comfort, now felt foreign and wrong. In hopes to buy some time to shake this alarming feeling off, I sent Karen on her way up first. New to the sport she carefully placed her hands and feet on the appropriate holds, working her way up to the top with determination. I enjoy watching her work through the mental game of climbing. I watched below as she gauged the reach above and questioned if that dime sized nub could in fact balance her weight. It's one of the most fun parts about teaching someone how to climb in my opinion. When someone is on the wall it is as if you can be in their mind with them.

That particular day I choose to warm up on a basic 5.9+, a laughable grade to any experienced climber, but I was looking to get into the groove for the evening of climbing ahead and have a little fun. I've warmed up on this route for about a month now. Moulin Rouge. Outlined appropriately by red colored tape, leaving you bending and twisting, stretching and shifting similarly to the women on that enticing stage in Paris. I feel confident on that easy run, almost dare I say, sexy?

Still unable to shake this feeling of unease, I immediately clung to this red dance of a route seeking its comfort and rhythmic flow. I couldn't find it. So instead I manned my way up the climb lacking passion or fun. This is supposed to be a physical warm up as well as a mental warm up, and instead I faced the realization that this was going to be a long night of climbing ahead.

Next I desperately threw myself onto a 5.10 in hopes to wake myself up and as I worked my way up the wall my body went onto autopilot, taking over the climb, working itself to the top meanwhile my mind quickly separated itself entirely from the climb and the experience.

Being a visual person is an incredible gift. I pride myself on my ability to visualize; whether it be photographic memory of a shopping list, or meeting minutes, or the ability to hear a song and place myself back into the mental scene where the song was first introduced to me. With that said, I've also learned that that being a visual person with anxiety, has the ability that allows your mind to remove itself from the situation at hand, pan out, and visually map out your anxiety. A stronger trip than any drug has ever given me. Unforgiving and manic, yet refreshing and concrete.

About 20 feet off the wall that day I suddenly found myself mapping my anxiety; the catalyst was when I caught myself thinking "I miss Jared." Frankly I am surprised I didn't fall off the wall right then and there. I remember specifically thinking "Woah Carlin, lock it up." and from there my mind took off, all the while my body worked its way up the wall naturally, apparently without thought. I was able to mentally visualize what I can only explain as screen shots of events and pictures of my thoughts and "placed" them into the form of a linear map.  I felt removed from my body and it's actions and drifted as my mind took over, allowing me to both visualize and place the chaos.

Somewhere around 40' I had finished strategically placing and arranging  those "screen shots" and had completed the linear train of thought which illustrated why I felt so much anxiety about climbing that day.

Here's what I learned: I missed the coaching of Jared. I find this slightly humorous because I taught him to climb too, though he quickly caught up to my level where we then assisted in coaching each other, helping the other one grow into the sport. I don't miss Jared as a partner, but I realized that I do miss him as a climbing partner. I have become the coach of climbing this past year (odd because I am a relatively novice climber myself), but when I slipped on my harness that day, I needed to be coached, not coach someone else. I realized that I have been giving all the pep talks, but that anxious day in particular, I needed a pep talk to help get me ready and excited (even it if was just a dumb gym climb) and when I felt myself struggle on a familiar route, I panicked. It is a scary thing when you go to do something you love and it no longer feels comforting. Just as easily as I could organize my "screen shot" thoughts I was able to flip that same map into a check off list and talk myself down, eventually getting my mind back into its respective state of sanity.

Moving forward with the climb. Moving along in peace.

My post playlist:
Crazy Eyes-Old Crow Medicine Show
Gunfight In Durango- Chatham County Line
Classy Girls-The Lumineers
Big Sciota- Old Crow Medicine Show
You're the One I Want-  Chris and Thomas
Harrisburg- Josh Ritter

Monday, April 23, 2012

A weekend of sun for Oregonians

The weather man said it would 70-75 degrees (which was enough to get any Oregonian pumped.)
He was wrong.
It was 85-90 this weekend in the valley, and it.was.incredible.

Oregonian outdoor enthusiasts went to bed Friday night daydreaming of their weekend expeditions ahead. Mentally cross checking gear lists, questioning if they had remembered to fill the tank for the Subaru, visualizing trail directions, etc.; a process that allows an overwhelming sense of relaxation to wash over them, guiding them into a deep sleep preparing their bodies for the weekend ahead.

I was one of them. Friday night I fell asleep dreaming about the Silver Star South Trail Loop that I would conquer with my friend Karen and youngest sister Madalyn the next day.

Despite the fact that I didn't get home until 2:30 a.m. Friday night (technically Saturday morning) from a night out with my friends in the Athletics dept., I bounced out of bed Saturday morning at 7:00 like a kid bounces out of bed on Christmas morning. After months of waking up and having to drag myself out of bed, it felt wonderful to spring out of bed again. I finished packing up and hit the road picking up my passengers and Dutch Brothers along the way.

Driving to the trails is always a refreshing feeling, but driving with the sunroof open, music loud, and sun beaming on your face is the ultimate energy. We headed north to Washington and navigated our way through the back roads that would leave any GPS unit "searching for route", and after a stunning 2 hour drive, we were there. A simple 9 mile hike through the trees....and snow.

Karen surveying our snowy situation.
We accounted for snow as we packed up by bringing our waterproof hiking boots and figured that through some parts of the trail we would need to stomp our way through; Afterall, we were 5,000 feet up (and the trail itself was a 2,000+ elevation gain) and it was still April in the Pac NW, but we had no idea what was ahead for us. As we climbed our way north on the trail, the snow patches became more frequent and a hell of a lot deeper. Thankfully--Karen, Mads, and I all have a great sense of humor where we were able to laugh at the snow as well as our inability to cross these straights without sinking knee deep in snow. After about another two miles of snow trekking, we got to the point where it was obvious that we should have brought our snow shoes and we couldn't continue on. So we hiked our way back down and got ourselves back down to the car, studied some maps and found another trail (snow free!) and spent the rest of the afternoon hiking and playing around there.

We got back into town around 5:00 and the sun was still scorching. There was no way I was going to call it a day just yet, so I called up my friend Danny (who is always down for a bike ride), and switched pack for pack and headed out with him. We went up to an old part of town that my friend Adrienne introduced to me our senior year of college. It was the back side of a cemetery just outside of town that overlooked the surrounding valley. I hadn't been there since the previous summer season and the grass and cherry blossom trees welcomed me like an old friend. Laying on our backs looking up at the tree, rich with pink blossoms against the vibrant blue skies, we noticed all the life above us. Bees actively went flower to flower drinking in the pollen, as we similarly drank in the sun. We spotted lady bugs along the branches, crawling with ease as they wandered around with what seemed like no place to go. It was the perfect way to wind down to the day. The picture I took of the moment doesn't begin to convey the sights and sounds; then again, why would we ever want to capture that essence completely?

Lisa with Alma Desnuda
I finished off my Saturday celebrating my friend Lisa's 30th with our friends and one of her favorite bands Alma Desnuda who were playing at a local bar in Salem (followed, of course, by finishing out at the pub for a night of celebration and karaoke).

Sunday we regressed to the days of our youth. I awoke to the rays of sun on my face and again was quick to get out of bed and treat myself to a pancake breakfast. The morning was easy company, and in the afternoon I headed over to Danny's with the Athletic Dept. crew for an afternoon of beer, yard games, and homerun derby. We played as if we were 10 year old neighborhood kids. I stand by the fact that sunshine does in fact bring the most genuine laughter and smiles. Desperate for the sun, our pasty white skin soaked up the sun, leaving us scrambling for aloe vera at the end of the day. It's funny how out of routine you get when it comes to sunscreen.

As I sit here in my office, I wear my smile and my sunburned shoulders proudly. But I am not the only one. Campus today seems a bit lighter, the smiles on the faces more prominent, the "hello's" more genuine. Bike racks become polluted as we all retire our cars and pedal our way to work/school. Any one who lives in Oregon knows this love for the sun. When we get it, we feel spoiled and take full advantage of our days. We pray to the weather gods to please let this sunshine stick around forever, yet none of us dare remove the fenders from our bicycles.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Beauty of Reality

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."
-Lao Tzu
Photo Courtesy of: Blinded by the Sun

Thursday, April 12, 2012


The sunsets of the desert remind me of the fresh fruit market vendors adjacent to my apartment in Athens.

Closing each day with purpose, the market owners pulled down their metal gates with experienced ease.
Without words, they were sending a kind reminder that tomorrow, we open again.

I can't watch a desert sunset without thinking of the fluid motion and downward glide of those gates.

As I play in the deserts rich red soil, and run alongside hills of sage and juniper; I  am truly living.
Outside and free, I am powered by daylight as it re-energizes and stimulates my soul.
This same daylight stimulation fuels the hustle and the bustle of the ayopa (market).
The dance of life's balance continues.

Though eventually dusk approaches, streaking the darkening skies with orange, red, and yellow;
The distant mountains and buttes become silhouettes in this quickly developing canvas of color.
A message to all outdoors, that dark is approaching. It is closing time.

Desert sunsets, much similar to the fluid glide of those closing gates act as aids of transition.
Making promises to return tomorrow.
Leaving us with a comfort and a trust that tomorrow, we become alive.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


"Giving simply means, I'm healed enough to help"

Yesterday I got home from one of my most moving expeditions to date. 

Awhile back my friend Lisa and I signed onto being Alternative Break advisers on campus. Alt. Break is a program for students to go and serve in diverse communities during their summer, winter, and spring breaks. The students get no credit for their hard work, and have to fundraise for the cost of the trip.

Spring Break 2012: 8 girls, 2 advisers, Missoula, MT.  We were set, until the snow came. The passes from Oregon to Montana were looking brutal, and due to the fact that Lisa and I were in charge of safely transporting the girls from A-to-B (in a 12 passenger van) and back, we decided as a team to cancel Montana (less than a week from when we were supposed to depart) and instead, quickly find service opportunities within the homeless community in nearby (and snow-free), Seattle, WA.

During our week of service we had the opportunity to work with 4 great community organizations, some we worked with for only a day, and others that we spent multiple days with, such as Operation Sack Lunch where we split our time between their Compass Center shelter and their outdoor meal site. (I have listed the links and mission statements of all four organizations below, if you would like to read up the organizations.), but what I really wanted to write about tonight was:

What I learned during my service within the Seattle homeless community:

-You can work hard your whole life and suddenly have everything taken away from you. Homelessness can happen to anyone, not just those who are battling drug/alcohol abuse. Because of this, spend your life living. Your 20's will rocket past you, your 30's will come too soon, your 40's start the cycle of aging, etc.. Do what makes you happy, and be grateful (while still remaining humble) for all you have.

-Most shelter clients feel the need to fake elation when volunteers come to do service in order to avoid pity. When it comes to picking a partner to share your lunch with, bypass the charismatic jester of the shelter and go find the real people, and respect them enough to show then your real self as well.

-As a volunteer, the greatest gift you can give is a smile. Sure the warm food and warm words are great and all, but all day these community members are looked down upon, so take the time to see them as your community members and be genuine.

-Listen to their advice. Just because they don't have a place to live, does not mean they have not lived.

-The number one thing that nearly all of my lunch partners told me was to "get educated."

-Often most homeless men and women have jobs, and some even have multiple, it.just.isn't.enough.

-Some of the girls on the trip would get worked up because some of the shelter clients would tell them "lies" about their days before homelessness--Let them lie. This is the story that they want you to hear. Don't question this, allow yourself to ride along on the story. Never take this story away from them.

-We are all on this journey together.

I will never forget the lunch conversations and meals that I shared, with Leon, Martin, and Carl, and they'll never know the impact of their words and honesty.
I will never forget the tone of the hundreds of "thanks" that I heard all week. I have worked in the non-profit world for nearly 5 years, and never have I heard such genuine "thank you's".
I will never forget the pride in their faces as they spoke about home

The essence of being a volunteer is to make a positive impact, but the power of service is in the positive impact that is given to us by those we've served.

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS)
Mission: "To provide support services to Seattle area homeless youth and young adults. Our committed efforts are targeted at providing stepping stones to transition youths from the streets to self-sufficiency and productive roles in community." 
To learn more about PSKS, click here. 

Operation Sack Lunch
Mission: "To provide dignity, care and compassion through action with the example that each person can make a difference. To educate and advocate acceptance and understanding of each others differences. To ultimately bring about the realization that we are all a part of this world and with extended effort put an end to homelessness, hunger and hatred"
To learn more about Operation Sack Lunch, click here.

Operation Night Watch
Mission: " Operation Night Watch is an interdenominational ministry serving the poor and homeless by providing food and shelter to 150-170 men and women every night. We also operate 24 units of low-income housing for seniors, and have been reaching out to those on the streets since the 1960's."
To learn more about Op. Night Watch, click here.

First Church Men's Shelter: Blaine Center
Mission: "Blending compassion and caring with effective programs and unique services, the people and programs at each of Compass Housing Alliance's locations promote dignity, self esteem, and respect for self and others. One-on-one case management identifies the issues that led to street life and helps each person set his own goals. The Men's Inn Program at the Blaine Center provides overnight shelter for sixty men, including case management, shelter, meals, and storage."
To learn more about the Blaine Center, click here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Date a girl who reads

Happy Friday! 
Photo Courtesy of Piccsy
As a "girl who reads" I approve this message:

"...If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She'll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she's sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why you heart hasn't burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you're better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes."

~From Rosemarie Urquico's "A Girl You Should Date" (read the whole thing here)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Daze of Spring

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” 
-Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Fact: I love spring.

Spring is a season of growth, patience, goals, and dreaming. It is a season of reflection and re-energizing. It is a season of beauty.

I think it's safe to say that everyone loves the summer, but I believe that few can appreciate the true beauty of spring. Spring is a mental escape for me. It's an opportunity to gear up and set goals for the summer weeks just around the corner.

While I do play year-round, winter is naturally a slower time adventure-wise for me. Hiking muddy trails below dark gray skies, eventually wears you thin. Camping below these same skies can actually exaggerate the turmoil of my days and heart. Convincing friends to get out with me during this foul season proves to be tough, but through the years I have found that the winter hiking season is a time to fly solo, focus on me, and reflect on my needs--For better or worse.

Photo: Piccsy
Even sitting here typing this post, the skies outside my office window are an overcast gray, and rain falls with intention, yet, something is different. A new season is upon us, a new promise that the days are getting longer, and the skies will soon brighten. This is a promise that keeps me up at night, excitedly planning out routes, details, and studying maps, locking up weekends. I watch as my calendar fills up with road trips and backpacking dates. My vacation time accrues, and my travel savings account grows (slowly, but hey-it'll get there.), as the skies brighten, I too brighten.

The excitement of Spring goes beyond planning fun excursions with friends and getting out of the state for long road trips, sunroof open, shades on, packs in the back--It carries over into our jobs, our love life, and our relationships with others. Spring is a time to love. A time to trust. A time to go out on a limb.

Photo: Piccsy
I love spring because it's a time to be daring. Your dreams become more bold, your excitement levels are high, your heart more open. Creativity beams.

I will ask you all to take care of your creative Self this Spring. Journal, make lists, blog, create, whatever you need to do to become a part of this season of growth. Accept the flirtation, be honest, be you.

This season is beautiful, you are beautiful.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


"We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it."
-Wendell Berry

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have started and deleted many posts in the past few weeks; never quite feeling proud of the outcome or the direction of my posts. My inability to center my thoughts, and in turn allow my mind to eloquently paint my emotions through flowing sentences seemed impossible and at times daunting. So in the end, I always deleted the attempt and walked away. Communication takes grace as well as time; it is a process.

The biggest thing I have needed to communicate lately is that Jared has moved out. My home is mine again. This was a difficult thing for me to write about because I didn't want to write slanderous, or ill words about him, yet I didn't want the world to think that I was jumping for joy either. This has been a long few weeks, but every day I wake up feeling stronger and stronger, repairing my environment and rebuilding my Self.

After he was moved out, I stood and stared blankly at my house that we had made a home. Oddly enough, I felt emotionless. No wave of sadness, elation, or loneliness. I just started adjusting. I started basic by rearranging rooms in the house, naturally starting with my spare bedroom that was once his. I moved my bikes as well as my snow skis back onto their respective wall mounts that had been installed last May, before Jared moved in. (If you missed that episode about what went into those things getting hung up, you can read about it here), I then neatly arranged my packs, climbing gear, tents, etc. into beautifully organized shelving units. A perfect reminder that I was graced with a love for the outdoors that I could always find peace in.

It was then time to clean. This became...obsessive. Obsessively therapeutic. I discovered that cleaning a man out of my home was easy, cleaning his dog out of my home proved to be a more difficult task. She was a clean dog for the most part, at times she smelled like most wet muddy trail dogs do, but her hair was everywhere. The carpets were the first to get cleaned thanks to her. The more I vacuumed and shampooed, the more my home was quickly losing it's sense of Marley and Jared. But it didn't stop at the carpets. I washed the tile, I scrubbed the kitchen (counters, stove, fridge, everything.), scrubbed the bathrooms down, I washed the walls in my house (No joke.), I cleaned for nearly two days. When all was said and done though, my gross 1980's apartment was immaculate.

But it still didn't feel like mine. I decided to dump the gross couches that I have been living with for years now, and bought some nicer couches off of a friend who was moving out East. I then went out and bought new wall art and an area rug. Buying these items was hard for me. I am never one to spend my money on material possessions for my home. "Home" for me was always a crash pad, never ever an investment. But for some reason, I needed this home feeling in this process. A realization that has left me more than confused. I have yet to figure it out. Ideas?

Just like my apartments ability to adjust, I too have adjusted. The beauty of eating my morning cereal in my underwear, dancing around my living room listening to 90's female rap artists (Missy, Lil Kim, Salt N Peppa, Eve, etc.) and showering with the bathroom door open again felt natural; these are things I haven't done since Jared moved in last July. He never stopped me from doing those things, I just stopped myself from doing them because he was there. As the days continue to go on, I begin to rediscover the simplest things about my home, and I cant physically hold back my smile.

It feels so good to smile again.

When Jared and I ended, I never stopped doing what I loved. I didn't stop seeing my friends, enjoying a good glass of red wine, or getting outside to play, but at the end of every day, I walked through the door of our home. I didn't realize how much that drained my energy. But now, after a long hike, or a day of climbing, or even just coming home from a day of work, I come home and I am welcomed by the energy that I have created for my Self. It is revitalizing.

Rebuilding is a process.
But I have learned that this process has been easy and so so refreshing; not tedious or exhausting whatsoever as I once anticipated (and dreaded).

So I move forward.
I sit back, and enjoy the process.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's your story?

Tell me your story. Take off your cool. Show me your soul.
Let my eyes see your past and your scars; reveal your inner strength and your outward presence.
Let my smile smirk freely at the possibility of understanding all that you have to share.

Let me run my hands across your body, mapping out your pathways.
Allow my eyes to wander as you continue to reveal your Self layer by layer.
Allow my body to listen to your story through your movements.

Guide me so that I can learn you best.
Introduce me to your flaws, for they reveal your true beauty.
Introduce me to your your passions through the rhythm of your breathing. Channeling, effortlessly.

Tell me your story. Take me through the motions. Let me discover what makes you, you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A promise to myself,

A promise to slow down. 
A promise to step away from my office desk.
A promise to document.

Have I really become too busy to slow down and take some pictures? In this speedy world using camera phones and uploading to mobile albums has become the norm. A norm I thought I would never fall into. But here I am, I haven't used my camera once in 2012, and even worse, the pictures that I have been "tagged" in are bar shots from karaoke. Yuck! Something's gotta give. I have a lot coming up here in the next few months, and I look forward to retiring the camera app on my phone, and busting out my camera once again. Thankfully, there is no better time to start than in Spring.

Spring in general is a time of beauty in Oregon. A season of trails and climbs galore. Smith Rock here I come. I am sick of this gym climbing that winter has forced us all to settle for. Let's retire the rain and get back out to the desert.
Smith Rock, Ore.

Looking at my calendar on the office wall, I am eager to flip to the months ahead. My calendar acts as a visual reminder of motivation. Colorful sharpie writing, highlighted weeks and dates (and a lot of exclamation points)--all showcasing my trips and plans. In March, I see "MISSOULA!", which symbolizes my trip to Montana at the end of the month where I will volunteer my time at a local homeless shelter. April's explosion of highlighter and sharpie screams long weekends to Smith Rock and planned backpacking trips, etc.

From there, summer is present. A season of road trips, celebrations, and adventures- all planned around the constant theme of: get your ass out of that office, and go be outside.

There is no better time to promise myself to point and shoot, be trigger happy, retire the mobile uploads, and capture the beauty.