An Open Letter to My Kids

To my awesome Earth Treks kids:

Life is going to throw you a lot of curveballs. The best approach to these curveballs is going to be to accept them, learn from them, and grow. Be flexible. Not everything is going to turn out the way that you plan. Some things will, but other things won't. A lot of the things you're picturing in your mind for your life right now will change. And not only is that okay, but that's awesome, and real. The absolute best part of life is experiencing what the world has to offer you, soaking it up like a sponge, and growing into the person that you're truly meant to be.

When I was your age, I didn't want kids. Then I met my husband (when I was 20) and BAM. I wanted kids. It just took the right person. When I was your age, I thought I wanted to be a wind conductor (AKA, a fancy band director). Then I went to college, changed my major to Spanish, then journalism, then Chinese. Then I went to grad school and never, ever used that degree.

Now I'm going to be a climbing coach, and at 27 I just finally started to feel like I was allowing myself to be the person I truly am. I always felt different, felt like I was trying really hard to fit in in my social group, or be better than her, or be wealthier than her, or be prettier or skinnier or more fit than her. I am just starting to allow myself to love me and my life for what it is, and to really embrace the things that make my soul happy, and not bother with others' opinions or others' lives. Let me tell you, it is a completely waste of your valuable time and energy. I hope I have used these experiences to show each of you that, even if you have to fight and flounder, you will come out on top.

Be brave.

Always, always be yourself. These are words to live by, words I have had to internalize for myself: Be true to the person you know you are on the inside, and don't spend time trying to be someone you're not to please someone else. Don't pursue a high-powered career if it doesn't feel true to who you are, or if it doesn't make you happy. Don't wear makeup if you hate the expense or the effort, and don't buy fancy clothes just to fit in. Don't compete with others. Don't try to "keep up with the Jones'". Material goods and money are shallow, and temporary, and will not fulfill your soul.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the result of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Steve Jobs 

Thank each of you for your sweet friendships, for teaching me that maybe kids aren't so bad after all, and that I can probably be a parent without completely screwing up my own children. You all have taught me an infinite amount about my own abilities as a climber, as a coach, and as a mentor. Your presence in my life has been invaluable, and I am privileged to call you each my friends and to witness you growing into the wonderful adults you're all going to be. 

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes, the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs

I love each of you to pieces, and I will see you soon. <3
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I Want To Try Climbing, What Should I Do?

At the request of some of my readers, this post is going to be a set of tips for someone who has never tried climbing before, but is considering getting into it. It's not like, "Hey, you know what? I'm a good writer, I think I want to get into blogging." In that case, you can sit down with your computer and start a blog on a free blogging website. "Getting into climbing" is more like "getting into horseback riding," or "getting into sewing". There is a bit more to it than just sitting down and beginning. I mean, you can just walk into your nearest climbing gym and start climbing, but having a set of tips first is going to be super-helpful.

Tip #1: Visit your local climbing gym, and try out climbing during their open climb hours.

This is a bit different at every gym, but in general, most gyms offer certain hours on certain days of the week where people that have never tried climbing before can come in, pay a flat fee (usually called a "day pass"), and try out climbing with an instructor. The instructor will belay you and your friend(s), talk to you about basic climbing techniques, and help you get a feel for what climbing is like. This is how I started climbing - I visited my local climbing gym and participated in open climb for several weekends before I knew for sure that I loved the sport and wanted to get involved full-time.

Tip #2: Wear actual climbing shoes

For some silly reason, I fought this when I first started climbing. I thought I could climb in my sneakers and it wouldn't make a difference. This is hilarious to me now. The climbing shoe is made to fit your foot snuggly, and to gather all your toes (which are each weak on their own) and effectively create one, large, strong "toe". The rubber is sticky and stiff, and helps you stick to smaller and smaller footholds as you advance. Find a shoe that fits your foot like a glove - no hot
spots of pain - and that doesn't slip or slide on your heel or toe. Your toe should fill the tip of the shoe (many climbers [like me] wear their shoes very, very tight to achieve this.)

Seth's first climbing shoes
My first climbing shoes: flat arch, wide toe, fit like a stiff sneaker

My current shoes: aggressive arch, downturned toe, much tighter, fit more like a stiff ballet slipper

Tip #3: Try both roped climbing and bouldering

For the most part, every climber has a preference for one over the other. They both complement each other well, and each climber should continue doing both parts of the sport as they advance. Many beginners shy away from bouldering, because it seems extra-scary because there are no ropes. On the other hand, some beginners end up finding it less scary than roped climbing, because you technically remain much closer to the ground. Try both, because if you don't like the roped climbing that you began with, you may love bouldering - or vice versa.

Tip #4: Make friends with other climbers, or climb with a friend or spouse

Climbing alone is just not as fun as climbing with a partner (in my opinion). You typically can't rope climb at all without a partner (unless your gym has auto belays). Bouldering, though you can do it by yourself, is so much more fun with other climbers, friend(s), or a spouse. They offer encouragement, assistance, and general inspiration - especially if you climb with more advanced climbers, which I highly recommend.

Tip #5: Be brave, and don't be afraid to be seen making mistakes

So many people shy away from climbing because many people will witness you falling off the wall and lookin' a fool. Don't be that guy! Every single climber - even the strongest climbers in the whole world - began where you are. The climbing community is extremely welcoming, kind, patient and helpful, and even the most seasoned climbers typically love helping those just starting out. Make it your goal in your first few weeks of climbing to really put yourself out there, and fall off in front of people a lot. It will build your confidence, allow you to try harder stuff in front of more people and will help kill that fear of being seen as weak.

Climbing is so not for everyone. But, for those that it is for, it will end up consuming your whole life. You will fall madly in love and never want to leave the gym (or the crag). I highly recommend that if you want to give climbing a try, you follow these tips - especially #1! Open climb sessions, especially at gyms that will allow you to also try bouldering during open climb, are a fantastic and easily-accessible way to try out the sport.

Please let me know if you have any questions! I could talk about climbing all day, every day!
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Who Do You Think You Are? #BehindTheBlogger

If there is one thing I've learned since I've become an adult, it's that growing up and becoming the person you truly are takes courage.

I grew up in a lower-income family. I resolved when I was a teenager that I was going to achieve something greater for myself, and the only way I understood to do that was through increasing amounts of education. I got straight A's in high school and went to college. I had an image in my mind of what I wanted to be - a high-powered, suit-wearing, sleek executive at a newspaper in a big city. So, I chose to study journalism.

And I hated it. It was monotonous, the journalists I met were nothing like the magazine-sleek professionals I'd seen in the movies, and the industry I had so badly wanted to join (newspapers) was dying out in favor of digital media. Ironic, now that I think about it, that I'm a blogger. Sorry, newspapers.

My grades suffered my sophomore year because, I was so mentally inflexible with what I wanted to do professionally, that when it didn't make me happy, I didn't know where to go. I swapped my minor to my major (Chinese), and picked up a minor in Political Science. I eventually graduated, and went to graduate school for Foreign Policy. I moved to Washington, DC, to again pursue that goal of becoming a high-powered, suit-wearing, sleek executive - this time in the intelligence community.

And I hated it. The job market sucked, I interviewed for jobs I felt would make me miserable, and again floundered when I realized the image I had built in my mind of the person I wanted to be was not something that would ultimately make me happy.

I was always the black sheep in my friend groups. In college, I was friends with primarily sorority girls, all from upper-income families that had an entirely different perspective on life. In graduate school, I was friends with other hyper-intelligent, hyper-engaged women, but the difference there was that they were all in the field I thought I wanted to be in, and they loved it. I did not love it. I again felt like the black sheep in a group of my closest friends.

I found climbing in 2013 (a brief synopsis of that experience can be found here) and I realized: these are my people. This is who I am. Organic, salt-of-the-earth, simple people. Women that don't busy themselves with makeup or clothes, nails, or hair, or material things. Easygoing people that love to travel the world and really experience life. It was a huge shock for me, mentally and emotionally, to realize I had been forcing myself down a path that wasn't right for who I was, on the inside.

Seriously. It is so funny what the insecure mind will do to you when you are trying to force yourself into being a person that you just aren't, on the inside. Growing up has been an ongoing process of accepting that no, maybe I'm not that person that I've idealized in my mind. Maybe I really am a simple person, that really doesn't like to get dressed up in nice clothes and wear makeup every day, get her nails and hair done, and busy herself with the "more more more". I had so ingrained in my mind that I should be a certain type of person that allowing myself to be who I really am, the person that makes me happiest, has been quite the process.

To young people, ask yourself the title of this post: "Who Do You Think You Are?" Are you forcing yourself to be someone you're not, to fulfill an ideal in your mind, to compete with others, or to "keep up with the Jones'"? This is a critical question in your development as a person. Be the person that makes you happiest, and not the person you, or others, feel you should be.

#BehindTheBlogger Sidebar Button

 Thank you for reading a story from #BehindTheBlogger Hop. Every 2 weeks a group of bloggers is given a writing prompt. These prompts are very open ended, so our bloggers can write about whatever they desire. The main rule is that their blog post directly relates to the topic of that week. The point of this hop is for our readers to get to know us on a personal level.  Please hop along and read all of the blog posts in this weeks hop. Just click the links below. If you want real and raw emotion, then you will find it here. After you read each post, please comment and share. We want to get to know you too!

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Hoosier Heights and my future in the climbing community

So, I have a super-exciting announcement to make.

Starting September 1st, I will be the newest Assistant Coach and Coordinator of Youth Programs at Hoosier Heights, Indianapolis. I will be coaching their Youth Climbing Club, as well as their Intermediate and Advanced climbing teams. I will also be overseeing their youth programs, generally, and managing their social media. I literally am so excited for this opportunity, I can hardly put it into words - but I'm going to try.

As many of you know, the last few years have been a wild ride for me, personally and professionally. I moved to DC in 2010, received my Master's in 2012, and worked for the last three years in jobs totally unrelated to my education that I wasn't passionate about. I spent all these years working in dead-end jobs that I wasn't enthusiastic about, first to pay my bills, and second to support my husband while he has pursued his legal career. I was concerned about our health care, our student loan debt, and the cost of living in DC (which is no joke). Basically, I was holding these jobs to keep us afloat and because it was what I felt I "should" be doing. You know, adulting.

In the middle of all this monotony, I started climbing. In April, 2013, I purchased a Living Social with a friend for open-climb and top-rope belay classes at Sport Rock Climbing Centers. I did open climb on weekends for about a month, before another friend convinced me to try bouldering. I fell in love with climbing so hard, I never left the community. I have been climbing about 4-5 times per week for the last two years, and when I'm not climbing, I miss it. I love the people, the passion they have for the sport, and the sport itself. There is room for endless improvement and endless learning, and climbing embodies, for me, everything that life is about.

"I climb to learn. There is something great about knowing that you have a long way to go before you will fully understand something. Climbing is like a school that has endless classes: safety, top roping, leading, traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering, performance training, environmental ethics, climbing as a living practice, sportsmanship, and so on. You can attend this school for the rest of your life and still never graduate, which I find great because it's not about the attainment of the goal but what you do on the way. Just imagine all the experiences you have had since you started climbing, all the lessons you would not have learned otherwise, and then think about all the experiences and lessons yet to come…pretty cool." - Kevin Jorgeson

Last year, I started considering taking the plunge and transitioning my career into full-time coaching and instructing. I had advanced a lot, and felt I was prepared to take on that role. The only obstacle was that I was scared. I had allllllll this education I had never technically used, and all this debt to go with it. I felt the pressure to provide, to have that traditional, 9-5 office job that provided a salary, benefits, paid vacation and stability. I wasn't ready to take that leap of faith, and risk that stability and predictability in order to do something I loved.

This last year has changed it all for me. I have been a mentor, friend, and pseudo-chaperone to several of the athletes on the Earth Treks climbing team, and my relationships with them have convinced me - this is what I want, and I'm going to go for it. I'm done wasting my life in jobs I don't love for some lame concept I have in my mind of what I "should" be doing, professionally. My degrees gave me many skills I would not have attained elsewhere, and in that sense, they were worth the money (…sort of).

I approached the staff of Hoosier Heights back in June, when I climbed at their facility for the first time. I spoke with the manager there about a possible coaching position, and have kept in touch with him (and the head coach) for the past two months. I really believe that this arrangement was somehow divinely placed into my life, because it has happened at the exact right time. It could not have come about more perfectly.

This is the snake. Come climb with me!
At the end of the day, it was my concern over what others might think of me that drove me to continue in these "meh" jobs. I'm over it. I'm ready to dive in, head-first, into the climbing community and give it my whole life. (Oh, and blogging….because obviously.)

I'm coming for you, Hoosier Heights.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs

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Air travel nuisances

Today's post is a continuation of a series I'm doing on travel annoyances. In this post, I wrote about how to ride on DC 's metro system without making the locals want to kill you, and in this one I wrote how to not be an irritating tourist in a foreign country (although many of those tips are relevant even if you're traveling within the U.S.)

If you've ever flown anywhere - and especially if you've flown many places - you know that air travel is a pain in the you-know-what. Sometimes you get lucky (like we got with our Lufthansa flight to Munich this year, a generally pleasant flight), but most of the time air travel is basically a string of challenges and obstacles designed to test how much you can take before you snap and punch a TSA agent in the throat . (Just kidding, NSA.)

This is a list of my biggest annoyances when flying, or spending time in an airport:

1. People that get in line to board a flight 20 minutes before boarding starts.

Seriously? I get that this behavior stems from a fear that you won't have enough overhead space for your carry-on luggage, but come on. Do you really want to be the one on the plane for the longest amount of time? Especially on international flights on big jets, this is just so unnecessary. Not to mention, you're making everyone else jumpy that they're going to be last and not have any overhead space, and it creates a snowball effect.

2. People that stand up during taxi, or after landing before the seatbelt sign has turned off.

Sometimes this actually delays your departure! You might think it's an emergency situation that you forgot to get your Kindle out and you'll be without it for 20 minutes, but really, it's not. It's also not necessary to jump up immediately upon touch down and whip your luggage out of the overhead bin. What's the purpose? Do you just want to snuggle with your suitcase?

3. Ginormous carry-ons

We know that airlines charge exorbitant fees for carry-on luggage. If you have somehow gotten a full-size suitcase onto a flight because the gate attendant was too lazy and/or preoccupied to stop you and measure your bag, you're probably going to delay your flight and make all the other passengers want to kill you. It won't fit in the overhead bin. You'll try to close it. Joe and Bob and Eric will try to close it. The flight attendants will each try to close it, at which point your fight is 20 minutes late taking off and they will force you to check your bag. Was it worth it? I'm gonna say no. Oh, and you're a jerk.

4. People that try to sneak both their carry-ons into the overhead bin

Why is this always a self-important businessman? If you have a carry-on that doesn't fit under the seat in front of you, and a laptop bag, don't put both of them in the overhead bin. Especially on domestic flights where overhead space is limited! I get you want to stretch your legs, but seriously, this is so rude. I promise you'll survive for two hours with your bag by your feet.

5. People that close their window shades as soon as the flight attendants turn away

This may not annoy everyone, but one of the only things that keeps me from getting airsick (other than peppermint, hallelujah) is being able to see out the window. I mean, if you want to close your window shade, go for it. Just know I will probably throw up. On you.

Basically, use a little bit of common sense and be attentive to and aware of what is going on around you, and you won't annoy me or other passengers on your flight. Follow the rules, stay calm, and fly on.

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Liebster Award

I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Michelle of The Texas Homemaker. Thanks SO much to Michelle for the wonderful recognition!

The Liebster Award is an informal award given to a new blogger by his/her fellow blogger for their work. The criteria for the award is that the nominated blogger must have fewer than 200 followers (and, depending on how you measure "followers", Haynes, Her Way still qualifies - but barely! My following has been growing wicked fast)!

There are some rules for the award, and tasks that the nominee must fulfill once they have been selected:

1. Answer a set of questions laid out by your nominator
2. Nominate another blogger, or set of bloggers
3. Create a blog post
4. Link to the blogger who nominated you
5. Create your own set of questions for the blogger or bloggers you have nominated

I'm basically winning at 3 and 4 right now, so here's number 1, the questions that were given to me by Michelle:

1. Why did you start blogging, and how do you stay motivated?

I started blogging because I love to write. I have always sort of used my Facebook as a mini-blog, which is 1) annoying for my Facebook friends and 2) dissatisfying, because I always have so much more to say than a measly Facebook post would allow. I was actually offered a contract by a publisher to write a second book after my thesis was published, but I wasn't mentally nor emotionally prepared for the book writing process so soon after having written my thesis.

I had considered starting a blog for a long time, and after writing out all the ideas for posts that I had, I realized I had months worth of legitimate content! That's when I decided to take the plunge. 

It's not hard for me to stay motivated. My husband and I are moving in a few months, and I am extremely motivated to make this blog work for me as a source of income so I am able to work from home.

2. If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would you invite and why?

President Barack Obama: Whether or not you agree with his policies, he has faced an unending onslaught of opposition during his tenure as President, but has somehow still managed to achieve many things he set out to do during his campaign. His rise through his career is a very interesting story, and I would love to be able to sit down and chat with him.

Bernie Sanders: Who are you? Why do you want to be President? Why are all of these quizzes telling me I should vote for you?

Lady Gaga: She is a publicity genius. She's also highly intelligent and I love watching her being interviewed. Show me your ways.

My grandparents: I miss them every day, and I would love to get to see them again and ask them for advice one more time.

3. What are your blogging goals?

To be able to make what in my mind is a "decent income" from my blog, to feel connected to my readers and to build a community around my brand.

4. What or who is your favorite blogging resource?

I love the Facebook group #GoIndependent. I haven't been able to engage much in the coursework because of the craziness that is going on in my personal life, but Regina is a wealth of valuable information and the group is full of awesome, supportive, engaged fellow digital entrepreneurs like myself!

5. How much time do you spend a week on your blog-related activities?

Um, a lot. I probably spend about 14 hours a week working on the blog in some way or another. Once I move, it will be even more, because it will become an actual part time job for me.

6. Why or what do you love most about blogging?

I love that there is constant room for improvement. This really feeds my soul, and I love being able to come in and engage in endlessly perfecting my blog. It's like a never-ending project, and I love that.

7. What one or two things do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

Ugh! A lot of the more technical stuff, of course, would have been helpful to understand before launching. I think it would have been a less overwhelming process if I had done all that research ahead of time. I also wish I had known how overwhelming it would be, in general, and had gotten more organized before my official launch so I could have scheduled out one simple thing to accomplish each day. It's so much more manageable that way!

8. What one or two pain points do you still have with blogging?

Technical stuff - right now it's SEO and plugins. To automate or not to automate? That is the question.

9.What is your favorite quote?

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs

I guess it's time for me to pay it forward! If you would like to read some new, up-and-coming blogs and follow their journeys as they grow their sites, check out these talented folks below!

I would like to nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award:

Anne at Wit, Wisdom and Food
Sara at Itsy Bitsy Truth
Olu at Olu Fadipe
Melissa and Jonathan at Yummy Feed

In order to fulfill your requirements for the award, please answer the following questions:

1. How long have you been blogging?
2. What advice would you give to anyone considering starting a blog?
3. What is your ultimate goal for your blog/why did you start it in the first place?
4. What are your favorite types of posts to write?
5. Has anything in particular surprised you about blogging?
6. At this moment, what are you finding particularly challenging about blogging?
7. Do you set weekly/monthly goals for your blog?
8. What are you currently working on improving about your blog?
9. If you did a paid campaign (or series of campaigns), who would be your dream sponsor?
10. Just for fun: What is your dream travel destination, and why?

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How To Not Be An Irritating Tourist

Piggybacking off of this post, I wanted to write about how to not be an irritating tourist. How to, in general, stay out of the hair of those that actually live in the city you're visiting, how to blend in more easily and how to be a little bit less conspicuous.

Rule #1: Be generally inconspicuous.

Don't raise your voice. It's not necessary to shout at your group if you're all being attentive or have a plan in place for when everyone inevitably gets separated. If you're in a group with children, let them know ahead of time that it's not acceptable to run wild and cause general chaos wherever they go - be that in museums, on public transit, or wherever.

2. Don't assume you're better than the locals simply because you're from the United States.

Believe it or not, the place you're visiting - especially if it's overseas - is going to have an overall different culture. The food will be different, the pace of life will be different, the people will have different customs and expectations, and music, art and pop culture trends will be different. They are no better or worse than those of the United States - by virtue of your place of birth, you, as well, are no better or worse than the locals in the city you are visiting. Keep that in mind, and it will make your experience an overall better one for you and for those who actually live in that locale.

3. Don't expect other people to speak your native language.

Following on point #2, you would be surprised how many people that travel to foreign countries actually expect the locals there to speak their language. As an American, you sometimes get lucky in countries like Germany, where many people speak at least broken English. That is not the case, however, in many other metropolitan areas - in Paris, for example, I often had difficulty finding someone who spoke English, and in Shanghai, forget about it. Learn some simple phrases before you go, get really good at pantomime, and be infinitely patient and kind. It will get you far.

4. Don't try to give other tourists directions.

It's like the blind leading the blind. Just don't. "I'm so sorry, I'm not from here!" will suffice.

5. Have plenty of the local currency on you.

Not enough to get mugged, but more than enough to buy a day's worth of meals and a train ticket back to wherever you're staying. If you're planning to shop for souvenirs, take local currency for that too. It always kills me to hear people ask - especially in foreign countries (like legitimately foreign, not Canada) - "Do you take US dollars?" No, you jackass, we're in France, they don't take American dollars. Lord have mercy.

6. Know before you go.

Most of the issues outlined above can be avoided by simply doing some research before your trip. Where are you going, when, and on what days? How will you get to those places? What will you need - i.e. will you need a train ticket, a metro fare card? How do you say some basic phrases in the local language? How much money will you need? Do you have a map? Some basic forethought will make your trip less stressful, and you'll be less likely to irritate the locals with your cluelessness. ;)

Do you love to travel? When was a good tourist experience for you, and when was a bad one? How could some of these tips have helped you in those situations?
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I'm 28!

So, I'm 28.

I guess some people might feel old when they turn 28, I don't know. I don't. I feel about the same as I did when I turned 27. I'm still in my late 20's, so it's not as if 28 is some chronological milestone I should feel some sort of way about.

Probably the best part of my birthday was the surprise birthday/going-away party my kids threw for me Thursday night. We're all on a group chat on Facebook Messenger together, but they apparently created a new group chat called 8/13 and planned this all out. They threw a potluck-style party at the gym, Julia's sister made me a card that they all signed, and they got me gifts. Lydia bought me a necklace during our Eastern Market trip, several of the kids went in together to get me a necklace with a working carabiner from Rock Climbing Jewelry on Etsy, and Yardena bought me a fingerboard-shaped chew toy for our future dog(s).

I didn't do anything outrageously special for my 28th birthday, but I did have a great day (and week)! I "climbed", at the request of my kids (AKA showed up to the gym and hung out, since I'm injured), and went to the movies with my husband. We received a gift card way back at Christmastime for this super fancy theater, called iPic, where you eat dinner while watching a movie. The theater is actually all huge La-z Boy style recliners, and they give you pillows and blankets. Pretty cool, huh? We saw Trainwreck, with Amy Schumer, and it was hilarious. We considered seeing Straight Outta Compton, but I'm glad we saw something lighthearted and funny (and a little romantic!) We also went out to our favorite sushi place beforehand - Sushi Jin in Silver Spring - though we could have ordered food at the theater.

Volcano roll, two Dance with Tuna rolls and a Rock N Roll
iPic theaters entrance in Bethesda

I am super psyched about the gift(s) Seth and my parents got for me. Seth bought me a doorway hang board from Blank Slate Climbing, my mom bought me a set of climbing holds from Teknik, and my dad bought me a hang board from So Ill. I am SO HAPPY to finally have a training tool in my house!

It really wasn't terribly difficult to put together. The only note I have is that, if you decide to do something like this, make sure you really screw the holds in as tight as you possibly can, and go back and retighten them a few times. It took Seth about three rounds of screwing the holds in before they were tight enough where I couldn't spin them with my hands.

Teknik holds
Adding the back stop
Adding the brace

Adding the mounting surface
Choosing where to place each hold
Mounted with holds
So Ill hang board mock-up
(We're waiting to actually mount the hang board on the full system board until we move, because a couple of the Teknik holds will need to be removed to add the So Ill piece.)

System boards are basically used to train certain aspects of your strength or movement that are lacking. Because of the size of this one, the primary purpose of this piece of equipment will be to hang from the various holds to increase tendon strength. For me, I will be doing a lot of hanging and small, precise movements between the slopers, crimps and pinches to try and work on movements I'm not good at, and to build my tendon strength.

I know 28 is going to be a great year. We are about to go through a huge life change when we move back to Indiana, but I know we are going to experience some of the most exciting and rewarding parts of our lives this year. We're moving back closer to our families, we're helping my mother-in-law move and sell her current home, we plan to buy our first house, and I'm finally - finally - starting my dream job. But, more on that later. ;) I can't wait to see what 28 has in store for me!
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Washington DC Metro System: Do this, not that

There are many ways to not draw the ire of residents of Washington, DC when visiting the city. One of those ways is to not be clueless and/or obnoxious when riding the metro system.

We get it. Really, we do. You're in a new place, it's big, it's loud, it's expensive, it's exciting, and it's crowded. Public transit might be completely foreign to you, and an underground "subway" system like DC has, even more so.  It can be overwhelming! We are right there with you. However, believe it or not, there are actual, real-life people that live and work in Washington, DC and don't want to have to deal with your nonsense while they're trying to get to or from work.

Here are some of my tips for not making residents of DC want to kill you when riding on the metro.

1) Stand on the right, walk on the left.

When riding the escalators in DC, there is one rule. Stand on the right, walk on the left. Don't stand two people wide, don't stand with your suitcase alongside you, and don't stand on the left. Treat it like a street. The left side is for passing. People in DC are in a hurry. Escalators aren't there for convenience as much as they are for helping speed up people's commutes into and out of the city. If you break the rule, you might get trampled. And nobody wants to get trampled.

2) Don't wear your backpack on the train.

Sometimes, the metro is so crowded, it is all you can do to get your body to fit, squished in among the other passengers, in a tight enough space to allow the door to close behind you as it brushes your back and traps your hair in the door. Seriously. Your backpack takes up the space of another human torso, and it's probably hitting people in the face. Take it off and put it down by your feet. If you're wearing it to make extra space for yourself, you're an ass hole, and I hope your flight home gets cancelled and you are stuck in airport purgatory forever.

3) If you're in a big group, don't ride the metro at rush hour.

At least between 8:00 and 10:00am, and 4:00 and 6:00pm, try to stay off of public transit if you're in a group of five or more. As stated above, it is often difficult for one single person, traveling alone to their job in the morning, to fit their body on one of the first three trains to come through their station after they've arrived there in the morning. People just want to get to work on time. We get you want to go to the museums, the White House, or the Capitol. We do. Just know that if you, Johnny, Susie, Bob and Jane try to cram all five of you on a fully-loaded train at 8:45am, giggling and squealing, people are probably going to be extra nasty to you.

4) Don't use your stroller or suitcase as a battering ram.

There is nothing more obnoxious than getting on a packed train and seeing someone sitting in a seat with three pieces of luggage in front of them, blocking another seat and taking up standing room the size of two other people. Better yet, if you have a stroller, or you're coming from or going to the airport, just don't ride the metro at rush hour. #sorrynotsorry

5) Be aware of your surroundings.

Don't wear your headphones on the train. You might miss your stop, you might not realize that someone next to you needs to get off, or you might not realize that the train is getting full and where you are standing is super inconvenient for 10 other passengers. Don't be so focused on your iPhone that you don't realize you've arrived at the toll gate and then stand in front of it searching for your card. Step aside. Don't stop randomly in front of people to look at your map.

This all makes DC sound super-scary. It's not. People are actually, generally, friendly! Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for directions in the metro if you aren't quite sure where you're going. I tend to always help tourists when I see them staring at a map with a puzzled look on their face. Just be aware that - especially during rush hour! - there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your stay in DC more enjoyable - for everyone. :)

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Eastern Market, DC

If you are planning to visit DC (and maybe even if you already live here) and are looking to visit somewhere more offbeat and less touristy, I highly recommend you visit Eastern Market.

Eastern Market is a quaint little area of DC off the blue and orange metro lines, that has a ton of little independent shops and restaurants. It also hosts an open-air market on the Sundays, where artisans and craftsmen from around the area come to sell their products. The outdoor market is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm, on 7th Street SE between C and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

I actually love shopping at Eastern Market when I am looking for a personal gift for a special occasion. When I got married, I actually bought gifts for my maid of honor and one of my readers from Eastern Market. I bought a bubble necklace, a scarf, and these awesome knotted silver earrings from Drabo Gallery. This time I bought this awesome scroll from a Tibetan shop, with an awesome quote from the Dalai Lama that basically describes my whole life philosophy right now:

I went with some of my little sisters from the gym. It was nice to get to hang out with them in a very non-climbing-related setting and do girl stuff. ;)

The artisans in Eastern Market, as usual, did not disappoint. There were booths out I hadn't seen before, and despite the heat we made multiple laps around to look at everything.

Giraffes statuettes made from recycled cans - he said his biggest seller is a huge $400 statue made of Arizona tea cans!
Beaded animals just like the ones we bought in Zimbabwe. These are sold in a South African goods booth.
The MC Hammer parachute-pants trend is back, and these elephant-print pants with elastic cuffs were EVERYWHERE. I was really tempted to buy some, but I was good. ;)

Another place I hadn't visited the last few times I went to Eastern Market is this secondhand bookstore called Capitol Hill Books. (The market has actually moved while its regular space is under construction, so this bookstore normally isn't next to the market!)

The store is run by an older gentleman that seems to be quite the character. There are hilarious little signs posted all over the store, which is technically three stories - a claustrophobically low-ceilinged basement, a main level and an upstairs. The little signs for me were the highlight, it was like finding funny little hidden treasures everywhere you looked!

There are other parts to the market besides the open-air flea market, as well. Year-round, Eastern Market has an indoor market where there are various seafoods, meats and baked goods sold. There is also a farmer's market section (with samples!) as well as food and drink stands at the end of the main drag. I highly recommend checking out the crepe stand if you're hungry, the Some Like It Hot crepe is delicious (but very spicy!) as is the Greek, which is what I had this time.

Caroline  and her tiny eggplant.

Eastern Market is a really fun, off-the-beaten-path, eclectic place to visit for those visiting the District, and especially for those that already live here but are looking for something to do on a weekend. It's awesome to have a community so interested in supporting local artisans and shops, and especially when the weather is nice a great place to walk around and explore with your family and friends.
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Buffalo Chicken Dip

If you're looking for the perfect thing to bring to a potluck and/or party, look no further.

This recipe is what I bring to every. single. potluck. I am ever invited to, and it has always been a huge hit. My friends actually started bringing Tupperware to our regular girls' night potlucks, because they knew I would be bringing this dip with me and they knew they - and their significant others - would want more later. It's that good.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a healthy snack - keep scrolling. This thing is not good for you. But seriously, who doesn't love to cheat?!


1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and shredded (we boil the chicken with a couple of chicken bullion cubes)
6 tbs. Buffalo Wild Wings medium sauce
8 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup+ blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup shredded cheese - colby jack or mild cheddar, or some combination of jack cheese


Put chicken and sauce into skillet, heat through.

Add cream cheese and dressing, heat until well blended.

Added shredded cheese slowly, mix.
Add extra sauce to taste.

One note: We always add quite a lot of extra sauce "to taste", because I like mine really strong and spicy!
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Beat the Heat X

The tenth annual Beat the Heat bouldering competition took place on Saturday, August 8th, at Sport Rock Climbing Centers in Alexandria. I competed in this competition last year, taking fifth in Intermediate. I was super-psyched to compete this year, and registered soon after registration opened for the Advanced division. I had a pretty good chance of medaling this year, so I was really, really bummed when I got injured. Unfortunately, I was not able to compete, as I have a pulled muscle in my rib cage. I did attend, though, and took tons of pictures! I'm choosing not to be too upset about missing the competition itself, because it was still fun to go and support Team Earth Treks and our kids.

The event is always a fun one to attend. It is very, very chaotic, and very crowded, but it is a fun event that Sport Rock does a good job putting on. My only critique of the comp is that I do wish the staff of Sport Rock would have a cut-off quota, because it does tend to get so crowded that it becomes unenjoyable for those attending. I personally know a couple of climbers that chose not to attend this year because the level of crowding is just too stressful for them to handle.

It is a peer-judged competition, meaning that climbers keep their own score cards, mark down sends and have two other competitors initial that they witnessed them sending that problem.  The entrance fee is inexpensive for a bouldering competition ($15 instead of the more common $40+), it is free to Sport Rock members, and there is a huge raffle done at the end of the night, all of which tend to draw much larger crowds than other local bouldering competitions.

Our kids did really, really well overall, and I am super proud of them for hanging in there through all the chaos (especially those that didn't compete last year and didn't know what to expect)! Lydia took fifth in Women's Advanced (which for a 15-year-old is freaking fantastic), Caroline M. took second in Female Junior, Caroline B. took first in Female Junior, Elan took first in Male Junior, and both Claire and Bella competed in Open Finals, the highest adult division available in bouldering competitions. Overall I had a great time, and was glad I was at least able to be present, help the kids where they needed it and take photos.

Lydia checking out some possible problems during orientation
Lydia on an overhanging V6
Caroline B. on a V6
Caroline M. on a V6
Yardena on a V6
Elan on a V6
Eric on a V8
Eric on a V8
Rusty on a V7
I also managed to walk away with a $50 gift card to the North Face, and a swag bag from them as well. I still had a great time despite not being able to compete, and I'm looking forward to healing and getting back into the game soon. :)
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