"Real" Climbers

Although I've always heard rumblings throughout the climbing community that some people think there are such things as "real" climbers (versus gym climbers, or whatever else they choose to dub "not real climbers"), I never really experienced the concept firsthand until I moved back to the Midwest. Apparently it's a thing here - a thing so real we discussed it at length at a staff meeting a few weeks ago.

The concept is sort of confusing (and pointless, and shallow) to me. One of the major reasons I got so into the climbing community so quickly is the level of acceptance and support I felt among other climbers - much more experienced and well-versed climbers than I. The climbing community in which I was brought up is all about new climbers, gym climbers, outdoor climbers, trad climbers, ice climbers, crack climbers, boulderers, sport climbers, whatever - though I heard rumblings on occasion that there may be people in the community with opinions about "real" versus "fake" climbers, I never really experienced it.

Gym climbers are climbers. Some people simply enjoy gym climbing more, and that's okay. Maybe they don't have the time, the means, or the relationships with other climbers to get them climbing outside, or maybe they just don't want to. Maybe they like the controlled environment of indoor climbing, and the constantly-changing routes, in a convenient location. They're still climbers. They're still climbing things, and that makes them climbers. It seems like a very strange phenomenon to me that someone said, "You know, we should probably define 'real' climbing, because these hoodlums are running around acting like they're climbers, and that is totally threatening the man-on I get from pretending I'm the only 'real' climber around." So strange.

Although I don't normally let anyone preview my posts, I let my climbing partner, Ryan, go over this one when I first started brainstorming it. He had some very specific thoughts on this topic, and I wanted to share them.

"In a sport where the goal is to increase altitude in a literal sense, we tend to validate ourselves (or lift ourselves up, as it were) by pushing those different than us down. 'Sport climbing is neither' was a common phrase used by trad climbers that existed in part to legitimize trad over sport, and, as a result (either intentionally or not), validated the decision to spend thousands of dollars on cams. It's indicative of a species that has evolved through the millennia via 'survival of the fittest' that we should try to separate ourselves as ahead of the pack. Devaluing others' efforts because they deviate from our own achieves this on some level. The tendency to put others down is written into our DNA, so to speak. One thing my first climbing teacher taught me is that the one common thread in all climbers is the struggle. The same frustration I, as a new climber, felt on a 5.8 is cut from the same cloth that Sharma was feeling on Dreamcatcher."

To me, no one climber, regardless of experience level or affinity (for example, a boulderer versus a lead climber) is more or less "worthy" of being called a "climber" than any other climber. No one climber is any more or less worthy of experiencing or attempting classic routes than another. Even if it's way out of your pay grade, by virtue of being a climber (of any sort), you are just as worthy as any other climber of climbing that route and gaining that experience. One of the most beautiful aspects of the climbing community is that climbers all love one another and seek to lift one another up through our sport - maybe if you're the corner-sulker bemoaning the popularity of bouldering among today's youth climbers, maybe it's you that isn't the "real" climber because you don't have a climber's heart.

Thanks to Ryan Fischer for his significant contributions to this post.
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Struggles Lately

I am a 28-year-old, petite, blonde, female climbing coach, a male-dominated industry. I have been married to my husband for just over two years, I have a Master's degree in U.S. Foreign Policy from American University, a Bachelor's degree in Chinese and Political Science from Indiana University, and I am a published author. (I'm not kidding.) I worked on President Obama's first political campaign, I studied abroad in China, and have also been to Africa (Zimbabwe), Mexico, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Germany (twice), France and Grand Cayman. I have an advanced scuba certification from SPE Dive School in Bethesda, Maryland, have done deep-, night- and shipwreck dives up to 110 feet, and I lived in Washington, DC for five years after graduating from IU. I have overcome a lot of adversity in my life, and am very outspoken and open about my opinions and experiences.

I have felt really concerned, lately, that upon meeting me, none of these things, accomplishments, or bases of knowledge come through. Like I come off like a dumb, bubble-headed blonde with no intellect or basic life experience in my head. Lately, I have been struggling to be myself. Really struggling. Questioning myself, my personality, and my actions. Checking my word choice and vocal inflection every time I open my mouth. "Do I sound intelligent? Will this person take me seriously? Do I sound like a valley girl?" I am a very loud, exuberant, passionate, boisterous, (and maybe ridiculous) petite blonde whose hair is dyed half blue-and-purple. I look like I'm about 18 years old, and maybe I act that way, too. I think I have a very "east coast" demeanor and personality, and coming back to the Midwest has, in some ways, made me question whether or not the person I am is okay. Isn't that ridiculous? I know it's ridiculous, but again, I'm very open about my experiences and want to write about this one here.

I don't think people always take me seriously, and that sort of bothers me (or, at least, has been bothering me lately). I never questioned myself before I moved, and perhaps the cultural differences between the east coast and the Midwest are what are calling myself into question now. I am a highly intelligent woman, but I'm concerned that the person I'm comfortable being (loud, boisterous, funny, expressive) makes me come across like an air head. Perhaps I'm just far too concerned with what other people think about me, or perhaps this is what happens when you're in your late 20's and are finally coming into yourself and feeling comfortable being who you are. Comfort begets discomfort? What a strange dichotomy.

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My Coaching Philosophy

For those of you that don't know me personally, my primary job is as a rock climbing coach at Hoosier Heights just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. Coaching competitive climbers is my dream job, and something I'd been considering getting into for about a year and a half before I finally took the plunge. I came out of the nonprofit world this year to coach climbing, and I could not be happier with my decision. I've never had a job before where I'm actually excited to get to work every day, where Mondays are my favorite day of the week, and where I 100% love what I do. So much of my heart is in what I do, and having an actual passion for my job has been a breath of fresh air.

That said, every single coach in this community approaches their job differently. Each coach has a different philosophy about how to handle a competitive climber's athletic career, how to help them improve, and how to motivate them to become better athletes. For some teams, that is one of the primary challenges toward building a successful coaching staff - each individual coach's approach is so different, in so many minute ways, that building a cohesive team where each coach complements and appreciates each other's styles can be very difficult.

When I was at Earth Treks out on the east coast (not actually coaching, mind you, but everyone there knew I was headed for coaching, and fast), I had one of their coaches tell me that he believed my coaching style was very "relational", and I use that word to describe my approach to this day.

My entire approach to coaching stems from my concern for the athlete as a whole person, inside and outside the gym. I believe in building a solid foundation of trust, and bonding, with each individual athlete. I believe that if an athlete does not inherently trust you as a friend and mentor, that they will not feel your instruction puts their best interests first. I aim to always speak truthfully and openly with my athletes, to be clear about why we are approaching their training the way that we are, what we see and expect from them, and if we have concerns, what they are and how we want to address them. I don't believe in speaking down to, patronizing, or belittling my athletes to get a specific result out of them. I'm fine with negative reinforcement (burpees are my favorite) and with yelling during conditioning and circuits, but never in a way that is personally degrading to an athlete.

On the flip side of that coin, I do want them to see me as a coach and a member of the staff at Hoosier Heights, and don't want to cross that line into being strictly their happy-fun-time friend or for them to not take me seriously as their coach. Sometimes as an athlete you have to do things you find unpleasant, and I want them to expect me to push them.

I also believe that most youth athletes, if given the opportunity and the tools, will choose to make good decisions. I will temper that by saying that not all kids will choose to do the right thing when presented with multiple options, but most will. I feel that honoring the autonomy and independence of each athlete empowers them to make choices that will improve themselves as athletes. By ingraining a logical, cost-benefit decision making process in their minds when it comes to training, I believe a coach gives an athlete the tools to continue their improvement when he/she is not around to push them or to make training decisions for them.

All of these things make me sound like a hippie, and that's fine. One of my Earth Treks kids told me once that when they are climbing in a competition, and I'm not there, they hear me screaming in their mind. This is what I want. When an athlete is faced with pressure, or a serious decision, I want them to hear me. Whether that be my voice and my characteristic siren-scream when they're climbing in a high-stakes competition, me telling them to make good decisions, or me helping them weigh the pro's and con's of any decision in their life, at the end of the day that personal impact that I have had on them is what is of paramount importance to me. When they are climbing and they know I'm in the audience, I want them to feel a sense of support and peace, and know that no matter the outcome, they haven't let me down, they're each perfect in my mind and that I am proud of what they have accomplished.

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Glasstic Shatterproof Water Bottle Review & Giveaway!

I received complementary products for this review. All opinions are my own.

If you know me, you know I am big on a couple of things: 1) Drinking water and 2) being environmentally friendly. I am a super-active person, and almost always can be found with a water bottle in my hand (or coffee, depending on when you're seeing me - ha!) I saw Glasstic's products on several other bloggers' pages throughout the last year, and wanted to give their shatterproof water bottles a try.

These things are pretty awesome! They are essentially a glass sleeve inside a plastic outer, which keeps the chemicals associated with plastic away from your water while still protecting the glass inner from shattering should you drop it. It actually comes apart into four pieces, which makes it super-easy to clean, and comes in several attractive prints. The lid has a locking mechanism (which is handy for clumsy, rough-and-tumble people like me that are constantly tossing their water bottles in car seats and rock climbing packs, sometimes sideways or upside-down), and a carry handle (also handy for coaching, hello)!

Locking cap with carrying handle
Screw-on bottom
Printed, plastic outer shell and removable glass inner sleeve

I've been using my Glasstic bottle for about a week, and I'm really happy with it! It hasn't leaked, and cleaning it has been easy and quick. It's definitely a sense of comfort knowing that I'm not drinking out of a bottle that contains any chemicals that could leak into my water, such as BPA, aluminum, chromium, or nickel. The company has done third-party testing that shows that the glass inner of the bottle can withstand up to six drops before breaking, and if it should break in the first year of use, Glasstic will replace the glass inner for free. That's pretty awesome.

I think the only things I would change would be to make the hinge on the cap a little more durable (opening the cap sometimes makes me feel as if I could potentially snap the hinge over time) and to make them dishwasher safe (the printed sleeves can't be put in the dishwasher, because the print will wear off). Overall, though, those two things are pretty minor considering what a great water bottle this is.

Think you might want to try out Glasstic's awesome shatterproof bottles for yourself? Through December 31, 2015, Glasstic is offering a discount of 15% to my readers with the discount code "REV15OFF". You can use this code through Glasstic's website, or through Amazon.com.

Visit Glasstic, and check out all the great products they have to offer!

Web: http://www.glassticwaterbottle.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlassticBottle
Twitter: https://twitter.com/glassticbottle
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/glassticbottle
Instagram: http://instagram.com/glassticbottle

WANT TO WIN IT?! Glasstic is giving away one Shatterproof Glass Water Bottle to one of my readers, in any of the original 10 colors and prints shown in the image at the top of this post. The giveaway will run through Monday, November 2nd, and will have daily opportunities for more entries - so be sure to come back and visit the tool every day! Good luck!

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What Being A Good Spouse Means To Me

Seth and I's wedding anniversary is fast approaching, and with that coming I have been doing lots of thinking about our marriage, and about marriage in general.

Being a good spouse is not always easy for me. I am extremely independent, outspoken, and - though I'm not always willing to acknowledge it - self-centered. I definitely struggle, in this season in particular when things are so new and exciting for me, to put him and our marriage before myself, my career and my athletic pursuits. I think, though, that I found the perfect partner in Seth, because he loves that I am my own person, with my own thoughts, and that I don't need him the way some spouses need their partners.

My definition of being a good spouse has probably changed a few times over the years, but especially since I have actually gotten married. Once you have lived together for multiple years (I mean, truly lived together, through the monotony of work days, seasonal allergies, snoring, old tupperware left too long in the fridge and ew it's a bug get it!) your interactions become much different than they were when you were dating, and it takes a lot of intention and thoughtfulness to remain what I could consider to be a good spouse.

1. Choose your words carefully.

No one wants to be nagged. No one wants to feel scolded or belittled by their spouse. Speak kindly, and thoughtfully - think before you speak, but also think about whether or not that particular argument is worth it. My grandparents were married for 66 years when my grandfather passed away - several years before his death, and I asked him, "What is the secret to a long and happy marriage?" and he said, "Always be the first one to give up in an argument." This rings true to me every day.

2. Say it out loud.

Don't hold stuff in. Don't make your spouse wonder, "Is he/she mad at me?" That can be not only stressful for your spouse, but also damaging to your relationship as the other person is made to feel as if you aren't willing to talk to them about serious issues - and where does that leave your marriage?

3. Be willing to examine yourself.

Did you guys read this post? I wrote in that post about reading the book The Five Love Languages, and how it affected our marriage. Being willing to examine your own faults and flaws as a spouse, and work to correct them to improve your spouse's happiness, it absolutely critical in maintaining a happy marriage. It's not always comfortable to say, "Well, maybe he's less happy because I'm nagging him so much about X", and to make a conscious effort to stop the behavior. But, since we read that book and have made concerted efforts toward addressing each other's love languages, it has made a ton of difference. Always be open-minded and willing to be critical of your own weaknesses as a spouse.

4. Spend time away from your spouse.

 Have your own life, your own hobbies, and spend time out of the house without your spouse. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", right? A couple of years ago (during our engagement), I read, "The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married", by Iris Krasnow. Some of the stories in that book examined the fact that it is crucial for partners in a committed relationship to spend time apart from one another, pursuing their own passions, in order for a marriage to remain healthy. This rings true to me - by spending all our time at home with each other, we become too reliant upon the other person's attentions and behavior to fulfill us. It places an immense amount of pressure on each other as spouses to fill a huge void in our spouse's life and to keep them happy, where spending time out of the home pursuing your own passions fills that void without placing that responsibility on your spouse.

5. Pull your weight.

Marriages are not always 50/50, and they are not always in balance. Sometimes one spouse will be making more money, sometimes the other. Sometimes one will have lots of time to spend at home and be able to keep up on the housework, sometimes it will be the other. Pull your weight. Don't expect one spouse to do all the money-making for your whole marriage, or all the housework, all the child care, or all the anything. Expect that, at some point, you will have to pull your weight in an arena outside your comfort zone, and be prepared for that.

I'm no marital expert. We've only been married (almost) two years. In two years, though, these are the things I've learned about being a good spouse - to me. It's also advice that I've gotten from people that have been married a long time (like my grandfather). These things have been true for us, and likely, are true for many couples that intend to have long, happy marriages with their spouse.
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On Success & Being Called A Snob

I am from a small town in central Indiana. When I was a kid, the town was a decently safe bedroom community outside the capital, where families tended to settle down to have and raise kids. The majority of residents of my hometown are/were lower-middle class, or farmers. Lots of people love living in and growing up where I grew up, and while I'm not one of those people, I'm not saying no one should live there.

I am, however, saying that it does not always foster the highest levels of achievement, goal setting, and dreaming for young people. It was not always easy to envision going to college when I was in high school, and I went to college ill-equipped for what met me when I arrived. My own personality and drive to achieve something greater than what was laid before me growing up was not always met with applause or pride by my peers, and I have not always received the best reactions from people that stayed in my hometown to what I have chosen to do with my life.

I'm not going to stand here and act as if I have achieved some sort of amazing thing in my life, because I haven't, if you compare me to the tens of thousands of other people that have done the same. But, I did achieve more than many people I grew up with. I got a college degree when many people from my graduating class never attended college, and I attended graduate school and received a Master's degree when a very small percentage of my high school classmates chose to pursue a post-graduate education. I lived outside of Indiana for five years, I've traveled internationally (and if you count studying abroad, lived internationally), all of which most people I grew up with have not chosen to do.

I don't find any of these things remarkable in any way. Most of the people with whom I went to college and grad school, or lived in DC, have done all of these things and much more. In DC, I fell on the lower end in terms of achievement and success. I also realize that everyone has different values, and goals and dreams for themselves and their lives. So, I'm not saying that the path that I've chosen is for everyone.

But, I am saying that the path I've chosen has not always been met with support, praise, or adulation. I actually received vitriol from a peer a few years ago, when he told me I was stuck-up, (and used some rather colorful language to expound upon that opinion) and that I was a bad influence on one of my girlfriends for making her want more than she had. Basically, for encouraging her and believing in her, that she could attend college and get a degree, and pursue a job she wouldn't be able to otherwise. I haven't always been met with positive language from my family, either - I have been told I think I am too good for my family, that I abandoned them when I moved to DC, or that I might as well just move on and forget about them since I'm "so important" now.

The most hysterical facet to all of this is that, in my current position, I don't make good money! I'm not a high-powered executive in my suit with my mocha-latte and newspaper in hand on my way to work every morning. I don't even wear real pants to work, for crying out loud! But, it is an unfortunate aspect of growing up in one specific type of community, but wanting a different life for yourself, that not everyone is willing to understand. People cast specific titles upon you without knowing you, or really speaking with you regularly, because of a preconceived notion of what you might be like, or what thoughts you might have of them and their lifestyle, because of the path you have chosen for yourself.

This is all to say that -  before you judge someone, or assume they're judging you, love them first. Get to know them, and approach them with acceptance and interest before you assume anything about them or their life. They may surprise you.
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October Goals

September has been a pretty life-changing month.

I started my dream job at Hoosier Heights this month. (I wrote about the transition here.) I am loving it. I am making lifelong friendships with people passionate about the same things I am, and I get to do what I love every single day. This is a huge change for me, and has been a bit of an adjustment, but not a hard one. Only a good and happy one.

One month ago, I wrote this post. I want to write a goal-setting post every month, check in with how I did on my goals for the previous month, and lay out new goals for myself for the following month. So, without further ado, here we go:

September Goals Check-in

Run my first giveaway 9/14-10/2: Thus far, great success. I am still pushing and promoting the giveaway through Friday (check it out here!) so it will get more entries, but thus far the tool shows 486 entries. That's obviously not 486 people since there are a gazillion ways for my readers to get entries, but 486 is great! My goal was 500, so I'm pretty psyched that it looks like I'll make it.

Write my first traffic & income report: Done! Check it out here!

Set up my office space and get organized:  Yeah, this did not happen. The loft is where I should be working, but because my mother-in-law is still working on clearing out the loft (so. much. paperwork.), I am currently working from bed or at the dining room table. It's not super conducive to my productivity, so I'm hoping in October I'm able to set up a space to work.

Have first Indy Creatives meet up: This also did not happen! We decided on a date, but then things came up for a few people and we had to cancel. I'm hoping to hook up with these girls this fall so we can all sit down and brainstorm our online businesses! 

Get sponsored posting up and running: Though I haven't actually done a sponsored post yet, I did take several steps toward getting sponsored posting incorporated into the blog (you can check that out here as well).

Make some design changes to the blog: I didn't actually end up making several of the design changes I was considering, but I did consider them all. Subscribe popups are annoying and predatory, and after chatting with several other bloggers in some groups I'm in, I decided not to add it. I also decided not to make changes to my social media buttons (the change I was considering ended up being pointless). I did create a media kit, however, and created new headers for my social media pages.

Find new health care providers: I did find the most important ones, and made appointments with them for October!

Sit down with my new boss to work on social media for Hoosier Heights: The Climbing Team at Hoosier Heights now officially has an active Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram! Come follow us!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450219378349784/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hhclimbingteam
Instagram: https://instagram.com/hhclimbingteam/

Schedule time to see friends & family: Success! I've seen almost everyone now, and as of Friday (girls' night!) I will have seen all my Indiana friends and family that I haven't seen enough since we moved.

October Goals

For the blog:

Set up my office space and get organized: This is a bit out of my control, but I hope I'm able to actually get a desk space set up this month! I think it will boost my productivity a lot to have a space where I'm actually able to sit down and work every day. And cover the walls in pink post-its.

Create a "work with me" section on the blog: I'd love to start setting up some partnerships and sponsorships this month, so I plan to create a "work with me" section on the blog to lay out my prices for sponsored posting and advertising. Since my media kit is complete, I'll have that to send to potential sponsors, posters and advertisers should they request it!

Run another giveaway: I've loved working with the brands I did this month, so I'd love to run another giveaway in October. I'm hoping to run one for a more mainstream product, so more of my readers will want to participate (I know not all of you are climbers!)

Lock down an ad network: I've been working on the application process with an ad network I'm fond of, so I'd like to get that completed in October so I can begin working with them.

For me:

Wedding anniversary! Seth and I's second wedding anniversary is October 12th. We plan to keep it low-key this year, but I'm excited to do something fun with him and exchange small gifts. I'm so lucky to be married to such a wonderful, grounded man that supports me, and I can't wait to celebrate this day with him!

LRC! My first outdoor trip to Little Rock City in Tennessee is this month. I don't want to lay out any 'send' goals for myself (that's a quick way to get disappointed), but I do plan to come back unharmed and to have a lot of fun with the Hoosier Heights Team.

Training: I want to continue training hard through the month of October. One of my new year's resolutions was to send a V7, and post-injury I feel like I may be able to do it if I keep working hard.

This is a lot of goals! I feel like sometimes I set super-high expectations for myself, but hopefully continuing to push myself through the fall will help boost the blog up to where I want it to be in six months!
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