Gratitude: How the Finest Nurses in Oakland Adjusted My Attitude

It’s official! I’m in full recovery mode from this seemingly never ending wrist injury! After nearly 4 months out of the gym, I’m BACK and climbing about 90% as hard as I was when I got hurt. I’m almost there! I no longer have to worry about tweaking my wrist picking something up, twisting my hand too abruptly, constantly being careful not to reach for something too quickly, or holding something for too long with my thumb out. I can type all day — with proper stretching and breaks (which I probably should have been doing in the first place) — and most importantly, I can CLIMB! 

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I used acupuncture as part of my treatment for about 2 months during the healing process. On this particular day, I couldn’t believe how many needles she got in there, so I had to document it. 

Outside Season!

We went out to the Tahoe area to climb a couple of weekends back and I couldn’t wait to get on the rock. It was my first time back out in 2015, and I had a whole new appreciation for the sport after having to take such a long break. I didn’t complain about the long approaches, I tried just about every climb I could, and I kept up a positive attitude even when things got hard. Intending to climb at Lover’s Leap, we ended up at Hog’s Back the first day on the wrong route in direct sun after getting a pretty late start. Loren was really mad, but I brushed it off and kept smiling. It was AWESOME. I surprised myself following Loren up a pretty tricky 10A at Hog’s Back and then exhausted myself the next day with a thirty minute vertical approach to Sugarloaf and another long 10A. When we got back down to the van on Sunday, I was so happy to be completely wiped out. It had been too long! 


Setbacks and Life Lessons

I just got home from a week in Texas, and getting back in the gym after a week off was pretty deflating. It’s amazing what you lose from just a week. It comes back quickly, but that first day in the gym can be a bit of a bummer sometimes if you aren’t mentally prepared. I found myself getting frustrated, cussing, yelling, kicking (if you’ve ever climbed outside with me before, you’ve seen this super charming side of me), and I just quit a route after failing to complete a tough move. I completely lost my focus and ended our session shortly after that. Not a great first day back at all after all the progress I made in April. 

Over the last two days I’ve been working with the nurses at Highland Hospital on relaxation and stress management. It’s National Nurses’ Week, and as the wellness program manager of a large chain of hospitals in Alameda County, I helped set up relaxation rooms with an essential oil diffuser and did guided meditation with the nurses on each floor. Part of our work together has been discussing how we set our intentions each morning and how we prepare for bed each night. I was struck by the amazing positivity these nurses expressed. So many of them said they wake up with gratitude every morning, and that they wind down in the evenings in just the same way. It occurred to me that the job of nursing might very well be impossible if not for routines like this. We also talked about how we use our hands as healers. We shared a gentle reflexology hand massage, and in doing this work, I finally connected the dots.


Gratitude for My Health

My hands are a gift. When my dominant hand was injured, I realized just how much I need it every minute of every day. I really need my thumb! There were times over the course of the healing process that I thought it would never get any better, and that I was doomed to a miserable, limited, injured life forever. (Not that I’m dramatic or anything.) I got down about my injury quite a few times over the course of the last few months, and when I finally got back into the gym, I was so happy I could cry. My first trip back outside was pure bliss. 

But those feelings fade quickly, and it’s all too easy to sink back into an unconscious state of taking my health for granted.

I’ve been back in the gym for one month, and on my first bad day I had the same crappy attitude I tended to have before I got injured in the first place. It was like I’d learned nothing. These nurses have reminded me of just how lucky I am. Through their example of daily gratitude and positivity in the face of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the county, they’ve inspired me to recognize and appreciate what I have.

I have the use of my thumb again. I can sleep through the night without accidentally tweaking it and waking up to sharp pain in my wrist. I don’t have to wear a clumsy brace on my dominant hand. I can type without pain. I can live my passion and climb again. I have my health, and that lesson in gratitude is the gift I’ve received in sharing self-care techniques with some of the finest nurses in Oakland.

Thank You Highland Hospital!

5 Ways Rock Climbing Empowers You

When I first embarked on this blogging journey, my plan was to create a sounding board for my broad approach to health, fulfillment, and balance. I’d share stories about my adventures in the kitchen, in the garden, at local establishments, and in nature. I fully planned to write about my experience in nature from the perspective of a rock climber, but after a recent trip to Yosemite, I realized that I haven’t shared anything with you about climbing at all.
Part of the reason for this is that I’m not an elite climber. I’m not even a great climber – I’d put myself at slightly more advanced than a beginner with only a few years of the sport under my belt, so I surround myself with folks who have far more skill, knowledge and strength than I do. I’m always striving to learn and keep up – a position I grew used to as the younger, shorter, less-athletic sister always getting stuffed at the hoop in our driveway. Being in that position as a kid made me a stronger player, both physically and mentally. I wasn’t afraid to try as hard as I could, and I wasn’t afraid to fail. I just went for it, and I try my very best to apply that mentality to climbing.

There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. Football Coach, Vince Lombardi

People ask me why I climb, why I couldn’t pick something that keeps both feet on the ground as my adult activity of choice. My mom worries about me on the weekends, my coworkers think I’m crazy – why risk an injury? (Truthfully, when done properly and safely climbing isn’t much more dangerous than other sports, but that’s commentary for another time.)

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Owens River Gorge – Bishop, CA

The answer, in short, is to conquer fear. Fear holds us back from pursuing our dreams. Fear of failure, fear of not being the best (or even all that good). Fear of learning something new. Climbing forces you to face your fears – in fact, before I started climbing I had a relatively intense fear of heights. The perpetual quest to conquer fear through climbing has tremendous benefits for your life as a whole. Here are the ways it empowers you.

5 Ways Rock Climbing Empowers You

1. Climbing pushes you out of your comfort zone, repeatedly.

You’re reaching for something you never thought you could reach, you’re shifting all your weight onto a tiny feature in the rock and trusting yourself, your shoe, your body, your strength, to hold you there. Your resolve is constantly tested, and the limit of what you can manage physically and mentally gets higher and higher with each summit. You’re stretched, you’re challenged, and as a result you grow.

2. You are only competing with yourself.

Nobody’s keeping score. Your teammate is there to keep you safe, and the two of you are working together to do something amazing. But the only opponent is the rock (although I will admit that sometimes you feel like the rock is fighting back!) Climbing is all about personal best and working toward your own goals. Worrying about how you compare to others is only a detractor, and the exercise of controlling that tendency to compare is an advantageous mental task to master in itself. The gratification of sticking a hard move and finishing the route is all the motivation you need. This inner drive will carry over into many aspects of life where the only one keeping track of whether you accomplish your goal is you.

3. The Unknown awaits on every climb.


Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA

Every route has a ‘crux’ – the hardest part of the climb that determines the difficulty rating. The crux can be anywhere in theclimb. It can be the first move when you’re not quite warmed up or it could be toward the top when you’re totally burnt out. You can guess based on the rating if you’ll be able to do it, but you never know until you try, and often it’s that part of the climb that truly tests your grit. Even though we usually have a guide book to tell us roughly where the route goes, I often find myself in spots where the exact path is unclear or the best sequence of moves is elusive. Sometimes you have to just commit and have faith in your intuition that you’re going the right way and you’ll make it through. Sometimes I see my partner climb first and I know that whatever he’s doing is definitely NOT what I’m going to do – whether it’s because of a difference in height, skill, strength, or a combination – and that I’m going to have to figure out my own way when it’s my turn. One of the best parts of climbing is pushing through and accomplishing something you didn’t know you were capable of. Often that’s the real unknown that awaited you.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. – Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own

4. Persistence, determination, and problem-solving are crucial to climbing.

These three characteristics are among the most valuable in ensuring that you are achieving your personal potential. And I’m not just talking about climbing anymore. Building and practicing these skills is a huge factor in professional success and personal growth. It’s impossible to grow as a person without pushing forward through (at least some) adversity and difficulty. When you’re on a wall working to find the next move, you might have to rearrange your feet, switch your hands, or shift your center of gravity. You might have to try, fail, and rework it another way. All of this while dangling high in the sky. The harder you work to get it right and solve the puzzle, the deeper your commitment to yourself and the climb.

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Grotto – Sonora, CA

5. Climbing fosters an alliance between humans and nature.

No one appreciates the reality of gravity like a climber. That might have been a bad joke, but seriously, climbing was meant to be an outdoor sport – even a wilderness sport. Most climbers train in the gym in preparation to climb outside on real rock under an open sky (or sometimes in a cave!). Groups like Access Fund that work to ensure climbing access across the country are focused on conservation, respect for the sanctity of nature, and reverence for the pristine outdoors. Climbers carry that mentality with them at the crag. Not only is there an etiquette that accompanies this sport in terms of keeping crags clean and safe, there’s also a spiritual relationship built between humans and nature when you spend that much time outside. Having that connection to nature and recognizing the role and responsibility of humans in preserving its beauty is empowering and motivating.

Climbing is a sport with transformative grit that demands a respect for how nature and humans interact. You don’t have to be an elite climber to know that climbing builds strength, character, community, and alliance with nature – maybe that’s another way of saying that it strengthens “mind, body, and spirit.” I may not have the skill and experience of an elite climber, but I think that’s something worth sharing.

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Yosemite National Park, CA

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Lake Tahoe, CA



















2013 Recap – A Year of Adventure

On the eve of 2014, I think it’s a good time to inventory how things went this year. It’s a great place to start for making goals for the year to come. 2013 was an interesting one — more mellow than 2012, which included our wedding and the purchase of a new home, but it was still full of surprise and adventure.

Between my husband and I, we spent 30 days total in Yosemite, including a 5 day trip for the 4th of July with close friends and a 4 day trip with our dads — it was so awesome to see our dads climb! They did great! We climbed almost every one of those days either in the Valley or in Tuolomne Meadows. We also took a trip to Bishop over President’s Day weekend and headed to local day spots like Mt. St. Helena, Castle Rock, Pinnacles, Cragmont, and Mt. Diablo. Dad's TripFor me, this year represented a few major climbing “firsts.” I graduated from 10s to 11s in the gym, maxing out at 11c. I learned how to make, and started using tape gloves for climbing crack outside and (not well) in the gym — doing it well in the gym will be part of what happens in 2014. I led my first trad climb at the Grack in Yosemite, experienced my first hanging belay freakout on Seneca Rock in West Virginia (where Loren and I had our first epic dehydration and hunger fest due to lack of preparation on the rock), and followed Loren up my first real multi-pitch climbs.

climbingmilestonesLast year’s New Year’s Resolution was somewhat related to climbing — be able to do at least one pull-up by the end of the year. I accomplished that goal mid-year and maxed out at 4 in a row. This year, my new goal is to do 10 by April 1st. It’s a much more aggressive goal, but I’m confident that if I stick with it, I’ll make it happen. We have a hang board in our house, which I use to practice, doing reps assisted by giant rubber bands and then doing a few on my own. To be honest, I’ve been slacking the last month or 2, but I was able to do a pull-up this morning, so technically I accomplished my goal, even if I’ve backslid slightly — quite a bit has happened this holiday season, including 2 unexpected trips to Houston and losing my firecracker of a grandmother to ovarian cancer. Losing Mawmaw was a huge blow, but knowing she’s at peace is the most I could ask for.

Pressing on!

This year was also the Year of the Garden in my world. Having never had a yard of my own (when I lived in a rental house in Baltimore, the whole backyard was literally concrete with cinder block walls for fences. True story.), I was so excited to get started on the beautification and “food-ification” of my back yard that I got huge chunks of it done while Loren was away for solo trips and bachelor parties. I had a terrible eucalyptus tree removed from the corner of our yard, dug out all of the pointless shrubs that lined the fencing, decorated the concrete “art” the previous owner of our home left behind with potted plants, and built a small hill for a succulent garden. Building the garden itself was a one-weekend project. Succulent Gardensucculents5monthOn another weekend at home alone, I decided it was time to start growing food. I totally went for it, building my very first ever planter box, mixing and pouring my very first ever concrete to secure the posts, and growing my own food for the very first time. It was such a feeling of accomplishment to build something like this all by myself! (well, I had a little help from the Worm.) raisedbed1 raisedbed2 After such awesomeness ensued in the back yard, Loren’s creative juices started flowing, and he designed a more complicated box for us to put in the other corner of our yard. We had to get rid of a large, tree-like shrub first (which involved a chain saw!), and we were able to snag some wood from an old deck at Loren’s dad’s house to repurpose for the project. This garden required careful calculation so that everything would fit together properly — as I’ve said before “precise” and “patient” aren’t on the list of the first 10 ten words to describe me, so at some point, I just started screwing boards together, and we completely forewent pouring the concrete. It turned out great though! We more than doubled our food production with this new beauty!    raisedbedLIt’s so fun to see how quickly things grow — our tomato plants are deceptively large. The front plant yielded a decent amount of heirloom fruit, but the back one gave us about 8 not-so-great Early Girls. Next year, we’ll water less and fertilize with less nitrogen and more potassium.

WholeYard1The other major event of the year for me is the creation of this blog. I’m so thrilled to finally be doing this! Thanks to everyone who’s reading and sharing, and please continue to do so!

I’ve already stated a goal on my Facebook page to have 300 likes by my birthday — please help me make that happen, in addition to officially subscribing here on the actual blog! In the meantime, Happy New Year and stay safe and healthy!

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