Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goals for 2011

Everyone does it and I'm no exception, so here are my goals for 2011:

1) Be a better husband and father- learning how to become a better person is integral to this process. Obviously, this is a life-long pursuit that takes loads of patience, self awareness, reflection, and redirection. Regardless, I want to be better for my family.

2) Climb as much as possible- 2010 was a tough year as far as climbing goes. Injury and baby rearing slow down the pace of climbing like a rear-wheel drive diesel truck with no weight in the back trying to claw its way up an icy, snowy hill. Anyhow, climbing is a lifestyle for me and a life-long pursuit, that like a junkie who doesn't get his fix, makes me feel ill when I don't get to climb or push my boundaries on a regular basis. So in that spirit I plan on getting after it in 2011 learning how to balance family, work, and play like never before.
  • 500 pitches
  • 50 new 5.12s
  • 10 new 5.13s
  • 5 new Grade IV/V
  • Onsight 5.12 trad

3) Start trail running consistently- Last year was the first year that i ran somewhat regularly. It started as a way to try to get back into shape following my injury but developed into more of a passion. Unfortunately, I let life get in the way of keeping up with it and this year I plan on not letting that happen. Running began to feel meditative for me and god knows I need that silencing of my mind and time of reflection. So 2011 will be the year I make like Forest Gump and "gooo runnning".

  • Average 20 miles a week
  • Start making my longer runs in the 13-15 mile range instead of the 8-10 mile range
  • Run a trail marathon on Potomac Heritage Trail with Gina
  • Finish the Gristmill Grinder in 1:40 or less

4) Work on my House- My house has a never-ending slew of projects that need tending to. So like last year, I need to make time to get some of them done. This will be tough being that I have goals to increase and improve my climbing and running, all the while juggling family duties and work. Nevertheless, house be warned your will be getting a facelift.
  • Pressure wash the outside of my house
  • Replace outside gutters and cocking
  • Refurbish stairs
  • Make threshholds for upstairs doorways
  • Living room make over
  • Get electric in my garage

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learning how to Breathe

My parents are crazy and have no idea what they are doing
Look Daddy, my forearms are bigger than yours. Wanna arm wrestle?

Once again, It's been way too long since my last post, but who's really reading this mindless jabbering anyway. So... a helluva a lot has happened since my last post. Life evolves, as it should.
The big news is that Jack Muir, my son, was born a little after midnight with a full moon hanging in the Autumn night sky. Every day since his birth has been a blessing. The realization that I'm a dad never really hit me like I expected it would, instead it has been slowly creeping up on me and invading my senses, my conscience, my reality.
Just now am I coming to grips with the fact that having a family takes work and commitment. It's not just my life anymore, but rather, our life and that means rearranging my time, and my needs, and my wishes to suit the family. I'm still working on this time management thing and by no means have I even begun to figure it out, but one thing I know for certain is that in order to fit in my personal pursuits I'm going to need to squeak as much out of each day as possible. I've started tossing around the idea of forgoing my "morning time" (basically sitting in front of the computer drinking coffee and eating breakfast trying to come to terms with the fact that I have to go to work AGAIN today) in order to get a quick 30 minute workout in before work. Crazy huh? Possibly so, but I'm going to give it a try and see if I can commit and get it done. Routine is not one of my strong points but maybe at the ripe (and crusty) age of 32 it will begin to work for me.
Besides Jack entering our lives and continuing to shape it on a daily basis, the other big news is that I'm climbing again (albeit not nearly enough) and at a pretty respectable level. I honestly thought I'd never climb like I used to after my accident, not even close to it. But since June I've been steadily climbing a few times a month and have been able to climb hard 5.12 again, although not on a regular basis. Consistency is the big problem, but as Tracy continues to remind me, our life has tossed and turned around and reformed in something new and consistency is very hard to achieve under these circumstances. She is right of course, but still something inside me, always feels like I'm losing my game, as I soften up. Who knows, and what does it really matter really. One thing I'm grateful for and certain of is that given the time and dedication I can climb harder than I was before the accident. I just need to learn how to breathe.

Monday, February 1, 2010


It's only a matter of time before you hurt yourself if you spend a lot of your time engaging in "risky" activities. I've never felt that my lifestyle was reckless, or even overly risky compared to the average joe. But, now that I've hurt myself I guess I was really living in a state of denial. It's not that I pushed the boundaries of safety on a regular basis, in fact I was a fairly conservative climber considering my level of climbing and experience. But as I sit here, 3 weeks out from rapping off the end of my rope and severely damaging my wrist and hand, I wonder was it worth it? Like all climbers, I've been in sketchy positions on lead that should I fall things could go bad. I rarely wore a helmet, in fact I didn't even wear a helmet on Half Dome, El Cap, or any Sierra route I've done. In retrospect, that was pretty stupid. As were all of the solo climbs I've done. I'm not a huge soloist, but I've done my fair share of solos on everything from single pitch routes, to backcountry peaks, to sporty onsight solos. If Bachar fell, anyone can. I know now that if I'm ever able to climb again, I will never solo again. It's just not worth it. Especially now that I'm going to be a dad. Plus, I'm more in love with my wife than ever before and life is just too beautiful to fuck it away by rolling the dice soloing.

So what does the future hold for me? I'm not sure yet. I have virtually no feeling in my thumb, index finger, middle finger, and palm of my left hand. I have very limited range of motion of my fingers. I'm going to do my best to try to get back full mobility in my hand but somethings are up to God to decide. I just hope he gives a brother a hand on this one. While I've been injured I've lost an incredible amount of fitness. I'm getting fat and weak from the lack of activity, my self pity, and lack of motivation to do anything but drink beer, eat junk food and watch the tube and surf the net. I gotta change this if I'm going to keep any remnants of my old life. After all, I'm going to be a dad in 6.5 months I have to get my shit together.

Maybe this accident happened for a reason. Maybe someone is trying to teach me that rock climbing is not life, but rather life is life. Rock climbing and all my other outdoor pursuits fit into life but they surely shouldn't make up the bulk of my existence. Hopefully, I will heal up enough to climb again, to be able to paddle a kayak, to do yoga and lift weights, to monkey around on a tree deep in the mountains, to hold by baby, to be able to work on my house, and to take care of my beautiful wife. But hopefully the mental scars of this accident will never fully heal and WAKE ME UP to living life in balance. Never again will I take for granted an easy climb in the mountains, instead I will breathe in the beauty of just being able to climb and be outside. Never again will I push myself to do another 3 miles to get a better workout, instead I will push myself to enjoy my family, friends, and the experiences that life brings us daily. I've realize that my climbing and lifestyle was selfish. I spent way too much time focusing on climbing. Needless to say I've met some amazing people, seen some beautiful places, and have had many deep profound experiences in the mountains but I think its time to scale it down a bit. Life is too short to spend the better part of your years stuck in a wheel chair, or brain damaged, or perpetual back problems, or with a hand that does not function. Life itself is a great adventure, one worth exploring throughout its varied terrain, instead of being so singularly focused on summiting that steep peak in the distance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Pitch 3 of the Rostrum
The Rostrum from the approach. 1300 feet of perfect crack climbing

Another goal for this summer is to climb the Nose again

This is my current "proj. O' tha week"- Just Send It 5.13b

I just turned 31 (ouch!). Lateley, it's dawned on me that I'm not getting any younger and that some of my goals in life (at least athletic goals) are only going to get harder to accomplish the longer I wait to achieve them. Because of this reasoning I've been fairly focused and dedicated to really pushing myself at climbing this fall. This spring I really pushed myself on the bike working up to a 100 mile mountain bike race. I saw first hand how my hard work paid off when I easily finished the race and beat out many other, more experienced, "lifers" in the race. With that mentality, I've been really trying to bump up my climbing ability into the 5.13 range. That means projecting climbs that at first seem nearly impossible to even reach the top, let alone reach the top without falling for a clean ascent. Then as you work the moves, find suitable rests, develop certain strategies and little tricks to make the movements of the climb easier, you eventually get to the point that you can climb from bottom to top without falling on fairly desperate(for me at least) terrain. With that said, my new "proj o' tha week" is a climb at Fern Buttress called Just Send It, a 5.13b sport climb that climbs super technical and is about as powerful a climb as I've ever been on. It's real close to my trad line, Portley Gent's Route, that I completed this Fall. I one-hung Just Send it twice yesterday so now its just a matter of time before I tame the beast and on to the next line but there is something magical about the process of learning movements on hard lines that I'm getting more and more addicted to. Hopefully all of this hard work will pay off this summer when I head to Yosemite for a 3 week climbing trip. One of my goals (for a long time) has been to free climb the Rostrum, a 11c 12 pitch route in Yosemite.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The past few weeks have been BUSY to say the least. We moved into our new house and had the endless amount of errands associated with moving into a new home. Everything from setting up internet and TV; to pricing home insurance; to getting the odds and ends to make living more comfortable. On top of that, we were slammed by the Fayette County school system to jump through all the hoops of getting all of our paper work in, take our drug tests, get our transcripts sent, etc. At the same time I've been trying to do some of the more simpler tasks around our house that I can do before it gets cold. One day I put up storm windows on the many windows all over our house. A few days were spent cleaning out our crawl space under the house to lay down a vapor barrier. Tracy's dad and I fixed the sump pump and insulated some of our water pipes.

As if that wasn't enough, I've been taking full advantage of the fall season trying to climb as much as possible. I've been slowly ticking away at some of my projects here at the New River Gorge but the MORE I CLIMB, THE MORE PROJECTS I ACCUMULATE. So far this fall (ok, here comes the chest pounding, egocentric-driven bragging) I've climbed Portley Gentlemen's Route (12c trad), Skull Fuck (12c), Shang (12d), Made in the Shade (12c/d), Dining at the Altar (12a), Pettifogger (12c), Thunderstruck (12b), Finders Keepers (12b/c), Go Cat Go (12b), Reallignment (10d trad), Preffered Dynamics (11d mixed), Butterbeans (10a trad), and a good two-dozen other routes that I can't seem to recall right now. Oh and I SOLOED THE DADDY, a 400 foot route in Linville Gorge that looks amazing from the rim of the ampitheatre and doesn't disappoint when climbing it. It has crack climbing, slab, face climbing, and even a small overhang on it. It was awesome. Bachar would have been proud.

We went to Bridge day and froze our ass watching people jump off the bridge while eating our Pork BBQ sandwiches. I drank alot of beer.

I'll try to get photos from Tracy to post.
Until then.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This is the house we are currently "camping" in until we officially close on the house below which we are buying. We sleep on a camping mat with sleeping bags as our blankets. Our clothes are in duffel bags, or better yet, scattered around the floor.
Our new house. It was built in 1896 and has loads of charm.
Camping with Tracy's parents while house hunting at the New.

That's me climbing out of Summersville Lake on the overhanging cliffs that surround it. This lake is only 20 minutes from our new house.

Kayaking Saranac Lake. We are about 5 miles into our journey and just saw a row of baby ducks following their mommy. Little did we know that our serene trip was about to turn epic when the sky unleashed the fury of 50 mile an hour winds and waves that drenched us completely. I was loving every minute of it.

This is Tracy following the 2nd pitch of a route in the Adirondacks that we did together. It was a bit scary because this pitch traversed a good bit and didn't have the best of gear so if she would have fallen she would have taken a 30 foot whipper about 100 feet off the deck. Kinda spooky for her and a little nerve racking for me as well. She got through it ok and we finished the pitch (which was awesome) and topped out.

Hiking up to Rooster's Comb in Keene Valley, NY

Gina (my little sister) graduated this summer from JMU.

I climbed with old man Steve this spring for a long weekend where we climbed both the Glass Menagerie at Looking Glass (probably the best big wall route on the East Coast) and the Original Route at Whitesides.

Bodhi and Roxy became best friends while we were living with Tracy's parents immediately returning from Kosovo. Roxy became a good girl learning from Bodhi and Bodhi got some of his spunk back because both Daddy, Mommy, and the young Roxy were now back in his life.

I'm alive and doing well cyber geeks and geekettes, or anyone else who reads this ramble of mine. Anyways, it has been months since I've updated so let me fill you in on a few things and bring you up to speed.

We left Kosova and spent nearly a month in Northern VA with Tracy's parents looking for jobs and trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do. Remember we didn't have a car, job, a place to live, not even a bed to our name. But we had all the outdoor gear you would ever want, :) the important stuff. After a month of staying with Tracy's folks and eating all of their food I finally found a job in the Queen City- Charlotte, NC. I reasoned that Charlotte would be a good move for us because the city is new, housing is affordable (way more than NOVAs), great climbing areas, in fact some of the best on the East Coast, are within a couple of hours of Charlotte, and the job seemed to ideal. I would be teaching 6th grade world history at an IB magnet school. OHHH, that's sounds fancy and prestigous. Just to make sure that the school was ideal and lived up to my expectations, Tracy and I took the 6 hour drive down to Charlotte to meet up with the principal and tour the school. Well, Mrs. Dee Gardner gave us the grand tour showing us the ballet dance room, the old fashioned auditorium, even the high tech media lab, aka library for you old school folks out there. We were convinced that this was the place for us. It actually sounded too good to be true. WELL IT WAS!!!!

Within an hour of my first day at school I realized that this was gonna be another tough 6 months. My students (i found this out later on the first day) were all what they labeled "open" students. Meaning that they didn't belong at the school because of their test scores, reading levels, and general behavior record was not adequate but instead were allowed by Charlotte Mecklenburg (CMS-or politcal corrupto ignorantamus as I like to call them) to join the school with the hope that they would be heavily influenced by the strong academics and moral conduct of the other half of students who actually belonged in a magnet IB school. By the way, for those who don't know, IB stands for International Bachleaureate (didn't spell that right and too lazy to look it up right now) which basically means that these students are working towards an Internation based diploma with hopes to go to an international university. The cream of the crop so to speak. HA! My kids were the cream of the crop all right, the crop which is armed robbery at 17, dealing drugs and repeat offender by 18, petty car theif by night, and southern low ballin slingin gangster by day just trying to play the game. Most of my kids (and I mean most, like maybe 10 out of 120) were just plain horrible. Obviously we could go on forever about who's fault this was. The obvious answers of absentee dad, cracked out mama, older brother who is a bad influence, no place to live, no money, the white man, etc. but the point is that they were not fit for a public school environment and I had to deal with them on a daily basis. Spitting, stealing, fighting, cursing, and everything else you can think of was par for the course. Everyone of the teachers outside in the trailers with me was overly stressed out. We were a band of red eyed, red faced, constantly sick, frizzled hair, heart, and mind trying to, uh, make a difference. RIGHT! We had lost motivation and nothing was going to bring it back .

The coping mechanisms of my fellow teachers were hilarious at times, as I'm sure mine were to them. We had Mr. King who treated his job as a Math teacher as a prison warden would. He issued garbage detail duty to kids during lunch, held a cardio boot camp during recess for his most horrible students, and tried at all cost to keep his kids behaved and put on the facade that he in fact had these kids in control. The last week of school he was forced to leave early because of an incident in which he got into a student's face screaming at her. Nuff said. Then we have Mrs. Peterson who did her best, like me, but for all her effort was barely hanging on. Teachers we weren't. Behavior monitors, or better yet, guards we were. Then we had Mr. Carter who cared deeply about these kids but literally let his kids run all over him and his classroom. At the end of the day Mr. Carter's room looked like a bomb went off in it. It was truly unbelievable.

So... nuff said about my shitty Charlotte teaching job. At the end of the school year I told my principal I wouldn't return. She didn't care this was the norm for this school to turn over teachers every year, plus because of budget cuts I wasn't going to get a renewed contract anyway. Win, win I guess. Win for me for sure. Oh, I forgot to tell you that during this time Tracy was hired to teach at another middle school in Charlotte, but not a "prestigous" school like mine. Well, to make a long story short, Tracy hated her job. She came home in tears at least once a week and from what I saw in her it seemed as if her spirit had been broken. I tried to convince her to quit the job and that we could find a way to make it work but she wouldn't. She stuck it out like me. By the end of the summer we were fried and we were in desperate need of a good vacation.

But before I tell you about my vacation, I need to mention the good things about Charlotte. I met some new friends who rejuvenated my love of mountain biking. Thanks Ryan, Thomas, and Lance for getting me back into biking. Ryan and i sure had some fun, yet scary as hell for me, rides in Pisgah. Ryan can ride downhill at a speed that scares teh living shit out of me so just trying to follow him his a task in itself. He and the other guys influenced me to sign up for my very first mountain bike race, the Shenandoah 100, a 100 miles of backcounty trail riding with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and nearly as much descent.

So about our vacation. We left for the Adirondacks in upstate New York for some mountainization. We climbed at Spiders Web, the Beer Walls, Pitch off Chimney, and Chapel Pond. We hiked up to peaks like Roosters Comb and the Gothics, we paddled Saranac Lake, we ate the world's heaviest pizza in Lake Placid, and we met Pat and Mike at camp and laughed at their crazy noob stories where, "Man, we should have DIED today" started their conversation. They were great and I hope we get the chance to see them again.

While we were at the Daks (that's what cool people call them) we applied for teaching jobs in Fayette county, WV -home of the New River Gorge and best climbing area on the East Coast. When we returned to Charlotte we continued to look for jobs, interview, and figure out things as far as career goes. After many internet searches, interview in Brevard, cover letter and resumes sent, and numerous trips to Fayetteville to hound the Board of Education for jobs we luckily were both hired in Fayetteville. We currently are about to move into our first house (which is awesome) and we live in a climber's dream town. So things are generally good. Now only if get my students to care about learning and things would be awesome.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Andrea and Kevin's wedding
The happy groom, my new brother

Kevin, Andrea, Gina, and Tracy at the rehearsal dinner

Vienna, Austria at Christmas

Vienna on route to Washington DC

Qendressa has graced us with her presence in Sophomore 2

There are hippies, goths, and homeboys in Kosova
These 3 on the right are responsible for at least 4 new gray hairs on my head. Denis "You talkin to me!"
The Russian Kosovars . Notice the fashionable hats.

That's it time to choke Eti the White Gangsta
Eti aka "G Unit"
Besart aka "Afro-boy"
Peter-our token Bulgarian in Junior 3
Junior 3
Man, who's that ugly dude in the middle?
Girls in Junior 3.

More girls in Junior 3.
Watch out students. The next one who starts talking has to answer to the bazooka.
Krenare and Doruntina serving cake
Eating lunch will Sophomore 4 at Qebabtore, sorry Gezim, Ben Af will have to wait for another day.

Gezim and Ron ready to make an escape
Gent is taking no prisoners

Sami on guard
Sophomore 4: Knights holding court at the round table
Sophomore 2
Granit and Alban goofing off.

Sophomore 4

So a lot has happened since my last post. I left my job teaching history in Kosovo, came back to the states during the worst economy since the Great Depression (with no job, house, or car bear in mind), helped my mom move out of my childhood home and into a new house, attended my sister Andrea's wedding up in NY, landed a job teaching 6th Grade Social Studies in Charlotte, NC and I am now planning the move to my new home in the South Park District of Charlotte (I'm going be living in Southpark, that's kinda funny, it just damned on me) Whew, what a whirlwind of a past month.

So I'll start from the beginning. My job in Kosova was horrible. I could tell by the first month that I didn't like teaching there but I tried to make it work. After coming from such a great school to ASK I was shocked and horrified to realize how things were done. It was a constant area of frustration, stress, and discontent for me that I ultimately was never able to see past. Alot of my friends and family asked was it the students, or the people there that you didn't like. And my answer is always the same, "No my students were generally great, better than your average American student. Much more initiative, a lot more curiosity, and a good bit more courteous. I loved my students." I would add, "Kosovars are wonderful people. I had nothing but good experiences with the locals. They were loving, generous, open, and genuine people. I would go back in a heart beat, to visit, that is." This is when I would get to the root of my crux while living in Kosovo. I would explain, "I learned many things in my short four and half month stay over in Kosovo, but the most important things were what I learned about myself. I learned that I love America, and being American, more than I ever had before living in Kosova. I learned that I'm not a city guy. I love the sights, sounds, arts, culture, and general chaos for a visit but not on a regular basis. One of my favorite bands growing up, Fugazi, had this line in one of their songs that never rang more true until I lived in a city. "Concrete and chaos rise up as one." Fugazi were right. Peace, beauty, and true vitality, although alive in the city, always seemed cloaked by the dingy cityscape and choked by the seemingly urgence of such non importance that is bred in urban moderne.
Ok enough with all the hippy dippity shit. Students, co-workers, and traveling was great. The daily 9 to 5 was intolerable. I will definitely miss it and my students made sure that I would miss them by all of the cakes, presents, and festivities that we had our last week of classes together. If you are reading this students I can honestly say that I will never forget any of you and I truly hope that you will keep in touch and let me know if you are visiting the states. I am going to open up a facebook account just for you guys once I get the chance to. My wife has said for years that I need to get on facebook but I have always resisted arguing that I don't want to spend that much time on the computer. I guess the time has come for me to jump into the 21st century. I'm gonna try to visit Kosova again in summer of 2011 to see my sophomores graduate. Alright I will let the photos and videos tell you the rest of the story of this crazy month. They sure are funny.