Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bockfest is coming!

There are two weekends in Cincinnati you just can't miss. The first is MidPoint Music Festival, at the end of September. The second is Bockfest - a 21 year old weekend festival ushering the first signs of spring with goats, monks, and delicious beer -- and it's THIS weekend! (March 1-3!) --  Watch out for the girl in the captain's hat causing a ruckus - that will be me.

To get in the spirit, I'm sharing an infographic I created last year as a fun demonstration of skills for my previous employer. Get the facts on beer in the Queen City!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Climb- a short story

The cold wind mussed our hair, causing jackets to be zipped closer, hats pulled down tighter. Standing in a lopsided circle on damp ground in the back woods of southern Ohio, the 56 of us looked quizzically at each other and towards the wooden monstrosity waiting some 50 yards away.

The picture doesn't do this terror justice, but you get the idea.

"Welcome to the Alpine Tower," shouted the genial, bearded dude, decked out in climbing harness and carabinered water bottle. Randall explained the process, describing how several dozen of us were going to scale the 65-foot tall structure, outfitted with dangling ladders, precariously placed footholds, ropes and metal jiggers holding the thing together like a giant's game of Jenga.

I cracked a smile to the girl standing next to me. Tanja and I had walked the trail up to the Tower, comparing notes on big-sisterhood and growing up in tough situations. We promised each other it would be no big deal, that despite our mutual trepidation of heights, we'd both scale the tower and have a great time doing it.

The entire day at Camp Joy was comprised of a variety of team building exercises and facilitated conversations on vulnerability and leadership for the group of us- C-Change, Class 8. I'd participated in weekend retreats in a similar fashion, but never as an adult. I'd broken down some of my barriers and already learned a ton about changing my attitudes and opening up as a way to lead from behind. I had no idea how vulnerable I'd make myself in the next hour.

I adjusted my helmet and watched as 4, 6, 10 of my new colleagues sauntered up the poles. Connected to ropes with a dedicated belay team, there was no possible way anyone would hurt themselves. Those of us at the bottom shouted encouragement and advice to our friends who were trying to make their way up the tower. After some careful observation, and with a sinking feeling in my chest, I cheerfully volunteered to be the next to ascend the structure. Fake it til you make it, right?

I don't do heights. Being on the edge of bridges makes me dizzy, and while I enjoy roller coasters, it's only because I do so completely encased in a metal cage. My friend Jamie's trapeze birthday was an exercise in courage, and it was only 30 feet or so up in the air. Yet, here I was. The only way out was up.

I slowly clambered up the first telephone pole, making it about 25 feet in the air, and then froze. The ground was too far away, and I was completely unfamiliar with the rock climbing hand and footholds that were my only access to moving up the thing. They seemed too small, too unwieldy to support me. I clung to the wood like an overgrown koala and tried to breathe without crying. There was no way I was going to make it.

An actual few minutes spent clinging to the base, debating my options, considering giving up, felt like hours. My new classmates were shouting encouragement to me, and I felt like a failure. One voice, I don't know whose, floated up to me: "Keep looking up! Keep going!" I awkwardly flung a leg over a connecting piece of the puzzle, and began the climb again.

It was ridiculous, really. I stopped and started no fewer than five more times before reaching the top, flinging colorful curse words and unbridled shrieks of terror to the wind whenever I felt I'd made a mistake. The team on the ground never gave up on me. I was sure they were laughing at the absurd spectacle I was making of myself - I was perfectly safe; there was no reason for fear. But taming my inner lizard-brain was incredibly difficult.

I don't remember exactly how I ascended to the final platform - it was some combination of my anxious beached-whale kicking and the patient climb instructor hauling on my harness. But the yawp I released -full of triumph, fear, joy, adrenaline- could be heard the next county over; that, I remember. I warmed my frozen fingers with my breath, waiting on the platform with new friends comparing notes, and flung myself voluntarily over the edge of the precipice to zipline to the ground below.

Other challenges that lie before me are comparatively, cake. Bring 'em on.