Saturday, December 1, 2018

Movember wrap-up

Instagram Story pic: Well, at least Lena is gonna miss my Movember 'stache.

With no great sadness, I shaved off last month's Movember mustache this morning before leading today's super easy hike in the Columbia River Gorge. Lena and Levi got out of their beds early to witness the ceremony.

To contrast all the uproar/protest from friends/family regarding this year's earlier ponytail cutting, this was a time for celebration.

Sure, I was relieved to finally ditch the 80s dad look (And if that phrase offends any of my 'stache-rocking friends: Trust me, my buddies also had a couple of hilarious but less appropriate nicknames for my mo').

More importantly, money was raised for the prevention of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, suicide, and mental health issues.

I played my small part to "stop men dying too young." Thanks for joining me in Movember to support that cause, friends!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Movember to remember

The 'stache is real, and for a purpose. But yes, I also dressed up as the late Burt Reynolds (in "Smokey and the Bandit") for the Halloween costume hike I led for NW Wilderness last Saturday.
Photo credit: Peter Milert, aka Batman

Men's health is serious business. Ahem, that's your cue to stop snickering at my goofy mustache.

Though I grew this 'stache as part of my tribute to Burt Reynolds for the costume hike I organized last week... I'm keeping this 'stache for the entire month of "Movember" to raise funds and awareness for men's health.

The link to my personal fundraising page for the Movember foundation is:

So, what is the Movember Foundation?

A 5 million member strong charity group that is changing the face of men's health. They fund groundbreaking research in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

And why support the Movember Foundation?

"Stop men dying too young."

So there you have it, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas. Please consider partnering with me, by making a donation via the link above to help prevent premature deaths among my fellow dudes. Their lives are worth saving.

Happy Movember, friends!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Halloween ghosting: A haunting tale of depression

Trigger warning: Despite the spooky, festive title, this post is actually a recap of the darkest, longest bout of depression in my entire life (so far). There is plenty of thankfulness and hope in my heart as I look back at this experience. But if you're looking for some light, fun reading, skip to one of my other posts. There is a silver lining in every situation. Cheers!

Ghosting (goh-sting): the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation

Inspired by today's Halloween word of the day, ghosting (certainly not in the romantic sense, as it's defined there), I'm recalling one of the times I was ghosted by one of my random adventure buddies.  Though not her fault in any way, it sent sent me into a spiral of depression that, quite literally, nearly cost me my life.

I'm simplifying this story for brevity, but it more or less started with a Mount St. Helens climb. A few years ago, a buddy from Roseburg had been asking for months to replace our climb plans that fell through when she got injured. She sounded so enthusiastic about climbing a mountain with me... Or even just hiking something. And incidentally, I was getting more interested in technical mountain climbs myself. She suggested all these cool routes we could try. As a people pleaser (yes, to a fault), I couldn't bear to let her down.

Some time later, she abruptly stopped returning my messages. No reason was given, and no "Nah, I changed my mind" or "Oops, we missed our weather window" was hinted at.  Just silence. No responses.

A person without depression would've shrugged this off (as I would now as well, had it happened more recently). But tragically, at the time I didn't have the basic coping skills yet to be that person. I spent the next 18 months (lowball estimate) crying, staying awake nearly all night for days/weeks/MONTHS on end, scrutinizing every hike we had taken for a navigational blunder, replaying every conversation for something I may have said wrong, rereading/wincing over every Facebook message I had ever sent to this person, and drafting even more awkward messages to send. I beat myself up day and night.

It became a self-defeating cycle. The worse the pain of depression from the ghosting grew, the more desperate and emotional my messages became.  And the more messages I sent, the more I hated myself for sending overly emotional messages that I wished I could unsend. Why, oh why, can't Facebook have an unsend button?, I agonized. I was crippled by depression, and, even more sleep-robbing, super embarrassed that it took me so long to curb my efforts to reach out.

Had I done something wrong to deserve a ghosting, I wondered? Possibly. When I had met her for a day trip in Verona, Italy (Yep, I still hook up with buddies overseas often), I was living off extreme sleep deprivation like no man has ever encountered. I must have been an incoherent zombie.  I slept for a record 13+ hours (!) when I left Verona that night to hook up with my next round of buddies in Venice.

Had I said something wrong to deserve a ghosting, I wondered? Probably. Again, as the pain of depression stabbed me in the chest every night until 3:30 a.m., I definitely began to type some sappy, regrettable stuff that I didn't even mean.  But the pain was so crushing. Every month that passed, I plotted to end my life. I never even thought about that friend, or the ghosting, anymore...

It became completely about me, and what I might have done wrong. I was no longer myself.

Would I ever get closure as to why I got ghosted, I wondered? A quick, "Oops, I never got back to you" or standard-issue "Hope you're doing well" message? No. And again, a non-depressed person would never have been so devastated by a casual friend doing that, anyway. It shouldn't have been a big deal. She probably just forgot. But due to my depression working overtime, I couldn't live without hearing a "everything is cool" reassurance from an otherwise casual, only occasionally thought of adventure buddy.

Thankfully, at what would have been the final hours of my life, God sent me a dear friend who would help me put all of this in perspective: How depression distorts reality, how I am worth being friends with (and being alive), etc... But that's a story for another day, with a happier outcome.

Am I upset at the bummer friend who did the ghosting? Of course not. Social media connects us with more friends than we could ever keep track of. Too many amazing friends, too little time. And it's impossible to know who may be struggling with occasional mental health issues.

I'm thankful for every person I've ever known. No exceptions. Every friend I've ever had is amazing, just the way they are. There are no former friends.

My prayer is that I will be the best friend I can be, to everyone who needs one. Everyone is special. And everyone needs to know that they are loved, cared for, and appreciated.

Happy Halloween, friends!

That's me in the red shirt, paying tribute to the late Burt Reynolds with my '80s mustache and "Smokey and the Bandit" costume.
An Instagram pic from my annual Halloween costume hike I led last Saturday)

From tonight's Instagram Story: A mostly Star Wars-themed night of trick-or-treating

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

All Photos are from my Instagram/ Instagram Story

Unpublished photo post from last month;  The Mount Kilimanjaro climb series will resume next week.

My long curls have been either ponytailed or unfurled for every hike/climb I've lead, every party I've gone to, every teaching I've given, and every work shift I've clocked in for.  No more.

The results have been polarizing, much like my man-mane itself.  Most of my friends were sad (upset, even) to see 2 1/2 years of growth end up on the cutting room floor.  There was also a small but vocal few who said a haircut was well past due.

One of the Delta ticket counter supervisors gasped, "Did you just cut off all your beautiful hair?  Oh well, it will grow back."  And my own boss' first word when she saw me walk in the door was simply, "Why?!"  Most of my friends and family know the answer to the question.

Showing off the new 'do, on the town with my bestie

Lena takes Daddy out for a spin, minus the curly locks

In Memoriam:

The shorter, early days (Flying to Guatemala)

Crag or shag?

Climbing/biking/mountaineering helmet-head


Soaked Jeep Wrangler locks

Frozen hike leader locks

London ponytail

F.udge locks

RIP, man-locks ✂️😭

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mount Kilimanjaro: On Our Way to Climb to the Roof of Africa

Photo (and photos below) from my Instagram Story

My heart is pounding as I fly across the Atlantic Ocean, knowing that in two days I will start climbing the highest mountain in the Africa. Mount Kilimanjaro towers above the plains of Tanzania at 19,340 feet (5,895 meters). Previously, the highest mountain I've ever climbed was a relatively modest 14,164' (4317 m) tall.

The cushy Delta One cabin crew has treated me well on this flight from Portland to Amsterdam. I've mostly slept and read books on my Kindle Paperwhite.

An appetizer before the crab cakes

Breakfast, and second breakfast

As soon as I land in Holland, I'll upload this blog and be on the lookout for my two Delta coworkers, Chris and Rod. I proposed this Mount Kilimanjaro climb to Chris a year ago, and Rod took the idea and ran with it.

Assuming we all make it to Tanzania, we're about to have the adventure of a lifetime!

Bonus pic:  It was snowing at the house before I left for PDX Airport. Look at these two little treasures who rushed out to play in it!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Off the grid

No April Fools.  Life is getting busy.... Family, ministry, travel, and all those wilderness/mountain outings I lead.  I'm gonna take a break from Garth's Blog (but not from my other blogs, nor Twitter) so I can focus on writing the remaining credentialing reports for my ministerial licensing process.

Garth's Blog will return.

Here is a re-post from one of my other blogs about my anxiety of being phoneless, originally posted last month:

March 4, 2017

Day 3 of no cell phone.  Cancelling my Mount Hood climb up/ ski down event that I was leading for NW Wilderness yesterday was a bit of a relief.  It's a challenge to coordinate these outings without a phone.  Though I was bummed that the mountain weather was too extreme for my friends and I to play on the slopes... What could beat sitting inside a Sprint repair store for 3+ hours on a sunny Saturday instead?  Blah.

Grumbling aside, being phone-free has ultimately been a calming experience for me.  But first, I had to overcome the expected anxieties:

  • My friends are gonna think I'm either a flake or a jerk for not texting them back (some of them apparently followed up on Facebook, which I also can't check when I'm away from WiFi).
  • How will my loved ones get ahold of me in an emergency, or if they need me for something?
  • I have plans with my surfing buddy and also hiking/climbing friends this upcoming week... How will any of them let me know if something comes up?
  • I already miss my Twitter friends.
  • How many Instagram friends will I lose from not posting my daily Instagram Story pics?
  • When I'm away from WiFi, how will I even message my overseas friends to plan our international trip for next weekend?

Looking back at this list, it's embarassing to see how overly social I am.  It's silly.  And it's sobering to realize how much I kill myself to stay in touch with the people I love.

Everything will be alright.  I'll see my friends when I see them.  In the meantime, I'm gonna enjoy being offline.

From my Instagram Story:  The latest winter adventure I led for NW Wilderness was, ahem, eventful.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Just Read: Love and Respect, The Art of Manliness, The Purity Principle, Mosaic, and devotional book roundup

En route to surfing in Australia (I hope!)  Originally written in the jungles of Guatemala and during our Oregon Coast surfing trip last month, this entry should have been posted in February.

Instagram Story Pic: My new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader—A welcome break from the eyestrain of book marathons on my phone and tablet screens

With yet another youth all-night party on the books (I was asked to be the speaker!), I’m ready to begin my devotional reading plan for 2017. I’ll be reading through God’s Justice Bible this year, as well various novels and the required reading assignments for my credentialing process. That credentialing book list is a doozy!

For a fun change of pace, I’ll also begin reading the Harry Potter book series this summer. My Twitter friends have finally convinced me to take the plunge.  Better late than never, no?

The book reviews below will also be featured on my Goodreads page soon.

By Randy Alcorn

Note: This is the first ever book I’ve read on my new Kindle Paperwhite! I’m trying to cut down on how many Kindle books I read on my Galaxy Note phone and S2 tablet. The less LED screen time, the better.

This small book was a reread for me, required as part of my Church of God credentialing process. I’m glad I revisited it. I expected to be clubbed over the head with guilt and shame for every stray thought… But The Purity Principle feels less like a book of legalistic rules and more like practical encouragement to foster thought patterns which result in a satisfied life of monogamy. Alcorn fits a lot of practical advice into such few pages, and every single page is worth reading.

Verdict: ***** out of 5 stars

Adulting couldn't be any more clearly explained than in Brett McKay's how-to guide to being a dude. Society often takes for granted that guys have been taught the survival skills and manners of a modern day man: Dressing, grooming, behaving graciously, fighting, saving someone’s life, surviving in the outdoors, dating, parenting, being well read… Including the little things, like how to not screw up a man hug.  Even the most seasoned gentleman would probably glean a few pointers from this book.

McKay has a few old fashioned rituals mixed in with the relevant stuff (Joining a fraternal lodge as a rite of passage to manhood? “Newsies”-style hats?).  Yet much of his advice regarding style and manners that might be written off as dated would be better described as timeless.

Stay classy, San Diego!

Verdict: **** out of 5 stars

A woman needs love, and a man needs respect.  That's the premise of Eggerichs’ book and marriage conferences.  Though a bit too complementarian for my world view, there are several valid points and mutual exercises for both parties to help get off the "crazy cycle" which many relationships are trapped in.

Besides the overbearing complementarianism, Eggs also makes generalizations about gender-specific thought patterns which simply won't fit many couples.  For instance, occasional sections described me and my significant other in terms which fit each of us to a tee... But the roles were COMPLETELY REVERSED.  Yet other sections applied to us perfectly, with no flipping required.  To each their own, I say.

Something I really appreciated about Eggerichs’ presentation of his love and respect theory is that both parties of the relationship are instructed to provide their respective love/respect, regardless of whether or not they are receiving the love/respect that they desire.  Initially, I was concerned (offended, actually) to read that a woman ought to unconditionally respect her husband even when he isn't being loving or otherwise "deserving" of respect.  That sounded chauvinistic.  But when I later read that the man should absolutely, in turn, be unconditionally loving even when the woman is not showing him respect, it all made sense:  Whomever is the more mature person should make the first move.  It's a copout to blame your own behavior/attitude on the other person's lack of love or respect.  Be the more mature person.

I highly recommend this book, disagreements and all.  The reader may argue about whether the "love and respect" prescription is a magic bullet to save all relationships that are on the rocks.  I, in particular, am wary of plugging in a simple formula to solve complex issues.  But still, there is no denying that doing your part to be more loving and respectful is likely to have a profound impact on your significant other… And your relationship.  Love wins.

Verdict: **** out of 5 stars

Patrick Nachtigall tells of his two year international journey of visiting various Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) communities around the world. This book is much more than a travelogue, though.  He highlights the cultural flavor of each church, its place in the community, its place in the Church of God, and the local challenges that are faced.  Nachtigall’s goal is to create diversity awareness, communication, and cooperation between our worldwide churches.
Although this book was required reading for my Church of God credentialing process, I would recommend it for anyone who has an interest in the diversity (and theological distinctiveness) of the Church of God holiness movement. Nachtigall also mentions bumping into a few of my own friends during his international journey, which made his book an even more enjoyable read for me.

Controversial opinion about racism:   This will upset many of my beloved activist Twitter friends, but Nachtigall (a POC himself) makes a bold statement about racism in our country. Based on his extensive travels, his observation of racism in other countries has led him to rate the United States as a relative 4 out of 10 for severity of racism.

Before you send me hate mail… I’m not making the case that we don’t have significant work remaining in the name of racial equality.   But seeing the U.S. from a global perspective gives me even more appreciation for our country’s strides for equality.

Verdict: **** out of 5 stars

The most well-travelled book in my library (not counting my Moleskine journal) has been to several continents already. To save weight in my backpack, I’ve started scanning the daily travel-themed devotions into Evernote so I can read and reflect on them on my tablet when I’m overseas.

Each entry is a travel-themed meditation on Scripture, applying the passages to scenarios which travelers  are likely to encounter on their journeys. Some of the devotionals seem to favor theme over the Scripture’s actual context... But the daily Scriptures are reasonably relevant to each topic at hand, and Kuyper's reflections themselves are really what tie the journal entries to the travel theme anyway.

And herein lies this devotional’s strength: Kuyper's clearly loves the wonder and discovery of travel, and she provides insights to make the most of every day of any adventure.

Verdict: **** out of 5 stars

Nearly every summer, we take our Aloha Church of God youth group down to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico for a mission trip with Welcome Home Outreach Ministries (link). In addition to delivering a full-length message or two (plus a home dedication message for when we ceremonially hand over the new home keys to each family), I prepare daily devotions for the end of each work day in Mexico.

Some of the short devotionals in this book have been useful jumping-off points for our evening debriefing sessions in Mexico, as well as any pre and post mission trip gatherings. Note that further preparation by the group leader will obviously enhance the depth of discussion.

All in all, this book is a helpful tool for anyone who leads or co-leads a domestic or overseas short term mission trip.

Verdict: **** out of 5 stars

There isn't much substance in these family Advent devotions. Frankly, they require quite a bit of creativity to stretch out into a family discussion of any length. But for $.99, impulse Kindle buys like this one make it easy to keep my disappointment in check.

And what's up with that pudgy white-boy baby Jesus on the cover? Ugh.

Verdict: ** out of 5 stars