Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2020: Things Are Looking Up

Happy New Year 2020!

Photo from our 5th annual New Year's Day hike on Saddle Mountain, for NW Wilderness

I'm starting Garth's Blog clean this year, moving all the 2019 posts to my private blog*. Even my 2019 adventure and travel blog posts and unfiltered late-night tweets are hitting the cutting room floor.

Things are looking up. I'm healing, getting stronger, breaking the chains, leaning on my faith in Jesus, practicing self-care, and moving forward to a brighter future. When you see me on a mountain or on the trail looking happy, I'm (usually) not faking it. It's genuine.

I've been learning and experimenting with tools that have been enormously helpful in dealing with depression and insomnia. Examples: Meditation (shout out to my two favorite apps, the Calm meditation app and the Christ-centered Abide meditation and prayer app) and keeping an ultra-minimalist Bullet Journal are now daily habits. Weightlifting and the outdoor events I organize for NW Wilderness also help clear my mind… As do my visits with naturopathic therapist Dr. Carol Zamarra… As well as love from family, friends, and church family… And many more good things I could enthusiastically list.

Hit me up publicly or privately if you’d like to hear more in a future blog post. It could cover additional things that have helped me, as well as offer a look at what a journey towards wellness might look like. I'm still learning, as we all are. Otherwise, it's back to blogging book reviews and travel adventures.

Though if you are hurting, just know that there is hope. I'm with you, and I'm on your side. The 2020s have the potential to be your best decade yet.

Next on Garth’s Blog:
My Top 10 Favorite Books of 2019!

*I wanted to end that on a positive note, so I buried this footnote way down here. Many of those raw “in the moment” blog posts from 2019 gave non-constructive language to my struggles with depression, insomnia, and hurt… Primarily triggered (but not caused) by two specific failures: One in a friendship, and the other regarding state-related ministry. Trying to live with being unforgiven for both of these failures is still a struggle for which I ask prayer and support. I am still prayerfully and mindfully working though these two issues. Things will continue to get better. I believe it. 🌞

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 Dictionary.com 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.