Shivers and Quivers Abound in Legendary

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Last weekend, my fiancé and I explored a new neighborhood in San Diego. About an hour into our stroll, we popped into a Starbucks so I could get a ginormous iced green tea and use the restroom. After placing my order, I located the bathrooms…and noticed something weird. The lights were off and the door was propped open with nothing but a slim trashcan. A piece of paper taped to the turquoise paint explained everything. The lights weren’t working. They weren’t sure when they’d be back on. They were sorry for the inconvenience.

At that point, I didn’t have a choice. I needed to go. So, I stepped into the dark bathroom, which was cool and quiet and dimly lit with a single sliver of light…and I immediately muttered “Bloody Mary” under my breath three times. And waited. Because that’s what you do.

While nothing happened to me in that Starbucks bathroom last weekend, one thing was unmistakably clear: my book du jour, Pen and Kink’s Legendary anthology, had gotten under my skin. I’m not surprised, because the collection is darkly delightful, and sensuous to boot.

Legendary, edited by Laura Harvey, is a compilation of five stories that retell traditional urban legends—with a romantic twist. Yeah, you heard me. Each dose of horror is tempered with sweetness. And I’m here to tell you, it works.

In “Not Again,” Sara Dobie Bauer tackles “The Hook” with the sensibility of a B horror movie. The result is hilarious, steamy, and campy in all the right ways.

Wendy Sparrow’s “She Wore White” cautions cheating men against picking up women dressed in white along treacherous, winding roads—and follows a couple too stubborn to realize they’re made for each other.

T.R. North’s “Vanishing Point” will take you back to your childhood and high school years—and inspire a soft spot in your heart for hitchhikers holding sunflowers.

A classic South African urban legend involving mirrors and monsters gets an empathic makeover (complete with rosy blush)  in Aisling Phillips “La Via En Rose.”

Legendary rounds out with Michael Leonberger’s “The Hook,” which beautifully tackles disability, young love, and menacing psychopaths.

The aspect of this anthology that impresses me the most is the diversity within its pages. There is variety everywhere you turn—the romantic couplings (they’re not all hetero – hooray!), the styles of the stories, the heat levels, and the voices, which are all so very distinct. There’s a tale for everyone in Legendary.  (And yes, there are two man-with-a-hook retellings, but in this collection, they couldn’t be more different. Reading both was quick succession was a fun experience.)

Lucky for you, dear readers, you can devour every creepy, crawly, sexy twist of Legendary on Friday…the 13th. Hahaha! (Best marketing ever!) Pre-order your Kindle copy for only 99 cents HERE.

Happy humps and hauntings!

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Becoming “Shapeless”

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Writing about your personal struggles is scary business. It forces you to release monsters you’d rather leave in the dark. It makes you own up to decisions that maybe weren’t the best for you. It’s uncomfortable and terrifying and liberating all at once.

That’s why I believe real stories about the human experience are so important. By sharing our stories, especially the difficult ones, we throw aside the invisible armor we don every day and render ourselves completely vulnerable. Why do this? To make connections with strangers. To show others they are not alone. To try to make sense of this crazy, beautiful life. To practice introspection and better understand ourselves. For me, it’s a reminder of how strong I am and how far I’ve come.

This month, I have a personal essay titled “Shapeless” in Under the Gum Tree’s January issue. As a gorgeous nonfiction magazine, Under the Gum Tree provides writers an avenue to tell stories without shame. I accepted their invitation and wrote something gritty and gorgeous and true. I wrote about my experience with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression, and the healing that comes with true love and acceptance.

My goal in writing “Shapeless” was to share that, in my experience, an eating disorder isn’t an isolated event; it’s a continuum. While the physical manifestations of an eating disorder can heal, psychological scars remain. And those imprints of your past life color your experience with just about everything – food, body image, mental health, relationships. For years.

“Shapeless” guides you through 17 years of my life, from the moment my mental imbalance began at the age of 14 to last year when I turned 31. This essay is an unflinching look at the highs, the lows, and everything in between. It’s full of horror, love, naivete, doubt, and compassion.

Here’s a sneak peek at ages 15, 24, and 26…

15

…In the mirror, I suck in my stomach, and my bones protrude through pale, papery skin. I stare and stare, unblinking, unflinching, at what I believe is a glimpse of perfection. A mountain climber could hang from my ribs and scale down into nothingness. They’d have to swing to and fro to make contact with my bellybutton. I like the sharpness, the drama of the angles…

24

I’m dating a man who delights in being able to fit his large palms around my slim waist. “So tiny,” he says on our second date, holding me gently as a coin. I feel exceptionally small in his arms. It becomes a priority to stay trim, to let his hands explore a shallow sea…

26

As the saxophone trills, I remove a silky, opera length glove with my teeth. The audience alights with applause, and I stand up a little straighter in my silver heels, pushing my chest forward. Blue feather fans shake and ruffle in choreographed movements. Prince sings about controversy, and I bask in it. I split and shimmy to the floor, then unhook the mirrored bra about my breasts. During the big reveal, my Swarovski crystal pasties shimmer, and I feel beautiful. I’m a goddess in this skin. I’ve reclaimed my curves, my muscle, my very being. I’m confident and on display, something that used to terrify me. I wink at everyone.

To see how this story began and how it ends, pick up this month’s issue of Under the Gum Tree.

 

Measuring 2016 in Joy

So, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Yes, there were a lot of monumental tragedies – the loss of far too many pop culture icons who shaped and influenced us, numerous heartbreaking acts of violence and terrorism the world over, and don’t even get me started with the U.S. election – but for me personally, there were a lot of bright moments, too.

As we approach January 1, I wanted to reflect on all the GOOD things that happened in 2016 and concentrate on manifesting that goodness in 2017.

Here’s a recap of the things that made this year a great one for me:

  1. I tested for my first rank in Aikido, earned my hakama, and served as an uke for an Aikido master (Mary Heiny sensei). Training in martial arts has proven a big challenge for me, but the work ethic and perseverance required have made me stronger and more humble. Bonus – my mental health has improved and my anxiety has lessened drastically.
  2. I had a great publishing year! My short stories “We Share Everything,” “Catch and Release,” Bad Vibrations, “Now You See Me,” “Bad Moonlight,” and “It’s in Her Kiss” all made their way out into the world. And I’m heading into 2017 with a personal essay and two short stories queued up to be published – “Shapeless” in Under the Gum Tree, “Begin Again” in the kINKED anthology by Pen and Kink Publishing, and “He Smelled Like Smoke” in an Ink Stains anthology by Dark Alley Press. I’m also working on a trilogy of magical romance novellas for the Enchanted series by Pen and Kink Publishing, which has been both challenging and a blast.
  3. Kristy Velesko and I created photography magic together. While we were only able to do three shoots together this year (surrounded by flowers, on the beach, and underwater!), they were incredible. I’m so happy she calls me every time she’s in town, because it’s good for me to glam it up and get in front of the camera.
  4. I bought a wedding dress!
  5. I started working for Cognella, Inc., an independent academic publisher, as a content specialist. Not only am I working in my dream industry (publishing), I feel like my work is making a positive impact in the world of academia. Also, the company culture is ridiculously awesome.
  6. My fiance and I launched a website together, 2 Geeks Life, to document all our  nerdy life together.
  7. I rediscovered aerial yoga.
  8. I bought a llama holiday sweater that gives me life!
  9. I became a legit graphic novel collector.
  10. There were numerous cuddle sessions with our puppies.
  11. Bryan and I celebrated one year as San Diego residents.
  12. I attended my first San Diego Comicon!
  13. I SMASHED my Goodreads reading goal – 48 BOOKS (when my goal was 35)!

Not to mention all the food adventures, trips to new locales in San Diego, sweet, romantic moments, laughter with friends, celebrations with family, and the unexpected little joys that make this life wonderful.

I look forward to all the GOOD in 2017. I hope it finds you, too.

Wishing you all a happy New Year!

The Dangers of Smooching Frogs: Read “It’s in Her Kiss” in the After the Happily Ever After Anthology

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I’ve never liked “The Frog Prince.”

A spoiled princess becomes indebted to a frog after he retrieves her golden ball from a well. Though she promises the amphibian she will be his companion, the princess attempts to ditch the croaker at the first opportunity. When the frog shows up at the palace and asks to be let in, the princess explains the situation to her father, the king, and he forces her to make good on her promise. If the princess falters and doesn’t give the frog what he wants, he threatens to tell the king. In the original version from the Grimm Brothers, the princess is so disgusted by her fate, she throws the frog against a wall. Only then does he turn into a prince (which is a game changer), and they suddenly rush into marriage and live happily ever after. The end.

Can you say dysfunctional? Why should the princess receive a happy ending? And what the heck is up with that psychology? Why does the frog still choose her? Is he that much of a gold digging opportunist?

After all the entitlement and manipulation, the princess and the frog simply shrug it off and choose each other, which was never a satisfying conclusion for me.

When I learned Transmundane Press was putting together the After the Happily Ever After anthology, I knew it was my chance to retell a fairy tale that I’d always found troubling. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, my story isn’t all rainbows and happy endings, because let’s face it, fairy tales were meant to be didactic stories that youngsters could learn from. Some horrific shit goes down in fairy tales. But “It’s in Her Kiss” dives headlong into the psychology of the relationship between the frog and the princess. Of course, I’ve put a new spin on the classic take, too. 

“It’s in Her Kiss” is at once a re-imagination of a classic story, a satirical look at modern romantic relationships, and proof that happily ever after isn’t always what it seems.

It’s in Her Kiss

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Delilah has developed a fetish of the human-who-was-once-an-amphibian variety. Her predilection has progressed into a full-fledged addiction as three or four times a week, the door to our flat bursts open and a new prime specimen drips pond water onto the Ikea rug in the foyer.

Delilah wears a proud smile and clings to their arms, bright with infatuation, gleaming with accomplishment. After all, her rose-pink lips elicited their transformations. And they are all hers, rescued from the muck and ever-grateful to their savior.

Each specimen is distinctly different, but they all are ambitiously handsome. Last week, Delilah’s first catch was Italian. Olive skin, dark, emotional eyes, clothing that only a European can get away with wearing. He was young, so he was probably an exchange student. Her second catch looked like a lumberjack, a man with a full beard, bulging muscles, and enough freckles to create a connect-the-dots coloring book. I half-expected him to produce an axe to cut the lasagna they shared that evening. The third was an older Russian gentleman who moved with innate bravado and had the saddest blue eyes. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but Delilah didn’t care. She took him to bed anyway, as she does with all of them.

The next morning, she kisses them goodbye. When they’ve reassumed their froggy countenances, she affixes their legs with a little gold band. It helps her to determine which frogs she’s already romanced. Then, out the door and back to the park they go, as if nothing ever happened.

I’ve lost track of the number of suitors that have come through our door and dampened our rug. Does Delilah know? Does she keep track? Does she delight in her growing number of conquests?

And if she does, is my name at the top of the list? Does she fondly remember me as her first? Or does her lack of lust and passion for me exclude me completely from the ranks?

#

I’d resigned myself to an amphibian lifestyle the morning I met Delilah. I’d been a frog for nearly a year, the result of a tumultuous breakup and a vindictive ex-girlfriend who decided to teach me a lesson. When she threw me into the lake, a note full of expletives, blaming, and mentions of voodoo followed me.

At first, I thought someone would figure it out. My parents ordered a police investigation, but the ensuing search proved fruitless. You don’t leave a trace when you recede into a local pond. No cell phone records. No credit card transactions. People say you were completely normal the last time they saw you. And, of course, the woman responsible for the hex isn’t going to have a change of heart. Especially when you cheated on her—not one of my finest moments.

As the missing person posters shriveled on lampposts around town and were eventually replaced with the face of some other unlucky guy, I decided I’d make the most of my new life. After all, I’d always enjoyed the outdoors, I’d become an exceptional swimmer, and while I missed a choice cut of sirloin from time to time, I developed a taste for bugs.

While gathering breakfast one morning at the community park, a net dropped over me. I panicked. I jumped; I kicked; I squirmed, but then my little heart raced far too fast, and I grew heavy with exhaustion. I looked up, expecting to see a mean-spirited little boy, the kind that would subject me to light filtered through a magnifying glass.

Through the mesh, a pair of feminine brown eyes gazed down at me. A girlish grin lit up my captor’s face. And wouldn’t you know it, it was nice to receive a smile for once.

I didn’t struggle as Delilah scooped me into her palms and said, “Gotcha.”

#

The internet is a crock of shit. I can find support groups and rehabilitation programs and intervention specialists for some crazy things—people who eat the ashes of their loved ones, Satanic cultists, teenagers who sniff glue to get high—but I can’t find anything for sex addicts that use magic to ensnare, manipulate, and then re-enchant their lovers. The lack of resources is maddening.

I’ve done some medical research, too, trying to discern if Delilah has some kind of health condition that gives her lips transformative powers. Could this be genetic? Some insane recessive gene? But I’ve found nothing.

I’ve reached out to local government to express my concern in the recent surplus of frogs in our neighborhood. A state representative emailed me back saying that while he understood my annoyance, the increase in amphibian life in nearby ponds has proved ecologically beneficial. A rare species of fish, recently deemed on the cusp of extinction, now flourishes in ponds and lakes around town.

Since my ex mentioned voodoo in her departure letter, I’ve been trying to track down dark magic shops in the area, but my searches are spotty and uninformative. Apparently, none of these niche businesses are too concerned with having a web presence. I’m sure they rely on word-of-mouth marketing to keep them in business. “That son of a bitch cheated on you? Well, there’s this place you can go to get a potion that’ll turn him into a dog. Literally.”

My search is frustrating, but I understand how widespread, traditional marketing would pose a safety concern. A plague of frogs would likely descend upon the shop, if only the poor schmucks knew where it was.

***

To read the rest of “It’s in Her Kiss” and other fractured fairy tales, purchase your paperback copy of After the Happily Ever After on Amazon.

For fairy tale afficianodos, Transmundane Press is also offering a limited edition hardcover printing, signed by the editors, Anthony S. Buosi and Alisha Costanzo, which you can purchase HERE.

Get Caught Up in Bad Moonlight in Lupine Lunes, A Werewolf Anthology

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When Popcorn Press announced their annual Halloween anthology would be werewolf themed, I knew I needed to write something. Little did I know how fun it would be to write about a hunt masquerading as a mating ritual…

Bad Moonlight

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

As Raymond watched icy moonlight gleam off Vanessa’s bare shoulders, he wondered if he was making a mistake. Buying her drinks. Following her here. Getting caught up. And so damn soon. That was the worst part. The part that felt shameful. Raymond rubbed the back of his neck, stifling a guilty grimace as Vanessa flicked through her keyring.

He wouldn’t have done this a year ago, even though he’d been single and hot-blooded and popular with the ladies. Scratch that, he wouldn’t have done this ever. So why was he doing it now? Cool air nipped at Raymond’s shoulders through his cable-knit sweater just as realization nipped like an overzealous gnat at his consciousness.

He knew why he was doing this. Breaking it off with Tonia three weeks prior had left a crater inside his heart, and he was trying to fill it with anything that batted an eyelash and offered to fill him up. On one hand, his actions felt pathetic. On the other, they felt like survival.

Vanessa turned the key in the lock, peered over her shoulder, and gave Raymond a smile. Her coffee brown eyes crinkled in the corners and her teeth gleamed, white as stars. “Sorry.” She reached out and placed a hand on his bicep, her acrylic nails tickling his skin through the fabric of his sweater. “New place. I don’t remember which key is which yet.” She brushed a black curl off her forehead and gazed up at him. “You comin’ inside?”

The hopeful raise of her eyebrows did Raymond in. He couldn’t, in good conscience, abandon this woman now, despite the reluctance that tugged at his chest. His mama had raised him better. He wasn’t the kind of man who’d cold shoulder a woman on her doorstep.

He made a decision. He’d follow her into the house, make casual conversation, ensure she was okay for the night, and leave before things got complicated. He wouldn’t be swayed—even if she did smell of gardenias and honey. No. He had his moral code, and he’d be damned if a pretty face and the curve of a hip made him lose himself. Or his memories of Tonia.

Raymond offered a curt nod of acceptance. Vanessa’s lips stretched into a grin, and she pushed the door open. Her heels clicked on the hardwood floor as she sauntered inside, leaning into her hips as she moved. Raymond followed, stuffing his hands in his pockets, keeping his eyes glued to Vanessa’s curly hair, telling himself repeatedly not to let them drift south.

The room smelled of fresh paint. Boxes were stacked in the corners, and the only furniture in the room consisted of a blue suede couch and a lamp that stood vigil in the corner. Vanessa crossed the room and flicked on the bulb, basking the space in warm yellow light. She leaned against a freshly primed wall. The blue sequins adorning her dress glittered, and her eyes sparkled with new intensity. She curled her finger at Raymond. “Come here.”

Raymond closed the front door and secured the latch. He leaned back against the wood. “Maybe it’s best if I stay over here for right now.”

Disappointment skittered across Vanessa’s face, and her breath caught in her chest. She paused a moment and then exhaled, shaking her head. “You’re a gentleman all of a sudden, huh?” She smiled at him and bit her lip. “Pity.”

Raymond shrugged his shoulders, feigning nonchalance while his gut grew heavy with guilt. He shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be leading her on. But bolting would be a dick move.

Conversation. It was time for conversation. “How long ago did you move in?”

Vanessa raised an eyebrow. “We’re playing twenty questions now?”

“We didn’t really get to know each other at the bar.” Which was true. He’d learned she was new in town, had a taste for vodka martinis with a twist, and could tear up a dance floor to 90s RnB—especially Boyz II Men—but not much else.

Vanessa threw up her hands. “Okay, okay…We’ll talk first…” She smoothed her dress and held up her fingers. “I’ve been here for two weeks.”

“You move out here for a job?”

“No.” Vanessa crossed her arms over her chest. “Family. I have a sister who lives here.” Vanessa’s features fell, and her eyes darted to the floor. “She isn’t doing well. She got in a nasty accident recently, a hit and run.”

Raymond frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that.” He considered moving closer, perhaps offering her a shoulder, but…proximity could be dangerous. Compromising. Intoxicating. He needed to keep his distance.

“I’m her big sister. I’m used to taking care of her.” Vanessa’s lips twitched into a sad smile. “Family is important to me.” She glanced out the bay window into the darkened front yard and then her eyes found Raymond’s. “You want a beer?”

“Sure.”

Vanessa stepped out of her heels, one at a time, keeping her eyes fixed on Raymond’s, knowing her movements were a performance of sorts. Then, she floated across the living room and slipped into the kitchen. Raymond heard the steady hum of an open refrigerator. “What about you, Ray? What brought you here?”

Raymond flinched. “No one calls me that.”

Glass bottles clinked and the refrigerator door squeaked closed. “What do you have against the name Ray? There are great men named Ray. Ray Charles. Ray Rice. Ray Bradbury. Ray J.”

“Don’t be comparing me to Ray J.” He heard Vanessa’s husky chuckle, then metal bottle caps popping and tumbling to the countertop in the dark. “I just like the name my mama gave me. The full name.”

Vanessa reappeared before him, stepping into the light. She took a swig of her beer, licked her lips, and extended a bottle to Raymond. “Are you a mama’s boy then?”

Raymond’s lips quirked as he took the beer. “Nah. I just agree with you. Family’s important.”

“Well, cheers to that.” Vanessa brought her bottle to Raymond’s and the glass clinked loudly in the near empty room. She sidled closer to him, her ample chest brushing against the top of his stomach and sending shivers through him. Raymond urged himself to be still.

Vanessa sighed and pressed her forehead to his chest in defeat. “Okay, okay,” she said, moving away from him. She fell into the couch cushions and tucked her long brown legs beneath her. “You never answered my question.”

Raymond frowned.

“What brought you here?”

“Born and raised.” Raymond took a sip. The beer was dark, heavy, with a hint of…something vaguely chalky. He couldn’t quite place the taste. He held up the bottle, inspecting the label. Malt. That had to be it.

“A local?”

“Yep. Have you been by the mechanic shop down on Waverly?”

Vanessa inclined her head. “I’ve driven past it.”

“My family owns it.”

“How very…quaint.”

Raymond chuckled. He was used to ribbing from outsiders. “It’s nice, all the family-run joints here. The community. Everyone’s got your back. You’ll see how it is, when you’ve been here for a bit.” He took a long draw from his bottle.

As he swallowed, Raymond felt the familiar sensation of alcohol spiking his blood. His chest warmed, his heart pounded, and he made a mental note to slow down. He’d thrown back at least three gin and tonics at The Dell, more than he’d had to drink in a good while.

But then a lick of pain shot through his skull, quick and fierce as an electrical current, rendering him woozy and off balance. What in the hell?

***

To read the rest, pick up your copy of Lupine Lunes from Popcorn Press!

Giftmas Blog Tour Wrap-up – Last Chance to Donate!

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Today is the last day of the Giftmas Blog Tour benefiting the Edmonton Food Bank, which means it’s your final chance to donate to make the season a little brighter for those in need! No amount is too small, because $1 equals = three meals. Three meals!

DONATE HERE!

To thank you for giving, you can enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a custom crocheted throw knit by the fabulous Rhonda Parrish…

ENTER THE RAFFLECOPTER HERE!

…AND read all of the amazing Giftmas blog posts that have been posted this week. On the following webpages you’ll find heartwarming stories, family recipes, and hilarious food anecdotes.

Thank you for your support of the Edmonton Food Bank!

Merry Giftmas! on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Christmas Roast and Other Traditions on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Giftmas Tourtiere with Rhonda Parrish on Stephanie A. Cain’s blog

Christmas Baking and Gingerbread Bloodshed with Stephanie A. Cain on my blog

A Place at the Table on Operation Awesome

The Worst Thanksgiving Ever on Diamante Lavendar’s blog

A Nontraditional Foodie Christmas on Unrepentant Scribbler

Snowed In: A Giftmas Guest Blog on Beth Cato’s website

Giftmas Bready or Not: Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge (Microwave) on Beth Cato’s website

Food, Glorious Food on Eileen Bell’s website

Author Beth Cato: Apple Cinnamon Cake Recipe on Eileen Bell’s website

Fruitcake and Christmas Wishes on An Apple’s Mindspew

 

 

 

Let’s Get Vertical!

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The waiver was intimidating. Maybe I shouldn’t have read it. Perhaps I should’ve just added my digital signature and gone about my business, like most people do when they sign standard waivers.

Of course, I decided to be a responsible adult and read every line, which was probably horrible for my anxiety.

I’m also aware it’s the reason I volunteered to go first at Vertical Hold. When I’m intimidated or nervous about something, it’s best to jump in and coast forward on natural adrenaline. It’s an opportunity to prove to myself that I can do something, even if it scares me.

After a lesson in tying knots, securing carabiners, and safely belaying a partner, I stepped up to the indoor rock wall and looked skyward. Little yellow protrusions told me where to put my hands and feet, but the rest would be up to me and my beating heart.

As I navigated my way up the façade, raw excitement beat against my veins. As I climbed, I was transported back to my childhood when I was a gangly half-tomboy who took to trees in dress-up high heels. Just as I did then, I smiled as I climbed higher, aware that the ground was pulling further and further away from me as I did.

At the top of the wall, I touched the rigging point, and accomplishment whooshed through me. I looked over my shoulder at my fiancé and friends, smiling. I yelled, “Take,” and our instructor lowered me down, the tips of my toes tickling the façade as I leaned back in my harness, parallel to the ground.

32549Over the next couple hours, I watched Bryan scale walls like Spider-Man, and I had to belay at hyper speed to keep him steady.  Our friends, Steve and Christina, also first-timers, defied gravity, took pictures, and cheered us on. We all agreed that belaying requires trust, communication, and some guts. Funny enough, rock climbing is perfect pre-marital counseling or a good indicator of the strength of a romantic relationship.

We watched as experienced climbers battled a boulder in the middle of the warehouse space. None of them wore harnesses. They grappled and swung and tried out different holds. Some of them made it to the top while other plummeted to the extra squishy mats below. I suddenly understood the waivers. They weren’t really for us. They were for regular climbers who were there to test their limits and push their bodies, their daring smiles challenging their mortality.

Toward the end of our session, my hands grew fatigued and my muscles started shaking during my climbs. I started to suspect rock climbers have all kinds of callus to help them hold on for dear life, along with wiry muscles that keep them balanced. I also suspect they’ve got happy endorphins soaring through them when they climb. And practiced calm in moments of turmoil. And mad trust in their bodies. And, most importantly, a zeal for fun and life.

I got a taste of rock climbing life and loved it. Bryan and I are considering rock gym memberships, because it was such a fun experience.

But more than that, getting vertical was a great reminder to tap into the fearlessness and strength of youth. To play. To challenge yourself. To look skyward and climb, climb, climb.

As Robert Frost so aptly said in one of my favorite poems of all time: “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”