Saturday, December 10, 2016

Connections and Climbing: Andrea Fellenz on a new journey

For a lot of good reasons, Boulders Climbing Gym is a special place. Lots of people come and go, and lots have been there long enough to be a part of its blueprint of change. I don't really remember ever not knowing Andrea Fellenz - she's one of the most positive females I enjoy, and certainly one I admire for strength and setting routes. When I learned she was pregnant and saw her climbing while pregnant, I was just really, really excited for her, for Ben, for the community. I wanted to check in with her - selfishly, to get her pregnancy and birth story in writing, but also just to get to know her since our paths mostly crossed as climbers. I learned some big things and a few little things - like her vice being beer with dinner and she indulges in chocolate ice cream, but my favorite part of this interview are her stories about swimming and mountain biking. Enjoy! -Vera

An outdoor life as a child led to love of nature as an adult 

How about some background info? 

I was born and raised in New York, growing up in a suburb of New York City. I went to college at Colgate University, (located in central NY) where I majored in biology. After graduation I spent a year working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland before heading to graduate school in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Grad school is what brought me out to Madison. I never imagined I would stay in Wisconsin after school, but I found a place that really felt like home and people I love, so I have never considered leaving. After finishing my masters degree I started working full time in the same lab that I did my graduate work in. Since that time I have changed positions but still work at the University. My position is part of the Primate Center, offering services to support research in virology. Our work mainly supports research in AIDS, Influenza and Zika virus.

Favorite childhood memories that turned into life lessons? 

Hiking Zion National Park
I have lots of great childhood memories. As a child we spent lots of time hiking and playing outdoors which has certainly influenced who I’ve grown up to be. I think is extremely important to nurture a love of and respect for the nature/outdoors. When I was little (2 or 3) my dad was training for a big backpacking trip. He would always take me hiking with him. He says I was good training weight for his pack. He could hike with me sitting on his shoulders. He says this worked out great except that I would complain about someone having sweaty shoulders.
As a child I loved swimming, and to be perfectly honest, imagined myself to be a pretty fast swimmer. I always wanted to be on a swim team and race competitively. When I got into high school I finally had the opportunity to join my school’s swim team. First, I was amazed at how physically exhausting the practices could be, and how sore it made me, but I loved it anyway. As our first meet approached I was very nervous. How would this race go? I had already realized that I was not the best swimmer out there, but I still wanted to do well. I hadn’t yet figured out what my best stroke or distance was, and in the meantime my coach put me in the 200m freestyle, which seemed long to me. I worried about the race the whole day. By the time we got to the meet I was a nervous wreck. I remember climbing onto the starting block barely able to catch my breath. 8 laps seemed like forever. I remember the starting gun going off. I can still remember how cold the water felt and the really disappointing feeling of my goggles rolling down my face and catching around my neck. That race did feel like forever. I was exhausted (I hadn’t yet learned how to pace myself) and disappointed, but I was determined to finish. I was really happy when it was over and I knew things would have to get better than this race. I learned a lot from swimming and being part of a team through the years. From that day I learned the importance of working hard and sticking with something, even if the race is not going well and you can’t see a thing because your goggles are wrapped around your neck. The afterword would say that I did eventually find the events I was good at and stuck with swimming through high school and college. Even though I don’t swim regularly anymore I do really miss it. 

Thoughts on education and school - is there a difference? Who mentored you and what's cool about the work you're doing now? 

There is definitely a difference between school and education, though I believe both are very important. School provides materials to teach you how to learn, and follows a certain curriculum. I think education, in addition to schooling also encompasses learning life skills, common sense, life experiences, and learning how to survive in the world. The two can and hopefully do overlap quite a bit, but education goes well beyond the classroom. I feel that I was very fortunate growing up where I did. My parents made sure they lived in a town that had excellent schools. A lot of value was put on education there, and as a result I had a lot of excellent teachers (and a few that were not so great). It is hard to pick one from grade school that stands out above the rest, especially since it was so long ago. 

I was particularly close with my college advisor, and he was influential on my life. I first met him when I took his molecular biology class. I thought he would make a good advisor and I was interested in his research, so I worked in his lab for several semesters. He later told me that at Colgate they usually don’t allow sophomores to work in the labs and (standard practice here at UW though) the other professors thought he was crazy, but he took a chance on me anyway. This was the start of what would later become my career. Aside from giving me that opportunity, my advisor was someone I could talk to and get advice from. He taught me all the basics about working in a lab. In fact, when I look at the good habits I have developed for working in the lab, most of them came from him. He helped me figure out what I was going to do with my life and how to do it. I can also credit him with first exposing me to the Grateful Dead. I don’t know if there was ever a bigger fan.

My job can be very interesting and varies from day to day. I love that it involves problem solving and figuring out how to make new assays work. Learning new things about diseases is fascinating and it is rewarding to think that it may help ameliorate these diseases. I am also very fortunate to work with a wonderful group of people, which certainly makes a job much better. People who are interested in science should certainly consider a job like mine, but if you are not passionate about it, it can also be very tedious and boring. It is definitely not for everyone.

Would love to hear about your pregnancy journey!

I was very lucky in that I had a pretty easy pregnancy. I knew even before I was pregnant that the hardest thing for me would be abstaining from my normal activities. Fortunately it turns out you can do a lot of things while pregnant. My doctors (and online research) were very encouraging about continuing to be active while pregnant (of course with some adjustments). I was really happy that I was able to continue running, though I did eventually slow down to an absurdly slow pace. I was able to bike, though I had to stop mountain biking by 5 months. I even biked to work the day before Fitz was born. I was also able to keep climbing throughout the pregnancy. 

In the beginning of the second trimester I switched from bouldering and lead climbing to only top-roping (and only in the gym). By the 3rd trimester I did notice a drop off in my ability to do certain things. For me it was hard not to get frustrated when I couldn't climb at my normal level, but I just reminded myself that this is a temporary setback, and it is totally worth it. In the end though I was just really happy that I was able to climb at all, so coming to the gym and doing a bunch of easy routes was fun for me. I found it helpful/inspirational to read some of Beth Rodden’s blogs and research on climbing while pregnant and while raising a young child. I also found it helpful to talk to some of the other women at Boulders (including Vera) about their experiences. People were very encouraging and supportive, which makes a huge difference.

And of course, your birth story?

Fitz’s birth was certainly exciting. We had low amniotic fluid levels, which complicated things. During labor his heart rate dropped a few times. Fortunately we were able to recover it quickly each time, but this led to urgency in delivering him. It seemed increasingly likely that we would need an emergency c-section. In the end, thanks to the excellent medical care we received we were able to avoid the c-section and Fitz was born safe and healthy. I didn’t know what to expect, so the whole process was somewhat surprising for me (and Ben). The hardest part was how scary it was when Fitz’s heart rate dropped. We were of course very worried each time. Aside from the low fluid levels complicating the delivery, things went relatively smoothly. Our doctors and nurses provided excellent care and made us feel safe and well taken care of. 

It is hard to explain how life has changed. The instant Fitz was born I knew things would never be quite the same. Fitz has already brought so much love and joy to our lives! We are adapting to life as parents and learning to put Fitz’s needs before ours. We are trying to do things as a family and not just as Ben and Andrea.  

What did you imagine you'd be doing at this point in life? 

I don’t know that I ever had a specific plan. It was not all that long ago though that we wondered whether we would have a child. We both always thought we would want to have a family but were waiting for the right time. We have been very happy and were hesitant to make any changes. Then we decided that the only thing we were missing was a child. The next thing we knew, our family has grown and our lives have changed for the better!

What makes you stop and go "Wow!"

Lots of things, but given my recent life changes, I would have to say my son Fitz and all the little things he does.

High point in climbing or other sport/recreational thing? Low point? 

As much as I love climbing, my first love is actually mountain biking. In fact, I think to some extent my love of mountain biking holds me back in climbing. Unfortunately, both activities are done outside on nice days. Most times when I have to choose I will go mountain biking.  I have a single story that included high and low points. 

For years I had a goal of biking a century (100 miles). I had always thought I would do that on my road bike, but one day I decided that it would be more fun and more challenging to do it on my mountain bike. I chose a 100 mile race, the Mohican Trail 100 and registered myself and my husband Ben. For the next 6 months, I dreamed about crossing the finish line after having ridden 100 miles, mainly on single track, and how happy I would be to have completed that. Of course that year we had a particularly wet spring, preventing us from doing many long rides leading up to the race. The course ended up being a lot hillier and substantially harder than I imagined. Somewhere around 50 miles into the race I bonked pretty hard. 

In my discouraged state I started calculating the miles I had left to go and the time cuts and started to think I might not be permitted to finish. (I knew there was no way I would make the decision to quit, but if I didn’t make the time cut I would be stopped along the way). In my disappointment I cried a little. 

Then I took a deep breath, determined that crying and being disappointed was not going to help, so I started walking quickly while eating some shot blocks. I got back on my bike and focused on turning over the pedals. I knew I just had to keep trying and hopefully I would make up some time. Once the sugar from the shot blocks took effect I felt a lot better. I focused on pedaling as fast as my legs would allow. It also turned out that the next few miles were easier than the previous miles, so I did in fact make up a lot of time. 

All of a sudden I found myself at the final aid station with only about 10 miles to go. I was so exhausted I could barely pedal but I knew there was no way I wouldn’t finish the 100 miles now. I was so happy and relieved! I will never forget crossing the finish line. I was so proud. 

In fact, I think I was even happier about it after having felt so close to failing. I remember crossing the line and looking for Ben (who was of course standing in line at the beer truck) to make sure he saw me. I specifically remember the announcer calling out my name and commenting on how I was one of the few people who finished the race with a smile on her face. I don’t know how you could finish any other way! 

What's your music of choice? 

Pearl Jam has always been one of my favorite bands. I think this is partly because the first concert I ever went to was Pearl Jam, when I was 16. It was a great experience and I have loved them ever since. Bruce Springsteen is another fave. Born in the USA was the first album I ever owned (on vinyl). I generally like classic rock, 90s grunge music and bluegrass.

Top ten things that make you uniquely "you?"

My determination/stubbornness, enthusiasm, my energy, my smile, the experiences that have shaped me, passion for outdoor activities, work ethic, joy for life, and I was born with 6 fingers on my left hand.

What makes you feel grateful? 

Ben and Fitz, loving and supportive family and friends, our dog Spike, jobs that allow us to lead the life we want (they pay enough and give enough time off/flexibility), and vacations. 
Thank you again, Andrea!

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Today I left school thinking about "student engagement." I'm really starting to question that idea as a teacher. If student engagement is a goal, and there are specific criteria people look for to determine if a student is engaged in learning, and I am the one planning the curriculum and making decisions based on student interests, then who owns the learning?  If you think hard about that one, it's actually a top-down, teacher-driven approach. I'm gonna stop putting that on my professional practice goal.

What if I switched it to "student empowerment?" This just means that I teach students the skills and knowledge to pursue their passions, and interests, and ultimately, their future. Students are in charge. They own it. I got to thinking about this because I've been teaching an integrated ELA/SS unit and we've been studying Haiti through the eyes of a Haitian graffiti artist named Jerry Moise Rosembert. Students analyzed his graffiti as visual text to determine the meaning of the social issues in Haiti. Then, to make a global to community connection, we had the dopest artist come in - his name is Philip Salamone, and he's an artist/muralist with a studio on the east side of Madison. My students really got into his presentation and his work - they were inspired and taken by him. But the truth is, I did all of that planning and decision making. And honestly, I felt really empowered. 

So imagine - imagine what could happen if the next unit of study was mostly designed by my students: They decide some of the content and they search and seek out guest artists and presenters. Imagine if they were to be decision makers and got to determine the skills and knowledge they need in order to pursue their interests, passions, and future. Imagine how empowering that would be for them.  

So ... yeah. That's the school life!

Here's what has been going on the past month or so ... a little climbing and a lot of school activities, including our CHOW (Choosing Healthy Options in Wisconsin), where local chefs come in and cook with our students. I also get to post a lil video of Katie doing the finals problem at the last Boulders comp - she's so humbly awesome, and I love that I can steal moments from her. And couldn't resist snapping a pic of Stacey on one of our rare weekend indoor climbing ventures :) Enjoy -- hope fall season has been amazing for you.

Jason and Rissa from Underground Collective demonstrating how to make cheese sauce after showing students how to make fresh pasta. 

Philip Salamone showing his Ice Cave mural. 

In response to student asking if Philip was famous, "No, but you all make me feel famous." 
One of my favorite partners and friends in and out of the gym.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Facilitating Emotions on the Ground

On the go facilitating student emotions
A student came up to me on Friday in the midst of group work and said, "Ms. Naputi I feel angry and I don't know why." A minute prior to that interaction, there wasn't anything happening within her group to set her off and she even told me it had nothing to do with her group members or the task. In fact, she said she was having fun with the project. We talked for 5 minutes max. Then she went back to her group and 15 minutes later, participated in a pretty kick-ass presentation of the food web. 

Imagine that type of exchange throughout the day. And I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about kids who bounce around like that. Some keep those feelings to themselves, others talk it out with a peer, a few act it out in disruptive ways, and only 2 or 3 are bold and comfortable enough to approach a teacher to release those random moments of anger. 

During passing time, I had a quick discussion with a group of girls, including that student, about current events, which is a weekly discussion we have on Fridays. They were clearly animated and eager to share what mattered to them in the news, and disappointed we ran out of time. That incredibly brief exchange was fueled with anger and confusion about community and world news. The role educators play in promoting peace within ourselves and our students is tremendous which got me thinking again about being intentional and concrete as teachers. Here are two suggestions: 

Facilitate conversations about injustices. Be for real. Protecting our kids by avoiding issues of turmoil is a delay strategy. They need every opportunity to be a citizen starting with an outlet to express their feelings. For the Clinton-Trump debate, every student was required to watch at least 15 minutes. Many watched more or sat through the whole thing. The first thing on their minds Tuesday morning was downloading their feelings of anger related to the debate. They did this in community, safely, and instructionally. And in the end, I asked the question: Now what problem do you want to solve?  And most directly identified race and equality as their issue to solve. Now the real work begins. 

Call out divisiveness. Teach words like spew and variations of the word, system, so they can identify bias, points of views, threats, and preferences. They need lots of examples and modeling to be able to withhold and denounce blanket statements and generalizations. I listen very closely to what my kids are saying and the words and phrases they choose. When they overtly used "ghetto," we investigated that word historically and contextually. When they used "slay" and "bitch" freely, we went to the source and together critically analyzed lyrics and video and words in the dictionary. Words and ideas have connotations that create divisiveness. Equality suffers when even the seemingly smallest things go unquestioned. 

So that's what I've been thinking about lately, especially in response to my student's statement about feeling angry and not knowing why. I"m not saying her anger was because of injustices or divisiveness, but when you're inundated throughout the day with bits of subtle pieces here and there, the source gets muddled. So I have to start somewhere and my reflection led me there. The truth is we all have that lil bit of anger churning around and sometimes we don't know why.  But the good news is that along with waging a battle of anger within yourself, there is the chance to also wage the battle for peace, and that's one thing we can sort through with our students. 

On that peace-filled note, here's what has been happening on the home and school front. I hope you all got a chance to read Kenji's interview (my last post) and are doing something outside in nature!

Family visit to see Ms. Matson who subbed for me :)

Go see this lovely bartender in action at DLUX!

The fam all in.

Weekend pasttime with this lil guy on the quarterback sack

Teammates and friends show the love.
Nature from the football field. Love the sport and them :)

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What's Going On: Kenji Haroutunian on Stories and Influences

Young adolescents are some of my favorite thinkers and tellers, often reminding me that grown-ups need more opportunities to reveal parts of themselves that are often hidden behind day-to-day masks. Just as I do with my students, I love probing others to think and tell their stories. This time around I asked Kenji Haroutunian about his life experiences, and man! You don't get a life of depth and dimension unless it's shaped by people, places, and events that make you so. My favorite part of Kenji's interview was learning about the small moments that shaped him, that one of his goals is to climb 5.10 trad again, and that he is grateful for Gohan. Enjoy the read, and thank you Kenji for being a part of Hafa Adai!

Favorite childhood memory as a child or adolescent? 
There was one very memorable night (2 nights actually in a row) where I was playing trombone in the district orchestra and I had a solo (Danse Macabre, by Saint-Saens), and also was picked to lead the auditorium in the pledge of allegiance, since I was the Sr. Patrol Leader in Troop 122. I botched the solo first night, but nailed it second night. I felt so honored and privileged and at the same time stressed out and pressured to perform… Guess I must have enjoyed it, since I regularly find myself in these kind of situations now. 

One other great memory was discovering Monty Python’s flying circus by accident. I was watching television with my sister while my parents were out for the evening. We were flipping through channels in my parents’ bedroom and stumbled on this strange ‘Great Gatsby’ scene with big dresses and parasols and fancy food and drink… easily found it on youtube by googling ‘monty python tennis anyone’. We laughed ourselves breathless and nearly peed our pants simultaneously from the surprise and hilarity of it. 

What is a story you remember? 
One story I like to tell was when I was about 11, and my little brother Ben was 5. I had invited him to ride bikes with my crew (of older kids) in the ‘hood, and he was tagging along on a bike he couldn’t even sit in and reach the pedals. At some point, he disappeared from the group, and I turned around to go look for him. I found him at the end of our dead-end street, where the dirt strip that parallels the train tracks was. He was off his bike, crying out loud, and 4-5 young thugs were stripping the bike with tools so they could carry it in parts back to wherever. I stopped on my bike, staring blankly and clueless on what I should do. Suddenly I just started yelling for my Dad… who was 20 miles away at work. Still, the idea that ‘Dad’ was going to show up was enough to freak these punk kids out and they jumped on their own bikes and sped off. Leaving Ben and I to walk our bikes home together.

Another story that shaped my life involves my sister Cindy. Although in our younger years I was a little ‘rough and tumble’ for her liking, and she was a bit of a tattletale, we got along rather famously. When we were kids she tells the story of how she was being bothered by some kid at school, and I came over and threatened to deck him if he continued. I don’t really remember this, but it’s actually more important that she does. 

Both of these stories reveal a lot about me. The image of myself as protector and defender of family is a very strong one that I carry in my subconscious. To a high degree, it has been with me forever. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were the ONLY defender of my sister… after all, my parents were always there too. How many kids don’t have that? Or even a big brother to step up when necessary? Of course I never did… I was the eldest. But having her there was protection of a different sort, really, since we were so close. And my parents, together for my entire life, made a solid enough foundation for me despite my confusion and identity challenges as one of the only multi-racial people in my circles. 

Strong memory of school or an influential teacher? 
I was always curious, and so school to me was mostly something I valued and looked forward to. I never even questioned the value of school; what else was I to do? Because of this attitude about school (which incidentally my siblings did not necessarily share), I have many great memories from classes, retreats, sports and reunions. I remember all of my teachers, even kindergarten. Once in high school, it gets fuzzy, but still, I had some outstanding teachers. Some great coaches too - people I respected and admired, sometimes. All that said, not any one teacher really stands out for me; I can name special parts of many classes, and some weaknesses of a few teachers I had, but really I appreciated all of them. I suppose one instructor I had in junior College turned me on to Geography, which became my major at UCLA and is still a lens I understand the world through in a significant way today. He’s one teacher I cannot remember the name of though!

Who else has had an influence on you? 

  • Bruce Lee - martial artist and life coach - shattered the Asians-in-TV barrier.
  • Michael Benner - radio DJ philosopher - helped me understand the limitations of ‘either/or’ thinking. 
  • Michio Kaku - Futurist and physicist - helped me understand technology’s push forward and the human tendency toward humanness… regardless.
  • Ichiro Suzuki - among the most skilled athletes ever, broke through the perceived barrier of Japanese sports vs. American.
  • Buckminster Fuller - a ‘Design Scientist’ who anticipated societal needs and invented many incredibly useful items like the Geodesic Dome and the Dymaxion Map.
  • John Moynier - fit my first pair of hiking boots! A friend and mentor from my days in scouts, then working at A16, then wrote the freakin’ books on backcountry skiing in the Sierra. A badass but utterly humble mountaineer.
  • Andres Segovia - legendary guitarist who single-handedly put classical guitar on the map of traditional classical music… saw him live perform at 86 yrs old, had a huge impact on me.
  • Bonnie Raitt - beautiful songwriter, arranger and singer who may or may not have made me cry 
  • Morihei Ueshiba - founder of Aikido, created an incredibly powerful yet utterly gentle art-meets-dance-meets-martial art. There is no Aikido competition or contest, only exhibition. There is no opponent, only forces and movement and energy to be understood and manipulated… in an instant.
  • Jared Diamond - author of ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’, ‘The Third Chimpanzee’, and ‘Collapse’,  and Geography professor at my alma mater.
  • Dalai Lama - the exiled cultural and spiritual leader of Tibet. A fascinating story of a man and a people.
  • Rafer Johnson - Olympian and crasher of the race ceiling in sports; a graceful, thoughtful and generous man who I am acquainted with a bit.
  • Dave Grohl - songwriter and multi-instrumentalist… I’m really in love with Sonic Highways.
  • Lynn Hill - climbing athlete and iconic woman of sport.
  • Terry Tempest Williams - a truly powerful wordsmith who uses silence more beautifully than anyone I’ve ever known. It makes her words even more powerful… this is true often in music writing/performance too. She is a ‘wordsician’. 
What do you think we can do to support equity and diversity? 
First is to study the phenomenon; model it to our children, and encourage and teach other adults to do the same (this part is not easy). When children grow up in a house where diverse influences flow from many directions, that becomes the expectation for work and living into the future. It's much more difficult to teach someone to think in truly equitable terms if they are raised to believe people are inherently different based on their background or race. 'Putting people in boxes' is a perfectly human thing that we all do ... and it drives people to do strange things when that becomes difficult. Say, for example, meeting a person of mixed race or indiscernible age or heritage? 

Second, is to participate in equity and diversity initiatives in your workplace and wherever you spend time. Becoming first aware of inequity in its subtle forms, and working to raise awareness in oneself, and then others. 

Lastly, hold others accountable for behavior that supports equity and inclusivity, especially if they are in leadership roles.

In what ways does community influence you and your decisions? 
That's an interesting question. In some ways, I don't belong to many communities naturally, so I participate in many communities always a little bit like I'm an imposter. There's probably a word for this way of thinking. These are the communities I belong to and engage in at varying levels of leadership from within - some I'm realizing that I organize events of group communication within. 

Climbers - particularly Southern California climbing community, but also around the country. 
Musicians - many styles/genres, mostly local circle of players/writers/enthusiasts/appreciators. 
Parents - crosses through many other communities as a common personal experiential bond. 
Outdoor Industry - local, regional and nationwide community of those who make their livings facilitating adventure outdoors and exploring (while protecting) wild places. 
Mobile Worker - a growing community of workers who don't travel to an office; it travels with you. 
UCLA Alumni - also TKE fraternity at UCLA community member
Band Member - Rustbucket and Jack the Music currently, but many bands over many years (those communities are tight and remain so regardless of proximity, frequency of communication or life circumstances). 
Multi-racial American - growing community of those who identify as mixed-race Americans
Asian Americans
Armenian Americans
Backcountry Skiers - snowsport enthusiasts who like to travel 'off piste' -- no lifts to assist, this community enjoys the winter wilderness experience. 

What are your passions? 
Climbing rocks and mountains, Wilderness, Ecosystems, Music, Maps and map-making, Aikido and other martial arts, Event-making, technology, Astronomy, team building and advocacy for expanding Recreation Economy (and keeping places wild) - more people adventuring outside, that is. 

What makes you stop and go “Wow!”
Fine musicians, giant granite domes, rivers and streams, meteor showers, the night sky. Coyotes singing. 

Short term goals? 
Survive the Grandeur10
Climb 5.11 trad again
Run a half-marathon

High point in Life: 
Hmmmm ... too many. OK, I'll say being hired by Outdoor Retailer, surviving a tornado, then magically getting a commercial that allowed my wife to quit her job and raise all 3 kids for 12 years - all in 1 year! 

Turning point in Life: 
Getting laid off at a grocery store, then getting hired at an outdoor shop for 70% less pay with no union benefits. 

What are 15 things that make you uniquely YOU? 
I'm a Japamenian.
I'm left-handed in almost everything. 
I don't have a 'regular' name.
I'm an urban mountain athlete.
I've paddled with whales.
I'm a tornado survivor. 
My voice. 
There's an award named after me.
My nickname in college was "Gramps," but my nickname at 50 years old, is "Ninja" (same group).

I'm on two bands that rehearse and play out occasionally. 
I captain'd an undefeated championship team and have played on many losing teams 
I'm a super-map-geek.

What are 20 things you are grateful for? 
Healthy kids
Loving wife (and kids)
Personal Health
My parents are still alive
Friends to play in the wild with
Close by natural beauty
Clean water and air
Having  2 college degrees
Having no college debt
A large network of contacts in several industries
The ability to make music come out of an instrument
Climbing gyms!
Running and hiking trails nearby
Limited injury history (relatively to how many times I should have been badly injured/killed)
Japanese cultural depth
Good tenants
Good landlord
Han Solo (our new-ish dog)
Gohan (Rice)

Favorite places to recreate or climb?
Joshua Tree, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, San Gabriel Mountains, Wasatch Range, Pacific Ocean/Doheny, San Onofre, Sawtooths, Mohave Desert, Red Rocks in Nevada.

Which aspects of your job do you enjoy? Feel challenged by? 

Building my own business as a consultant is a daily/hourly 'sharp end' experience that has many ups and downs, but it is ultimately rewarding in that I am independent of any overarching company or corporate agenda. I enjoy the increased time with family as my kids grow into adults, and the challenge of doing excellent work for clients of a wide variety. I enjoy the challenge of creating and executing compelling presentations and public speaking. The very things that excite me and that I find enjoyable are often the things I'm also challenged by. Time management, and making enough time for each project from start to finish, including a lot of back-end work is a big challenge that I'm still learning to do. 

Yeah! Thank you Kenji!

Kenji Haroutunian is a 30-year veteran of the human-powered outdoor industry, working for many years in specialty outdoor store management and teaching outdoor skills (including advanced climbing and wilderness navigation courses) during/after completing his degree at UCLA.  In 1999 he began working for Outdoor Retailer, eventually becoming Vice President for Nielsen Expositions (now Emerald Expositions), in 2010. During his tenure leading the OR shows, he launched many innovative programs like Green Steps, Project OR design competition, Business of Backcountry Forums and even the Virtual Design Center (a live Online Event).  Kenji left Emerald to launch his own national agency focused on core Outdoor in 2014, called Kenji Consults, in service to the greater outdoor ecosystem of brands, retailers, media, agencies and advocacy groups. Beyond his work life, he is a 2010 Access Fund ‘Sharp End’ awardee for his work leading Friends Of Joshua Tree in support of Search & Rescue services in the Park and the local-meets-global climbing community in Joshua Tree. Kenji currently serves as Vice-President on the Board of Directors of Access Fund and is a founding director of TeccSociety, a new events-industry technology organization.