sketchbook pages

This year I’m trying to spend time intentionally trying new/different things in my sketchbook. Right now I’m getting inspired by a lot of traditional tattoo flash style art. But so far it’s mainly been flowers and leaves and basically learning that my dollar store watercolors don’t work super well, haha. Here are my pages from the past couple weeks.

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when I feel defined by my mistakes

I’ve never written explicitly about this, but everyone reading this will know that I got divorced when I was barely 23 years old.

How does one end up in a situation like this? People always speculate. We got married too young. We were selfish. We didn’t work hard enough. Whatever. The common thread here is that yeah, mistakes were made. You don’t exactly get in that bucket by making perfect life decisions.

Everybody makes mistakes. Even smart people. Even big mistakes. My mistakes were just… extremely public. My mistakes opened my life up to scrutiny and judgement and gossip.

In the months following this event, I heard (and heard of) people assuming and speculating details, saying negative things about me and/or my ex, questioning my dating life and new relationship. I’m sure it wasn’t a huge topic of conversation (I’m not that important), but it’s something I carried, and it didn’t feel super great.

I could usually have a sense of humor about it all. And being young and divorced in Utah is surprisingly common (hmmm… so weird! such a mystery!!!!), so I knew I wasn’t really alone in this.

But sometimes I’d get a sneaky feeling that I needed to somehow prove to the world that I was still the same happy and healthy person I was before. I was not a trainwreck or going through some weird phase. I was still someone worthy of friendship and support and respect.

But hey self, guess what? This feeling is a very stupid feeling. I can’t, and am not obligated to, explain myself to everyone. To myself and to the people who matter, I am not defined by my past mistakes. All I can do is be kind to myself, laugh off the snarky comments, and continue to live my most badass life.

Everyone, including myself, deserves to feel like they can move forward and past their screw-ups. This mistake might be public, but that doesn’t mean anyone else’s assessment of the situation is in any way relevant.

This whole experience made me way less judgmental. Gossip has never been a huge vice of mine, but I’ve definitely been guilty of performing my own personal speculations and assumptions about others. Now I know that I seriously can’t know a situation unless I actually know it.

It also taught me that I don’t need to prove myself according to the obligations, expectations, or parameters of anyone except myself. It’s given me the guts and the confidence to make many other decisions that have brought me closer to the kind of life I want to live.

Basically, living is crazy. I don’t really believe in destiny, but I do believe that the mistakes we make and the crappy things that happen to us are all part of the experience of living, and we take what we can from them.

This all sounds very cliche, and if you asked me to read these words as a teenager and try to take them to heart, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to learn these lessons unless I actually experienced this, so for that, I am thankful.

it’s the second to last day in january

Hello my dudes! Life happens like crazy. Right now I’m sitting in a 300 square foot cabin by Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino mountains. I decided to come here on… Friday? On Sunday, I packed up my life and made the drive down. I’ll be here for a couple weeks, possibly the month.

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I wasn’t great about writing at the end of last year. While I’m out here in the woods experiencing my own personal Walden (except with a wifi connection), it seems as good a time as any to bring things up to speed here on the blog.

In September I decided to leave my wonderful job, the place where I’d grown the most in my career, a job that I truly loved, and apply for remote jobs. I wanted flexibility, no commute, a more relaxed pace, the ability to do dishes and laundry on my lunch break so I could spend my free time doing more meaningful stuff. I also wanted to take one more variable out of the equation of wanting to move somewhere new, or take a monthlong getaway, like I’m doing now. Sometimes I still miss my old team and the problems we were working on, but this feels like the life for me. It’s extremely balanced and I see it as really sustainable long-term. I’ve also had the chance to travel 1-2 times each month, and a job I can take on the road really helps with that.

Seth’s mom is a poodle breeder and it’s been really fun helping out with the puppies from the last litter. There was this little runty one we all loved and gave special attention; we called him Tiny Kyle. When the puppies started going to their new homes, we realized we were pretty attached and didn’t want to see him go, so we decided to keep him around. I’ve been able to spend lots of time with him since he was born in September and he’s just the happiest and floppiest and softest.

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Seth and I took a cruise to Mexico and it was a blast. We did scuba diving, sketchy horseback riding in which we nearly fell off the horses several times, and just lots of eating and drinking and talking in the sun. It gets me pretty stoked that we’re both scuba certified and can make that an aspect of our travels together.

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I spent Christmas in Utah this year — my first white Christmas! It was all really nice. The love and gifts and hospitality from everyone on Christmas meant so much to me. It was a nice day.

A few weeks ago, I made a really tough decision to place Ellie in a new home with help from the rescue organization I originally adopted her from. When I adopted her a year ago I knew that any animal I’d be bringing into my living situation would need to be very relaxed and able to get along with anyone or anything. I live in a busy city surrounded by unfamiliar people and animals and statues and noises. We thought Ellie would be the perfect fit, even though her past was a bit of a mystery. She was gentle and sweet and seemed to take everything in stride. Soon after I adopted her though, it became clear that she had some reactivity problems in stressful situations. We think it may have been that her disposition changed from having puppies, and then she became anxious again after the puppies were grown and separated from her. I worked with her for a long time on desensitization and gentle positive reinforcement, but it was nearly impossible to keep a safe distance from all of her triggers, and since she is a large powerful dog, things could get dangerous, and I was constantly on edge. Finally an incident occurred after which my vet recommended it would be best for her to be placed in a different home. I cried a lot. The rescue was incredibly kind and helpful; I am so so thankful for people who work in animal rescue. I know she is going in a great direction and will be an amazing companion for her new family.

A couple weeks later, I began thinking about adopting a cat. I adore cats, and also, if we’re being honest, I was a bit emotionally beaten down from working with a reactive dog for the better part of a year, and I knew a cat would be lower maintenance. So through a series of crazy perfect coincidences, I found myself bringing home a little white male kitten. He wasn’t getting along with his previous owner’s other cat, he needed a new home, and I adored his lil face in the pictures I saw. It was a bit overwhelming at first; it’d been awhile since I owned a cat. Within hours, though, he completely won me over and now I’m #blessed to be owned by this spoiled bb. This is Simon. He likes purring on my shoulder while I work.

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So. The first month of 2018 is basically over which is nuts. On January 3, I made a list of some goals for the year. Most of it revolves around experiences and connections.

Watching crappy reality TV will happen sometimes when I need to just relax, but I know I’ll be happy if I can get out there and do things and see things and create things as much as I can. I want to draw and paint, cook, read books about science, go to museums, journal and blog.

I want to keep in touch with faraway friends and family and make sure they know I care about them. I want to build more relationships in Utah by initiating plans, being open and positive in social situations, and building people up however I can. I want to be friendly to everyone I meet, from new friends and coworkers to service workers to people I pass on the street, completely let go of judgement, and always assume the best.

I also want to be fully responsible for my emotions and happiness and to take time to think about my own needs. I want to practice good stuff like eating healthy and exercising and getting good sleep, keeping balance and boundaries in relationships, speaking up for myself, etc.

I want to kick ass at my job. I want to take initiative to improve things when I see deficiencies. I want to be ultra communicative and present and focused.

Also at the end of the day I want to just keep living a joyful existence and if that means my goals change throughout the rest of the year, then I’m totally cool with that.

Love u all

XOXO gossip girl

until next time

Leah

<3

2018: feelin’ it

I haven’t had much time for writing on here lately, but I just wanted to make a note that I’m flying into this new year feeling amazing.

It’s been a HELL of a year and here at the end I feel open to whatever, excited to be alive, clear-headed, in love with everyone and everything. I have grown more in 2017 than any other year. It has been confusing and painful and scary and authentic and it has contained the most precious of my experiences so far in my short life. I feel like I am coming into my own as an adult, piecing together a confident and healthy view of how I relate to other people and things, and seeing things clearly for what they are — and I love it. I have a massive appreciation for just existing and experiencing the whole spectrum of stuff to do and feel and see as a human bein’.

st george marathon, year two

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I am a slow runner, but, girls just wanna have fun yu know? When I first started this hobby almost 3 years ago, my goal was to run 1 mile without stopping. Now I have 4 half marathons and 2 fulls under my belt. Running has become a consistent part of my life and I don’t see that changing. It gives me a place to think and reflect, it teaches me how to enjoy physical effort, it shows me that consistency makes all the difference, it makes me into a more energetic human, and it gives me a chance to participate in super fun events with friends and family. And the events always re-energize me to keep getting out there and putting in the miles. I’m p happy after this weekend.

Now I gotta go get some water, all this humblebragging is wearing me out 😪

it is your birthday

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I had a birthday. I’m a year older and wiser. It’s p good so far. These are some pictures from my weekend trip to my hometown.

I’m going to gush a bit and I’m positive that I’ll feel stupid about it later, but I exist and I’m here to do my thing and I guess part of that is talking about my feelings into the void of the public internet. ¯\_()_/¯

Another year passing makes me reflect on the fact that I actually like who I’ve become in my few years of adulthood. I can see clearly how everything I’ve experienced has contributed to who I am and where I am. And I’m excited that there’s a lot more time to experience more things while I’m around here on this big green blob of space dust.

My outlook on life for the past few months has been pretty worry-free and optimistic and stuffed with joy and love and realness and I am just enjoying it a lot. It’s like a daydream or an alternate reality that a couple years ago I never would think possible. For me, the tough process of breaking down some of the structures and expectations I grew up with has made space to define my own values and it’s turned my world into something bigger and brighter and more hopeful than before. More than ever, I feel like I can choose to embrace things that are actually important to me and honestly understand and connect with and appreciate fellow human beings.

So hooray for being more of a legitimate adult than I’ve ever been and having more wisdom than I’ve ever had (which isn’t very much). If I could go back and give my young self some advice, here are some of the things I’d say. But I don’t think it would change anything. It turns out most cliches are true, you just don’t really understand them until you’ve lived them.

+ be self sufficient above all else. never forget that you are one hundred percent capable of (and responsible for) doing things for yourself

+ your perceptions/beliefs aren’t the only way of seeing the world or living life. there’s a lot of value in genuine open-mindedness

+ pain and suffering and heartbreak and embarrassment don’t happen “for a reason”. they are just part of the human experience, whatever that means to you

+ move away from your hometown for at least a few years and figure out who you are apart from all the things and people you grew up around

+ find the voice inside of you quietly telling you what’s right, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re selfish for listening to it

+ be your own guy, do your thing, nobody else is gonna do it and nobody else actually even cares. you know you were born, you know that you’ll die, but the in-between is all yours.

+ you can give money to charity, aspire to change the world, volunteer, try to help a lot of people and have a lot of friends, etc. But one of the biggest differences you can make is just being kind, patient, understanding, validating, and present in the small moments and interactions with other people

+ take care of your body and mind. you pay good money to maintain your car and your possessions; it’s stupid not to invest in yourself too. sleep, healthy food, therapy, exercise, self-care.

Cheers to more living and a lot more mistakes and challenges and embarrassing cringey moments and successes and lessons and whatever else happens.

08/17

August is over! This month ->

I finished my scuba certification! If you’ve ever wondered what the bottom of the Homestead Crater is like, I’ll fill you in. It’s very dark and hot and the sand feels gooey and you can stick your hand up to the elbow in it and feel bubbles blooping up from the bottom. I think there is a sea dragon down there.

I went to my favorite developer conference I’ve ever been to! Such good talks and swag and people and food and of course javascript twitter celebrities! I was talking to the Gosh Damn creator of the Elm programming language for an hour over dinner before I realized who he was and also I met the author of my favorite Javascript satire article. I’ll stop there because this is getting painfully nerdy

I enjoyed the warm weather a lot! I had fun just about every single day.

I saw the Book of Mormon musical. It was so offensive and yet strangely not mean-spirited. How? “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” has been stuck in my head for weeks and I’m not mad about it.

I continued to marathon train. I’m not doing as well at it as I did last time, but I’ll finish the distance and have fun doing it.

I moved! Four blocks down the street! That was a whole thing. I was really sweaty that day. But then I took a shower and sat on the couch and everything was fine and the same except I was in a different apartment.

I experienced eclipse FOMO because I couldn’t make it to the path of totality. But seeing curvy shadows was still pretty cool.

I started getting into mountain biking. Someone offered me a trade for their pimped out Giant Reign and I couldn’t say no. Hiking on wheels is way hard and terrifying but also fun.

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This month’s playlist is pretty low effort and has too much Ty Segall.

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you don’t need to explain yourself

This title is from a fortune cookie I opened last night at Charlie Chow’s Dragon Grill. It’s a pretty great establishment. They have three different types of noodles and they’ll even crack an egg in your stir fry upon request.

I was thinking about how some people come into the world questioning everything. The stereotypical rebellious teenage kid: someone who acts out, rejects the status quo, refuses to care what other people think. The stuff of parental nightmares, basically.

I was the opposite: a weird, sensitive kid, deeply compelled to fear and respect and please authority. My parents, my teachers and leaders, my friends’ parents. I didn’t need much discipline. There was nothing worse for me than just disappointing someone I looked up to. I’d break down when facing a teacher with missing homework assignments, spend weeks in a silent guilty depression when a church leader reprimanded me for being chatty, beat myself up over A-minus grades. I rarely pushed boundaries on any of the rules and expectations put on me.

And it was great for me. I was a good kid. “The system” worked like a well-oiled machine for me. Good grades, good college, good job, good habits, good functioning member of society. I am thankful for all of this and thankful for my upbringing in every way.

But I’ve noticed something interesting as I’ve grown up. All those things that made me a “good kid” are still part of my adult self, and it turns out they’re some of my worst qualities now. I’m a serial people-pleaser. No matter how capable I’ve grown to be, still I stress out over how I will frame my intentions and justify my choices so that the “grown-ups of the world” will approve of everything I do. I think too much about what other people believe is right and good rather than what I believe is right and good, and it seeps into almost every aspect of my decision-making.

As an adult, I find myself wanting and trying to be a little more like the rebellious teenager. Maybe he turned into a critically-thinking adult with a strong sense of identity and integrity. He lives life on his own terms. He does what’s right because he knows what’s right and he deeply believes in it, not because it’s expected of him by some third party. It seems like a good way to live.

I guess I just really liked this fortune cookie. It was a good reminder. You don’t always need to explain or justify yourself. The main person who has to live with the consequences of your decisions is you, assuming you don’t choose to directly harm — or make yourself dependent on — someone else. You are allowed to do things because you feel good and right about them deep in your core. Nobody else has to understand, and you don’t have to make anybody else understand, and that’s okay.

I’ve worked a lot lately to internalize this and let it influence my actions. It gives me confidence. It makes living better.

I just want to run trails and eat nectarines

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On Saturday morning I ran a trail half marathon and I got home and showered and put on this stupid shirt and ate three nectarines.

Trail running is the best. It’s like hiking, but a little faster. There are hills to climb and branches to trip over, but nobody cares how fast you go and you can’t compare any two different routes anyway.

I’ve always always been a road runner, but I think I’m over it. It’s still fun but why would you choose repetitive pavement-pounding over bouncy rock-dodging and stream-hopping and pinecone-squishing? With super cool scenery all around you?

Other nice things that happened this weekend:

  • I bought a gaming laptop!
  • I walked to the movie theater and watched some short films from Sundance this year since I didn’t make it to the festival!
  • I had a frappuccino!
  • I made hash browns!
  • I hung out with a very beautiful poodle!
  • I went to a mexican restaurant and got a drink with a rubber ducky floating in it!