Going steady

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Escalante canyoneering trip + video

Last weekend I did a canyoneering trip to Escalante / Grand Staircase National Monument and I 100000% loved it. The week before the trip I almost couldn’t sleep bc I was so excited haha. I’d never gone through a canyon that needed ropes and rappelling, and after this experience I’m totally hooked and want to do a lot more of it.

We spent the weekend pretty far into a dirt/rock road called Hole-in-the-rock Road and we were about two hours from any gas stations, stores, bathrooms, etc. I definitely wish I thought more about what kinds of food I brought, but at least I’ll remember for next time.

Day 1: We hiked from the Egypt Trailhead to the bottom of Neon Canyon, then went left and hiked up the ridge for the whole length of the canyon before dropping in at the top and going back down through. The water levels were incredibly low and basically nothing was full of water. We did 6 rappels in total. The most difficult one was off a rock that was wedged between the canyon and there was a complete dropoff after it, so we had to get on our stomachs on the rock and basically just drop down. My favorite part was, of course, the rappel into Golden Cathedral. It was so cool to be sitting around the approach, not having any idea what’s ahead through the crack, waiting for my turn on the rope, tying myself on, starting the climb through the crack, shimmying down, a little further, then looking down and seeing the 80 foot drop and the cathedral opening up around me with streaked walls and water reflecting vivid green plants and ahhh! It was so rad. After exiting the Cathedral, we hiked the 4-5 miles back to the trailhead. It was an all-day 12-hour deal.

Day 2: We went up Dry Fork road to the Peekaboo/Spooky trailhead. We were trying to do Peekaboo and Spooky, but in retrospect, I think we got mixed up and went through Dry Fork and then Spooky Gulch. Dry Fork was chill, just a sandy walk through a wider slot canyon. Spooky was SOOOO TIGHT. I could barely fit through some spots. I’m not claustrophobic at all, but I feel pretty anxious at some points. The top of Spooky had some large boulders that required some pretty tricky squeezing and climbing to get through. I had to enlist help a couple times since I’m not a big climber. This was about a half day, and we used the second half to get home.

Video & pictures!

 

taking stock

I haven’t written here in awhile! Here are some things that have been going on lately.

The weather is getting warm and the sun is staying out later and it’s making me happy. I love the changing of the seasons. It’s also got me reminiscing on last summer in SLC which was such a warm and happy and special time in my life.

I’m doing the Wasatch Back Ragnar (a 200-mile relay race and van-camping weekend) next weekend for the third year. Every year I get to the end of that weekend, dead-tired and battered, and swear I’ll never do it again. But it’s so so fun and I think I’d miss it if I didn’t do it. It’s sort of a personal tradition at this point. When else do you get to run on mountain roads in the dead middle of the night while still feeling sorta safe and supported?

The biggest thing happening lately is that I am moving! I’m staying in Utah but actually going to the Heber Valley area. I have loved living in downtown SLC for the past year, but I’m ready to try out the Wasatch Back.

the view from my new deck! (this was back in march when it was still mostly dead, but it’s super green now)

I’ve been vegetarian for a year! I love plants!

Seth is selling his condo downtown and we’ve been fixing it up before he puts it on the market. Over the past couple months I have learned so much about home remodeling: prepping for painting, painting, patio flooring, knocking down (non-load-bearing) walls, patching drywall, installing sheetrock, cutting granite, managing contractors, installing sinks and faucets, tiling and grouting… dude it’s been illuminating and worthwhile and also exhausting. Seth is doing the vast majority of the work and I’m still drained. I’m ready for this to be over soon please! And the new house, luckily, doesn’t really need anything done to it right away, so I’ll be taking a good break from this stuff soon.

A couple months ago I took a monthlong social media break. I think that mindset was a really good thing for me, but I found that completely deleting my accounts made me feel disconnected; I missed out on knowing some important things happening in the lives of people I care about. I know it’d be nice to think that we all just text or call each other to catch up, but that doesn’t always happen now with announcements of life events happening on social media. So I compromised by making my account private, removing a bunch of followers I didn’t actually know in real life, and unfollowing a bunch of accounts. Now I’m finding I use it in a much more healthy way. Without all the extra “pretty” or “inspiring” posts showing up in my feed, it’s a lot less engaging and addictive.

I’ve been interested in meditation for the past 1.5 years or so, using the app “Headspace”, but it wasn’t until three months ago that I feel like I really started learning and experiencing the real effects of it. I randomly found this book, Meditation Without Gurus, at the library, and it ended up having a pretty big impact on me. I don’t think this book is extremely popular or “the definitive guide to meditation” or anything like that, but I just found it really approachable and straightforward. It talks about how a lot of people, when starting out with meditation, struggle with all these questions of “how should I meditate?” “what should I think about when I meditate?” “what should I be keeping in mind?” “who should I learn from?”, etc. And the simple answer is just that you don’t need anything fancy to learn how to meditate — the whole point is to do nothing, to think about nothing, to slip out of your ego, to step back from the concept of “I” and “me” and into the present world. It has had a really big impact on me, but it does take effort, and some days I’m better at it than others. I’d definitely recommend this book if it’s a topic you’re interested in.

sometimes i put almond milk in my coffee and it looks cool

I have this little book club that I’ve somehow managed to keep together (even if sometimes only three people show up haha). While it’s a really small aspect of my daily life, having a goal of at least one book every month is something that I’ve come to enjoy a lot. Last month, we read Educated by Tara Westover, and it ended up being my favorite book I’ve read all year. I devoured the whole book in a single day and it wasn’t a chore at all. Would def recommend. (P.S. if you’re around SLC, join my book club!)

I think the world of this dude.

My company did a retreat where everyone came and visited Utah! This was one of the small group activities, a space exploration simulation — basically Star Trek LARPing. I was the first officer and I gotta say we owned it.

I love getting together with my team in person. We go to restaurants and order a bunch of plates and pass them around family style and it’s always really memorable and joyful. This time we went to Finca in downtown SLC and had olives, roasted carrots with honey and ricotta, toasty earthy potatoes with spicy creamy sauce, garlic and sherry vinegar mushrooms, paella, and housemade sangria. Ahhhh it was one of the best meals I’ve had.

Hawaii travel video!

I went to Hawaii last week (Oahu & Maui) with some friends. It was incredible. I know there are tons of cool places to travel around the world, many of which I haven’t seen yet, but I’m pretty confident Hawaii will always be one of my favorite spots. I love the clear water, the tropical fish, the warm rain, the way plants grow like crazy, macadamia nuts, fresh fruit, surfer culture, the wildlife, the mountains, just, I am all about the ALOHA LIFESTYLE, dudes.

I was able to spend a lot of time snorkeling and scuba diving, which is my personal heaven on earth. It’s a cliche, but being in the water looking at an underwater world of coral and fish, all the stuff I was worried about totally evaporated. We also hiked, ziplined, explored, ate and drank, and lounged.

I wasn’t very on top of taking pictures and videos (except underwater) but I pieced this little video together to help me remember the trip. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, plz watch at least 1:08 to 1:43, from when I saw this big octopus swimming around, because it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

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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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 relaxed and non-aggressive. I live in a busy city surrounded by unfamiliar people and animals and statues and noises, and in order to get the dog the best exercise, I’d need to be able to take it hiking and running with me. We thought Ellie would be a good 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.

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, 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.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/leahjlou/playlist/2iawnpxFqZofVVrj5YTn3y