Sunday, January 29, 2023

Living local

As I wrote about two years ago, I enjoy supporting local businesses and enjoying what is available where I live. I know some people love traveling, and I like traveling when I do it, but I feel like there's so many nice things to do locally.

I enjoy going to the South Davis Recreation Center to swim. This week was the last of my session of swimming lessons. My instructor told me I'm a natural at butterfly stroke. It's an exhausting stroke, and I still have a lot to learn. But she and I were impressed I learned it so fast! I decided to sign up for another month of swimming lessons, since there's so much I don't know how to do. My instructor also told me I'm ready to join the beginner level of the recreational swim team. But I'm not sure I like swimming that much. I'm more likely to spend time swimming in the winter, when the trails are snowpacked.

Here in North Salt Lake is the factory for Mrs. Cavanaugh's chocolates. Since I have a lot of extra time on my hands, I decided to take the factory tour on Friday. It was a little awkward, because I ended up in a large group with two or three Activity Days groups. The kids were well behaved, but kids can be exhausting! I don't know that the tour was especially instructive, and I might have learned more if it hadn't been marketed to kids. But I'm glad to say I've done it. I wanted to go now, since Valentine's Day is chocolate season.

I also enjoy running on the paved path next to the Jordan River. I often pick this one when it has snowed recently, since the snow melts faster at the lower elevation. I wish the Jordan River were a healthier river, but it's still fun. And I see more standing water this year than I have in other years—which is good for snowpack but not for the upcoming mosquito season. 

I love working in downtown Salt Lake City. I know people come from all over to see the Salt Lake Temple, but for me it's just another day at the office. I guess I should be better about not taking it for granted.

And last night, I went to Top Hat Video, which is shuttering on January 31. They're selling off all their DVDs. I am surprised they've lasted so long. It's kind of sad, but also not—streaming really is more convenient, and I don't really watch a lot of movies. I went and bought fifty-dollars-worth of terrible movies, since I have horrible taste in movies, and most of the good ones were gone already. Of course, most of the ones I picked have a holiday theme, because I'm more likely to watch those. I'm just a kitschy kind of guy.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

More weird times

I was off work on Monday, but since I'm only working part-time, it just meant that I made up for it the rest of the week. I went hiking in the snow—I'm trying to spend more time outside in the winter so I will hate it less. I went on the Woodbriar Trail. The lower portions were pretty well trafficked, now that the Bonneville Shoreline Trail cuts through it, but it was mostly unused above the BST. Since I go there so often the rest of the year, I knew where the trail was, so I tried to follow it, even though it was covered in snow.

Then my ward went to Holdman Studios in Lehi, where they make glass art. It was fascinating. 

On Wednesday, I made winter-themed veggie burgers, except I didn't make them into patties, just using the mixture as burrito filling. I love making these every year. This time, I used the largest beet I have ever bought; it reminded me of a human heart.

In my swimming lessons on Thursday, we began learning the butterfly stroke. That's one I never grasped in my Swimming for Non-Swimmers class back in 2013. But having an instructor tell me exactly how to do it has been helpful, and I enjoyed it! I look forward to practicing it more and adding it to my stroke repertoire.

On Friday, trying to embrace the outdoors during the winter, I took my headlamp to run along the Jordan River Trail in the dark. I really get depressed doing evening runs in January and February, but for some reason it was more enjoyable after dark.

There were new interpretive signs. This one talked about avoiding single-use plastics. I have become quite scrupulous about that, but it's hard when so many places offer single-use plastic and even give them to me when I don't want them.

I did my usual temple run on Saturday, and it was so cold that a large chunk of ice formed in my water bottle. My knee started hurting at the end, probably because my shoes are well used. Good thing I have new ones to replace them!

Yep. Working part-time in my thirties is not ideal, but I'm trying to enjoy all the extra time I have. And even though I'm only working part time, I really love what I do for work.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Weird times

 It sure is weird only working part time now.

On Monday, my boss from the Church History Department from years ago invited me to lunch. He's pretty big at BYU now, and he returned as a mission president in July, so he has plenty of professional and personal connections. Therefore, I was flattered that he would reach out to little old me. He periodically also asks me for editing help. It's nice to have someone appreciate my skills. (I do think I'm better at editing than I am at anything else.)

My parents have had COVID this week, but since I had it in August, I haven't been too worried about contracting it. When I got home on Tuesday, I felt unusually tired, so I worried I might have it again. I opted to stay home from my swimming lessons. But then I took a COVID test, which came out negative. I was going to go late to my lessons, but it was snowing heavily, so I decided it wasn't worth it. I feel like I missed swimming for nothing, but I am glad I didn't have to drive home in the snow. (It wasn't snowing when I would have originally left.)

My transition from intern to contractor has been a headache. I went into the office Wednesday and was locked out of my account, so I took some time off to make a Target run, in part because I wanted some better jeans. (I like the look of slim-fit jeans, but they are hard to take off over my incredibly huge calf muscles.) When I went back into the office, the issue still wasn't resolved, and I would ask people about it, and they kept telling me to go ask someone else. I was running in circles until eventually they told me to go home for the day.

When I got home on Wednesday, I decided to go on a hike in the snow in the dark. It's nice to have something different to do, and I'm glad I have more time now.

Thursday I didn't go into the office. I couldn't, since I was locked out of my account. And then I got an email that my new position hadn't officially been approved. But they got it sorted out, so I was able to go to work on Friday.

They have given me a task that is fun, if a little challenging, one that might potentially be a great boost to my career. So I just have to be patient. It's still frustrating, though, that I'm in my mid-thirties and still don't have a regular job.

Also, a few weeks ago I interviewed for another job, which I didn't get. No surprise there, I didn't feel qualified. But then they reached out to me specially to encourage me to apply to a new posting. It's a job that would be a great fit for me. It's part-time as well, so I could potentially do two part-time jobs at the same time, even though that might be hard. So I'm hopeful for my future, even if the present is a little weird.

Two years ago, I ran on every street in North Salt Lake. Effective January 1, 2023, unincorporated Davis County is now part of NSL. So yesterday I went and ran on all of those streets. It's nice to be able to do something different on a run, but running in random neighborhoods during this bleak time of year is just not the same as my usual temple run, and it's certainly not even close to as good as a trail run.

Well, we're halfway through January, the worst month of the year. February's not much better. But literally every other month is wonderful, so again, patience is key.

Sunday, January 8, 2023


 Since I always do a year-in-review post, it means that the first (or in this case, second) week of January describes two weeks.

The week between Christmas and New Year's, I went into the office Tuesday through Friday. On December 27, I went to Brownies! Brownies! Brownies! for the last time. I first went there in 2019, since they were right by the church where I helped tutor youth in a Tongan ward. But then inflation (after a pandemic) has forced them to shut down. I think it also doesn't help that they were kind of in a weird location. I'm sad they're closing down, but I also don't make it out to Sugar House that much these days.

My niblings returned to California on December 30. New Year's Eve was very boring; I spent some time reading all my journal entries from 2022. I often find myself a little sad when a year ends, but I wasn't sad this time.

On New Year's Day, I made a New Year's Day soup with blackeyed peas, ham, and vegetables, served with a side of cornbread. Blackeyed peas are a traditional New Year's Day food in the South, so I've adopted that, since we don't really have any New Year's foods here. (Maybe Martinelli's? I had some of that too.)

I was off work January 2, so I decided to hike the Wild Rose Trail in the freshly fallen snow, wearing my new boots. It was busier than I expected, but I guess everyone had the day off, and what else are you going to do during this time of year? This is seriously the most bland, bleak period of the entire calendar. (Speaking of calendars, I still need to buy a new one!)

This week I started taking swimming lessons for adults. My only formal swimming training was Swimming for Non-Swimmers at BYU back in 2013, so I signed up for the Beginner class at the South Davis Rec Center. There was one other person signed up for that class, and the instructor said both of us are more at an intermediate level, so we combined with the intermediate class, which only has one person. So we get a full hour of training instead of just a half hour. Fine with me! I have these lessons every Tuesday and Thursday in January. My goal is to do both cardio and strength exercises every day.

My life is one big question mark right now. My internship with the Church History Department is ending, but I will be working part-time as a contractor. And no one there knows what's going on, and it doesn't help that people have been out of the office for the holidays. Will I have the same cubicle or any cubicle at all? Will my badge work? Who is my supervisor? No one really seems to know. I have also applied to a couple of jobs in the department.

I also interviewed for another part-time job, and they were going to get back to me this upcoming week. But I've decided I don't want to take it. Having two part-time jobs is not ideal, just something to do until I get something permanent. The same can be said for having one part-time job. So I would rather just have one job, especially since I have enough money saved.

I had an interview this week for another job, which sounds like it would be fun, and I thought the interview went well. That job is in Utah County. What would my life be like if I got it? Would I commute? Would I move closer? With roommates or solo? Would I take Reggie with me? Who knows. What a weird time of my life!

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Queer year

Wow. What a year it has been! The year 2012 was one of the most important, memorable years of my life, so it only seems fitting that the tenth anniversary of that year would also be important and memorable. When I started this year, I didn't expect to enter a quarter-life crisis. I thought I already went through that three years ago. But I have learned and grown in unexpected ways in 2022.

January. I had a week off before I started my internship at the Church History Department and my final semester of grad school. I did my internship for credit, and it was the only "class" I had, so I didn't actually go to campus. I would go to work during the day, then every night I spent an hour and a half working on my graduate portfolio. I didn't have much time just to have fun. I began another year of teaching a youth Sunday School class. My new cat, Reggie, was still getting used to us, and it took a long time for him to warm up.
At the end of the month, I got sick, so I self-isolated in my room, since COVID numbers were high. But it turned out not to be COVID. 

February. A pretty boring, bleak month. I went to Fillmore for the funeral of my great-uncle, even though I barely knew him. Most of my time was still devoted to finishing my graduate portfolio.

March. Fitbit recalled my watch, so they gave me a refund, and I got a Garmin watch, which is definitely better than Fitbit, even if the app is less user friendly. Because COVID numbers had subsided, I commuted by bus with my UCard. In the middle of the month, I had a severe bout of food poisoning, maybe from Lucky Charms. Later in the month, I took a field trip to BYU for work, and then that evening I saw Carol Burnett live.

April. Trail season resumed in earnest. 

As I wrapped up grad school, I decided that I should start attending activities with the mid-singles ward, so I looked up upcoming events. It just so happened that the first activity I found was a fireside with Ben Schilaty about ministering to LGBTQ+ Latter-day Saints. Attending this fireside was extremely important and helpful to me this year as I came to terms with my own orientation. 

May. I attended both convocation and commencement ceremonies at the University of Utah, where Doug Bowser, CEO of Nintendo (yes, really), was the speaker.
The day after graduation, I went to a Mat Kearney concert. A few days after graduation, I defended my graduate portfolio, which was a nerve-racking experience. I passed, but it seemed a little anticlimactic because I had already attended my graduation ceremonies.

June. I went to the Mormon History Association conference in Logan, and I went to a March for Our Lives rally at the capitol.
 I also began consistently pulling up goathead plants, which I continued to do into the fall. I attended the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But most significantly of all, I had PRK surgery, so I no longer wear glasses. Everything was blurry for a week.

July. I got a new phone. My family observed Bountiful's Handcart Days parade and fireworks, and I did the 5k the following week. I attended the unveiling of the Pioneers of 1847 monument to Black pioneers at This Is the Place. 
I heard myself on our local NPR station, having recorded a clip explaining my Pioneer Day playlist. At the end of the month, I first attended the mid-singles ward, and I was struck by how open and vulnerable the sacrament-meeting talks were. They spoke to me in a way that family-ward talks do not.

August. I began seeing a therapist. I enjoyed the wet weather. 
I helped out with a stake service project. I finally had COVID, but it was a relatively minor case. (My sister was not so lucky; she got it shortly after I got it, but not from me, and she spent a while in the hospital.) Once I recovered, I saw the Killers in concert.

September. I was sad about the insanely hot temperatures at the beginning of the month. I went to an outdoor Lower Lights concert. Trail running continued,
and I even went on a fifteen-mile run in North Canyon, the longest run I have ever done. 

October. I attend the Restore Gathering put on by Faith Matters, which was a beautiful conference. I came out as gay! (Side note: I know of at least three instances where people shared my coming-out blog post with other people without asking me first. I can't help but feel violated. Like, you never talk to me, but you think you can just share my stuff willy-nilly?) And trail season continued.

November. I reviewed Figgy Pudding Spam. I did some volunteer editing for Wayfare magazine. I enjoyed working downtown again to see the Christmas lights after Thanksgiving.

I attended a launch party for Wayfare. I went to the Lower Lights Christmas concert and Elf the Musical. I officially joined the Bountiful SA Ward. My brother's family came into town.

My two New Year's resolutions for 2022 were to watch a holiday-themed show every day during each holiday season and to get rid of something every day. Both of these goals were harder than I expected. Watching TV is boring, especially in the summer and fall, when I would rather be running on trails or picking goatheads. 

I'm kind of a hoarder (not like what you see on TV, but still), which is why I made my goal to get rid of things, but being a hoarder also made it harder. The tree hugger in me feels bad getting rid of things that are functional (the "reuse" of "reduce, reuse, recycle"), even if they aren't fully functional, even if I haven't used them in years. A lot of the things I got rid of were random papers or rotting food in the fridge. But I did try to get rid of some more substantial things. I'm only wearing this tie because I feel like I should wear it since I own it. I don't actually like wearing it, so I should get rid of it. Sure, this water bottle holds water, but since the tab to open the straw is broken, it makes it incredibly difficult to use, so I don't use it. Why keep it? I didn't clear up a lot closet space, but it did help me reevaluate why I keep things.

I really don't know what 2023 looks like, especially because I don't know what my job situation will be. But I am optimistic for a fresh start!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Joyeux Noël

Here it is, another Christmas!

What a weird time of my life, where I don't even know what my life will look like in two or three weeks. How can I be in my mid-thirties and still never have had a permanent job?! Literally every job I have ever had has been temporary, unless you count jobs in 2007 and 2011 where I only planned on having them a few months to make money for mission and college. I had a job interview this week on Zoom; it was OK. Last week I also had a job interview; the hiring manager reached out to me this week to tell me she hadn't made a decision yet, but she called me Mike. I had lunch with my supervisor, and he encouraged me to apply to two open positions in the Church History Department, so I did. And I also applied to another job. And Wednesday I had to do some more last-minute copyediting for Wayfare.

As I mentioned last week, my brother's family is in town. On Wednesday they wanted to make sugar cookies, but then they lost interest before it became time to actually decorate them. 

Can you tell that the holiday cookie cutters were all mixed together?
On Thursday, I took my sister-in-law and her sister to see the lights at Temple Square, but of course the lights are limited because of construction. Since I work downtown, I tend to take it all for granted. My SIL's sister has never experienced an American Christmas before. I also drove them around Bountiful, and we passed a house ("Candy Cane Corner") where Santa and Mrs. Claus were sitting out front, so she wanted to stop to see Santa.

Me with Second Sister at the Assembly Hall. That's literally what they call her, even in Chinese.
On Friday, my brother joined the rest of his family here in Utah, and I took the niblings sledding. Second Sister enjoyed sledding for the first time.
And of course Saturday was Christmas Eve. I love to spend holidays playing their respective playlists while I make seasonal foods. I made gingerbread pancakes, pomegranate guacamole, cherry salsa (to use the leftover cilantro—it has nothing to do with Christmas, though it is red), and apple crisp with chocolate peppermint topping.
I smashed twelve candy canes for this topping

I also took my cousin's kids sledding.

And then Christmas came! Most of my gifts followed a theme of rainbow or cats or both. Even the wrapping paper.

My brother created this AI-generated picture for me. In 2017, my nephew Franklin coined my nickname, Holiday John.

I also got some bear spray and safety wristbands. But I usually stick to well-traveled trails that feel pretty safe.

I attended the family ward for Christmas services. Earlier this year, my youth Sunday School class created a group text, and today I got a text that said "Guys he's not wearing a festive suit"—I'm assuming the "he" is referring to me because of my Fourth of July suit. I was kind of surprised they would notice and send a group chat! I might have to invest in a Christmas suit. But I probably won't be in the family ward again for a while, since next year it overlaps with the single-adult ward. I opted not to go the SA ward today so I can have more time with family.

I have opinions about Christmas hymns. The ward choir sang "The First Noel" with some of the words set to Pachelbel's cannon, but the traditional tune is literally the only good thing about that song. The lyrics are trash. And why is "Silent Night" always the closing hymn? Those lyrics aren't great either!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the rest of my Sunday/Christmas with family.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Halfway through December, the end of a long, weird year

Many of my blog titles come from song lyrics, and usually I just leave it for people to pick up on, without explaining it. But this time, I will tell you that the lyric comes from one of my favorite new Christmas songs this year, which seems very appropriate for this particular moment.

(This year didn't seem to be as good for Christmas music, not like 2017, 2018, and 2020.)

My life is in so many weird directions right now. My current internship is set to expire in about three weeks. They told me there's an option to continue on as a part-time contractor, but not full time yet. I also had an interview this week for another part-time job, but I didn't realize it was part time when I applied. They seemed impressed with my credentials, so I could potentially do that one and my current job at the same time. And I have another interview coming up on Thursday for a full-time position, though I think I'm less qualified for that one.

Also, this week I learned that the journal I submitted my Pioneer Day article to declined my paper. They said it was well done but a better fit for two other journals. But those other journals have word limits where I would have to cut my article in half. So I submitted it to a different journal. Then if they reject it, then I will do the work to trim it for one of the other journals. (I would have submitted it to one of those first, except for the word limit.)

Last week, they read my records into the single adult ward. Then today they read them into the ward again. A few people noticed, and I quipped that either I'm so amazing I had to be welcomed twice, or I'm so forgettable that they forgot the first time. But when I moved back into the family ward back in the beginning of 2020, they never read in my records, so I guess this makes up for it.

On Monday, I attended Elf the Musical, which was fun if a little vapid. For many years I refused to watch the movie because I was overly scrupulous about the kinds of movies I watched. And for many years the heteronormative plotline might have discouraged me because it was out of my grasp, but I don't need to worry about that anymore.

Saturday my brother's family, minus my brother, arrived for Christmas. It's always fun to visit with them. My younger two niblings have enjoyed playing with Reggie, and how could they not?

I did my usual temple run yesterday, but shortly after I turned around, I knew I wouldn't make it all the way home, and I had to call my dad to pick me up. If it were March, I would have walked the five miles home, but when the temperature was in the 20s, it was much too cold for the way I was dressed.

And twice this week, I made apple crisp with the apples from our neighbors' tree, but I fiddled with the topping to make it a gingerbread crisp. I did a great job, if I do say so myself. So I guess it doesn't matter that I missed most of this week's episode of Holiday Baking Championship!