Monday, December 19, 2011

My 2011 Christmas Card

Y   S !
Festival of Trees Triptych

These Christmas Card blog posts have become something that I probably look forward to more than anyone else does. Why? I guess taking time to look back at the last 12 months and see where life has taken me.  Also, as I get older and time seems to fly past faster and faster each year, looking back over the course of twelve months allows me to realize that there really was a lot that happened and that I didn't just blink and another year had gone by.  Would you believe I wrote the first one of these five years ago? Back when some people didn't even HAVE blogs yet? :)

Just by way of updating the major details of my life, it doesn't seem like TOO much has changed this year. I am still living in Murray, almost 3 years in the same house, which I still love living in, though I DID move down to the basement this year, so I guess that's a bit of change. Especially in terms of temperature in the winter (brrr!) and summer (ahhh!) Still single. Still done with school and still working for Intermountain Healthcare. But I AM a year older, so I guess that's different, right? :)

As usual traveling was a big part of the "highlights" of my year (went from Washington state to Washington DC and from Hawaii to Florida and back to Hawaii, and slept in 9 different states plus the District of Columbia), but I wanted to break up the travelogues and photos with various other non-travel highlights of the year, so watch out for those as you go.


1st Quarter

Definitely as I get older, I feel like memory is not what it once was, and January was a long time ago, but as best as I can recall, with the help of my blog and pictures I've taken, I did not travel anywhere in January.

Narrows Trailhead
In February, Alicia and I talked our way into spending President's Day weekend in St. George with Laci's family.  The hope was to get away from the cold and find somewhere warm, but apparently it's still pretty chilly in St. George in February.  We did go on a neat hike in Red Rock, and got to see Zions blanketed in snow and ice. Related blog post.  More photos on Flickr.

Family photo

Diamondhead from Kapiolani Park
In March, we had a wonderful family vacation to Hawaii.  Given that in the months since then, I've suddenly become the only one of my siblings left in Utah, it was really nice to have the whole family together, and to do so many fun things.  Perhaps of everything that happened, the most notable was that Ben opened his mission call. To Hawaii of all places. He headed to the MTC in early June. More on that later. I wrote a whole series of posts on this trip, that can be found here. Lots of photos here.


The Year that was 2011: Media

I used to write reviews of every book I finished, here on the blog, but at some point this year, I got tired of doing that, so I stopped. I do still try to keep up the list in the righthand column of what I've read and what I'm reading up to date, in case anyone is wondering. In addition to the 14 books I've finished so far this year (I imagine I'll finish at least one more before the end of the year), I also read a fair number of graphic novels (aka comic books) that I don't generally deem blog-worthy. :)  Of the books I finished this year, my favorites were "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball and The Blind Side) about the crash of the housing economy, and "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich about the founding of Facebook.  There was also a chapter in Dmitri Martin's "This is a Book" about an anti-cat calendar ("Cat-astrophe") that was fantastic. :)

Some other favorites from this year:
Movie: X-Men: First Class
TV Show: Parks & Recreation/Breaking Bad
Song: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO
Album: "The Head and the Heart" by The Head and The Heart
Video Game: Batman Arkham Asylum


2nd Quarter

April was another non-travel month, which was fine. Good chance to rest up prior to what turned out to be a very busy summer.

Orlando May 2011 006
In May, I made trips to two places I'd never been before. Both in the same week!  I went to Orlando for a Public Health Informatics conference where, together with one of our collaborators at the state health department, I gave a presentation on our partnership in developing the death certificate tool I've been working on for the last 3 years. Now in pilot testing! (yay!) For the last 8 months. (boo!)  I was only there for a couple quick days, and didn't make it to any of the Disney parks, but did go to Downtown Disney one night. Blog post. Flickr.

Jon's Wedding Road Trip 054
Part of the reason I was only there for a couple days was that I had to hurry and get back to Utah so that I could drive to eastern Washington for my good friend Jon's wedding.  Alicia, Matt & Marti, and I loaded into Alicia's Murano and drove to the Tri-Cities area and back over the course of just 3 days.  I think we literally spent as much time in the car as we did in Washington. :)  But it was great to be there for Jon's wedding and to see some of the country that I'd never seen before. And we were even home in time for Memorial Day. Which I don't remember anything about. Maybe I spent it being lazy and recovering from a hard week of traveling (Florida to Washington!). Read more. See more

Family Stuff June 2011 001

Family Stuff June 2011 022
June was another stay-at-home month, but with plenty going on.  Ben entered the MTC on June 8th, and I was lucky enough to be able to be around for most of the festivities surrounding that event.  They've changed the MTC a bit since I was there, and the dropoff process is pretty quick now.  You just pull up to a designated spot on the curb, a missionary comes to help with luggage, you get a quick hug and that's it. So long. Sayonara. See you in 2 years.  Probably less emotional than the old way, and maybe that's for the best.  It was nice having Ben in Salt Lake for a year before he left. We managed to go out for dinner a couple times, and hit a Jazz game while he was at the U.  And a couple times Natalie was even able to come up from Provo for a "sibling dinner" (Sorry we didn't invite you George!).  And as it turned out, she would also be heading out for warmer climes less than a month later as she got a reporting job in El Paso and moved at the end of June.  So in the span of a month I went from being one of three kids here in Utah, to being the lone representative here in the state.  Things definitely can change quickly.  In many ways, its been fun to have Ben out on a mission, and to see how much he's changed and grown already (or maybe we just know more what he's thinking now that he writes us an email every week).  Anyway, definitely makes me appreciate the times that we can get together as a family more now that we're spread out.


The Year that was 2011: Concerts

The Head and The Heart
I was lucky enough to catch three concerts that I quite enjoyed this year. The first, in April, was "The Head and The Heart" at Kilby Court, and I have to say, they were fantastic, and I can't imagine them not doing big things.  They're a folky rock group and their debut album has so many great songs. My friend Emily, who has her own show on KRCL (in addition to being a geneticist!), recommended them and hooked me up with free tickets.

In August, Jeff and Sica Glauser and I went down to Pioneer Park (as yet un"Occupy"ed) for a free Lupe Fiasco concert. The opener was not really to my liking and the free nature of the concert led to a lot of people who I wanted to punch when they tried to crowd in front of us, but it was a fun show. Always like me some Lupe.

Finally in November, I once again got to see They Might Be Giants, this time with ex-programmer/still-nerd Jonathan Coulton. I convinced my fellow nerd, Randall, to come down from Ogden and go with me.  Definitely a fun night.  Would definitely pay to see TMBG again.

3rd Quarter: Part I

That's right. July-September was so jam-packed with stuff that it needs to be broken up into two parts!

Ray Barrus 5K

Austin watching fireworks
Speaking of getting family together, George and Kimi and the kids (including new addition Cole!) were all able to come for the 4th of July holiday, and Natalie was able to hold off starting her new job enough to come back and party with us. Among other things, I ran the Ray Barrus 5K with mom, George, and Natalie. We watched the parade. Ate BBQ. Threw snaps with the kids. Watched fireworks at the park. Definitely a fantastic 4th. More words. More pictures.

Castle Valley

Delicate Arch Group Shot
Our 4th of July celebration would have been sufficient for any normal July, but this year, July just kept right on rolling.  A week or so after the 4th, Melissa invited me to come camping down in Moab, so after a few years or really wanting to go down there and check out Arches National Park, I finally made it.  And I was so glad that I went. Not only did my friend Garrett find us a campsite with a phenomenal view, but Arches was also fantastic.  Delicate Arch definitely lived up to the hype, and our day long hike through Devils Garden was really cool, too.  I'm sure there's plenty that I've yet to see, so I hope that I get down there again soon. For those who love to read. For those who just like to look at pictures.

Cliff jumping trio
The very next week, right after Arches, was my 3rd annual "Sweat running down the back of my knees at Tuacahn" St. George trip with most of the same great friends as the other two times.  Once again we hit up Sand Hollow for some cliff jumping and swimming, and despite the massive ear/head ache that I managed to acquire in the process, it was still a fantastically fun trip.  We jokingly told Kellen and Mel that they can't come next year now that they're married and Mel didn't seem to find our joke too funny. Words with friends. Pictures with friends.

3rd Quarter to be continued...


The Year that was 2011: Health

For nearly the last 3 years Type II Diabetes has been a part of my life, and I guess it's both good and bad that I'm not longer as scared of having my legs amputated or going blind anytime soon.  Good in the sense that my blood sugars continue to be in a "controlled" range (HbA1c's for the year: 5.1 and 6.1), and all of my tests have been fine.  Bad in the sense that I'm not quite as motivated as I once was to exercise several times a week and be pretty strict with my diet. Wasn't thrilled to see my A1c go from 5.1 to 6.1 in 6 months, even though both numbers are below where I'm need to be. Hopefully by March I can get back down a bit toward where I was before.

For somewhat non-health related reasons (kinda just wanted a goal to work toward) I did make a goal for myself to run a complete 5K (i.e, no walking) this year and made steady progress toward that goal (ran nearly all of two 5Ks, my times were 30:03 and 28:40) until my knee decided that it wasn't as excited about that goal as the rest of me.  So the last couple months I've been doing my best to take care of my knee and hopefully get back to where I can at least play volleyball a couple times a week and do plenty of low impact work on the elliptical machine. :)


3rd Quarter: Part II

...and now we're back.

Lava group shot
Guess what? We're STILL not done with July! The NEXT week after St. George, I went up to Lava Hot Springs, in what also seems to be becoming an annual tradition of camping at the trout haven and then risking life and limb tubing in the Portneuf River.  Amazingly, after 3 trips down, I had managed to avoid even a single scar (Just ask me and I'd be happy to show you one of the two I've got there on previous trips. The second one...well it's a little more personal).  So at that point, I decided to not press my luck further and call it a day.

Tea Cup Madness
At this point it was finally August. And I managed to stay home for a couple weekends in a row. Which actually was pretty easy.  I had plenty of catching up on life maintenance things (laundry, grocery shopping, oil changes, etc) to do, and it was nice to have a Saturday or two for recharging after a crazy July.  After taking most of August off from traveling (there was a quick overnight road trip to Bear Lake in there somewhere -- sorry no photos), we sent the summer off with a bang.  My roommate Brandon needed to take some vacation before his no-vacation season started at work, so with a little help from myself and others, he put together a week packed with road tripping.  We started with quick trip to California.  That's right, quick. Meaning we left our house on Sunday morning, drove to Los Angeles, hit Disneyland on Monday, Knotts Berry Farm on Tuesday, then back to Vegas on Tuesday night, and then the rest of the way home on Wednesday.  Crazy, right?  But also tons of fun.  My friend Val, who I probably hadn't seen in person in at least 7 years, was kind enough to host us at her house and even come with us to Disneyland.  We had good times playing Cash Cab on Brandon's iPod while we drove, and by the time we had our late dinner in Vegas Tuesday night, I think we were all a little punchy.  I know we definitely laughed until our sides hurt that night.  More Cali photos.

Whitewater Rafting on the Snake

Loving the Tetons
After taking a day and a half off to recover (and by recover, I mean, go to work Thursday and Friday), we (Brandon and I, plus 7 others that we traded Julie for) were back on the road, this time heading north to Jackson Hole (another first). Thankfully I did not have to drive. (We took my car to California and I drove the whole way there and back by choice. Oh and another first! My first speeding ticket.) We spent the first night in Rexburg, and then in the morning drove the rest of the way to Jackson.  We had a fantastic time rafting on the Snake River and enjoyed the dinner and musical stylings of the Bar J Wranglers in the evening.  The next day we drove up past the Tetons and into Yellowstone and took a whirlwind tour of the south half of the park (same half I saw on my first trip) and then back again.  And then we drove home on Monday, and I swore to never take another road trip. :)  Ok, not true, but it was nice to be home again and settle in for fall and football without any more road trips planned.  All the blog posts from my crazy Week o' Vacationing are here.  Wyoming photos here.


The Year that was 2011: Church

As the year started, I was beginning to wonder if I ought to consider switching out of the singles ward I was attending in Holladay, partly because I didn't actually live in the boundaries, nor was I within their official age range, and partly because I sometimes felt a lot older than most of the ward.  But as I was serving in the Elders Quorum Presidency I didn't exactly feel right about just cutting out for my own personal reasons.  Then in late April there was a reorganization of all the singles wards in the valley and it seemed like the right time to be moving on, though it was definitely hard to leave behind my friends there, and especially the fantastic men I served in the presidency with.

After vacillating for a couple months between the "mid-singles" ward (31-45) and the regular or "family" ward for my neighborhood, I eventually decided to try the family ward for a while, and that's where I'm at now.  Fun to be in a ward with kids again (the primary program was one of my favorite weeks), and while I'm not exactly meeting girls to date there, I have made friends and have been able to serve in the Elders Quorum (shocker!) as one of two guys over activities and service coordination.  And of course, church is still church, whether you're in a room full of single people, or a room full of crying kids and old people.  The gospel is still true and I still learn a little bit each week about how I can live better.


4th Quarter

Old Ebbitt Grill
In October, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Annual Fall Symposium of the American Medical Informatics Association.  Always great to catch up with friends from school that I don't see much any more, especially the ones who live out of town. I also took an evening to go down to the mall with an old friend from Salt Lake who lives out there to check out the new Martin Luther King memorial, and eat dinner at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill. Blog summary. More photos.

Hawaii - Thanksgiving 2011 005
And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I just barely finished wrapping up a discussion of my most recent trip, a Thanksgiving week trip back to Hawaii with my parents to hang out with George's family.  Certainly less of a "Hawaii" vacation, and more of a "family" vacation, that just happened to take place in Hawaii. Yes, I know this means we're probably spoiled, but it was nice to relax for a while and get plenty of quality time in with family.  All the details. Just the pretty pictures.


The Year that was 2011: Dating

I always like to include this little summary of my dating life, if for no other reason then to let the world know that not all single LDS men are not dating, despite whatever you might have heard to the contrary. :) Last year I was lucky enough to get a bit of a break from the crazy world of dating, inasmuch as I was dating the same person for most of the year.  I was not quite so blessed this year, but I certainly had a lot of great dating experiences. I was able to go on 41 dates (and counting, the year's not over yet). Which is definitely a personal best for a year when I didn't have a steady girlfriend.  Given that I stopped going to a singles ward halfway through the year, I feel glad to know that it doesn't have to mean that I can't still have opportunities to meet new people to go out with. There were even a couple great girls that were willing to take a chance on me for a month or two, and though things didn't work out, for a variety of reasons, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know them, and myself, better in the process.


As I look back on all that's happened in the last year, I am truly grateful for the many wonderful people in my life, and the many wonderful opportunities I have to travel and see so many amazing things. I'm grateful to have a good job in a time when many are still struggling, and above all grateful at this Christmas season to know that our Savior lives and knows and loves each of us.  Wherever you may be, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Friends Collage 2011

Previous years' Christmas cards can be found here.


Kimberli said...

I liked addition of the favorites section. :)

Merry Christmas! miss you...

Liz said...

Merry Christmas Jake! I always enjoy the summary of the year. We are very blessed and you are one of my blessings. Love ya lots.:)

Tawna said...

Merry Christmas Jake! Even though we don't really see each other very often, it is always good to hear what exciting adventures you have been on through the year! If you ever need a set up...let me know. I know lots of cute, single girls that are in our home ward too.

Samuel said...

Pretty cool year in review. I liked it. We need to get together more. Merry Christmas!

Shayla said...

Great review! I feel like I'm caught up...

Mark and Anji said...

Jake, just so you know, I think you are awesome and I'm glad you are my friend. :) Merry Christmas.

Jacob Johnson said...

Great to hear from you Jake! Glad you're doing well. Merry Christmas!