Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dia del Amor y la Amistad

We are not very big into Valentine's Day... but I think we could be. It always lands at an inconvenient time. Our first year married it happened a day or two after we got back from our honeymoon, so we were busy unpacking our new apartment. Last year I was in DC for a class, so we weren't even in the same state. And this year... well this year we were just busy. We are moving to Guatemala next week, so I guess we just had a lot on our mind, so we didn't plan anything. But we did end up having fun. 

We started off the festivities with a little Vocal Few show on Thursday night. They are one of our favorite bands, and they made it more Valentinesy with a heart in the show. It was great.

Then on Valentine's Day, we both had to work, so we didn't start celebrating until the evening. And then of course, we kept it super romantic. Ha! I don't know if we can be romantic, even on a day dedicated to love. But here's what we did instead: 

We first went out to the center and bought some bracelets for each other. So I guess now we are bracelet wearers. I don't know if there is a club for that, but we will have to join. 

Anyway, these bracelets were Caitlin's idea. Chiapas is one of only a handful of places in the world where there is amber, so naturally it is a part of the ancient (and maybe modern) indigenous traditions. They put amber on children to keep them safe from harm, and to protect them from evil spirits. So Caitlin thought it would be cool if we got them for us as a way to protect our love/marriage. I loved the idea, so we went out searching for bracelets to wear. This way, even if we are separated for one reason or another, we can always remember the protection of our love. 

The even more romantic activity planned for the night was to weigh ourselves. :)

There is almost always someone in the center of town with a scale offering to weigh people, and Caitlin has been dying to try it since we arrived, so we figured we may as well do it in our last week. I think we made this girls night. She was so excited to have two customers, and even more excited that we wanted to take pictures on the scale. We're pretty sure the scale was off though, since Caitlin weighed 45 kilos (or 99 pounds) and I weighed 75 kilos (or 165 pounds). We're thinking it was bout 10 pounds off, but it made us feel good for a minute or two. 

After getting weighed we walked around for a little bit, then went home to eat ice cream and a chocolate truffle we bought earlier. It was an amazing end to Valentine's Day, and we're thinking that next year we are going to try and do something a little more romantic... but I guess we will have to wait and see. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2 Years and Counting

Caitlin and I just celebrated our two year anniversary at the beginning of the month. 
Two years can go by so quickly. I cannot believe all the things we have been able to experience together, and I didn't think two years ago that I could love Caitlin any more than I did on our wedding day, but it is crazy how much your love grows the longer you are together and the more challenges you face and overcome as a couple.

We celebrated the day pretty low key. We went out for lunch, went and bought some souvenirs, and spent a romantic evening together. It was such a great way to spend time with the one you love.
Caitlin had to take a picture of her plate. It kind of looks disgusting, but it was amazing. Carne asada, fried plantain, and enchiladas with salsa verde. I had sopes with tinga - one of my favorite Mexican dishes. 
People watching in the center is always one of our favorite pastimes. 

If every year of marriage improves as much as ours has these past two years, I can't even wait until we've been married for 20 years - life will be unstoppably amazing! This girl has enriched my life in every way imaginable and I'm so grateful to be able to spend eternity by her side. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Books to Read


Once upon a time I was a really good reader. Back in elementary school when you had Scholastic book fairs, and those great tissue paper catalogs to order out of. I was obsessed with Goosebumps books, and even took 3 or 4 of them with me every time my family went on vacation. I couldn't get enough of reading. 
Then I started high school and got really lazy - I hardly read anything, even the required books. Then in college, I remembered how much I loved reading, but I really didn't have time to do much reading for pleasure. But back then, I set my first reading goal of 50 Books to Read Before 30. I've read 23 of the books so far - but I keep adding books to my list. So rather than keeping with my original goal (only 2.5 years to go on that one). I'm going to just have a lifetime list of books.  And they aren't all super intellectual books either. I don't think all you should read are books to make you smarter. To me, books are better than movies, so I like to read for entertainment. So here it is, my lifetime book list... which will probably be amended within a year or two: 
  1. 1984 – George Orwell
  2. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  3. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Remarque
  5. All The Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
  6. Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
  7. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  8. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  9. Armor – Kim B. Clark
  10. Atlas Shurgged – Ayn Rand
  11. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  12. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  13. Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
  14. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  15. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
  16. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  17. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  18. Fablehaven Series – Brandon Mull
  19. Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie & Martin Handcart Companies – Gerald N. Lund
  20. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
  21. Freakonomics – Steven Levitt
  22. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  23. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  24. Gulliver’s Travels - Jonathan Swift
  25. Half the Sky – Nicholas D. Kristof
  26. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
  27. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albiom
  28. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  29. I am the Messenger – Markus Zusak
  30. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  31. Jesus the Christ – James E Talmage
  32. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
  33. Life as we knew it – Susan Beth Pfeffer
  34. Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott
  35. Matched - Ally Condie
  36. Matilda – Roald Dahl
  37. Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
  38. My Sisters Keeper – Jodi Picoult
  39. Number the Stars – Lois Lowry
  40. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  41. Out of the Dust – Karen Hesse
  42. Outliers, The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
  43. Over and Under – Todd Tucker
  44. Percy Jackson & the Olympians series – Rick Riordan
  45. Shattering Glass – Gail Giles
  46. Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater
  47. Shutter Island – Lehane Dennis
  48. Sophie’s Choice – William Styron
  49. Stand A Little Taller – Gordon B. Hinckley
  50. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey
  51. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  52. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
  53. The Beekeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R King
  54. The BFG – Roald Dahl
  55. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  56. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  57. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  58. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  59. The Golden Compass Series – Philip Pullman
  60. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  61. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  62. The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
  63. The Infinite Atonement – Tad R. Callister
  64. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  65. The New Jim Crowe - Michelle Alexander
  66. The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
  67. The Shining – Stephen King
  68. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  69. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  70. The Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
  71. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  72. Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  73. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  74. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival – Laura Hillenbrand
  75. Unwind - Neil Shusterman
  76. Walden – Hendry David Thoreau
  77. Where the Red Fern Grows - Wislon Rawls
  78. World War Z – Max Brooks
  79. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  80. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig 


What books are on your must read list? I would love to know so I can keep adding to mine. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Toniná

This last week, Caitlin and I took a little day trip over to Toniná, which is a set of ruins about 2 hours away from our house. It was so amazing - and actually really big. It isn't really a tourist spot, so there were only a handful of people at the ruins at the same time as us, so we could enjoy the ruins in near silence. 
We had to take a shared transport out to the town of Ocosingo, then a small truck/taxi thing to the ruins. Once we got to the ruins, we tried to pay to get in, but the guy told us they were all out of tickets, so we could just go in for free. Yay! What a deal. 

We spent a little bit of time in the museum learning about the civilization that once lived here, and seeing a few of the artifacts that were uncovered within some of the collapsed ruins. 
Our first stop at the ruins was the Mayan Ball court. This game is intense (we got to see a game back in December) and it was way cool to see where they actually played it when it was popular.
The court was incredibly intact. All the sculptures were in great shape, and as we walked around we talked about the sacrifices made from the players of the game. We have learned it two ways, either the losing team was sacrificed, or the winning team was sacrificed. I think either way, I wouldn't ever play the sport, but maybe I could be a spectator. 
Then we went up some of the pyramid type ruins. They had a ton of tunnels and weird small rooms. We don't really know what they were all used for, but this civilization was extremely powerful, and actually took down the civilization from Palenque, as well as many others. In the museum, we learned that they kept many prisoners in this city, and they have a lot of sculptures depicting decapitation. Before going to Toniná Caitlin asked how they knew they depicted decapitation, and weren't just statues that had the heads broken off over the years... Well, a lot of the statues are kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs, and other sculptures are holding their own head in their hands. Some engravings even depict a decapitated body with blood coming out around a fallen head. So I think they had a pretty good idea of what those were about.
The tunnels were also extremely dark - no windows in a lot of them, and the rooms were actually just a dead-end in the tunnel. Not sure why - but I would love to talk to someone who actually lived in the ruins back in it's prime. So much of history is lost because people die. :(
The ruins were really tall. Really, really tall. So we climbed up them forever.

And the view from the top was spectacular. Seriously. 
We spent a ton of time at top, just relaxing. It was pretty warm, and at the top of the pyramid there was a nice breeze, so we enjoyed it. 
After our time at the top, we decided to go down to the bottom again and enjoy a picnic lunch and get ready to go. Overall, we spent about 3 hours at the ruins. 
I'm getting really excited for my dad to come and visit in April. We are going to take him to Tikal, Guatemala, and Copan, Honduras. I can't wait to explore more ruins! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Live an Amazing Life

First things first. This is not a blog to brag. This is not a blog where I talk about how amazing my life is. Rather, it is a reminder to myself about what makes me happy.
This last week Caitlin and I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Have you seen it yet? You should. It is a great movie. One of my new favorites. Basically it is about a guy who daydreams a lot, but doesn't live a very fulfilling life. He kind of blames the death of his father for why his life isn't how he would like, and his daydreams are always fantasies about what he wish could happen. But then one day he changes it - and that is what I love. So many times we watch movies and love the stories, but don't really apply them to ourselves - but I think movies can always be applied to our lives. 

Here are a few examples, and then I'll get into the good stuff.

The CroodsThe Croods is a story about a cave family that refuses to live because they are afraid of what might be lurking outside of the cave. But then their cave is destroyed and they have to leave to find a new place to live. Along the way, they discover what it is like to actually live - and enjoy life. How often are we afraid of what could potentially happen, so instead we don't even take a risk? I'm afraid it happens all too often. 

We Bought a Zoo
Then there is We Bought a Zoo. Such a great movie about a single dad who is still mourning the death of his wife. He isn't happy, and doesn't know how to make his kids happy. So he takes a risk and buys a new house/zoo and takes on the task of revitalizing the zoo. My favorite quote from the movie is, "Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." Think about all of the opportunities we would miss out on if we didn't have courage. 

Harry PotterThen one of my all time favorite movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. All the Harry Potter movies follow 3 wizard friends during their school years, but in this last movie Harry, Ron, and Hermione are working to overthrow the dark wizard, Voldemort. This movie is all about standing up for what is right, being a fiercely loyal friend, and working hard, even when things don't seem worth it, even if you think you may fail in the end. 


Now, this post was not to talk about my favorite movies (although it's a great outlet, since I think I'm driving Caitlin insane). Rather it is to talk about How to Live an Amazing Life. So here are my suggestions: 

International Service
1. Serve other people.
It is such a simple concept, and everyone can do it. In service there are always two beneficiaries, those who receive service, and those giving service. Service really makes you happy. When I was in high school, my friend Tess shared this inspirational quote with me, "Service is like peeing your pants, everyone can see the results, but only you can feel the warmth." Since then, I've always tried to feel the warmth that service can bring, and it really does make you happy. And it doesn't have to be big, or organized. Opening the door for others, letting a car onto a busy freeway lane, cooking dinner for a loved one. Service does not have to be a huge ordeal, but really can be simple and anonymous. 


2. Overcome your fears.
In case you didn't notice the common theme of the movies listed above, a big part of the life changing elements in those movies is that the main characters had to overcome fears. This is super hard to do. Trust me - it is a battle I face every day. Before we moved to Mexico I was terrified, but rather than letting the fear control me, I used the fear to propel me forward. Use those obstacles and fears as something that can motivate you, rather than hinder you.

3. Be a fiercely loyal friend. 
Just as I mentioned about Harry Potter, and as I referred to all my friends as Harry Potter characters in a past blog,  I love those stories because of the friendships they have. Friends are a rare commodity, and I have been extremely blessed by the friends that I have - but one thing that I have learned through my friendships is that they take a lot of work. You have to be loyal to your friends, care for them in the good times and in the bad. You cannot be a flakey friend and expect loyalty in return. I haven't talked to some of my best friends from high school, college, my mission, etc. in years. But I know that I could count on them if I needed, just as they can come to me if they need something. When you are loyal to your friends your life becomes easier. 

4. Give your heart to something and work toward it.
I don't care what it is. It can be quilting, medicine, religion, whatever. Seriously, it doesn't matter what it is. But set your sights on something you really want and work toward it. When you admire other people's accomplishments, you are really admiring all the hard work it took them to earn the accomplishment - not just the final product. Things of worth take work, and I believe that everyone should have something they work toward that they truly care about. 

5. Do things you've always wanted to try.
This one seems very similar to number 4, but it is not. Trying something that you've always wanted to try is about putting yourself out there, outside of your comfort zone to see if you would enjoy something new. For me, this was moving to Mexico. I've always wanted to live (not just travel) outside of the US. But it always seemed so difficult, and I didn't know if it was going to be possible, but I knew that I had to try it. But what if I hated it? Oh well! That is the great part about just trying something out is that the learning comes through the experience, bad or good. 

6. Cherish your family.
You don't get to choose your family. But you can choose to love and cherish your family. Even if they have done things to hurt you, or to offend you. It is your choice to love them, and it makes you happy. Believe me. When I was in high school I went through a rough patch with my mom. I was so angry at her, but I had to almost force myself to be angry at her, and it was ruining my happiness. By choosing to love her and forgive her made me a happier person, and I can promise you that by cherishing your family you will be happier as well. 

Dr Seuss Quotes
7. Focus on the now.
Stop stressing out. Has stress ever brought you happiness? Seriously. Ask yourself that question right now. Stress doesn't do anything for us. Instead, focus on what is happening in the moment. No sense in stressing about the unknown. What if you died tomorrow (please don't stress about this). Do you want your last moments to be occupied with stresses of days to come? Enjoy the moments you have. Things that have happened, happened. Move past them, grow from them, learn from them, remember them (or not), and live for today. The tagline for the musical RENT is No Day But Today. I try to live by this. You cannot dwell in the past, there really is no day but today. Thomas S. Monson said, "Find Joy in the Journey." Focus on the now and you will be happy - guaranteed. 

8. Change that thing you hate about yourself. 
I'm just going to say it like it is - we all hate one thing about ourselves. It could be the way your arm keeps waving long after you have finished waving goodbye, or it could be that you hate that you say the word "like" every 7 words. Whatever it is - change it! I struggled for a long time about my body image. I was always chubby growing up - and I got almost to 250 pounds. I was a big kid - and I hated it. I was so self conscious, and I limited my activities based off my size. But I also love to eat treats. So what did I do? I learned to have self control, and discovered exercise - and it's really hard. But I can't let my weight hold me back. Instead, I use my dreams (not being skinny dreams) to motivate me to lose weight. You can do it to - no matter what it is you want to change. It will be difficult, and you may need to refer to number 2 over and over again in order to finally reach your goal - but I don't think anyone should hate who they are. 

Emma Watson quotes
9. Don't let others define you.
Why do we care so much what other people think about us? I spent way too much time worrying about pleasing other people. I wasn't super popular in high school, and yet I tried so hard to fit it. I don't really understand it now - and I don't care about 90% of the people I went to high school with. I've actually forgotten most of their names. And I had to get out of my hometown, because I didn't want to continue being the same person I was. But if I didn't leave, they would keep defining me. Raven Simone said, "I always say to people, 'If you have a problem with me, text me. If you don't have my number, than that means you don't know me well enough to have a problem with me anyways.'" I don't think I could say it any better than that.

10. Love with all your heart. 
Today just so happens to be my two year anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world. No she is not perfect, and neither am I. But one thing I am learning is that rather than bicker about the little things, I can just fill my heart with love. Filling your heart with love brings gratitude and joy. Whether it is another person, a dog, a car, whatever - learn to love with all your heart (and I would recommend a living object rather than a car - but to each his own). When you love others you receive love in return. Sometimes your heart gets broken, but its worth it. Put yourself out there and love.

I hope you enjoyed these little ways to live an amazing life. I'm no expert, but I am happy - and these are a few of the ways I have found to be happy. Your amazing life can start today. It is all just a matter of choices. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Get That Corn Outta My Face!

The other night, Caitlin and I decided to watch Nacho Libre, and since we were going to watch Nacho Libre, we decided that we had better make some nachos to go along with the movie. And boy, these nachos were amazing. We made our own tortilla chips from fresh tortillas, then we made fresh salsa, fresh guacamole (with shredded chicken in it - if you haven't tried it with chicken you should. It's the best). Then we melted some delicious cheese over top and gorged ourselves on our delicious creation. 
We did all this while watching the movie - but as soon as it was over we wanted elote. It was too late that night to go pick some up, but finally we fulfilled our craving last night. Delicious, and ridiculously spicy elote. 

In case you have never had elote, it is basically corn on the cob with mayonnaise, cheese, hot sauce, and chili powder. Absolutely delicious. It may have been the spiciest thing I've eaten so far in Mexico, but it was well worth the fire in my mouth. I can't wait to get some again.
And, I totally forgot how hilarious Nacho Libre is... especially after living in Mexico. We seriously see some of the stuff in that movie on a daily basis. Too ridiculous. We absolutely love themed dates, even if they center around a Jack Black movie and nachos. :)

Feliz Cumpleaños Caitlin!

So Caitlin already blogged about her birthday on her blog, and she went into a lot more depth than I will. I just wanted to make sure I wrote a little about how we celebrated her 25th birthday. 

Caitlin wanted to do something big this year for her birthday - but that is kind of hard to do when you don't have a ton of friends, nor a ton of pesos. So I opted for a fun day with just the two of us. 
I got her 25 gifts and made a delicious chocolate cinnamon cake. The cinnamon was accidental - but it turned out really well. Just in case you were wondering, ground cinnamon looks just like cocoa... or at least it does to me. 

I made breakfast in the morning, we opened presents, Caitlin went to work, I went to work, we went to the market and did a little shopping. Nothing huge, but it was a lot of fun to spend the day together. 

On Saturday, we celebrated with the kids from Yo'onik. They all knew it was Caitlin's birthday, so they drew her pictures and made cards for her. It was such a blast. Then Caitlin made them cake to share and celebrate for her birthday.
And of course, I went into absolutely no detail in this blog post, but Caitlin wrote it all out in her blog - and it's really good and detailed. If you want to read it, you can find it here