Ways in which my life has changed in the past three years

 

For our third anniversary, Adan and I had booked a beach getaway to Barra de Navidad. It’s a bit further out than Vallarta and much less touristy, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. We loved that it was more peaceful and low-key. The bad part? We found restaurants to be just as expensive as Vallarta but not as good. And as a general rule of thumb, we realized that the more breathtaking the view, the less tolerable the food tended to be.IMG_1404Like this place? Gorgeous view, but the shrimp was just so-so. It reminded me of that stereotype of how really pretty girls tend to not be funny or smart or have a good personality because they just never needed to develop those characteristics. (I for one think this is a wildly inaccurate stereotype. Either that or I just happen to know a lot of outliers). I guess these restaurant owners must think that if you have a lovely view, no one will notice the food.

I mean, I guess there is some merit to that. Look at those views! (Here I refer to both the ocean and the handsome¬†man ūüôā

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20170714_110732Went through a bit of a Goldilocks conundrum with my vacation reading… first picking up Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which was riveting but also highly depressing (explosion at a museum, death, PTSD, murder, substance abuse, orphaned protagonist, etc., etc.,) then Ellen DeGeneres’s Seriously… I’m Kidding, which was¬†too fluffy and insubstantial. Finding the “just right” book to read by the pool can be a challenge. (Big Little Lies strikes that perfect balance of engrossing and funny.)20170715_125826It’s been a bit of a bah humbug sort of month. Just… I don’t know… doubting and anxiety and emotional exhaustion. I don’t often daydream about what could have been or think about how my life might have turned out differently had this or that not been the case, but lately I find myself mulling it over which I know is not healthy or productive. It seems cathartic at the very least to admit to the fact that I’m struggling with it.

Still, there are things in my life that are constant and wonderful sources of comfort. Like thinking that I have been lucky enough to be married to this guy for three years.

20170714_105642My friend Shannon always says, “Marriage rocks!” and I have to say I agree with her. One of the best things about marriage is that by some implicit arrangement you almost never are freaking out at the same time to the same degree. Usually, if one of you is losing it (in this case, me), the other person is calm. And then, once the first person finds their bearings, only then is it okay for the second person to get bogged down in self-doubt and anxiety (okay, again, usually me). In short, no matter what the crisis, you have someone there holding your hand and talking you off the ledge.

Another great thing about marriage is that I can now watch crime/detective shows at night. Once, when we had been married less than a year, Adan was away at an overnight men’s retreat and I watched a few episodes of Elementary and I was wide awake all night, thinking that I would be murdered the moment I closed my eyes. This used to happen to me when I was single even if I happened to just watch the trailer for a scary movie.

Also, (though I admit this is true specifically in the context of being married to Adan and not a truism about marriage in general) no matter what you put in front of the man for dinner, he is going to think it’s the best meal he’s ever had. He eats with enthusiasm and is always impressed by how “fancy” the meal is, how I must have slaved over it (even if it’s something I made in the crock pot, which let’s face it, the only thing easier than a crock pot meal is ordering a pizza), impressed as if you’d just sawed a person in half and then put them back together in front of a live audience. He’s too funny.

And lastly, being married to him is a treat because he almost always is the one to apologize first after a fight. I mean, I guess technically this might make him the “bigger person” but I like to think that there’s value in being the one to offer him opportunities for growth.

Fascism explained

Some of our recent adventures in Chapala and Ajijic.

 

(That’s a German restaurant we really like and I admit, at first we were skeptical because I couldn’t name a single German dish outside of saurkraut and bratwurst so I thought maybe that is all they eat there. But we’ve now become very big fans, and we really love their veggie to meat ratio: 20 to 80)

As you can see there’s no unhappy people around.

In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s no sad or irate or despondent¬†people in Chapala at all. I can only imagine two ways in which this¬†might be¬†accomplished: 1) there’s secret checkpoints when you enter the town¬†with happiness security men¬†who keep out the people that are despairing. Or 2) you come to Chapala all bummed out but then ten minutes in this town cheers you up and your glass is now all full of happiness elixir. Either way, people there are happy.

I do have to point out one small detail that didn’t make me jump up and down in joy.¬†We love going to¬†the¬†hotel pictured above. It has a¬†pool with the best view of the lake. It used to be that you could bring your own food and drinks and sit all day by the pool. You are now no longer allowed to bring food and drinks from the outside world¬†though, which hit us hard because we are cheapskates (I mean, frugal). Let me just say that it is totally fascist to not allow people to bring their own potato chips and sandwiches. It would be like not being allowed to bring our own soda to the movie theater (which admittedly is not allowed¬†but we¬†sometimes¬†do when my purse is large enough). Being the rebels that we are, we did manage to sneak snacks in anyway. And let me just say, there is a certain level of ingenuity involved in bringing in contraband peanuts when you are carrying a transparent beach tote.

I have been reading the ever hilarious Mark Twain. I think he¬†must have¬†been¬†the first standup comedian because he clearly had a heart of gold (I mean, he’s dead so I can’t speak ill of him) but his humor is at times… mean? Biting? Sarcastic?¬†Not sure what the correct adjective would be… let’s just say he’s not very politically correct. I’m not sure if he does it on purpose but quite often while being flippant and humorous, he will catch you completely off guard with some sort of truly profound observation about life. Like:

“Many a man lives a long life through, thinking he believes certain universally received and well-established things, and yet never suspects that if he were confronted by those things once, he would discover that he did not really believe them before, but only thought he believed them.”

Here he was speaking about snow in August. But I think it succinctly describes every real encuonter I have had with Jesus.

And then there’s:

“Moralizing, I observed, then, that “all that glitters is not gold.”

Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that, and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So I learned then, once and for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only lowborn metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.”

I’m still struggling with that one myself.

Guidebooks call it the quintessential Mexican town

We visited Guanajuato on Christmas day with some of Adan’s family. As the title suggests, most books call this charming little town a must-see spot. I have to say I agree, though I am not sure I would use the word quintessential to describe it. But who am I to argue with the Lonely Planet people?

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There are troubadors that give tours around town in the evenings. And petrified mummy corpses from the naturally ocurring minerals in the soil.¬†Also,¬†in the¬†1600’s¬†huge quantities of silver were¬†mined¬†here¬†and those old mines are now a¬†Unesco World Heritage site. And it¬†played a key¬†role in Mexico’s war for independence.¬†I don’t know, is that what makes for a quintessential Mexican town? We didn’t¬†hit any of the abovementioned touristy attractions because we were more in the mood to meander and beause we had small children with us but just walking around the town is fun.

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University of Guanajuato,¬†and I’m guessing¬†the architect was¬†ahead of the game and didn’t want to encourage obesity in the student and sightseeing populations.
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Adan with our adorable nieces. In case you can’t tell from the picture, all three of the subjects are total hams. I mean, just look at them.

 

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This Christmas season flew by and didn’t really feel very Christmassy, to be honest, mainly because we didn’t put up a tree and that completely threw off the Christmas feng shui. We had a good reason for not putting one up, though.¬†We are buying a house and will be moving next month (insert fireworks and chessecake!)! It seemed like too much to ponder a big move and also putting up and taking down a tree. Especially when we are debating curtains and light fixtures and all the decisions that come with a house. Still, we are beyond thrilled and for the first time in my life I can happily browse at Home Depot for longer than two minutes. Buying a house is without a doubt the third major life event that has made me feel All Grown Up. Right after getting married and getting a Costco membership (in chronological order, of course, were we going by order of importance, the two would be flipped).

Also, for another Christmas miracle: Becky’s baby was born and it’s a boy! Grayson Beau. He is just perfect.20161214_120910-1And on that very happy note, the curtain drops on 2016.

A perfect fall day in Chicago

In case you were wondering, this is what a perfect fall day in Chicago looks like:

20161112_160440Adan and I were up there last weekend and we had unbelievable weather considering that it was mid-November. We spent the entire day walking around the city, we could not get enough of the views.

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The architectural boat tour. Yes, just like in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding. Yes, it was freezing to be on the water, even on the mildest of November days. Yes, totally worth it.

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Our amazing tour guide and even more amazing friend, Marisa.

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there were quite a few couples getting their wedding pictures taken. can’t imagine a more gorgeous backdrop.

The city is in a state of euphoric jubilation because apparently this happened not too long ago, after a rather long dry spell:

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We kept seeing homages to their victory:20161112_142829

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We were the walking definition of tourists. Witness Exhibit A: the Bean. Believe me, it does not get any more touristy than this. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a local Chicagoan to be found within a five mile radius.

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Exhibit B: stopping foot traffic in all sorts of inconvenient places to take pictures. (Not pictured, the multitudes having to dodge around us as we posed for this shot)

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Exhibit C: eating all of the typical Chicago foods.

This was Adan¬īs favorite thing about Chicago, their hot dogs.
This was Adan’s favorite thing about Chicago, their hot dogs.
This was mine, Korean burritos.
This was mine, Korean burritos.

(We, of course, also ate and loved deep dish pizza. We are not stupid.)

Exhibit D:¬†riding the L to get downtown from Marisa’s house:

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Look at us, we’re dying of excitement to be riding public transportation in Chicago!!

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The perfect fall day was followed by perfect fall night in Chicago:

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As if all this were not enough my-cup-runneth-over, I also had a few days with my friend Jess:

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This is me with her two older kids, Colby and Reagan. We took them to see the movie Trolls, which they both highly recommend you watch.

Not pictured (because it was way past her bedtime) is her youngest, Gracie, who is two years old and has the vocabulary and verbal skills of a trial lawyer (not even joking), the face of a baby panda (is there anything cuter than a baby panda? This is not a rhetorical question, I really do want to know.) and the energy of the Energizer bunny (would probably leave him behind in the dust). I had the best time hanging out with them.

Visiting Cancun will ruin your life

Adan and I just got back from a¬†six day trip to Cancun. Once you see the beaches of Cancun, it pretty much ruins all beaches everywhere for you. I don’t say this to discourage you from visiting, it’s just a warning that you will find all future beach experiences to be unimpressive.¬†As you know, I don’t believe the word pristine should be used¬†lightly. In fact, I almost never use it, outside of talking about pasta. However, the Cancun beaches are pristine, in the way that perfectly cooked pasta (slightly past al dente, nowhere near soggy) is pristine.

This was a trip with a lot of firsts for Adan. It was his first time traveling by plane, and his first time in the Cancun area. (I had been to Cancun ten years ago with Kennetta and her family.)

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using airport wi-fi and drinking Starbucks coffee like a travel pro

 

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View from our hotel
View from our hotel

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There’s lots of amazing wildlife there, we spotted most of these during our day in Xel Ha (a water-snorkling-adventure park):

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Manatee.
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colorful fish
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am blanking on what these are called in English.. sea shells? is that just when there¬īs no longer an animal inside? too lazy to google.
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these translucent white fish on Isla Mujeres were easier to spot during the day by their shadow.

 

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I spotted this little crab right in front of my beach chair at the hotel.

 

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something in the racoon species, have already forgotten what they’re called, but they were adorable, especially the babies.

We also saw lots of lizards, and iguanas and snakes (oh, my!) but I had no desire to be reminded of them afterwards, nor to document the experience. I nearly tripped over an iguana the size of a komodo dragon while we were at Xel Ha. I started shrieking, of course, while¬†the Komodo didn’t even deign to glance my way. I guess the animals there are probably pretty bored with humans at this point.

And one last species we kept seeing everywhere in Cancun:

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Girls in their early twenties waving selfie sticks. This was totally cracking me up, she literally spent half an hour taking selfies in different positions and poses. I know I sound old when I say this, but I can’t help thinking that selfie taking accoutrements and selfies in general are just a¬†tad¬†ridiculous.

Other pictures from Xel Ha:

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Adan being adventurous:

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Me, just chillin¬ī:

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We also visited a cenote that was 70 meters deep.

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Caught the ferry out to Isla Mujeres for the day:

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The water¬īs so clear, it looks like bottles of Evian were dumped into the ocean.
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Our first sighting of the Island.

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By this point, I am starting to look like that last piece of chicken that¬īs been left on the grill too long and that, as a result,¬†nobody wants. It¬īs inevitable, really, no matter how carefully you apply and reapply sunblock and wear a hat.

Chichen Itza, Mayan ruins on the Yucat√°n Peninsula:

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Used to be that people could climb these pyramids.
This is from ten years ago, with Kennetta¬īs family, on top of that same pyramid.
This is a picture¬†from when I went ten years ago with Kennetta¬īs family. We are¬†on top of that same pyramid. Apparently, they don’t let people climb it anymore because there were some who were peeing up there or taking rocks. Not that I don’t sympathize with anyone who has a small bladder, but there are plenty of bathrooms on site, so am totally baffled by the general lack of respect.
Kennetta and I, ten years ago.
Kennetta and I, from that same trip.
It was drizzling while we were there, thought all the bright yellow umbrellas were funny.
It was drizzling on and off while we were there, thought all the bright yellow umbrellas were funny.

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Aren¬īt these skulls so cool, in a totally creepy way?

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The Mayans were of course an incredible civilization, but don’t worry, I won’t bore you with all of the useless facts and dates that our tour guide spouted at us. I mean, yes, it’s interesting to know that the Mayas and Toltecas overlapped and comingled. It’s not interesting to know what the exact¬†years¬†they were in power (52 B.C. and 1300 A.D.) (just kidding, I made that up).

You know which fact Adan and I were most impressed by? Our tour guide told us that most of the sea food you eat in Cancun is shipped in from Mazatlan. Once that was explained to us, it all made sense. The food there is good, but nowhere near as extraordinary as the food in Mazatlan or Vallarta. (Except for the lunch buffet at Xel Ha… even if you don’t like buffets or snorkling or zip lines, the admission price of Xel Ha is fully worth it just for the lunch. Whenever people find out that I don’t drink alcohol, they say that I must not be able to get my money’s worth at an all-inclusive drinks and food buffet like the one at Xel Ha. The people that are of this opinion have clearly never seen me eat a whole cow in one sitting. Trust me, I got my money’s worth.)

Speaking of food, though, what I do love about the beach:

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Fresh ice cold coconuts! Is there anything better than driking out of a coconut? I think I¬īll start buying them to drink my coffee out of in the morning.

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We went up this revolving tower. It¬īs 80 meters high.

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The view from the top!

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People! By sheer coincidence, a friend of Adan¬īs from Leon happened to be work at the reception desk of the hotel we stayed at:

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His friend Susy. Was hilarious watching them both react in shock at running into each other so far from home.

Also, Adan’s cousin moved out to Cancun from Mexico City about a year ago and we met up with them for dinner.

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Us with his cousin Zita and her boyfriend Alan.

Funny signs. Whenever I go to an area with lots of tourists, I get a kick out of translated signs, when you can tell it wasn’t a native speaker that wrote it:

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One might think that after such an amazing trip to a destination that can only be described as paradise, that we might be bummed to be back home. Truth is, though, no matter where you go, it always feels good to be back. Real coffee instead of what-our-hotel-was-passing-for-coffee? Oh yeah, I’d missed that.¬†Not to mention that after a while, the tiny elfin sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner get old. Three days into our trip Adan said he missed my cooking. I missed home cooked meals, though I did not miss doing the actual cooking. Also, Guadalajara right now has cool 60-70 degree weather in the mornings, as opposed to the 100% humidity and upper 90¬īs heat of Cancun. Our first morning back, we couldn’t stop talking about how much we love this city and how happy we are to be home.

 

Every amazing beach trip starts with a broken down bus on the side of the highway

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This shirt was sponsored by my friend Becky, and is the litmus test of cool if you get the reference. (hint: people are always asking me if it’s the name of a band, and NO, not a band)
As you may have guessed from the title, Adan and I decided to take the bus to the beach this time rather than driving because we were mistakenly under the notion that we would arrive more relaxed that way. An hour an a half on the side of the highway made us see the error of our ways.¬†When we finally made it to Puerto Vallarta 8 hours after we’d set out in the morning, we were suffering from hunger, low blood sugar, bus fatigue (a disease similar to Garlic Bread Deficiency in¬†that it¬†just doesn’t get enough attention from the press due to it’s lack of sexiness), restless leg syndrome,¬†and, in my case, extreme crabiness.

Totally worth it, though.

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Marisa flew in from Chicago!
These two pictures above sum up the entirety of our trip. All we did for four days was¬†to¬†enjoy¬†the view of the ocean and eat shrimp. (Sidenote: if you ever go to La Lagosta Loca in Vallarta, you must try the coconut shrimp). In my humble opinion, what really makes for¬†a stratospherically amazing beach trip is the company that you’re with, so this definitely qualified as such.

Adventures in Sun Exposure

In stay-cation tradition, we decided to visit the ruins of Guachimontones over our New Year’s break. It is the kind of place that most tourists to Guadalajara have been to, but that natives just don’t get around to unless you are entertaining out-of-towners. IMG_0914[1]The Guachimontones were a complex tribe of people that used all sorts of advanced (for their time) tools like Windows 95 and Blackberries. That was before they all died off due to sun exposure. As you can tell, there is no shade at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Shouldn’t the UN be giving priority to archaeological sites where you can safely visit without having to worry about joining the ancient people in their fate?

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Notice the cluster of people trying to squeeze into one of the few spots of shade.
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I’ll just say this out loud since I know everyone is thinking it, “those two.. aren’t they adorable?” Yes. The answer is yes.
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Adan’s friend came with us. For reasons not obvious to me, they call him Pollo (Chicken). He did not strike me as particularly cowardly or skinny, nor did he peck at his food. It’s a great mystery. I can only assume that as a child he had one of the aforementioned characteristics and that the name stuck.

Truth be told, I was a little underwhelmed by the ruins. I don’t mean to sound snooty or anything but they didn’t really compare with the pyramids outside Mexico City or Cancun. Or, for that matter of pictures I’ve seen of Stonehenge, Machu Pichu or Cairo. Thinking about it, I realized that it’s because all of the above mentioned sites are so impressive considering the tools and the technology available to them that it seems almost natural for conspiracy theorists to claim that they had help from the aliens to build them. Guachimontones on the other hand seems like the kind of perfectly feasible task that a bunch of people lacking the kinds of distractions provided by the internet and surrounded by rocks might achieve. This is mainly just impressive because it’s old and because it really reinforces how important it is to be always hydrated and wear sunscreen when leaving the house.

Also this past week, I had a girl’s night out with some of the ladies from my small group. cena marichuyIt reminded me that, yes, men are great. But they are from Pluto, that huge rock that got it’s planetary status taken away, whereas women are from Earth, so sometimes we can’t fully understand one another. Seeing as how I primarily work with men, there are times when I really miss being around girls. We went out to an Italian restaurant to celebrate Marichuy’s birthday (the one on my right) and we had a great time staying out way past our bedtime.