Remembering to be Grateful

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone. It’s cliché, but it’s true. Oh so true…as my family and I were reminded this past week.

Within the past few weeks my family was reminded of just how lucky we are to have what we have. I’m not talking about things like WiFi, smartphones, and fast food. I’m talking about things we take for granted, specifically hot water and electricity. When was the last time you worried about hot water coming out of the tap, or being available for a morning shower? When was the last time you lit candles out of necessity and not simply for fun? If it was recently you know what I’m talking about. We lost both hot water and electricity in a power outage for a few days and it was the greatest inconvenience for our whole family, to say the least. Now, I’m not trying to be dramatic; our lives continued more or less normally and we knew we wouldn’t be without these luxuries for long, but it made me think.

We initially lost hot water when our water heater died on us, so we had to boil water like my mother used to do in the Philippines. This made me think of families around the world who have no hot water – or even running water and indoor plumbing at all! My extended family in the Philippines are lucky enough to have running water and indoor plumbing, but if someone wants to bathe with hot water they have to boil it and then use a cup to pour it on themselves. What a pain. They don’t have a repair man coming in the next 24 hours to fix a broken water heater, that’s just life for them.

Then, when our electricity went out (about a week later), I thought of the homes I’ve seen and helped build in Cambodia. They don’t have electricity at all. Most families can’t afford generators so if they have projects to do at night they use lamps and lanterns. Again, there are no city workers who have been called to figure out why the whole block is missing power, this is how their lives are every day.

It was frustrating enough to have only one of these luxuries disappear at a time, I can only imagine how difficult it is to go without both. Don’t go thinking I’m high maintenance or anything, but as I’ve been able to have hot showers again, see where I’m going in the middle of the night, and see the ease in which Martina can leave the house by using her lift (which requires electricity) I am humbled by these little miracles.

I hope each of us can take time to be grateful for the little things in our lives, and I hope they don’t have to be taken away from us to be truly thankful. Great adventurers remember to be thankful for the small things, because its a whole bunch of small things that make up the bigger things in life.

Lacking Language

I’m one of those guys that loves to set goals, but often beyond my reach – or life happens and the once important goal I set falls to the wayside. Such has been the case with my goal of learning Portuguese. I had it all planned out, but I haven’t put as much energy into it as I would have liked. My lack of practice came back to haunt me this past week.

As my previous post mentioned, I have been traveling with Martina and one of her host families from Brazil. It has been wonderful, but there have been some communication barriers since the parents don’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Portuguese. But I can tell from the translations Martina gives me, and the little communication we do manage, that both parents have great things to say and that talking to them would be a real delight!

Now, I cut myself a little slack, because Duolingo probably wouldn’t have made me fluent enough to have real deep conversations with them, but every little bit helps. And more than anything I have learned two things from this language experience.

First, learning languages is more than being able to get around a different country or add a skill to your LinkedIn profile. Its about connecting with people. Its about listening to different views and growing from these unique interactions; telling stories and sharing moments.

Second, language doesn’t have to be a barrier. This wasn’t the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time that I connect with people in spite of a common language. And I know this is something that happens to all travelers.In other words, despite the small difficulties of a language barrier, I have genuinely come to love and appreciate Martina’s host family.

10357453_10152300859380677_8262620893160497139_n - Version 2The verbal communication we call language is only one way in which we communicate our feelings, thoughts, and ideas. I’m not going to stop trying to learn Portuguese – though slow my progress might be – so that I have another means of making those human connections.

Single Sunday

It’s the start of a new adventure, and Martina is leading the way. She’s already left for New York, but then Boston and I will meet up with her in Las Vegas. We’re actually playing tour guide/host to one Martina’s host families from Brazil (to understand the whole situation check out her blog here).

IMG_1727So for a single day, Sunday, I am a single dad. I realize those parents that deal really with this day-in and day-out are superstars and I’m glad I have my parents and little sister for help. Just having to care for Boston all night on my own was enough to really appreciate just how much Martina does for me and lil’ Boston. And even though Boston can’t tell me he misses his mommy, I can tell that he does. There were times last night that he did not want to be held by me, and he seemed to be looking for someone else to hold him: his mommy; but we worked through it and got through the night. Whew.

Fortunately, in just a few days we’ll be with Martina again. Meeting her host family for the first time in the flesh and seeing every iconic sight we can before they have to go back to Brazil. Here’s an outline of the trip:

New York City: Broadway, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and more.
Las Vegas: the Strip, Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon (not Vegas, but we’re gonna drive out to it, I mean it’s only 4 hours away after all).
California: San Francisco and it’s golden bridge, LA and it’s traffic jams, the Hollywood sign, and Fresno (to meet Martina’s family).

It’s gonna be a whirlwind trip for all of us, but it’ll be good to get out and adventuring!

Lunar Eclipse? Who Cares?

As most of you have probably already heard, there was a lunar eclipse earlier this week. Were you one of the night owls who stayed up to witness this unique event? I was.

As I sat there in the darkness, watching the earth’s shadow creep over the moon, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was so excited about a lunar eclipse. Science explains why the eclipse takes place and we can predict when the next ones will be – it’s like a magic trick being revealed. And let’s be real people, it isn’t the most climatic of endings. In fact, the whole eclipse takes as long as one of the Lord of the Rings films, and has a lot less action.  While I’m on this rant, why don’t we just include all other celestial gazing as well: shooting stars, constellations, meteor showers, and the whole lot.

Jim Henson once said, or rather sang à la Kermit the Frog, “What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing? And what do we think we might see?”

Well, now that I’ve played devil’s advocate for a minute, let me tell you why I keep stargazing, moon watching, and looking to the heavens. I’m looking for the “rainbow connection” that Kermit sang about between “the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

Sure Hollywood can take us to far off galaxies, science can explain the seemingly unexplainable, and we may value our warm beds over a cold night, but there is something innately human that makes us look up. The movement of the planets and moons, and all things above remain beyond our control. In a world where we can control almost everything from a device in our pocket, don’t we stand in awe of the things that are beyond our control? In the vastness that is space, don’t we all want to feel like we have a place in it? Like we matter in the big scheme of things?

IMG_1632Regardless of your feelings towards the creation of the universe and your purpose in it, I believe that each of us does matter in the bigger scheme of things. We look up not to be entertained, but to be inspired. To be reminded of our potential, which is endless. As I look to the heavens I hope and believe that there is more to the stars and universe than rocks and flaming balls of gas. So I encourage you to take a break from blankly staring into the minutia that life sometimes is and gaze heavenwards for even just a minute. It’s good for the soul.

And whether I’ve convinced you or not of the value of looking heavenward, I eagerly look forward to the campouts Martina and I have planned, and the opportunity it gives us to see the twilight portrait painted by the Master Artist.

Some Boston Haikus

That's one happy 4 month old baby!

That’s one happy 4 month old baby!

Well I’m no poet, and usually when I try my poems come out much less elegant than I would like, so this is pretty foreign territory to me. Admittedly I started writing these little haikus as a joke, but with a little extra effort I think they came out pretty good. So, I decided I should share them with you so we could all have a little laugh. So, while these poems may not be very haiku-ish, I hope you enjoy them:

My name is Boston,
I like to drink mom’s mum-mum.
It tastes so yummy.

Mom, please clean me up
I’m a dirty diaper boy
Sorry for the smell.

Boston boy gives smiles
He is happy everyday.
We are so lucky!
(Martina wrote this one)

Boston has big thighs.
They have grown before my eyes,
They are so chunky!

Baby boy Boston
Burping Bubu before bed
BURP! Belching Boston.
(This one doesn’t flow as well as some of the others, but I was going for the alliteration)

First Post of 2014

It’s a new year and that means new adventures! I could bore you with my new year’s resolutions and how I’m gonna be a better person this year, how I’m going to make the most of 2014, and share my deeply philosophical insights about life. But I’ll only do that a little. I’m just stoked for another year and the feelings of new beginnings!

We welcomed the new year with family, friends, hot cocoa, and fireworks! It was great and I can’t imagine a much better way to celebrate. Even Boston woke up before the ball dropped and participated in the countdown with us (he was unpleasantly surprised as we all cheered ‘Happy New Year,’ but we manged to keep him from crying).

Our little New Year's Eve group.

Our little New Year’s Eve group.

I’ve got big plans for this year! Martina and I are hoping to do some traveling, we want to work on some photo projects and writing projects, and above all else we just want to adventure!!! So, stick with me as 2014 unfolds and you won’t be disappointed. Cheers!

Christmas Time Traditions

As a young family Martina and I are trying to start some holiday traditions of our own. There are some that we already have like visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City, picking out new ornaments, buying DVDs during Black Friday, sending out Christmas cards, listening/singing Christmas Carols, and opening one gift on Christmas eve.

However, this year we’re going to try and start some new ones (I love the irony of ‘new traditions’). So here are some of our proposed efforts:

12 Days of Christmas Cookies (we plan on making 12 batches of cookies and giving them to 12 different families – maybe you’ll be a lucky recipient of one)

12 Movies of Christmas

  1. Polar Express
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  4. Frosty the Snowman
  5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  6. Elf
  7. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  8. The Little Drummer Boy
  9. It’s a Wonderful Life
  10. White Christmas
  11. A Christmas Story
  12. The Nativity

Christmas Foods: coxinhas, rabanada, pastel de nata, and English scones.

Spiritual Christmas: Because the season is all about the Savior we thought it only appropriate that we find ways to remember Him as well, so we found a reading list and an advent calendar that we’re going to try. Additionally, we’re looking for some opportunities to serve others. Of all our growing traditions I think these are the most significant and will really keep our minds and hearts centered around the true meaning of Christmas.

I hope that each of you have some great Christmas traditions and that they bring you closer to your family and to the Savior – feel free to share them in the comment box below. Merry Christmas my fellow adventurers!