Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's goals 2016

As we wrap up an eventful and awesome 2015 and look forward to 2016, let's take a moment to reflect on last year's goals and set some new goals for next year.

2015 GOALS

  • Move in with my wife!!!!
    • It's pretty awesome living with your best friend.
  • Learn Arabic to the 1/1 level by end of year
    • Jack's arrival pushed back the start of Arabic from September until November.  I am making some progress and feel like it is going well, but I am probably not yet to a 1/1.
  • Go on an awesome honeymoon
    • We took our honeymoon to Cape Cod and Boston and it was awesome.
  • Weigh under 200 lbs by September 1 (about 2 lbs/month)
    • I met this goal over the summer.  Despite a few fluctuations here and there, I have stayed below 200 the rest of the year.
  • Complete at least one long race (over 10 miles)
    • I had planned to run the cherry blossom race last spring, but work issues forced me to delay my trip back to the U.S.  The baby's arrival has made it harder to prepare for and plan for a long race.
  • Complete a triathalon (short distance)
    • I didn't even get close to this one
  • Do a pull-up (or three)
    • I spent a lot of time working in Crossfit on this one in the first half of the year.  If I had stayed in Frankfurt and kept working out at Crossfit, I know I would have met this goal.  But, I didn't.  I managed to do pull-ups with bands, jumping pull-ups and negative pull-ups, but never managed a strict pull-up.
  • Visit family and friends on home leave
    • With trips to Phoenix, San Antonio, and Omaha, I met this goal
  • Become a football referee
    • Forgot about this and never even tried it.  Wouldn't have happened with Jack's arrival anyway.
  • Visit at least 3 new countries and 3 new states
    • I visited Greece and Luxembourg for the first time, in addition to return visits to Morocco, Austria, Netherlands, UK, France, and Italy.  I technically missed the mark on this one, but still pretty good.
    • Only new state this year was Massachusetts.
  • Watch at least two sunrises and two sunsets
    • and they were all fabulous
  • Use our wedding china at least three times
    • not even close. I don't think we used it once.
  • Read 15 books in 2015
    • By my count on good reads, I finished 14 books this year.
  • Get promoted at work
    • I was evaluated as promotable, but did not get promoted.  :(

For 2016, I am adding a new element to my annual tradition.  In addition to setting a goal for the year, I am choosing a word for 2016.  This word will serve as a mantra, a goal, a plan for the year.  A few possibilities I considered included "adventure", "family", "aspire", "fatherhood", "experience", "listen", "focus", and "stretch."  The word I decided on is "support."  We have lots of changes coming in the next year: crawling, talking, growing, eating, walking and more for Jack.  New jobs, new cities, new language, new roles for Sara and me.  Sara and Jack will be living abroad for the first time.  We will be new parents dealing with a growing child.  We have to move houses and make new friends.  Support will be key for all of us and I plan to make it my "word" for 2016.

As for the goals - 
  • Pass my Arabic exam with a 2/2 or better (I need a 2/1)
  • Move to Saudi Arabia
  • Train for and complete a triathlon before July (sprint triathlon)
  • Watch at least two sun rises and two sunsets
  • Weigh 175 lbs or less (losing about 20 more pounds)
  • Visit at least 3 new countries
  • Skype with Jacks grandparents once a week
  • Visit with Jacks grandparents at least twice
  • Post on this blog at least twice a month (this post counts for January)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Introducing Jack

It's been a busy few weeks since our son was born.

Alfred John Caniglia IV (known to family and friends as "Jack")
September 19, 2015 7:07 am
7 pounds 8 ounces, 20.75

Jack's first moments

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Come on Baby

We are still (not so patiently) waiting for the baby to come.  Our stubborn son is currently 8 days late and making no signs of his arrival.  I'm in my last week of FSI, in a pretty cool class on Islam.  While the class is interesting, I'm ready to meet my son.

Friday, September 11, 2015


I've spent the past three weeks at FSI and have regularly run into old colleagues, friends, and A-100 classmates who I haven't seen in 2-5 years.  It's the Foreign Service rite of passage - catching up with old colleagues who you haven't seen.

What's been interesting about this latest go around of catching up is how many people simply don't recognize me.  I know I've lost a ton of weight and added a beard, but it's been a gradual(ish) change over the past three years, so I forget how dramatic the change is for people who haven't seen me since I left Belize.  I was in a class two weeks ago with my boss of two years.  She knew from the class roster that I was in the class, but until I spoke and introduced myself to the class, she didn't recognize me.  Several other colleagues required me to say, "It's Al Caniglia - from Belize" before they made the connection.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

I (finally) did it!

I've always been the fat kid.  I was a chubby baby.  I was chunky in elementary school - the first kid to cross the 100 lb mark.  I was fat in middle school, which proved somewhat useful in middle school football.  In high school, on a steady breakfast of glazed donuts and Dr. Pepper, I ballooned to 270 lbs.  In college, I added beer and eliminated most exercise, meaning I was now all fat and no muscle.  My official fraternity nickname was "Robert Paulsen", a Fight Club reference that you can google if you don't understand.  By law school, I was a steady 250 lbs and stayed that way when I moved to DC.  When I went to Belize, I added weight and came home at a steady 270.  Add 15 pounds on home leave and I topped the scales at 285 pounds in July 2012.

Middle school field trip (1996)
High school - just before my first trip to Italy (1999)
Los Angeles - 2006

Hong Kong - 2012

That's not to say that there weren't times where I lost weight.  Each time I lived in Europe, I lost significant weight.  On my first visit, I went from 270 to 220 in about 6 months.  In college, I lost 30+ pounds when I went to Italy.  In Ireland, I lost around 40 pounds.  Most of this weight loss came simply from walking everywhere and eating less fast food, or more accurately better fast food.  Pizza and pasta in large unending quantities is not the best diet in the world, but it's better than Burger King, Arby's and Wendy's everyday for lunch.  The easiest way to lose 30 pounds is eating like shit for years and then just eating slightly better for 6 months.

The 200 pound threshhold has always been important to me.  I remember some class in middle school (I want to say 5th grade, but that seems insane to me now, so it may have been later) where we were messing around with those big doctor office scales.  In this memory, one of the other kids was moving the weights and he kept slowly moving the small weight higher.  He had to move the big weight from 100 to 150 and he slowly inched up the small weight, but the scale didn't budge.  Finally, he moved the big weight to 200 as everyone around me watched.  I weighed 202 lbs. and was easily the heaviest in the class.  There were some boys, I remember, who hadn't even cracked triple digits.  It was not a good day.  In high school, I bet my friend Kris that I could lose the 70 pounds necessary to drop below 200 pounds while I was in Italy.  I came damn close - losing over 50 pounds - but I still had to pay my friend Kris the $10 from the bet.

So, the 200 pound mark has been stuck in my head for quite some time.  Throughout my 20s, I don't think I thought I would ever cross below the mark again in my life.  It seemed an impossible goal.  Even after completing the marathon two years ago, I just barely got down to 220 pounds.  When I started crossfit last November, one of my primary goals was to lose the last 15 pounds to get below that pesky number.  And I couldn't quite get there.  Until last week.  We came back from San Antonio and I stepped on the scale that I use each morning and I saw one of the most awesome things I had ever seen.

Because I know my weight fluctuates considerably depending on the time of day, how much water I drank the previous day, whether I've peed recently, etc., I wanted to wait a few days to confirm the number.  I've now had three consecutive days below 200 pounds and 5 of the last 8.  Unfortunately, I know that a big part of my current dip is losing muscle mass since I haven't been doing crossfit since I returned from Germany.  I think I am okay with that right now.  It's just delayed gratification.

My final weight loss goal is to get to about 180-185 pounds.  This weight will put me into the "healthy" weight category - a category I have never actually been in.  It will also give me wiggle room to gain and lose like a normal person (those 10 pounds at Christmas) without crossing back over the 200 pound mark.  It's been 20 years since I weighed less than 200 pounds - here's hoping I can go the next 20 years without weighing more than 200 pounds.

A special thanks to those who have supported me and helped me in this endeavor.  My wife Sara has been by my side.  Family and other friends have helped immensely in their support, encouragement, and assistance.  My cross fit family in Germany are fantastic and a great group of people.  I also want to thank Weight Watcher and Couch to 5K.  I would not have done this without these two apps.

July 2015 - Martha's Vineyard

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Where I've been

The last two months have been a whirlwind of travel, pack-out, goodbyes, family reunions, more travel, long overdue honeydos and tons of baby prep.  In short, I've had a blast.

The highlight of the last two months was our delayed honeymoon in Cape Cod.  We spent 9 days in Boston and on the Cape.  Except for the cool temperatures and a few rainy days, it was just about perfect.  Sara and I spent time lounging around and exploring the region.  Some of my favorites were whale watching in Provincetown, an old school drive-in movie theater, biking on Martha's vineyard, and losing badly at skeeball.  Plus, all the icecream!

I also spent a week with my family in Arizona and Sara and I spent the last two weekends traveling to Nebraska and Texas to see more family.  The great news is that I have another month before home leave ends.  I don't know if I will ever be able to take all 45 days of home leave again, but it sure is awesome.

I'll try to keep this more updated in the future.  The  next month or so I will be getting settled in and getting the house ready for baby boy Caniglia.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I went with a group of friends to visit the Champagne region over Memorial Day weekend.  The combination of lovely French country side, adorable French town, delicious French food, superb French champagne and surprisingly wonderful French weather made for a fantastic weekend.  It was a fantastic (likely) last European trip on my tour.

Dinner in Reims

Drinks in Reims

Enjoying the sun outside the cathedral

Oh, the sunshine!

Outside one of the cellars

Inside the cellar

Champagne Tasting

Our rooftop bar

Amazing Macarroons

True story - it's some guy's job to turn these bottles a quarter turn once every few weeks or so.



Reims had beautiful stained glass windows on the cathedral

Of course, the obvious decision when you see an elephant balancing on his trunk is to do a handstand and take a photo

On the way home, we stopped at the Verdun cemetery (WWI)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Last Thursday was a random German holiday, so we took a 4 day road trip through the Bavarian Alps.  Drove down to Munich on Wednesday night and Sara landed in Munich from the US on Thursday morning.  Our first stop was in Dachau - the first German concentration camp in a Munich suburb.
Dachau train depot

The famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work sets you free) sign

A chess set carved by one of the prisoners

Statue in Dachau

After Dachau, we headed to the place that has been on the top of my bucket list for a year - Neuschwanstein.  The majestic castle, built by Mad King Ludwig II in an Alpine valley, is legendarily the inspiration for Walt Disney when he envisioned Sleeping Beauty's castle.  There are actually two castles next to each other.  Ludwig grew up in the yellow Hohenschwangau castle, but - according to our guide - built Neuschwanstein because he was tired of living with his mother.  I should mention that both of these castles are mere summer and hunting residences.  Somehow, the natural beauty actually outshines these dazzling castles.


The mountains actually make the castle look small

This priceless box made of ivory served as an 18th century safe

Carriage ride up to the castle


Pretty impressive entrance

I love this view

The view of the valley from the front of the castle
We stayed the night in nearby Garmisch before driving to Salzburg on Friday morning.  Salzburg was a bit of a disappointment.  It rained the whole day and there wasn't a whole lot going on in the city.  If I had to do it all over again, I'd skip Salzburg and spend more time in the Alps, but we did take the Sound of Music Tour on Saturday, which was fun.
The back of the Von Trapp home from the movie Sound of Music

Gazebo from the movie Sound of Music

Austrian lake district

Church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married in the movie

After the Sound of Music Tour, we drove to Berchtesgaden to see Hitler's famous Eagle's Nest.  This building basically sits atop the world in the Alps.  My car could barely handle the drive to the public parking lot, which was followed by a treacherous bus ride up the side of the mountain, which only opened two weeks ago due to snow.  After the bus ride, you walk through a tunnel into the middle of the mountain and ascend the peak in golden elevator through the center of the mountain.  It is a massive feat of engineering and clearly the model for every evil lair that followed.  Again, it's the natural beauty that really is the star.
The tunnel into Eagle's Nest 
Atop the world

Above Eagle's Nest

My friend Natalie does yoga poses throughout the world

On the edge of the world

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Big News

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd share with my blog followers some pretty big news.  Sara and I are expecting our first child, due in September.  I went back to DC two weeks ago and we learned that our baby is going to be a baby boy.  We are both super excited.

Giving a whole new meaning to 'carry-on.'

As far as the Foreign Service stuff is concerned, it couldn't have worked out better.  I will leave Frankfurt on June 17 and take two months of home leave.  I will start FSI training (non-language) in late August until my son(!) is born.  Then, I will go on paternity leave until November 2, when I will start Arabic training until summer 2016.  I'll take a few more training classes and then we will go to Riyadh in late August or early September.