Home For The Holidays

¡Feliz Navidad!

My lovely supermodel wife and I want to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed and joyful Christmas season. Well, and probably any other season too, for that matter. Unless it’s football season. If you’re a Packers fan, or a Bears fan–all bets are off.

In that instance, we hope that your team sucks and that you, as a fan, are miserable every time your team plays our team.

Despite a mediocre record this year, the Vikings still have a chance to make it to the playoffs as a wild card team. I had pretty much given up on them, and didn’t even bother to watch their game last week. So they played their best game of the season and clobbered the Miami Dolphins.

We’ll probably watch the game today. They’re playing the Detroit Lions. Besides, we’ve already watched every Hallmark Christmas movie at least five times. I’ve written about the Hallmark movies before. Despite the fact that they’re all essentially the same movie, we’ve apparently become addicted to them.

I’ve had my heartstrings pulled a few times watching them this year. As predictable as they all are, it’s Christmas. And everyone loves a happy ending at Christmas. 🎄🎅

* * * *

This will be our third Christmas in Mexico, but it’ll be the first Christmas in our new home. It actually feels like Christmas this year. For one thing, it’s freezing inside of our cavernous abode. Lea and I are from Minnesota, and Christmas is almost always cold there. Like, below fucking zero cold. It’s one of the reasons we moved to Arizona.

We have a couple of portable propane heaters at the new house, and we’re getting good use out of them. They kick out a lots of heat, until their tanks run out of fuel. The propane guys who fill the two big tanks that supply the main house and the casita can fill the portable tanks whenever they’re in the neighborhood, but I hate to request a special delivery from them if I only need a few liters of propane.

There’s a place called Zeta Gas about a mile west of here. They have a drive through facility. You pull up to the pump, hand the guy your tank, and he fills it up for you. It’s a minor hassle in the Big Scheme of Life, but the last two times our heaters died, they died on a Sunday. The one day of the week that Zeta Gas is closed.

Back in the States, you don’t actually buy propane tanks. You more or less rent the canister, and when it’s empty you take it back to the store and rent another full one. And you can do that at probably a dozen different places any day of the week. Here, you buy an empty tank at the hardware store. It’s up to you to get it filled and keep it filled.

It was one of those “on the job training/This is Mexico” things for me. We didn’t have this issue at our last house. So I bought a backup tank the other day, and filled it right away. Take that, Sunday! I’m ready for you now.

* * * *

Second, our Christmas decorations are on display. We even have a Christmas tree, thanks to Al and Jane Castleman. They loaned us one of theirs. It even looks fairly festive. We set it up on the patio so our kit-tens, Mika and Mollie, can’t destroy it.

Kit-tens. I don’t remember our last kit-tens being so…mischievous. I struggle to find the right word to describe their antics. From their point of view, all they’re doing is what comes naturally to them. They’re smart, they’re curious, and they’re very good at jumping. And they like us, so of course they want to help us, no matter what it is we’re trying to do.

I’ve discovered I spend quite a bit of time talking to our growing furbabies.

“Mollie! Get off of the table!” 

“Mika! How the hell did you get up there?”

“Don’t make me get the squirt bottle!!”

I don’t like having to use the squirt bottle on the kit-tens, but it’s the most effective tool in feline behavior modification, ever.

* * * *

And thirdly, we have guests this year. Gwen and John Henson flew down from Austin, TX to celebrate the holiday with us. Gwen is Lea’s oldest daughter. She’s also our brilliant financial planner. John is her loving husband. He’s a very good man.

Historically, Gwen and John have always traveled back to Minnesota for Christmas. I’m not sure why they decided to come here this year; I’m just glad they did. And Lea is thrilled beyond words.

Other than Lea’s boyfriend, Todd, they’re probably the only people who actually like us. They’ve come to visit us more than anyone else.

* * * *

We’re finally settled in at our new house. It feels like home. We’ve been here about two months, but it seems somehow longer. Like, this is the place we were supposed to be when we moved here. All of the big things we wanted to do when we moved in have been crossed off the list. Pretty much all of the little things that needed to be done have been taken care of, too.

I can get back to resting on my…laurels…again. And playing golf.

I went golfing last week with the guy who painted our house. Francisco Flores Bernini is a caddy at Vista del Lago, the country club that I’m a member of. He showed me several of the houses he had painted out there. That’s why I decided to hire him to paint our new house.

Francisco is a very good caddy, which has been good for me. He’s also a very good golfer, which wasn’t so good for me last Thursday. I played the best round of golf I’ve ever played in my life, and Francisco still beat me by seventeen strokes. He gave me a lots of tips while we golfed, and some of them even worked when I tried them. I might end up being a decent golfer someday if all of his suggestions work.

But my favorite best memory of that day was buying coffee from Luli, the refreshment cart girl. I was paying for our drinks, and I gave Luli a nice tip. You know, it’s Christmas…

“Do you want to give her a hug?” Francisco asked me in English, but the way he said it made it more of a suggestion than a question.

“Sure. Why not.” I replied. Francisco told Luli that I wanted to give her a hug, in Spanish. She speaks some English, but I guess he didn’t want there to be any confusion about this. Luli giggled, and she hugged me. That’s when I figured out why Francisco wanted me to hug her.

Luli has what we call in America an epic set of tits.

“¿Puedo tener un abrazo también?” Francisco asked Luli, and she smiled and hugged him, too. “Man, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.” Francisco confessed, as we drove to the next tee box. “When I’m caddying out here, she won’t give me the time of day. But today, I’m a golfer. After you gave her that tip, I knew she wouldn’t say no to hugging you.

“I was just hoping she wouldn’t say no to hugging me. I’m never going to forget this day. I’m going to remember this as one of the best days in my life.”

Because of Francisco, I’m going to remember it that way, too.

* * * *

Christmas, as every Hallmark movie will tell you, is a time for family. I can tell you it doesn’t always work out that way in real life. The last time my entire family got together for Christmas was 2006 when my mother was dying to death from cancer.

It’s not one of those warm, fuzzy memories for me.

Given the fact that Lea and I are now living deep in the heart of Mexico, it’s not likely that we’ll travel to the Great White North. Lea has sworn that she will never go back to Minnesota during the winter. To be honest, it’s not something I would look forward to either. It’s even less likely that anyone in my family would come down here to see us.

That’s the reality of life. Even so, if I don’t spend another Christmas with my family, it won’t be the worst thing that will ever happen to me. Or them. We still love each other. Well, most of us still love each other. I can always call them. Or at the very least, send them a deeply affectionate text.

Once you grow up, you realize that family is a word that can have multiple layers. There’s the family you were born into. There’s the family you make when you get married. There’s the family you make with friends, co-workers; pretty much any group of people you want.

Family, much like unto reality, can be anything you imagine it to be.

So, Merry Christmas to us. Merry Christmas to you. And as Tiny Tim so eloquently stated, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.”

Divine Intervention

Hola, amigos.

I’d apologize for not writing more often, but I have no regrets about not writing, so I won’t. I hate receiving insincere apologies, so I hate giving them, too. I’ve been busy working on my golf swing with my golf wife. Judging by our scores, we’ll both be busy refining that aspect of our games for awhile.

If you thought this story was going to be about the miraculous hole in one I shot the last time I played, you’re going to be disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was, but still…

I’m not sure why I love doing something I’m so mediocre at, but life is full of mysteries. Golf is but one of them. I might feel the same way about bowling, but there aren’t any bowling alleys here, so I can’t fall in love with bowling.

I broke down and joined the Chapala Country Club a couple of weeks ago. I was spending roughly the amount of my monthly dues there anyhow, so it seemed like the thing to do.

I hear membership has its privileges, but I have no idea what they might be. I got a membership packet when I joined, but I haven’t read it. I figure if there’s something important, Phyllis will tell me. Phyllis is my golf wife, and she reads instructions.

And there’s our Spanish lessons. I think I’m picking up Spanish about as quickly as I’m improving in golf.

There are basically three types of gringos here. The ones who spoke Spanish before they got here. The ones who have no intention of learning Spanish, and act like fools when they go to the Telmex® office. And then there’s the ones like us who feel they have an obligation to learn the language of their new home.

We’re probably the minority of those three.

Poco y pinche poco. It’s a slow process, and frustrating at times. But it’s not like I have all that much on my schedule anymore. And the money we pay to learn Spanish is donated to help pay medical expenses for needy children.

As Lea says, at least someone is getting something out it.

* * * *

How’s everyone doing?

Life is still pretty sweet down here south of the border. It’s been chilly enough for us to use the fireplace, but seeing how someone who reads this might have actually frozen their ass off this winter, I’m not going to make too big a deal about the weather.

I’m still not sure how we ended up here when we did, so I tend to attribute wondrous things I can’t understand to God. If I didn’t believe in God I might attribute them to our cat, but I’ve never seen her do anything I could remotely call miraculous, so that’s too much of a stretch even for me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever outlined the chain of events that led us here in my blog. I’ve told the story a lots of times, and I’m too lazy to go back and read through my previous posts to find out…

I’m pretty sure all of this started when we moved from Minnesota to Arizona in 2007. My lovely supermodel wife became Phyllis’ boss. Phyllis, as in my current golf wife, Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis worked together for several years and eventually became good friends. In 2012, Phyllis and her husband, Max, were getting ready to retire. They were thinking about North or South Carolina because they were big NASCAR fans, and there’s a lots of race tracks in that part of the country.

Max has a brother, Rick. Rick was living in Ajijic, and he suggested Max and Phyllis come check the place out before they moved to either of the Carolinas. And that was the end of that plan. Max fell in love with Mexico. When Phyllis returned to work, she put in her notice, and my wife just about had a heart attack. Six weeks later, Max and Phyllis jumped in their car, and their retirement days began.

And that was almost the end of this story, except Phyllis sent Lea an email at work long after she moved away, I think it was 2014. A lots had happened in a couple years. Max had died. Phyllis missed her friend, and really wanted Lea to come visit her. After multiple invitations, we decided to check the place out in September of 2015, and flew to Guadalajara.

Phyllis had a little party for us while we were visiting. We met all of her best friends, and we listened to the promotional speeches they gave about why we should move to Mexico. We liked the Lakeside area. It was as pretty as a picture. However, at that time, neither of us were thinking about retiring, not for several years at least. And neither of us had even remotely considered retiring in Mexico. But it was certainly something to consider.

And then a whole lots of kooky things happened in rapid succession. In February of 2016, Lea’s company went through a major reorganization, and Lea found out she was going to be reorganized out of her job.

Just. Like. That.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. Please clear out all of your personal belongings by the end of business today.

Lea called her daughter, Gwen, who just happens to be our financial planner, and Gwen crunched some numbers. Gwen told her mother based on our savings and our Social Security income, Lea didn’t need to work anymore if she didn’t want to. And by virtue of that fact, neither did I. That memory still makes me smile.

It was at that precise moment that moving to Mexico started looking like a very real possibility.

Lea called Phyllis and they would have a lots of conversations over the next several months. Phyllis was instrumental in helping us navigate the obstacles of moving to a foreign country. Additionally, our landlord, Planet Janet, and all of Phyllis’ friends have been a great resource in assisting us in our transition. We haven’t had to face most of the pitfalls many expats run into when they move here.

Getting back to my story, we put our dream house in Surprise on the market and sold it in seven days.

Lea flew to Mexico and found a very spacious rental house three doors down from Casa del Phyllis. And she met Janet, who has become one of my favorite people.

The Mexican Moving Company came and packed up all our stuff, and headed south.

We rented a condo about five miles from the hospital I worked at and stayed there for three months until I retired at the end of September. Our furniture was waiting for us in our house when we arrived.

Everything that happened in this process fell into place so neatly. If we had planned it for years, it still wouldn’t have happened so perfectly. It was that slick.

Some might say it was nothing more than a series of coincidences. But I tend not to believe in coincidence. I’m more of an everything happens for a reason kind of guy. Besides, it’s more romantic when there’s a reason.

And that’s how we ended up in Mexico. I had a vague feeling something devastating was going to happen, you know, like unto a natural disaster. The Yellowstone Supervolcano was going to explode. That’s why we needed to get out of the US as quickly as we did.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. See? Still not a prophet…

Also, the fact that nothing terrible happened has left me wondering why we needed to get here so quickly. Well, Trump was elected President…  And however tragic I might view his election, it still wouldn’t have added up to anything equalling imminent danger to myself or Lea.

I’m not complaining about being here. I’m merely curious about the why.

Lea says that God is blessing us with this time together because we worked hard and we’ve been granted some peace and relaxation time.

It makes more sense than the volcano thing…

* * * *

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that almost everyone that believes in God has a Divine intervention story, and if it weren’t for God, they wouldn’t be here right now. We have, all of us believers, certainly prayed for divine intervention for any number of reasons.

Health. Illness. Love. Relationships. Life. Death.

The Bible is full of stories about God interceding for his people. There’s a lots of stories about prayers being answered by God and lives being changed for generations. I might write more about those someday. I spend more time thinking about that kind of stuff than anything else.

Lea’s not a big fan of my spiritual/ religious ramblings. She thinks it makes me appear, you know, crazy.

When I was a nurse, I used to pray for my patients. I used to pray for personal patience, understanding, and wisdom. When I was drunk I used to pray for a life changing intervention. Or death. And then I realized that’s one prayer that will always be granted, eventually.

It just never happens at the moment that you’re praying for it.

I see a lots of divine intervention in my sobriety. I doubt it’s an achievement I could have done on my own. Something greater than myself or my addiction came into play, and without that, I shudder to think what my life would be like now.

You can think what you like. For me, God saved my life, though I often wonder why He chose to do so.

* * * *

If you know me personally, or follow me on Facebook, you know my lovely supermodel wife and I are Minnesota Vikings fans. The Vikings had a very good season and are in the playoffs this year.

If you know anything about the Vikings history, you know the Vikings haven’t had the best results in playoffs. I have drowned many gridiron sorrows back in my drinking days, and celebrated scores of regular season wins. The Vikings have been to the NFC Championship game ten times. They’ve been NFC Champions four times. In their four Super Bowl appearances, they’ve come away with exactly zero Lombardi Trophies.

Divine intervention hasn’t been on the Vikings side in the playoffs. Miraculous plays always happened to the other team. But all that changed last Sunday night when the Vikings came from behind to beat the New Orleans Saints by scoring a 61 yard touchdown with ten seconds left on the clock.

The Vikings played a perfect first half, scoring seventeen points and shutting out the Saints. The Vikings defense was stellar, intercepting Drew Brees twice and keeping two of the best running backs in the game out of the end zone.

The second half was another story. The Saints scored twenty four points. The Vikings only six, and with twenty five seconds left in the game, the Vikings were down by one, and their season was about to end.

Lea and I were devastated. I was trying to figure out if we had enough medications to successfully overdose.

And then came the Minneapolis Miracle.

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For once, God decided to favor the Vikings. For a brief moment, Jesus wore a Vikings uniform, and as Stefon Diggs trotted into the end zone, there was surprise and disbelief, then jubilation! Even the players couldn’t believe what happened. You can Google® it if you haven’t seen it. It really was incredible. And beautiful.

On Sunday, the Vikings play the Eagles for the NFC Championship. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, which will be played in Minneapolis this year. The Vikings might be the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.

It could happen. Hopefully, they won’t need any miracles to beat the Eagles because there were at least three miracles involved in the winning touchdown play last Sunday. It was kind of an Angels in the Outfield thing. Seriously.

I’m not sure how much more miracles they have left.

I don’t know how much God has to do with the outcomes of football games. Personally, I’d think he’d have bigger fish to fry. But if God truly orchestrated a miracle or three to beat the Saints, then please keep the miracles coming for two more games.

I’ve never prayed for something as trivial as a football victory before. Like I said, I think God has better things to do, but I’m going to pray for not one, but two more wins for the Vikings this season. Let there be any number of miracles, and let the Vikings win just one Super Bowl, before I die.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us. Just because the Vikings had a great season this year doesn’t mean they’ll have an equally impressive season next year.

I’m not getting any younger, so they might as well do it now.

And Deliver Us From Evil

I had my third session with Diamond Dave today. He performed his usual therapeutic assault on my body. And he also gave me a lots to think about.

Diamond Dave suggested I start sitting in a different chair at home. The fact that I haven’t gotten a lots better is somewhat confusing to both of us, so there has to be something still aggravating my back.

We have a couch, a love seat and kind of a captain’s chair in our living room. I rarely used the captain’s chair in Arizona, but it’s been a different story down here in Mexico. Lea and her kit-ten have taken up residence on the couch, and I started sitting in the captain’s chair. I figured it hadn’t gotten much use in the last nine years…

I had actually considered the chair as a possible suspect for my back problem prior to my appointment today. We’ll see how this plays out. Today, I’m semi-sprawled across the love seat, looking at the mountains on the other side of Lake Chapala. It’s quite lovely, actually. And once my back settles down after getting pummeled, I may even feel lovely myself.

The other thing David suggested is that I wear shoes whenever I’m not in bed. I think the chair is a much better suspect for the back pain I’ve been experiencing than my tendency to walk barefoot. But I’m willing to try anything if it means I can put this behind me.

That was interesting, but today’s major topic of discussion was energy.

* * * *

I may have mentioned this before, but I find Diamond Dave to be a rather interesting guy. And I’m pretty sure he’s a guy. David likes to wax philosophic about any number of subjects. And while I’m not sure exactly what sort of training one has to endure to become a Bowen Therapist, I think understanding energy flow has to be part of it.

I’m going to condense most of what David said into the next few sentences. After that, it’s all me. Humans are incredible energy generators. Think of feelings. In essence, a feeling is nothing more than emotional energy. The energy we generate can be positive. It can be negative. And it can be evil.

Now, as a guy, I am hardly an expert on emotions. If you doubt this, you can ask my wife. Guys have three basic emotions. Okay. Not okay. And pissed. We experience varying degrees of pissed, and these are expressed by the swear word in front of the word pissed. Guys can also be happy, but we use the word tits when we’re in that state of emotional bliss.

As a psych nurse, I knew something about emotions. Mostly that you need to tone yours down, okay? Most of my patients were emotionally out of control, that’s why they were in the hospital. And my job was to help them get a grip.

Unless they were evil. Then my job was to make them disappear as fast as possible and make sure no one ever spoke their name out loud again, ever. Or the evil people would be back.

I didn’t meet a lots of evil people as a psych nurse, but I met far more than I would’ve liked. Evil people are flat out scary, even when they’re trying to be nice. Actually, that might’ve been when they were at their scariest.

The two most evilest people I ever met were two people that had separately set themselves on fire. On purpose. They, and everyone else on the planet, would’ve been better off if they had been given another gasoline shower and a lit cigarette to finish the job. You might think that harsh, but I don’t really care what you think. Not about this.

There were very few people that effected me the way those two did. I would’ve killed them if I ever ran into them on the street. I’ve given this a lots of thought, and I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement. Seriously, I would’ve gone over the curb to run them over with my car while they stood on the sidewalk. And then I’d call the police and wait for them to arrive, but only if the burned people were dead. Otherwise, I would’ve kept running them over.

* * * *

As a Christian, I was raised to believe in evil, a very evil spirit named Satan. Once I decided to walk away from everything I had been taught about God, I also walked away from my belief in the devil. I was never able to stop believing in God, but I find it almost impossible to believe there’s an embodiment of ultimate evil anymore.

This is not to say I don’t believe in evil. I do. Evil exists, and it is very real. I fear its influence on the world in which we live appears to be growing stronger. I may not believe in Satan, but I’ve encountered some weird stuff getting lost seeking the Truth. Satan or not, there are some evil-ass things lurking out there in the darkness.

Satan is a Hebrew word that means opposer, or adversary. In the Book of Job, Satan appears in Heaven as kind of a prosecuting attorney if you will, that God allows to test Job’s faith. Satan is hardly the embodiment of ultimate evil. He appears to actually have been God’s ally.

According to Christian belief, Satan was thrown down from Heaven. Jesus said he witnessed this event. And because Jesus said this, it has to be true, right? Jesus was quite good at saying one thing while meaning something completely different at the same time. But if satan simply means opposer, well, this statement could mean that nothing that opposes God is tolerated in Heaven, and nothing more. And it still makes sense.

My dad didn’t live in Heaven, but he had a rule very similar to the above stated concept. My house, my rules. Anytime you decide you don’t like my rules, pack your bags and get the hell out.

I’m not sure when Satan transformed into the black-hearted sonuvabitch he is today. It was Satan that tricked Eve, right? No, it wasn’t. Satan is not mentioned as being in the Garden of Eden. There’s a serpent in the Garden, but the serpent isn’t named Satan.

There’s a common myth that Satan the devil used to be an angel of light named Lucifer that fell from grace and was banished from Heaven. And there’s the story that the fall of Lucifer came about because he refused the command of God to kneel before God’s masterpiece of creation, Adam.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan famously states, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I’ve given this some serious thought about that scenario. I probably would’ve done the same thing as Lucifer. If any of those myths are true, Lucifer/Satan doesn’t appear to be evil, he appears to be some kind of genius. With morals, and integrity.

He probably has me beat.

The Greek word for Satan is diabolos, which means slanderer. Satan is described as the father of all lies. However, lying is not a sin, and God doesn’t seem to have had any problems with the fact that all of the people He initially chose to interact with would lie about something, or even a lots of things.

From my point of view, there’s nothing that opposes the Will of God quite as perfectly as human will, and pride. And if that is true, then Satan lives and breathes inside of all of us. If I do this, it will please God. But if I do this other thing, it’ll please me! To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Lead me not into temptation, for I can find it all by myself. In my experience, if Satan does exist, he’s never had to break a sweat to get me to “sin.”

I also find the concept of sin interesting. At this point in my life, I think the only real sin is thinking we’re separated from God. And as for the Ten Commandments, those are the building blocks of an happy life. If you do these things, your life will be much better. I have some experience with this. Personally, I’ve broken nine of the Ten Commandments, and my life was pretty much a mess.

One of the most amusing things to me about getting back into the church is the current Christian view about Satan, and how he is constantly seeking to distract and derail good Christians from their faith. Satan, it seems, has all kinds of spooky superpowers.

My darling daughter, Gwendolyn, told me this story about a Women’s Breakfast she went to at her church. There were electrical issues at the facility, and one of the organizers said, “Well, y’all, I guess Satan didn’t want us to have pancakes this morning…” Because, apparently, there’s nothing that will precipitate a crisis of faith like not being able to eat pancakes. Especially in Texas.

* * * *

There’s one other illustration of evil in the Bible. It concerns the Grigori, or the Seven Watchers. The Grigori were a group of angels that were supposed to keep an eye on God’s human children, and teach. But somewhere along the way, while the Grigori were, you know, watching, they noticed that the daughters of men were totally hot, and they started doing a lots more than watching.

The Grigori weren’t evil, they were good angels. Neither were the cute and adorable farmer’s daughters the Grigori had sex with. The Muffys of the ancient world couldn’t help it if they were irresistible to angels.

But their children were evil in a way that the world had never seen before, nor presumably, since.

And that’s not where Noah and the Ark come in, if you believe this story. God didn’t want to wipe out the human race, he wanted to wipe out the mutant children of the Grigori and the cute and adorable Muffys of ancient times. And behold, there was a great flood.

God apparently chose to feel some sort of remorse afterwards, and promised to never flood the earth like that again, and created the rainbow to remind Himself of His promise, just in cases, God forbid, He forgets.

We should probably all pray that rainbows never go extinct.

And one last word of warning. If you ever encounter an angel, whatever you do, do not have sex with it.

The Island of Misfit Toys

I’ve been doing some musing about Christmas lately. Back when I was a nurse, I worked almost every Christmas. In fact, this is only the third Christmas Lea and I have spent together without me working.

We still celebrated the holiday, but my schedule would almost always dictate the timing of anything we did.

I spent twenty-seven of the last twenty-nine Christmases hanging out with people in the hospital who had no place better to be, mostly because they were caught up in a cycle of gloom and doom, generally because of the choices they made. Like Jacob Marley, they were busy making the chains that bound them.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

I’m watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this Christmas morning. My favorite part of the show is The Island of Misfit Toys. It was where I worked. I thought it was an appropriate monicker, and certainly nicer than some of the other names given to psych units.

I didn’t look at myself as a misfit, even though I am perhaps the King of the Misfits. I’ve had trouble finding my place in the world most of my life. Feeling comfortable in my own skin was something I had never been able to do, until recently, and even that has been difficult of late given the problems I’ve had with my back and neck.

And I like Yukon Cornelius, too. It’s hard not to like him.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I have both been doing a lots of thinking about Christmases past this year. It’s our first Christmas in Mexico, the first Christmas of our retired lives. If we were isolated from our families when we lived in Arizona, well, this is taking that to a whole ‘nother level. If Christmas is meant to be spent with the people you love, then this Christmas has been bittersweet for both of us.

My family mostly lives in Minnesota. Both of our girls are up in the Great White North right now, spending Christmas with their Other Dad. Wait. Maybe that’s me. He’s their Real Dad. Either way, they’re about three thousand miles away.

And that’s probably been the toughest part of Christmas for us this year. I scroll through my Facebook page, and see all my friends’ posts with the tree and presents and family. And I am jealous.

You never miss something until its gone. I am relearning the truth of those words this year. And there are so many things, and so many people, that I am missing a lots this year.

When you’re young, you lack the capacity to see just how stupid you are. I took so many things for granted. When you’re young, you think nothing is ever going to change, and then life changes everything.

My mother died in 2007. Christmas was her favorite time of year. She decorated her house with enough lights and garland and trinkets to make Santa feel shamed. I used to look at spending the Christmas holiday with my parents as one of those odious and contemptible things I had to do. Like working for a living, and paying taxes.

I quit drinking the year before my mom died. I remember that first trip to my parents’ house to tell them. My dad offered me a beer when I walked in the house. I can still see the stunned look on his face when I told him I was an alcoholic, and I had quit drinking. Forever.

“I didn’t know you had a drinking problem!” he said.

My mother was sitting at the kitchen table next to my dad. She turned her eyes to the heavens and whispered, “Thank God!” She later told me it was the best Christmas present I could have ever gotten her.

Merry Christmas, Mom. It’s been ten years now. Sorry it took me so long to get my head out of my ass, and I’m really sorry for the shit I put you through.

* * * *

The Christmas holiday is celebrated very differently in Mexico than it is in the States. American Christmas has become a commercialized celebration of material excess. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday. None of these things existed in my youth, and they have become monsters.

American Christmas, sadly seems to have become more about the stuff than the substance. When saying, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays is an issue, there’s a problem.

No one camps out in front of the Walmart down here. There’s no such thing as Black Friday in the Lakeside area. Mexican Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Each neighborhood has a little posada. Two children are dressed up like Joseph and Mary, and they might be riding a burro. They go from house to house looking for a place to spend the night, and they’re turned away.

One house in the neighborhood is preselected as the party house. They welcome the weary travelers in, and it’s fiesta time! The parties last all night. There’s a lots of music, food and drink, and bonfires and fireworks.

Honestly, Lea and I wonder how any work ever gets done down here because there are something like seven hundred holidays in Mexico, and there are varying degrees of celebration that correspond with each of them.

But fireworks are seemingly mandatory for all of them.

Mexican fireworks aren’t the same as American fireworks, which are kind of pretty and spectacular. Mexicans are particularly fond of a kind of rocket called a cohetone. It’s essentially an half of stick of dynamite that shoots into the sky and explodes.

Loudly.

These incredibly loud fireworks are fired off almost every day of the year down here for seemingly any and every reason imaginable.

My first week in Mexico made me think I was back in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, and I have never been in Vietnam. I have kind of a bitch of a case of PTSD, and I am particularly sensitive to loud, unexpected noises. One of my neighbors is very fond of fireworks. I’ve been thinking about becoming an hitman again…

It was a very long night for the Mexican locals. The parties lasted all night. A veritable artillery explosion greeted the rising sun, and now it’s quiet. Christmas Day in Mexico is essentially a day of rest–all the Mexicans in this area have been celebrating their asses off for about the last two months–and eating leftovers. Small gifts are exchanged. It’s actually rather sweet and beautiful.

* * * *

As much as I miss my family, and especially my girls, I don’t want to give the impression Lea and I are sitting around the house contemplating suicide. Because we’re not.

We’ve made a few friends down here, thanks to Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis are best friends, and we retired in Ajijic because of her. I tell everyone we moved here to become Phyllistines, and it seems to be the truth.

Phyllis has been here several years. Actually, there’s a whole lots of Americans and Canadians living down here, and we’re getting to know some of them.

We went to Jim and Veronica’s house last night. They have an absolutely gorgeous home that should be declared a national treasure and an historical work of art. I almost feel like making the Sign of the Cross and genuflecting when I’m at their place.

They actually have an antique confessional in their living room. I thought about going in it once, but I haven’t been to confession in over forty years. I’m going to be in there for a long time. And it might burst into flames…

Today, we’re going to Casa del Castleman, the home of Al and Jane. They’re one of the couples we’ve met as Phyllistines. Jane and Lea seem to be cut from the same cloth, so Jane is an easy person for me to like.

Al seems to be kind of a character, so I’m sure I’ll like him a lots once we get to know each other better. Last night, Al probably had the quote of the evening.

“Grunge rock is the greatest music of all time.”

What do you expect? We’re old. And we mostly hate young people. I think the only grunge rock song I like is Come as You Are by Nivana.

I invited him to come over and listen to the Icelandic rap music my crazy neighbor plays. Al didn’t know that was a musical genre either.

“I think rap music is a bunch of people bitching about stuff.” Al said.

“Yeah, but when they do it in Icelandic, you’re not sure what they’re bitching about.” But it sounds kind of cool.

Well, it’s about time to go to today’s get-together. And I’ve been working on keeping my blogs short since I finished my Dallas series. More than anything else, I attribute that series to messing up my spine.

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

XOXO,

Mark

All My Darling Daughters

I know I said I was going to take some time off from writing. You know, get out of the house, go on a Mexican road trip. And then I screwed up my back. I can hardly make it to the kitchen to see if there’s anything in the refrigerator. Sitting in the car for a lengthy period of time would probably kill me to death, although my car has heated seats, and I love them almost as much as I love my daughters.

For those of you that have been reading my posts, you already know I was cursed by my mom when I was young.

Just wait until you grow up and have kids of your own! They’re going to be just like you!

I was a terrible human being in my youth, and my mother’s words scared me far more than any vague threats of spending an eternity in Hell ever did. For starters, you have to got dead to gain entry into Hell.

Like I was going to care about anything after I ceased living.

But children, children can make your life a living hell, and I knew all about that. After all, I done that to my parents.

So I purposed to not inflict that kind of suffering upon myself, and intentionally did not procreate. No birth control? Oh, look at the time! I forgot to feed my turtle today. Bye!

So, despite all of my precautions, I ended up with four darling daughters: Abigail and Gwendolyn, Nancy and Brea. I adopted the first two when I married my lovely supermodel wife. The last two adopted me when I worked with them at Aurora. And due to the fact that I’m not their biological father, they are four of the most darlingpreshadorbs women you could ever meet.

I also have two adopted work sons, Anthony and Luis. I may write about them someday. We’ll see.

When you marry a woman with children, you don’t marry her for her children. You marry her in spite of them.

I know when I fell in love with Lea. That was pretty much the moment I first saw her. It’s a guy thing. However, it would take a bit longer for me to fall in love with her girls. Abigail was twelve when I married her mom. Gwendolyn was fifteen. And they were Gail and Gwen back then. Gail legally changed her name to Abigail, and I will totally be writing about that someday. Gwen just started calling herself Gwendolyn.

I fell in love with Abigail first. She was a sweet kid, and could easily be described as a people pleaser. She just wanted everyone to be happy, and coming from a broken family only accentuated that need in her. Abigail actually reminds me of me. Sometimes I wonder how I couldn’t be her real dad. She’s more like me than she is either of her parents.

Gwendolyn was distant and aloof. She was kind of a moody little bitch when I first came into her life. She was probably pissed at her mom for divorcing her dad, and I was some guy that she’d have to talk during the holidays. Gwendolyn is so much like her mom it’s spooky. They even eerily resemble each other. Abigail looks like Lea too, but not as much as Gwendolyn does.

Gwen’s attitude would change when she turned eighteen. She would move in with us, and her emotional aloofness and distance toward us would thaw. That was also during the period of time that her mother became so deathly ill and was in and out of the hospital. Gwen and I would end up spending a lots of time together, and that’s when I fell in love with her. She is a big reason why I didn’t completely lose my mind during that period of time.

A lots of kids get into trouble with drugs or alcohol when they’re growing up. I have to give Lea and Steve a lots of credit because that wasn’t a major issue with her girls. They both would act out when they turned fourteen. I missed that stage with Gwen, but I would have my one and only father-daughter chat with Abigail when she hit that magic age.

She shaved the back of her head. I think she said she was bored or something. Her mom got really pissed or something, so I took Abi for a ride so we could be alone and chat.

“You know, when a kid gets into trouble these days, the parents look at each other and say, Where did we go wrong? But I’m from a different generation. When I did something stupid, my parents looked at me and said, What the hell is wrong with you! And if that wasn’t sufficient, they would spank my ass.

“You’re a good kid, and I’m only gonna tell you this once. Knock it off, or I will, I promise you, spank your ass until it glows like Rudolph’s nose. You got that?”

“Yep. Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Will you teach me how to drive?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Can we start now?”

And everyone says raising girls is tough…

I have grown to love my girls so much, and they are my girls. They both became awesome adults, and I am so proud of both of them. They have enriched my life, and they both taught me a lots.

Thank you, Abigail. Thank you Gwendolyn. I miss you both, and hope you both have a wonderful and blessed holiday season. I can’t wait for you to come visit. You’ll love it down here. Bring Reese’s minis when you come…

* * * *

Brea was the first of my work daughters. She was a new grad, but you’d never know that watching her in action. It took me years to become a great psych nurse. Brea had me beat in about five minutes. I thought I might be in the presence of greatness. She was an amazing nurse, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with her.

I think I tried telling her how to do something once when we first started working together.

“Don’t get all up in my grille, son.” was her response. And that’s when I fell in love with Brea. That’s also when I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Brea, was gangsta. I knew it was time for me to start thinking about retirement. The torch had been passed to a new generation.

I would quote all kinds of famous dead people to Brea, like John Kennedy.

“Yeah, I don’t know who that is.”

Oh well, she’s still an awesome nurse.

And then I met Nancy. She would become the best partner I ever worked with, for many reasons. Nancy was a also a new grad, but I think she had worked in home healthcare before coming to Aurora. She didn’t have the same presence of greatness that Brea possessed, but she had potential.

Nancy was heavily into CrossFit training when I first met her. In fact, that was her main focus.

“I’m an elite athlete.” she said. “I’m Nancy Carolina Rodriguez!”

“I’m an elite psych nurse.” I replied.”And that’s what you’re going to be when I’m through with you.”

Nancy kind of looks like an Hispanic Smurfette, and that was her first nickname. And that’s how I became Papa Smurf. We gave nicknames to everyone! And that’s when I fell in love with Nancy. People actually begged us for a nickname because if you didn’t have our brand, you weren’t shit.

I had more fun working with Nancy than I had with anyone. We got stuff done, but we laughed all day doing it. The nurses on the nearby units were jealous because they weren’t having anywhere near as much fun as us.

Nancy was a good student. She learned fast. It was Nancy who patented the Canyon Hammer. If you got out of line on our unit, you got the hammer.

But I knew my job was done the day she didn’t break out the hammer. One of her patients started amping up. She wanted pain pills, and she wasn’t going to stop until she got them.

“I’ve already given you everything I can. Oh, how about an Ensure®?”

Problem solved. Time for me to go.

Brea and Nancy have both applied to NP school. They’ll probably rewrite the history books of nursing. Who knows? They really might change the world.

Ah, my darling work daughters, I miss both of you, too. And your Mom. But not enough to come back to work.

There are many ways to measure a man. If I had anything to do with helping my darlingpreshadorbs daughters become the people they’ve become, I am content.

Abigail and Gwendolyn. Brea and Nancy. You are my legacy.

That’s how blessed I am.