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.

“ÂżPuedo tener un abrazo tambiĂ©n?” 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.”

‘Tis the Season

Tomorrow is Halloween, the official start of what I call the Holiday Season. Well, other people probably call it that, too. All of the Big Ones are coming up now in rapid succession, and Halloween kick-starts it all. Fun for kids and even more fun for adults who love to wear costumes and go to parties. I have a few vague memories of some epic Halloween parties, and it’s probably best that they stay that way.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Romans added a couple of their holidays to the Celtic festival, Feralia and the Festival of Pomona. If you’re curious about these things, you can look them up on the Interweb. The Catholic Church added a couple of twists, mostly to water down the pagan aspects, and we eventually ended up with the current holiday we celebrate and all of its trappings.

I tend to think of Halloween as a mostly North American, Canadian/American holiday, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe kids ‘Trick or Treat’ in Pakistan. Or China…  I doubt it, but it’s possible. I don’t think they do much of that in Mexico.

Halloween is still pretty much of a gringo holiday down here, but that’s probably starting to change. You can buy costumes at Walmart here in Lakeside, so it’s starting to creep into the culture. The big Mexican holiday down here is DĂ­a de Muertos, Day of the Dead. It’s a three day celebration, and when it comes to celebrating, Mexico takes a back seat to nobody.

From the beginning of October until New Year’s Day, there will be endless barrages of cohetes and bands and parades and fiestas, pretty much every day. Hardly anyone here will sleep for the next two months. It’s a really good thing I quit drinking before we moved here, or I’d rarely be sober. There’s something like unto a couple hundred of holidays down here, and half of them begin tomorrow.

I used to really love Halloween. When we lived in Minneapolis, my lovely supermodel wife and I used to carve pumpkins. We handed out tons of candy and sometimes shoveled snow. We had at least one huge honker of a blizzard on Halloween.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I love the Holiday Season. Granted, as a nurse I tended to celebrate most of those occasions by working, but that’s the way it went. Be that as it may, we always celebrated the holidays, even if we had to wait until I finished my shift.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: Lea is an excellent cook, and she has served up some awesome Thanksgiving feasts over the years. And I have loved them all.

According to legend, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in November of 1621. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts and their Native American buddies got together and had a feast, and it kind of caught on. Until the white settlers decided they needed to get rid of all the natives, but that’s another story for another day.

George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, a National Day of Thanks and Gratitude kind of thing. Abraham Lincoln issued another proclamation in 1863, and set the date for Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. I’m not sure when a turkey dinner became synonymous with the holiday, but I’m sure my Uncle Don was pleased. He raised a lots of turkeys.

Little Known Fact About Turkeys: they originated in Mexico. Another funny thing, turkey isn’t a very popular item at any Mexican restaurant. The Mexican people are very gracious and will cook a traditional gringo Thanksgiving feast at many of the fine dining establishments down here. Lea and I went to one last year with a lots of our friends, but we’re planning on celebrating at home this year.

Traditional American holiday or not, we love get together at least once a year to give thanks, and eat ourselves  into a coma, and watch football. Well, that’s more or less what I do…  And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I shoveled a lots of snow. Until I got a snowblower.

I don’t miss snow at all, but I do miss my snowblower. Go figure.

* * * *

Christmas is arguably the biggest holiday of them all, and the only reason I say that  is because everything is arguable nowadays, even things that shouldn’t be.

Christmas, on a superficial level, is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. On a deeper level it’s a combination of that, the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of the Saturnalia and a melange of any other number of beliefs and customs.

Anyone ever heard of Santa Claus? You can no longer have Christmas without Santa Claus. I can’t think of another person more closely associated with a major nonreligious holiday than Santa, and that includes Jesus, and St Patrick. No one dresses up like St Patrick. No one even knows what he looks like. Does Jesus come down the chimney and give you presents? Nope, he does not.

Christmas has become a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Decorations, presents, wrapping paper and trees. It all adds up. Christmas is big business. Entrepreneurs live for Christmas. And it’s probably kudos to them, and Coca-Cola®, and Hollywood for making Santa Claus the superstar that he’s become.

I lived for Christmas when I was a kid, even though half of my presents were stupid things like socks and underwear. Eight kids. We all got a lots of socks and underwear for Christmas.

But then there was the good stuff. Toys. Games. More toys and and games. It was sweet. I tried like hell to be a good person simply because of Christmas. I didn’t want to be on The Naughty List.

Christmas became less magical as I got older, but I can’t think of anything that didn’t. Being so far from my children and family has had an impact. If nothing else, Christmas is a time for family. And yet Christmas still retains something special to me–maybe it was the memories, maybe it is something more.

And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I used my snowblower. I think Lea bought me my first snowblower for Christmas. I used to clear all the sidewalks on my block.

Merry Christmas to all, and your sidewalks are clean!

* * * *

New Year’s Eve is another worldwide celebration, and the reason for that is simple. The last year probably sucked and everyone is hoping the next year will be better. It can’t get any worse, can it?

Oh yes, it can.

This has been the most relaxing, least stressful year I’ve ever had since I was a kid, and I can’t wait for this year to end. We’ll be one year closer to getting Donald Trump out of the White House.

This is simply my opinion, but Donald represents everything that’s wrong with the world, and he’s proud of that. If God ever needed a reason to speed up His timeline…

When I was much younger, I used to go out every New Year’s Eve to celebrate with my friends. And then there was one year when I went out all by myself. I was in nursing school, standing at a bar in downtown St Cloud, drinking a beer. When midnight came, everyone started cheering and hugging and kissing.

The guy standing next to me said, “Hey, I’m Tim. Happy New Year.” I introduced myself, and we shook hands.

It was one of the loneliest moments of my life. It was also the last time I ever went to a bar to celebrate that holiday.

* * * *

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t felt much like writing. I started out writing about my nursing career, but the longer I don’t do that anymore, the less I think about the days when I did. I might get back to writing about that again someday, but we’ll see. Part of me believes I’ve already written all of the best stories I have to tell about being a psych nurse.

I spent a fair amount time writing about what an idiot I was when I was drinking and doing drugs for a living. I have a lots of stories to tell about those days, and some of them are really funny. For that reason alone, I might be tempted to say more, even though I’m not sure I want to remember more about those days…

There’s not much to say about my current life, other than it doesn’t suck at all, and yours probably does, simply because you may still be working for a living. Start feeding your 401K now. You’ll thank yourself later.

I have never enjoyed being alive as much as I do now. I get to spend every day with the woman I love, and I cherish this time we have together. I played the best game of golf I’ve probably ever played a few days ago. It doesn’t get a whole lots more better gooder than this.

The only reason I wrote this is because the last time I talked to Jane Castleman, she told me to keep writing, and I respect her opinion. Not my best work, for sure. Probably not my worst either.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Eat your kid’s candy. Watch out for the sugar buzz. Have another helping of everything for Thanksgiving. If you’re too full for dessert, eat pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning. Yeah, you can do that, unless your mom tells you you can’t.

May your Christmas be perfect. If there were ever a time for perfection, it’s Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family. You never get it back, and you don’t get a do over. Remember the reason for the season. Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas Day, but he was born, and he was born to be our King. And just like Aragon, son of Arathorn, someday he will return, too.

Stay safe, and more or less sober, celebrating the new year. Each year has the potential to be better than the last, but will probably be just as tragic as the last. What will be, will be. Anticipate the best, but steel yourself for the worst. You’ll probably find both no matter what you do.

And, just for fun, may your team win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a national holiday anywhere, but it should be, and it should be the official end of the holiday season. Maybe some day it will be…

Attitude really is everything. If you can remember that, you’ll get through anything life will throw at you. And I with that, I wish you the best of success until the next time. Whenever that might be.