What Happens in Mexico – Goes onto my Blog

photo credit: lamont_cranston via photopin cc
photo credit: lamont_cranston via photopin cc

I’m lousy at postcards.

I intend to write one, per day, each time I take a trip, first thing in the morning, before a healthy run and just-as-healthy breakfast. Sentimental words from a sentimental guy in paradise.

It never happens. (The cards, or the just-as-healthy breakfast, at least.).

Any postcards bought rattle around in my suitcase until I get home, where I hand them to the kids and say, “hey. These are for you.” Thanks dad.

This year, I went straight for the big stuff – and by big stuff, I mean Mexican blankets I had to buy a Mexican duffle bag to smuggle out of Mexico because I had no room in my American luggage.

But, I’ll jot a few thoughts and observations on the weekend here for you instead.

This should eliminate a need to babble on about Mexico in comment responses for the next 17 days on Coach Daddy.

Mexico’s nice, but it’s not Jennifer Lawrence or pizza.

Take these Caribbean splashed, and guacamole stained messages I’d have sent you if I’d bothered to write them with my hand and post them so they arrived a few days after my plane touched down in Charlotte.

1. Rollin’ down the river

photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc
photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc

The coolest flight sight had to be the enormous and majestic river our plane flew over for many miles.

The gargantuan river widened and narrowed until it spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. If that wasn’t the Mississippi, I don’t want to know what it is.*

*-Upon further review, it was the Alabama River I saw from the air. This discovery doesn’t make the river any less impressive, but it definitely take the romance out of the whole story for me. It’s like a dream of slow-dancing to Paul Anka with Melissa Joan Hart and opening your eyes to discover it’s actually Dr. Phil.

3. Eating in Mexico – I did it wrong

photo credit: jcalyst via photopin cc
photo credit: jcalyst via photopin cc

Twice – T.W.I.C.E. – I stood in line for a hamburger.

Hamburgesa. Con queso.

In Mexico,  land of my people’s food, a grown man with vague Aztec looks waited behind Americans and Europeans and answered the question – “you wanna the cheese?” (only cheese was pronounced chis). TWICE.

4. Know your lizards

photo credit: Edgar Barany via photopin cc
photo credit: Edgar Barany via photopin cc

Do you know the difference between an iguana and a Gila monster? How about a kimono dragon?

Quick. Without Google.

Me either.

So I crossed passed on a morning walk with a big-ass lizard, I hit the brakes. He did too, in that awkward, legs splayed backward way a big lizard has about him. He did the iguana/Gila monster head bob, like a low-rider who has spotted a fine mamacita at a traffic stop.

So I crept closer.

Then I remembered how uninformed I am about lizard identification. Ignorant, really.

Gila monsters don’t live in balmy Playa del Carmen. I’m positive kimono dragons are Asian. But certainty being elusive in the moment, I retreated as the lizard shifted toward me into a combat maneuver.

5. Rosetta stone, mi burro!

photo credit: Bisayan lady via photopin cc
photo credit: Bisayan lady via photopin cc

I practiced my Spanish extensively.

When the kid who looked like a dancer for Menudo asked where the bathroom was, I steered him in the right direction. I think. Or, I told him I like apples.

My Spanish is muy malo. I hope he can hold it.

My heritage helped to bargain for goods. I think my nose shape indicates Mayan royalty. Anyway, I was able to negotiate $80 worth of Mexican blankets to $75, and, with so little effort, paid $20 for a sarape in Indianapolis Colts colors listed at $35.

I imparted my cultural knowledge on a colleague, a nice Kentucky kid who didn’t know the name for sarape (I think he called it a drug rug, or something).

He bargained for himself, am ambitious boy with his UK ball cap and sunburned face. When we met again, he grinned like a tourist on tequila. He wore the sarape and carried a new blanket, too.

“You got one!” I said. I’m like NAFTA.

“Yeah man,” said Kentucky boy. “I didn’t even have to say ‘sarape.’ And I got them both for $30!”

Wait, crap.

That’s … carry the one … $15 each. And $10 less altogether.

Gringo 1, Coconut 0.

6. The greatest gift – zero pesos, zero dolares Americano

photo credit: morrissey via photopin cc
photo credit: morrissey via photopin cc

In our annual company meeting, we had a session with esteemed advisor Shannon McFayden. The crowd waiting for Meet for Coffee requests on her Outlook calendar makes the Apple store look like a record store.

Her insight and experience make her the go-to for advice in our company, from the top to, well, me.

Amid the advice she gave on company matters and personal assessments, she stressed the importance of our kids’ discovery of their own inherent gifts, and parents’ role to help them find them.

But, how?

I did not miss this opportunity to ask.

“I’m a dad to three girls,” I stood up and asked. “What can I, as a guy, possibly do to help them find their gifts?”

Shannon first told me something funny and true to tell my girls they have beautiful eyes. Every day.


“That’s the most common pickup line in the world,” she said. “By the time she’s old enough and boys try it on her, she’ll say, ‘oh, I know that already. My dad tells me all the time!’”

She also said something I want to share and will remember every day.

She said to make sure your daughters know you love them unconditionally. Wherever they go to college, and even if they don’t. No matter what choices they make. Or mistakes. If they marry a boy, a girl, or not at all.

We can’t assume that unconditional love is unconditionally understood.

My love for my girls is definitely unconditional – but they need to hear that.

I will tell them. Not to give them a free excuse card, but to alleviate the pressure of becoming what they’re not. To reiterate that no matter what life path they find themselves on, the love their parents have for them will not change.


Even if they invade an iguana’s personal space in a sarape they overpaid for.

And if they line up for burgers in Mexico one day?

I’ll be right behind them. With my own plate.



  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Awww to the beautiful eyes advice. Clever, true, but awww 🙂

    I have not heard the word “coconut” used this way before, now I’ve learned something.

    *sings “Low Rider” to herself…ba ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba BAH*

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I never used that line when I was a teenager – I always thought making a girl laugh was probably the best way to weaken her defenses and give me the time of day.

      My dad called me a coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside.

      1. NotAPunkRocker says:

        My son makes the girls laugh, they are the ones that tell him he has beautiful eyes. I guess that advice is good for all parents nowadays.

        LOL on the coconut explanation.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        I like when the girls like the boys’ eyes who make them laugh. That’s a victory for us!

        I feel like my skin tone is false advertising.

  2. Ann Koplow says:

    You may be lousy at postcards (I am too, by the way), but wonderful at posts. Thanks!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m surprised my kids even know what postcards are. What’s next, a telephone with a cord on it?

      Thank you Ann!

  3. I love the ending of this. No one compares to a girl’s Daddy. Mexico – ahhh, went there on our honeymoon, and Hubby certainly knew how to say, “Uno mas cerveza.” I even felt stupid saying “Gracias” to people. I think you just have to not care how dumb of an American you seem.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Being a dad is among the best jobs in the world – right there along with burger stylist and the dudes who fire free T-shirts into the crowd at sporting events.

      The approximate number of times a white woman said, “buenas dias/hola/como esta?” to me: 75.

      The approximate number of times I answered with a wholly-anglo “hey/hi/how are ya?”: 74.

  4. Jean says:

    That is awesome advice. I’m going to pass that along to my husband tonight. For good measure, we’ll also tell our son he has beautiful eyes. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It couldn’t hurt … girls can sometimes be wiley, too, you know!

  5. vitatrain4life says:

    Sounds like we’re learning the same Spanish my friend. I have no idea what I said to my Spanish speaking father last night but he looked a little disappointed. In my Spanish and me as a person. Must.Try.Harder! Of course my dad loves me unconditionally (despite the Spanish) and he has told me almost everyday for as long as I can remember. It never gets old!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      A guy at the front desk turned to someone I struggled to talk to and said, in Spanish, “this guy can’t speak Spanish?” Hey man, I can understand that much!

      You’d better Google what you said to your father. It might have had something to do with monkeys and avocados.

      Love that your dad does that. Every day. You can’t say it enough, can you?

  6. Kim says:

    Love the advice – I try to do the same with my boys – every single day!!! There is nothing that would change my love for them!!
    Sorry you’re bargaining skills weren’t quite up to the kid’s!!!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Kim, I’m not a bit surprised you do that, too.

      That’s the way they’ll grow up to be strong, loving men who know how to bargain for a sarape.

  7. MommyVerbs says:

    We can’t assume unconditional love is unconditionally understood. Nailed it. Thanks for the reminder to tell them…everyday. All the time. No matter what. One of my favorite lines is: “There is nothing you can do to make me love you less. And there is nothing you can do to make me love you more. I love you that much.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      How many times have the kids said, “well, you never told me!” (Especially after they give themselves a haircut or use Sharpie on their sisters’ faces.)

      The best way to send a message is deliver a message, especially a loving one. Who doesn’t want to hear something loving a few times?

  8. You sound like my husband with his girls too to love them unconditionally. But he too would be terrible at postcards, because he says his handwriting is like chicken scratch and I usually have to anything that requires it to be handwritten here for him!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      We just have to remember to tell them, that’s all. We men haven’t developed penmanship yet, probably won’t for another 500 years, and if we do write nice, other fellows just make fun of us anyway.

  9. I surely do try to tell all three of mine, boys too, that I love them always and without conditions. I know how much it hurts to not feel that from parents…because of that I make it a priority! Now I will start with the beautiful eyes. I am horrible at cards in general. LOL! And equally as horrible at Spanish. Great running across, the little lizard type creature…my dear hubby would have had to chase after it to try to catch it! LOL! Have a great week, Eli!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Good stuff, Stacey, and I wish you’d had a similar experience. Look at you now, though. Anyone who reads your blog knows you’re the kind of mom they’d like to have too.

      I would struggle to write a postcard-worth of writing in Spanish. Even if it included the iguana showdown, my favorite foods and a handful of spicy bad words.

      a friend told me he’d eaten iguana, and said it tasted like chicken.

      I wonder if someone on the other side of the world has ever said, “I ate chicken once. Tasted just like iguana.”

  10. tamaralikecamera says:

    The beautiful eyes line..that’s good. Really good.
    So Sabrina the Teenage Witch, huh?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Isn’t it? And true.

      Yeah, Sabrina … I went back a bit on the timeline for that one. But she’s on it. What do you think?

  11. Tracie says:

    Love the advice to make your unconditional love known. That is good stuff.

    I visited Mexico one time when I was three. While there I fell in love with a rocking chair that my parents bought for me, and then I insisted on carrying that chair around for the rest of the day. There are pictures of this day – they all make me laugh. I still have that chair.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Isn’t it? Shannon is such a revered member of our team, so I knew her advice would be golden.

      That’s awesome that you still have the chair! Did Katarina use it?

  12. laurie27wsmith says:

    Mate that sucks, having a kid get a better price on the serapes. Great advice for dads though.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      He deserves the spoils, friend. And you’re right, awesome advice for us papas out there.

  13. ksbeth says:

    i loved this post eli, and i’m proud of your efforts…. as for your girls, i think the advice was great and they are lucky to have you as their dad. stay safe and try to keep your pinatas and pina coladas straight.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks beth! I will always believe I’m the lucky one to have these stinking kids.

      You hit the pina colada and the pinata is full of good stuff – right?

      1. ksbeth says:

        you are the lucky one indeed and i suppose they are kind of lucky too. and i believe you can get hammered by messing around with either a piñata or a pina colada, or both.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        I could probably have found a piñata with pina colada in it if I looked hard enough.

  14. Dana says:

    Perfect combination of funny and sweet in this post, Eli. I paid five bucks for a Mexican blanket I in Cancun, circa 1989. The actual price was two dollars but the guy told me I had pretty eyes, so I tipped him extra. 😉

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I hope that’s as good as having salt and vinegar chips with M&Ms – but that’s sweet and salty. Wow, my people really took me for a ride, or the market on alpaca wool has taken a considerable leap.

      I must not have very pretty eyes!

      (Way to nail it on this comment – a good preview of a highly-anticipated guest post this Wednesday!)

  15. Enjoyed the post. Had a chuckle or two.
    “like a low-rider who has spotted a fine mamacita at a traffic stop” Excellent simile.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Carol. That’s what the TSA agent said too, when she went through all my stuff. Now that I read my simile in your comment, I wonder if that was a lady iguana and she thought I had nice legs.

  16. Rorybore says:

    The Quintana Roo region is gorgeous!! I love it there. Last time I was just 20 minutes away from Playa del Carmen. But that was over 10 years ago. But I paid $20 American for my Mexican blanket — it’s huge! extra big. And the colours are just as bright today. It is AWESOME! We use it every year for camping, for picnics, for in the car during winter to stay warm. Seriously…I’d wrap it around me and wear it all the time if I could. Best $20 ever.
    I didn’t have a problem with lizards — we were attacked by wild racoons. I kid not. We were eating dinner on our patio and one of the cheeky buggers actually jumped on the table and stole my dinner role. We hauled ass inside with our food. I actually have a picture of several of them with their faces pressed up against the patio door glass.
    So……I spent all that money, to travel to warm sunny south, to dine by the water……..AND, I still get pestered by the very same animal that pesters us when I go camping in Canada.
    What’ Spanish for ironic?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I feel better about getting it for about $17 then. They’re decent sized, and really comfy. Everyone in the world should have one, I feel.

      Hard to believe you’d need a blanket often, where you live.

      Don’t you know? Racoons have a network. NARACP (North American Racoons Against Canadian Picnicers). They’re a lot like the Tea Party here in the states.

      Esta muy ironico, Rory.

  17. Letizia says:

    What a wonderful reminder to tell our loved ones they are loved unconditionally. Lovely post.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      And our commenters, too, and favorite bloggers. Thanks Letizia!

  18. Becca Heflin says:

    I smiled as I remembered haggling in Cairo for a King Tut paperweight. $4 and a pack of gum.
    Middle of the post = LMAO at “This discovery doesn’t make the river any less impressive… It’s like a dream of slow-dancing to Paul Anka with Melissa Joan Hart and opening your eyes to discover it’s actually Dr. Phil.”
    Bawled like a baby at the end of the post. How I wish my dad could have been the stellar parent that you seem to be!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The gum, I presume, was the deal-maker!

      I know, it’s like, it’d be cool to meet Dr. Phil, but I was *just* dancing with Sabrina the Teenage Witch … what a rude awakening.

      Thank you so much for the final portion … I find that I stumble through many things in life, and it’s not like I don’t stumble as a father, but one look at those three girls, and there’s just nothing I wouldn’t do.

  19. I LOVE this!! Every time I come here, I feel like I am reading a really REALLY good book. Key word here: *BOOK*

    What to write about? All your observations….just like here. Robert Fulghum style. Just sayin’.

    I am telling Derek about the eyes quote- never knew that, and I love that advice more than ANYTHING else!! The unconditional love is a given but must must be constantly proved over and over again- so they really really get it.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Actually, I have three whole pages of a fiction piece this whole trip inspired. Not sure it’ll ever see the light of day, though. I haven’t touched it since I left Mexico.

      Good gracious, Robert Fulghum would be quite something to aspire to. I’ve but a mere blog.

      You’re right – it’s even better to show the kids unconditional love. Little things. Grace spilled an entire soda in the backseat of the car, and looked at me with those eyes that said she expected to be yelled at.

      I didn’t. I know it’s little, but I hope it’ll help her realize the car carpet means nothing to me compared to her.

  20. Traci says:

    I enjoyed reading this and appreciated the laugh!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I like to dish out the laughs around here, and I’ll even share my pizza if you visit at the right time.

  21. Sounds like the experience we had haggling for a smelly starfish in Cancun. I STILL can’t get the fishy smell out of it, but feel proud that I snagged it for $7. Tho I’m sure someone else along the beach probably got it for 3. I’m going to have to tell my husband to start feeding our daughter the eyes line. Great post!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I think it’s for the sport, isn’t it Gina? Find and conquer. In the Dominican Republic, I saw a man with a sack of conch shells appearing as if he were fishing them out of the sea.

      Of course, none of us tourists could find a single one.

      But he was kind enough to sell them for $25 each, if you really wanted one.

      Thanks Gina – I definitely added the eyes thing to my arsenal after she told me that.

  22. gina4star says:

    Quiubole coconut! 😛 :O
    Finally taking some time to catch myself up, and naturally had to come to the post with “Mexico” in the title first! 🙂 Love how you put things into words Eli, sometimes unconditional love isn’t necessarily unconditionally understood, or felt even, and it’s so important to remember that! ❤ As for your haggling skills, they sound about as good as mine. 😛 I'm too "guera" to haggle in Mexico and am constantly given hiked prices. And although I'm a bit more savvy than I used to be, and have even been known to throw in a "No mames, guey," (non-agressively of course) it doesn't seem to work! Also, as a carnivore, can't believe you queued up for hamburgers here! They say the food is sensational… ! Also, also, Mexico is nice, but there aren't many things as nice as Jennifer Lawrence! *total girl crush* 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You should have driven the 22 hours or so it would have taken to come visit me, Gina! Thanks. I think we forget that people do love to hear how you feel about them or appreciate them, maybe because we wish someone would tell us that, too!

      It can also just be an invitation to lunch, wave and smile. Little things say so much. “I love you no matter what” sure does, too. I’ll tell my girls tonight.

      I know, you’re at the same disadvantage in a Mexican marketplace as I am as a driver at night in the U.S.! Love that you toss in that Spanish when the call comes, too.

      I ate nothing but buffet food the entire time I was in Mexico. That’s like … geez, i can’t even think of a just comparison. That’s my big regret about Mexico.

      I should have been brave enough to call somewhere and say “reservation for one, please.” Maybe Jennifer Lawrence would also have been dining solo.

  23. Good info about lizards… I’ll keep that in mind if I’m ever in Mexico! 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Apparently, they also taste like chicken, but I didn’t get *that* close.

  24. Lauren says:

    I went to Mexico once to visit my boyfriend-now-husband, who was living there at the time. It was beautiful. I loved how everyone kissed me on the cheek…sometimes twice. I was there for Thanksgiving, so we ended up cooking a lot, but I did get my share of ceviche—YUM.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I did it wrong, Lauren – I got no cheek kisses *or* ceviche.

      I’d better go back.

  25. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    I love the beautiful eyes advice. My dad used to tell me that and then I married my husband because he told me he loves my smile so be sure to tell them that as well. And MAN!! I used to go to Mexico every year. In fact, my first wedding was held there. I miss it. I love it. I want to go back. I hope um wait. Dangit. So I just saw the date on the comment above mine. This is a repost. You’re not there RIGHT NOW are you… hm. Still I wish I were!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It is great advice, isn’t it? I think my girls take compliments well – appreciative, but not all giddy. Actually, I was in Mexico when you were commenting! I linked to this out out of one I wrote before I left. Confused yet? I had fun – right up until I found myself in the immigration office. Story for another day?

  26. theseanamethod says:

    Dads are most definitely our heroes.. and I love your quote about unconditional love not necessarily being unconditionally understand! This post was very funny.. thanks for a smile this morning!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      We try to be heroes for sure, Seana. Those we love should get a reminder now and then that we love them as they are. Glad you liked this!

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