Season’s Greetings, Family and Friends!
If you’re like me, you love getting annual holiday letters in the mail. There’s nothing like coming in the front door with your mail at this time of year, setting your purse and everything down, opening the cards, and looking forward to catching up with those that you may not have the chance to do so all year. I love to read them. I love to write ours. It’s a lot of work – and we send ours to about 65 recipients (down from about 90 some years ago). But this year, I thought let’s save the printer’s color toner, and try it on the web. I can include so many more photos this way!
So if you’re here reading this, you took the leap to try reading our annual holiday letter in this new digital format. Thank you for giving it a try. I was running behind on getting it written (I’ve been sick with a bad cold), so that’s why I gave myself until noon on Christmas Eve to get it done. For this year, I put it on my own website, but who knows, maybe next year (or the year after that), we’ll have our own Marvel Family website. Or here’s another idea, I’ve always wanted to create a website of all my recipes; maybe the Christmas letters could go in there. We’ll keep you posted.
Because I wasn’t limited to how many words a piece of paper could hold, I might have gone a little wild with catching you all up – this may be longer than usual. Pull up a chair, grab a beverage, and I hope you enjoy reading our account of the last year.
Okay, let’s dive in to what 2018 meant to us
The first and probably biggest event to affect both our lives is that, as mentioned in last year’s letter, Steve got a new job (doing the same thing as before) much closer to home. He started January 2 at Livermore Ford-Lincoln as the Director of Fixed Operations (manager over Service, Parts, Detail Shop). It used to take him about 2 to 2.5 hours to get to work, and the same to get home when he worked in Fremont (he did this for 10 years, and the commute grew every year). Now however it takes him, on average, about 45 minutes each way! This has greatly affected everyone in the house, even the pets. He doesn’t come home and kick the dog any more. Just kidding! But Steve was turning into a zombie, so this is a very good thing. The job is the same in every way; he’s managing people, so there is always drama, and dealing with an irate customer or two, and factory people and their endless meetings. Speaking of factory people, the dealership brought on Maserati and Alfa Romeo car lines this month – Exciting!
We had two major stand-out trips, both for weddings in the great state of South Carolina.
The first one was in March, in Charleston, for Steve’s cousin, Alyson (technically his second cousin, daughter of his cousin Tammy). Alyson Cox married a guy named Austin Cox – crazy, right? She doesn’t even have to change her name! (Steve reunited with this side of the family last year when he and his mom, Monnie, took a trip to West Virginia to attend a Mountaineers college football game.) It was a beautiful wedding held at a country plantation, right on a river. The reception was fun because all the wedding couple’s 20-something guests were not only dancing to mostly 80s (and some 90s) songs, but knew ALL the lyrics too! I was amazed. The day before the wedding, the two families held a brunch at Alyson and Austin’s 3-story home. I noticed something odd about the houses on their street – the bottom floor (which is a garage) doesn’t have walls, just these slat-type boards. They build them this way in case of flooding from rains. I had never seen this before so it was very interesting to me. The brunch was delicious and we stuffed ourselves with all the fantastic potluck foods, from eggs to waffles to sandwiches to mac-n-cheese to sliders – the list was endless. The weird thing is that who could have guessed years and years after Steve and I were together, that our sisters (my Kim, his Rhonda) would now both live in South Carolina? So for the first time since our wedding, we got to take a picture of Kim and Rhonda together.
Catch-up on Steve’s family
Rhonda is living near Myrtle Beach, SC with her fiancé Terry; we got to meet him during this trip. Rhonda just became certified as a massage therapist and esthetician. Rhonda’s oldest, Jade, is living and working in Wilmington, DE and is engaged to her longtime beau Dan. Jean Marc and DeeDee are living in an apartment in Tucson, AZ; both working and DeeDee is going to college. Seth lives in Phoenix and works at Infineon Semi-conductor.
Monnie is doing great (Steve’s Mom). She lives near us at Quail Lodge in Antioch and we see her often. Our dog Bronn and her dog Bella are finally getting used to each other. Monnie had a pacemaker put in in February and turned 78 this year, but she makes most 60-year-olds look old. Still doing her stylish thing, and keeps very busy with her friends and all the amenities and trips and such offered at Quail Lodge. Her and I will play a mean game or two of Hand-and-Foot whenever we get together (a canasta type card game).
Our dog, Bronn, at a year and 7 months, is now an ‘80lb toddler’, with a head made of cement. When he is in one of his velociraptor moods, watch out! Keep all arms and legs in, and watch you don’t bump heads – it hurts! We tried to put him in puppy boot camp last January for a month, but had to pick him up on Day 9 due to an injury (too long a story for here). So he needs more training, and with his newer maturity, we’ll begin his training regimen again next month with a new dog trainer, and hope for some lasting change.
The Second Wedding
At the end of May, we headed back to South Carolina for my nephew Chris’ wedding to Taylor. Another beautiful wedding in the country with a reception in a big, repurposed barn. Very cool. Chris had bought a house (5 minutes from his mother, my sister) a few months before the wedding for he and Taylor to live. The night before our flight home, they had us over for a tour. Great one-story home with a big backyard.
Catch-up on my family
My nephew Kyle graduated from college this year, and moved out for the first time with his girlfriend Kelley. I believe I remember hearing Kyle was promoted this year, so both nephews had momentous years. Kyle and Kelley proudly gave me a tour of their new digs which they were still putting some of the finishing touches on. I remember seeing some unusual pets; a lizard or snake or two.
Which leaves poor Kim and Darrel as empty-nesters; I’ve heard this can be very difficult. But I’m hoping both Chris and Kyle step up to the plate and plan lots of visits, back and forth at all the houses to keep everyone looped in on all the current plans. (hear that boys?) Maybe everyone can take turns with Sunday dinner? Okay, I’ve said my piece.
My parents, Roy and Angel, are both doing well. They drove out to S. Carolina for the wedding, staying at Kim’s, and then attending a family reunion on my Dad’s side, somewhere in the South. Dad keeps busy with projects, and lunches two-to-three times a week in Burbank with his retired work cronies. In fact, while I was down there after attending a WordCamp in San Diego, I went along to lunch too (and Mom came). Most evenings at home finds them competing with each other at Hand-and-Foot. They drove up to Brentwood in November (after the floor was finished downstairs, more on this later), and the week went by way too fast. Dad helped Steve get the TVs in our newly established Entertainment Room wired, and helped me move my desk from one side of the room to the other (moving my computer and networked devices in the process). I get to look out the window on the neighborhood now – love it.
My sister Andra and the last nephew on the list, Erik, still live in Santa Monica. Erik is now 8 and just finished 2nd Grade. She and Erik are quite the jetsetters, spending time this year in England and Norway. I’m hoping they’ll find their way up to Brentwood in 2019.
Other Visits and Trips
My friend Judy came out for a visit in March, she had lots of friends to visit but I got to spend some time with her. In June, Steve and I drove to Minden, Nevada for a weekend with our friends, Matt and Colleen. Steve and Matt were playing in a golf tournament in South Tahoe, and Colleen and I went around with a realtor looking at Carson City houses, just to further test the waters there (we went a year ago too). Steve and I aren’t ready to move yet, but are thinking of getting out of California, and the area from Reno-Sparks-Carson City appeals to us. There’s no state income tax, and everything is less expensive than CA. Plus, they have weather that veers from very cold, to no hotter than the low 90s. They have some snow, but not too much. I like that the area feels like a frontier town.
We took our annual trip to Carlsbad and stayed at the beach. The weather was more humid than we can ever remember (pretty awful). Even the locals were complaining about it. Kim and Mitch came down from Pasadena to see his brother Dean, and Dean’s wife Leslie. So the six of us went out a couple of times having a grand ole time, including one day spent on the beach.
October brought Kim up to Brentwood (part of a longer road trip for her); I got to see her on the way up and back again. Also in October, Steve and his friend Bob flew to Green Bay, Wisconsin to see the Packers play against the 49ers. They were both rooting for the Packers, both being big-time fans.
This year we decided we should start downsizing the amount of stuff we have in order to make moving (when that happens) a little easier on us. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were in a construction zone. We moved our boat out of dry storage, and back into the garage (mostly to save some money). That caused a tidal wave of events in itself as we had to get everything at the back of the storage unit out also. So we put the big oak bar (and bar stools) that used to be at Gooseberry Fool Café into our newly designated Entertainment Room (which was previously our formal living room, and after having sold all the furniture that used to be in this room). Steve moved out of his downstairs studio/office to an upstairs extra bedroom (losing a guest room in the process), so we could move the workout equipment (big elliptical machine and some free weights) out of the garage (where the boat now lurks). Looking at the floors, we realized maybe now is the time to get rid of the carpet in two rooms downstairs and get new tile. So then we were in a construction zone for the next 2 months. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did (long story, but it involved firing Home Depot, and finding someone else) but our downstairs looked like a war zone for weeks. Getting the old light-colored 12×12 tile out was a real process; this was the tile we picked out 21 years ago when we bought the house back in ’97. The new tile is 18×18, and much darker (so you can’t see dirt and pet hair!) and turned out beautiful. The baseboards had all been removed and replaced but not painted yet so we had to wait a couple of weeks until the painter we hired was available (in the meantime some of the furniture was in funny places). We had the painter remove wallpaper in one of the baths, and put texturizing on the walls in two baths, and paint 4 bedrooms and the laundry room (and the baseboards). So war zone again. In this whole process, as furniture and stuff was moved out and back into rooms, Steve and I tried to go through it, organizing and cleaning out. We made a difference, based on what was thrown out or given away, and yet I feel we didn’t get deep enough. Uggh!
Other Updates and News
I’m sure everyone has heard about the devastating fires in Paradise, Magalia and other nearby towns this Autumn. Smoke from these fires about 3 hours away from us hung over the Bay Area for weeks. Some days you didn’t want to go outside, you couldn’t even see down the street! It affected some people’s asthma terribly, and made basic allergies much worse. I had a headache for what felt like weeks. Not seeing the sun or a clear sky for that long a time made it all the more depressing. Here is a photo on a better than average day; brighter than was usual, although the sun could not make actual shadows.
Steve’s band, Public Eye, is still doing gigs, and Steve still does some solo shows. They played at the horse race-track inside the Alameda County Fairgrounds (and at the Fairgrounds) a few times this year; that was new. Dan, a friend we met through Matt and Colleen, plays a mean harmonica, and Steve and Dan played a couple of gigs together.
I moved out of my cute little office I was renting in May; it just wasn’t worth the overhead. I’m still working towards making my home office more user-friendly (less stuff, more efficient). The notary loan signing assignments slowed up considerably, but website work picked up, especially the last 6 months of the year.
Did you know our town of Brentwood is known for its corn and cherries? The corn grows in shifts all summer, all over Brentwood, but the cherries are only available for a few weeks in May. Every year, I usually manage to get out at least once to do some cherry picking. Sometimes you even get to see some blue eggs in a nest, nestled in the branches of a cherry tree!
This Christmas finds us sticking close to home. Monnie is visiting with us for several days. We had a little party in our new Entertainment Room yesterday; I made my famous 3-Bean Turkey chili. Football was on but most of us talked through it. I am still getting over a cold so didn’t enjoy the day like I would have liked. Steve and I plan to make a trip to L.A. in January to see my folks; we’ll exchange Christmas gifts then. It’ll be fun to extend the holidays. Steve’s sister Rhonda is also planning a short visit to CA next month.
This letter might be a little too long for some of you; maybe I’m just a frustrated wanna-be writer and this is my only expression. I hope you enjoyed seeing the extra photos.
As always, wishing you and your families joy, peace, health and wealth in the coming year. We are so thankful for our friendships with both family, and friends.
With Love & Hugs, Kerri and Steve, and Bella, Sammy, Blanca, Nintu and Bronn (the pets)