I am calling this The Year of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and am glad to see the end of 2019. Bring on 2020! This was an emotional and financially tricky year for us at the Marvel house. There was some illness, and the loss of some friends. As far as finances, it was one appliance revolt after another at the Marvel’s 23-year-old house – I guess it was just time.
But first, some of the Good – we’ll start with LAST Christmas. Steve’s Mom, Monnie, visited with us (she lives nice and close, but it’s fun to have her stay over in the guest room) and we had a nice little Christmas celebration. Then we had a small party with some friends over in our newly designed Entertainment Room (our old living room) – read last year’s Christmas letter for details about all our Home Improvements in 2018 ( www.kerrimarvelservices.com/xmas/ ) . In mid-January, we drove down to L.A. to see my folks and had a second Christmas celebration. Roy and Angel kept all their decorations up and everything; it was great! My sister Kim came for a week, overlapping the end of our time, so it was a real Winters Reunion. Steve and I even had a chance for a quick lunch in Pasadena with my BFF Kim and her husband, Mitch. Back again at home, January also saw Steve’s sister Rhonda visit briefly, and then she and Monnie drove to Phoenix to see the Arizona clan (more of Steve’s family updates later).
One day in April, our 9.5 year-old cat Sammy shows up with a badly damaged paw. I rush him to the vet and none of us can figure out what happened; still to this day, months later, we still don’t know. The vet kept trying to warn me that it could be a burst abscess, or even cancer. But I kept saying, Let’s just see if it will heal. His paw was just kind of flayed open at the end. Sammy had to have his whole leg bandaged all the way up (to keep from biting and chewing the bandage off, as cats are pretty good at this) for about 8 weeks. Watching him try to walk around in his Rehab Center (our guest room), was kind of pathetic. Every week I took him to the vet to have a look at how much it was healing, and put a new bandage on (it’s amazing how much we spend on our pets). Then he spent a week with a cone on his head but no bandage, still locked up in his rehab room. Then he spent a week laying around downstairs on the couch, majorly distraught (but Bronn didn’t mess with him, he must have known Sammy was going through ‘his thing’). Finally, Sammy seemed interested in going outside again. But boy oh boy, does this cat have PTSD. We don’t know what happened out there with his leg, but 8 months later, and he is basically an inside cat now. Something out there scared him, and he is a much more fearful cat now. Very sad. But he still shows the occasional spit and fire of his old personality once in awhile.
Also in April, we got the news from my parents, that Mom/Angel was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 1). They caught it early (thank God, and thank Mom, for doing the self-exam!). They removed the tumor and some lymph nodes and declared her cancer-free (after lots more blood-lab work). But then to substantially reduce the recurrence rate, she elected to do 3 months of chemo, and then 20 days of radiation (the radiation is just ending this week, in December). I went down to L.A. a couple of times to check on her (and Dad, her primary care giver). As bad as it must be to go through everything that my mom is going through, I feel it is also hard on the spouse. To watch and only be able to do so much (especially when you have a woman as stoic as my mother!). My dad, Roy, has proven himself to be a real Trooper, going through all this week after week with my mom. Above are a couple of photos of Mom (in her cute scarf-hat, as she did lose her hair) at one of her Project Linus quilting days – she managed to keep up with completing her quilts for ‘Linus’, and in attending most of the Linus sewing days [big get-togethers, where everyone brings sewing machines and works on their projects – it’s a serious social (and work) scene!] I went to this one with her in Pasadena. Mom is doing well and looking forward to getting back her full head of hair.
So as you can see, this illness stuff was all mostly BAD, but got better, with time.
In January, I became an Independent LegalShield Associate. LegalShield is the world’s fastest growing provider of membership-based and app-enabled legal services for consumers. This means I market prepaid legal plans and identity protection in the form of personal and family memberships, for a company who has been doing this since 1972. They also have legal plans for businesses. I love this product and if you want to browse my company website to learn more, check it out here: www.kdmarvel.WeAreLegalShield.com. This year, I also became a certified Live Scan roller (finger prints), but worked for someone else, using her equipment. She moved to Florida, taking her Live Scan equipment with her, and I am deciding whether it would be worth it to pursue adding another income stream to all the stuff I am already doing. The equipment is VERY expensive so it’s a lot to consider. I’ll be tabling this idea until at least next summer. I am still doing work as a notary public signing agent, and am still designing websites. In fact, I just picked up a few new website customers at the notary conference from last month! If interested, view my main website at: www.KerriMarvelServices.com (where this Christmas letter is hosted, just click on the website name in the corner).
Steve is still rocking and rolling in his band, Public Eye. They learned a bunch of new songs recently when they added a new keyboard player. I managed to catch the first set at his gig earlier this month – they sounded fantastic! The photos are when he opened as a solo show for a local Journey-Foreigner tribute band. Steve ended up leaving his job in Livermore over creative differences and started a new job in May at Future Ford in Concord. It’s close (average commute is 35 to 45 minutes) and he loves working in such a vibrant city again!
Trips and Visitors (all GOOD)
Before the craziness of April, Steve and I flew to Phoenix in March. He was going for work training, and I tagged along so we could spend the weekend beforehand to see our friends Susan and Gail, who had moved outside Phoenix, to Buckeye, a couple of years earlier. While there, Gail took us to a Giants baseball training camp game, and we ran into a friend from CA, Chris! (was a groomsman in our wedding). We squeezed in some family too, when we visited Steve’s niece, Heather and her family in Gilbert. They had us over for dinner, and Gail and Susan let us borrow a car to get there. Heather made homemade pasta and ravioli and I helped a little. Rhonda’s kids, Seth and Jean Marc, and Dieulange also live in the area, so they joined us. Niece Jade couldn’t be here for this visit (lives back in Delaware). The other two boys in the photo, Eli and Christopher, are Heather and Matt’s; their third, Lily, was away out of town.
At the end of March, I went to my first annual LegalShield conference, held in Dallas, TX. Daymond John, from the Shark Tank TV show, was the keynote speaker, who was an incredible, and funny speaker. Then in May and August, was when I drove down to L.A. to check in on my folks, staying about a week each time. While I was there in May, I attended a Celebration of Life for longtime neighbor of my parents (I’ve known him since I was a kid); Nick Whalen. Nick was quite a character and will be missed. (Sister Kim overlapped this trip again, so it was another Winters Reunion). That it was over Nick’s passing is the bad, the good was that I got to see many of the other “kids” that also attended, who grew up on the block, and catch up with them a little bit. Barbara (Nick’s wife) still lives in the house across the street from my folks. In June, back at home, Steve and I attended a second Celebration of Life, for the husband of a good friend of mine, Diane. Her husband Rich passed quickly and will also be missed.
In August (besides my going to L.A.) was the annual trip to Carlsbad. We left at 1am, and drove all night, arriving at 8:30am – had breakfast and was sitting by the pool by 10am!
Best method yet of getting down there. No traffic! The weather this year was so much better than last year. We loved it!
Steve didn’t want to go, but I took myself to Balboa Park in San Diego for a bit of sightseeing. This place is a photographer’s paradise! See album of a few of my pics below.
Photos I took in Balboa Park:
In October, and again in November, I attended (and worked) Notary Symposium – I am involved with this is so many ways. It is a conference for notaries thought up by my friend Laura in Modesto 4 years ago (to bring ongoing, affordable one-day education to notaries, rather than them having to attend the larger conferences that take 2 and a half days, and are held in other states and cost far more). She brought me on to help at the beginning, starting with designing the website, and now I update and maintain it each year. I was a speaker the first two years (about websites). Nowadays, I am heavily involved with the credit card payments and registration of the attendees; plus this year, I developed a Sponsorship Program, Mini Trade Show Program, Volunteer Program, and participated as a trade show vendor at both events promoting the LegalShield products. Both involved traveling to get to the events, Irvine in October (Orange County, SoCal), and Rancho Cordova in November (North of Sacramento, NorCal). For the Irvine trip, I spent one night with BFF Kim (Dean) Valerio, then the next day on the way to Irvine, picked up a quick order of Wickie’s Bloody Good Bloody Mary concentrated mix for my Dad. Made by my friend Petter – for you local L.A. people – have a Bloody Mary at the famous Chez Jay’s in Santa Monica, where he is a bartender (made with his mix!). Also in November, I drove to L.A. once again to attend my 40th High School Reunion. Yes, you read that right, not a typo. 40 years. I dragged my BFF Kim, kicking and screaming, but she (and I) had a blast. There were only a couple of people who I couldn’t guess who they were; almost everyone looked the same to me. It was great to catch up with our high school buddies in person; I keep in touch with many of them on Facebook.
Other visitors in January besides Rhonda (Steve’s sister) was my friend Judy (the one who moved to Colorado Springs). Can you believe it, Judy and I didn’t get one single selfie! In May, my friend Babette from Alaska came for a quick visit. I took her cherry picking. She snuck a bunch of cherries on the plane to take home. Diane and John from Petaluma came in November; we dragged them off to the OktoberFest here in downtown Brentwood. Pretty fun. Diane and I laughed at the boys getting pictures in a photo booth, but then had to laugh at ourselves later, as we managed to not get any other photos of the four of us at all.
UGLY Financial Woes, or, Revolt of the Appliances
Besides Sammy and his endless bandages (and vet bills) that I already mentioned, our Air Conditioning here at the house broke down in JULY for a week, while temps hovered around 100, waiting for a part to come in. We asked the HVAC company to patch it together and hoped for the best. Then in August, our microwave oven was on its last legs, so we had to replace it. In November, the furnace in the attic completely died. So back out comes the HVAC company to replace the whole enchilada, furnace, coil, thermostats, plus we got something called an Air Scrubber. The furnace is so much more efficient, it’s like being in a new house again. I can’t wait to see what the A/C feels like this summer! But I’m not done yet. In December, the hot water tank in the garage died. So here comes the plumber. We got lucky though; didn’t have to replace the whole thing, just a part. Whew!
Last year it was the fires. This year, for some weeks, we had the threat hanging over the Bay Area from PG&E about shutting down our power due to high winds. Our power in Brentwood was never shut down, but some cities lost power for days. I can not imagine the expense of a business, like a restaurant (like I used to have) of the loss of perishables. And for most businesses, of the loss of income or productivity, having no electricity. Our electricity and natural gas provider, PG&E, is another reason I’d like to move to Northern Nevada!
Home Improvements – Definitely Good
I finally managed to get the gym flooring installed! We love working out in there, when we get to it, LOL.
Miscellaneous GOOD things
We threw a Super Bowl party in our Entertainment Room. I don’t remember who played but it was fun to have everyone over. We went to our friends’, Colleen and Matt’s for Thanksgiving. The food was awesome. We hadn’t seen them for awhile so it was good to catch up. They just bought a house in Idaho; but are not moving, YET. Our cat, Nintu, (the black one) is still with us. We thought we were going to lose him after his heart threw a clot that lodged in his shoulder (his front leg had no circulation and just hung there). He had lots of symptoms (including feeling like a little skeleton) so after multiple tries at the diagnosis, it turns out he also has thyroid disease (in addition to heart disease), and now I rub medicine on the underflap of his ears twice every day, and he is in a good holding pattern. It’s just terrible how attached to these silly animals we all get, isn’t it? Monnie went to Phoenix again earlier this month, meeting up with her daughter Rhonda again, and her grandchildren. It was a good trip for her to see her grandkids, although poor Rhonda had the flu pretty bad. We got to keep Monnie’s dog while she was gone, just as we did when she flew back East for an extended trip with Rhonda (they started in South Carolina, then drove up to Delaware to see old friends).
Speaking of family, quick update. Steve’s sister, Rhonda, and fiancé Terry are still in Myrtle Beach, SC; Rhonda enjoys her work as a massage therapist in Resort Spas that are part of big hotel chains. No change from last year in where her kids (our nieces and nephews) are living and what they’re doing (oldest daughter back in Delaware, the other three are in the Phoenix area). As far as my family, you’ve already heard about my Mom’s ordeal this year. Her and Dad are making their way through, and look forward to 2020 being less hectic and stressful. My sister Kim, and Darrel are still in South Carolina, both still working. Nephew Chris got married to Taylor last year (we went; see photos in last year’s letter) and they bought a house near my sister. And then this year, my other nephew, Kyle (and his girlfriend Kelly) also bought a house! And got a puppy! Darrel is having some pretty serious heart health issues, and is scheduled for treatments later this month. Please send good thoughts their way that it goes well, does the trick, and he has a speedy recovery.
Last year, I mentioned only our dog and not our cats! We have all four of them still, though two are getting ‘older’. The oldest cat, Bella, at 15 has a little arthritis but is in good overall health. She spends most of her days sleeping in our room and never ventures outside anymore, just our room and the upstairs hallway. Nintu, as previously mentioned is 12 and is doing well on his meds. He basically lives in my office (the door is always open), and crawls onto my keyboard and lays on my hands several times a day. Sammy is the one who got hurt this year; he’s inside about 90%, living mostly upstairs to avoid the dog. Other than the PTSD, he’s doing very well. Blanca is the youngest at 8 and is still full of piss and vinegar. When we got her at about 1, she was quite the little bully, and she still is. She is perplexed that she can’t control the dog. Bronn, our German Shepherd is oblivious to her bullying tricks and just thinks she is trying to play with him. None of the cats (or even Bella, Monnie’s dog) want to play with him. He is 86 pounds of obnoxious muscle and has a steel head; but sweet as can be and cares about everybody. Even the neighborhood possum. He knocks it off the fence as the possum is scurrying along and when the possum ‘plays dead’ (they are VERY good at this), Bronn brings him in the house to us and plops it on the family room floor while we are watching TV. Hilarity ensues. We just love him!
The weekend before Christmas, Steve, Monnie and I are treating ourselves to a night in The City (San Francisco). We have tickets to see the new Cirque Du Soleil show, have a nice dinner, then spend the night at a big hotel on Union Square. That will get us in the Christmas mood! And….My Mom and Dad plan to venture up to Brentwood for the holiday – in fact they plan to drive up ON Christmas and stay through New Year’s! I’m so happy that they’ll be here! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…..
Goodbye last year of the decade, we’re done with you ‘teen’ years – Looking forward to the “Twenties”….2020, 2021, 2022 and so on. I personally am looking forward to 2020 – bring it on!
If you’d like to read last year’s letter, here’s the link: https://www.kerrimarvelservices.com/xmas/
And as always, we wish you HEALTH, Wealth, Joy and Happiness in the coming year. We are thankful for our friendships with our families and friends.
With love, hugs from us to you, Kerri and Steve,
and the Pets, Bronn (2.5), Bella (15.5), Nintu (12.5), Sammy (9.5), Blanca (8)
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