Christmas 2019

Feliz Navidad Once Again!

Hola, everybody!

I’m still Rocky and I’m back with another exciting (sic) Christmas newsletter! Specifically, this is the 2019 annual Christmas newsletter, and the seventh (!) one I’ve written.

One happy note that didn’t make last year’s newsletter due to crushing deadlines - Mom and Dad finished off 2018 with their annual Christmas cruise but they weren’t alone for once! Our niece, nephew and great nephews, the Pennsylvania Strauss clan met them in New Orleans and cruised along with them, which means it was an actual family cruise - the one thing Mom assumed would never happen again (see the Alaska cruise from last year’s newsletter - you do save these, don’t you?)

We just found out that the Strausses have a photo of them with Mom and Dad on their Christmas card, so they’re all still speaking! Mom immediately started planning whom to ask along next. Dad immediately started looking for the Tylenol.

One very sad note - We lost my big brother Murphy this year. Murphy joined our family in 2006 and crossed the bridge in February. He was my mentor for Christmas newsletter writing, and I was proud to take over from him. I should say that I have never received complaints on my newsletter like he did. (This may be because I never actually met Aunt Mary, so I’m not sure if she’s cheap with the treats.) I am now the only one left who can do the newsletter, because Katie can’t type and nobody wants Dad to do it again.

Now, the 2019 year in review countdown, starting at five, because I’m short.

Five colors - Mom can’t decide on a hair color. This year, it has been Natural (that’s what it says on the bottle), purple and blue, brown and green, and brown and pink. Now, it’s brown and blonde. I’m waiting for her to dye me to match.

Four concerts - After Mom and Dad saw Sir Elton John in 2018 - he was on his “retirement” tour, which has now been extended into the foreseeable future. After that, they started making a list of “people to see before they’re gone.” So, this year, they saw Sir Paul McCartney for the fourth time (first time at a baseball stadium) and Billy Joel (who has been on his final tour longer than Mom and Dad have been married) for the third time (at the same stadium as Sir Paul.) They saw Phil Collins for the first time, who sat down the entire concert (but sounded good.) They finally saw The Rolling Stones after the first date was postponed so Sir Mick Jagger could have a heart valve replaced. (Mom and Dad went to Houston anyway, because they had so many side plans.) They will see The Who next year, since Roger Daltrey blew out his voice and postponed the show this year. I’m not sure if “before they’re gone” means before they retire or before they pass on. So, four should have been five, but Roger Daltrey couldn’t sing this year.

Three cruises - Mom and Dad will have taken three cruises by the end of this year. This seems excessive to me, since I never get to go on any of them. (You think with all my silly costumes, Mom would get me a companion dog vest.) The first one was in February, for their 19th anniversary, but they were celebrating some of their friend’s 25th anniversary, so they were out-married. They sailed on the Norwegian Bliss, the same ship they sailed to Alaska in 2018. Alaska has very early (and long) excursions, so Mom and Dad needed naps, and they never saw that much of the ship.

Their second cruise was in May, over Memorial Day, and it was very confusing. Mom and Dad usually plan cruises very far in advance (they already have three more cruises booked, including a cruise in 2021), so this was a last-minute decision. Mom had decided she would finally try a cruise line besides Norwegian for Christmas, and Dad selected MSC, which is a European line. MSC status-matches in their loyalty program, so Dad status-matched them years ago. With the match, Mom and Dad went from nobodies to Diamond (the highest level) just by sending in a copy of their Norwegian Cruise Line Platinum Plus cards. They were all ready to be Diamond at Christmas, when MSC said their status-match was going to expire in the middle of June unless they sailed somewhere, so they took a cruise just to keep their status. So, Corporate Marketing Program 1, Mom & Dad 0. They were on the MSC Seaside which is one of MSC’s largest ships, and went to some of the very same ports the Norwegian Bliss had visited. (There are only so many Caribbean ports where the larger ships can dock). Mom doesn’t mind because she likes the different ships and she likes going back to her favorite stores. Dad wants a yacht so he can go where he wants.

They will be sailing on the MSC Divina for Christmas, and will be sailing almost the same route as in May. Again, it’s the ship, not the ports, or as the sailors say, “Any port in a storm”.

Two Ohio visits - Mom & Dad visited the Ohio branch of the family (J. R., Ginger, Caleb, Carson and Ellie) twice this year. They visited in the summer to see what Ohio was like in (somewhat) warm weather, and then went back for Thanksgiving to freeze to death. On Black Friday, Mom made sixteen tons of lasagne. She said it was the smallest recipe she had, so she couldn’t bring me any to try.

Two jobs (bonus) - Dad had two jobs this year. His IBM Watson project at Caterpillar for TEKsystems was canceled in October, and sometime in November, someone in Caterpillar Accounting noticed they were still paying for him. (Dad had been moved to two other concurrent projects in the meantime.) Since he was the only expense left on a dead project, they terminated his contract. Two weeks later, he started working at Alderson Loop, a consulting company, on another IBM Watson project. Here’s hoping this one lasts.

One degree - Dad finished his Master’s program in December, and graduation was December 12th! He has completed a Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management from Our Lady of the Lake University. It was an online program, so he went to graduation mainly to actually meet his classmates, and see the campus. Mom made him attend graduation so she can see a bunch of people in robes and funny hats. Apparently, she’s never seen Dad on the weekend, or ever paid attention at Walmart.

His Masters will be helpful as he continues to gently tell SCORE clients that nonprofits are not designed to be profit centers.

As usual, Mom is planning cruises and Ohio visits for next year. Dad is starting another pool for the date when Mom will meet her deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket limit - and it is harder to cheat, since with Dad’s job change, their insurance has changed.

Next February 11th is Mom and Dad’s twentieth wedding anniversary. Mom says she can’t believe it’s been that long. Dad says if he would have poisoned her on their wedding night, he’d be getting out about now. So, romance is not dead. They are going on a … wait for it … cruise to celebrate, but it will be their first Royal Caribbean cruise, sailing from Galveston on the Liberty of the Seas.

My goal for next year is to have the newsletter done early. It was done before Mom started getting cranky this year, so that’s progress. It will be my eighth edition, so you think I would have it down by now, especially since it’s just cruise, Ohio, surgery.

See you next year! If you have any comments, my email is [email protected] - I love to hear from people!