Christmas, 2019

Hello Family and Friends!

When sitting down to compose and sum up the year for our annual Holiday Letter, it is a session of re-familiarizing myself with the site – FTP, HTML, getting the structure and uploads in place. Frankly, while frustrating, it keeps the mind fresh. I keep saying (every year) ... "I'm going to get back into this and tweak the site". Life has a way of pushing that back. Nonetheless, we push on to what really matters. What really mattered this year was a few things - most significantly and sadly, Dad passed in January.

Sunday, January 16th. Pretty typical day – but at 6pm my phone rang. It was Stacey – 20 years as my step-mom – who was holding vigilance over my father. It was not terribly shocking, as he had been mentally gone for a few months now. It was a matter of time and he was 89, afterall. Back on my birthday, I had posted about this back in 2018.

I told Tina.
I went into Elyce’s room where she was on her computer doing homework. I told her.
I told Gavin.
It was all a little numbing. Again - not suprising, but just ... numbing. It was very surreal, frankly. I think we all imagine what such a moment would be like and I just felt ... I don't know ... like I was watching?

I keep thinking of when Dad shared with me that his father had passed. We were outside on the patio on another hot, humid day in Houston way back. I remember how he seemed so distant and lost, which was weird for me as a kid. I just remember him saying "I've got to go" - then he flew to England to take care of things. It was a moment that still sticks with me - especially now. I could relate.

The next morning I got into my car and made the trip east to help Stacey. Funeral was going to be the next Saturday, but she was alone at the time and I thought my father would appreciate that. I know I would.

The point where it really hit was the afternoon when I first arrived in Austin - when Stacey handed me Dad’s jacket (along with a few boxes) to take to Goodwill. It was this jacket – pictured when he and Stacey came out to NM when Tina and I were still ‘dating’ back in '96.

Dad, Me, Tina - 1996. The Jacket. Peter and Suzanne - sorting about 10 decades of photos

When I saw it, it hit me. And now it was going to Goodwill. I remember driving to Goodwill that day - very sad and resentful. Resentful that this article of my father's that I remember so distinctly -going back 25 years- was now going to end up on the racks of the local Goodwill. Is that all we are? Yeah - I get it. we aren't defined by our material goods. And I get that there are spiritual beliefs. And I get that there are legacies that are much deeper and much more significant than a jacket. But at that time, seeing the jacket just brought things back to me. If you've experienced a similar loss, you know. Material things can bring back some pretty heavy emotions.

Peter and Suzanne drove up from Houston a day later, and we spent a good amount of time going through Dad’s office. Sorting pictures, pulling out items that we remembered as kids, rehashing memories. We spent quite a bit of time together - away from our own respective families - to be with each other. We had lunch, dinner. It was neat and a special time for me. We each took home an item that we wanted to remember Dad by – I brought home his Union Jack flag. Dad always flew that flag on holidays as we were growing up (I’ve since had it framed). He flew it right next to the american flag - especially on the 4th. It was his way of reminding our neighbors that, while now American-ized, he still wanted everyone to know he was 'a Brit'. Kind of a jack-ass, screw you mentallity (my interpretation, at least) that I admired and still do. That stubborness is certainly a trait that I adopted and encourage.

I took home boxes of photos – from the early 1900s to current, sorted by decade, to scan and archive (I told Suzanne and Peter that I had a high-speed photo scanner that would be perfect for archiving all of these photos from our past). I will admit that life has been very busy [as usual, right?] since, and I haven't hit the pace I've wanted to get this done. Photos are safe and it will happen shortly.

But there was more than photos. There were multiple albums of postcards that Dad had sent home in the 60s and 70s when he was traveling abroad. I did not realize just how extensive his travels were - there are 100s (maybe a thousand or more?) of cards. He must have sent a card back to Mom and us from each city he was traveling to - it was very revealing to see not just the extent of his travels but the emotions and thoughts he had during his travels and being away from his family. Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, Western Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia, Russia- freakin' EVERYWHERE. It was mind blowing to see the extent of his travels. Cards from Houston - when he was being recruited by Mars to move the family from the UK to the states. "Miss you so much", "Can't wait to be home", "Be Patient", "How are the kids?". Reading these cards made me realize how things were before Mom passed in the 70s. You can see a totally different side of Dad when reading these cards and, well - how devastating Mom's suicide was to our family. It devestated him, ended those postcards, and put our family in jeopardy. It explains a lot for me. While the times thereafter were very hard and haunting ... I think it impacted who I am today. I guess that is a positive way of looking at it. But these volumes of postcards I cherish already. Makes me wonder what it would have been like without losing Mom those years ago.

Postcards from Dad - 2 of 1,000s! The Beast being built

As mentioned upon opening of this year's update. I started ‘tinkering’ with the desktop PC just after last year's update in December. I started with some software, then slowly melted down to where I was digging into the case, replacing drives, by New Years ended up with hard-drives strewn about the office and my computer in pieces.

I will spare you the story; however, after admitting defeat I came to the realization it was time to rebuild my system. A few aging components spoke to the need. So … I used to get recommendations on how the new beast should be built. I was determined to have the fastest and best one I've ever built (this is my 5th?). Fast-forward a few weeks and I had all of my parts. I wanted the best cpu out – the i9. Of course, I built around that (the ‘brain’). Water-cooled. 4 SSDs (10 Terrabytes). 32g RAM. And a top-speed video card. Of course, I don’t really ‘sit around’ and tinker with my PC like I used to – but as the parts came in and I was building it, it came to a point to fire it up. No go. Again – time is fleeting these days. I felt like I had a quality build but just needed a day or two to troubleshoot it so it could 'post' (load the operating system). I didn't feel patient enough to do that - so on the way out of town to a company meeting, I dropped it by a local PC shop – "get it to boot, that is all".

When at the meeting a few days later, I called the shop to ask how we were doing. "Not there. We think the motherboard is bad". No way, I thought. I built that machine very carefully - the motherboard was fine. I cancelled and said I would pick up when I returned home. Determined, I spent a Sunday checking connections, reseating RAM, etc. Finally got it to go (it's always the RAM!). Then (since I had replaced every hard—drive with Solid State, I had to reinstall everything. A new beginning, I muttered during that weekend. Fast-forward to now, I can reflect that that seemed so long ago and I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the PC any longer. It is running like butter (screaming fast!) and thinking back to those weeks earlier in the year provides a sense of accomplishment. Much is the same for many other projects around the house, through the course of the year.

Taking it all in, we’ve all done a lot this year. But still, I sit here on a Sunday morning having to reinstall FTP software, correcting links, downloading the site – so I can update for the annual Holiday Letter. But ... it keeps my mind fresh. I have been perusing old Holiday Updates [and I have work to do to correct some links, etc - also, will be changing our hosting site over the course of the next few weeks] and it is interesting to see how things change, things stay the same.

Elyce turned 16 this year (working on the license/car thing), Gavin is 14 and angsty. As Elyce nears college thoughts, she stresses too much. I get it - but we try to assure her that such stress is over-rated. Degrees and College are important; yet, aren't defining. Life Finds a Way. Gavin ... he continues to do very well in school, as well. Lucky - as much as Tina and I feel like we struggled at that age, they just do well. Not sure how that has happened. Lucy is getting grayer - and so are Tina and I. Wally is still hissing at Ozzy. No real changes there. Tina continues to volunteer at the schools. I continue to travel and work. On the weekends, I still work on tasks around the house. Finished my desk, looking for new woodworking challenges. PetSmart continues to be a company I love to work for as an Ops Director - I still wake up every day very thankful to be a part of such a great team and mission. Tina doubts I will ever retire; however, I do look way ahead and think about that prospect one day. I can't say it is an 'ambition' of mine and do feel it is a ways off. Regardless, I'm trying to figure out what that will look like one day. Not sure. I love what I do and who knows.

Spring Break we flew to the northwest – Seattle and Portland. Had been promising for a while now to the kids that we would return to see where we used to live and where Elyce was born. We flew out early on a Saturday. Dropped Lucy off at the pet hotel, drove towards the airport. There was traffic. On a Saturday? That was odd. The exit to the airport was backed up. As the car crawled forward, we saw police, who were flagging down cars and diverting traffic. When we got to the officer in our lane, he said “airport closed, please turn left”. Whu? Power Outage. Um. Okay. We circled the area for a bit, trying to figure out what to do. Went to the local hotel and had coffee. We still had time … but it would be close. Day One in Seattle was pretty open (no reservations apart from hotel), so if we arrived in the late PM we would be okay. But the flight was about 4 hours … if we couldn’t make it by this afternoon, there would certainly be 'costly' issues. About two hours later, the lanes opened up and we rushed to catch our plane. Got there just in time - but it was a crazy morning.

ABQ Airport after power outage. On way to catch plane (2 hours late) Public Market in Seattle Gavin and Elyce at the "Gum Wall" in Seattle

Lunch on the train from PDX to SEA Donuts at VooDoo in Portland

In February, my “Check Engine” light went on in my RC. I did notice some RPM hiccups – nothing big … just could see the needle on the tachometer bounce a little more than usual. Took it into the dealership in April. Here’s how the call went …

“Mr Foxley – this is Robert from Lexus. You have a minute?”
"Sure – what’s the verdict?”
"Well … got some not-so-great news."

Engine Blown.

$9,850 later (out of warranty - I've had it less than 2 years, but mileage >50k) the engine was replaced. Fun! Don't get me started on this process - it took 3 months and I went through 2 loaners. The last one's (a 2019) fuel pump blew as I was entering the freeway in El Paso TX. Here we are getting towed in 100 degree temps, no AC in the tow truck.

Freakin' Lexus Loaner #2 getting towed in El Paso TX Camping in Pecos NM

In August, Troy and the fam came out to northern NM for a summer trip - I convinced him to get away from the resort stay for a night, and he and his son came camping with Gavin and I. We went to Pecos, by the river. Fished and spent a night in the tent. It was great seeing him and Ethan. But I fell while wading/fishing in the river that day - right on my butt-bone. Didn't realize the pain until a few days later. Wasn't going away. Faced with a company meeting in the NW where I would be sitting in a conference hall for a few days on a chair, I went to the doc for some help with the pain. He gave me some pain killers - and then let me know that my ass probably would be hurting for about THREE MONTHS - nothing he could do (can't put my ass in a cast). It is December and it still hurts to sit. Crazy!

October - we drove to SW Colorado - Durango and Ouray - for the weekend. AMAZING! Snowed the first night in Ouray. Drove to Silverton/Durango. Went to Mesa Verde. Highlight was taking the Durango/Silverton railroad. WOW! I have video ... took my GoPros and am still putting together (I hired a narrator who provided voice-over. Seriously - it's awesome. He's some old western dude so the narration fits well) ... should be posting to YouTube soon. An amazing experience, that was! Although when we went to the train station it was 30 degrees out - and smart Dave had purchased open-air tickets on the train ... but failed to pack hats/scarves. We ended up spending about $200 on tacky tourist hats/gloves/blankets at the station prior to the train leaving. Nice. Oh well.

Mesa Verde in Colorado Tina starting the Holiday Baking ... Lucy assisting?

Tina continues the Cookie tradition in December for the Holidays - she bakes about 50 dozenish cookies for all of my stores every year. I will drive (am in El Paso as I write this, delivering) to my stores the week prior to Christmas to deliver and thank everyone for what they do. They love it - she does such a great job! I was reflecting on this the other night - I think we've done this since our days back in Santa Fe when I managed my first store with Kinko's. I felt bad for my employees who worked on the holiday, so we would deliver homemade cookies to them on Christmas. It's been done every year since regardless of my role. Love doing it and Tina is so awesome for what she does.

Well - there is always more but will cut it here. Hope you had a great year and please keep in touch. Drop a line if you're bored. But have a great Holiday and an Awesome 2020!

Our Best -
Dave, Tina, Elyce, Gavin. Lucy, Wally, and Ozzy.