As I do each and every December, I sat down to write about the past year, and all its up and downs, reflecting on whether it was a good year, or a bad year. 2017 must be categorized as both. For Houston, it was both a great year, and a terrible one. For me and my family, it was a pretty good year as well; not too much adversity, but of course it can’t last.
Looking back over the months of 2017, there are some themes that stand out. My year revolved around three things, really: Ireland, the Astros, and the weather. Of course, there were plenty of day-to-day things that occurred, too, but overall, it was the Big Three (no connection to This Is Us) that really affected the year. So allow me to recap the year, from my perspective:
Travel & Vacation
In February (2/17), Jenny and I applied for US Passports for the first time. We’d talked about doing it for years, but finally got around to it, as it was the first (and necessary) step toward taking our dream trip to Ireland. We were surprised to receive our Passports just 2 weeks later in the mail, but excited as well. With that accomplished, we began planning for our trip in full. I put together wishlists of where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and a Google Map of all the places in Ireland we wanted to visit. It was clear it was a packed itinerary, and that we likely wouldn’t be able to see it all, but we were excited. It was our first international trip. We left Houston on 9/28, landing the morning of 9/29 in London, before eventually making our way to Dublin later in the day, and began exploring. 12 days and 13 night later, we flew back to Houston, returning home weary, but happy. The trip went well, and we got to see nearly everything planned. On October 30th, after working for weeks on it, I posted our Travel Video to YouTube, in 5 parts (mainly due to the length). The total video was over an hour long, but there was so much we saw and did, it was difficult to condense it without leaving out far too much. Still, I’m very happy with how it turned out. My video creation skills have improved immensely throughout the year.
To see all of my Ireland coverage, go to:
I took another vacation during the week between Christmas and New Years, using it to relax, play some video games, and just kind of unwind, in preparation for a new year of projects at work. Jenny unfortunately had to work though.
2017 Houston Astros
It was a great year to be an Astros fan. On January 21st, Jenny and I attended our first Astros FanFest at Minute Maid Park. We also got a special invitation for a pre-event Q&A with Astros 3rd baseman Alex Bregman. At the time, he was a relative unknown. He had made his debut with the Astros late the previous season. We also managed to attend a Q&A with Craig Biggio, and Jenny asked the best question of the session, which was “how did it feel to get your 3,000th hit?”. He went on for a while describing it, and it wasn’t an explanation I’d heard before in other interviews, so it was really a cool thing to witness. The fact that Jenny asked it made it that much more special. We also got to ‘run’ the bases, which was a first for me. In all, it was a really fun experience, and I’m sure there are many more FanFests in store for us. It wasn’t until May 24th that I attended the first of 4 Astros games this year. It was the most games I’ve attended in several seasons, but I guess that’s a testament to how well they were doing. My 2nd game I attended on 7/15, and then watched Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame induction and speech on television on July 30th. Shortly after, on 8/4, I attended my 3rd game of the year at Minute Maid Park, then again attended one on 8/24. On 8/31, the Astros shocked the baseball world by making a last-second (literally) trade and obtaining Justin Verlander from the Tigers. It immediately cemented what would become the best Astros season in history. Of course, the Astros clinched the division, and went on to win the ALDS against the Red Sox on 10/9. We were in Ireland at the time, but the game was on early in the US, so we were able to listen to the last inning through the MLB app, and hear the Astros clinch that series, and move on in the playoffs. Once home, we watched on television, as the Astros went on to win the ALCS against the Yankees in 7 games on 10/22, and then the bonkers World Series against the Dodgers, which the Astros won in 7 games, giving them their first-ever World Series Championship. Two days later, on November 3rd, the city of Houston hosted the World Series Champion parade in downtown. Hundreds of thousands of fans showed up–unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend in person, and needed to be on the phone for work. I was able to watch some of it on television though, which was still exciting.
To celebrate their championship, I ordered a commemorative version of the World Series trophy for my office. That arrived on 11/16, and it proudly sits in my bookcase today.
It was most definitely a great year to be an Astros fan, and one that I won’t soon forget. Whether the Astros will repeat next season is a story yet to be told, but Houston fans will be eager to watch this team again.
The biggest story of the year in Houston–other than the Astros–was Hurricane Harvey, and the historic flooding the city saw over the course of a week. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on 8/25 as a Category 3 hurricane. It had rapidly intensified into a Category 4 storm before weakening just before landfall in Rockport, Texas, before stalling and making its way toward the southeast portion of Texas. Over the next 5 days, it would dump 50 inches of rain over the area, and inundate parts of Houston that had never seen flooding before. We were extremely fortunate where we live not to have flooded. The bayou in our neighborhood got close, but never topped its banks, and as a result, no homes were flooded. However, the rainfall caused massive roadway flooding, leading to shortages of gasoline, groceries, and basic necessities for days after the storm cleared out. Jenny was stuck at home for 4 days, unable to find a passable route to work. As I work from home, it didn’t impact my work much, but it was still distracting to see all the devastation the city was facing. We also had our own small challenge with damage after Harvey: a sinkhole had opened up in our back yard. It was related to some work the county had done, putting in a storm drain directly outside our yard. The contractor did a poor job of refilling the hole, and as a result, our fence sunk a good 6 inches, and we had a huge hole that needed repair. They came out about a week later and filled the hole, but the problem reoccurred the next time we had significant rain. It’s since been filled again, but we’ll have to see if it continues into 2018. On December 7th, and overnight into the 8th, Southeast Texas got about 3 inches of snow. It’s the most snowfall I’ve seen in Houston in a very long time. It also surprised many northern states that hadn’t seen snow yet this winter. The meteorologists put up an interesting chart, linking snowfall in Houston to hurricanes. There’s a small trend in years when a hurricane has hit Houston, we’ve had snowfall in the same year, going back to the late 80’s; I found that intriguing.
With the Big Three out of the way, I can turn toward other notable trends I saw in 2017; namely, our vehicles. Both of them went into the shop for repairs in 2017. On May 9th, we took Jenny’s car in to get her brakes done, as well as have them take a look at her remote starter, which wasn’t functioning properly. The remote start problem was due to some corrosion, which wasn’t covered under either the warranty, or extended warranty, and was going to cost nearly $500 to repair, so we elected not to, since remote start isn’t exactly a necessity–just a nicety. Shortly after that, on June 1st, Jenny hit a curb, causing a blowout of one of her tires. Two of them ended up needing replaced, so we did so. It hadn’t been very long since we’d replaced all 4, but fortunately, she had road hazard on them, so it wasn’t a hugely expensive repair. Her car went back into the shop again on 9/15 after her Check Engine light came on. It took an excessively long time to get the car repaired, and it wasn’t until 10/14 that we were able to pick it up (after we got back from Ireland). In the end, they had to rebuild the transmission, at a cost of some $3,000+. Fortunately, the extended warranty covered the repairs, but that warranty is nearly expired now. The next repair will cost us out-of-pocket. And so it was on 11/4 when I found that my car needed to go into the shop. For a couple of months, I’d had a problem with the steering column making a noise and shake when changing directions, but it hadn’t impacted the ability to drive the car. However, on this date, my passenger side rearview mirror failed to ‘unfold’, and the motor kept running continuously, so Jenny and I dropped the car off at the dealership, and waited to hear how much it would cost to repair. It took a while, but on 11/15, I went and picked up my car, having cost me nothing to repair both the steering problem, and the mirror! Both were covered by either a recall, or warranty. It was a nice surprise that it would not cost us a small fortune.
During the year, we were mostly healthy, certainly more son than in previous years. On January 5th, Mom started feeling the effects of something that we wouldn’t know the source of for quite some time. It turned out to be Salmonella poisoning, but we still don’t know the source of where it came from. Neither Jenny nor I had the same affliction, so we’re not sure how Mom came by it. However, it made for a miserable month or so for Mom, and even resulted in one ER visit. Fortunately, it passed, and she was back able to get back to normal. I was sick from 5/29 to 6/3 with a sinus infection. It didn’t require any treatment, other than letting it pass. On 7/3, we took Dad to the ER with another UTI. He was given IV antibiotics and sent home. Perhaps the worst illness of the year came on 10/11, while in Ireland, Jenny started feeling sick. It got worse over the trip home, and didn’t let up for a while. On 11/16, Jenny went to the doctor, and was told she had a respiratory infection and an ear infection. She was given medicine to take for 2 weeks, but her cough would take over a month to subside completely.
Over the course of the year, countless things occur; events, family gatherings, etc. Some of these are relatively minor, but they all add up to something of the course of a year.
On New Years Day, I started re-assembling my LEGO ‘town’, after having disassembling it to place our Christmas LEGOs in the same location. This year, I was not only putting the buildings back together, but installing LED light kits in them, to make them appear more lifelike. This was a significant building project, and took me most of the month of January, when I finally finished on 1/26.
On 2/16, we moved Dad from Brookdale to Heartis. This new facility was less expensive (though still immensely expensive) and much closer to home. He seems to like it much better there, though he’s still wildly unhappy anywhere he’s at. His condition continues to deteriorate, and today he’s mostly bed-bound. He watches television, sleeps, and eats, and that’s about all. We don’t know how much time he has left, but it’s not much of life to live. Mom and I do everything we can for him, but there’s only so much that can be done. I wouldn’t with dementia on anybody. On 2/26, Mom and I went and picked out burial spots for her and Dad. She wanted to have their arrangements taken care of and pre-paid before they passed, so we did that together. They have a very nice spot picked out, very near a huge cross, and under a tree. When the time comes, they’ll have a very nice resting spot, in the same cemetery where many of Jenny’s family has been laid to rest.
On 5/25, the day before my 38th birthday, we attended the high school graduation of Jenny’s cousin, Julie. The very next day, we traveled to Mont Belvieu to attend Jenny’s other cousin Karly’s graduation from high school as well. Both of these young women are smart, talented, and hopefully bound to do great things with their lives. I was proud to be a part of their big day. On 7/24, I attended Jury Duty for only the 2nd time in my life. The 1st time, I didn’t even get called to a panel, and was released after a couple hours. This year, I was selected for a panel, and had to sit through Jury questioning, but ultimately not selected to serve. Still it was an interesting process, and I was glad to have been part of it–despite being away from work for a day. On 8/20, we signed up for MoviePass, a new monthly service that allows you to see a different movie in the theater, every day, for just $9.99/mo. There are of course some restrictions, but even with those, if you saw more than 1 movie per month, it would pay for itself. At the time, there were several movies we were interested in, but not enough to pay separately to see, so we signed up. Unfortunately, the overwhelming demand caused delays, and we didn’t get our MoviePass cards until October, by which time many of the movies we had planned to use it for had left theaters. Still, we’re continuing the service for now, and will see how much value we get out of it in the new year. On 8/21, Jenny’s cousin Karly got to meet JJ Watt–finally. She has been lusting after him for years, but someone reached out to him to tell him what an inspiring young woman she is, and how big of a fan she is of his, and he asked to meet her at practice. She got to shake his hand, and teach him a little bit of sign language. These run-ins with fame are always fun to see, even from a couple degrees of separation. On 9/1, I got a raise at work, which was a nice surprise. After several consecutive annual raises, I hadn’t receive any compensation increase in over 2 years–since my position change. It was nice to be rewarded for my hard work, and to be shown that I’m valued at work. On 9/14, I bought the largest LEGO set ever produced. It was an updated version of the Ultimate Collectors Series Millennium Falcon. At over 7,500 pieces, this was a massive (and massively expensive) set, but sold out pretty much immediately worldwide. It took me a total of 29 hours to build, over the course of a week, but once completed, it was a beauty. I nearly destroyed it a couple months later, when I installed a vertical stand for it, to prop it up for display. Fortunately, I was able to repair it. It now looks more amazing than ever. Come see it sometime. On 11/2, our internet went out, and not just briefly. It turned out that the neighbors behind us had a new dog that dug up our cable, causing an outage. AT&T had to send out a technician to re-run the lines, which ended up taking a couple of days. Needless to say, the Brown household without internet is a very unhappy one. On 11/29, at the urging of my friend Matt, I signed up for a website called GuruShots, where you can post photos for others to vote upon. I’ve learned my photos are pretty good, but nowhere close to some of those out there–which I already knew, of course. However, it has rekindled my photo bug, and so I’ve been trying to take more artistic shots, and just overall, take more photos.
Of course, every year comes with some major purchases–of varying importance.
- 1/12 – Mom got her Purple Mattress, which she likes very much. She added an adjustable base on 3/22, which made a world of difference.
- 2/8 – Jenny got her Apple AirPods, which she absolutely loves. We both have a pair now; I find them to be one of the most useful pair of headphones I’ve ever had.
- 5/6 – Mom’s computer died, and so we went and got her a new one–a laptop.
- 6/13 – Jenny and I got the new iPad Pros, along with the Apple Pencil, so we could use them for art and digital note-taking.
- 7/8 – I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar, so purchased a used Epiphone guitar. I have learned a few chords, but haven’t practiced in some time.
- 9/4 – Jenny got a Fitbit, to function as both a watch and fitness tracker. On the same day, I bought a handheld gimbal for my phone–mainly as a tool for our Ireland video.
- 9/14 – Bought the aforementioned LEGO Millenium Falcon–the largest-ever LEGO set produced.
- 9/19 – Got Mom the iPhone 6S Plus, as she’d been eyeing the larger phones for a while.
- 9/23 – Jenny and I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus. This would be Jenny’s first plus-size phone, and my 2nd.
- 11/4 – I managed to obtain an iPhone X, rather unexpectedly, which became my daily driver. I therefore put my 8 Plus online for sale.
- 11/8 – Got a new grill for the back yard. Our previous one had finally started falling apart, rusted through, so it was time for a new one. A good grill is one of the most important things a man can own.
While I watched many movies throughout the year, this list comprises those we went to the theater to see.
- Jan. 6th – Star Wars: Rogue One (2nd viewing)
- Feb. 16th – Fifty Shades Darker
- Mar. 3rd – Logan
- Apr. 1st – Beauty and the Beast (live-action)
- Apr. 28th – The Circle
- May 5th – Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol. 2
- Jul. 22nd – War for the Planet of the Apes
- Sep. 16th – It
- Nov. 11th – Murder on the Orient Express (used MoviePass)
- Nov. 12th – Thor: Ragnarok
- Dec. 15th – Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Dec. 16th – Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2nd viewing)
So looking back at 2017, it wasn’t a bad year, at least personally. Most of the year was spent planning, dreaming, and waiting for our Ireland trip. 2018 doesn’t hold any big plans–we’re not taking a big vacation this year, as we pay off the bills from the Ireland trip. We plan on taking a trip to Disney in 2019, when the Star Wars portion of the park opens, but nothing big until then. Looking forward to 2018, it’s a year with surprisingly little already known. My car will be paid off soon, along with a couple other monthly bills of significance. Once the trip is paid off, we’ll have a pretty large amount of disposable income to save for our Disney trip, but that’s a good 18 months away. Most likely, 2018 will be spent on improvements to the house, such as adding rain gutters, new landscaping, and perhaps some new flooring. All of this in preparation for potentially selling the house, and buying something a bit larger and nicer. We’ll see, I guess. Here’s to 2018 and avoiding nuclear war…🥂