Today, there'll be talk of sports, the kids, food. But better to refrain from politics with the family, he says. Too many warring opinions.
Joe and Becky Stoltz never wanted to be wealthy. They just craved a better life than what their parents had. They wanted to send all three of their kids to college and have enough left over to retire.
Joe grew up in Spokane, Washington, the youngest of three kids whose father started out as a bus driver and worked his way up to a systems analyst for the transit authority.
He was only 6 when the first "Star Wars" movie hit theaters. He imagined himself as Luke Skywalker, pretending that falling leaves in autumn were galactic invaders.
Becky was raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She, too, was the baby in a family of five girls. Her troubled teenage years were the opposite of what she wishes now for her own children. By the time she was 19, she'd had her first child, Ry, with an older man she wanted nothing to do with anymore. Unhappy and alone, Becky went to visit her sisters Laura and Diane, who at the time were living in Spokane.
She met Joe there and never looked back.
Joe knew it would be tough supporting a family. But he was willing to work hard.
They began their lives together humbly. During their first date at a Jack in the Box, Joe snuck a peek in his wallet as Becky was ordering, just to make sure he had enough money. Later, he proposed in the rain after they'd been to see a stage production of "The Diary of Anne Frank."
Joe got his hands dirty building houses while Becky enrolled in college to become a cardiovascular technician. She graduated and found a hospital job that took her and Joe from the greenery of Washington to the desert drab of Reno. Downtown boasts casino after casino, but "the biggest little city in the world" sits on a high desert at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas, and Joe and Becky, both outdoor enthusiasts, loved the scenery and ski slopes.
Nevada's real estate market was booming, and Joe had no trouble finding work. One day, there was sand and dirt and barren hills; the next day, an entire subdivision was popping up.
The Stoltzes saved money and, in a few years, moved out of their rented duplex. They bought a house built in 1962 in a subdivision west of downtown. They paid $162,000, but its value soon soared to $425,000. That's how white-hot the Nevada housing market was then.
Joe knocked down a few walls, renovated the bathroom and painted the front rooms in textured jewel tones. Becky bought five boxes of brown and white glass tiles on sale at Costco for a kitchen makeover. But that project, like their other dreams, had to be put on hold.
Joe worked with his brother-in-law Steve, who eventually persuaded him to switch from building houses to installing flooring. The work, Steve says, was lucrative and much less grueling than being out in the hot sun all day. They worked for a company called Carpeteria and laid floors in swanky homes, including a Lake Tahoe retreat owned by CBS anchor Walter Cronkite.
Life seemed good. The Stoltzes had saved enough money to enroll their two older kids in a state-run prepaid college tuition program.
They were, as Becky says, "building up their lives."
Joe was afraid to do anything that was not related to construction. He didn't think he could succeed. He lost all confidence.
The family was surviving on one income.
They gave up trips to the mall, Starbucks coffees and dinners at their favorite restaurant, Ichiban, at Harrah's casino downtown. Instead, they opted for an occasional meal at Chili's.
Becky clipped coupons and stretched dinners over two nights instead of cooking fresh every day. She needs a new car but put her wish for a Mini Cooper on hold.
"Now I got two kids who need braces," she says.
She shows off a blown glass vase in their living room, proud that she paid $6 for it at a clearance sale at Kohl's. Not bad, she says, for something that was originally priced at $60. That's how she shops. Always.
And she began working more, accepting overtime and on-call duty.
"I tried to be patient," she says, thinking back. "But I was stressed."
Becky's mother, Nancy, has lived with them since not long after Becky's dad died of a heart attack at the Nugget casino in nearby Carson City; it was his first day on the job there.
Nancy's only income is a meager Social Security check every month, so the Stoltzes asked her to move in. They knew she wouldn't be able to have a life on her own.
They liked that Grandma was there for their kids. But it added to the financial strain.
Becky, who has suffered from bouts of depression all her life, was now seeing it in her husband.
She knew he was trying to help at home. He became Mr. Mom, doing laundry, cooking dinner, taking the kids to their sporting events. "Cinderfella," jokes brother-in-law Steve.
But when Becky would come home from the hospital and see him sitting in front of the television, she'd get angry.
She took up roller derby as a way to relieve her stress. Becky was gone six to eight hours a week, taking out her aggression on the skating rink as Randy Rhoadkill, a name she took from the heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne.
Eventually, she liked that she was called into work so much. It kept her away from home and was a way to prevent fights with her husband.
She saw their future slipping away.
Before Joe lost his business, they had bought a second home down the street. It was going to be Joe's retirement stash. His parents eventually moved into that house, but they couldn't cover the entire mortgage.
Joe and Becky thought they would relieve some of the pressure by refinancing their own house through a government program meant to help people whose houses are under water. Once valued at more than $400,000, the house is now worth only $140,000 -- less than they paid 12 years ago.
He applied for the refinancing in February but is still waiting for the paperwork to go through. It could mean a precious $500 or $600 more a month.
Through tough times, Joe says, he kept his sanity by coaching basketball and soccer for elementary and junior high kids. He's always believed in the spirit of team sports. It teaches you to interact with people, to prepare for the real world, he says.
But he wasn't working, and Becky knew her husband was unhappy. She told him to stop the self-pity, that she didn't know him anymore.
He wasn't the man she had married.
"There are those who dream and wish and there are those who dream and work."
Joe came across that saying this year on his smartphone's motivational app and wrote it down. He taped the paper to his bathroom mirror so he would see it first thing in the morning.