Christmas, 2006

(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Dear Friends,

As years go, 2006 was a quiet one. Many folks wagered on how many hurricanes would hit the Gulf Coast this year, but the surprising calm that followed the storms was truly a Godsend. Personally, we've fully recovered from Rita, and life has continued at its normal [hectic] pace. Here's a summary of our year in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Our vacations took us once again to Scottsdale, AZ, in April to visit Ellen's mom and step-dad, where we enjoyed a relaxing week under the desert sun. Mark and Ellen took in some quiet time while the kids got spoiled by their grandmother. Later in the year, we made two quick trips to Pensacola. The first was to spend Labor Day with Mark's siblings, Peter, Anthony, and Gina. The second trip, in October, was to witness and celebrate Gina's marriage to Doug on the white sands of Pensacola Beach. The weather was good and everything was simply beautiful that day. For Thanksgiving we journeyed to Ft. Lauderdale for a reunion with Ellen's side of the family, and to celebrate her mom's 70th birthday. Although the weather was a bit brisk, we all had a fantastic time basking under the Florida sun.




Sarah turned six this year and has matured quite a bit. She rides the bus to and from school everyday and really likes her Kindergarten class. She soaks up everything that school has to offer, and more. She's learning to read and has shown aptitude for numbers. Last month Sarah declared that she'll become an engineer when she grows up. Sarah has stayed with her gymnastics classes, and resumed taking dance lessons at a new studio. And she's still very much into arts and crafts just like her big sister. But like her big brother, Sarah has learned to play chess. She tried out for the chess team at her elementary school. Once they saw she was beating the Second Graders, they decided she'd be a good asset for the team. Now she's getting ready for competition.

Lisa at age 15 is leading a very busy life. In January she participated once again in the District V Middle School Honor Band, this year making it to the top band and meeting one of her personal goals. In the Spring the kids performed a musical play called Flapper. Lisa gave a convincing performance as a character named Trixie. Her 8th-grade graduation from parochial school was a beautiful ceremony (see picture above right). During the summer, Lisa attended her final year of art camp. One of her drawings earned a Mayor's Choice award, which made her very excited. Lisa has taken her flute playing to a new level by joining the high school band. Attending summer band camp allowed her to make some friends before she entered the new school, and helped ease her transition to high school. Her life has centered around the marching band, traveling to many competitions and football games during the season. She enjoyed it a lot and cannot wait until next year to do it all again. High school is very different to her but she has met some very great people, including her boyfriend. She has continued to be active in Les Petites Voix choral group and the Bulbor Youth Orchestra, both of which gave wonderful Christmas concerts. Lisa continues to pursue her skills in art. She's painted with different media but prefers oil. She looks forward to the day when she can sell some of her paintings. Here's one of her works.

Samuel, now 16, is a junior in high school. He obtained his driver's license last June, and he does not miss a chance to go out with his friends. With his driving privilege has come more responsibility, e.g. transporting Lisa whenever he can. Samuel is getting more involved with the chess community; he now coaches the chess clubs at three schools. Tournament play is still a major priority in Samuel's life. In March, he beat Lake Charles' top-rated player to take first place in his section (4 out of 5 points). During the summer, he traveled to Atlanta again to attend the one-week Castle chess camp instructed by many world-class Grandmasters.

We all thought Samuel would be giving up his pursuit of the piano this year, but he has continued lessons and practicing in preparation for a solo concert scheduled this coming February. Samuel still has a strong interest in computers. He enrolled in a tech class at school and is often asked for computer help by many of the teachers at his high school. He maintains a personal Web site, and he also received the opportunity to redesign the school's Web site scheduled to launch this January.

Ellen has become a super-mom, juggling all the children's lessons and practices that have to be attended, as well as working full-time at a local toy retailer. She still keeps up her fitness program at the Curves Center and remains active in the local Synagogue, teaching Sunday School, helping kids prepare for their Confirmation, and participating in the congregation's choir. She also socializes in the Lake Charles Newcomers Club.

Joseph and Anthony both still work in Houston. This year, Joseph interviewed for a Process Control Engineer position at Lyondell in Channelview. He got the job and is very happy. This is the same plant where Mark worked back in the 70s and 80s. Joseph is working in one of the units where, for some reason, everyone already knows his name. Anthony still works for TAG, a control systems contractor. He just completed his project at a nearby Lyondell plant (also where his dad worked in the 80s). The project replaced the Distributed Control System that his dad installed 17 years ago. Here you can see the brothers having fun in Anthony's new Go-Kart.

Mark has eight years under his belt at Sasol North America, and continues working in Lake Charles and at other plant sites. He made two more trips to the Sasol facility in South Africa, working on improvements in several units. During his January trip he got an opportunity to visit Kruger National Park, one of the best spots for viewing and photographing African wildlife. You can check out some of his photos online.

Mark continues to support Sasol's Baltimore plant, where he works about 25% of the time on capital projects and on ad hoc improvements. He also spent time in support of a small plant Sasol has in Tucson, AZ. That would be the place to retire! In his spare time, Mark still enjoys riding his 2004 Honda ST-1300. Although he hasn't done a cross-country trip yet, he did make an exploratory jaunt across Louisiana's cotton country.

Luke the cat is still with us, although the world as he knew it ceased to exist last spring. That was when a stray female cat named Lucy arrived at our door refusing to leave. Needless to say, a week later Lucy added four kittens to our family and Luke's status became persona non grata as far as Lucy was concerned.

We still have two of the kittens (Eli and Tidbit) which, ironically, match Luke's coloring quite remarkably (but we know he had nothing to do with their heritage). After a bit of strife among our cat family, we learned the best way to make a bunch of cats get along is to toss them into a confined space where they have no choice but to like each other. Now they all get along just fine; but it's great entertainment watching the kittens wrestle for hours.

You can find this Christmas newsletter and all those from previous years. Just go to our Web Home Page and click on the Christmas tree near the bottom of the page. Please note our internet addresses below, as well as our street address. Please write (snail mail or email) or stop by for a visit if you're in the area. We hope you are all healthy and feeling lots of joy. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mark, Ellen, Anthony, Joseph, Samuel, Lisa, Sarah, and Luke, Lucy, Eli, and Tidbit the cats


Our mailing address is:

1212 Bayouwood Court

Lake Charles, LA 70605-3340


(337) 480-0625

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