Christmas, 2008

(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Dear Friends,

The year 2008 was marked by celebration and weather events. We had a graduation, a wedding, and two hurricanes. Here's a summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.

In May we celebrated Samuel's graduation from high school, followed by the start of his freshman year at Texas A&M University. In July the whole family celebrated Joseph's marriage to Jessica in Houston. There we met Jessica's delightful family for the first time, and attended a wonderful reception party.

Weather played some tricks on us this year. First, Hurricane Gustav skirted us to the east (no real damage); then Hurricane Ike dealt a glancing blow from the west. The latter churned up lots of storm surge that proved to be record setting, even as far north as Lake Charles. We saw plenty of our neighbors' houses under water; fortunately ours was high enough to escape damage. As if that wasn't enough, we received a light dusting of snow on December 11th, the earliest snowfall on record for this area.

We didn't embark on any long vacations this year, but did journey to Scottsdale, Arizona, to spend an enjoyable Thanksgiving with Ellen's mom and step-dad. This year we're spending Christmas with family here in Lake Charles.

Sarah, is eight years old, and is a very happy Second Grader. She loves her school, teachers, and classmates. Sarah has discovered reading. You can find her often with her nose in a chapter book. She made the chess team again this year, and played several tournaments during the year. Sarah has continued her piano lessons and this year participated in the Piano Federation, receiving an Excellent rating. Sarah continues with her gymnastics classes and studio dance lessons, and still loves to do small arts and crafts projects. But she's rapidly becoming an "only child" as her brother and sister spend less and less time at home.

Lisa, now 17, has entered her Junior year of high school. She's enjoying the challenges of her science and math classes and continues her academic success. Now that she is even closer to graduation, Lisa is looking at possible career choices and colleges, for example architecture at LSU. Still belonging to the school's band, Lisa has improved even more on the flute. She now holds first chair and will be trying out for drum major next year. During the summer Lisa taught at the art camp where she attended as a student since 3rd grade. She enjoys working with the kids and using her skills to help them. Though she isn't taking art classes at school, she still has projects that she works on from time to time. One day last April, Lisa returned home to find a gift in the garage that she didn't expect, a 2005 New Beetle. The moment was captured by her brother, and is viewable on YouTube.

Samuel reached age 18 this year. Before his graduation from high school, he completed a rigorous project that was designed to stimulate learning in his field of interest, in this case Chemical Engineering. His decision to design and build a distillation column, and develop a software dynamic model of a distillation column proved quite challenging. But he completed the project successfully, and gave a presentation to school officials this April. (The local newspaper covered the event.) Samuel ranked high enough in his class to receive a substantial scholarship to Texas A&M University where he is pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree. He's enjoying every minute of his college experience and lives in the same Honors dorm where his brothers, Joseph and Anthony, stayed as college freshman (on the same floor, as a matter of fact!), and he has made some great friends there. But it gets awfully quiet around the house without him.

In memory of his piano teacher, Samuel performed one final piano concert at the local synagogue, Temple Sinai. Family, friends, and congregants attended to hear the ten-song performance. As hoped, it was a great success. In the summer, Samuel again organized and directed a well-attended chess camp; however, since he has moved to college, competitive chess has unfortunately been an activity that he doesn't have much time for, although he does hope to participate in the newly formed A&M Chess Club this Spring. Samuel also still maintains his personal blog, writing about experiences he wishes to share.

Ellen is still enjoying her super-mom position in the family as she ensures that the kids' many activities are attended on time, sometimes even finding time to baby-sit for her friends. Samuel's absence in the Fall hit Ellen the hardest, but the distance doesn't keep her from trying to take care of him by reminding him to wash his sheets once a week rather than once a year.

She still attends the Curves Center, and has assumed the role of making sure that the rest of the family remains healthy. Ellen is still heavily involved with the local Synagogue, attending board meetings, organizing activities, and partaking in services. She has also become more involved with the Lake Charles Newcomers Club and can always be recognized by people around the town.

Both Joseph and Anthony still work for Lyondell (now Lyondell-Basell) in Houston. But the big news is Joseph's and Jessica's wedding on July 19th. It took place at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Houston; they had a glorious weeklong honeymoon in Aruba. Jessica has started a new job as a school counselor, a big step up from her previous position, and recently graduated with a Masters in Education. Joseph continues to contribute to the Process Control effort at the Channelview plant, and has been given increasingly more responsibility. Anthony is at the LaPorte plant also in a Process Control position. He's been involved in some APC projects since starting work there in 2007. With recent hurricane damage to the plant, he's had to work hard to restore the plant back to normal operation. Earlier this year Anthony met a very special person named Erika. We're not sure where this will go, but you could guess fairly easily on this one.

Mark has ten years at Sasol North America attaining the Holy Grail of early retirement eligibility, though he has no plan to walk through that door yet. He still works in Process Control for the Lake Charles plant, and made three more highly successful trips to the Sasol facility in South Africa. While there he toured the quaint mountain town of Clarens, near Lesotho, and took a neat photo. This year, at the urging of his children, Mark opened a profile on Facebook. Now he's really a cool dude!

Our pets Luke, Lucy, and Tidbit remain faithful kitty companions. At any given moment you likely will find one or two of them on someone's lap, or just sacked out around the house somewhere. As you might conclude, they are spoiled beyond rotten.

This year, in spite of the abysmal stock market, we are thankful that we're all in good health and we all still have interesting, gainful employment. 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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