Christmas, 2009

(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Dear Friends,

We had a quiet, but eventful 2009. The highlights were the birth of our first grandchild, and a decision on where we will retire. We are thankful that there was no weather event, although we did get another dusting of snow in mid-December for the second consecutive year. Here's a summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.

In late June, we jetted to L. A. to begin a two-week driving tour of California. The scenery and entertainment opportunities seemed endless. We covered Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Beverly Hills, several beaches, San Francisco, wine country, Yosemite, and Sequoia to name a few. The pictures are posted online, but they don't capture all the beauty. In August, Ellen attended her 30-year high school reunion and got a much needed visit with her dad and step-mom in Bay City, MI. Sarah accompanied her.

November 4th was a special day for us. That's the day our granddaughter, Chloe, came into this world. Joseph and Jessica are proud parents indeed. She's healthy and growing fast.

Later in November we all traveled to Scottsdale, AZ, to spend Thanksgiving with Ellen's mom and step-dad. We had a great time being with family and enjoying the picture-perfect sunny days. While there we decided that this is where we will retire some day. Toward that end we have obtained some investment property that eventually will allow us to move to Scottsdale. This year we're spending Christmas with Mark's brothers and sister in Pensacola, then traveling to Houston to see Joseph and Anthony.

Sarah made nine years old, the same age Lisa was when she was born. So, she can identify with her big sister from now on. She got braces (pink) for the first time that have worked remarkably well in just a few months. Sarah entered the SPARK program this year. As a Third Grader, she has become an avid reader, breezing through her Accelerated Reader list. She's still playing chess although the team was disbanded at her school. She recently won Second Place at a local tournament. Sarah continues her piano lessons and this year participated in the Piano Rally, performing at the honors level. Sarah also takes gymnastics classes and studio dance lessons, and still loves to do small arts and crafts projects.

Lisa, who turned 18 in December, completed her Junior year and began her final year in high school. She maintains excellent grades, and has been accepted to the LSU School of Architecture for the fall of 2010. Lisa has a job at a local Manufacturing facility where she does computer entry work. She enjoys the flexible hours and is learning more about the business world everyday. Lisa's Senior year has been very relaxing for her. She loves her classes and continues to strive for excellence in her high school band. She has switched from flute to principal piccolo player to get more responsibility. She made flute section leader and Band Captain for marching season. Though school and her job have been keeping her very busy, Lisa still loves to work on any art project when she can. She is currently taking an art class at school so she can keep in practice. Here's a portrait she did of her sister.

Samuel, now 19, is in his sophomore year at Texas A & M University. He continues pursuit of a chemical engineering degree and has maintained a 3.78 GPA. Although the dorm life was good, he's now in an apartment with three other roommates and lives the great life. Even though college has not allowed much time for Samuel to play much chess lately, he did manage to play in a Houston tournament over the summer, winning his section and receiving a $100 cash prize. Samuel also organized and directed a Kids Summer chess camp for the third consecutive year, and it was more successful than last year's.

To earn some extra cash, Samuel worked at Office Depot over the summer where he gained an extensive knowledge about printers, computers, and other office technology. He also had his first taste of paying income taxes. Now, he's trying his best to secure a Summer internship with one of many chemical companies so he can pay more taxes. Samuel also still maintains his personal blog, writing about experiences he wishes to share.

Ellen is still enjoying being a stay-at-home mom, getting Sarah to and from her many activities, and running the family household. She still volunteers for the school and helps with fund-raisers. Lately, Ellen has been baby-sitting the young children of one of our friends. It gives her the opportunity to be with small children without having to produce them herself.

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 taken on the duty of Treasurer of the Lake Charles Newcomers Club and helps to organize activities.

Of course the biggest news is that the family of Joseph and Jessica has increased; they have a daughter, Chloe Elizabeth Congiundi, now 8 weeks old. She was 7 lbs, 6 oz, at birth, and just over 20" in length. We're very proud of them and look forward to watching her grow up. Jessica took some time from her job to stay home with Chloe but expects to return in February.

Anthony and Erika are still going strong. They came to visit us a couple of times this year. We all had a great time. We're not sure where this will go, but we do look forward to Erika being in the family someday.

Both Joseph and Anthony continue working for Lyondell-Basell in Houston. The company's been going through some difficult times, recently filing for bankruptcy. But, with both holding Process Control positions, their jobs probably are as safe as anyone's. We are holding our breath.

Mark continues his work at Sasol North America, still doing Process Control at the Lake Charles plant. A couple of local projects are keeping him busy. Also, this year he made two more trips to the Sasol facility in Secunda, South Africa. He enjoys the challenging work and the friendly people when he is there. While not ready for retirement, it's something he thinks about occasionally, and the planning process has begun (think Scottsdale). We'll see where that goes.

Our pets Luke, Lucy, and Tidbit remain faithful kitty companions as well as incredible lap cats. At any given moment you will find them on someone's lap, or just sacked out on a chair somewhere. You might conclude that the cats rule, and you wouldn't be wrong.

This year we are thankful that we're all in good health (including our newest member) and we continue to have interesting, gainful employment. You can find this Christmas newsletter and all those from previous years online. 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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