Christmas, 2010

(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Dear Friends,

2010 was a good but busy year. Everyone is a year older and some of us a bit grayer, but we're all still kicking. Here’s a summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.

In May, Ellen and Mark traveled to Washington, DC, to witness the wedding of one of her cousins. It was a beautiful wedding, and we also took in some sightseeing while there. In September, Ellen received a very special gift for her 50th birthday: a trip to Italy. She and Mark flew to Rome and embarked on a 10-day tour of the country. They traveled to Naples, Pompeii, Venice, Milan, Pisa, and Rome. You can see some photos of Ellen schmoozing with the pigeons at the Duomo in Milan, and many others online.

Family Christmas

In November we spent Thanksgiving with Ellen's mom. Sadly, Ellen's stepdad passed away just a week before our arrival. We were there for the celebration of his life, but we all sorely missed him.

For Christmas this year, everyone came to Lake Charles. This included Mark's brothers Anthony and Peter, Peter's girlfriend, Mark's sister Gina and her family who all came in from Pensacola; Anthony and Joseph and their spouses/girlfriends, and our granddaughter Chloe, all coming from Houston; Samuel from College Station; Lisa from Baton Rouge; and Sarah from right here. Needless to say, we had a blast, and we hope to do it again soon.

Our little one, Sarah, is now age ten, placing her into double-digit territory. With that age comes more responsibility with more serious dance routines, challenging piano lessons, and stronger classes at school. She continues in the SPARK program and finds it quite interesting. She still reads daily, soaking up the books. Sarah has become a big fan of the online game Words With Friends™, so if you want to play her, catch her at username sncongiundi. Like her big sister, Sarah has developed a keen interest in artwork and crafts. This year she attended a four-week arts camp. One of her creations received the Mayor's award for featured artists. Last, but not least, Sarah thoroughly enjoys playing with her niece Chloe whenever she gets a chance.

Lisa, now 19, graduated high school last May with Honors, and started at the LSU School of Architecture this August. LSU seems to fit Lisa well, as she loves it there, but her mom cried the day we moved her into her tiny dorm room. While the first Semester proved to be a challenge for Lisa, she survived it and is ready for more. Mom and Dad are very proud of her, plus they got to witness a traditional LSU football weekend this November complete with the tailgating experience. Lisa has many friends from Lake Charles who are attending LSU, and has made numerous new friends during her short tenure. But her best friend may indeed be her new iPhone.

Samuel is 20, and is in his Junior year of chemical engineering at Texas A&M. Classes have occupied most of his time, but his grades are stellar. Samuel made strides to move into the petrochemical industry when he graduates next year. This past summer he secured a student internship position at the Sasol facility where his dad works. He worked in an R&D laboratory testing properties of various experimental surfactants. By the time the summer was over, Samuel had perfected the test technique and created a new system for logging the data. It's no surprise that he received more than 10 offers this Fall for employment as a 2011 summer intern, with ConocoPhillips the winner by a nose. So for the coming summer, Samuel will be working right across the road from his old Sasol job. He's anxious to see where that will take his career.

Although he didn't have much time for chess, Samuel continued as the organizer and director of the Kids Summer chess camp in Lake Charles. This was his fourth consecutive year doing the program. Samuel also still maintains his personal blog, writing about experiences he wishes to share. Samuel was the beneficiary of his dad's iPhone; when Dad got a new iPhone 4, Samuel got the old one and now we are a three-iPhone family.

Ellen is the quintessential stay-at-home mom, running the family household and making sure everyone is where they should be when they should be. She's still attending the Curves Center, volunteering at Sarah's school, and teaching Sunday school at the local Synagogue. Ellen keeps the books for the Lake Charles Newcomers Club and helps to organize its activities.

She really enjoyed her trip to Italy and now is planning where she'll go next. This year, Ellen got back on the motorcycle. She and Mark rode to Hodges Gardens State Park on a beautiful Fall day. She's also looking forward to spending more time with granddaughter Chloe.

Joseph and Jessica continue living in Houston. Daughter Chloe had a splendid first birthday party in November. She's growing like a weed. She walks now, and has picked up a few words and learning more each day. Jessica plans to return to work briefly and complete her Certification in counseling. Joseph received a promotion at Lyondell-Basell to Senior Engineer.

Anthony and Erika are still going strong. Erika is conducting a job search now that she's finished with her classes. She's got at least one good prospect. Anthony also received a promotion at Lyondell-Basell to Senior Engineer, the same day as Joseph.

Lyondell-Basell survived the bankruptcy filing from last year and is back on its feet. Both Joseph and Anthony continue working for the company in Houston, still holding Process Control positions. This year they both decided to go back to the Macintosh fold, purchasing 17" MacBook Pros.

Mark continues his Process Control work at Sasol North America, at the Lake Charles plant. The big news this year is the company's decision to build a new unit at this site. Mark will lead the process control effort on that project. Also, this year he made three trips to the Sasol facility in Secunda, South Africa. After his February trip, Mark's brother Peter flew across the ocean to join him for a week's touring around beautiful Cape Town. With the new construction in Lake Charles and all the challenging work in South Africa, retirement is at least a few years away. Nevertheless, Scottsdale is still on the horizon.

Our pets Luke, Lucy, and Tidbit are still going strong. They 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

E-mail address:

Web Home Page:

Christmas Newsletters Page:

Samuel's Web Page: