Christmas, 2012
(click on the picture to see a detailed view)
Dear Friends,
2012 brought family expansion, interesting travels, and some changes on the work horizon for the family.  Here’s the summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.
In April, Ellen and Mark celebrated 25 years of marriage with a special trip to Switzerland.  Our travels took us all across the beautiful country, from Lake Geneva to the cheese and chocolate factories, Interlaken, Mt. Pilatus, Rhine Falls, and Zermatt.  You can view more of the photos online.  On this trip Ellen experienced the joys of international flying in Business Class, and declares that she will never go back to Economy Class.
In August, the whole family traveled to New Jersey to witness the wedding of Ellen’s nephew Joshua and his lovely bride Becky.  The wedding was a wonderful affair, and it gave us a perfect time to see all the family members again.  Then in December, Ellen and Lisa embarked on a Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans.  Mom and daughter were joined by Mark’s sister, Gina, and her daughter, Carly, from Pensacola.  Mark stayed home with Sarah, spending some quality time.  For Christmas all from Mark’s side of the family came to visit.  We all had great fun.
Sarah has passed her twelfth birthday and attends middle school.  We can tell our baby is growing up by the things that interest her, and we can see a big difference in her maturity.  She’s showing an interest in fashionable clothes, but still likes her dolls.  Sarah added another to her American Girl collection.  Her dance studies, tumbling, and piano lessons continue, while she maintains top grades in the SPARK program at school.  Sarah joined the beginning band at school, choosing the French Horn for her instrument.  She still reads avidly, preferring fiction books.  Sarah still has her iPod Touch which she uses to communicate with her friends in various ways; we have resisted getting her an iPhone for now, but the pressure’s definitely hitting us from various sides.  Sarah’s latest trend is creating things from duct tape.  She has dozens of rolls of different colored duct tape and she designs all sorts of things from keychains to purses to pillows, all made from the tape.  You can see her wearing one of her creations in the photo.  And once again, one of Sarah’s photos ended up winning the Mayor’s award.
Lisa had a another exciting year as she attained the age of full majority (21).  She celebrated this while on a cruise with her mother, aunt, and cousin.  Lisa continues her Chemical Engineering studies at LSU.  She has worked her way through most of the prerequisites and is now starting into the core courses as she pursues the fourth chemical engineering degree (after her three brothers) to carry on the Congiundi tradition. Lisa has continued to stay very active in the Baton Rouge Jewish community, by working at the local synagogue and by holding her position as Secretary in LSU’s Hillel. She enjoys it very much, and hopes to continue to stay involved as much as her schoolwork will allow her. Lisa has been very motivated this past semester to get into shape. She took an aerobics class at LSU, along with her engineering classes. She enjoyed it so much that she took her love of working out and started doing it outside of class on her own. She now enjoys taking jogs around the LSU lakes and attending weekly Zumba classes at LSU’s UREC.

This May, Samuel graduated Magna cum Laude from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering.  He decided to celebrate by taking a road trip with some of his college friends, traveling over 3,000 miles through Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.  Upon returning, Samuel started permanent employment with Chevron Phillips in Port Arthur, TX.  He’s currently working as a process engineer, but he expects to transition into a process control engineer job soon.  Samuel also purchased his first new car, a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and is enjoying the perks of owning a diesel car (50 mpg).  Taking advantage of Texas A&M’s move to the SEC, Samuel treated his dad to A&M’s first SEC game which happened to be against his dad’s alma mater, the University of Florida.  Later, Lisa and Samuel attended the A&M - LSU game.  Although Texas A&M lost both games, Samuel still enjoyed a 10-2 season and was able to witness one of A&M’s own winning the Heisman Trophy.  When he’s not watching Aggie football, Samuel has fun with his crazy kitty, Pebbles.

This past summer, Samuel also continued as the organizer and director of the Kids Summer Chess Camp in Lake Charles.  This was his sixth consecutive year running the program.
Ellen continues as the “stay-at-home mom,” staying active as ever.  She’s got everyone going in the right direction and keeps the family household running on track.  She’s still a regular at the local Curves Center, having taken the 10,000 steps program to heart (she wears her pedometer all the time).  Ellen volunteers at Sarah’s Middle school, teaches Sunday school at the Synagogue, and now is helping Sarah to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah in early 2014.  She and Mark are getting close to knowing what “Empty Nesters” are all about, as most days only Sarah remains in the household.  Well, at least she still has the three kitties (Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell) to keep her entertained.
As promised in the last newsletter Joseph and Jessica are proud parents again to another beautiful daughter named Lilah Nicole, born this year on Leap Day!  They continue living in Houston with their first daughter Chloe, who had her third birthday party in November, a beautiful affair.  Chloe continues to amaze us with her talents and artistic abilities.  She and Lilah both got to spend some quality time with us this Fall when Joseph and Jessica took a vacation in the Virgin Islands.  Jessica has put her counseling career on hold for the moment and is focusing on the new baby and Chloe; both are flourishing.  Joseph’s still going strong at Lyondell-Basell, now working as the interim process control manager at his facility.
The other really big news is that Anthony and Erika finally tied the knot this November 10th.  It was a glorious affair in Houston, beautiful to be there and watch them become officially husband and wife. (View wedding photos here.  Take special note of the Aggie bonfire cake.)  So it was off to the Bahamas for the honeymoon which lasted well beyond Thanksgiving and took in at least three different islands.  When they do it, they do it right.  Erika and Anthony are now settling back at their jobs, she as a Licensed Professional Counselor doing group therapy, and he as a senior principal engineer at Lyondell-Basell.  Erika, having completed her intern hours, was recently promoted to Treatment Plan Manager.  Anthony enjoys his process control engineering work; he’s leading a major DCS upgrade project and has spearheaded numerous control improvement projects resulting in multi-million-dollar savings for the company.

Mark’s Process Control work at Sasol North America has shifted more to the project role.  Sasol’s earlier decision to build a new unit at this site has occupied large amounts of time, much of it spent in Houston where the design teams are located.  This year, the project will focus on the site construction.  Meanwhile, Sasol has announced major expansion plans at the Lake Charles plant:  multiple chemical units plus a Gas-to-Liquids facility.  While Mark would like to work on the front-end designs of some of the more-recently announced units, he’s gotten a request to push the process control improvement program in South Africa.  Having accepted this challenge, he will be doing a two-year assignment there while keeping up with things back in Lake Charles.  The move to the Scottsdale retirement home is still on the horizon, but it will have to wait for a little while.  Somehow, the most exciting stuff seems to come when we are almost ready to quit.  So for now Mark will forge ahead, hopefully getting his second wind.

Like his son, Mark decided to move to a diesel-powered vehicle, so he traded in his beloved BMW for a 2013 VW Jetta diesel (same model as Samuel’s).  [Part of this inspiration came from his experience on the Switzerland vacation; there he and Ellen rented a Mercedes E-Class diesel car.  They traveled all across the country (from France to Germany) on less than one tank of fuel.  Fuel economy ended up averaging 44 mpg.]  We now have three diesel cars in the family (all VWs).

Our kitties Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell continue to hang with us.  You may recall, Luke gave us cause for concern last year when Ellen discovered a tumor on his side.  She had caught it in time, and the tumor was removed successfully, but Luke had about 5 or 6 more tumors that showed up.  With each operation his fur would get shaved at the same spot on his side just when it had started to grow back.  But after the last one was removed (nearly 6 months ago) Luke seems to be free of the problem and has his beautiful coat back.  Meanwhile, these cats continue to rule.
This year we are thankful that we’re all in good health 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, Joseph, Jessica, Chloe, Lilah, Anthony, Erika, Samuel, Lisa, Sarah, and Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell the cats



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1212 Bayouwood Court

Lake Charles, LA 70605-3340


(337) 480-0625

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