Christmas, 2013
(click on the picture to see a detailed view)
Dear Friends,
2013 brought more family expansion, more interesting travels, and some challenges to the family living situation.
Here’s the summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.

The big news is the arrival of the newest member of the family, Leo Mark Congiundi.  Born on December 10th to proud parents, Anthony and Erika, he’s their first child.  He is a good size boy, nearly 9 pounds at birth, is very healthy, and eats well.  He’s even sleeping well at night.

In late February, Mark traveled to Secunda, South Africa, to begin a two-year assignment with Sasol Synfuels.  But this provided a golden opportunity for the family to visit him in South Africa.  So in July, Ellen, Samuel, and Sarah took the long journey to Johannesburg and toured all over the country.  They saw beautiful and unusual terrain on the Panorama Route, and many wild animals at the Kruger National Park.  You can view some of their photos online.
In December, Mark managed to get back from South Africa for the holidays.  The family traveled to Pensacola to visit Mark’s sister, Gina, husband, Doug, and her daughter, Carly, and spent a wonderful Christmas with them.
Meanwhile, in Houston, Anthony and Erika (and baby Leo) got together with Joseph and Jessica (and Chloe and Lilah) for a nice Christmas celebration.
Sarah has entered her teenage years and is turning into a mature young lady. She’s in the seventh grade and continues to make top grades in the SPARK program at SJ Welsh.  Now one of her main activities is studying for her Bat Mitzvah, coming in February. She continues her after-school activities such as piano lessons, dance, and tumbling. Sarah now has an iPad (being the beneficiary of a hand-me-down) as well as an iPod touch. And she has her very own mobile phone. It’s not an iPhone, but it is a phone.  Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.  Over the summer she went to state rally for piano and finished in second place--not too shabby. In district rally she got first in her division. She still plays the French horn in her school band, but now instead of being in the beginning band she is in symphonic band. Which is the highest band at her school. She also is trying out for honor band in January. Once again, Sarah got the Mayor’s Choice award for her theater and dance performance in the Lake Charles Arts Camp.
Lisa continues on with her Chemical Engineering studies at LSU, with only a year and a half left to go. She reached a huge milestone this year, accepting an engineering internship offer this past summer. She worked in the environmental department at Axiall in Lake Charles (formerly PPG). The job was very rewarding and introduced her to a lot of great people as well as modern corporate life. During her Fall semester, she received numerous internship interviews and job offers for summer 2014, but after considering them all she decided to stay with Axiall in Lake Charles; this time she will be working in production, a prospect that Lisa finds very exciting. Because of her summer internship, Lisa was unable to make the trek to South Africa. Instead she took a vacation to Destin, FL, with her boyfriend Jason, also a chemical engineering student at LSU. They had a great time being beach bums and eating lots of seafood. It was a great way to recharge before they both returned to their classes at LSU.  Earlier in the year, she spent a week in Scottsdale, AZ, hobnobbing with her grandmother and cousin. Along with her studies, Lisa still contributes some time to Hillel. She has been elected as Vice President for the 2014 calendar year and continues to stay active at the university. She also stays physically active, working out at the university’s Rec Center as much as possible.  Lisa’s physical stamina has improved dramatically from last year.
Samuel continues his employment with Chevron Phillips in Port Arthur, TX, where he has made the transition to a larger role in process control. He’s actively implementing control improvement strategies, one of which resulted in a million dollar savings for the company. Samuel also experienced his first plant turnaround, which lasted an astounding three months. Samuel’s devotion to Aggie football is still strong.  This past season, he travelled to six games, including a visit to Tiger Stadium with Lisa.   Samuel’s cat, Pebbles, is as active as ever. When he’s not getting himself stuck in drawers, he’s chasing lasers or pouncing on toy mice.
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 more now than ever.  She enjoyed her trip to South Africa, but she’s not too sure when she would like to go again.  It’s a very long trip.  But with Mark away most of the time she has learned to work on toilets, change light bulbs, run the sprinkler system, etc.  Mark even talked her through the procedure for changing the battery in a battery backup system; this he did by phone from South Africa.  She’s still works out at the local Curves Center and volunteers at Sarah’s Middle school.  Although she still teaches Sunday school at the Synagogue, considerable time is spent helping Sarah to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah in February of 2014.  She’s also staying busy with the party, dinner, and ceremony preparations.  When Mark is gone, things are definitely interesting for her.  Well, at least she still has the three kitties (Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell) to keep her entertained.
Joseph and Jessica continue living in Houston with their daughters Chloe and Lilah.  The girls are thriving.  Lilah is now approaching her second birthday (this coming February) and is walking, running, jumping, and talking.  Her older sister, Chloe, has passed age four and has started pre-school.  Her progress there indicates she will be an early reader.  Chloe got a two-wheeler for Christmas and already knows how to ride it!  Once again, she and Lilah both got to spend some quality time with us this Fall when Joseph and Jessica took a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands.  Jessica continues focusing on the family, managing to get in some time for the arts and crafts projects she loves.  Joseph’s still going strong at Lyondell-Basell, having been promoted to the Process Control Manager at his facility.
Repeating the headline above, Anthony and Erika brought a new member to their family on December 10th in Houston.  But before the baby boy arrived they managed to take a glorious holiday in Jamaica.  Anthony is now settling back into his job as a Principal process control engineer at Lyondell-Basell where he has initiated many control improvements.  One of his improvement ideas led to him being recognized by the CEO in one of the company’s Bravo Awards.  He also wears a second hat as interim Project Manager for the upcoming olefins expansion project there in Laporte.  Erika, meanwhile, is looking forward to being a stay-home mom.  She has put her career as a Licensed Professional Counselor temporarily on hold to care for the baby and on the off-chance that there is another child in their future.

As stated earlier Mark’s primary home is Secunda, South Africa, working as a Senior Process Control Engineer at Sasol Synfuels.  The work has been extremely rewarding, giving him a chance to learn the coal-to-liquids process along with many refinery operations as well as the pleasure of working with numerous young engineers.  The process control work there is unlimited it seems.  He enjoys life in South Africa and has taken the opportunity to visit some of the local scenery as well as making a quick trip to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.   Mark still has work obligations to Sasol North America from the project role he held earlier.  Sasol brought him back to Lake Charles in September for work on that project and he likely will make more trips in 2014 to help with project commissioning.   With Sasol’s decision to build more new units at this site, it looks as if retirement may be farther away than previously thought.  This year, Sasol has proceeded with the front-end designs of some of the more-recently announced units.   So 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 carry on with the work as long as it’s still good.

Our kitties Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell continue to hang with us.  No status change here, just that they’re probably a little more spoiled than last year, if that is possible. They do seem to have lost some of the speed at which they would run into and out of the house.  Mark had them trained to minimize the time that the door remained open but now that he’s away most of the time they just resort to ambling in and out.  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, Leo, Samuel, Lisa, Sarah, and Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell the cats



Our mailing address is:

1212 Bayouwood Court

Lake Charles, LA 70605-3340


(337) 480-0625

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