Christmas, 2014
(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

 Dear Friends,        

2014 was an exciting year as we watch our younger members growing up.  And there were some interesting travel opportunities for the family.
Here’s the summary of our year in Lake Charles, LA.

In February, Sarah made her Bat Mitzvah.  She did a beautiful job with her chanting and played some wonderful piano pieces.  Young grandson, Leo, is walking now, and granddaughters, Chloe and Lilah, are doing exceptionally well.  And there was news that the family will be expanding.  Lisa announced her engagement to Jason Rosensteel with a wedding planned for early 2016.

Mark worked the entire year in South Africa as part of his ex-pat assignment with Sasol Synfuels.  Samuel and Lisa visited their Dad in SA, going to Cape Town in early January.  There the three of them climbed Table Mountain, rising 1000 meters above the city.  Sarah, Lisa, Ellen, and Mark spent a week in Scottsdale, AZ, in July.  Then in November it was Ellen’s and Sarah’s turn to visit South Africa (Knysna, Cape Town, and other places).
The highlight of the year for many was the Texas A&M Aggies vs. LSU Tigers football game last November.  Lisa and Jason made the trek from Baton Rouge to College Station, TX, and joined Samuel and his girlfriend Katie O’Brien for a good old-fashioned football rivalry.  As is often the case, it was another heart-breaking loss for the Aggies.

On that same day Mark, Ellen, and Sarah were having a quiet Thanksgiving dinner in Cape Town.

In December, Mark was home from South Africa for the holidays.  The family was host to Mark’s sister, Gina, and her daughter, Carly, who visited from Pensacola, as well as Anthony and Joseph and their families visiting from Houston.  Jason and his parents were here, too, so we had a wonderful group.

Sarah is now 14 and continues to grow into a mature young lady. She’s in the eighth grade and continues to make top grades in the SPARK program at SJ Welsh. As mentioned earlier, she made the accomplishment of her Bat Mitzvah at Temple Sinai in February. She continues her after-school activities such as piano lessons and dance. Over the summer she went to state rally for piano and received an Honorable Mention--not too shabby for being in a higher and harder level. In district rally she finished second in her division. She still plays the French horn in her school band, and continues to be in the symphonic band, which is the highest band at her school. Instead of participating in the local arts camp, last summer Sarah attended her first sleep-away camp. It’s called Camp Olympia. She enjoyed it so much that she’s going back again this summer.  Sarah now has an iPad Air as well as an iPod touch.  She still has a dumb cell phone which comes in handy as she needs it.
Lisa had a very exciting year. Her boyfriend, Jason Rosensteel, asked her to marry him on July 4th. She of course said “yes” and they have set a date for the big day on March 5, 2016. Lisa and Jason have also taken the next step in their relationship by adopting a cat, Ashton. When they’re home, Ashton requires their full attention.  Lisa completed her second summer engineering internship with Axiall. She worked at the old Georgia Gulf facility this time and loved her coworkers and assignments. While the work was a bit more in-depth, she gained valuable experience that will prepare her for her future career.   Meanwhile, she continues at LSU working on her Chemical Engineering degree.  Lisa was offered permanent, full-time employment at Axiall in Lake Charles to start after her graduation this May, and she gladly accepted. She only has one more semester ahead of her before she can begin her exciting new job. While driving to work one summer morning in one of our traditional Louisiana monsoons, her beloved VW Beetle found its way into a ditch full of water.  Once she released the car to Beetle heaven, she decided to follow in her brother’s and father’s footsteps by getting a manual-shift diesel Jetta (2014 model).  This makes three in the family now.

Samuel continues to work in the process control group at Chevron Phillips in Port Arthur, TX.  He is actively implementing control improvement strategies which have been well received by the plant.  Samuel also experienced the commissioning of a new boiler unit where he took on a lead role in implementing all of the regulatory control.  This past year, Samuel decided to move past apartment living and purchase his first house.  Now Pebbles the cat has much more room to run around and play with his two new furry friends, Chico and Typhoon.  Samuel’s devotion to Aggie football stayed strong while traveling to every home game this past season with his girlfriend Katie, including the aforementioned Thanksgiving game against LSU.

Ellen continues as the “stay-at-home mom,” running the household while Mark is away in South Africa.  Things have gone pretty smooth, all things considered.  And she really enjoyed her second trip to South Africa, becoming quite fond of the Cape Town area and all it has to offer.  She especially liked the narrow one-lane dirt roads winding through the mountains in the rain and mist.  Ellen continues to work out at the local Curves Center and to volunteer at Sarah’s Middle school.  Although she still teaches Sunday school at the Synagogue, considerable time was spent helping Sarah to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah in February.  And, of course, she still has to tend to our three kitties (Luke, Lucy, and Tidwell).

2014 was a fantastic year for Joseph and Jessica.  They spent a gorgeous week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and the whole family took a trip to Disney in October.

Joseph is continuing in his successful career at LyondellBasell as the Control Systems Engineering Manager.  The growing group under his management now includes over 20 engineers, technologists, and specialists.  He led and participated in many prosperous projects including two DCS upgrades and other capital expansion projects.

Jessica is loving spending time with her smart, beautiful daughters.  Her life is filled with sparkle and tutus, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chloe turned five and is thriving in her second year of preschool.   She has learned to read, do addition and subtraction, identify all of the continents, name all of the planets and much more.  She has moved up two levels in swim lessons and has begun singing in the church choir.  Her favorite, however, is ballet.  She is a born performer who gives us much joy with her impromptu shows.  She is such a kind-hearted, caring child.

Lilah will soon be turning three and is spending her last year at home.  She knows her colors and is working on her letters and numbers.  She loves caring for her baby dolls, playing with her big sister, and dancing.  Anything mermaids or Tinkerbell makes her happy, and she is enthralled with big show productions.  Every week she looks forward to her swim lessons and tap/ballet classes.  Lilah is such a happy child, always laughing and giving hugs (if you can catch her!)
Anthony and Erika continue living in Houston with their son Leo.  Leo decided to start walking on his 1st birthday.  He is very inquisitive, now saying and signing some words, and is advancing quickly.  He is a very happy and pleasant baby and is usually laughing, talking, or smiling.  Many can't believe what a good baby he is.  Erika’s first year as a stay-home mom was an eye-opening experience.  She can’t remember how many times she couldn't drink a hot cup of coffee, eat a hot dinner, or sleep through the night, but definitely doesn’t regret having the toughest job in the world.  Anthony continues to work for LyondellBasell and is winding down his Project Manager duties in the La Porte olefins expansion project with its successful completion.  He is now serving as the lead Principal process control engineer and project manager on a major advanced process control (APC) project to revamp and add new APC applications, which is projected to make the company millions.

Mark’s home-away-from-home is Secunda, South Africa, working as a Senior Process Control Engineer at Sasol Synfuels for two years, the bulk of which is now completed.  The work has proven to be diverse and educational.  The various chemical and refining processes plus the heart of the operation (the coal-to-liquids process) have given him the opportunity to learn and to solve some fairly unique problems.  The entire experience has been rewarding as well as challenging.  He has shared his knowledge and experience with numerous young engineers so that the work can continue after he returns to Lake Charles.  Outdoor life in South Africa is fantastic.  As mentioned earlier, there were two trips to Cape Town as host to the family members, and Mark got the feel of hiking South African style during a weekend outing near Parys.  During the year he managed to take a few international excursions: a week in Hong Kong, and shorter trips to Mozambique and Cairo, Egypt.  With Sasol’s approval of a project to build more new units at this site, it looks as if retirement may be farther away than previously thought.  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



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