Christmas, 1991

Dear Friends,

1991 was a year of enrichment for us. Ellen became pregnant again in March and delivered a beautiful daughter, named Lisa. She arrived just 12 days before Christmas, a splendid gift for us all. Lisa was born on a Friday evening only a couple hours after Ellen checked in to the hospital. These scheduled C-Section births are great! Lisa was close to 8 1/2 pounds at birth, and has been excellent. She cries only when she needs food and is content to sleep in her crib or be held. Ellen's mom came to help out with the new baby and has been a Godsend with the assistance she's provided. Home for nearly a week now, Ellen is recovering fine and working back toward her normal activity level.

Samuel is now 18 months old and it is interesting to watch him come to grips with the fact that he can no longer be the baby of the house. So far he is doing well. He is just starting to talk, although he appears to understand our speaking to him much better than we understand his. Some of his favorite things are stuffed animals, wooden spoons, and complimentary shampoo and lotion containers from hotels. He loves to play with the TV, cassette deck, and portable telephone, as well as any remote controls he can get his hands on. He has become quite a character, having taken over most of the drawers and cabinets in the house.

It is hard to believe that Anthony and Joseph are staring at age twelve in just a few months. They have entered middle school now. Each plays a trombone in the school band, but their goal is to make the Symphonic Band. I sense that they are starting to get interested in girls and other things that boys their age are getting into, but they will not admit it. They are very much into video games and computers. They have taught themselves the Basic computer language and written some programs.

For our family vacation this year we took a 4,000 mile driving trip, heading out west to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. The highlight of the trip for Anthony and Joseph was the drive atop Pikes Peak. Maybe the crossing of the Arkansas River at Royal Gorge would be a close second for them. Driving west, we discovered some beautiful scenery near the town of Aspen called Maroon Lake, purported to be the site of the most photographed mountain in the Rockies. Utah is a land of stark contrast, shaped by uplifting, erosion, and volcanic action. You can find whatever you're looking for there. Most of the state is literally eroding away, and it is amazing to watch it in progress. We explored the southern and western portions of the state, driving through five National Parks, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. Turning south to Arizona, we visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then headed home via the Petrified Forest.

Even before the new baby was known to be coming, Ellen had made the decision to stay away from her teaching career until the children are several years old. Raising kids is rapidly becoming a full time job. She was wiser in dealing with her second pregnancy. Not gaining as many pounds meant not having to lose as many pounds after the baby is born. Much of that she can credit to her participation in aerobic exercises at the YMCA.

My job at M. W. Kellogg is going great. The company had record profit this year, which surprised me considering the apparent state of the U. S. economy. The Westlake ethylene plant project I worked on will be ready for commissioning in mid-January. In October, they divided the advanced process control group into four areas of the business. I was given the ethylene area. I am happy to have the added responsibility, but it has meant many more things to learn and keep track of.

My home project for this year was installing an irrigation system for the lawn that used the creek water at the back of our property. Because the water level was thirty feet below the yard elevation, I had to use a submersible pump mounted in the creek bed. A second pump at the top of the creek bank boosts the pressure enough to push it the 400 feet to the front of the property. It works beautifully and costs less than 10% in electricity compared to the cost of water we would have used from the municipal supply system.

This year I revived an old passion of mine...bicycling. After having the same old ten-speed since college, I went out and purchased a hybrid bicycle. A cross between a mountain bike and a road racer, it is quite a neat machine. Foolishly, I entered one of the major cycle events, the Crossroads Classic, and decided to take the 100 kilometer route. Although I was exhausted, I finished it...after nearly seven hours of riding. There was time for one more event, the Texas Coastal Century, before the weather got too bad. That ride, also 100 km, was much easier for me, taking me only five hours. Next year, Ellen will purchase a similar bike and we hope to ride together in some of these events.

To remind us of the aging process (in addition to the challenge of reading the small type in this letter), there was my 20th anniversary high school reunion. What a blast to realize what great people you went to school with. It was definitely an enlightening experience that I wholeheartedly recommend.

This Christmas we are thankful for our new baby, our friends, and the opportunity to be together as a family. We hope that all had a great year and are happy and prosperous in the coming year. Ellen and I welcome visits, so if you're ever near Houston, just holler!

Mark, Ellen, Anthony, Joseph, Samuel, and Lisa


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#6 Thornhill Oaks Drive

Houston, TX 77015-2060


(713) 453-0625

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