Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to all! Merry Christmas from Houston! Thank God, no hurricanes this year! It’s been another great year, full of memorable moments. All of our kids are at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Richard, our oldest, and our daughter-in-law, Christiane, continue to work on their PhDs. Robert, our middle man, graduated this August in Mechanical Engineering and started graduate school at Georgia Tech this fall. David, our youngest, is now a sophomore, also in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. So, with all the kids at GT, “I still send my check – to Georgia Tech.” As for John and me, we’ve been burning the rubber and airways between Houston and Atlanta, and are looking forward to New Year’s, when everyone will be home for “Christmas.”
Tripping out to Atlanta for Graduation and Thanksgiving
This year we made two trips to Atlanta – the first in August for Robert’s graduation and the second for Thanksgiving. Robert’s graduation was in early August and John and I flew to Atlanta for a nice long weekend of celebrating and taking the kids out to dinner. Since the time was between semesters, we got to spend time with all the kids. We had fun trekking around Atlanta, and, with Rob and Dave, toured CNN and went to the new Atlanta Aquarium – which is absolutely amazing. It has only been open a short time and is already getting rave reviews. The presentation of the sea life in their natural habitat was incredibly well done. There is one tank with over 100,000 fish that has a viewing area about the size of an IMAX screen and a Plexiglas wall 2-feet thick. There is another huge tank of beluga whales and an interesting variety of fish from all over the world from the tropics to the arctic.
As for Thanksgiving, we decided to go to Atlanta, because, if the kids weren’t coming to the parents, the parents would go to the kids. Since we had the time, we decided to drive. Of course, then, we could load up the car with all sorts of things – microwave ovens, dishes, cheesecakes, cookies, enough clothes for a month…we even brought a big 22-pound Texas turkey to Atlanta. (Like there are no turkeys in Atlanta?) Robert hosted the dinner at his condo and single-handedly cooked the turkey - perfecto! Richard made the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing and green bean casserole. John made the gravy. I made the pies – pumpkin and lemon meringue. Dave supervised, drank beer, and kept everyone abreast of the sports scores. The meal and the day were fantastic and a good time was had by all.
Besides the Thanksgiving feast, we had a week in Atlanta to have fun with the kids and our friends, the Dixons, and to tour around. The weather was spectacular, so one afternoon, we all went to the Atlanta Zoo. I know, that may sound less than thrilling, but this was some fantastic zoo. It is one of only four in the country that has Giant Pandas, and recently, a baby panda was born to the Atlanta Pandas! The zoo was beautifully arranged with natural habitats, and there was even a bird show with flying owls and other raptors. Besides the zoo, we visited the Cyclorama, a 400-foot x 50-foot in-the-round painting and diorama of the Civil War, and the Smith Plantation in nearby Roswell. We had a great time with our friends and our kids. This was a week worth repeating.
Tripping out to Oregon for Folk’s 60th Wedding Anniversary and More
This May, my mom and dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and John and I went out to help them celebrate. All of my brothers and sisters, their spouses and children were there, as well as mom and dad’s many good friends and relatives. John photographed the event and made portraits for the family.
We stayed about 10 days and had lots of fun clamming a couple times near Gearhart. We also visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Tillamook Forest Center, where we saw a movie about, and saw artifacts from, the Tillamook Burn.
We had a great time in Oregon, and after coming back to Houston, John went back solo to Oregon for another few weeks to check out the family glider port. On the flyable days, he gave rides to some of my family. He also helped out (or followed around) my brother Paul on the farm and got a bad case of “tool envy.” For me, the best part of the trip was when he brought back a big box of fresh, juicy sweet blueberries from the farm.
John Improves Photos with “Magic” Program
Last year, I told you all about John’s new digital cameras, lenses and photography equipment. So now, after taking thousands of photos, his photography has really become quite good and much more interesting, in part due to Photoshop CS2. If you know this program, you will know it can do amazing things – once you learn how to use it. (Easier said than done.) Well, I told my folks, that John would do the photography for their 60th anniversary and could “paste in” our kids who were in school in Atlanta or in Florida at the time. (So a zillion hours, and a trip to Atlanta for more kid photos, later, he finally got them seamlessly inserted into the picture.) The family photo was a success, and he earned some “in-law” brownie points in the process. If you’re interested in photography and/or some “interesting” commentary, check out John’s photos, at http://www.pbase.com/johncrossphotography. I highly recommend the “What I did today” section – the captions (and added reader comments) are a hoot. Guys will relate.
Since leaving the corporate world, John’s day usually begins at the airport. He heads out early in the morning to visit, and, on nice days, fly his planes. In the afternoons, John continues to tutor math, chemistry and physics to about 50, mostly high school, students. The “kids” are really interesting, fun and accomplished. (Last year, some of John’s students played at Carnegie Hall.) We love seeing them and even go to their programs.
Home Improvement Hotline – Drapes Finally Make Their Debut
About 16 years ago – John says even longer – our folks said we needed to get new drapes in our living and dining rooms. The old ones had a good case of sun rot, and may have been 30 years old. Well, about 6 years ago I found and bought new fabric, last year I cut it, and this year I sewed it. Didn’t want to rush a good thing. In time, I wrestled 65 yards of fabric into 8 panels of drapes. It was a challenge, but everything turned out great.
Houston International Quilt Show
Although I didn’t take any international trips this year, I did go to an international event – the International Quilt Show, which is held each year in Houston. There are hundreds of quilts and they are quite amazing – some have hundreds of thousands of pieces hand sewn together. Others are artistic and unusual. Some are antique and some from other lands. Each year about 50,000 quilters (mostly women) come to Houston for this event. This was my first time to go, but not my last – so, if anyone’s interested, you have a place to stay with us. And, note, November is a weather-friendly Houston month, especially for all of you in the northlands.
Richard and Christiane Working on PhDs
Richard and Christiane are both in PhD programs at Georgia Tech - Richard’s in Aeronautical Engineering and Christiane’s in Biomedical Engineering, a joint program with Emory University. Richard presented his thesis proposal this year and is on track to get his degree next May. This year he had two papers accepted for publication, and was awarded the Vertical Flight Foundation Fellowship from the American Helicopter Society, the PhD Research Fellowship from the American Society of Composites, and the Boeing Rotorcraft Fellowship. After getting his PhD, he plans to post-doc at Georgia Tech while Christiane completes her degree.
Extracurricularly, both Richard and Christiane continue to play guitar and piano, respectively, at Sunday Mass at the GT Catholic Center. Richard also volunteers as a DJ at WREK, GT’s radio station (www.wrek.com) and has become active in the Yellow Jacket flying club, where he is the crew chief for the complex aircraft. Christiane has recently joined a US Tennis Association team and plays competitively in the Atlanta area. In the fall, they went to New York and attended a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.
Robert, 23, Graduates from Georgia Tech and Starts Grad School
This August, Robert graduated with highest honors from Georgia Tech in Mechanical Engineering – and is now, thankfully, “off the payroll.” In the fall, he started grad school at Georgia Tech working on a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. In grad school, he’s a Teaching Assistant for a CAD/CAM course and doing research in carbon nanotubes.
With his acceptance into grad school, he moved into a nearby condo in Midtown Atlanta with a fraternity friend. Besides being within walking distance of Georgia Tech, it has a spectacular view of Atlanta. For Spring Break -- instead of going to Disneyworld (bummer) -- he had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and damaged meniscus from an impromptu basketball game. In the summer, after his knee healed, he was able to make up the trip to Disneyworld, where his girlfriend, Laura, was interning. Besides his trek to Tech, Rob’s most heavily traveled route is the airway between Atlanta and Boston, where his girlfriend is working on an MBA at Harvard and due to graduate next year.
Dave, 20, Mechanical Engineering Sophomore at Georgia Tech
David turned 20 this year and is now a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Instead of coming home this summer to that dreaded 4-letter word, i.e., WORK, he attended summer semester and is now only three hours short of Junior standing. Before summer semester, he helped Rob move into his condo and he moved from the dorm to Rob’s room at Theta Chi. David loves fraternity doings and is now the Philanthropy chairman. In the spring, he volunteered (or was volunteered) to arm wrestle in the light weight category during Greek Week. I was nervous about his losing 15 pounds in less than a week, including dehydrating in a sauna the last day before the weigh in. Although he didn’t feel well after this “insanity,” he was OK in a of couple days and placed third. I’m not sure if it was any safer, but he also weight lifted and presented a talent performance (recited poetry while accompanying himself on a Conga drum) to get second in the Greek God competition. Maybe I shouldn’t have worried, but I’m the mom and that’s my job. Otherwise, he’s doing well at school and plays Frisbee in his spare time,
Well, that's it from us! Hope to hear from you, too!! And all the best for a very Merry Christmas and a Great New Year!