Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to all! Merry Christmas from Houston! We thank God we were spared the wrath of Rita, and house and home are still intact. It’s been a great year, full of family milestones. Richard, our oldest, was married after last Christmas to the love of his life, Christiane, and, thus, a wonderful new daughter was welcomed into this mostly male family. Robert, our wild and crazy middle man, gave his fraternity pin to Laura, and David, our youngest, headed off to Georgia Tech. So, with all the kids at GT, my line is “I send my check – to Georgia Tech.” As for John and I, we’re doing well with “empty nesting,” but clutter control is another story. We are looking forward to having everyone home for Christmas. It will be warm indeed.
Ginny Evacuates to France for Hurricane Rita
What a year for hurricanes on the Gulf Coast! After the wrath of Katrina, we thought Rita could make Houston the next Biloxi. Since we live only 5 miles from Galveston Bay, when a Cat-5 is looking right at us, we take notice. No problem, I was evacuating to France. I just didn’t know it at the time I made my reservations. Since Rita was coming in that Friday, we headed to the airport early Wed., even though my flight wasn’t until late evening. Good call, because by afternoon, we wouldn’t have made it to the airport. You saw the traffic! After dropping me off, John went back home, to board up the house in 100ºF weather, secure the necessary “supplies” from the liquor store and watch storm updates on the Internet. After arriving at my girlfriend Karen’s house in Lyon, we stayed in contact with John as he waited out the storm. The next day in Paris, as Karen and I walked around the Montmartre area, we came upon the small chapel of St. Rita. What a sign! We prayed. By the next morning, our prayers were answered - Houston was spared.
With worry behind us, we enjoyed 4 days in Paris and 2 more weeks going around France. (I highly recommend Museum and Metro passes, which made entering the busy Paris sites so fast and easy that you can see Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo before the crowds.) We visited many of the great Paris museums, as well as Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Versailles, etc., before hitting the road, to visit Mont Saint-Michel, the D-Day beaches of Normandy, Bordeaux vineyards, Mum Champagne cellars, Limoges, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Reims and the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct, which Robert also built more recently for his “amazing” social studies project. The trip was great, the sites spectacular, and the food – well, I wore some home.
John and His New Hobby of the Year
I imagine guys who read this tome on an annual basis, probably skip ahead to this section to find out what new bits of techno-goodies John’s bought himself under the guise of a new hobby. Well, this year, it’s photography. Sounds simple enough, but wait. First, you get an 8-Megapixel digital single-lens reflex camera. Then, a monster flash. Then, a gyroscopically-controlled telephoto lens. Then, all of that’s too big to carry around, so there’s the requisite mini-camera with 7 Megapixels Since pictures taken with any camera can be random, ill-composed and out of focus, there’s this magic software to make ordinary pictures into masterpieces. Well, when not using film, it’s easy to take a #@*%-load of pictures. After printing all those pictures, they have to be put in all those photo albums. And, where do all those photo albums go? Well, with all the other stuff in your house, of course. You get the “picture.” Not only can photography take over your life, but also your house. And, of course, you know John never does anything in a small way, so he studies, researches different techniques, and takes tons of pictures daily. But, to be fair, I have to say John’s pictures have become quite interesting, and some, pretty amazing. I guess, I could be biased, but one person saw some of his aerial shots and wanted to buy them to make postcards. We’ll let you know when we see the postcards. If you want to check out some of John’s photos yourself, go to http://www.pbase.com/johncrossphotography.
Besides being bitten by the “photo bug,” John still goes out to the airport every day for his “flying fix.” His “cross country” this year was a summer excursion to Minnesota to see his Mom, sister Jean and family. In addition to flying his “full-size” planes, he loves building and flying radio-controlled model airplanes. Of course, John has had to add new “toys” to his Christmas stocking in this category – can you say “custom-made engine that screams at 18,000 rpm?”
In the afternoons, John continues to tutor math, chemistry and physics to about 25, mostly high school, students. The “kids” are really nice and most interesting. We love seeing them and keeping up with the latest teen trends. Besides, some of these kids are even into John’s kind of fun things – such as, would you believe, “potato guns?” - only in Texas.
Empty Nesters Trip Out Together to Atlanta and Oregon
Without the kids and their activities, John and I can even go on trips - together. What a novel idea! In mid-September, we went to Atlanta for Georgia Tech’s Family Weekend. It was great to see all the kids, and GT even won the football game. Since John and I had an extra day, we went out to Stone Mountain. We had been to Stone Mountain before, back in the late ‘70s, when it was just a mere “mountain.” Well, it is not just a “mountain” anymore – it’s an “attraction!” And that means, there’s a train ride encircling it, a man-made lake for paddle-wheelers and duck boats to cruise near it, a gondola ride up it, museums, shows, restaurants, related and unrelated exhibits, and, of course, shops - everywhere. All in all, we had a great time – and even found the carvings on the rock we came to see!
Around Thanksgiving, we went to Oregon to see my family, and celebrate Dad’s 85th birthday. For John, it was a week full of fun “guy” stuff - like letting air out of ducks, visiting an airplane factory, and seeing lots of vintage airplanes in McMinnville at the new Spruce Goose Museum and at the Tillamook Air Museum housed in a WWII blimp hangar.
Bigger Home Project “Slated” This Year
After the major home “make-overs” of the last few seasons, this year I began an even bigger project – the master bedroom, bath and closet. After 25 years of living in one house without moving, a lot of “stuff” (much more than dust bunnies) started to live and multiply in our bedroom and closet. I was about to call that HGTV show “Mission Organization” to volunteer our room, but I was not that trusting. When I told John that I was going to redo the bedroom and move all the “stuff” out, he said “It’ll never happen.” So, with those daring words, I had to proceed. After sufficiently “stewing” over the project, I decided to ditch the carpet and extend the tan/grey/brown slate from the entry into the master bedroom, bath and closet. The project started in late February after moving EVERYTHING out into the living and dining rooms. I thought, if I start the project early in the year, then I should be able to have the house back together by Christmas. Yeah, right! The things that I contracted out, i.e. the slate floor, bedroom painting, and new baseboard installation, all happened in a timely way. Even some of the stuff I did myself, like sealing the floor, sealing and painting the walk-in closet and baseboards, also stayed on schedule. Although we were able to move back in the room by Easter, the other “stuff” that wasn’t going back in the room is still in boxes in the dining room, after being shuffled to the living room and back due to the hurricane. Now, with Christmas, and the kids, coming soon, the “stuff” must be shuffled again – to where – well, somewhere else, of course, but NOT back in the bedroom.
Richard and Christiane Wed Dec. 30, 2004, in Jacksonville, Florida
Richard and Christiane are both in Ph.D. programs at Georgia Tech - Richard’s in Aeronautical Engineering and Christiane in Biomedical Engineering, a joint program with Emory University. Their wedding last year between Christmas and New Year’s made the holiday season extra special and festive. It was a grand event at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Jacksonville. Christiane was radiant. Richard was handsome. The maids of honor, including Christiane’s sisters, Janice and Hazel, were beautiful, and the groomsmen, including Robert and David, quite dignified (especially for brothers). We were so warmly welcomed with exceptional and unsurpassed hospitality by all of Christiane’s family. The reception at the former officer’s club at Mayport Naval Station, and the many parties before and after, were all incredible – full of fun and the most delicious food we’ve ever eaten. The weather was also most cooperative – warm and sunny – no coats or snowsuits required. After a honeymoon in Spain, the couple returned to GT. Christiane has now passed her orals and Richard recently wrote up his PhD thesis proposal. They love music and play together at Sunday Mass at the GT Catholic Center, where Christiane’s on piano and Richard’s on guitar. Besides guitar, Richard recently resumed trumpet, and in his spare time, likes to spin CDs as a DJ at WREK, GT’s radio station (www.wrek.com). In the summer, Richard and Christiane enjoyed one of their wedding presents – a 2-week tour of Italy.
Robert, 22, Mechanical Engineering Senior at Georgia Tech
Robert is now on “home stretch” at Georgia Tech and was named one of GT’s outstanding Mechanical Engineering seniors. Rob has been going to school year round and has also started doing research in carbon nanotubes. All of this is good, because he is now thinking of grad school next fall. As well as academics, Rob’s keeping up his quite exceptional reputation in the “social” arena. This year, he was rush chairman at his fraternity, Theta Chi, and he also gave his “pin” to Laura, also a “Yellowjacket.” Laura graduated from GT this May and is now in Cambridge at Harvard Business School, so there have been lots of airline tickets on the VISA card this year.
Dave, 19, Mechanical Engineering Freshman at Georgia Tech
David turned 19 this year and happily finished his senior year at Clear Lake High School doing all the “fun stuff,” i.e. Quiz Bowl, Prom, Project Graduation, having his wisdom teeth pulled, etc. In the summer, besides being a Boy Scout counselor at Camp Strake, he and John took some father-son trips. One was to Corpus Christi to go see “The Hooks” in AA baseball, and they packed in a lot – one game lasted 20-innings ‘til 2 in the morning! Dave and John also volunteered at K2BSA, the Ham Radio demonstration station at the 2005 National Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort AP Hill, VA. Being a ham really paid off, when their “Scout van” blew a radiator right before the Atchafalaya swamp. One of the local friendly hams told them where they could get their repairs and even came to visit them at the repair shop.
As for college, Dave was accepted by both MIT and GT. He had visited both schools several times and knew his heart was really at GT. We are thrilled with his choice and his major, Mechanical Engineering. Like Rob, he loves sports and socializing, and also joined the same fraternity, Theta Chi. Besides attending most all the GT games of any type, he also loves bowling on Theta Chi’s intramural team and playing ultimate Frisbee.
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!
From all of the Crosses