Dear Friends and Family,
What a year! Thank God for His blessings on us. The tragedies of this year help us refocus on what’s really important – God, family, friends and country. It’s been an incredible year for everyone. With so much horror on the TV, it’s impossible not to feel anxious and fearful, worried and depressed. I know, this year has made me think and feel much different, but I promise no depressing news here. I’m thankful that a good part of human nature is to think positive and be hopeful.
We often take a family trip or have a big event together, but this year was different. Our kids are growing up and it’s harder to coordinate everyone’s activities, interests and plans to mesh together. There were still memorable trips and events, but most all happened in family subsets.
Ginny’s “New Life After Exxon”
About this time last year, I had just joined a new “nano” start-up, Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc. (CNI) and have been with the group a little over a year. Although, I started out as employee No. 3, Numbers “1” and “2” are gone, so I’m now the most senior full-time employee. For those of you who missed last year’s letter, it was founded by Rice University Prof. Richard Smalley (1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry for fullerenes, also known as "Buckyballs" or soccer balls of carbon on the molecular level.) In April of this year, the company was investor funded to build a pilot plant and commission a lab unit to make "Buckytubes", which look like a roll of carbon chicken wire in between the round soccer ball-shaped ends. Big challenges remain, i.e. making buckytubes cheaply and finding large-scale market applications. “Nanotechnology” is a hot area, so there’s lots of interest, but the price is impractically high for most applications right now. Time will tell. My role in the venture is intellectual property, especially patents. I’ve been learning more about the US and international patent system and have been trying my hand at writing patents for the company. As I learn more about the patenting system, I’m finding out how complicated it is. However, life in a “start-up” and learning new things are very exciting – you never know what will happen next.
Although my time to devote to home improvement is limited, I am happy to report that the kitchen project I started last year is now complete. To be done in less than a year is a record, since the previous kitchen make-over took forever. The kitchen looks fabulous with new tile, countertops, backsplash, stovetop, dishwasher, freshly painted cabinets, knobs, hinges, and dining lamp. The highlight, though, is the floral wallpaper, designed by my college girlfriend, Sue Webb-Rebecchi. Come by and see!
In my “free” time, I help out with Clear Lake High School’s Academic Quiz Bowl, in which Robert and David are on the varsity and JV teams, respectively. Besides reading questions for competitions, I chauffer the teams to various meets. The kids are very interesting and the competitions a lot of fun. I’m also still committee chairman for Robert and David’s Boy Scout troop. This keeps me busy, and helps me know and appreciate the Boy Scout program more fully.
John’s Life’s on Air with More Horsepower
Since leaving the corporate world, John’s been pursuing lofty dreams – his love of aviation. As faithful readers of these annual tomes know, I reveal John's latest (increasingly, expensive) hobby. Every year, as Rosanna Rosanna Dana says, “It’s always something.” This year, we became a two plane family as John added a 180-horsepower 1949 Swift – a two-seat, low-wing tail-dragger – to the collection. A beautiful plane that John knows inside out. It is now flying again and joins the 1952 Cessna 170B - a four-seat, tail-dragger. Last year, John started life in “retirement” with the goal of becoming an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic. Although that endeavor is still on track, he got his “Instructor’s” certificate current and is doing a fair amount of instructing. About mid-year, we incorporated the venture into Raven Aviation so we could print up cards with John as Pres. and me as VP.
Scouting is in John’s blood, so Scout he must. John’s especially likes the high adventure trips and took David (on his first trek) and Richard (on his third trek) to Philmont this summer for 80 miles of exhilarating hiking. There are always memorable stories that the boys come back with from the hike, but they will never forget their high water drive out of Houston at the height of the incredible floods.
This year was also the 2001 National Jamboree and John and all the boys went. John taught ham radio at K2BSA, Richard and Robert staffed at Scuba and David went as part of the Houston contingent. They had a great time, as always.
John’s also an assistant scoutmaster for the Robert and David’s troop, a unit commissioner for another pack and troop, and a teacher for Ad Altare Dei, a Catholic religious program for Scouts 6th grade through high school. After Christmas, he again plans to help out at Winter Camp at Camp Strake.
Richard, 20, a Junior (already) at MIT and Learning to Fly
Richard's already a junior at MIT. Time has flown and the boy is into flying. He’s really into, and thoroughly enjoying his major, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering. He's doing very well academically and was top of his “unified” engineering and programming classes this past year. He’s now a teaching assistant for “unified” and doing some undergraduate research projects in “aero and astro”. His classes really keep him busy and I’m not sure when he sleeps. He's also enjoying his Sigma Nu fraternity experiences and travels with them often. He called in from Canada recently. He loved hiking Philmont and going to National Jamboree this summer. After Christmas, he’ll again help out at Winter Camp.
Richard has inherited John’s passion for flying. This summer John started teaching Richard to fly the 170 and Richard logged about 50 heavenly hours. Some of those hours came from the trip John and Richard made to Burnsville, MN, to see John’s mom and sister. Although John didn’t solo him, Richard is mastering take-offs and landings. We’re not sure what he’ll do next summer, but if he’s home, I’m sure he’ll be high in the sky. (For those of you with Internet access, check out the Dude’s web page at http://www.mit.edu/people/cross/www/. Richard’s the Dude and it’s a hoot with recipes to boot!)
Robert, 18, Senior at Clear Lake Visits Italy and now a Step Away from College
Robert turned 18 this year and is now a senior at Clear Lake HS. One of the highlights of Robert’s year was going to Italy during Spring Break with the Latin club and World History classes. It was a quick, but fabulous trip including Rome, Pisa, Florence, Naples, Sorrento, the Isle of Capri, and Assisi. (I would have loved to come along – maybe next time.)
Senior year is the time to enjoy high school to the fullest and Robert’s doing just that. He tried out for the Senior musical “Barnum” and says he’s going to sing and dance (which will be a first). We’re looking forward to seeing his “hidden talents.” In the musical, which is a 3-month senior bonding experience, no one’s cut for lack of talent, but year after year, the show’s been absolutely spectacular.
Besides the musical, Robert is still competing in academic Quiz Bowl, this year on the varsity team, and continues to play piano. He’s been in Science Fair since kindergarten and has done well. This past year, his project went on to the Greater Houston Science Fair and won several special awards. In Scouts, he was the Order of the Arrow representative for the Troop until he recently “graduated” to Assistant Scoutmaster upon turning 18. This past summer, he taught the Personal Fitness merit badge at Camp Strake and helped with Scuba at National Jamboree. After Christmas, he’ll help with sports at Winter Camp at Strake.
Robert loves percussion and gets lots of action playing the "quads" during marching season. He tried out for the “Bluecoats”, a national drum and bugle corps this November and made the first cut. If he makes the corps and decides to join, it would be all summer drumming around the country. Like college, we won’t know until next year. As for college, Robert’s interested in engineering and he’s preparing applications. We visited Georgia Tech in October and he and John visited Univ. of Texas at Austin in November. Although he has applied to Notre Dame and is thinking about Purdue, he said he’s inclined to stay in the South after visiting Atlanta, which he found cold. (Obviously, he hasn’t yet visited Indiana!)
Dave, 15, Freshman at Clear Lake and New Eagle Scout
David's 15 and his big milestone was earning the rank of Eagle Scout. He just passed his board of review and will be having a Court of Honor to celebrate the great accomplishment after the New Year. For his Eagle project, he built a barbeque/fire pit and 8 benches for the Troop’s charter church. Needless to say, we are very proud of him.
This year David’s joined Robert as a freshman at Clear Lake HS, where he plays trumpet in the band. Following in both of his brothers' footsteps, he's on the Quiz Bowl JV team and continues to play (but hardly practices) the piano.
Besides completing the requirements for Eagle, David's a Den Chief for a den of 5th grade Webelos. He also had a very busy summer, full of Scouting adventures. In early June, he went with John and Richard to make his first Philmont trek. He also went with the Troop to summer camp at El Rancho Cima near San Marcos in west Texas. In late July to early August, he attended his first National Jamboree. After Christmas, David will take Junior Leader Training at Camp Strake. He was scheduled to take it last year, but instead he had an emergency appendectomy. What a surprise that was. It happened so fast - from the onset of pain (at 2 in the morning) to the operation (at 10 in the morning). The operation went well, but an infection developed about a week later and we went back to the Emergency Room. After getting “cleaned out,” his recovery went along much better. At first it hurt when he laughed, but now he laughs a lot about it.
Visitors from Oregon
Although we warn all who visit, that summertime in Texas is HOT, my folks decided to see for themselves. Besides the heat, they also took in the annual NASA open house and the Ballunar Festival, with some of the most fascinating balloons. We also found several interesting restaurants and the only Belgium restaurant in Houston, which met with their approval.
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