Dear Friends and Family,
Since last Christmas, I've been wondering how I was going to write this letter. What would I say? How would I say it? This year has come with monumental changes and a good number of stress points. All of this needs explaining. Where shall I start? Well, if we start from last year's letter, everything seemed pretty normal - for us, that is. Crazy, as usual. Well, the massive changes were in the works last December. Exxon let me know, right before Christmas (so nice of them), that my job was being eliminated due to the Exxon Mobil merger. Ouch! I went through all sort of emotions. Many people comforted me and said "there's life after Exxon." Some people told me that they'd been laid off multiple times and that "it all works out." Although I was shocked, there was little I could do. I started to look forward to being June Cleaver in a "Leave it to Beaver" household. Since I had worked enough years and I was at a milestone year in the month I was laid off, I became an "annuitant" and eligible for most all the benefits of retirement. For many years, John planned to retire as soon as possible. Normally, early retirement would be 55, but with the merger, it became possible, in certain cases, such as mine, to be 50. Although Exxon wouldn't give him the "golden boot" (and he did ask), he could be under my benefits at any time. If losing my job didn't stress me out totally, I really went weird when he said he was going to quit. In fact, he was going to put in his resignation so that we'd walk out the door together. So much for the "Leave it to Beaver" life.
It turned out that he left just one day after I did and we were home together - instantly retired. He was thrilled. I was confused. I tried to figure and refigure my life. At first, we went to the grocery store together. Then we went to the hardware store. Then we went to the bank. Very strange. So this is retirement? Now I had all this time and I was very inefficient. My emotions ran up and down with the stock market, which wasn't very good if you know how the stock market went this year - pretty much all downhill since March. John had lots to do. He had multiple Scout trips planned and, now even more, with his new, complete freedom. I began to look at the house and decided to work on it. I painted Richard's room in the summer and then looked to do a total makeover of the kitchen with new floor, countertops, backsplash, wallpaper and repainted cabinets. The project gave me focus, but not any sense of urgency.
Between Scout trips, John got bit by the flying bug, and within days of the bite, we were the proud new owners of a Cessna 170B. John had a great time and started to hang out at the airport in between trips around the country. After school started for the kids in August, he decided he wanted to be an A&P (airframe and powerplant) mechanic and is now working on that license. He loves working on planes and comes home with daily insights into (take that literally) the various aircraft and aviation in general. It's always been his love. As for me, I didn't know exactly where I was going, but since I was involuntarily laid off, I could collect "unemployment" if I looked for work. So I made a several contacts and put out my resume several times a week. At first, I thought that the phone would be ringing off the hook, given the tight the job market, but the summer didn't produce many return calls. This was fine with me, because my kitchen project was beyond the "stewing" stage and into the "doing" stage. Contractors were coming and going, and the kitchen was completely dismantled. But wouldn't you know, when everything's torn apart, the really exciting "jobs" come up. Although I knew the pace of my kitchen project was going to slow dramatically, I decided that I couldn't pass up an opportunity to be involved in challenging cutting-edge technology with the excitement of a "start up". The hot new area is nanotechnology. The company, Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc. (CNI), was founded by Rice University Prof. Richard Smalley, who received the 1996 Nobel Prize for fullerenes, or "Buckyballs", which look like soccer balls of carbon on the molecular level. The primary product at this point is "Buckytubes", which look like a roll of carbon chicken wire in between the carbon soccer ball ends. Anyway, these tiny carbon tubes have amazing properties and commercial potential. Not counting the four founders, I am employee "No. 3", joining two business development people. Right now, I'm mainly at Rice and working on intellectual property issues like patents and competitive technology. The learning curve on the science of fullerenes and the international patent system has been steep, but very interesting. We'll see how things go, but so far it's been really cool! I guess I could have subtitled this section "To Retirement and Back in a Few Short Months".
John's New Hobby - N2363D - Patches in a Holding Pattern
As faithful readers of these annual tomes know, John's hobby news is legend. The last two years were anomalies, in that I reported NO NEW HOBBIES. Was John ill? No, just bigger ideas need more time to incubate - or to persuade the other half, i.e. me. The new toy is a 1952 Cessna 170B - a four-seater, tail dragger. It's in immaculate condition - new paint job and fully restored. After some training and landing practice, he headed off into the blue - off to Knoxville to the National Order of the Arrow Conclave in Knoxville, TN, and then to Burnsville, MN, to see his mother and sister and her family. I think one of the most fun trips was in early August, when he and Richard went out to Midland, TX, to see the Confederate Air Force and take in a Midland Rockhounds AA baseball game, where all the seats are good and the beer is cheap. Besides the joy of flying, John's enjoying the joy of plane mechanics - more than a "riveting" experience!
Richard, 19, a Sophomore at MIT
Richard's now a sophomore at MIT and is in his element. He's decided to make Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering his major, but is also taking a lot of Electrical Engineering as well. He's doing well academically and is feasting on all the experiences of the "Tute" and Boston. In January, he's taking a robotics class that culminates in a competition doing some task preprogrammed by artificial intelligence. In PE, he's had great fun with golf, ice skating and hockey, and in intramural hockey and soccer with his fraternity, Sigma Nu. He's thoroughly enjoying his fraternity experiences and travels around the country to visit different chapters. He's house manager this year and is learning very useful and practical skills in house maintenance and management. He's adapted well and we are very happy he's happy. His summer was spent managing the pool at Camp Strake, but next summer, he may do something in the field of his major, in between a trek at Philmont and 2001 National Jamboree, of course.
Robert, 17, Junior at Clear Lake with College on the Horizon
Robert turned 17 this year and is now a junior at Clear Lake HS. He's loves playing the "quads" in the band and his (oh so loud) trap set at home. After marching season was over, he joined the high school orchestra to play more percussion. Even though he has a 6:30 am English class, he enjoying school. When not playing drums after school, he practices and com-petes in academic Quiz Bowl. He took his PSATs this fall and is developing his short list of colleges, where he's thinking of applying to study engineering. He also continues to play piano and participate in Scouts, where he is the troop Order of the Arrow representative. Most of Robert's summer was spent staffing at Camp Strake, where he taught the Mammal Study merit badge. However, the highlight of his summer was going to SeaBase High Adventure Scout Camp in Key West and the Scout's own island, where he, John, David and other scouts snorkeled, sailed, fished, kayaked, and, generally, had a blast. Next spring break, Rob will go to Italy with the Latin Club, and spend the summer at Camp Strake staffing.
Dave, 14, Eighth Grader, Football and Trumpet Player
David's 14 and a 8th grader at Space Center Intermediate. He loved football last year and couldn't wait to play again this year. Again, he played "center" and, although the team didn't win any games or score many points, they had a lot of fun. I felt David's season was a success because he came out injury free. That's what matters to moms. He continues to play piano and trumpet, this year in the Symphonic Band. Following in his brothers' footsteps, he's on the Quiz Bowl team at his school. In Scouting, David's a Life Scout and a Den Chief for a den of 4th grade Webelos. He had a very busy summer, full of Scouting adventures. In early June, he went with John and Robert and others from his troop to SeaBase, in Key West, FL, where David's favorite activity was fishing for Mahi Mahi. In late June, he joined the whole troop at El Rancho Cima, a Scout camp near San Marcos, where it was hotter than … Texas in the summer. In early July, he and John and 7 others flew to the cooler climes of Ely, MN, for canoeing in the boundary waters of Canada at the Northern Tier Charles L. Sommers, high adventure camp. The first night of their adventure wasn't exactly roughing it when they had all the creature comforts at John's mom and sister's homes in Burnsville, MN. After Christmas, David will take Junior Leader Training at Camp Strake during Winter Camp. After that, we hope he gets going on his Eagle project.
Besides Flying, John's Still Scouting
As you might expect, John's still very active in Scouting. Earlier this year, he took the Wood Badge course and is continuing to work at earning the symbolic "beads". He's an assistant scoutmaster for the boys' 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. Next summer, he'll go with Richard and David to Philmont and with all the boys to the 2001 National Scout Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in Virginia.
I fly the Bigger Birds to Oregon, Washington and NYC
With all the Scout trips the guys were taking and no schedule to keep, I was pretty free to travel this summer. In July, I went to Oregon for the 4th and to Redmond, WA, to visit OSU college friends and attend their son's medieval wedding. In September, I went to New York city to see another dear college friend and revisit the sights of the city as we had done many years ago. Besides having a great time, I also fortunately avoided the 107-109? record temperatures in Texas. In November, my Dad turned 80 and I went back to Oregon to celebrate the grand occasion in festive Coussens style. As always, there was lots of feasting, including my favorite delicacy, razor clams, this time from Washington and Alaska.
What's left to say…
Besides John's aviation and my kitchen project and nanotech adventure, we still stay involved with the kids' schools. Both of us still read and judge for local academic Quiz Bowl tournaments. The contests are exciting and I never cease to be amazed by how much these kids know. In Scouts, I am still committee chairman and a merit badge counselor for the troop. My Scout goals this year are to find someone else to chair the Scout garage sale and to get David through his Eagle.
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