As for many in our area and around the country, 2001 was a year of mixed blessings and challenges. Stewart and I are lucky enough to have kept our jobs and health and we're thankful for that every day. But the year brought Anne's mom, Esther, a bout with anemia and fractured pelvic bone, and after two extended hospital stays, she is now near-by in a long-term care facility. She loves those cards and letters so keep them coming.
Luckily, her health held out long enough to attend the Paul Cousin Reunion at the Canyon of the Eagles nature park at the end of March near Austin, Texas. Anne spent many hours coordinating this event and the weather couldn't have cooperated more. The bluebonnets were in full swing and the riverboat cruise got to travel further than it had for years since the droughts had given way to near flood levels with the winter rains. It was great catching up with all the cousins, and the event was culminated by cousin Ruth Ann's presentation of a Texas State flag to each of the Paul matriarchs, Esther and her sister, Nell, who we were all glad to see was able to come from Washington DC to join us.
We had several trips to see both Anne's and Stewart's families this year. In January, we made our holiday trip to Houston to join the Webb's and Cummings' in a day long game of Cranium. What a hoot. Those kids are all great hams. Trina was able to visit in May when CostCo sent her for training in the Dallas area. Then we made it down to Houston in October to catch Russell's football game and Melanie's play. Both were quite entertaining, although I think the football team might have been able to use some of the play's dancers since the play benefited quite a bit from the dancing football players. And what's up with our little Russell nominated for homecoming king? We got caught up with Glenn & Andrew at an early Thanksgiving dinner with Esther at our house, before heading up to Kentucky for the rest of the holiday.
Stewart joined his brother, Morgan, in a dual birthday trip to Kentucky in March. It had been quite a while since they got to visit with their folks together. Then in May we all made it to Cliff's graduation in Lake Charles, LA. It was great meeting Mary Jane's family and taking in the fantastic food (I'm still dreaming of the flaming Bananas Foster). It's hard to believe Cliff is off to college already, a freshman at LSU.
In July, we met up with Morgan again at the French's since he was picking up Meredith from her summer program at Bowling Green. The walks along the Fort Knox army reservation boundary road were interesting, punctuated by cheery greeting from men in full camouflage carrying M-16s while songs reminiscent of "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" echoed off the hollers.
By the time we visited again at Thanksgiving, Fort Knox was closed to visitors, yet another reminder that the events of Sept. 11 had changed things. The news was full of anthrax and troop movements in Afghanistan, and life's priorities became more evident. We again realized how important the memories of our parents are so Stewart set up a tape recorder to catch some of his parent's conversations as they looked through years of photographs. We got some great stories. Maxine told of her early years in nursing at Jewish Hospital in Louisville during the depression. She made dresses from flour sacks and helped the other residents sew their clothing. Later, she worked at Ireland Army Hospital at Fort Knox. Unfortunately, we discovered the tape recorder had failed to capture Morgan's narration of the day he witnessed the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. He was a prisoner of war in Japan, part of the Bataan death march, and saw the mushroom cloud from the prison camp. Later, he recalled the napalm cluster bombs that the allies dropped around them. They wrapped themselves in blankets and dashed through the pouring rain, dropping and rolling to extinguish the flames. They crossed a river to bring elderly Japanese residents to safety as fires marched toward their village. The villagers' spite turned to respect from then on. Amazing stuff.
Anne's job first year back at TI has been great. She's working on the Digital Light Processing project, developing embedded software to help drive the million or so mirrors on the inch-sized chip that project an HDTV display. And it has been an absolute blast, probably the funnest job she's had ever. The first big hurdle when a new chip comes out is getting that first "image on the wall" displayed. The boards arrived over Labor Day weekend and the long hours and weekends kicked in, but early one morning, a wiggly but very recognizable checkerboard appeared. Anne and her hardware cohort hurried to the 8:30 daily integration meeting to make their very excited announcement, only to find the conference room deserted. Crossing the hall to a Home Entertainment lab full of large screen TVs, they found the rest of the team members glued to the monitors. It was Sept. 11th.
Once our realities were aligned, we found the work cathartic. The rest of the integration went well and we delivered ahead of schedule. That was a major accomplishment, and we made it despite forcing ourselves to watch Weird Al videos with no sound.
Meanwhile, Stewart continues his work on the F-16 program at Raytheon, with heightened motivation. There's a new respect for the work they do, maybe even from the ex-employees who bailed to catch the excitement of the burgeoning telecom industry in our area. Many of them are now looking for jobs. We're hopeful the economy turns around soon and everyone is back wherever they want to be.
On the home front, we found that our 17-year old house has started showing its age. Stewart spent many hours managing the installation of our new air conditioning & heating system, which now sports a jaunty set of X-Mas lights along the south side of our house. Anne reciprocated by managing the removal of our dying Arizona ash and several disease-prone photinias, and watching the tree farm employees dig a fine hole into our water main and sprinkler system as they prepared to plant the newest addition to our neighborhood, a 5-inch red oak. Luckily, they repaired the damage, finished the tree planting and it looks pretty spry for its ordeal.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood around us has changed a lot too. We'll get to the storage lockers later on, but just north of them, a Mosque is being built. The domes are visible from our living room. They've invited us to an open house this weekend so we're looking forward to the opportunity to get to know our new neighbors better. As it turns out, the corner now sports (in addition to the Mosque), a Catholic church, a Reformed Church, a Synagogue and a Church's Chicken! We may get holy by osmosis.
Fun and Friends
Due to the year's events, we had fewer chances for bike rides, but we did hit a few in the spring and early summer (Muenster, Waxahachie, and a new Collin Classic starting out in north Frisco), plus the ever popular Waco ride in September, complete with its wonderful Mars-sponsored rest stop. Come on, a mini-Snickers (or two) really helps those last 20 miles. My favorite "ride" though was the inaugural Sherman Red River Classic. Ok, it rained, so we spent it at I-Hop, but we talked Doug & Manasi and Richard & Julie into joining us so at least we had company among the pancakes. We definitely need to do this again, bikes or not.
Stewart was looking forward to a glasses-free biking season since he bit the bullet and did the LASIK thing in January. Anne had gotten him stoked for it last year when her Motorola insurance would have covered hers, had her too-thin corneas not caused her to flunk her LASIK test. Stewart's experience was pretty good, but with one eye still 20-40, he uses glasses for sharper vision. He's hopeful the follow-up procedure next year will drop the glasses once and for all.
He was able to see fine though for many of our weekend trips with area buddies: the plays with Richard & Julie, Nancy & Paul, Tuba X-Mas with Alan, Maria & Samantha, Carl & Karen, and Kyle & Dodi's wedding with many of Anne's SpectraPoint friends. We spent a wonderful fall day with Esther at the Dallas Arboretum (formerly called "DeGolyer Estates" when we were married there). We even had a "fantasy weekend" at Mockingbird Station, taking DART rail to a movie at the Angelika, riding the escalators at CityPlace, checking out Café Patrique and the giant Virgin Records. It makes Dallas seem just like a real city.
But one of our favorite weekend events was our "drive-in movie". Anne was able to check out a DLP projector from work, so our neighbor, Marc, bought a large piece of masonite and painted it white. The new mini-storage warehouse behind our house built an 11-foot wall, so the masonite mounted on it made a fine 107 inch diagonal screen. We dragged out the desktop computer, hooked up two powered speakers, plus an 11-inch cube of a sub-woofer Stewart bought on E-Bay, and put "Golden Eye" in the DVD drive. It was awesome! But we soon decided the gunfire echoing down the alley could be misconstrued as a hate crime against the mosque, so we changed the movie to "Shrek". The fall weather has been gorgeous, so we just needed some layers and coffee & hot chocolate set up in the garage for intermission, and a good time was had by all, including many of the neighbors. This is definitely an event that needs repeating.
Despite the challenges, it was a good year and we look forward to what the next year brings. We hope you have a fine holiday and a wonderful 2002.