Hi everybody! Hope you had a great 2003. Our biggest event this year came in July when went on a biking vacation in France, chasing Lance around on his bid for his 5th Tour de France victory. More on that later. Notice that we had to change our web site and e-mail addresses again. Keep in touch!
The April weather cooperated when Stewart's folks, Morgan and Maxine, came for a visit. We had a nice relaxing time, cooking up some Texas barbeque, and taking them to our favorite Vietnamese Pho (soup) restaurant for something "a little different!"
In May, Anne's sister's family, the Webb's, came up from Houston for Doug & Manasi's graduation from Austin College in Sherman. Again the weather was beautiful, and the ceremony and follow-up luncheon were very nice. After helping Monesha (Manasi's sister) replace her rear car window, we did a driveway movie for those able to keep their eyes open in the evening. It's amazing how fast those four years went.
Later that month, it was time for a trip to Houston (well, really Friendswood) for another graduation, this one for Stewart's brother Morgan's daughter, Meredith, who graduated from high school a year early. She and her friend, Regan, gave Anne and Stewart good tips on cycling music, while more Texas barbeque kept everyone contented. She's now joined her brother, Cliff, at LSU.
June brought the bi-yearly Paul family reunion, this one in Colorado Springs, hosted by Donita and Evangeline. They did an excellent job, and Anne & Stewart were able to cajole Trina and Brandi into accompanying them on the trip. The Garden of the Gods was awesome, and the dude ranch was a real trip! Hey, I just realized we had great barbeque again. This may be a theme for the year.
Stewart got a chance to make a trip to Kentucky later in the month, joining Morgan at their folks place in the hills near the Fort Knox Army reservation. They were able to visit cousin Joyce and Aunt Roxie, got some porch swing time on the screened in porch, and, yes, had some barbeque.
In October, Anne had the chance to join Stewart on another Kentucky visit. Nothing beats that porch swing. The leaves around their 3 acres of hilly lots were at peak color, and cousin Jackie and her granddaughter Mimi taught us how to trim the hollies. We visited with Joyce and Roxie, then stopped by Mike & Ann's to check out their awesome deck project with daughter Chelsea and their big buddy dog. Our mocha addiction led us back to Arnold's Coffee Cafe to say 'hi' to son Tyler who must be doing ok there judging by his new (well, gently used) BMW.
Thanksgiving brought another trip to Houston, this time in a U-Haul truck. Tom and Joyce had just bought a new house and helped us empty one of our storage lockers. They and the girls, Emily and Mia, joined us at Trina's along with Doug & Manasi, Russell & Glenda, Melanie and Brandi, for turkey and all the fixins, Steve and the boys set up four huge tables outside in the (once again) beautiful weather. After dinner, we got a special treat when Melanie and her friend, Paul, perfomed their tune from Seussical the Musical that had garnered them 1st place at state. It was fantastic. Then a rousing game of Cranium brought out the hams all around.
We were both lucky enough to keep our jobs this year, despite more layoffs around us. Stewart is still working at Raytheon on the F-16 program and had to transfer to McKinney in March, so Anne & Stewart are no longer at the same campus. He's helping keep Lockheed happy with Raytheon's software in the fighters so despite the many trips to west Fort Worth, it's a fun and challenging project. The extra travel miles (along with John Hendricks' needling) triggered the purchase of a Honda Civic Hybrid which Stewart says he got for the gas mileage but is really a techie-mobile extraordinaire. John had previously talked us into going with wind powered electricity... boy, he's persuasive! But the hybrid rules. We nearly made it to Houston and back on one 13 gallon tank of gas while Anne drafted the U-Haul in the hybrid (55 mpg!).
Anne continued with the Digital Light Processing™ project at Texas Instruments and worked both business projectors (the new Dell catalog includes one with the chip Anne worked on this year) and home entertainment, including some new HDTV's coming up at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Fun and Friends
In the last few years, Anne became seriously addicted to the Tour de France and followed it feverishly via the minute-by-minute text reports on the Internet. Then late in the year, Backroads (our favorite biking vacation company) announced a special trip with 5 days of biking around the beautiful French countryside, along with 3 days along the Tour de France route, watching the racers jostle for the yellow jersey. This announcement happened to coincide with Anne's medical scare, so Stewart graciously agreed to make his first trip off the continent and join Anne on a dream trip come true. In preparation, we spent 6 months teaching ourselves "French in Action", studying French culture and geography, reading up on cycling strategy and the history of the Tour and forcing ourselves to try some French wines and cheeses. We were very concerned about the war in Iraq and nearly canceled but went ahead as the main action in the war ended. And we were so glad we went. We spent seven days in southern France (Toulouse and Carcassonne) and two days in Paris and it was an experience we'll never forget. There are lots of photos and detail on the web-site, but suffice it to say it was exhilarating, challenging, intriguing, and extremely satisfying mentally, physically and gastronomically (despite the paucity of barbecue). And, by the way, Lance won! Getting home was fun too since, despite hiring a cat sitter to try to keep Murky's 18 year old locks from tangling too bad while we were away, she had to get a lion cut when we got home. It was hysterical and gave Louie hours of joy teasing her. But she's grown back again so all's back to normal. Once we arrived home we rushed right out and got a Dish Network receiver so we could watch the rest of the Tour. It worked great! We were glued to the TV over the weekend and watched the racers as they flew down the Champs-Elysees over the very roads we were walking on earlier in the week! So cool.
In August, we got the chance to extend our personal biking bests and finally did the whole 100 miles at the Hotter'N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls. Biking with our friends Richard and Julie helped us with our pacing. We got lucky that the temps barely hit 100 degrees and the wind was very light. Our biking in France had been during their worst heat wave ever so we had plenty of practice. Looking back, it wasn't so bad, 8.5 hours on the road. Maybe we'll even do it again next year!
We had our largest ever Driveway Movie in the fall. We invited all our aerobics buddies, work buddies, and neighbors all down Bronze Leaf. Over 30 people showed up! After (of course) barbequed hot dogs and a vote, we watched "Holes" projected on the masonite "screen" attached to the storage locker walls. It was great fun. Later Stewart bought an even bigger screen on Ebay and he and Marc, our next-door neighbor, built a giant screen frame to hang on the wall. Seems we'll have to wait until spring to use it.
Health and Fitness
Without really meaning too, we expanded our workouts when West Plano Athletic Club started offering Pilates classes. We now do aerobics, power cycling, step, weights, and Pilates, attempting to get something in every night. That, combined with the biking and chores and, during crunch times, work, seems to eat up all of our spare time. It makes it hard to squeeze in the French classes, piano practice, or even to watch much TV!
It probably seems like we're incredibly lucky, and we really are. But we've had some bumps in the road too. At the end of last year Anne had an abnormal breast exam that turned up early stages of cancer. Her doctor performed surgery to remove small amounts of tissue then she had radiation. The procedures were successful and she has fully recovered. It was very early stage and did not require chemo, so her recovery was quick and relatively painless. The whole process from discovery, research, to recovery helped both her and Stewart focus on the important things in life. During this whole process she was able to continue her work and exercises at our local health club. It also made Lance's accomplishments all the more remarkable and his experience was inspirational for Anne throughout her therapy.
So, biking became even more special this year and we hit as many rallies as we could squeeze in. The Easter Hill Country Bike Rally is a yearly tradition and this year we were joined by Tony and Rosie, and Richard and Karen. It's really just an excuse to hit Altdorf's Beer Garden. Richard and Julie shared our roads for the Mesquite Rodeo Rally, Tour d'Italia in Italy, TX, Cow Creek Classic in Waxahachie (Anne & Julie did 84 miles here), Hot Rocks in Rockwall (the rain was a real trip!), the Hotter 'n Hell in Wichita Falls, and Jackrabbit Stampede in Forney. We were on our own for the Red River Classic in Sherman (very hilly!), and finally in early October, we rode Autumn in Bonham for the first time (somewhat hilly and very beautiful). That's it for this year. Here's hoping you have a great holiday season and a fantastic 2004.