Ok, let’s stop pretending. This is no longer a Christmas letter. Mostly, it’s a Paukert January Letter. Often it is in danger of becoming a Paukert February Letter. In fact, if current trends continue, we estimate that your PCL 2004 will arrive at your mailbox somewhere within a week either side of September 14th, 2007. But as always, I have excuses galore, and this year it was the phone calls that slowed me down. You know, all the worried subscribers to the PCL, (should that be PJL?), who tied up our phone lines with panicked questions about the Y2K readiness of PCL Industries. In general, their anxious concerns fell into one of the following categories: 1) Will the giant PCL industrial presses continue to crank out letters through Christmas and into the coming year? (2) Will my 1999 PCL continue to supply me with High Quality Christmas Letter Entertainment® after January 1st, 2000? and (3) Can I have a few extra copies, the first one didn’t cover the whole bottom of the birdcage?
We were indeed distressed at the rumours circulating about people hoarding piles of PCL’s against any millennial supply line breakdown. But perhaps it is understandable that many would worry over missing this yearly letter, given the news last month that the PCL is the 1999 winner of the coveted Sominex® Golden Pillow Award from B.O.R.E., the British Organization of Religious-season Epistles. Yes, we’re quite proud. In fact, our research also has determined conclusively that the PCL is #1 among people who say it’s their favourite Christmas letter. So, with that high standard in mind, we present the Official, Guaranteed-Y2K-Compliant, 13th-annual 1999 Paukert Christmas Letter. (Official Motto: ‘Mal escribae, minimii tardus est’, or, roughly translated from the original Latin: “It may be poorly written, but at least it’s late”).
Barb’s year included a lot of time spent up at Katherine’s Olympic Heights Elementary School, where she has become very involved as a volunteer. She helps kids do lessons, comes along on field trips, wipes noses, reads to kids and arranges to bring in library books. The teachers are amazed at their good fortune, having so much help for free. They bow and throw flower petals when she walks in the door. She also continues to meet weekly with ‘Mother’s Who Care,’ a group that prays specifically for the students and teachers at the school. I for one am thrilled that Barb can be so involved and so close to Katherine during her time at school. I’m trying to figure out a way it can continue through High School graduation and on into University. I’m sure Katherine won’t mind Mom hanging around her dorm. A side benefit to all the time spent at school is that Barb has developed wonderful friendships with many of the other school moms.
This is Grade 2 year for 7-year-old Katherine, her second year with the same teacher. She does well and still loves it. Her reading skills are very high, so we’re looking into the possibility of Spanish classes in January. Might as well take advantage of the sponge-like learning ability that kids have for languages. She continues with piano: Like her dad, capable, but probably doesn’t have ‘the gift.’ Also doing the ballet thing. She played her first year of ‘Parent Pitch’ Little League Baseball this year and was exceptionally proud that her .750 batting average was almost double Daddy’s batting average this year, (I, uh….had an off year…shrug). Highlight of the year was finally learning how to ride her bike – you’ve never seen a smile so bright. Summer sees her at Butterfield Acres Camp, a farm day camp outside the city. Bunnies, kitties, goats, lambs, campfires, crafts.
I am still at Crestar Energy after one of the more bizarre years in the oil bidness. January saw oil at $9.50 and people creeping out onto the building’s exterior ledges. December sees oil at $26 and enraged motorists throwing rotten fruit at my front door. What an industry. But it was a fascinating year. I did the Geophysical thinggy for two groups at Crestar – the International Exploration Group and the Domestic New Ventures group. That meant exploring for oil in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the arctic coast of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. Literally, I come to work each day not knowing ‘where’ I’ll be working. Some travel to places such as Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston was necessary, which explains why some of this letter is being composed at 30,000 feet over Kansas.
As you can see from the complimentary enclosed official Paukert Christmas Photo, we are down to one canine. Early in the year, Toquima developed an abdominal tumour the size of 4 grapefruits, and was put to sleep during exploratory surgery. My brother-in-law Cliff, the famous veterinarian, was a big help with all this. Toquima came to us as a puppy in the fall of 1988. Thinking that Kootenai needed some company, we rescued Toquima from the pound in Midland, Texas and named her after a mountain range in Nevada, where I had been working at the time. Toquima was my ‘good dog.’ I miss her obedient and sensitive nature, ever anxious to please. Her only faults lay in that she spent far too much time hanging around with the evil, disobedient cur you still see in this year’s photo.
What we lost in doginess, however, we partially made up for in fish and hamsters. Sunny and Spot are our new goldfish, (replacements for their cousin, Silvery, who was lost in a tragic tank-cleaning accident and who we now believe cavorts joyously with lots of other fish in the Bow River). Also new to our home is Elaine, a hamster who visits us on weekends from Katherine’s school. Elaine’s mission in life is to chew her way through the thick plastic of her cage. Don’t bet against her. She is single-minded in her nocturnal efforts, the grinding noises of which have kept us awake any number of nights.
Some interesting things happened in 1999 with respect to our ongoing research into our family tree. Well, ok, to say that they are interesting to anyone but me is ridiculous, but humour me. As you recall, (or as you would recall, if it were at all interesting), I’ve been helping my Dad trace the Paukerts back in time. Prior to this year our best research took us only back as far as 1872, when one Wencl Paukert of Bohemia up-and-moved to Minnesota because he heard they had a good football team with cool helmets. However, this year our efforts have pushed Paukert-lore all the way back to 1620 and one Georg Pawckert of the village of Dolni Libchavy, again in Bohemia. Now you know who is really to blame for all these bad Christmas letters.
DREADED VACATION RECAP PARAGRAPHS: In January we were the beneficiaries of the bizarre world of airline ticket pricing. It was necessary for me to travel to Dallas, but the company soon found that they could save over $2000 on the ticket if I stayed there over a Saturday night. Their solution: ‘Send him down two days early and pay for him to take his wife.’ So after panicked calls to the babysitters in Saskatoon, off we flew to Texas for 6 days. We rented a neat cabin in the Hill Country of south Texas, (the only part of the state we’d not visited when we lived there), and as a bonus got to spend a day with Van and Joy Martin & family in Austin. Yes, I work for a good company! In September, we drove around Washington State. This was a sequel to our Great Plains Mooching Tour of 1998, so we’ll call it the Northwest Leeching Tour of 1999. We darkened the doorsteps of Dave & Karen Erickson, Ed & Marlene Olson and Lynnette & Dan Rogers. Highlights were attending a Seattle Mariner baseball game in the new retractable-roof Safeco Field, a laser-light show on Grand Coulee Dam, Eric & Toni Johnson giving us a spin in their airplane over North Idaho, and a couple cloudless days of hiking around Mt. Rainier. The trip to Rainier was necessary because I was the only person in history to have lived in Washington State without having visited it’s most famous landmark, and I understand that is now against the law.
And in November we spent some time on a BIG boat. I know it sounds insane, but this year we opted to eat gourmet meals and immerse our bodies in warm, tropical waters instead of sweating under full backpacks all-day and sleeping on the cold, hard ground. Our friends, Robert & Darlene Hawes’ sang the siren song of a cruise vacation, and we fell for it, hook, line and sunscreen. So the idea was to get on this big floating hotel in Miami and sail around the Caribbean for something more than a 3-hour tour. However, even as we were walking up the gangplank, Lenny was lurking. You remember Lenny, don’t you? Lenny was that hurricane that formed in November, WEEKS after any considerate hurricane would have had the common decency to die out over the cold, gray waters of the North Atlantic. But no, not Lenny. Lenny decided to extend the normal hurricane season by two weeks. The result was that we learned many new and interesting nautical terms, such as ‘40-knot gale’, ‘20-foot swell’ and ‘Urp – I think I’m going to feed the fish.’ We visited many exciting, windy, gray and rain-soaked locales such as Cozumel, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. But, a bad day on a cruise is still better than a good day at work, so it was by no means a total waste. The only other complication was that we had eaten so much food on the cruise that they had to throw our suitcases off the airplane in Miami so it could lift off on the way back to Calgary.
On a sad note, this fall I lost one of the people in my life who has most influenced me, my undergraduate Geology professor and good friend, Dr. Edwin Olson. Ed found that he had cancer the day we arrived to visit in Spokane, and passed away a little more than a month later. I first met Ed in 1977 when I, a physics major bent on a career in meteorology, enrolled in his Geology course as an elective. From that moment on I was hooked, and eventually ended up majoring in geology in addition to physics, and going on to a geologically-related career because of the enthusiasm Ed exhibited. More than that, though, Ed showed me how to combine being both a Christian and a scientist. His rational nature made him a great scientist, but he also modeled how rational it is to believe in and submit one’s life to Christ. I will miss his guiding example in my life. His funeral was one of the most celebratory and uplifting I have ever attended…and why not? He is now home with his Lord in paradise, and knows all the unknowns, both material and metaphysical!
By late August I’m
embarrassed to report that my softball addiction was completely out of control
and Barb had performed an intervention, forcing me to check myself into the
Whitey Ford Center for Softball Abuse in Bethesda, MD. Even I had to admit I had a problem. I was organizing, coaching and playing on the
Diamond Dogs men’s team. And I was
organizing, part-time coaching and playing on the Rallykats mixed team. Then I was commissioner on the executive of
the Calgary Christian Mixed Slowpitch League of 44 teams. And of course I was going to most of
Katherine’s Little League games, and ended up umpiring some of those. Early in July I went into the worst batting
slump I’ve ever experienced, which eventually led to a precipitous .150 drop
for the season. Local sportswriters
even had the audacity to speculate that my chances for a major-league career
were fading! So, on the road to
recovery, I’ve found other
suckers generous volunteers willing to take
over all my coaching and organizing duties in the New Year. I’m just going to play and be Commissioner
again. Our softball league is a neat
one, complete with website, (not my doing), which you can see at www.ccms.ab.ca.
As per usual, the year was both triumphant and tragic, but God has been there for us through it all. We pray he will continue to be close and working actively in all of your lives. ---Insert yearly invitation for readers to visit us here--- We’re not the best hosts in the world, but we sure enjoy seeing anyone who gets all the way up to latitude 51degN. It’s worth everything you pay for it. Until next….February…….
Gary, Barb, Katherine and Kootenai Paukert