Dear Friends and Relatives:                                                                                                                                                        Christmas, 2001


</span></span></span><span style="font-size:10.5pt;">Calgary, (CP) 16 December 2001;  Industry upstart Paukert Christmas Letter Industries announced today that it has agreed to a multi-hundred dollar stock and cash takeover by The Veeblefester Family Christmas Letter, Inc.  The deal, which shocked securities analysts who had pegged PCLI as the next high-tech corporate miracle, will close 31 December this year, but is already under investigation for fraud by stock exchange regulators in the U.S. and Canada.  Coming on the heels of the company’s first quarterly loss in 3Q/2001, the takeover of PCL Industries apparently signals the end of the company’s 15-year run of annoying and childish Christmas prose.  Veeblefester officials indicated the yearly letter will continue to be published under the PCL moniker, but ” with considerably more class than has been the case for the last few years,” said Veeblefester President Vinny “the Fist” LaMotta, at a Newark, NJ press conference.  Shadowy and controversial PCLI Chairman Gary Paukert did not return reporters’ calls, but was rumoured to have fled the country for the Cayman Islands with his super-model wife, the famous Babs Paukert.  Despite the takeover, the dedicated employees of Paukert Christmas Letters, Inc. are proud to present the following 15th Annual Paukert Christmas Letter and combination Birdcage Liner.


You think Paukert Christmas Letters are long and boring, you should see my resume, which now lists 4 employers over the last 11 months, due to people with more money than sense who like to buy oil companies.  If you didn’t burn it in disgust, you will recall from last year’s letter that along about November I was still successfully deluding Crestar Energy into thinking I was a valuable employee.  Crestar can be excused for being so gullible as they were in the process of being swallowed by Gulf Canada Resources and not thinking particularly clearly.  Six months of corporate digestion later and Gulf Canada itself was taken over by Conoco Inc.  Six months after THAT, Conoco merged with Phillips, but by then I’d had enough and resigned to take a position at Talisman Energy Inc., (see explanatory text on pp. 223-249, graph and charts pp. 440, 456, 554-557).  On the plus side, I am amassing a brilliantly colourful collection of business cards.


The bottom line in all this corporate cannibalism was that the Ecuador project that I had been working on would soon move to the alligator-and-mosquito-belt of suburban Houston.  Thus the jump to Talisman, a Canadian outfit that does such work out of Calgary.  One of Talisman’s focus areas is Colombia, Ecuador’s neighbour to the north, and they’d be just pleased as punch if I could find them a big oil field down there.  Colombia presents some interesting complications for exploration.  Oil wells need to be drilled to 3 miles deep and cost $25,000,000.  FARC guerrillas and cocaine cartels control large parts of the country.  Suffice it to say I won’t be renting a car and going for a Sunday drive, as I have in other countries.  What we don’t hear about Colombia is that it is a beautiful country with warm, friendly people.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Bogotá and felt safe the whole time, (well, at least the whole time our bodyguard Sr. Gallo was around with his gun). I keep telling myself that was a car backfiring in the street outside my hotel at 3:00am, not a running gun battle.


Once again I approach my wife, (carefully, as she’s been known to bite), asking what she did this year that bears mention herein.  She replies:  ”Same thing I did last year.”  She’s so modest.  We all know what a grueling schedule she puts in on the super-model circuit.  But amazingly, she still finds time between trips to Milan for important stuff.  Stuff like participating in a mentoring program through the church, weekly Bible Study Fellowship with Katherine, Mother’s Who Care at Katherine’s school, and the women’s Bible study group Tuesday mornings.  Most significantly, Barb has single-handedly averted a catastrophic crash in world coffee prices.  Her frequent visits to Starbucks with her many coffee buddies, have offset huge Latin-American coffee overproduction that would have certainly caused a price crash if not for her heroic efforts.  The economic ministers of both Brazil and Costa Rica have visited our home to bestow medals of honour upon her.  You might think I took a job that requires travel to Colombia because I love working in Latin America?  No, silly.  It’s just an excuse to bring back big suitcases full of Colombian coffee for Barb, direct from her amigo, Juan Valdez.

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Katherine’s Grade-4 plate overflows with a long list of character-enhancing experiences:  Piano, Horseback, Spanish, Softball, Bible Study Fellowship, Church Choir, and Summer Camp.  I can hear you say “Gary, isn't that too many activities?”  And of course, you’re right.  What with Barb endlessly driving her to this myriad of activities we've started to see way too much whining, crying and irritability.  Sometimes it seems to affect Katherine as well.  Horseback lessons come to us courtesy of one of her teachers, who owns a few horses and gives lessons.  The overprotective parent in our family, (guess who), tries not to think about his delicate little angel trying to learn how to control a raging two-ton beast. T</span><span style="font-size:10.5pt;">he highlight of the sports year came in the summer when Katherine=s girl=s fastpitch softball team won the City Championship.  Katherine was a very good hitter at the plate most of the season, and came up with a number of crucial big hits...daddy just swoons with pride.  She did some pitching too, but will need another year working on accuracy and fielding before she can contribute a lot there.  The other big deal this year was her first week away from home by herself, this at Camp Chamisall, our church=s summer camp 2 hours northwest of Calgary in the foothills.  Already she is talking about next year.


Wanna make a 9-year-old girl almost burst with happiness?  Buy her a hamster for her birthday.  Thus we came to know and love one white rodent named Mr. Wiggles.  Mr. Wiggles’ primary task is to constantly elicit the words isn't he cute?” from my daughter’s mouth, and he does it well.  Mr. Wiggles’ backup secondary task is to try to escape from his cage, which he is also pretty darn good at.  When he does escape, for some reason he feels it necessary to make his way up two flights of stairs to mom & dad’s bedroom where he hides in the closet and makes chewing noises.  Ain't that fun to wake up to at 4:00am?  Mr. Wiggles' first escape came at a time when we had mousetraps set about the basement because we thought we had mice.  Somehow Mr. Wiggles cheated death and was able to remove the bait from the traps.  Mr. Wiggles is a very lucky hamster indeed.


Sadly, for the first time in almost 15 years, we are dog-less, Kootenai, the last of our brace of ill-trained German Shepherds, went to that big-open-field-full-of-prairie-dogs-in-the-sky at the end of August.  This was a hard thing, because even at 14-1/2 years old she was mentally alert, (ok, to the extent she ever was).  However, she was also to the point of not being able to get up, so we had to make that tearful final trip to the vet.  We bought the Koot as a pup for $50 from someone on an acreage outside of Midland, TX.  (They said there had been a little mix up with someone’s 1/2-German Shepherd/1/2-Golden Labrador male getting over a fence when their prize pure-bred Shepherd was in heat.  There goes the pedigree, Harriet).  Kootenai was never was much for obedience, but I've never seen a dog that was better designed for running.  I got a lot of vicarious joy over the years letting her off the leash to watch her stretch out in a dead run across a field just for the fun of running and chasing.  She was a fighter to the end.  We have flocks of magpies that love to scavenge at the dogs’ food and who constantly tease and harass the dogs.  Late in summer, while Barb was working in the garden, ol’ Koot shambled up and dropped a big, dead, black & white magpie at her feet.  Old and decrepit she, (Koot, not Barb), had gathered enough energy for one last painful lunge to take out one of her tormentors.  Good for you, Koot.  Plans include a sabbatical from dogs for a few years, or until I give some big ol’ friendly dumb stray a scratch behind the ears and break into tears.


DREADED VACATION RECAP PARAGRAPH:  This will be relatively painless this year.  Nothing exotic like being the first family to raft down a river in Greenland, or explore an underwater cave in China.  Ever on the hunt to avoid hotel bills, we used some flier miles in March to get to Las Vegas, then drove to Tucson to stay with my mom & dad who winter in Green Valley, AZ, a piedra’s throw from the Mexican border.  I sat in the bleachers with a silly grin enjoying Colorado Rockies spring training, and we introduced Katherine to the stuff you can’t go to Arizona and not see, such as the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest and communities where the average age is 72.  In May I had a convention to attend in Denver, so we took advantage of my paid ticket to start a week in southwestern Colorado and the canyon country of SE Utah and NE Arizona.  Included was a weekend helping raise a new cabin at Mary & Winston Marugg’s Sonlight Camp near Pagosa Springs.  What fun to take Katherine around to see all that is amazing in Colorado; places I first visited at about her age.  We woke up to our first snow of the year down in Glacier Park, Montana in September.


Work took me a few interesting places, as well.  In March it was necessary for me to go to the British Midlands near the Welsh border to examine and retrieve data stored there.  This was my 2nd trip to the UK, coinciding with the outbreak of hoof & mouth disease, (not my fault), and I am really starting to like it over there.  Maybe someday I'll get to go to the UK and actually vacation there instead of just sit in an office all day.  I also had the pleasure of visiting Quito, Ecuador again, twice.  Our missionary friends there, Dave and Marilyn Tippett, served as chauffeurs and made it possible for me to cross the Andes to sit in some hot springs, visit villages where great alpaca wool and leather goods are made and sold by natives, and hike the slopes of the famous Cotopaxi volcano.  What an experience to be hiking around at an elevation of 15,000ft above sea level hallucinating and coughing up blood due to lack of oxygen!  No, not really.


Our house is finished, I have declared it so.  Oh, there are probably lots of things that still need doing around here after 10 years, but I've hit the wall, (figuratively and literally).  I've had it.  This year I spent 6 months tearing out the master bath, shower and ensuite, installing slate tiles all around.  Dust.  Noise.  Cut fingers.  Adhesive dripping in my eyes.  That’s it.  No more projects.  I have told Barb to shoot me if I suggest any additional modifications to Hacienda Paukerto.  But the house is certainly capable of housing weary travelers, so we put out our yearly invitation for you to drop by on your way to someplace nice.  (You might want to avoid mid-June this year as we've offered to put up President Bush when he is here for the G-8 conference in Kananaskis).  Meanwhile, our prayer for you is that the Lord keep you safe in the coming year and aware of His eternal love for you.


In Christ,


Gary, Barb & Katherine<span style="font-size:10.5pt;">


P.S.  This year’s official Paukert Christmas Photo, Theme:  “A Celebration of Disappointing Photography,” was taken at Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary.  It was even colder than we look.