Dear Friends and Relatives: Christmas 1997
We begin this year with exciting news from Washington, D.C.! Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have just announced approval of a radical new general anesthetic which will revolutionize major surgical procedures. After years of clinical trials, researchers have finally confirmed that Paukert Christmas Letters, in proper dosage, can induce a long-lasting, deep sleep during which the patient has no awareness of pain. (Now just lie back on the table Mrs. Abercrombie, and begin counting backwards from 100, while we read to you about their vacation last summer). This breakthrough comes after years of searching for the correct, safe dosage, as some patients exposed to more than one sentence of the PCL had lapsed into irretrievable coma. Here at PCL industries, we are proud of the humanitarian spin-offs our literary efforts generate, and just in case you are contemplating elective surgery in the coming year, we present: The 11th Annual PAUKERT CHRISTMAS LETTER.
But perhaps a more accurate name would be the Paukert Post-Christmas Letter, for once again I'm typing away with the knowledge that nothing short of divine intervention will get this letter to you before the 25th. However, THIS year I have good reasons for being late, (the old standby story about being abducted by aliens was starting to lose credibility). First off, we had a devastating mail strike; or at least many SAID it was devastating when the strike ended and they realized their PCL was going to arrive after all. Second, the Christmas Inspiration FairyTM, who is really to blame for most of this garbage, was delayed by strong El Nino-related headwinds. And third, southern Alberta appears to have forgotten to pay it's snow-delivery bills this year, and it just doesn't LOOK much like Christmas. Where last year poor Barb had piled snow 8-feet deep alongside the driveway, today there is brown grass, not a skiff of snow, and we frolic about outside all day in revealing swimwear. Small wonder our neighbours have established a prayer vigil, asking God to send snow.
So what do I think of when someone says "1997?" "Baseball!". Of course that's what I think of when someone says anything from "crop rotation" to "naked women," but the point here is that we did play a lot of baseball this year. Gary kept the Diamond Dogs men's team together for something like the 16th straight year. Barb joined the co-ed church team, the Rallykats, as our clutch-hitting catcher. She joined in the wild celebration when , after the most mediocre of seasons, we stormed through the playoffs to take the City Championship in a final-inning, come from behind, wet-your-pants-with-excitement final. (Doesn't 'City Championship' sound more impressive than 'best team out of the 30 that could make it that week?'). Katherine played T-ball with the Cubs. T-ball turns out to be something like a multi-car pile-up, only less organized, but they all enjoy it and it's fun for us watch them learn how to do very difficult things like how to hit a round object with a round object, or how splint their own broken limbs after emerging from a pile of 23 kids who all pounced on the same ground ball. Katherine is even getting good at hitting real pitching, though as a result we've had to suspend winter tennis-ball batting practice in the basement, due to the accumulating damage to walls and ceiling.
Once again we offer our deepest apologies for the following EXOTIC VACATION RECAP paragraph. This year we went to central Mexico, courtesy again of my 2-1/2 years of amassing frequent flier points. (The flier point well has about run dry, so cheer up, one last snooty international vacation and then it's back to those much-loved accounts of trips to East Podunk, Alberta). Katherine came with us as far as her grandparent's house in the Denver area and then Barb and I ran off to Mexico City and Guadalajara like the pair of starry-eyed lovebirds we used to be before parent-hood destroyed so many, many brain cells. This trip was a bit of a departure us, (pun intended), being as our idea of a normal vacation has been sleeping on the cold, hard ground in a tent, miles from a road. Instead, here we were, wandering around cities of 23- and 8-million population, respectively. Not exactly a wilderness adventure. So instead of hiking to the nearest waterfall, we did hoity-toity city things like going to museums and ballets and gorging ourselves on cheap, delicious Mexican foot. We also climbed the Mayan pyramids of Teotihuacan outside of Mexico City, stayed in a hotel that used to be a 400-year old convent, and wandered around Guadalajara listening to Mariachi music and admiring this most Mexican of Mexican cities.
In late June we drove down to into southwestern Montana to meet Jim and Kelly Johnson, who just happened to have driven up all the way up from Colorado to meet us. There, in the Centennial Mountains on the Montana/Idaho border we found a beautiful, solitary valley in which to camp for a week. Or, more accurately, in which to soak for a week. It rained a lot. Then it snowed a lot. On July 1st, even. One day sitting around the fire during all this wetness and whiteness I mentioned a rustic lodge I'd stayed at before, in the Big Hole Valley a mere 90 miles away, complete with 110-degree F. hot springs pool. You wouldn't think that people in the advanced stages of hypothermia could move that fast, but a stampede to break camp ensued. I regained consciousness after two or three hours soaking in the hot springs, which made the contusions and bruises a little easier to bear. In the end, good company (and thermal hot springs), overcame a bad-weather vacation.
(WARNING: In highly scientific laboratory tests the following paragraph has been determined to make laboratory rats and other employees who hate their jobs throw up). This year, I got paid to snorkel in the tropics. (Here, try this Pepto Bismol, I didn't realize you were so unhappy there). In May, my company, which as you'll see is run by hideous sadists, MADE me go to Belize, (a small country south of Cancun, Mexico, SEE how bad this gets?). There I was FORCED to snorkel around in warm tropical waters looking at coral reefs for a week. Why you ask? I don't have the faintest idea. Well, think about it - I mean if someone told you to go do this would you risk screwing it up by asking WHY? In truth, it was a VERY important field course designed to teach me how/where/why coral reefs grow. This is good to know, because ancient coral reefs in the subsurface of Alberta are just CHOCK FULL of oil and gas, so studying the environments and geometries of modern reefs REALLY helps one to find the ancient oil-filled ones. Really. No lie. I'm serious.
Katherine started Kindergarten this year, and so Barb now has 2 hours free, 4 days a week. I have been afraid to ask what she is doing with this free time while I am at work, because I suspect the worst. Recently, a Chapters Bookstore/Starbucks Coffee combination opened near our house. I love her and want to believe that she's not hanging around 'those' kinds of places, but I've found bookmarks lying around the house, and lately smelled coffee on her breath when I come home from work. I just know the combination is more temptation than she can bear. But the bright side is that Katherine just loves school, and we're starting to hope that she might be able to land a good job in 15 years or so and support us in our old age. Katherine has inherited the 'reading gene' from her mom and is well on her way to devouring every library book within a radius of 10 km. She's also doing ballet, and ice skating and we got her out on her first backpacking trip this Labour Day when we hiked into Top of the World Provincial Park in S.E. British Columbia, (great name for a park, eh?). She looked pretty cute in her hiking boots and purple day pack as we hit the trail. She looked considerably less cute a few hundred yards down the trail when Daddy had to carry her pack in addition to his own. But she was able to hike the 7 miles round trip sans pack, and loves backpacking, so it appears our 3-year backpacking hiatus is over, during which she was too heavy to carry and too small to hike very far.
At church this year we've really enjoyed evening classes which revolve around a study entitled 'Experiencing God.' It's a study by the author/pastor Henry Blackaby, who has led churches in B.C. and Saskatchewan, and which has been published by the Baptists. Evidently it has been spreading through churches of many denominations across North America. We found it to be unique not in that it has new teaching, but in the way that it leads and encourages you, through studying the Bible, toward a closer relationship with God. The study has really helped us learn to recognize how God is working in the world, and what His specific plans are for involving us in His work. It's been a great study (no, I
do not receive any royalties).
At work this year I have had to keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming, (there were some interesting comments about this on my yearly performance review). This year the oil patch finally recovered fully from a decade-long downturn and everyone's havin' a fine ol' time! My particular paycheque-writer, Crestar Energy, has almost doubled in size over the two years I've been there. It's wonderful to work in a place devoid of layoff rumours, where the only real annoyance is fending off repeated phone calls from other companies trying to hire me away from Crestar. Pathetically desperate companies, obviously, but nevertheless it is nice to be WANTED for a change, (sniff, sniff). For much of the year Crestar was so understaffed in geophysicists, (I'd come to believe that impossible), that I 'got' to work two projects, exploring for oil in both central Alberta and southeastern Saskatchewan. Finally, fearing that I would quit from all the abuse, they took pity on their poor, overworked servant and told me to stick to Saskatchewan only, so now I'm drilling wells in the part of Saskatchewan adjacent to North Dakota and Montana. Basically I can't wait to get to the office in the morning and can't wait to get home at night, and what could be more perfect than that? Hope it lasts. Crestar continues to move slowly toward oil exploration in South America, and I'm still waving my hand in the air, saying 'pick me, pick me!' Perhaps by next year's PCL I will be using my Spanish again.
I must quit now, as the bottom of page 2 draws near. Many of you are aware that I am still serving weekend prison time for violating International Christmas Letter protocol with a two and a HALF-page letter back in 1994. (Something about 'crimes against humanity'). So we close by wishing you all of God's blessings in the coming year, and that you might find your way to pay us a visit, (hopefully these two things are not mutually exclusive in your minds). Remember we're at Paukert@Compuserve.com if you're into all that computer foolishness.
Love in Christ's name,
Gary, Barb, Katherine, Kootenai and Toquima
P.S. This year's PC Photo was taken at the mouth of King Creek Canyon, in Kananaskis Country, about an hour S.W. of Calgary. I know it's not exactly unique, but Wal-Mart wouldn't develop the shot we took of everyone mooning the camera.