2002 was the year of woodworking. Charlie has enjoyed it since about 4th grade (a small stool he designed and built "on his own"), through remodeling several houses (including cabinets for kitchens and baths). But this spring, when Jenny announced that she would like to try woodworking, this became the opportunity to replace some of the old cheap tools with newer, better, and many more tools. A simple coffee table for Mark led to nightstands and other projects. At Christmas we will deliver a new bed, chest of drawers, dresser, etc. made from black walnut. And "deliver" suggests the ultimate woodworking accessory - a minivan that replaced one of our cars. We still have all our fingers (although the skin is often worn thin), and are having a blast. For pictures and more details, see www.plesums.com/family/projects.
The bad economy has taken much of the fun out of Charlie's work, but fortunately he remains fully employed by Computer Sciences Corporation. Customers are scheduling projects, then at the last minute (after staff has been made available) are deferring them. They wonder if one or two people could do the work of three (it really should have taken four or five). "Do you really have to come on site?" "When you come, can you be done (with a week's work) in a day or two?" "We decided not to get the computer that we agreed was needed for your project, but we are going ahead with the project anyway." For example, I am working on a system conversion that was supposed to be done by November, but the reduced staff still hasn't gotten the requirements together! And to survive the reduced income, CSC has cancelled all training and internal travel and expects unpaid overtime from everyone. With the new offices 20-60 minutes from home, depending on traffic (rather than 5 minutes to the old offices) Charlie often works from home.
Jenny continues to work for "Virtual CFO" as a part-time financial officer for several small companies at a time. She loves the constant variety as she works with different companies that grow (and graduate to a full time financial officer) or go out of business. She has chosen to cut back her hours so she has more time for study and trading on the stock market - she has become proficient whether the market is rising or falling, often selling short or holding a stock for days or weeks rather than years. Like most people, the bad market wounded our investments, but her recent trading techniques are profitable.
Mark lives near Dallas and worked for a software company in the telecommunications industry. He was laid off last spring after his company joined with Nortel. After a few months he found a new job, but was hired as a contractor due to a freeze on new employees. Then all contractors were fired a few months later. Recently Mark started commuting to Ohio for a temporary job.
It has been over 3 years since the last surgery and radiation therapy for Jenny's vaginal cancer, discovered in 1996 and back again in 1999. So far there is no sign of recurrence, and she has regained most of her strength and stamina. We continue to hope and pray that the cancer is really gone.
Birthdays are funny. Jenny was devastated by 40. Charlie was bothered by 26 and 35, but not by 40. 50 was joy-fully defiant - "See - we're NOT old." 59½ was a shock to Charlie (we can now withdraw retirement savings without penalty). So what will the big "60" be like in a few months? Charlie's not worried. In the last year he has lost over 30 pounds (but still averages 195 pounds) and with Vioxx for the arthritis, feels great. And he got a minivan rather than the convertible sports car required for a good mid-life crisis.
Travel is an essential part of the annual letter. Charlie flew over 50,000 miles this year, but far fewer trips than usual. We drove to Iowa to visit relatives in October, and took a vacation trip to England in February (for pictures, see www.plesums.com/travel/england ). Then Charlie had to return to London in June for a meeting. During a trip to Connecticut in July, Charlie had dinner with his college roommate. Other business trips for Charlie included Jacksonville Illinois, Bloomington Illinois, Greensboro NC, Rosemont (Chicago), Little Rock Arkansas, Fort Wayne Indiana, and Melbourne Florida.
We wish you all the peace and joy of the Christmas season, and a very Happy New Year.
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