<div class="Section1"><span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><span style="font-size:10pt;background:#FFFFFF;">Dear Long-suffering Friends and Relatives:††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Christmas, 2002

 

The Christmas Inspiration Fairy has arrived late once again, and I am now obligated to start putting to paper all these hallucinations Iíve been having for the past year.You may be wondering what motivates me to waste precious time doing this every year when I could be doing something more rewarding and socially conscientious like organizing my collection of belly-button lintÖ..(by colour?by harvest date?).You arenít alone.To be truthful, I look upon this yearly epistle as a sacred public trust designed to improve the self-esteem of each and every one of the vast Paukert Christmas Letter readership family.Letís put it this way, you can hardly read more than a few paragraphs of this drivel without feeling pretty darn good about your own letter.Donít thank me, itís a gift.So, sit back with that smug little ĎI canít believe anyone would send out something this badí look on your face and enjoy this, The 16th Annual Paukert Christmas Letter.Doesnít it just make you want to cry to think this kind of foolishness could go on for so many years without at least a misdemeanor conviction?

 

Katherine is now 10 fingers old and in Grade 5.She doesnít like school as much as she used to because they give too much homework and because sheíd rather be home spending time with Mommy.I have similar sentiments about my job downtown, but both of us soldier on.She still gets a story from Daddy every night and still loves to be tucked into bed.Anyone want to guess how many more years of this angelic behavior we can expect?Yesterday I realized it will be legal for her to drive a car in the province of Alberta in just over 38 months.Over my dead body, but legal nonetheless.Sheís getting to be a right-decent piano player and pitched for her girlís fastpitch softball team, the Strathcona Angels last summer.Once again she had the best week of her life at Camp Chamisall in July.Her hamster, Mr. Wiggles, continues to be an acceptable substitute for the cat she would prefer.

 

Barb ran off to Europe in May to join the Raelian cult weíve all be reading about lately.After having herself cloned, she dropped out and stowed away to China on aÖ..Iím sorry.Iím making things up again.Letís face it, getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away nightmares and putting notes of encouragement into Katherineís lunchbox everyday donít make for gripping prose, and what she did last year is pretty much what she did again this year.But what she does is the most important stuff that gets done around here.On top of that she is involved in the mentoring program at church and in leading a ladies Bible study.Now a serious walker, she clips off about 4.5 miles in her daily hour up, down and around our hill.She still secretly harbours dreams of making it into space on the space shuttle, (but not until Katherine is off to University and she has a little more time).

 

And I have been assailing the heights of geekdom in my spare time of late.I am enamoured of Global Positioning Satellite technology and enjoy mapping our hikes and travels on my handy-dandy little monitor.I also determined that I was going to figure out how all this web-publishing stuff works, so Iíve authored my own site (relax, I wonít ask you to visit) complete with live hamster-cam.Why?Just to see if I could.To this Iíve added my life-long interest in weather by hooking up some weather monitoring devices that broadcast to the computer and then on to the website.It keeps me out of the bars.All I need now is some horned-rim glasses held together with white tape.

 

DREADED VACATION RECAP PARAGRAPH:Donít you just hate it when people go on vacations to exotic locales and then brag endlessly about their trips in their yearly Christmas letter?Me neither.But youíll never see anything that ostentatious in the Paukert Christmas Letter.Thatís because we donít know what the word ostentatious means.But I, personally, am so opposed to this practice that I refuse to even mention where we went on vacation this year.Letís just say we did something simpleÖlike camping, for instance!And we had a great time, too.Especially Katherine, when she wasnít vomiting or screaming in abject fear.

 

At our first Ďcampgroundí Ė oh letís just make up a name and call it the ĎMaui campgroundí Ė there was a large volcano named Haleakala.Our plans were to hike from the crater rim, at elevation 10,000 ft, down onto the (inactive Ė how dumb do you think we are?) crater floor inside.Imagine our chagrin when, 1,500 vertical feet down inside the crater, Katherine became listless and disoriented, started vomiting and could hardly walk.Since there was no school the next day, we decided she really was sick, and that it was probably altitude sickness.That left her heroic father with three attractive options:1) Hike to the top and call in the helicopters, Navy Seals and RCMP, 2) Carry the 70-lb child partway up, collapse from a heart attack and leave my widow to deal with the situation, or 3) Make the poor child walk out on her own.We opted for #3, which probably scarred Katherine for life, but a miraculous recovery occurred when we finally reached altitudes containing actual breathable oxygen.

 

A little better was our experience snorkeling.A few years ago I learned to enjoy snorkeling when I was unceremoniously dumped in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize and told to swim to shore without ripping my body to shreds on the intervening coral reef.So of course I wanted to share that exciting and nearly hospital-free experience with my family.A boat delivered us to the enchanting islet of Molokini to cavort amongst the denizens of the sea for a day.Unfortunately, I had not been previously informed of my daughterís pathological fear that fish Ė and I quote Ė Ďmight nibble me.íAs I dragged her down the gangway into the sparkling waters of the Pacific, whales began to breach from the surrounding waters in a vain attempt to escape her shrieks.Just as Capín Bob began to reach for the ship-to-shore radio to call Child Protective Services, I finally loosed her grip from the gunwale and we fell flailing into the fish-filled water, (say that 3 times fast).Iím pretty sure that for at least a few minutes there that morning, when she wasnít moaning through the snorkel tube, she kind of enjoyed the experience - at least thatís what Iíve been telling the psychologists.Once we spotted the shark, however, that was pretty much the end of Katherineís day in the water.Barb has a much better attitude toward fish.Turns out snorkeling makes her seasick, so she went back to the boat and, most considerately, Ďfed the fish.íAll in all, a grand day at sea, sort of.

 

Last of all, we hiked across day-old lava flows to where lava from the Kilauea volcano is flowing into the ocean.Can you believe the National Park Service would actually allow us to walk right up to within a few feet of fresh, flowing & glowing, real-live lava.The geologist in our family was enthralled.Way cool.Didnít even burn our toes.

 

International Christmas Letter Reciprocity guidelines require that I mention our trip to Montana for a few days of skiing in February with David and Karen Erickson, since they mentioned us in their Christmas Letter, (and I donít want to do jail time again like the year I put the stamps on upside down).There is a wonderful place called the Izaak Walton Inn at the south end of Glacier National Park in northern Montana.Amtrak stops at the isolated inn, so our friends hopped the train in Washington in order to meet us there.We gave up riding in boxcars in the winter year ago, so instead we drove down in our car.Itís a great place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as long as you donít mind being awakened by trains going by outside your window every 15 minutes all night.

 

Iím always surprised to get to this letter every year and be able to report that I am still employed, but even more outrageous is being able to say, for the first time in 3 years, that I am Ďworking for the same company as last year.í A lot of people lost a lot of money on THAT bet. The company in question is Talisman Energy, about 1500 people in size, with operations in such places as Indonesia, the North Sea and Trinidad.I moved over from whoever it was I used to work for with the intention of being able to keep working in and traveling to South America, and that has happened to a certain extent.What I didnít anticipate was needing to become an instant expert in a lot of cutting-edge Geophysical specialties that Iím not really smart enough to understand.So mostly I now go around spouting words like ĎAnisotropy,í ĎTomostatics,í and ĎPre-Stack Depth Migration,í hoping no one ever asks me to explain what they mean.About three or four times a year I fly to scenic, war-torn BogotŠ, Colombia to consult with our French, Colombian and Chilean partners.You can imagine how that goes, with 15 people in a room speaking 3 languages. At my hotel, the 17-year old pimply-faced soldier-boys dressed in fatigues and holding machine guns even sometimes scowl in recognition when I arrive.But Iím not afraid.They tell me the window glass in the Toyota Land Cruiser that ferries me around town is thick enough to stop a .44 slug.Assuming the bad guys stop doing bad things out in the jungle down there, weíll be drilling some significant exploration wells in the coming year.That is if I can ever learn to properly pronounce those big words.

 

Remember last year when I swore I would not get involved in any more grandiose home improvement projects?Well Iíve done pretty well at that, actually, (I excel when I put my mind to sloth and laziness).I did end up rebuilding our entire backyard fence this fall, but it was either that or let the thing collapse outright into the neighbourís yard.I learned a valuable lesson, though.I paid someone to come in and set the post-holes correctly this time, so I wonít have to spend the next 10 years looking at a crooked and leaning fence like when I did it last time.Remember, there are two ways of doing everything. My way, and the right way.Besides the fence, I am happy to report our abode has drifted unopposed through a whole year of decay without my having lifted a finger.And they say growing old doesnít have itís perks.

 

We are lucky to be related to those of you we are related to, and even luckier to have those of you who are friends, since you actually had a choice in the matter!Our prayers for you are for continued health and a closer than ever walk with the God of the Bible, the One who loves us and saves us.

 

 

Love in Christ,

 

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