Zev Family 2016 Year-end Newsletter

In December of 2015, a car took out the fire hydrant behind our house and the resulting flood of water took down the block wall on the south side of our yard.  A month later, the block wall had been replaced with a temporary fence, but we had made zero progress towards rebuilding, because the two insurance companies (the one for the guy who hit the fire hydrant and the one for the girl he swerved to avoid) were fighting over assignment of fault.  While they were fighting, we were receiving threatening letters from the city over the fact that we hadn’t fixed the wall yet.  Sigh.  We eventually contacted our homeowners’ insurance company and told *them* to deal with the other two insurance companies.  Our insurance company paid to replace the wall – but rebuilding was still a challenge.  The city inspected and told us we needed to put in a footing that was three feet wide and three feet deep.  With a cement trough and drainage on the inside so that if this ever happens again, the water won’t take out the wall again.  This meant that our initial cost estimate was way too low.  It also meant that we had to take out the stand-alone wood fence that was above the block wall and a bunch of trees and plants.  It was September before work could begin.  Work was slow because every time we reached a point requiring a city inspection, it would be weeks before we could get approval to continue.  The three foot footing also meant that we could not put the wood fence back as it was before.  However, we had put in the wood fence as a standalone fence because we didn’t trust the stability of the block wall.  Now, the block wall is so over-built that we had no problem bolting the supports for the wood fence to the block wall.  Our mason wanted another $5K to replace the wood fence, but we had reached our policy limits on our insurance, so we told him just to put up the old posts, and Marc has been doing the work to put the wood slats back up.  So here we are, a year later, and the work is *almost* done!

At the beginning of 2016, Jackie was busy with work, Sisterhood, the Temple Board, AAUW and the Engineer’s Council.  Marc and Jonathan were both still looking for work.  And Benjamin was enjoying his second semester at Washington University in St. Louis.  He continued his involvement in choir, orchestra, the Ghost Lights (an acapella group) and String Theory (a knitting group).  He also continued attending shows at the Fabulous Fox Theater. Whew!

As the year continued, jobs continued to elude both Marc and Jonathan.  But finally, in May, Jonathan found an internship position at Northrop Grumman, in Xontech (the same group that Jackie works for) but on a different project.  His personal project while unemployed, a program to decode “Magic-Eye” images, served him well, because his internship involves processing aerial imagery using MatLab.  Jonathan enjoyed the work at Xontech, but continued to look for employee positions.  He found work at Sequoia Research to do similar work to his Xontech job, but this time involving satellites (and much better pay!) He starts his new job in January.  Sequoia Research is in Torrance, so Jonathan will be moving to Torrance at the end of December. 

Around the same time that Jonathan started working, Benjamin also started an internship.  Benjamin’s job was with a St. Louis engineering firm called Ross & Baruzzini.  Ross & Baruzzini has an arrangement with Webster University to provide housing for their interns, so Benjamin got free housing.  However, Benjamin started work two weeks before the Webster dorms became available.  Fortunately, Benjamin had no trouble finding friends who let him crash at their place for a couple of weeks.  Benjamin mainly worked on helping to design what will be the largest airport in the world (in Dubai.)  Benjamin already has an internship for next summer, with the DOD.  Like his brother, he may also be doing image processing.  Benjamin will be working in Springfield, Virginia, about 30 minutes from DC.  We’re thinking that this would be a good excuse to visit DC!

In December, Marc’s job search also bore fruit and he accepted a one-year contract position at If(we), a ten year old social networking company.  If(we) is moving their servers and revamping their website and needed an experienced person to guide this effort.  The money is good, but the job is in San Francisco.  But for a year, we decided to make it work.  We plan to do lots of flying back and forth.

That’s the big news, but lots more happened in 2016.  Jackie and the boys had a blast on their annual Square Dancing trips to the Bakersfield Fiesta (in Bakersfield) and the National Square Dancing convention (in Des Moines.)  Marc’s leg was acting up, so he stayed home.  Coincidentally, Benjamin was home for spring break the week before Bakersfield, so he was able to attend and actually flew back to St. Louis from the Bakersfield airport.  (I didn’t even know Bakersfield HAD an airport!)

In June, Jackie drove up to San Louis Obispo for nephew Michael’s graduation.  Michael received both his Bachelor’s and his Master’s degree after completing a 5-year program.  Way to go, Michael!

We actually got in a sailing day this summer, for the first time in years.  Not on our boat – our friends the Riedingers invited us to join them on their boat.  Next summer, we’ll have to take *our* boat out. 

Grammy Blanche decided to give her car to Benjamin, so in August, Marc, Jackie and Benjamin went on a 3-day road trip to drive the car to St. Louis.  The first night we drove to El Paso.  The second day, we drove to Carlsbad and went to the Carlsbad cavern, something Jackie had always regretted not seeing in one of her many drives between LA and College Station, TX when she was young.  We left Carlsbad after lunch and drove to some way-to-small town in Oklahoma and stayed in a way-overpriced dump.  But that did give us an easy drive to St. Louis on the third day.  We had fun looking around St. Louis, and went to the top of the St. Louis arch.  Benjamin’s friend Delaney came with us. 

The St. Louis trip was bracketed by two out-of-town Bar Mitzvahs. The one the week before was for a cousin in San Diego, and the one the week after was for a cousin in Florida.  Both were lots of fun and it was wonderful to spend time with relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time. 

In September, Jackie went to Santa Fe with her mom and two of her mom’s friends.  Santa Fe is wonderful, full of amazing art.  Jackie’s mom had arranged for us to go to the home of weaver Rebecca Bluestone, to the home of glass artist Emily Brock, to the home of an art collector, to the home of Georgia O’Keefe, to the Georgia O’Keefe museum and to the Santa Fe cooking school.  Jackie came back with lots of pictures of art she would like to buy!

Jackie is glad she has an understanding husband, because in November she went on another trip, this time to Las Vegas for a Sisterhood Pacific District convention.  Conventions are always fun, and this one was no exception.  Jackie was very impressed by the caliber of attendees at convention. 

Jackie did one more road trip to end out the year, this time to Davis for niece Samantha’s graduation from UC Davis (two quarters early – way to go Samantha!)  Jackie took the opportunity to visit with cousins Lisa, Sharon, Miriam and Rose in San Francisco, friends Dan and Juanita in Palo Alto, friends Jeff and Magnolia in San Jose, friends Greg and Julie in Davis and friend Susan in Livermore – Whew!  It was fun to see everyone. 

We have some good news on the health front.  In 2012, Jackie started having trouble with her back.  She eventually went to physical therapy, but the exercises they gave her made the pain substantially worse – to the point where she could not do them at all.  She started treating herself with anti-inflammatory medicine and stretching, and slowly, slowly, things got better.  After about 6 months the pain was gone.  Then in 2015, she started having back pain again.  This felt different, and anti-inflammatory medicine and stretching didn’t seem to make any difference.  So Jackie started doing leg-lifts to strengthen her core muscles.  She did less than 5 minutes 2-3 times a day, and again, slowly, slowly, things got better, and after about 6 months the pain was gone.  This has turned her into a big proponent of doing 5 minutes of exercise!  But she also recognizes that what cured her won’t work for everyone – certainly the same cure didn’t even work twice for her!  She is happy to report that the pain is completely gone, and she still doing leg-lifts once or twice a day to make sure it stays gone.  The 2-3 minutes is well worth it.

There’s good news from Marc as well.  In 2014, Marc was having leg pain when he exercised which he diagnosed as being caused by a cyst on an artery in his leg.  His doctor didn’t believe him, (cysts on leg arteries being really rare) but Marc convinced his doctor to do a simple test for the condition.  The test confirmed his diagnosis and the doctor popped the cyst.  That got rid of the pain for about 4 months, but then it came back.  We assumed that the cyst had grown back, but the doctor said no, there’s just a little scar tissue and recommended doing lots of exercise to deal with the problem.  The idea was that if one artery is blocked, but you exercise through the pain, the other arteries will enlarge to pick up the slack. However, that kind of exercise is easier said than done! When there is not enough blood flow to your calf, your body lets you know with a lot of pain. Marc took the opposite tack and cut out almost all exercise.  The leg pain meant that Marc did not go on either of our square dancing trips this year – he couldn’t dance.  But spontaneously (or maybe because he was resting his leg) the pain went away, and now Marc can exercise and dance again – yea! 

We expect that 2017 will be a year of changes for everyone.  Benjamin will be living in a different state (Virginia) this summer for his internship.  He is also considering adding a Computer Science major to his Systems Engineering major.  Jonathan is moving to Torrance and starting a new job.  Marc is moving to San Francisco and starting a new job.  And Jackie will be living alone in a house (for the first time in her life) and cooking for herself (not for the first time in her life.)  Jackie is hopeful that she will put the time traveling to and from San Francisco to good use by resuming blogging, which she hasn’t done in 9 months.

We hope 2017 is good to you!

Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin