2017 Zev Family Newsletter

What a roller coaster year 2017 has been!  It started with new jobs for both Jonathan and Marc.  Jonathan’s job was with a company called Sierra Research, in Torrance.  He’s doing Math Analysis for them – things like plotting satellite trajectories and other geospacial tasks.  He took one look at the commute and found an apartment in Lomita, about three miles from his office. 

Marc’s job was doing back-end database work for a company website.  The good news was that the company, If(we), acted like a startup (with lots of free food and other perks), but had been around for 10 years, so it had the stability of an established company.  The bad news was that it was in San Francisco.  But the money was good, even after expenses, so Marc took the job. 

Martin Luther King weekend, Jackie and Marc drove up to San Francisco and moved Marc in. We watched Southwest for deals, and made plans for Marc to come down about every other weekend.  He would fly down Friday night and fly back Monday morning.  We settled into a new routine and things were not too bad.   Marc was home for Passover, although Benjamin was not, since it didn’t fall during spring break.  But we learned that two Picus cousins (4th cousins to Jonathan and Benjamin) were now living in L.A., one attending USC and one working, so we invited them to join us.  To our surprise, we discovered that they grew up (and their parents still live) in St. Louis, where Benjamin is attending Wash U!

Then, the first week in April, Marc’s company announced that they had been bought by The Meet Group.  But nothing was going to change, they said.  “We’ll see,” thought Marc.  For two weeks, nothing did change.  Then they laid off all the contractors.  At least they gave them two-weeks’ notice. 

The blessing that came from being laid off was that Marc came home just after his mother went into the hospital for the last time.  So he was home for the final weeks of her life.  She passed away at home on May 11.  Benjamin came home from spring semester that very day, just an hour or two before she passed away, and got to see her before she died. 

Blanche was a wonderful mom, mother-in-law, and Grammy.  She had an amazing memory, and was able to provide the names and relations of not only all her relatives, but all of Marc’s father’s relatives too.  She made it a point to be there for every event in our kids’ lives.  Marc’s eulogy for her ended with “I learned from my mom - When given a choice between doing for yourself and doing for your kids - Always, always, choose your grandkids.”

Losing her was really tough, and it was nice that we were all together.  After a couple of weeks, Benjamin went off to the Baltics for a two-week trip with his chamber choir.  They sang their way through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and had a great time.  Benjamin flew back to St. Louis for a week and then drove out to Virginia where he had a (paid) summer internship with the Department of Defense.  We are lucky to have cousins in Virginia who were gracious enough to let him live with them for the summer, otherwise most of his salary would have gone to pay rent! 

Around mid-summer, Jonathan’s job was going well.  However, the program that Jackie was working was anticipating cutting about a third of its staff, and Jackie was told that she should expect to be one of the people who would be reassigned.  Most of the people in Jackie’s group, like Jackie, had worked together for over 20 years and the announcement that the group was being split up was pretty traumatic for everyone. 

In the middle of all this, Jackie noticed a spot on her cheek that turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma.  If you are going to have cancer, skin cancer (found early) is the one to have, but having it on your face is pretty stressful. 

In July, Jackie was reassigned to a JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) project to start in September.  In August, Jackie’s friend Kathleen started a new project and needed a second person to work the project with her.  The work would require flying to Baltimore.  It sounded like fun, so they talked management into letting Jackie delay her start date on the JSF project and off they went to Baltimore.  

At the end of the first week, Jackie returned to LA because she and Marc had plane tickets to St. Louis to see the eclipse.  Jonathan flew to Virginia on Friday and he and Benjamin drove from Virginia to St. Louis together, stopping Saturday night at Delaney’s Mom’s house in Illinois.  Delaney and Benjamin have been together for over a year now.  Marc and Jackie flew to St. Louis on Sunday and Jonathan, Benjamin and Delaney picked them up at the airport.  Benjamin stayed with Delaney, while Marc, Jackie and Jonathan stayed with our newly discovered St. Louis cousins.

The eclipse was awesome – a real bright spot in the year.  St. Louis has a wolf sanctuary about 20 mins from Wash U, and we made reservations to watch the eclipse from there.  When the moon started blocking the sun, clouds were wisping across the sun, but by the time totality hit, the clouds had disappeared and we enjoyed the eclipse without obstruction.  Interestingly enough, the wolves, who had been pacing around, hunkered down when totality hit.  When it passed, they got up and went back to pacing. The sanctuary also has painted dogs, which ignored the eclipse completely. 

Jonathan flew home that day, but Marc and Jackie’s tickets weren’t until the next day.  So Marc, Jackie, Benjamin and Delaney did an escape room.  Usually escape rooms have a goal of escaping from a room within an hour, and you have to solve a series of puzzles in order to get the code which allows you to escape.  This one was a little different in that the goal was to solve a murder mystery.  We enjoyed it a lot, and were able to solve it.  Marc was a little distracted during the escape room, because in the middle of it he received a job offer.

Marc’s job was for an internet startup doing ICOs (initial coin offerings) – ICOs are like IPOs, but for crypto-currency (like Bitcoin) instead of for stock.  He was their back-end developer for their web interface, working with a front-end guy and a manager.  The company is located in Beverly Hills, but mostly Marc worked from home.

Marc and Jackie flew home from St. Louis, and Jackie turned around and went back to Baltimore.  After three weeks, Jackie was scheduled to stop working the Baltimore project and switch to the JSF project.  But the JSF money hadn’t come in, and Jackie’s old project (the one that was downsizing) had a surplus they wanted to spend before the contract ended, so they kept her on her old project and even put her on overtime.  She worked her old project for another month and a half, and the JSF money still hadn’t come in, but management decided to move her onto another project, the H1 helicopter project. 

Benjamin started a new job too, working at the university library, just to have some extra spending money.

So by mid-November, Jackie’s work on the H1 Helicopter project was going smoothly, Marc’s job was going smoothly, Jonathan’s job was going smoothly, Benjamin’s job was going smoothly (as was school), and Jackie had stopped responding to “How are things going?” with “Oh well, life’s always *interesting*.”

But unfortunately, in 2017, life *is* always interesting! The day before Thanksgiving, Marc came down to a message from the CFO of his company saying he wanted to talk to Marc.  And his access to his company email had been cut off.  He contacted his boss, and learned that his boss had the same message, and also no access to email.  Same for the front end guy.  Sure enough, the company was apparently having money problems and decided to drop Marc’s group entirely (and a few other people as well.)

Marc’s boss had a job offer on the table from another company, which he immediately accepted.  He then requested to bring his team with him. So within a couple of weeks, Marc had another job, doing the same work, with the same people, for the same pay.

We are hoping that 2018 will be less *interesting* than 2017 was!  But, as stressful as 2017 was, everything has turned out ok. We are thankful for our health, and for not being in the Southern California burn area!  We hope that next year’s newsletter will be full of mundane things like theater, Sisterhood, and square dancing.

Best wishes for a great 2018,

Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin