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Frank & Betsy Christmas Letter 1997

 Happy Holidays!

              It has been a very busy year for Frank and me.  1997 was a year of growth and change for both of us.  There is so much to try to fit in one letter, but I'll try.

             The year started out bad for us.  We both came down with what Frank nicknamed "The Killer Death Flu from Hell".  He came down with it on Christmas Eve and it lasted into the new year.  I came down with it a few days later and it lingered with me for about a month.  Neither of us remember much of the holidays.  We both just wanted to die, but thankfully we lived through it.

             In February, Frank received a very large, well deserved raise.  He is now the PC Specialist/Network Administrator.  He had been working the position since October, but didn't have the title.  The raise in income made a big difference in our life.  We were finally able to do some of the things we had been wanting to do.  We began by carpeting our back room and turning it into a laundry room.  We moved the washer & dryer out of the kitchen which gave us more room.  We bought a dishwasher to help Frank keep up on the never-ending pile of dishes.  In the spring, we did a lot of landscaping around the yard.  Frank put in a raised vegetable garden.  It yielded 22 butternut squash and a lot of tomatoes!

             With every good thing, some bad things come along too.  Frank's raise put us over the income limit for Social Security.  They took away my SSI and all of my health insurance.  Losing my SSI was not a concern of ours.  But losing my health benefits really hurt us.  After weeks of phone calls and filling out forms, we concluded it would cost us so much to have me covered that our income would be less than before the raise.  So we decided to cross our fingers and go with no coverage for me for a while.  So as of June 1st, I no long had an aide come in every day to reposition me, feed me or help with the housework.  We hired her to come in once a week to help Frank with the housework and laundry.  So far, with the help of both of out mothers and Frank's grandmother, we are managing quite well.

             In July, we did the only impulsive thing I think that either of us had ever done.  We drove to Washington D.C. for the weekend.  Several people I had met online over the Internet were getting together to meet each other.  It was the longest trip that we had ever taken together.  At one point I thought we might kill each other when we got hopelessly lost in downtown D.C.  It took us over 2 hours after we arrived in D.C. to find the apartment where the party was being held.  The party was an interesting experience for me.  It was both good and strange finally meeting people that I had been typing to for the last 3 years.  Some people were exactly like I expected and others were totally different.  We had a great time though.  The day we left, Frank & I spent the day site seeing.  We started at Capitol Hill and walked to the White House stopping at museums along the way.  It was extremely hot that day and they were issuing heat advisory warnings.  By the time we got to the White House, we were so hot, tired, thirsty & hungry we just took a couple pictures and walked all the way back to the van.  We were foolish and drove straight through until we got home.  We were so exhausted.  We should have stopped at a motel.  It took me a few days to recuperate but it was worth it.  We will remember that trip for the rest of our lives.

             In August, I was offered my first "real" job!  I was really nervous about taking it, but I decided it was the perfect opportunity and I couldn't pass it by.  I am working for the Hornell School district as their Sub Caller.  I call for substitutes for all the teachers, aides, clerical staff and nurses that work in the 5 schools.  I have an answering machine that the employees call to leave messages on as to when they will be absent from school.  Then I call people from a list of substitutes to fill all of the vacant positions.  When I took the job, they told me I'd only have a few calls at first.  Well, they lied.  I am making at LEAST 20-40 calls per day.  At first, I was having a hard time because the woman that did the job before did it all by hand.  I was asked to computerize the job.  So I needed build a database of employees & substitutes at the same time I was learning the job itself.  The job is very stressful and difficult at times, but I can handle it.  The worst part of the job is that I need to be up and phoning people by 6:00am.  I'm still not used to the hours.  But the job does make me feel like I am contributing to the household.

             At the same time I was starting my job, a friend that I met over the Internet came all the way from Sweden to meet me.  He was here for a week.  The time went by so fast.  We took him to Niagara Falls.  We went behind the Falls, rode on the Maid of the Mist and went to the casino.  Frank took him hiking through the local area.  When it was time for him to leave, I cried so hard I couldn't even say goodbye.  Hopefully he will visit the States again next year for the next Internet party in D.C.. 

            So as you can see, our year has been a very blessed one.  Full of new experiences and challenges.  I can't believe how fast this year has gone by and Christmas is upon us already.  It really crept up on me.   I hope that all is well with you and that the holidays find you healthy & happy.  Take care.

 Love,

Betsy & Frank