Merry Christmas to all . . .
This was a good year for us, with our seasonal routines sprinkled with some memorable firsts.
For Elizabeth, work continued as an odd combination of ups and downs and the NSF (National Science Foundation) remains a great place. She has a staff of 20 and is responsible for a library, multi million a year travel agency, cafeteria, agency exhibit center, information center, and TV studio, and is now experimenting with video conferencing for use by the National Science Board. Tying these diverse activities logically together has so far defied imagination. She has just returned from a visit to Palo Alto for a Digital library meeting (she did this last year too and now almost understands what this means!) Of course she has to develop an exhibit on this for her center by March. Brian is proud that Elizabeth received a "Hammer Award" from Vice President Gore. These are given for "helping build a government that works better and costs less." (Remember that $600 hammer DOD bought!)
The bummer of the year for Elizabeth was the government furlough (brought to her courtesy of Newt Gingrich). It ended too soon. She had to go back to work but she did find it beautifully ironic that just as Congress approved reopening the government, mother nature closed it with a huge snowfall. Elizabeth is still envious that her friend Margaret Windus retired during the furlough as did a number of her other colleagues.
Given that Elizabeth is responsible for a travel agency, she thinks itís a little embarrassing to tell of her visit to her friend Martha Mednick in Cape Cod. Marthaís home is 15 mile from the airport in Provincetown, MA. Anyone familiar with Elizabethís attention to geography will not be surprised to learn that she arranged her travel to Providence, RI (they sound alike, donít they) and had to take a taxi 65 miles. (Of course the fact that Brian kept saying she was going to Marthaís vineyard didnít help!)
Brian continued developing statistical software for the liquor industry. Right now he is learning Delphi, a Windows database language which is in turn written in Pascal. "Computer languages are getting much more complicated", he says. (Elizabeth makes snide remarks about age.) We were saddened by the loss of Brianís brother Dennis who died unexpectedly last summer.
After seven years of studying intermediate Spanish, Elizabeth switched to studying Mexico and its history in Spanish. She still doesnít speak Spanish to strangers while Brian, who still knows about 20 words, continues to impress waiters and others with "la cuenta por favor" and "Feliz Navidad" spoken with such verve they think he can actually speak Spanish. When pressed, his line, "No hablo Espanol; no hablo English; no hablo nada!" elicits at least a smile and usually a grin and invariably convinces the listener that he really knows Spanish much better than he is letting on. Go figure!
The first highlight of the year was our annual two weeks in Puerto Escondido in February with a visit to Oaxaca on the way back. Our friends, Clay and Eve Cummins, joined us as usual and Brianís son, Ruane, came down for a week as a college graduation gift. On the way back Ruane took the bus over the Sierra Madre Del Sur Mountains (Mexicoís Rockies) from P.E. to Oaxaca while we old folks ("older", Brian suggests) chose the more comfortable plane ride. Ruane hasnít stopped talking about the bus ride (including the machete bearing guard.)
This was the year of weddings, engagements, births and graduations. Elizabethís nephew Richard married Meg (a coincidence that he is the son of Dick and Peggy). This is really a romantic story -- they had known each other many years ago but her family moved to Florida. Years later, they met again in Richís deli and somewhere between the pastrami and salads they fell in love again. Shannon, Brianís son, who lived with us throughout junior and senior high school, married Dawn in August. Their two beautiful children, Hillary and Connor, were there. Happily Connor slept through the festivities (he was two monthís old). Daughter Kathi (aka Kati) visited us from New Mexico with her children, Stephen and Sara, and toured D.C. Given security at the White House it is incredible that Kathi was able to talk her way into the Old Executive Building. Elizabeth, who worked there last year, told her about a beautiful stair case and Kathi was able to get the guards to let them in so Stephen and Sara could see it! Amazing!
Michael, Elizabethís godson, became engaged to Tony and will marry next year. Given Eagle Scout Michaelís experience in getting lost and having accidents in DC, we were sure glad their visit to us went fine. Niece Dorothy graduated from college and joined Computer Associates where Michael works. Michael will actually get a bonus for recruiting her. Knowing how athletic and strong Dorothy is, we assume Michael will share the proceeds. Dawn and Jill, Elizabethís nieces and daughterís of John and Pat, both had a second child.
The most unusual wedding was that of Elizabethís work colleague, Roger, who lives in the country some 50 miles from Washington. After a two hour drive on I-95 (what a day for accidents) we arrived just barely in time to take our seats before the bride and groom came down the aisle on horseback. (Of course it was under a canopy outside.)
Shane, our grandson, (who also happens to be the son of Dan and Michelle) started kindergarten this year. He tells Elizabeth computers are his specialty. When she said she had a hard time learning to use the mouse he asked "Why? -- all you have to do is press the button." (Elizabeth thinks she could have used this advice during the five years she headed a computer help desk.) Ah, the NEXT generation. Erica, his younger sister, started nursery school. Hillary also started kindergarten this year. Rory continues to have perfect attendance at school. Amazing how fast they grow. We are all very proud of Danís award as Public Servant of the Year in Saratoga County.
Elizabethís Dad continues his impressive schedule of participating in his PEER group at Hofstra University, working with the Power Squadron teaching classes, and swimming. He does admit to slowing down, however, and didnít get to visit us this year. By all accounts, Aunt Annette is incredible. After having her hip replaced, the Doctor said she was fine. ("How come God didnít make these things out of plastic in the first place," she quipped.) She decided to visit her other doctors. She says her optometrist says her eyes are great! Her dentist says her teeth are strong. And, according to Annette, her gynecologist says she isnít pregnant! "Two out of three isnít bad," Annette said.
As 1996 ends, we are planning our annual Christmas visit all the New York family and then on to our annual February trip to Mexico. Brian and his brother Maurice were planning to meet in Albuquerque and then drive to Mexico City, pick up Elizabeth who would be flying in and continue driving to Puerto Escondido. They had to cancel their driving plans because of Mauriceís health, so itís back to flying for us both. But the real highlight of 1997 will be a second trip to Mexico. We are planning to visit San Miguel de Allende (possible retirement spot) for our 20th anniversary in July.
Elizabeth Anne (aka Betty) VanderPutten