Hello!  It's been a while since I last wrote anything, but it's been quite a month for us so far.....and not in a good way, but we have survived everything that's come at us and are very grateful that we were able to.

    I believe that when I last wrote, we were dealing with Tim's dad being very ill.  Sadly, his health continued to deteriorate and he passed away January 5.  It was, of course, a sad time for the family, but in many ways a positive experience for Tim.  After years of being on the outside of his family, Tim was given the gift of at least some peace and acceptance from his sisters and his dad, with whom he was able to have one last talk before he lost consciousness for the final time.  Even though it hurt to lose his dad, the mending of those rifts meant the world to him and I hope the peace will continue.  We were also overwhelmed by the support of our church, which we have just returned to after a year's absence.  It was amazing to us to see the change in heart that has occurred under the new pastor and everyone has been just wonderful.
    The week following his dad's passing, Tim became quite sick, but continued to go to work (and work overtime) each day.  He'd lost so much time during his dad's illness and death that he didn't want to take time off.  However, last Friday even he had to admit defeat and stay home.  He did see the doctor who told him he had a new and particularly nasty strain of the flu that they were just starting to see (Tim was only their 5th case).  If Tim's temperature had been just a few hundredths of a degree higher the doctor would have admitted him to the hospital.  As it was he prescribed Tamiflu (which is very expensive and hard to find as all the pharmacies sell out of it quickly) and a cough medicine with a narcotic to help him sleep.  I also had to see that he kept up with an alternating course of Tylenol and ibuprofen to keep his temperature down and help with aches and pains.  He was ordered to stay in bed and was forbidden to go near the public.  The kids and I were also to get ourselves to the office if we even thought we were coming down with anything.  Keeping him in bed was not hard for a change.  He was out of it all weekend.  It was back to work on Monday.  He still isn't completely better as he still feels very tired and gets winded easily.  It seems to have settled in his chest.  He's been miserable enough this weekend that he says he will go back to the doctor this week.  I just hope he remembers that once he's back to work.  He is coming up rapidly on the completion date for the construction project he's on and the last few weeks are always a frenzied nightmare to make sure everything gets done.
    A radiator hose blew on my car while Tim was sick.  Nothing major, but he just didn't feel up to fixing it for several days so I was begging rides to work with a coworker.  He finally worked on it this past Tuesday and it ran fine....for 2 days.  For various reasons it had to sit again until he could work on it today.  He thought he had accidentally put a hole in the new hose when he put it on, but closer inspection showed no holes.  What he did find out at the auto parts store was that he'd put the hose on backwards.  He had just put it on the same way as the old hose and it turns out it was on wrong.  Just by switching the ends it straightened the whole thing out and it fits right now and seems to be working fine.  Cross your fingers that it's okay now.
    Tuesday morning we woke up to a cold house.  The furnace had stopped running some time during the night.  Of course, Tuesday was the morning the temperature dipped to zero and we had a 2-hour delay for school.  Tim found a repairman that could come at 11:00, but with the delay I didn't get home until 11:30 so Matthew stayed home from school to let him in and keep a fire going in the fireplace.  $300 later and he'd replaced the fan switch and made "adjustments."  The furnace has been running but it isn't working right.  It keeps kicking on and off, it's letting the temperature drop about 4 degrees below what is set and is taking forever to warm the house up and it's burning huge amounts of propane.  We fill our own 100lb tanks and even in extremely cold weather like we've been having, a tank should last about a week.  Since the furnace was "fixed" they've been lasting roughly 48 hours.  I called Friday morning as soon as we knew how quickly it was burning fuel, but the repairman said he couldn't fit me in during my off hours but said he could probably fit me in on Saturday.  Friday night he called to tell me he'd suddenly remembered they were having a big party for his daughter's birthday on Saturday so he couldn't come till Monday.  Since we do have some heat of sorts he doesn't consider us an emergency.  I guess it doesn't matter that soon I won't be able to afford fuel at this rate.
    Thursday morning Matthew was getting a shower before school and broke the hot water handle off the spigot.  He tried to call me but I was already out on my bus route and Tim didn't answer his cell phone.  Finally Matt called my mom.  She and John have been staying at his home on the ridge so it took them a good 20-30 minutes to get here.  In the meantime, water was spraying out of the tub and flooding the bathroom and seeping under the wall and out into the kitchen.  Mom and John couldn't find the shut-off valve so used a pipe to divert the water into the drain and called the water company to shut off the water at the main valve.  Mom and Megan used all the towels in the house to stop the flood so the worst damage we had was the spigot itself and I had a couple of loads of towels to wash.
    So, you can see we've had sort of a run of bad luck, but even though it was stressful as we were going through each thing we can look back now and be grateful for the many blessings that came along with the bad things:  mending of family relationships, the love and support of our church, that Tim didn't end up in the hospital, that we've had the money to pay for prescriptions and car repairs and broken furnaces and extra propane and everything else, that Mom and John were able to come and keep the water damage from being worse, that people at work were willing to give me rides and that nothing was as bad as it first seemed.
    Hopefully, we are going to move into some less stressful and happier times.  Mom and John fly out of Pittsburgh this Wednesday for a 2-week stay in Hawaii.  I'm wondering how I can stow away.  Hiding in the suitcase is out as they are only permitted one bag each and it can't weigh more than 50lbs.  I'm way past that!  In two weeks we'll be taking Matthew to Pittsburgh Technical Institute to tour the housing and make a final selection.  We'll also meet with the financial advisor and begin the process of finding financial aid.  Tim has said we can make a day of it and have dinner somewhere then go to IKEA.  The Super Bowl is that same weekend, but sadly, the Steelers won't be in it so we don't really care who wins.  We'll just be watching for the commercials.
    Guess that's it from around this neck of the woods.  Keep warm and....