It's really hard to get into the holiday spirit this year. I've been busier than ever at work, and the weather has been unseasonably warm-without even a hint of snow. All through the fall we've had grim news of terror and war, which hardly makes me feel like celebrating. Advent is here again, though, and it's time to greet old friends and re-cap a year that has mostly been one of good news for my family and me.
Last Christmas was the year that most of my family spent at their in-laws, so my sister Margaret and I took a holiday trip southward. We left mounds of snow and sub-zero temperatures behind and spent Christmas Day basking in sixty-degree sunshine on the Gulf Coast.
That was one of several trips I took this year. I went to Chicago a couple of times-most notably to see the touring stage show of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring an aging, but still attractive Ann-Margaret. The big vacation came in June, when Margaret and I again traveled together. We took the train out to California, where we had a lovely time exploring both Los Angeles and San Francisco. I particularly enjoyed L.A., where we stayed at a gorgeous historic hotel right in the heart of Hollywood. We toured the Warner Brothers Studios, took a bus ride down Sunset Boulevard, and enjoyed a stroll along Redondo Beach. It was really a marvelous trip.
Later in the summer, right before school started up again, I made another week-long getaway. I didn't write one of my travelogues about that trip, but if I had I'd probably have christened it 2001: A Baseball Odyssey. I went down to Kansas City to see Cal Ripken play one of his "farewell tour" games (where the Royals' crowd booed their own pitcher for striking him out) and then visited an assortment of minor league parks around the Midwest. I finished up by taking a behind-the-scenes tour of Comiskey Park in Chicago. It was a wonderfully relaxing week, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
That trip provides an opportunity to force a transition into some of the biggest news at Garrigan this past year. Brad Nelson, who is probably the best athlete our school has ever seen, was drafted straight out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers. I certainly can't take credit for any of his athletic success, but I am proud to say that I worked with him in student council, quiz bowl, and broadcasting-not to mention advanced math and college-level statistics. Brad's "Premier Prospect" baseball card (Upper Deck #24) just came out, and I must say it's fascinating to see someone I actually know enshrined on cardboard. I'm looking forward to seeing some of his minor league games next year, and you can bet I'll keep following him all the way to "the show".
Brad was one of a number of graduating seniors I really liked; in fact, I went to more graduation receptions in 2001 than I had any other year. I'll definitely miss last year's seniors, but there's an interesting crop of freshmen to replace them. A lot of teachers don't seem to get along well with that class, but so far I'm rather enjoying them. I continue to teach math; and I work with speech (where we had a record four all-staters this year), quiz bowl (where we've been seeded first after the preliminary rounds in four different tournaments this fall), broadcasting (where we aired our 300th Bear Facts episode last winter), student council (where we had a somewhat depressing year memorable mostly for attending numerous funerals of people in the school family and for "celebrating" Homecoming immediately after the terrorist disasters in New York and Arlington), and intramural basketball (where we had a pleasant and thankfully uneventful season). I also keep busy working as the P.A. announcer at football games and as webmaster for the school's home on the internet (http://garrigan.unlimitedweb.net). This fall I was honored to become our school's nominee for "Teacher of the Year" in the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City-a particular honor for a non-Catholic. This is my nineteenth year at Garrigan; it seems like an eternity when I type that, but most of the time it seems like just yesterday I started.
I also continue to work at Iowa Lakes Community
College. This was a very busy year there. I taught maximum loads in spring, summer, and fall. I've been teaching
Spanish at the college, as well as
math. I like the variety of teaching Spanish, but I can't say I care for the ultra-accelerated schedule they have for that class. I also taught a new course last summer,
Math for Elementary
Teachers. I probably worked harder preparing that class than any other in recent years, but it was fun to try something different.
I'm still active at church, where I continue to serve as a lector (called "worship leader" in our U.C.C. congregation) and a member of the church council. In addition, I continue to serve as newsletter editor and webmaster for the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and this past year I've also been on the board for the interdisciplinary Iowa Coalition of Educators.
The coming year should be somewhat more relaxed. I'll be teaching just one course at the college this spring and most likely nothing at all in the summer. The big news coming up is that I may be accompanying Margaret and Paul as they take students to France and Spain this summer. In addition to another possible trip to national quiz bowl, that should keep me busy.
It's been a pretty good year for the rest of the family, too. Margaret probably has the biggest news. She earned her master's degree last summer, and I was pleased to travel to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to see her march across the stage. She continues to teach Spanish in Cresco, and on those rare occasions when she's not overworked at school she enjoys eating out and going to plays.
Paul and Nancy are doing well. Paul was in Atlanta last summer continuing his training to become an ordained Methodist minister. He'll be doing more theology work in Evanston, Illinois this coming summer. Their daughter Rachel graduated from high school last May, and we had a little family reunion down in Oskaloosa on her big day. She's now majoring in education at Simpson College. Timothy is a high schooler now, and he enjoys football and band.
John and Janet are still in Maquoketa, and Janet seems to really enjoy her new job as an executive assistant for a corporation in Dubuque. She didn't even mind the long, icy drives last winter too much. John still teaches English at Andrew, and I'm always jealous of the success he has with his speech teams. I'm looking forward to seeing the two of them when we get together at their house for our family Christmas.
Steve and Terry will be the one absent branch of the family this Christmas, since they'll be spending the holidays down in Florida. Steve really seems to enjoy his work at Pella Windows, where he's been teaching adult classes as well as doing inspection work. Josh and Michelle are doing well in school. I always enjoy seeing them, and last summer I even got to see Michelle play in a Little League game. Hannah is in a special needs facility in Cedar Rapids. Progress is slow, but generally she seems to be doing okay too.
There's not a lot of news from the rest of the family. What's probably at the top of everyone's mind on the Miller side is my cousin Chris (Harvey and Max's son), who is on active duty at an "unspecified" location that is probably in Afghanistan. On the Burrow side, my uncle Arnold passed away in New Mexico this year, and we're all certainly thinking of Aunt Jin this Christmas. I haven't heard a lot from most of the other relatives, so I'm definitely looking forward to this year's round of holiday letters.
As you can see, in spite of the world events, the 21st Century mostly started on a positive note for my family and me. I hope the year has also been good for all of you. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and I hope 2002 will be a safe and happy year for everyone.
The background music on this page is "Angels We Have Heard on High (Gloria)".