We just had our first major snow of the season here last night (December 1st), and it is another reminder that Advent is here and Christmas is coming quickly. With that, it's time for me to again take a look back and to update all of you on my last year.
I'm pretty well settled in Algona now, teaching at Garrigan High School. I was hired a year ago to teach Spanish, but this year I have a wider variety of classes -- including two levels of Spanish and an advanced math course. (Math, of course, was my college major, and it is good to be working with the subject again.) Things are going much more smoothly in this, my second year of teaching, and I'm enjoying my work more than I did before.
I've moved since last year. I had been living in a tiny, old efficiency apartment over a store in downtown Algona. Unfortunately (or perhaps it was fortunate--it depends on how you look at it), I outgrew that place. In August I moved to a more modern two-bedroom apartment at the west edge of Algona. It costs more, of course; but I have far more space, and I am much happier here than I was downtown.
My father died last December. He was among those many lives taken by the weather last winter. On and off throughout the year, our family has gotten together to work on the many little details that must be cleared up when someone dies. I have enjoyed seeing my sister and brothers, but I wish the circumstances could have been happier.
It is a cliche that no loss occurs without some small gain, and so it was with my father. Like most people, he left a fair, but not huge, sum of insurance and left his five children in fairly good financial shape. I put the largest part of this "inheritance" into savings, but I did buy two major items. After struggling through last winter with my dad's 150,000+ mile Plymouth Champ, it was clear I needed a new car. I bought a new blue Dodge Omni at the beginning of April, and I really like it. It's wonderful to have a car I can trust, especially as winter approaches again.
My other big venture into materialism was buying an Apple II-e personal computer in May. I enjoy the computer, and I use it almost daily. I do nearly all my school paperwork (composing tests and worksheets, keeping track of grades, etc.) on the computer, and I also use it for such things as writing this Christmas letter.
Aside from that brief buying binge, my winter and spring were mainly highlighted by speech contests. I am assistant speech coach at Garrigan, and (for better or worse) we have one of the largest competitive speech programs in Iowa. It seemed as if every free second of my time from January through April was booked solid with students rehearsing their selections and with contests. It's an activity I love to hate. I detest the hours of work that go into it for nominal pay, but I do enjoy working with the kids (especially on the individual events) and I was very pleased when our school had its best season ever in this activity.
I did quite a bit of traveling in summer. My major trip was with my brother Paul and his family. In June I joined them on a vacation to the northeast and eastern Canada. I had never visited the New England states, Quebec, or New Brunswick before, and it was a marvelous experience. I found out how little one remembers from high school language classes without practice, too. My high school French totally escaped me all through Quebec.
Later in the summer I drove to Maquoketa to visit my brother John and his wife Janet, stopping to visit some friends and the attractions of eastern Iowa along the way. This was my major independent "vacation" of the year, and I really enjoyed it.
I also made several shorter trips around western Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota to try to discover just what there is to see and do around where I live now. There are a lot of things around here, but they are much more spread out than things are further east. I'm getting used to living in and calling northwest Iowa home, but the whole area still seems very barren and unpopulated. I'm not sure I'll ever quite get used to that.
The rest of the family seem generally good. I keep in close touch with everyone by phone, and we see each other at holidays and such like.
I visited Paul and Nancy in Oskaloosa over Thanksgiving. Paul is teaching a new course in Soviet heritage this fall, which seems to be both a lot of work and a lot of fun for him. Their daughter Rachel turned one in July. She's walking and climbing now--and saying a few words. Right now she's in a phase of calling everyone she likes "Mom", but it's clear from her actions who Mom and Dad really are.
John and Janet are in a new home in Maquoketa. Janet has switched jobs and is now operating a branch office for a Davenport travel agency. She seems to like this much better than working for her old boss. John took some graduate writing courses this summer, which he seemed to enjoy. The two of them had a wonderful time in Morocco earlier this year. Leave it to a travel agent to pick exotic places to travel.
I see more of Margaret and Brian than anyone else. They bought their land in Decorah and are already erecting a building on it--entirely by hand. They are in Meservey again this year, but (as is most always true in the Methodist ministry) it's uncertain how long they will be in any one place. I think they look forward to settling in Decorah and being permanently in a place they want to be.
Steve is buying a home in Mount Pleasant. It's a small, but nice split level in a '60s addition at the south end of town. He has a job as an assistant in an Iowa City law firm now, which he really seems to enjoy, in spite of commuting an hour each way to get to work.
This Christmas season started on a sorrowful note with the death of my uncle, Dale Miller, in Iowa City. It was somewhat expected, and his family seem to be doing well, but of course they and the whole extended family feel a great loss. The rest of the Millers and the Burrow relatives are well.
Looking back on any year there is a mixture of good and bad. My family and I have seen much of both this past year, but in general we are happy and well and looking forward to the holiday season. I wish you a wonderful holiday and more good than bad in the year to come.
The background music on this page is the old British carol "On Christmas Night All Christians Sing", which was featured in the 1984 television adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This version of the classic Scrooge story, which David Burrow and his family always refer to as "the IBM version" is, in Mr. Burrow's opinion, the best screen version of what is without question his favorite book.