With snow and ice and bitter cold, winter came early to northern Iowa this year. Bad weather does get one in the Christmas spirit, though, and it is time once again for that annual "Christmas letter".
The highlight of the year for me was traveling. I spent every free minute in the spring planning and most of the summer on the road or in the air. Right after school got out in May I went up to Ontario for a few days, but that was a minor excursion compared to the rest of the summer. In late June I joined my brother Paul on a two-week tour to the Soviet Union--visiting Moscow, Minsk, Kiev, and Leningrad. Then at the end of July I was again in Europe, this time visiting many parts of Spain, as well as Gibraltar, and bits of Portugal and Morocco. Many of you read my travel journals from Russia and Spain. If you haven't and you are interested in reading them, I'll send one to you. A word of warning, though--they are VERY long.
I am still living in the same apartment in Algona and teaching at Garrigan High School. I have a full schedule, teaching three levels of Spanish plus an advanced math class. The kids (especially the sophomores and seniors) seem significantly less enthusiastic about learning than in previous years, but I can't say I've had any major problems with them.
Part of that lack of enthusiasm for learning may have been that Garrigan's football team won the state championship this fall--not something that leads to academic excellence among the students. I'm happy that the team won, but I never have particularly cared for football. I have enjoyed spending some free time this fall going to several cross-country meets and rooting for the runners (who did well, but were not outstanding). I enjoy the sport because there is an element of participation in watching it--the spectators run around to various places on a two-mile course to cheer the runners on, rather than just sitting on the bleachers. I also teach or have taught most of the team members (as opposed to only a handful of the football team), and they seem to genuinely appreciate the support.
In the winter months another activity occupies much (too much?) of my time--competitive speech. We now have three coaches for the immense program, but we still seem to be at school all day and half the night. I do enjoy working with the kids (especially when they are performing individually--I like the group stuff a lot less), and I enjoy seeing them excel. The long hours with low pay seem to drag on and on, though, and it's a big struggle to keep up with preparing my classes, which is what really matters, of course.
My sister and brothers all seem good, although just about everybody had moved this year. For instance, Margaret and Brian started out the year in Meservey, where Brian was minister of two small Methodist churches. The conference re-defined the charge boundaries, and Brian's churches merged with other nearby churches. He was moved to Galva, a little town east of Sioux City, another two-church charge. Both Margaret and Brian seem to like Galva, and the parsonage there is fairly nice. Unfortunately they are now several hours away from Brian's son Paul. The blueprints for the home they are building in Decorah are now finished, and they hope to get started with it soon.
John and Janet also moved this year, although for them it was more by choice. This fall they closed the deal to buy a nice modern home on the outskirts of Maquoketa, a definite improvement over any of the places they had rented. They were very helpful in shuttling me to the airports this summer, and it was very good to see them. The two of them vacationed in San Francisco this summer and seemed to have had a wonderful time. They continue to work at teaching English and managing a travel agency.
Steve, too, has a new home this year. He rented out the place he bought in Mount Pleasant, and has moved into a quite pleasant, older home in the little town of Oxford (by the Amanas), where he is renting with an option to buy. Living in Oxford he has a far shorter commute to Iowa City and his job at a law office. He is planning a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl this winter.
Paul and Nancy didn't move this year, but they did take up the option to buy the home in Oskaloosa they had been renting. The two of them are kept very busy teaching. In addition to this and going to Russia with me, Paul has been busy in many professional organizations. Recently he was in charge of planning a statewide foreign language conference. Their cute two-year-old daughter Rachel is both saying and understanding a lot now, sometimes even full sentences. Nancy is expecting her second child sometime this spring.
Living at such a distance from the rest of the family, I don't see everybody that often. We all did get together for Thanksgiving though. Our Aunt Alaire invited all of "Betty's kids" to her apartment in Iowa City for Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time with her. Most of us will also be together at John and Janet's new house for Christmas, too.
There were two deaths in the extended family this year. My last grandparent, Leo Burrow, died this summer, basically of old age. He was in his nineties and still living at home--with help from my Uncle Bill and Aunt Hazel. Lois Miller, my aunt, died of cancer this fall, roughly a year after her husband Dale. Hers was the fourth fall/winter funeral in as many years in the family. Fortunately the rest of the family, both Burrows and Millers, seems to be doing well.
I hope that all of you are also well and that this season brings much joy to you. Best wishes this Christmas and all through 1986!
The background music on this page is "Sleigh Ride".