We have a long, long way to go.
So let us hasten along the road of human tenderness and generosity.
Groping, we may find one another's hands in the dark.

-Emily Greene Balch

Christmas, 1986

Thanksgiving weekend brought the second big snow of the season to northwest Iowa.  Advent began, and I started putting up the Christmas decorations.  That always brings out a certain amount of holiday cheer, so in that spirit I'd like to wish all of you the happiest of holidays and take a few minutes to fill you in on the happenings of my life over the past year.

I think I would have to say the year improved as it went along.  The start was certainly nothing I'd care to repeat.  The first day back after Christmas vacation I felt severe chest pain.  During speech try-outs after school the pain got especially bad and led to a bout with hyperventilation.  It was off to the hospital, and for the next few weeks I seemed to be in doctors' offices more than I was in my classes.  The pain became less with time, but even today no one seems to know just what was up.  About all the doctors can say is that it is "a stress-related condition, probably not originating in the heart."  (Two thousand dollars for that diagnosis--thank goodness for insurance.)  I was told to avoid all stressful conditions--much easier said than done for a teacher and a speech director.  Well, on the bright side, now I know what an ambulance looks like on the inside . . . and I do feel better now.

I didn't run off to Europe this year, but I did have quite a fun vacation.  My brother Steve and I spent most of June in Canada.  We made the world's fair in Vancouver our destination and took the long way both coming and going--pretty typical for our family.  En route we stopped in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper, and Banff parks, Vancouver Island, Mount Saint Helen's, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (which we now know is the biggest tourist attraction in all of North Dakota).  We took my blue Omni, but Steve and I shared the driving.  Everything about the trip was fun, and it made a most relaxing end to the school year.

After the vacation I saw even more of Steve.  I took a summer course at the University of Iowa, and he was kind enough to let me stay at his home in Oxford.  The class, on using computers in teaching math, was both interesting and useful--most unusual for education courses.  I must confess, though, that I find myself very slow at incorporating the ideas into my teaching.

I still teach at Garrigan High School in Algona, but my job has changed quite a bit in the past year.  I now teach only math, having given up my Spanish classes to teach geometry and general math (in addition to the advanced course I have always taught).  I won't say it's an ideal job (ideal would be algebra), but at least it's what I'm trained for.  Things are going much better this year, too.  In last year's Christmas letter I complained a lot about the students.  I still have disagreements with some individual kids, but as a group they are acting a lot better.  I feel especially close to this year's senior class, where there is a large group of very bright students.  They are the first class I have seen go all the way through high school, and I have taught or directed many of them all four years.

On the whole the family is well.  For a change, I am happy to say there are no deaths to report in this year's letter.  Since we are scattered and so many of us teach, I see most of the family only at holidays.  We call each other frequently, though, so we do keep in touch.

Margaret lives nearest to me, so I see Brian and her most often.  The big news for them is that Margaret is teaching again.  She has a traveling job teaching Spanish in a bunch of little schools around Storm Lake.  It keeps her busier than she would like to be, but except for one class she seems to enjoy it.  When Brian finishes his ministerial duties, he spends his free time with his computer.  His big plan this year was to figure out how to get the computer to print the wedges used to write the ancient languages he knows.  I'm not sure if he's finished with that yet, but he surely turned into quite a hacker along the way.  He really seems to enjoy it.

Paul and Nancy are proud parents again.  Their son, Timothy Andrew, was born this spring.  He is growing very fast, and it won't be too long before he's bigger than Rachel.  Rachel is proud to tell the world that she is three.  She really is a cute little girl.  This summer, one of Paul's students   received a grant to do research for the Constitution's bicentennial.  It's a big honor, and one that reflects well on her teacher.

Steve moved this fall.  He is now sharing a house in Iowa City.  It's a lovely old house, very bright and cozy--more homelike than his place in Oxford.  To go along with the house, Steve has a new job, too.  He quit at the law office and is now working for Kirkwood Community College.  He is still hunting for a better job, but it's unclear just what will turn up.

John and Janet had a vacation only a travel agent would think of.  They were off to Fiji for the summer.  They say the islands were very relaxing and, except for the long flight, the trip was one of the best they've had.  When they aren't vacationing, it would be hard to find two busier people than John and Janet.  In addition to their jobs, they are involved in an endless rush of community activities.  (Janet seems to be on every town committee in Maquoketa.)  On the whole they seem to like the fast lane, though, and they are both well and happy.

From what I hear the rest of the family--both Burrows and Millers--are doing fine, too.  I hope you are also well and that your Christmas is a happy one.

Best wishes for the merriest of Christmases,

and all the best all through 1987!

The background music on this page is "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring".