It's fourteen degrees outside, and the wind is whipping the snow around like a blizzard. Summer may have been long, hot, and dry, but winter has come--and it's here with a vengeance. Still it does bring out a bit of the holiday spirit, and with Advent upon us it's time to send out greetings to all of you.
Thanksgiving marked the start of my sixth year at Garrigan, where I still teach math and direct speech. After a really bad spring (poor students, an unsuccessful year in speech, and the termination of a good friend of mine on the faculty), this fall has turned out very well. I've really enjoyed teaching this fall--something I can't say every year. My schedule is fuller than anyone else on our staff, but even with seven classes, a homeroom, and one hundred forty-three students to keep track of every day (not even counting the kids in speech), I must say that this year is about the best since I started teaching. I only hope things continue to go so well.
Outside of school, the thing that has most dominated my life is an ear infection I have been fighting since February. I have a hole in my eardrum, and even the tiniest amount of water, smoke, or dust will re-infect it. I've been through every antibiotic in the book, and it seems I've seen more doctors this year than in the rest of my life combined. From my point of view it's really just an inconvenience (earache comes from pressure on the eardrum, so once it's ruptured, there's no pain, but it would be nice if things would finally clear up.
I traded cars last spring. With all the joy-riding I do, my old Omni was approaching 100,000 miles. It never was a good car, and with all the long stretches of below-zero cold we had last winter, it seemed to never start. My new car is a dark blue Dodge Colt, a Japanese-American hybrid that's a lot like the Champ my father had when I was in college. It's a base model, but it looks nice, it runs well, and it gets excellent gas mileage. It also has a three-year unconditional guarantee. I'm crossing my fingers about how it will start in winter, but so far I am happy with it.
Aside from that I've kept busy with a lot of little things. I've done committee work, ushered, and read at church. I also did some campaign work for a major political party (the one that won in Iowa, if not the nation). I've gone to conferences and conventions for the math and speech associations, I've made some fun little trips around the Midwest, and I've done a lot of reading. I can't say there's anything terribly exciting, but it's been an enjoyable year for the most part.
Both the best and the worst event of the year came in July when much of the family joined Paul as he took a group of students to Mexico. We had a lovely time seeing Mexico City, the Aztec and Maya ruins, and the sunny Caribbean beaches. In fact, it was a wonderful trip up until July 6, when Margaret's husband, Brian Sullivan, died of complications from diabetes. It was a very sad ending to what was otherwise a most enjoyable trip.
Margaret is doing as well as could be expected as she settles into a new routine. She moved from the parsonage into a tiny home out in the country near Galva. She is still teaching, but with the new state standards, it's unclear whether her job (where she travels from school to school) will exist much longer. She is considering a variety of possible plans for what to do if the position is eliminated.
Paul and Nancy keep busy teaching and doing work for various professional associations. Paul seems to have become Oskaloosa's resident expert on Spanish. Several times this year businesses, medical authorities, and the police have asked him to do translation--sometimes for some very important matters. Their kids are fine. It's hard to believe that Rachel is a five-year-old schoolgirl now, and Timothy (who has also suffered ear infections) is two.
John and Janet seem busier than anyone else in the family. Janet will be changing employers at the New Year--still managing a travel agency, but for a different company and at a substantial increase in salary. She is an officer in the Maquoketa Chamber of Commerce, and she organized the Oktoberfest band competition there this fall. John is just as busy, between teaching, directing, studying, and (last month) serving as a juror for a kidnapping trial.
Steve probably has the biggest news in the family. He left Iowa City last spring, and is now living at the home Margaret is building near Decorah. He is doing clerical work at Luther College, where one of the benefits is free tuition for classes. The big news, though, is that he will be married next June. Terry Malone, the bride-to-be, is a divorcee from Clinton with a son (Chris) in junior high. Steve, Terry, and Chris seem to make a wonderful threesome, and I am sure they will be very happy together.
Margaret and I visited Alaire in early November, and we were all down there for Thanksgiving dinner. She is counting the days (months, actually) until retirement, and is looking forward to leaving her expensive, tiny Coralville apartment. Harvey had surgery earlier this year, but he seems to be recovering steadily. He chose to retire early from his position as chief of police, but he's looking into other jobs around Iowa City. I saw a lot of the other Miller relatives at a reunion in LaPorte City in August, and everyone seems well.
The Burrows are also doing okay. Macky visited her son in Hawaii this year, and it was clear she thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Bill and Hazel's son Ken was married this summer, and Jin and Arnold will be celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. I hope to see much of the family at Jin and Arnold's celebration . . . and (with our graduation a week earlier this year) there's even an off chance I might make the Burrow reunion next time.
The wind is still howling. I can almost hear the ghost of Jacob Marley rattling at the window. I suppose that's a symbol that Christmas is upon us, and it's time to finish this letter and get it in the mail. I hope it reaches each of you in health and safety.
The background music on this page is the hymn "In the Bleak Midwinter".