Merry Christmas, one and all! Greetings to all of you, and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!
It's been a very busy year--full of ups and downs, but overall things have been pretty good for me. Things certainly started on a high note. I celebrated the holidays last year by having Margaret over. It's nice to have company, and we had a very pleasant Christmas together.
My health has been on a roller-coaster this year. Without dwelling on everything, let me say my adventures included trips to two different emergency rooms, a CAT-scan, a root canal, and surgery to construct an artificial ear drum. The good news is things have cleared up quite a bit since the ear surgery. I can walk, drive, and shower without having to stuff the ear with cotton, and I have generally been healthier since then. The bad news is that I still have a significant hearing loss, and I also seem to have a number of allergies that flare up unexpectedly. The bills totaled several thousand dollars. The deductibles and co-payments alone drained my savings to virtually nothing; thank goodness insurance paid the lion's share.
School has gone really well this year. I'm now in my seventh year at Garrigan, and frankly things have never gone better. One of my favorite classes graduated last spring, and so far I've enjoyed the freshmen who replaced them. The only thing I dislike about this year is that I am not teaching advanced math to the seniors. I'd really like to get that back into my schedule.
In addition to teaching, I've been quite a "professional" this fall. For example, I was asked to speak at the fall conference of the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I went down to Cedar Falls in September and gave a presentation on creative ways to teach geometry. There was a big crowd, and it was quite well received.
I've also been doing some work on the side tutoring people in a math course at the local community college. That's been quite a challenge. The class is supposed to be the same as a high school advanced math class, but there are a number of topics the women I've been tutoring have come across that I never encountered anywhere as a math major at college. Fortunately they have been doing relatively well in the class, so I guess I've been doing my job.
I was a student myself this summer, taking two courses--one good and one bad. I took a fascinating course on education for the gifted through TV lectures and correspondence. I've always been interested in that topic, though I must say I'm glad I went through school early enough that I wasn't diagnosed as such. Anyway, I enjoyed the course. The other class was an extension course offered at the community college on "Outcome-Based Education" (which the instructor invariably abbreviated to "OBE"). This is supposedly the greatest up-and-coming thing in teaching, but it seemed little more than fifty-dollar jargon for fifty-cent ideas. We learned such ridiculous terms as "metajournalizationizing", and we were as much as told that unless every student got an "A", we had failed as teachers. Ah, well--the Department of Education may think I'm a failure, but at least their silly course gave me another credit toward renewing my certificate. (By the way, I got an "A" in the course, as did everyone else who took it; I'm sure the bozo who taught thinks he was a good teacher.)
The highlight of the summer was a trip Margaret and I made to Newfoundland. Things came together rather haphazardly, but it ended up being a most enjoyable vacation. The place is beautiful (in a rough sort of way), and the people were incredibly friendly.
This fall I've been testing my acting skills, after nearly a decade of rest. I'm appearing in the local community theatre production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, which is quite a fun role. I've enjoyed being on stage instead of directing, and all the rehearsals have certainly kept me out of trouble this fall.
The rest of the family is doing quite well this year. Steve probably headlines the family news. He was married in June to Terry Malone, and since the wedding things have really seemed to fall in place in his life. They manage a public housing complex in Decorah, where they live in a cramped, but pleasant apartment. Steve is also an office manager at Luther College, and Terry works at McDonalds. Chris, their teenage son, seems to have settled into life in Decorah. To me he seems like quite a typical freshman, and he's a very likeable young man.
Things have changed for Margaret this year, too. The new state standards designed to phase out small schools basically eliminated her old job. Fortunately she was able to get a part-time job at Cresco, the school she left shortly after she was married. This summer she moved from the cramped little farm house she was living in near Galva to her lovely new home near Decorah. The place really is beautiful--with nice woodwork and a gorgeous view. She is hosting the family Christmas this yea, and I'm looking forward to it. Margaret's step-son, Paul, will be graduating from high school this spring. He's an outstanding vocalist, and he's hoping to go to Europe as a "music ambassador" next summer.
John and Janet are also well. Janet really seems to enjoy working for Gateway, her new travel agency. Between work, plays, speech contests, and planning Maquoketa's Oktoberfest band festival, she and John are very busy indeed. Margaret and I saw them both at Steve's wedding and when we went to Newfoundland, and we had a wonderful time.
I've seen the least of Paul and Nancy. I know that Paul's big news, though, is that he lost a lot of weight over the past year. I saw the evidence of this on his Christmas list, which includes sizes I can find easily in any store. The kids are certainly growing. Rachel is in first grade and is learning to read. She and Timothy always greet me and tell me the events of their lives whenever I call down there.
We had Thanksgiving in Iowa City at Harvey and Max's this year. Their son Chris was married this fall. Unfortunately the wedding was in Connecticut, so I could only send good wishes. Alaire is getting ready for retirement. She's in a beautiful new apartment in a senior housing complex in Coralville. I hear from her that the rest of the Millers are doing well.
I was upset that this, the one year when Garrigan's graduation was not on Memorial Day weekend, was also the one year there was no Burrow family reunion. I did see many of the Burrows at Steve's wedding, though, and I hear through the grapevine that most everyone is doing okay.
I hope that all is well with you, too, and I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and the best of everything all through the '90s.
The background music on this page is "Ding Dong, Merrily on High".