Christmas, 1995

... And so this is Christmas,
and what have you done?
Another year over,
and a new one just begun.

Having just watched the "Beatles Anthology" on TV, those words of John Lennon seem rather appropriate as I honor the old family tradition of the Christmas letter.  We had our first big snowstorm of the season this week, and winter really had made me wonder just what I have done this past year.  Nineteen ninety-five was certainly busy, and while I can't say I accomplished anything earth-shattering, it was really pretty good overall.

My big news this year had nothing to do with my own talents or abilities.  Instead the quiz bowl team I coach at Garrigan qualified for the National Academic Championships.  We traveled to Dallas in June to see just how our team stacked up against the best academic teams in the nation.  I'm proud to say that the Golden Bears did very well overall.  They won three out of four games at nationals, finished seventeenth in the country, and can rightly claim to be Iowa's top quiz bowl team.  A side note is that our captain is now starting on the College Bowl team at the University of Iowa--as a freshman.  That's a lot more than any of the athletes we've sent on to college can say.

That week in Dallas was as close to a vacation as I had this year.  Otherwise I've been busy either teaching or studying.  In addition to taking a few Mickey-Mouse summer courses, I completed my certification in talented and gifted education last spring, so now I can say I'm qualified to do what I've already been doing for the past three years.  I also continue to teach math at Bishop Garrigan, as well as help out with speech, student council, intramural basketball, our weekly radio program, and assorted lesser activities.

I've also become a regular member of the adjunct faculty at Iowa Lakes Community College.  I taught algebra courses every term this past year, as well as a statistics course (which I especially liked) during the summer.  In addition I effectively taught calculus for the University of Iowa, but unfortunately I wasn't on anyone's official payroll for that class.  I enjoy the variety of students I see in teaching college courses, but I can't imagine doing it as a full-time job.

I've also spent a lot of time tutoring people.  I've worked with an odd assortment of ILCC students, some parents of kids I teach at Garrigan, and a few former Golden Bears who are now off at college themselves.  In that last category is my good friend James, who might as well be part of the family by now.  James graduated from NIACC last summer, and he and his girlfriend Brandie are now down at UNI, where he's meeting a lot of my old professors in the math department.

Aside from teaching I've kept busy with church duties.  I chair the Missions Committee, usher, and serve on the Church Council, and in addition this year I was secretary for our Minister Search Committee.  I'm also still a board member in the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which gave me the opportunity to give a presentation at a statewide math conference this fall.

If that all sounds like work, one of the most enjoyable things I did this year was joining a fantasy baseball league that includes many of my former students.  I'm proud to say that my team, the immortal Bronx Bombers, finished second in their rookie year in the league.  And if you think that's a good showing, just wait till next year!

My biggest frustration this year has been my car.  It's well over the hill (with 120,000+ miles), but I'm hoping to get at least one more winter out of it before it heads "where the good cars go".  It has been a headache this year, though--nothing horribly serious, but one little thing after another.  Maybe someday I'll win that Jaguar they're always giving away in the Publishers' Clearing House, so I won't have to worry about my Colt anymore.

I have the honor of hosting the family Christmas this year, and while it will certainly be crowded here in my apartment, I'm hoping it will be fun as well.  The whole family is doing pretty well.

Margaret's big event this year was taking an archaeology course at Oxford University in England.  I had the privilege of shuttling her to the airport, so I got to hear the unabridged details of her trip.

Paul and Nancy are also fine.  Paul took a group of kids to Spain this summer.  Rachel is in junior high now (she was a newborn when I started teaching), and she seems to be enjoying it and doing very well.  Timothy is also doing well in school, and he is an unmatched pro at the computer keyboard.

Steve and Terry went from being foster parents to adoptive parents this year.  Their new family members are a group of two sisters and a brother:  Hannah, Michelle, and Joshua.  I'm looking forward to seeing them at Christmas.

It will also be good to see John and Janet.  I've talked to them the least of anyone this year, but they seem to be doing okay.  John just finished directing Our Town at Andrew, and Janet actually took off from her job at the travel agency the day after Thanksgiving, so she could spend some more time with her family.

I look forward to hearing the news from all of you this Christmas.  I hope this letter finds you in good health and happiness.  In our hectic and troubled world, that same twenty-year-old song provides a timeless message for this or any holiday season:

A very Merry Christmas,
and a Happy New Year--
Let's hope it's a good one,
without any fear.

The background music on this page is the traditional hymn "Joy to the World".