For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
November is leaving with a vengeance, sending the thermometer plummeting below zero all week. While the cold becomes more annoying as I get older, it is a sure sign that the holidays are upon us once again. So it's time to catch up with old friends and fill them in on just what has been happening throughout 1996.
The year started on a happy note, as I celebrated the holidays last year by hosting my whole family here in Algona. It was great to have everyone together and especially fun to have the opportunity to be the host for a change.
All year long I've been teaching courses at Iowa Lakes Community College, in addition to my regular work at Garrigan. That gets to be a bit draining at times, and it's a challenge to teach over the college's antiquated TV system, but it also makes for an interesting change in the routine. The worst part of teaching at ILCC probably came last winter when a blizzard was followed by record cold near -40o. I had to drive to Estherville over roads that I found out later were officially closed. I left around 4:00 and barely made it in time to teach my class at 7:00. (It's normally a one-hour drive.) My car never did warm up the whole way up there, and even after teaching for two hours inside a warm building, I still couldn't stop shivering.
I also continue to teach math and work as the gifted and talented coordinator at Bishop Garrigan High School. While last year was pretty challenging at school, this year is going much more smoothly. I especially like our freshman class, although I appear to be nearly alone on our faculty in that regard. There's a lot of extremely bright people in that class, and none of them (smart, dumb, or in between) is afraid to speak their mind.
Quiz bowl was again my most successful activity this year. We went to the National Academic Championships for the second straight time last summer. This year's tournament was in New Orleans, and I had fun revisiting all my old haunts from graduate school. We didn't do very well at nationals, but both the kids and I seemed to have a wonderful time. This fall we again qualified to go to the national finals, so don't be surprised if next year I'm writing about taking kids to Atlanta or Washington, D.C.
The most time-consuming part of quiz bowl is organizing the tournament we host here at Garrigan in the fall. It's both flattering and a bit annoying that our tournament has become the most popular academic competition in the state, with around 300 students participating this year. I'm pretty much the sole organizer for the event, and while experience helps things to go smoothly, it's still a lot of hard work.
I still work with speech, and last spring I was pleased that two students I had worked with made it to All-State. Much of my other time is occupied with the activities our student council sponsors, such as Homecoming and intramural basketball.
As I started my fourteenth year at Garrigan, I had the joy of seeing a number of former students. This fall several students stopped by the school, and I must say it's nice to see that they've done pretty well for themselves overall. Of course, the former student I hear the most from is my friend James, who is now a fourth-year math major at UNI. Except for being overworked and fighting a losing battle with a lemon of a truck, he's doing fine.
I took a real vacation this year, for the first time in several years. My sister Margaret and I spent a week in the Chicago area, and I and the best time I've had in years. We stayed at a cheap motel in the suburbs and each day rode the 'L' into the city. We saw most of the "must sees" as well as a number of off-beat museums, each of which was fascinating in its own way. We also went to Comiskey Park, where I got to see my baseball idol, Cal Ripken, Jr., at the game where he got his 2,500th career hit.
I'll have another vacation of sorts this Christmas. Again I'll be joining Margaret as she and I travel out to New Mexico to join my brother Steve and his family for the holidays. We've got the route mapped out, and with a big trip ahead of us we're hoping for good driving weather rather than good sledding weather this Christmas.
Margaret has been quite the globetrotter this year. In addition to the short jaunts she's made with me, she went on an archaeological tour of Egypt and Israel in the spring, and she took a group of kids to Europe over the summer. Her school recently switched to an "innovative" block scheduling system, which she and many of her co-workers find annoying and counterproductive. She's been struggling this fall to make her classes work on the new schedule. She found out this year that she was a grandmother, and I joined her in Estherville to visit Paul Timothy, his wife, and their baby.
You may have heard of people in Oskaloosa who suffered from food poisoning after a public dinner. Well, Paul and Nancy were among the victims, and they were down for a week. Otherwise their family is doing fine. Rachel is a middle-schooler now. She's doing well in school, and she seems to enjoy music and track. Timothy also does well academically. He enjoys computer activities and his church youth group.
Steve and Terry's home continues to become more crowded. After adopting Hannah, Michelle, and Josh last year, they took in two exchange students--one from Russia and one from China. I joked that they'd be fighting World War III with the competing superpowers. The kids all seem to be doing fine, and it will be fun to see them again at Christmas.
I know the least about John and Janet this year. I've seen them very little, but from what I can tell they're as busy as ever. John continues to teach English and speech at Andrew, and Janet manages the local branch of Gateway Travel and Cruise.
The extended family seems to be doing okay. I saw a number of the Millers last December in the Quad Cities, when Susan was married. I was also in LaPorte City and Waverly for the Miller and Burrow reunions over the summer. As far as I can tell, things are going pretty well for most of the family.
I hope things are also going well for you. May this holiday bring much happiness to you, and may that joy continue to uplift you throughout the new year.
The background music on this page is the traditional German carol "Silent Night".