Last night I watched The Wizard of Oz
on TV, which brought back memories of past
Thanksgivings, when we got together at my Aunt Jin's house in Fredericksburg and that MGM classic marked the start of the holiday season. That bit of nostalgia got me in a mood to reminisce about the year's events.
2002 has been quite a year! It's hard to believe that November 21 marked the start of my twentieth year at Garrigan, making this the twentieth time I've sent out holiday greetings as an adult. I'm still at Bishop Garrigan, teaching math and working with-as I tell people when pressed for time-almost every activity that's not sports and not music.
There were a couple of changes in my schedule this past year. In addition to having a study hall for the first time in nineteen years, I also went from working with individual speech to doing group speech. I'm really much more qualified to do individual, but things went okay. Going along with speech, I returned to the stage this fall as a part of our "Extravaganza", a variety show that brought together students, faculty, and alumni. I played two surprisingly funny character roles-the Mexican gardener who killed Leon Trotsky and a drunken father who beats up his son for laughs.
Quiz bowl was without a doubt my most successful activity. Last summer I took our team down to New Orleans for our sixth trip to the National Academic Championships, where the kids made a respectable showing and managed to defeat a team from New York. This fall they won one regional tournament and finished second in another. That means we'll again be headed to nationals next June-this time to St. Louis.
I also work with student council and its associated activities (intramural basketball, Homecoming, Adopt-a-Highway, our annual magazine drive, and a variety of service projects), I produce the weekly student news program on our local radio station, and I help to organize and maintain the school website. I was especially proud last spring when a group of state evaluators that came to examine our school made special mention of the website (http://garrigan.unlimitedweb.net), saying they felt it was the best high school site in Iowa.
I was honored this year to be our local nominee for the Bishop Lawrence Soens Excellence in Education Award, the highest award given by the Sioux City Diocese to its teachers. I didn't win (which as a Protestant was hardly a surprise to me), but I did get wined and dined at an elegant banquet where I also caught up with some of the people who were here at Garrigan back when I first started.
I also still work at Iowa Lakes Community College, though this year my schedule there was noticeably lighter than in the past. I did not teach there at all in winter or summer, and I just had one class in each of the other seasons. Working less at the college freed me up to take a part-time job tutoring one of our students who was hospitalized for most of the spring. Fortunately he's back in school now, and he seems to have done fine in all his classes while he was away.
The main reason I took the summer off at the college was so I'd have free time to join Margaret and Paul as they took students to Europe. In late June we traveled to France and Spain. It had been seventeen years since I was last in Europe, and it was fascinating to see what had and hadn't changed. I'd never been to France before, and we also visited several parts of Spain that were new to me. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, and I certainly thank the language teachers in the family for letting me tag along.
While Europe was the big vacation for the year, I was really away more than I was at home this summer. I spent the biggest part of my time following Garrigan's own pro athlete, my former student Brad Nelson. Brad spent most of the summer in Wisconsin playing baseball for the Class A Beloit Snappers, and I got to as many of his games as I could. I'd been to lots of pro sports events before, but it was really different to see someone I actually knew on the field. It was also fun to see how the season progressed from April nights where I could see my breath to sweltering July afternoons.
I had the pleasure of seeing Brad play in Beloit, Burlington, Davenport, Peoria, Appleton, South Bend, and even Dayton, Ohio (on the way back from national quiz bowl). Each individual trip seemed like nothing, but I ended up putting over 15,000 miles on my car just chasing the Snappers around the Midwest League. Brad was promoted to the California League in late July. He ended up leading all of baseball in RBIs, broke the franchise record for doubles, and was named the Milwaukee Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year. I certainly don't claim any credit at all for Brad's talent or success, but I had the time of my life being a fan. I'm already saving up to so I can make a trip to see him play next summer (in either Adelanto, California or Huntsville, Alabama), and I know it won't be long before he's in "the show".
I was also pleased to witness a major rite of passage for another of my former students. Nick Becker, who I taught and worked with extensively in speech, was ordained a priest in early September. I went to Sioux City for the elaborate ordination ceremony and was one of only a handful of non-Catholics in the packed cathedral. I had a nice visit with him there and saw him again a couple of weeks later when he returned to preside at Garrigan's Homecoming mass.
As for other events of the year, I went camping a few times-the first time in years I'd gotten out the tent to do that. I did a lot of walking, logging over 300 miles in our school's summer fitness program for the third straight year. I kept busy working as newsletter editor for the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics, serving as worship leader at church, and being commissioner for a fantasy baseball league. I saw a couple of plays in Chicago. As a math teacher probably most noteworthy was Proof, a light drama with a feminist spin that was based loosely on the famous proof of Fermat's last theorem. I watched a lot of Golden Bear sports (baseball, cross-country, basketball, and track), worked as the P.A. announcer at home football games, watched some former students playing in a summer baseball league for college students, and went to two minor league hockey games and a big league baseball game-fan appreciation day at the Metrodome. Over Christmas vacation I'll take in my first pro basketball game, sitting in the cheap seats to see the Bulls play at United Center. Amidst it all I celebrated my fortieth birthday this fall ... with a minimum of black balloons.
The rest of the family is doing okay. Margaret still teaches Spanish in Cresco. She was injured in a bad car wreck last winter, but has recovered well. Her co-worker in the foreign language department resigned after being treated quite shabbily by the school, so on top of her usual load Margaret has spent extra time mentoring a new teacher.
John and Janet are still in Maquoketa. They are going through repeated arguments with an insurance company over hail damage to the siding on their home, but otherwise they seem to be doing fine. John continues to teach English at Andrew, and Janet works as an executive assistant in Dubuque.
Paul and Nancy are as busy as ever. In addition to teaching history and Spanish, Paul preaches two services a week (one in English and one in Spanish) at area Methodist churches. I was pleased to be able to get to one of his Spanish services last summer, and I was surprised that I pretty much understood everything. I also visited Paul at the seminary at Northwestern University where he was attending a training session last summer. Rachel is now a sophomore at Simpson College, and Timothy is a junior in high school. Nancy continues to teach special education in Oskaloosa.
Steve and Terry also had a busy year. Their biggest event was the "quinceañera" of their daughter Michelle. Michelle's background is both Navajo Indian and Hispanic, and they celebrated her heritage with the traditional Mexican "coming out" party for her fifteenth birthday. It's probably the first such event held in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and it really was lovely. Hannah is still studying in Cedar Rapids, and Josh is now in junior high-where he had a great football season last fall. Steve still works nights at Pella Windows, but Terry has more time at home now-having resigned from her teaching position in Tri-County.
I saw much of the extended family this year, too. Most of the Burrows were at the memorial service for my Aunt Hazel, which was held in Waverly on a frigid Sunday last winter. The Millers had their biannual reunion in Independence last summer (though it amuses me that almost no one at that event actually has the name "Miller" these days). It was good to see everyone and see that most of the people on both sides were doing well.
I hope things are going well with all of you, too, and that this holiday season may bring, joy, happiness, and peace to everyone. May the blessings of Christmas be with you all through 2003.
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