David Michael Burrow

Christmas, 1998


Tree Tree Tree


Christmas, 1998

It's hard to believe that this is the sixteenth Christmas letter I've written in my adult life. Fifteen years ago, in 1983, I used a manual typewriter and two purple ditto masters to create the first of these annual epistles--continuing a tradition my mother had started decades before. I had just started teaching at Garrigan that Thanksgiving, and shortly after I'd mailed off the holiday greetings, my father was killed in the midst of one of the coldest winters ever.

So far this winter won't challenge 1983 for cold. In fact, we set records last week, with highs in the 70s--weather more like March or April than November. While the wind may not be nipping at my nose, the holiday season is here and it's time to catch up on the happenings of the year.

Probably the biggest change for me this year is my new car. After ten years and 150,000 miles, I got rid of my old Dodge Colt--to Steve and Terry, who use it as their second car. I did my car shopping on the internet, which I liked immensely. On-line car shopping allows you to get a rock-bottom price while avoiding the whole bargaining process--a part of car shopping I've always detested. I ended up making the actual purchase at a dealership in the Minneapolis area, and I got precisely the car I wanted--a dark blue base model Chevy Metro. It's far from a luxury car, but I like it a lot, and the payments are certainly affordable.

Having more reliable transportation allowed me to get around a bit more this year. While I didn't take a "real" vacation, I probably spent more nights in motel rooms in 1998 than in any other year of my life. The biggest trip of the year was escorting our quiz bowl team out east. We again went to a national tournament in Washington, and this year our trip included a three-day side-trip to New York City. We saw all the sights, went to mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral (with the presidents of South Korea and Costa Rica), and saw the Yankees beat the Florida Marlins. Margaret accompanied the group this year, and we all had a wonderful time.

Over the summer I took several long weekend trips. I spent Memorial Day weekend in the Ozarks, and in mid-summer I headed out to Denver, where I gawked at the Rockies and saw their namesake team play baseball. Later in the summer I went up to Sault Sainte Marie and then around the Ontario side of Lake Superior. It had been a decade since I was last in Canada, and it was interesting to see the place again. It was also cheap; the rapidly falling Canadian dollar allowed me to go on a shopping spree without draining my pockets too much. Another weekend I got together with Steve and his family in Chicago. We saw several of the sights and took in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. I also caught some minor league baseball games here in Iowa--most notably seeing one of my former students work as an umpire at the Northern League All-Star Game in Sioux City.

The trips were nice diversions in a busy, but otherwise not very eventful year at work. I continue to teach math and work as the gifted and talented coordinator at Bishop Garrigan High School. In addition I moderate the student council, coach quiz bowl, direct the school's weekly radio show, serve as the assistant speech coach, supervise intramural basketball, announce over the P.A. system at football games, and periodically wear a number of less important hats. This is the school's fortieth year, and one of the big events for me was planning a big anniversary celebration for Homecoming. For the most part I'm enjoying things at school this fall. I've always gotten along really well with our current seniors (a group that clashes with many teachers), and they're a big part of the reason it's been a good year.

This fall I've spent much of my free time following the Garrigan cross-country team. It was certainly a team worth following this year. The whole group had one of the most successful seasons ever, with one Golden Bear runner going on to win the state championship.

In addition to my work at the high school, I'm now pretty much a permanant "adjunct" instructor at Iowa Lakes Community College, where I primarily teach over their TV system, largely to adult students around the area. I've taught pretty much every math course they offer at the college, and next spring I'll be going back to my roots, teaching an elementary Spanish course. In general I like the college; I really enjoy the students, and I like the TV staff I work with in Emmetsburg. What I don't like is having virtually no say into what's going on at the college. I really wish they'd give those of us on the adjunct staff more input into textbook selection, course offerings, and the like.

I also continue to serve on the state board of the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics. This year I'm the newsletter editor, as well as the grants and awards chairman. I enjoy all the people I work with on the board, but at times the extra workload can be a challenge.

One of the biggest events of the year was the wedding of my good friend and former student, James White. James married Brandie Illg, who he had been going with since high school. I was honored to read at their wedding, and since then I've visited them in their lovely duplex at the south end of Cedar Falls. I had kind of gotten out of touch with James, and it was good to renew an old friendship.

As for the rest of the family, Steve has certainly had the most active year. By the end of 1998, he and his family will have moved three different times. They started the year in New Mexico, then moved to Moline, Illinois, where Terry got a job as a legal secretary. Over the summer they moved to Ames, and Steve spent most of the fall commuting to Oskaloosa, where he got a job filling an emergency vacancy as a science teacher. Recently Terry also got a teaching job in southern Iowa, and over the holidays they'll be moving to a new home in Oskaloosa--which they hope is fairly permanant. While Hannah, Michelle, and Josh will once again have to be the new kids in town, the up side is that they'll be close to their cousins Rachel and Timothy.

After going out east with me, Margaret almost immediately boarded a plane to take some of her students to Spain. She'll be travelling again in 1999. While she had originally intended to take a group to Honduras, the hurricane there forced a change in plans. Now she'll be headed to Peru next summer. School seems to be going better for Margaret this year. They have a new administrator at Cresco, and the change seems to have lessened the load of busy work for the teachers there. I'll be getting together with Margaret for the holidays. Since the rest of the family will be at their in-laws, Margaret and I decided to spend Christmas in Chicago. We'll be staying at a nice hotel, seeing a string of plays, eating our way through an assortment of fine restaurants, and otherwise making merry in the windy city. I'm definitely looking forward to it, and I think Margaret is as well.

Paul plans to join Margaret's group in South America next summer. In addition to teaching, he keeps busy working as a lay speaker for the Methodist church. He's busy almost every weekend filling the pulpit at churches without ministers. Nancy continues to teach special education, and she's active in groups like the church and community choirs. Rachel is a high school sophomore now, and her big activity is the flag corps for Oskaloosa's award-winning band. Her Christmas list has one item: money to go on a trip with the band to Florida. Timothy is a middle schooler who has to be one of the Midwest's biggest Dallas Cowboys fans.

John's biggest news was being named a finalist for Iowa Teacher of the Year. The whole family got together in Des Moines on Ash Wednesday to see him get the award. It's the same honor I received about five years ago, but I'd definitely say John is more deserving of it than me. I'm always amazed by the creative ideas he comes up with. Janet continues to work as a travel agent, heading two different offices for her company. I'm looking forward to seeing both of them when we stop by Maquoketa on our way to Chicago at Christmas.

The rest of the family is doing pretty well. The Millers had their reunion in West Des Moines this year, and I saw a few of the closer relatives in September when my cousin Keeley was married in Iowa City. Of all the Millers, the biggest news probably comes from my cousin Ceil and her husband Guy. They now live in China, where Guy is a regional big-wig for his company. I've seen less of the Burrow relatives this year, but from all accounts most of them are doing okay, too.

The world is definitely a different place since I wrote my first Christmas letter fifteen years ago. The manual typewriter has given way to a personal computer, and this year for the first time I'll have an electronic version of this letter on my personal website (http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/3224/). Even in this electronic age, though, the spirit of Christmas lives on. I hope that spirit brings joy and happiness to you--both now at the holidays and all through 1999!



***** Links to other sites on the Web

* David Burrow's Christmas Letters



1998 davidmburrow@yahoo.com


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