Dear family:

With Mom and Dad next door I am a little less motivated to get a letter written on any kind of regular schedule. I am surprised to learn that it is a month since my last letter. Iíll try to remember the important things.

I did take Peter to see the military recruiter, but it turns out that his recent diagnosis (as of last fall) of exercise-induced asthma disqualifies him from any military service. He was expecting that, so it wasnít a big shock, but it was unfortunate that one of his long term dreams ended before he even got started. In about one month he will hear from the universities to which heís applied and will have an additional month to make his decision. I feel sad that we are at the countdown of his senior year already.

Iím not so sad that we are in the final month of MAFA, because each week is such a scramble to put together. David recently made the comment that Thursdays semm to come around every three days. I have four history classes (one is the 5 to 7 year olds!) and then my literature elective. For the spring semester in the literature class we have been reading and studying British authors published between 1750 -1830. Most of the classes are short assignments such as poetry and essays. This final month we are reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The director of the school got a call from the father of one of my students asking if his son could be transferred to another elective because he didnít want his son having to read a "chick book". You can imagine how I felt about that! Actually, I was concerned that this student might bring our class discussion to a screeching halt if he picked up a bad attitude, but in fact our first class on the novel was incredibly lively Ė he loved laughing at her characters, just what Austen intended. Teaching these classes is lots of fun but it is tiring, too, especially trying to keep up with the material.

From time to time I substitute at Peterís high school. That is a different kind of challenge, because I am not expected to have prepared anything (one time I was called in at the last minute to substitute for the scheduled substitute!) which frees me from the obligation to work at home, but it means I have to be able to wing it when I get there. One happy time I was called in for the English teacher, and her lesson plan indicated the class would be on Robert Burns. I had just the week before done Robert Burns in my MAFA class, so I had no trouble at all Ė except that my attempt at a Scottish accent provoked an unseemly amount of giggling. However, on Friday I was filling in for the Human Anatomy and Physical Science teacher. I had to supervise a labs on calculating the acceleration of an ice hockey puck and diagraming white blood cells , and it was a bit more of a test of my acting ability! By the third class, and with the help of the teacherís manual, I was at last able to do a reasonable job of answering questions.

That happened to be senior servant day, a fundraiser for the senior class trip cooked up by Peter. Senior class volunteers offered to be auctioned to be "slaves" for a day. There were a number of meetings set up to determine guidelines and to prevent any politically incorrect interpretations of the event, and in the end I think it went rather well. As you might expect, the class oddballs brought in the highest price, usually being purchased by their arch enemy, or a faculty member who was moved to protect them. The slaves spent the day in some costume designed to be humiliating (though not too much so) and carrying the books of their master. Freshmen were particularly keen on purchasing seniors, as seniors are the only ones allowed to order out Chinese or pizza at lunchtime, so the freshmen masters got much longed-for take out food for lunch.

Our normal day to day routine is more mundane. We are always looking for some lost item or other Ė winter jackets, wallets, and an orthodontic retainer were the big ticket items this month. Poppa even joined the Greek chorus by misplacing stair treads, of all things, which happily were found.

We miss having Daniel around but David did get to visit him in Baltimore and take our valentines to him. He had a great time skiing in Salt Lake City during Sundance Film Festival. I hope to have him home for Easter.

Peter has been doing a little skiing with the ski club at his school, but the winter has been so mild that it really doesnít feel like snow sport season. Last weekend the Lehigh students had a ski retreat. I stayed home because of other commitments here, but I was very relieved when David came home in one piece.

This is missions conference season so we donít expect to see much of David. Just about every weekend he has a missions conference to attend, a Presbytery meeting, or a student conference. He is also picking up some staff supervision responsibilities, which takes him to New York or D.C./ Baltimore occasionally, and then there are meetings on campus every day. He is involved with some challenging situations regarding students with major needs Ė exciting work but draining, too.

We have had some fun and relaxing times, of course. One of our student leaders gave his senior recital (baritone voice). He is a great singer and did so very well. I also went to the senior recital of a soprano that I expect will become a famous singer before long. A number of us went to the Bach Choir family concert. I didnít tell the boys ahead of time that the theme was "Bach and Dancing" so they didnít have a chance to come down with something contagious and avoid it. It was well done and I think even they would admit to enjoying it. A large part of the fun was trying to locate Nana and Poppa in the auditorium, which we never succeeded in doing.

Christopher and Stephen entered a chess tournament last weekend. It was a far cry from the many soccer tournaments I have been to over the years. For one thing, people on the sidelines are supposed to be quiet, while everyone stares intently at a board on which nothing moves for up to 40 minutes. Since this was their first ever tournament, they expected to be soundly defeated in the first game, but as it turned out, Christopher took first place and Stephen took second. A key ingredient to their success was that they played in the unranked division. Next time Christopher, at least, should get an official ranking from the US Chess Federation (or some such thing) and play against opponents who present more of a challenge. To celebrate their victory, I took them out to Nawab, a local Indian restaurant. Stephen thought we were going to an American Indian restaurant (presumably he intended to order buffalo) and Ben turned up his nose at rice that wasnít "Chinese rice". Peter and Chris seemed more appreciative of the culture, but next time I could keep them just as happy by going to Taco Bell.

We had a reunion last night of our beach vacation crowd, and viewed together the video of the past two Outer Banks vacations. I think all of us are getting ready for spring and summer thoughts. The winter has been mild but it is still dark and gray much of the time, and we are already noticing and appreciating the lighter evening hours.

Nana had been busy getting her Christmas letter out, and no sooner was that done, than she has become busy filling orders for her book. I went with her to a speaking engagement for a womenís Aglow fellowship. She took a day off to have a procedure done at the hospital, which went very well, but has since picked up a respiratory infection and is in sick bay next door at the moment. Poppa is keeping busy with various events at Lehigh or about town. He is walking regularly and also doing rehab at a gym. They have settled in very well to the neighborhood and already know more of the local business owners than I do! We usually watch a video once or twice a week in the evenings Ė All Creatures Great and Small or Yes, Minister Ė and we did see a bit of the Olympics, too.

I got a phone call from Don Houck one night saying his mother was not well, perhaps suffering from pneumonia. He called in hospice rather than having her moved to the hospital from the assisted living place and they indicated her time was very short. (It turned out that she did not have pneumonia after all.) I tried to get a plane ticket to Naples, but every single flight was fully booked, not only from ABE but also Newark and Philadelphia. I tried to get a ticket for the rest of the week, and even went to the airport in person, but I was not able to secure a seat. Then Don called and said that she seemed to be improving, and hospice was pulling back from daily visits to twice a week. That night (Tuesday, February 19) she died, in complete comfort and peace. I have spent a lot of time on the phone with Don, talking through details with him and recalling memories of both his parents. I am putting together a small memorial service here for her; the date will be set once I finalize things with her two out of town "daughters". Brother Peter and I used to call the Houcks our fairy godparents, because they did so many things for us through the years. It is hard to believe that an era has ended, and yet I take great joy in imagining her reunion with Kenneth after almost exactly twenty years.

Thatís whatís going on here...



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