Winter is upon us in full force in Ohio. I have never liked winter. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I loathe winter. But as it began this year, I decided on a better attitude, and I made what amounts to a truce with winter: I would find small things to celebrate about the winter season (hot teas, soups, baths, candles, and my giant Slanket) in exchange for a sunnier disposition.
Things were humming along swimmingly until a few weeks ago when I slipped on an icy sidewalk and landed on my backside at the university, causing great pain and humiliation. Five days later, my car slid off an even icier curve in the road and narrowly avoided hitting a tree and rolling into the creek below. (I drove by the spot again today and shuddered at how close a call it was.) So all bets are off this year! I will not say nice things about winter and will continue to wish it a swift death.
There are, however, some nice things to be said about our family as 2008 closes and 2009 begins. We have reached that enjoyable family stage when all of the kids are independent but fun to be with. Christian (15), Ian (13), and Sophie (10) are all responsible, and even though they may whine a bit about taking out the trash or doing the dishes, they work hard — especially in school and music. Hereâ€™s the lowdown on each of us.
Christian is a freshman in high school and is an avid band member, landing second chair in the trumpet section. Spanish and speech have been welcome electives in school, and his advanced math class leaves him with just one more math class (calculus next year) to take before he is forced to walk across the street to the the university for higher math. He spends a good deal of his free time writing computer programs for his website on our Macintosh computers and is currently waffling between computer engineering and school music teaching as career paths. Christian is also anticipating the day in April when he can get his learnerâ€™s permit.
Ian is in eighth grade and, like Christian, is an excellent student. Ianâ€™s focused passion, though, is on jazz music and percussion. Generally speaking, he is either listening to his iPod or drumming on drums or on anything that wonâ€™t get him into trouble. He is also in the high school band and won second chair, ahead of many older students. This year marked the beginning of Ianâ€™s place in our Irish band, the Demerits, where he plays the bodhran (Irish drum) and constantly amazes us with interesting rhythmic accompaniment and solos.
Following the Mortensen model, Sophie is a gifted student, although she does the bare minimum when it is something that does not interest her. (Hmmm — sounds like one of her parents whose initials are JM.) She has also begun playing the trumpet this year and has astounded us all with her aptitude for the instrument. She was so excited about playing the trumpet that she was planning to use her own money to buy one before we told her that we would get her one. Aside from school and music, Sophie spends a lot of time with friends outdoors building forts, catching toads, playing in the snow, or whatever the season will allow. Her other big interest is reading. She tears through books just like I did when I was her age, and we hope her interest in reading will continue.
John continues to teach piano and run the keyboard department at Cedarville University. He has had a very active performance schedule at home and abroad recently and has been fortunate over the last couple of years to be invited to international festivals. Two summers ago, he judged a music competition in Italy, and last summer he gave a recital in Yeysk, Russia just before hostilities between Russia and Georgia erupted. Aside from classical music, John continues to enjoy arranging, writing, and playing Irish music. A mandolin is the latest addition to his collection of musical instruments. It joins two grand pianos, bagpipes, button box accordion, Irish flute, banjo, guitar, and countless Irish whistles.
I (Linda) have continued to dabble in many different things. In addition to working a few hours a week for CU, I have subbed at the K-12 school that my kids attend and especially love working with the special ed kids. A friend and I started a business making and selling market style bags from repurposed fabrics in an effort to encourage the use of chic reusable shopping bags and cut down on plastic bag usage. We currently have bags in two stores in our area. And as if thatâ€™s not enough, I will begin working a few hours a week at our town library. I figured that I may as well work there since I spend so much time there.
For all of us, Midtown Christian Community has been a central part of our existence. Our small church plant is not so small anymore, and we are excited to have not only more stable families helping with the difficult ministry but more individuals and families from the neighborhood around the church as part of us. The church sent John and me to the Christian Community Development Associationâ€™s annual conference this fall in an effort to obtain more tools for developing a ministry that empowers those in urban poverty to become full participants in their world and in the kingdom of God. Our next challenge, however, will be to find another building in the neighborhood that can house our food pantry, kidsâ€™ programs, and weekly services and meals as our current building is falling in around us.
As we head into the new year, we continue to be grateful for our extended families and relieved that significant health problems seem to be resolving for Johnâ€™s dad, after two major surgeries, and my brother, after developing an unusual form of Hepatitis A. Our parents and siblings and their families have brought us countless joy as weâ€™ve spent time together, and we hold ourselves very fortunate, indeed, to have the kind of relationships with family that most of our culture can only envy.
We all send our warmer-than-winter wishes for 2009 and look forward to hearing from you.
Linda, John, Christian, Ian, and Sophie Mortensen