Christmas Letters

(Note – a lot of spaces between words “disappeared” in the cut-and-paste… I caught a lot but not all of them.)

2011 Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

I completed most of the Christmas season activities and headed into those final of Christmas’ 12 days in which my thoughts turn to… the Annual Christmas Letter.  As I wondered about what to write, I found myself thinking at first that as the kids became adults – settled, career establishing… and childless – what would be interesting enough to write about for my typical two pages… maybe I should have some pity on the people receiving my annual attempt at composing witty family news and reduce my writing to a single page.  Then, Joan began to remind me of interesting things about everyone.

I decided to make it FOUR pages this year.

Not really.  (That should make the two pages seem like a breeze for writer and reader alike.)

Marna and Firas

I’ll begin with the “national news”. Americahas a new citizen!!  We’ve hadFirasin our family for a few years already but the United Statesgained a new full-fledged citizen on August 1 as Firas went through the ceremony, oath, and all of the accompanying paper work needed to move from “Green Card” to “Citizen.”  I drove nearly 3,000 miles to be with Joan, Marna, and Firas for the occasion.  I’m glad to have been a part of the ceremony with the other 75 or so people from around the world and their families who were part of the federal courthouse event.  I found the ceremony interesting and meaningful.  Most of us likely don’t know what is promised in the citizen oath; it isn’t something that pops up in conversations.  But, to hear the words aloud and to observe people making such promises of intention… well, it is a bit like watching a wedding and hearing the new couple state vows that speak uniquely to those witnesses who have some years of experience in the marriage-relationship thing.  Marna made an interesting observation of the morning while we were waiting… families and soon-to-be “citizenized” were invited to wait in… the cafeteria. Firashimself was in the midst of Ramadan observance (which includes the discipline of not eating nor drinking during daylight) and the food smelled enticing.  Marna wondered how many others might be in the midst of such discipline as well.  It was sort of humorous, and an ironic expression of hospitality and welcome.  A fun, meaningful day.

Marna andFirasjoined Joan and me for a week inSouth Lake Tahoe.  It was a week of new sights and adventures for both of them… and some new things for Joan and me as well.  Days were full and active… lots of hiking, exploring, and some driving.  After a few days, each of which had a number of varied activities, some more strenuous,Firasmused, “I think your parents are trying to kill me.”  But, he managed to get himself into the sailboat the next day for an afternoon sail on the lake (in a rather stiff breeze no less).  No, we weren’t trying to “drown” him.  It was all a wonderful time together. Firasthought much of theNevadadesert and mountain views reminded him of his homeland inJordan.  Both continue to live inColumbus,Ohio.

Peder and Kirsten

It’s their second Christmas inBrodhead,WI… south ofMadisonabout 30 or so miles.  Peder is part way through his second year as a pastor (doing that first “repetition” thing of the yearly rhythms) and pondering how to develop things in the congregation he’s serving.  Kirsten is a full-time Nurse Practitioner in a private practice and seems to love her work.

They just returned from a five-year anniversary trip to the place of their honeymoon… somewhere in Jamaica.  Sounds fun and romantic for them.  I’ve heard them muse about whether they’ve reached a point of having a pet… or something… to help fill the house.  Perhaps their recent week-long dog-sitting stint, their romantic anniversary trip, and… well… some remodeling in their house could indicate… well… OK, go ahead and speculate along with everyone else.  Yes, I think that they are remodeling the upstairs room for a dog-bedroom.  Every dog needs its own room.

Kirsten seems to be getting a knack of this colder climate.  It’s been rumored that she even gets up EARLY to bike or run, even in the colder seasons when the temp drops.  Peder helped his congregation develop and carry out a “Community Corn Boil” (which sounded to me like a painful foot infection).  A highlight of the event was the dunk tank in which Pastor Peder became wet… many, many times… but brought in some good bucks for their service project.  The food and fellowship and tractor ride through town made for a wonderful day in Brodhead.

Kirsti and Steve

After Steve’s “sabbatical” last year from managing a Border’s Bookstore, he now enters his second year as manager of another retail store,Madison’s World Market.  I think that he’s enjoyed the new position and the differences in the operations of his new store.  Kirsti keeps her days busy with her various music endeavors.  Joan and I again helped to chaperone (with Steve) her senior high group’s trip to Disney World last February.  We had a great time and it was fun to be with Kirsti and Steve in this way.  (Joan and I then were at a week-long conference.)

With noFloridayouth trip this winter, Kirsti became our little “family tourist director” this year and did ALL the arranging for a week’s cruise at the end of January.  It will include Kirsti and Steve, Joan and me, and Marna (Firaswill likely be going to Jordan for his brother’s wedding which will occur the same week.)  It’s a first for Joan, Marna, and me… “same-old-same-old” for Kirsti and Steve… well, maybe not THAT mundane.  I treated myself to a snorkeling mask with prescription lenses… yes, about a half inch thick on the edges… and I hope to snorkel with vision during one of our daytime stops.  It’s just a few weeks away, now.  Whoo Hoo!!

A sorrow and joy for Kirsti and Steve this year: Steve’s nephew died from a rare disease; it was a very sad event for their family, and, Kirsti became “published” in a national publication with one of her knitting patterns that she created.  She and Marna are putting together a couple websites as outlets to share their artistic endeavors.  Check out: and

Luke and Sarah

After last year’s successful ventures of installing new wood floors into four of the rooms of their cute little house (in Columbus, Ohio) Luke and Sarahtook on the project of a bathroom renovation in summer.  I was able to spend much of a week withLukein late August to help bring it to completion… except for the one tile piece behind the toilet… which still has a gap.  When Joan talked with Sarah about one of those house projects, she heard Sarah tell her, “Well, Luke can do ANYTHING!”  Whew, a nice compliment, certainly, but that confidence carries a certain… what(?)… fear(?)… “NO PROJECT is too big!”  But, truly,Lukehas managed to learn how to do a lot of things around the house.  It’s fun to see that develop.  And, they’ve been able to accomplish what they set about doing.  In their latest foray into the future hope of having a small hobby-farmLukeandSarahhave recently (this week) purchased a couple of rabbits… with the plan of bringing rabbit offspring eventually to “freezer-camp” for some future suppers.

Sarahfinished a master’s degree in music this year (YAY!) and Luke is continuing to work on a master’s degree in Nursing Practice, similar to what Kirsten obtained for her career.  He plans to become an RN this spring, adding to his athletic training certification.  That will allow him to bring a few new bucks into the family budget.  We just enjoyedLukeandSarah(and their two dogs) in a week-long visit to our home… very fun (although one of the dogs “snarfed” down a plate of fudge and cookies… and, you probably can guess the impacts to the next day.)

Joan and Ted

I spent a year in Western North Dakota, working as interim pastor in a large congregation.  It meant I was away from home… and Joan was left to care for the needs of the house… shoveling, mowing, etc.  I returned home in late August.  I then spent a week of travel to help Luke and Sarah with their bathroom renovation and a quick visit to the U.P. to see friends.  Then, Joan and I headed out west for a 17 day vacation… although, since I wasn’t actually employed anywhere at the time, I’m not sure what it was a vacation from… but, it surely was a wonderful time.  I came back to Wisconsin and began to work the next day at the congregation I’m currently serving as interim pastor, Dekorra Lutheran in Poynette, about 25 miles north and west ofMadison.  I’m seeing two of our kid-families a bit more frequently since I’m working 80 miles south ofStevens Point.  Joan has been able to join me on many Sundays, when we traveled a bit farther to make visits in Brodhead and Madison.

Joan continues in the things she does.  During the past year she added to her life a membership to a local fitness center with a warm pool, perfect for her to do HOURS of exercise and physical activity well suited to her.  Much of her physical life has been regained from therapy and exercise.  She demonstrated to me on our vacation a bit of running across a grassy field.  Wow!  How fun to see her moving in ways that haven’t been possible for her (or at least particularly smart) for a long time.

After having the house to herself for a year, she needed to make some adjustments to having me around… like… all the time.  But, we enjoy being together… and we’re good at it, I think, after our 37 married years.  Every year we have together is another year of wonderful blessing.  We have gratitude for all that we’ve been blessed with… family and friends, sharing and receiving, being and growing, experiencing new things and doing familiar things.

May God bless all of you richly in this new year.

Joan and Ted Johanson

2010 Letter

(Note – in the cut and paste to this website spaces were dropped between lots of words… hard to catch ’em all.)

Dear Friends and Family,

After spending more than a week with Joan and my family during the “Twelve Days” of Christmas I finally returned this morning (January 5) to my current ministry place: Dickinson, North Dakota.  I’ve been working here since August and expect to be here through most of the school year… we shall see.  You might recall that I was in St. Louisa few years ago (500 miles from Joan), then Kansas City(600 miles), followed by Minot(700 miles)… you see the trend?  Well, true to form, Dickinson is 750 miles from home.  I have enjoyed some short trips to Montana (Yellowstone, Big Sky Ski Resort) andSouth Dakota’sBlack Hills.  These mini-trips provide some compensation to my not being home.

Toward the end of a 2½ year interim with St. John’s of Oshkosh I began to connect with a second Oshkosh congregation that found itself in a splitting-level fight a year ago.  That congregation, damaged though it was, is now working closely with St. John’sto consider a new two-congregation arrangement.  Joan has worked closely with both congregations over a number of years and her input has been crucial to both congregations recovering themselves and discovering a better way to live as a community.

Joan has had a good year of recovering some of what was lost or diminished over recent years.  Her body doesn’t easily do what it used to but diligent work and therapy is providing some satisfying compensation.  She won’t be doing cartwheels or running but she continues to be able to enjoy a good hike… it’s one of our favorite activities.  Between consulting with congregations and pastors, supporting people struggling with cancer (often late-stage), giving at least one day per week to a thrift store, and taking care of her kitty, Joan spends daily effort in the self-care and exercise needed to keep things moving as effectively as possible.  Her diligence pays big dividends in terms of feeling vibrant and active.  YAY!

Kirsti and Steve had an interesting year.  Steve, who managed a Borders Book Store, decided that he needed a significant change (as Borders goes through its ongoing survival issues).  He saved up to give himself a “sabbatical” and resigned his position.  After spending time recovering from over-extended working patterns he explored many options… and eventually reaffirmed his ongoing interest in the retail business.  He recently began managing a World Market Store in Madison.  He is enjoying the changes and new challenges.  Kirsti continues her work as Artistic Director of MadCAP, now bearing the primary leadership for the organization.  Kirsti’s oldest kids are traveling to Disney in a few weeks (Steve, Joan and I will help “chaperone”.)  Kirsti’s most recent craze is working her new spinning wheel… spinning yarn for HOURS!!  Steve and Kirsti spent a week with Joan and me inSouth Lake Tahoein September… a wonderful trip for all with plenty of hiking and exploring.

Marna and Firas made a few changes recently for themselves.  They moved into a new apartment that happens to be located very near Luke and Sarah’s house.  The new apartment has a great layout and is extremely quiet.  Its large balcony overlooks a pond.  The living room has a fireplace (which is being well used) and takes their living room set very easily.  Joan and I (and Kirsti) stayed with them last week during our Ohio visit.  Also, both of them have moved to daytime schedules in their work, making for a whole new daily rhythm… coming home from work, enjoying supper and spending the evening together (that’s where that new fireplace comes in so handy.) Firastook a trip toJordanthis year, spending a good amount of time with his family.  Marna continues to sing in the St. Joseph Cathedral Choir.  I took a “Holy Week Sabbatical” this year, spending the entire week leading up to Easter inColumbus,Ohio… attending ALL of the worship services at the Cathedral (and hearing the superb choral music.)

Peder and Kirsten both completed grad school this spring (WOW!).  Peder received a call as pastor to a good sized congregation in a small town in south centralWisconsin(Brodhead).  They bought an “arts and crafts” home in Brodhead with some interesting history and “good bones”.  They’ve done a lot of work to their house during these first few months, painting and renovating.  It is giving them some wonderful satisfaction and joy as they begin their new life in this little town.  Kirsten is currently working to get her Nurse Practitioner license as she looks for employment in her field.  Some interesting opportunities have been discovered and we have hope that something will come her way soon.  It was a whirl-wind/exciting year for them as they each completed grad school, went through the insecurity of not knowing where they were heading, finding and buying their first home, then LEAVING Columbus,Ohio, their home for the past ten years.

Luke and Sarah also have a new house in Hilliard, Ohio(their 35 year old home is in a second-ring town-gone-suburb in theColumbusarea.  Their one-dog (Heidi) family has increased with a cat (George) and recently with another dog (a Boston-Terrier mix named Daphne… plenty of Boston-like energy and sweetness). Sarahwill finish a Masters in Music program next summer. Luke entered grad school to become a Nurse Practitioner.  He is a full-time student at Ohio State University.  BothLukeandSarahcontinue to sing professionally in the Cathedral choir along with Marna.  One ofLukeandSarah’s great delights with their new house are their gardens.  The previous owner provided some wonderful perennial plantings andLukeandSarahhave added a produce garden and additional flower beds.  The house got a paint job last summer and a spacious 18 foot back-yard storage shed in the late fall.  During Joan’s and my recent visit we helped them lay new wood floors to two rooms and they’ll soon lay new floors in two additional rooms.  Things are shaping up beautifully.

Well, that’s the basic update on the family.  Joan and I enjoy seeing how each of our children and their partners grow and develop.  We enjoy all of them and feel blessed by each of them.  2010 has been a wonderful year that has seen lots of development.  Joan and I have been a bit lonely for each other in the past few months (750 miles of separation can do that) but our phones and occasional visits go a long ways to keep us feeling connected.  May God bless each of you with joys in this new year.

Ted and Joan

2009 Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

I have successfully avoided the effort of beginning the annual “Ted and Joan” Christmas letter so far. But, it is now the evening of the last day of Christmas… and it is time.

I was working much of my day on the second annual report I’ve written for the church I’m serving in Oshkosh. I’ve been there almost two years… a bit longer than might be typical but I’ve enjoyed the time, even though the congregation continues its twenty year trend of decline and conflict. I think they are at a good place right now in spite of all that and will start interviewing pastors soon… and then it’s off to places unknown.

Joan and I were thinking about the dynamics of life with our kids. I guess the phrase “hard-work” best captures their lives right now… all four of them and their wonderful spouses. I’ll do the standard little newsy thing for each.

Luke and Sarah increased their new little family by one… a rescue dog named Heidi. Cute and short and responsive, Heidi is a great addition… and you know what they say about how a dog emulates their owners. (It might be said that, like Luke, Heidi’s words in conversation can sometimes be very few.) The real exciting news is that Luke and Sarah bought and recently moved into their first house. Located in Hilliard (western suburb of Columbus, Ohio) travel to work and school is convenient. The yard has a great fence for the dog. And, Luke and Sarah have lots of space compared to their apartments. Luke made a career decision to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner, apparently an up-and-coming profession in the health field. This reflects that he enjoys his clinical work. Sarah is teaching music in another place, a private Catholic school with about 80 kids per grade. She seems to be having a wonderful time with her job. She’s also working on a masters degree, just because “she doesn’t have anything ELSE to do.” And, to add to busy schedules, they both continue to sing in the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Schola choir in Columbus, Ohio.

Moving up to the next older, Peder and Kirsten are both working to finish master degrees in Spring: Peder – Master of Divinity and Kirsten – Master in Nursing Practice. That’s a lot to accomplish and we’re proud of both of them. OK, I guess we’re proud of Luke and Sarah too. (Hard to not look like I’m playing the favorite.) Peder completed a one-year internship in two congregations, one located just some blocks down the road from where I used to live (a bit of irony here) and the other at the OSU campus ministry. He currently awaits the bishops’ “DRAFT” in which they find out if they will live in the southern Wisconsin area… or the northeast U.S.… or the northwest U.S. These are exciting times as they throw their fate into others’ hands. Both Peder and Kirsten have lived in Columbus for a long time, like, about 10 years. They seem ready to move on… but leaving will also be hard.

Firas brought Marna to his home in Jordan for three weeks in September. How fun it was for her to meet and be welcomed into a whole new family in a different land and culture. She spoke so glowingly about her experience with Firas’ family, and experiencing a different part of the world. Marna’s interest in Firas’ family and homeland continue to increase. I understand that Marna had her first Arabic class last night… and Firas is having his first “home-school” English class with Marna tonight. That might bring some interesting dynamics to their marriage. (Does anyone have some experience with teaching a spouse a complex subject that, until you gain genuine fluency, remains a rather frustrating weakness? Maybe the “spouse-golf-lesson” concept provides the right image.) Firas works very long hours at a convenience store… I’ve seen him head out early to open the store and not come home until some time after 12 AM. Sheeze… but, it helps him accomplish what he’s trying to accomplish. Marna’s crafting continues to expand. Her challenge might be to value her work enough to ask for a fair price as she offers some of her jewelry, silk-painting, crocheting, and knitting on-line. (We suggested that maybe sister-Kirsti could do the pricing if/when she starts up a website. She continues to sing in the Schola choir with Luke and Sarah. That’s been a lot of years for her, more than ten, I believe. I hope to take a “Holy-Week-Sabbatical” in Columbus this year so that I can hear her choir’s incredible music during the intense week of worship at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

The “hard-work” description continues with Kirsti and Steve. Like any manager of a large bookstore these days, the pressure has been increasing during times of recession and people’s changing reading habits. But, Steve continues to maintain success in his work and store leadership. Kirsti has the challenge of increasing responsibility in her non-profit children’s theatre/music programs in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s been fun for us to watch from a distance as her one-time five and six year old kids have become teenagers, and continue to hang around MadCAP… ALL THE TIME! The programs have continued to develop, even with the challenge of recession-dried-up funds. In her recent play, she was able to design and build the entire multi-scene set for… what… $25.00 or so? It was clever and cute and showed off the mixed-age cast. Joan and I helped Kirsti and Steve finish painting and mounting some wall shelves in their house to place some of their photos. It was a finishing touch to their moving in to their first house (and only, I think). They are very much fun to visit and spend time with.

Joan started 2009 with THREE TRIPS TO FLORIDA. (A girl NEEDS three trips to Florida each winter, don’t you think?) The first was a ten day stay in Daytona during the low tourist time in which we were able to include Peder/Kirsten, and Marna/Firas. She spent lots of time in walking the beach in bright sun (and sometimes wind.) I flew down to join them for a few days as well. The second trip was to Orlando (Disney) as chaperones for Kirsti’s MadCAP group. I was part of the trip as well. Again, the weather and the walking was wonderful. We had a chance to spend lots of time at Disney with our niece, Anna and her little boy… kids are an important feature when visiting the Magic Kingdom. Then, Joan had to do that painful return to Florida to spend even MORE time in another trip to visit friends, walking up and down the beach… up and down… over and over. Well, she’s only making one trip this year… but she’ll have a great time with her friends.

Travel was a huge part of our year this year (unusual and we appreciated the opportunities.) Additional to the Florida ventures, we spent a week in Williamsburg and two weeks in the Tahoe area. I think it is something of a celebration of not having kids in school anymore… well, actually I guess five of the eight are still attending school… but that’s their responsibility now. Joan’s new little friend is Dharma the Kitty. She’s been a great little house pet, especially with me being gone so many evenings this year. Joan’s activities continue to include: consulting with congregations and pastors through the office of bishop, helping to lead Breast Cancer Recovery Retreats and cancer support groups, along with the crafty stuff like knitting and quilting. (My Christmas gift was a pair of the BEST WOOL SLIPPERS EVER!!)

That’s the news. Life is different from the “kids-in-college” time and the pre-55-year-old-years. We continue to love and enjoy life itself. Every day is a good thing; every year is another year of blessing, joy, and life. Challenges continue, but what fun is life without some challenges to it all? We continue to enjoy our various vocations and avocations. The “working-hard” part is a part of the fun, especially when there are some results. We continue to love our Lord and the church of which we are a part. We look for life and blessing in the coming year and hope the same for you.

God’s blessings,
Ted and Joan
(Dharma mewed also)

2008 Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

Before reading my first couple paragraphs, you should know that I’ve been mostly alone in the past six days.  Being alone does not make me lonely, melancholy or sad by any means.  After all, there’s always work… and phone calls and such that provide connection with others, including family.  Joan has been inOhiowith Kirsti and theOhiogang for the past week… and it sounded like a good family time.  (Luke/Sarah, Peder/Kirstin, and Marna/Firasall continue to live in the Columbus, Ohio area… Kirsti/Steve are inMadison.)  I stayed back home with the intention to use my vacation time a little differently.  So, I ramble about my days and think deep thoughts about life in preparing to write my annual Christmas letter… well, maybe my thoughts aren’t really all that deep.

What’s a little unusual during this particular period of Joan being gone is that I don’t have the little black and white canine-companion about the house… and he isn’t with Joan, either.  Our little dog, Gus, became ill one night a couple weeks ago beyond what could be managed.  We had him put down.  Again, I don’t say this to reflect sadness or grief.  It is more about noticing three major time periods in Joan’s and my life together that coincide with our family dogs.  There were about ten years in the beginning of our relationship when we did not have a pet… well, a dog to be more exact.  We did get Kirsti (and me) a parakeet that we named “Chester” in honor of the pastor that invited me into parish ministry and who sponsored me in ordination (I don’t think he ever learned of my little bird-brain tribute.)

The next decade included a family dog named Crackers, who romped through our years of having a household of four kids in St. Ignace.  (We also had a goofy little dog in our last years in St. Ignace – Ritz, by name… yes, the kids kept the cracker motif).  I had to put both dogs down during our move.  In a way, it marked the conclusion of a second major chunk of Joan’s and my family life.  Two moves in a year and Kirsti heading out to college kicked off a new era.  We began that parental role of making   non-stop tuition payments and lots of visits to colleges.

It was almost ten years ago that our “college” family embraced Joan’s dad’s dog, Gus.  He was amusing, fun, funny, and just kind of nice to have around.  Yes, he needed attention and was usually part of our thoughts in whatever we did… like, how can we plan things in such a way as to include dog-realities?  I must admit that Joan and I now have a certain kind of freedom and set of dynamics that is different for us… sort of like we are entering a new era of life.

In this past year, Luke graduated from college and married Sarah.  So, now we have eight kids/spouses.  I’m drawn back to a September night in 1972 when I met Joan and we spent hours talking together (our first conversation, mind you.)  Among other things, Joan rattled off from memory (and with VERY fast talking) the entire children’s book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… talk about romantic.  I also recall her sharing with me her life-hope to have eight children.  This then-18-year-old guy was… well… maybe taken aback a bit.  But, Joanie was cute and fun… and we’ll see happens.

Last Christmas we actually had all ten of us (plus a couple of good friends) around the dining table in our house.  This year… it’s just me… sitting at the same table… writing this letter.  You should know that as I’m trying to write these very words I am literally laughing myself silly as I consider such a pathetic sounding concept.  (A little pause again, while I continue my laughing.)… Ah… Whoo… that was really funny… I hope I’m able to transfer even a small bit of my mirth in this letter.  Oops… time to laugh again… whoo… that should do it.  Whoop, there I go again, I just reread this paragraph.

Enough… I need to do the basic update thing.

Kirsti and Steve had a special event in their lives, the decision to choose and purchase a house inMadison,Wisconsin.  It’s a cute two-bedroom cape-cod style house on the side of a hill with a magical woods and wildflower meadow in back (packed into a fairly small lot.)  The former garage had already been converted to a “sunken” den that is perfect for an entire wall of Kirsti-crafts and another wall for Steve to organize his entire CD collection.  Steve continues managing Madison’s east-side Borders store and Kirsti continues involving children with music through theater and lessons.  She is working with her oldest group on a trip to Disney in a couple months.  Joan and I chaperoned such a trip with her a couple years ago.  This year, we talked Steve into joining us as well.

Marna and Firas have been married just over a year… and they are really having fun together.  Each works hard,Firas in retail and Marna at the “ranch” for troubled youth. Firas added ESL classes to his life this past fall… English is a challenge to learn… but, so is Arabic for Marna.  They hope to visitFiras’ family inJordan this coming year.  And, both are wondering about going for masters degrees… perhaps in business.  That’s an interesting development for Marna, but she’s enjoyed some management/business-type stuff in the past couple years.  So, we shall see.

Peder and Kirsten both are in the midst of masters programs.  Kirsten has completed a semester or so of classes moving her toward becoming a nurse practitioner.  She seems to enjoy her current nursing work.  Peder is doing a pastor-internship in theColumbus area.  He told me of his recent worship-leading experience when Kirsten’s family was present as he did a totally adolescent voice-crack (after some vigorous singing, he says).  And I must say… “been there… done that.”  One of my better lines was the words of institution… “And after cupper he took the sup…” there is not good recovery available.  He’ll have plenty more chances for that kind of public embarrassment.  There is a good chance that Kirsten and Peder can complete their degrees about the same time.  Peder is learning that his music continues to have outlet possibilities, even during seminary years.  And, Peder andLuke managed to finish their two little canoes, started last year.

Luke and Sarah are the attention-getters of 2008.  In April, the faculty of Capital University gave Luke the singular award for outstanding senior male student.  (I’m doing a bit of parent-bragging here, I know.)  For Joan and me it was a wonderful and meaningful “cap-stone” to our challenge of supporting all four of our kids through college.  He then graduated in May.  It is delightful for us to realize that all of our “eight” kids have college degrees… and five of them are graduates of Capital. Luke and Sarah both have sights on advanced degrees.  For now, they are doing the newly-married thing and working their first jobs. Luke is with a clinic connected with the OSU hospital system using his degree in athletic training as a kind of assistant.  He currently thinks that the physician-assistant thing fits him.  Well, we’ve discovered thatLuke loves whatever stuff he is doing currently… one never knows of the opportunities that may come his way… so his career path might yet develop further than currently thought.  Sarah is enjoying her music job this year, working more therapeutically in one-on-one connections than with her classroom work last year.  She’s wondering what this means for her in the future.  And, yes, they married in August with a Sunday morning wedding inCapitalUniversity’s chapel. Luke and Sarah continue to join Marna in weekly rehearsals and Sunday performances as professional members of the St. Joseph Schola Choir.  Plus,Luke has been doing some cantor-like gigs with aColumbus Jewish synagogue.

Joan and I continue our lives together without any kids in college (lots of schooling continues, however) and without any pets.  It’s a new place for us and I think the beginning of a new era of our lives.  The house does not feel empty (remember, I’m still in the house today… I might be alone, but I’m here… another of my little laughing fits just came upon me… and Joan is on her way home after her six day road-trip with Kirsti to Ohio.)  We look forward to all that the New Year brings our way and we continue to enjoy the countless blessings of every day’s life.  We give you our blessings and pray that God might richly bless your lives.

Love, Ted and Joan

2007 Letter

The Annual Johanson Christmas Letter…
(written by Ted) January 4, 2008

Yes! I’m writing this, NOT on the last day of Christmas (January 5) but THE DAY BEFORE! Not so exciting, I guess, since I notice I began last year’s letter at 5:30 AM on January 3rd while NOT SLEEPING on the train back to Minot, North Dakota (where I was just finishing up an interim ministry situation.) By the way, Minot used to be the end of the rail line in the 1800’s… and this little story is often told: Pioneer residents of Minot still remember a certain railway passenger conductor who would call the name of the station, “MINOT, this is M-I-N-O-T, end of the line. Prepare to meet your God!”

Well, I finished the interim work in Minot and returned home after more than two years of working out-of-state in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Minot. I sheepishly asked Joan… “So, do I get to come home?”

Joan and I had ten guests in our house for a few days last week: our four children and their spouses (one a fiancé… but that’s for later paragraphs) and two family friends. We could all eat around the dining room table but we had to turn the table at an angle to make it work. How fun to have everyone together. I’ll start with our newest family addition.

Marna and Firas – Marna lived alone for more than four years… and late this summer met a Jordanian man visiting America. They enjoyed an afternoon of canoeing with a group of friends… and… well… they’re married. Joan met Firas in September; I met him in October. And on Monday, October 29 Marna told us by phone that she and Firas would like to become married… like, on Thursday (among other reasons, Firas’ brother was going to be in Columbus then… and we could manage to make the trip). So, we left early in the morning on Thursday, November 1, picked up Kirsti in Madison and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, arriving about 10:00 PM or so, waited for Marna, Luke, and Sarah to finish their choir rehearsal (the director felt a need for some reason to have a 50 minute conversation with the choir after rehearsal), and I then performed the marriage ceremony before midnight. After eating and visiting for a while, Joan, Kirsti and I got back in the car at 1:30 AM and headed on back, since Kirsti had to lead a lock-in retreat with her kids starting at 4 PM on Friday. 1,300 miles and a wedding later… we got back home. Firas and Marna joined the family here in Stevens Point on December 26 and were part of Firas’ first family Christmas experience. I have captioned photos of their wedding on along with other various photo galleries.

Marna continues working at Buckeye Ranch and singing in the St. Joseph Cathedral Schola Choir. She is helping a friend launch a clothing line called “Self-Invested”. She showed me a mock-up she made of a first catalogue… and Joan actually saw somebody wearing one of the shirts while we were visiting in Columbus during Thanksgiving. Firas is working with U.S. Immigration and has moved a good way through the process. We feel fortunate and excited that Marna and Firas have discovered each other and are forging a new family together.

Luke and Sarah – So… all the presents have been distributed in our Christmas family time… and Luke gives Sarah one more little gift… a card that tells her to look on the Christmas tree. She finds it… and the wire ornament that Luke made which included the words “Marry Me” and a ring. So the romantic guy hops down on one knee and pops the question. How cute and sweet. Again, I have some family Christmas photos on Luke and Sarah are planning their wedding for Sunday, August 17th in Columbus, Ohio. How fun.

Sarah is experiencing her first year as a music teacher in the lower grades and beginning band… in a small town just north and east of Columbus. Luke is beginning his final semester of school, planning to graduate in May with a degree in Athletic Training. But… what will come next for them? Graduate school (Physician Assistant) is in the works… but not likely this year. Meanwhile, both Luke and Sarah continue singing professionally with Marna in the St. Joseph Cathedral Schola Choir. And… Luke continues to share a two-bedroom apartment in Columbus with Marna and her new husband… how fun, especially during the days that Sarah is visiting. We have been led to believe that Sarah and Firas instigate lots of mischief when all four are together.

Peder and Kirsten – They’ve been married now for… wow… just over one year. Kirsten has been working in med/surg telemetry at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She and Peder reside in a nice two-story side-by-side (with a basement) at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. Peder is half way through his second year of theological study. He’s managed to make good use of the basement space by doing some woodworking projects. He and Luke are planning to build two small wood canoes after careful selection of plans, tools and wood. Hey! I thought graduate school was supposed to keep one busy! Actually, I did a lot of woodworking (beds, dressers, etc.) during my seminary years. During this coming year, Peder will begin a one-year internship before taking on a third year of classes. The process is moving along.

Kirsti and Steve – Kirsti has turned into a photography and scrapbooking fiend additional to her work as Artistic Director of MadCAP (Madison Creative Arts Program). It was most fun for Joan and me to watch Kirsti lead a group of 18 kids on a MadCAP trip to Disneyworld (Joan, Marna, and I were chaperones for the trip.) Steve continues to manage a Borders book store on the east side of Madison. Joan and I hear a lot about their adventures camping together and with friends, including four year old twins, that make the camping experience special. Kirsti and two friends visited us this summer before heading to an area state park campsite… that was inundated by a major rainstorm… the park ranger asked the sopping wet group to leave for safety’s sake instead of trying to “stick it out”… which they did… returning to our house with gallons of water soaking their clothes and everything else… YES! Camping at its finest! At least it makes a good story. Kirsti’s latest adventure is snowshoeing… quite the outdoor girl… and sometimes Steve joins her.
Joan and I – Well, it seems that we’ve successfully managed to live in the same house again after my long-distance working. Presently, I am serving a congregation in Green Bay… a one hundred mile commute… so I’m now racking up far more miles in daily commuting than I did in the past couple years by traveling back and forth from home to distant congregations. No complaints from me, however. I really enjoy spending time with Joanie. A real highlight event for us was a week in September with friends in South Lake Tahoe (again, I have a photo gallery on In fact, I’ll put a whole bunch of links about our family onto my website at that will provide various photo-glimpses into our family life… if you are interested in checking it out. Joan has been quite the traveler this past year, including trips to Florida, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Upper Michigan, and more to come in the next couple months. (Hmmm…. is all her time away related to my moving back home???) I’m so very happy that she has been able to be so adventuresome this year… and the travel has provided wonderful times to be with family and friends.

We feel blessed and fortunate. Our family has grown much with Marna and Firas’ marriage; we look forward to another wedding. Our children are living their lives with appreciation and joy. They have each discovered wonderful partners. Hey… it’s time to sit back, thank God for our blessings, and wonder if the Packers will make it all the way…
No, wait, I can’t end my letter that way… Packers… sheeze. Actually, when I think of the Green Bay Packers I find I’m often drawn to warmly remember the week Joan’s father died… his family had gathered… meaningful words were shared by all… there was great appreciation for all the life that was lived… the Wisconsin Badgers won their game and the Packers won one of their few games that year… yes, life is very good and each day… each year unfolds its many wonderful blessings.

Thank you for reading… thank you for being a part of our lives.

God’s rich blessings to you.
Ted and Joan Johanson

2006 & 2005 Letters????

(not sure where they are??? I think it’s part of the computer crash….)

2004 Letter

I did it again… the Christmas Letter is being started in the evening of the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I told myself, “Nope… this year will be one of discipline and maturity… the letter will be done right after Christmas Day….”

Hey, what can I say?

Well, it’s time to take a peek at the year 2004 and give family and friends the update. Like most years, we had the mixture of events that are sad and joyful. Joan’s sister, Marsha, enriched our lives in her eight-year walk with cancer. Finally, about one month ago, her reserves simply became depleted. She met her last days with the kinds of grace and strength that deeply touch all of us. We shall miss Marsha terribly.

Whew… had to move that one to the forefront, perhaps because it was so recent and so difficult for us..

2004 saw some major life-developments for the Johanson folks. The one-time “baby” of the family, Luke, made his way to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Like happens with the last one, their experience of leaving home has a different character. The first kid we took to college had to endure all of our parental attention, was carefully driven to her new dorm, and was sadly missed as evidenced by miles of gentle tears from the parents. With the last kid… well, it’s more like he had to drive his own car to school and his parents gave him twenty bucks, telling him to have a nice life… and, “yes, we have plans for your former bedroom.” Maybe Joan and I weren’t really that bad about helping our youngest launch himself into college life. We enjoyed his senior year in high school and his graduation. Mostly, we so enjoy who he is becoming as an adult. He’s beginning to work toward a degree in athletic training and/or physical therapy or a physician’s assistant program.

Another graduation occurred in the spring… Peder finished his four years at Capital with a degree in jazz studies. Since his graduation, he’s been working on that famous adult question, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW???!!!” He decided to continue hanging around Columbus for a while to explore some options and discover some of his deepest interests. So far, I believe he has discovered… love. His “very-good-friend” Kirsten spent a few days with us in Stevens Point during Christmas. We are very fond of Kirsten and are happy that she has an interest in visiting with us. (Kirsten is partway through her third year toward a nursing degree… also at Capital.) Peder chatted with us some about an increasing interest in teaching… with graduate work as a logical next step. Perhaps this coming fall will be a target time for him to begin. We shall see. Meanwhile, he has enough gigs and composition opportunities to fill up the days.

Next up the “age-ladder” is Marna, who continues to be with Buckeye Ranch (Columbus, Ohio) working with… might I suggest… highly challenging children and teenagers who have a tough time making their lives work well. She seems satisfied with her work. It seems that she is moving toward launching into a masters program in one of the psych fields… we shall see. She has been living independently from her husband Matt for about 18 months now. That likely depicts the nature of their relationship even though formal decisions between them haven’t been made. In recent months, Marna’s passion for hobby crafts is turning into some opportunities to pull in a few dollars. Perhaps she can find a way to support her knitting habit and find some outlets for her excessive output. “Busy hands and happy hands” or something like that is what they say… and if it at least pays for itself… who could ask for more. One new little addition to her “single” life is a goofy kitty that visited us during Christmas. Even our dog, Gus, had a good time with the cat’s antics.

Our other girl, Kirsti, subscribes to the “busy hands” theory. Knitting is a new passion for Kirsti this year. Her creative side is coming through with stuff she makes up as she goes. Sure, the first products, like a baby sweater, had… well… rather long arms and might have been more appropriate to a primate critter… but, it’s fun to watch her make the creations. And, she too is developing some avenues to support the “knitting habit”. Oh, and I suppose I should mention that she married Steve this June. Yup, she and Steve are now “hubby and wifey”. They planned a wonderful intimate wedding and reception in their home town of Madison, WI. They both continue their vocations, Steve managing a Borders Bookstore and Kirsti doing music with children. We so enjoy having Steve as part of our family. (Also, relating to this letter, I am writing the text and Kirsti is putting it into some kind of shape… I look forward to the end product.)

Joan is five months into the empty nest experience with Luke now in college. This is a major change to her vocation as a Professional Mom. To make the experience more complete, even I am not living at home. Since mid-November, I’ve been doing a full-time interim pastor thing in St. Louis, MO, exactly 500 miles away from Stevens Point. I can hear the folk song playing, “Lord, I’m one… Lord, I’m two… Lord, I’m five hundred miles away from home.” We find that the internet and cell phones go a long ways to keep us feeling connection. Joan tells me that she is doing fine… don’t worry… I’m getting along well… HEY!! Is she getting along TOO WELL!? She continues to work with my Bishop’s office as a consultant to fighting congregations and church staffs. I can’t help but wonder… is that some sort of new casting of the professional mom thing? Actually… no. She has developed some fine skills as a teacher and consultant to people who are having a tough time making their system work. She has already provided some of her skill to the congregation in Missouri that I’m working with.

As mentioned, I’m living in St. Louis right now… with as much stuff as I could fit into my car and a small trailer. It’s sort of like camping, except that I have a 4 bedroom renovated farmhouse in which to camp. The congregation is big with a large staff. It is a great opportunity and privilege for me to serve as interim pastor for a while in this challenging congregational setting. I’m hoping that Joanie doesn’t get TOO comfortable with this singles life style. She plans to spend a week down here in February and another in March. It will give us a chance to explore and enjoy some of what the area has to offer. I look forward to our rendezvous times as we are able to create them.

Well, Joan and I hope that this Christmas letter finds your life filled with blessing and joy. We both certainly celebrate our many blessings of life. Life is good; I don’t know what I’d do without it. May God richly bless you this coming year.

Ted and Joan
Kirsti & Steve, Marna, Peder, and Luke

2003 Letter

Sunday,January 04, 2004

Dear Friends and Family

The Green Bay Packers just won their first playoff game.  Our kids are all back to their respective places.  I completed my last Christmas worship service this morning.  Joan is beginning to pack the house decorations into their red and green storage boxes.  I guess that it’s time for me to get into “The Writing of the Annual Johanson Family Christmas Letter”.


Maybe it’s related to me passing the half century mark… ya know, the mid-life thing could be a factor… naw… it was just kinda fun to watch a well-played game.  But now that the game’s done and I’m watching Joan lug around those big storage boxes I feel compelled to at least LOOK productive.  Who knows, I might be able to write a long enough letter that everything will be put away before I finish.

Yup… I headed into, through, and beyond my 50th birthday.  On my birthday, Luke let it be known at my community choir rehearsal; I was serenaded with a well-harmonized rendition of the traditional song.  Exactly two weeks later I was unemployed.  Actually, I wasn’t unemployed… I just… wasn’t employed.  Because of support from my synod, it was a time of opportunity for me.  For two months I was on what I described as an “unplanned, spontaneous sabbatical”.  I’m not sure I was real productive but at least I read a book… a Tom Clancy novel (it’s got to count for something.)  What am I up to now?  After finishing my interim work in Wautoma (and my subsequent “sabbatical”) I began a new interim in Cicero.  “Is that near Chicago?” you might say.  No.  I could tell you to look it up… but Cicero is not on a regular state map… only detailed county maps.  It is around 30 miles west of Green Bay.  The town – if that’s the right word – contains seven houses at the intersection of County Road X and Cicero Road.  But the church is in rural Cicero, a half mile north.  I’m really enjoying connecting to this delightful little congregation… “little” I said… actually, the church is nearly full every Sunday with tons of kids… and 300+ people attended the second Christmas Eve service.  It will likely be a shorter interim and may have of goal of being finished by early summer.

That catches up with my doings.  Here is the rundown on the rest of the gang.

Kirsti (26 years) continues her work with children’s music – general music in a private school and musicals with a children’s arts organization.  But what is REALLY fun for her is that her wedding dress fits well.  She and Steve are planning a small wedding in June… and time is ticking away.  Feel free to check out Kirsti’s wedding web pages at:  Steve is a life-longMadison person and the two of them seem very comfortable living in that interesting city.  Joan and I enjoy spending time with them and we do so whenever we can manage it.  We look forward to their wedding and celebration next summer.

Marna had a tough year.  Her professional work with troubled youth has been meaningful and effective… but her marriage became a source of great distress.  She and Matt just signed a separation agreement and I expect it will result in a dissolved marriage.  The primary concerns I observed from Marna’s perspective were Matt’s unmanaged use of alcohol and illegal drugs along with increasing control issues.  After a weeklong visit in our home she just yesterday returned to her home inColumbus,Ohio.  It’s been a difficult year, but she seems confident that 2004 will be a year of greater satisfaction.  She may even begin a master’s degree program this fall while she continues her work at the Buckeye Ranch with troubled youth and her professional singing at the cathedral inColumbus.

Peder – senior atCapitalUniversity inColumbus,Ohio – has been asked to be a graduate assistant for a guitar professor inNorthernIllinoisUniversity (in Dekalb).  He has but a final semester to complete this spring – which will include a senior recital.  I suppose he would say this stuff is all well and good… but what really makes him look all whimsical – complete with sighing – is his new friend, Kirsten.  Hmmmm…..  Does it mean anything that the two of them were on the phone with each other nearly every day of their three-week vacation?  Get this… he even thoughtfully decided to NOT watch the Packer game today… as it might be distracting to their first day back together.

Luke, now an 18-year-old adult, had a remarkable beginning to his senior year.  First, he was an alternate to the team that won the state cross-country meet this fall.  Concurrent with that experience was that he also had the role, Jean Valjean, in the high school’s rendition of Les Miserables.  Each of the six shows played to sell out audiences… and each show went well.  Joan and I took out a second mortgage to pay for all of the tickets we bought.  As a proud parent type, I thoughtLuke did amazingly and beautifully well, as did the whole cast and crew.  Many people expressed their satisfaction with the effectiveness of the production.  So what is next for him?  His primary interest is an athletic training degree (possibly also physical therapy) fromCapitalUniversity.  He also wishes to sing in the cathedral choir with Marna.  (By the way, I clued in the choir that serenaded me this fall thatLuke’s birthday was the day of the winter concert.  They gave him a far more attentive birthday song rendition than they did me.  “Revenge” can be sweet indeed.)

Joanie has become a big-time quilting person.  A bedroom upstairs is increasingly becoming dedicated to this new recreational passion she has developed.  She has been feeling well this year and plans another 3-day 60-mile walk next summer similar to her walk a couple years ago.  AND… her favorite Christmas present this year was her Christmas Day phone call from her sister… whose CAT scan revealed no cancer after her seven years of struggle with surgeries and chemotherapy.  What could be a better bit of news to brighten her days?  Something not so meaningful, but fun at least, was that I was able to find the time this fall to paint the entire downstairs of our house (plus a new floor, counter, etc.)  Now, remember, we’ve always lived in parsonages… and they tend to be painted in neutral colors… namely white.  So, now our house has color!!!  There is green… and gold… and… HEY!! Did she choose Packer colors?  Whew!  No!  But it was kinda fun to choose up our own color choices and transform the look of our home.  We enjoy the results.

YES!! Joan finished the Christmas boxes, Lukemoved them downstairs and I’m still writing.  It’s just like with well-timed sermon writing… only sermon writing sounds so much nobler.  In closing, Joan and I wish you well this coming year; may God continue to bless your lives richly.

Ted and Joan Johanson

2002 Letter

Dear Family and Friends

It’s now down to the wire… days 11 and 12 of Christmas are upon the Johanson household.  The whole pre-Christmas montage of activities, concerts, and preparing for the Christmas doings are past us.  I’ve done the “pastor-crankies” the day of my Christmas Eve services (it’s ever so popular with my family).  We had a social gathering at the house one night this past week.  And this morning, Peder loaded his car for the 600-mile drive back to school.  So… it’s just Joan, Luke, and me in the house today… heading quietly through the weekend… picking up the more normal paces of life, again.  ‘Course, in our house, I’ve never figured out for sure what’s normal.

But… the day has come… it’s… TIME FOR THE CHRISTMAS LETTER!! (while it’s still Christmas).  In this letter, as you know, I provide numerous and humorous tidings and writings (whoa… watch the rhyming, Ted) about our family’s doings over the year, over-focusing on our children as we overly proud parent-types do… all of this so that you, friends and family, can be subjected again to the question of whether to read on or not… or that secondary question… should I just sort of… skim… over this long-winded letter, searching for anything that might look like some sort of highlight?


Having spent her first few post-college years in Madison Kirsti seems a little more settled each year. Madisonis like the kind of place that works well for her.  She enjoys working in her school teaching music (part-time work in a private non-sectarian elementary school).  She tried leading her junior high kids in singing by playing her bassoon… but it didn’t catch on.

Actually, I just made that up.  I had a flash image run through my mind of Kirsti trying to get squirrelly young teens to sing by playing a bassoon at them… It was a laugh-out-loud experience for me…Lukeeven turned his head to wonder why I’d laugh at my computer… I haven’t told him yet that I was laughing at my children’s expense… thought I’d share it with you.  Kirsti’s music leadership is primarily through her piano and voice.  I’m impressed how she’s improved her piano skills… out of necessity, I suppose.

Steve continues to be Kirsti’s significant other.  I’m still lacking a clearer descriptive word from them at the time of this writing.  (In three minutes, I’ll be meeting with a childhood friend of Kirsti’s [Kindergarten] to discuss how I might do their wedding next summer.  I suppose I  should have Kirsti give her a call, to “renew acquaintance”… oops, here they are now… gotta go…back again [1½ hours later]… yes, this really happened.)


Marna and Matt (who are married… OK, Kirsti, I’ll quit buggin’ ya) are into their second year of marriage; Marna is also into her second grown-up job.  Buckeye Ranch inColumbus,Ohio runs a number of teenage residential programs… Marna does recreation and therapy sessions with the groups.  Matt continues working with the OGA (Ohio’s part of the PGA) while working through school.  He’s venturing into a full-time student load this winter…. something new for him… do well!

To add some spice into their lives, Marna and Matt have expanded their family with Zeus… a Boston Terrier… sort of a nephew of Gus (ourBoston).  You should see these two Bostons tear up the house together… what a riot!  Makes me think of the clothes in a tumble dryer.  Zeus’ latest trick is his impressive leap… straight up (over three feet).  He’s a calm puppy… yeah, right.


Working on the second part of his third year at CapitalUniversityin Columbus, Ohio(one of our church schools), Peder is starting to plan up some junior/senior recitals.  Recall that he is a guitar major… starting in jazz but finding the classical side of the instrument quite attractive as well.  An interesting regular gig has come his way recently, playing each Monday night with “Vaughn Weister and the Famous Jazz Orchestra”.

Being a budding professional guitar guy (he still plays trumpet quite often), I thought I should give him the opportunity of leading a few of the hymns in my congregation’s Christmas Eve services… quite the new challenge for him (or “hymn”?).  “The congregation doesn’t sing at the same speed I’m playing,” he discovered.  Yup… that’s some of the challenge of song leading.  Well, Silent Night was originally a guitar piece, as well as Greensleeves… and perhaps even the Huron Carol… I thought it was an interesting and legitimate addition to the services.

So… where’s all this going for Peder?  Man… who knows?  Was Marna planning to work with troubled youth while she was preparing her recitals?  That’s part of the fun of watching our children grow… it’s not a totally predictable process.


Dancing… dancing… dancing…

This past fall,Lukeadded zero hour to his school schedule (an hour before school).  After school, he ran cross-country.  Then, three times a week, to round out the day before homework, he’d do an hour or three of dance – modern, ballet, tap and jazz.   It has been fun to watch him develop as a dancer.  He’s come a ways from being the little kid with the tap shoes, top hat and cane.

Musically, he continues with French Horn and lots of vocal stuff, including the dad/son thing of a community chorale.  What caught his attention this past year is mandolin… not sure why, but he has a good time with it.  His mandolin even found itself alongside Peder on Christmas Eve.  As I type this, I notice Lukesitting at the on-line computer pouring over mandolins on the Internet.  We clearly need more musical instruments in our house.

Right now,Lukeis starting to think aboutCapitalUniversityas a college choice… following the ways of his siblings.  Not music… except for fun… nope,Lukeis thinking Athletic Training as a major.  Don’t ask me how that came about… we shall see what happens.


This has been a year of obsession for Joan.  First, she took on the challenge of a sixty-mile three-day walking event to raise funds for breast cancer research and support.  Many people supported her, helping her generate over $6,500 toward the cause.  But, to prepare for the long walk involved months of steady training.  I was most impressed… and she walked the walk fromBouldertoDenverwithout a problem.  We had a great time.  Our boys joined us for the trip out west.  After some camping/hiking atRockyMountainNational Park, we dropped Joan at her event… and went back to the park.  Yes, we picked her up at the end.  It was a wonderful event, involving thousands of participants and supporters.  Thanks to everyone who helped Joan reach way past her goals.

Her second obsession of this year… QUILTING!!!  Whoa… go girl!  Joan has set up the third bedroom as her quilting room and is going gung-ho over this activity.  Bits of cloth, ironing boards, cool looking rotary cutters, and more, more, MORE!.  I myself can’t imagine the enjoyment that she clearly experiences with her new activity.  But, she’s having a great and satisfying time with this new passion.  Put your quilting orders in with her… you never know.

Our bishop continues to ask Joan to work as a consultant with some of our synod’s congregations, particularly those in conflict situations that would benefit from what ever it is that she can do.  I think that she has found a suitable niche for serving the church with this work.


So, what’s new with me?  I spent almost a year in Marionand have now shifted to a congregation in Wautoma.  Wautoma is kind of fun for me, since that was one of the places to which Joan and I had sent teaching applications back in 1975 (just prior to finding myself in this church-work thing that caught me by surprise).  The recently new thing for me is that I’m now a Webmaster… meaning that the congregation’s Youth Ministry folks wanted to begin having a website.  Man… EVERYTHING is new for me in this area.  It reminds me of what it was like when we got our Apple IIc back in the late 80’s.  But, the site is up and working… and the process was interesting, to say the least.  Actually, it was a six-week obsession that I am starting to wean myself from. But… the site is up and working!

God’s Blessings to you this New Year!

Ted and Joan Johanson (and the rest of the gang)

2001 Letter (gone?)

2000 Letter

January 9, 2001

Dear Friends and Family,

What a wonderful time we had inStevens Pointduring the Christmas season.  At times we had ten people staying in our house.  Some of you who know how big our house is might wonder what we were thinking.  I guess it’s sort of like years ago when the kids were small and running around, acting hyper and goofy, playing, etc… only now, they’re really big… and running around, acting hyper and goofy, playing, etc… AND, some now have their own companions with them who weren’t around here years ago.  As our children become adults, Joan and I find them to be more and more interesting and fun to spend time with.

So, what’s happening with everyone?  Oh, you know, same old same old.  Nothing happens around here.  No changes come our way.  Everything just slides on from one year to the next in a monotonous, repetitive manner… Yeah, right!

To start with me, I changed congregations during the summer.  Even though I work as an interim pastor (a temporary, white collar-tab guy who appears to some as not being able to keep a job), I spent three Christmases at the same congregation in Wausau, 45 miles north of here.  After perhaps 100,000 miles, I completed my work and headed to another congregation only 25 miles from home… (that’s “Easy Street”, driving-wise.)  The town is called Mosinee (pronounced Mōz-i-nē) and has the dubious dis-stink-tion of possessing a smelly paper mill.  In fact, my first reaction continues to be, when driving by the town on the freeway and the wind is going certain directions (most any direction other than straight up), that someone in the car has, shall I say, “done an indiscretion.”  This pops in my head even when I am the only one in the car (I know… scary concept.)  Then I remember where I am, “Oh yeah, Mosinee”… or as sometimes comes into my brain: Nose-in-eee-oo… (I have no idea why I think like I do.)  In spite of the paper mill’s no(se)teriety the congregation I serve provides a good ministry challenge.

The oldest of the four kids, Kirsti, has managed to restructure her schedule this fall, working only 40 or so hours per week instead of the ridiculous 55-60+ hours per week that she did last year.  She called one day in September, complaining that she was just sitting at home with nothing to do since she didn’t teach that day nor did any toddler music classes.  She’d already cleaned the house and was now bored.  (I think she’s figured out how to enjoy her time off.)  One of the side effects of her previous work at Border’s Bookstore was that she developed a romantic interest in one certain “Steve” who now manages the store.  Kirsti has more than once informed me of her opinion that Border’s has a dumb rule about not allowing dating among employees.  Her romantic interests were probably the primary motivation to restructure her work schedule and end her Border’s job.  Ah… love can be so costly but the gains can be so wonderful.  Steve joined us for a few days over New Year’s and we all had a wonderful time together.

I have to include a “Who’s-On-First” happening that just happened.  Joan is reading over my shoulder and notices I accidentally included an extraneous word, the word “what.”  She informed me, “There is an extra word.”  I said, “What is?”  She said, “Yes.”  I said, “What?”  She comes up with, “Right!”  Then I became confused.

Marna and her friend, Matt, were here during Christmas, after she sang in a host of Christmas Eve and Day worship services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Columbus, Ohio.  In addition to her “studenting” at Capitol University, she is hired by the cathedral to be part of their wonderful choir.  I took the opportunity to drive down to Columbus in December to enjoy the choir’s Advent concert.  Marna is very much in love.  Following her graduation next May, she and Matt have declared Saturday, June 16, 2001 (7 PM) as “Let’s-Get-Married Day”.  Their wedding (I suppose that’s the more acceptable word) will be here in Stevens Point with a party-in-the-park on Sunday afternoon.  Feel free to put the date on your calendar if you’d like to join us.  Because of how they are structuring their celebration, we can make a very open invitation to friends and family, even friends of family, or maybe even family of friends, yes… even your cat and dog can join us Sunday… providing they’re on a leash.  What then?  I’m not sure.  What I do see in Marna is a growing interest in working with and teaching children who have special needs.  It’s a way she can use her soon-to-be-earned psychology degree.  She just obtained her second job opportunity in that area.  She also seems to ponder what she can do with her developing writing skills.

Peder is a university guy now, beginning to work toward a degree in Jazz Studies at Capitol University of Columbus, Ohio (same school as Marna… when Joan and I were asked if they were ready to be at the same school; we responded, “The bigger question is whether Capitol is ready for Peder and Marna to be at the same school… together.”)  Guitar is Peder’s major instrument of study, even though he has played trumpet most of his life.  To add to his little collection of musical instruments, Joan and I found a slide-trumpet on ebay for a Christmas present.  It’s like a foot-long trombone for him to hot-dog with.  It fits right along side his other novelty instruments: didgeridoo, harmonica, etc.  He continues to play both trumpet and bass trombone in college and I’m sure will continue gaining significant skill in both.  Like Marna, he landed a paying job doing music each week so he’s gaining some pocket money for additional stuff.  His instrument desires seem to have no end, so it will do well for him to find some bucks.  As I write this, he should have arrived inNew York City for the Annual Conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators.  Two more brag things… First, Peder received from his high school the top music recognitions for seniors in both the jazz and symphonic bands.  Second, he received fromCapitolUniversity their top award, a Collegiate Fellow, which includes full tuition for four years.  Joan and I continue to be so impressed and proud of what our children have managed to accomplish during their high school days.

Luke is a high school student, a ninth grader who is in the top heap of his three-year junior high.  He continues doing the music thing in a number of ways.  His new pride and joy is a new french horn that is of sufficient quality to take him through a degree in music if he so chooses.  Like his brother, he was active on the high school cross-country team in the fall and enjoyed the activity.  The largest race he participated in involved almost 300 kids.  The start of the race was suddenly moved up more than five minutes while he was… “occupied” for a bit.  He came out of the… “facility”, looking for the hundreds of kids at the start line and saw… NOBODY!!  They had disappeared over the rise 500 yards away.  He never ran “mad” before… but he was now mad… and he was going to run as hard as he could.  Ultimately, he managed to place about 80th in the 3.1 mile race, meaning that although he didn’t get the position he really wanted, he sure passed a lot of people and found out he could run faster than he thought.  Hey, you look for the sweet parts wherever you can find them.  Sometimes you have to look hard cause things don’t always look so great at first.

Joan and I have looked hard to find the sweet parts of her life this year and there are so many of them.  The not-so-great stuff, however, centered on health concerns.  This morning, she received her second round of chemotherapy that has followed a double mastectomy last month.  (There, I got it into this Christmas letter.  How I’d finally do this has been the reason I am late composing this letter… yeah, right! Hey, I look for an excuse for my procrastination in any way possible.)  So how is she doing?  Give her a call if you’d like; you’ll be pleased to hear her story.  I think she looks wonderful, cuter all the time.  It’s a whole new look for her.  Her illness caused… well… sort of a diminishment of a couple of her much appreciated points, but things are a lot less hairy now.  (I know, that’s really tacky… but then, it’s also truth and it indicates something of how we look hard for the sweet parts.)  I find that my love for her and for our nearly thirty years together becomes more and more important and appreciated by me all the time.  I also offer you the wonderfully good news that many things indicate successful health management giving us great expectations for life and living.

I would like to give you one more story.  I know, as per usual, my letter is probably the longest one you received of all the other Christmas letters.  (Notice that it is about the length of a sermon – funny thing.)  But this is a fun story for us.  Joan and I attended the installation service of the new bishop in our synod.  In a sense, he’s my boss in that my placements into congregations are dependent upon his… shall I say… whims.  He and I enjoy each other’s work and tease one another quite mercilessly at times, me having to be more merciful, I suppose, if I don’t want a parish assignment in Black Hole, North Dakota.  So anyway, during the service, Joan notices her cousin, Karen, participating in the service.  Joan hasn’t seen Karen in a long time, probably since our wedding.  With her is her husband. Ok, that makes sense.  Then, she notices her uncle Kenny (Karen’s dad), who is sitting with the bishop’s family.  Now this has Joan puzzled.  Following the service she discovers that her Uncle Kenny’s wife, Beverly, who also attended our wedding, is the bishop’s mom, sort of making me a cousin to the bishop… aaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeee!!  (That scream, by the way, not mine but the bishop’s… all the way fromAppleton.)  What was most fun about this is that Uncle Kenny was a childhood friend of both Joan’s mom and dad.  We’ve heard a number of new stories about Joan’s family.  It is a wonderful connection to some of her past.

Well, another letter is assembled and on its way to you.  Our hope is that your life is richly blessed as is ours.  We look forward to the unfolding of this coming year’s blessings.

With our love,

Ted, Joan, Kirsti, Marna, Peder, and Luke

And now adding: Steve and Matt

(Remember, Kirsti’s Steve and Marna’s Matt)

And of course:

Muffin  (the now geriatric but macho male cat who is still humiliated with the name bestowed upon it by the five-year-old, Marna)

Gus Goelzer (Joan’s dad’s cute little Boston Terrier)  (“Baltic” is my little acronym for: Been A Long Time In Comin’)   

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