As I noted two years ago in Top 10 Reasons I’m Thankful, and to Whom, my performance in composing annual Christmas letters was spotty in the B.B. (Before Blog) era. Doing a family newsletter was such a production that procrastination (and eventually abject failure) was the most frequent outcome.
But that all changed in 2006, and I followed it up last year with another compilation (though that one was in December, on my daughter Rachel’s first wedding anniversary).
My new tradition is not only to beat what was formerly the Christmas snail mail crush, but to have my year-in-review distributed before the Black Friday sales have even begun.
I can’t limit myself to a top 10 list, because I have so many things for which I’m thankful. I’ll just throw them out and add photos, videos or links as I go along. And because I’ve written posts about several personal events throughout the year, this writing process will be much faster and richer.
I have to start with the birth of Evelyn Grace Borg, who came to visit me at the office yesterday, and who is staying at Old Main until tomorrow morning.
Evelyn is the first of the many grandchildren Lisa and I hope to enjoy from our six children. Since Evelyn’s Mom, Rachel, is the only one who’s married, though, we’re fine with waiting for the rest to come.
We’re also thankful that Rachel and her husband Kyle are moving with Evelyn to Grand Rapids, Michigan in January. That’s a significant improvement over the previous plan, which was Escondido, California.
They’ll be just nine hours away by van, and there aren’t mountain ranges in the way. We’re going to see Evelyn much more frequently than we would have under the previous plan, and we can take the whole family to visit instead of being limited to a couple at a time via airline because of the costs. And with gas at $1.75 a gallon (another thankful development), the driving will be more economical too.
I’m also glad my son-in-law has seen the light and gotten a MacBook for his seminary studies, so we can easily videoconference via Skype or iChatAV as Evie is learning to talk.
I’m thankful to be a university chancellor with 198 SMUGgles. A year ago this blog was known as Lines from Lee, but the evolution last January into Social Media University, Global (SMUG) has been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to interact with a lot of interesting people, and some I’ve even gotten to meet in person.
Old Main, our main campus building and the global headquarters for SMUG, had a significant renovation this year with a remodeled kitchen and a new North Annex, the Lewis J. and LaVonne A. Aase Motor Fleet and Retreat Center. A less grandiose name would be a garage.
But after 14 years with only a single-stall garage, having a 24′ x 26′ version with an attic (a.k.a. “man cave”) is really a treat.
And so we named it after my parents, who provided the “leadership gift” as we say in the philanthropy business. The pillared porch and cobblestone patio were the finishing touches.
Speaking of Mom and Dad, it’s great living in Austin (my hometown) and having them able to attend basketball and volleyball games and otherwise be involved in our kids’ lives. So while we’re thankful that Kyle’s seminary is in Michigan, we’re hoping their long-term future will be closer to Minnesota.
Our son Jake is doing well in LaCrosse, Wisconsin working for Wells Fargo, one of the few banks that haven’t been the subject of bailout talks. He also recently got a promotion. It’s really great that he has his four-year degree and a job, while many of those his age (he turns 22 in March) won’t graduate until next May or even later.
Rebekah just finished her senior season in volleyball. Her team finished 15-10 and she was named all-conference by the coaches.
She’s just starting her basketball season next Tuesday with a rematch against New Prague, the team our girls beat to earn a trip to the state high school tournament last March.
New Prague only lost three games last year, and two of them were to our Austin girls. I imagine they’ll be highly motivated this time.
Ruthie is also a senior (she’s 50 weeks younger than Bekah), and like Bekah is taking a full load of classes at Riverland Community College through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, which lets high school juniors and seniors take college classes for both high school and college credit. They are both on course to get their Associate of Arts degrees when they graduate high school (as Rachel and Jake both did), which means they’ll just have two years of college left when they likely follow their elder siblings’ footsteps to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse next year.
Ruthie continues to be involved in Bible Bowl, about which I’ve written previously. Last July she and her brother Joe took fifth place at the National Bible Bowl tournament in Atlanta, which gave us a good excuse for a family vacation. Rebekah and Joe also are playing on the team, but Ruthie is, as her coach Tracy Chamberlain said, “the thoroughbred.”
Ruthie also was named a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program, which puts her among the top 16,000 scorers in the PSAT/NMSQT. We’re thinking her 2180 on the SAT will likely get her into the finalist status (2400 is perfect), but would appreciate any insights you might have on where that 2180 might rank.
Joe (left) gave up football this year to focus on basketball (and Bible Bowl.) He’s in 8th grade but is being moved up with his cousin Tom (right, above) and friend Colin to play on the 9th grade team at the high school. Joe is about 6’3″ and is a good player. I’m looking forward to watching him play, but will be somewhat limited because most of his games will be the same night as Bekah’s. But at least his games won’t be at 4 p.m. as they were in middle school, so I still will probably get to see more of his games this year than I did last year.
John is the only one of my children who isn’t my friend on Facebook, but then he’s just turned 10 so he isn’t eligible to join for three years. But he has a blog! Realizing how quickly the others have grown causes us to cherish him even more.
My work at Mayo Clinic continues to be interesting and rewarding, but I won’t get into detail about it now because you can read all about it in my last year’s worth of SMUG posts. I’ve enjoyed getting to apply social media tools at Mayo, and to be able to spread the word about what we’re doing (and what others can do) through SMUG and at various conferences.
Lisa and I will, Lord willing, celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary next month. We’re astonished at how we have been blessed. We’re grateful for all of these blessings and so many more that I haven’t mentioned, and particularly for our new church, Trinity Presbyterian in Rochester, where we became members last month. We’ve had hard times too, but as we look back we see that even those developments have been turned for our good, which is a great comfort as we see uncertain times ahead in our national economy. As we enter the Advent season and remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, we pray that in the coming year you will have peace and contentment from knowing Him.