An Unforgettable Year

Three long journeys and two very short ones are among the blessings for which I give thanks as I reflect on 2016 and look ahead to the new year.

Let’s start with the short trips first: a pair of 40-yard strolls with my daughters Ruthie (Aug. 12) and Rebekah (Oct. 15) after which their names changed.

Each of their weddings doubled as a fantastic family reunion, and Lisa and I are so thankful that we now have four of our six children married, and that they’ve married well. We’re delighted to welcome Trevin Hoot and Andrew Gatzemeyer to our extended family.

Ruthie and Trevin’s wedding Aug. 12 in St. Paul, Minn.
Rebekah and Andrew’s wedding Oct. 15 in Rochester, Minn.

This was the year for our married kids to spend Christmas proper with the in-laws; we hope to get the whole gang together next year.

So here’s the family update for 2016:

Our oldest daughter Rachel and her husband Kyle Borg will celebrate their 10th anniversary on Friday. Kyle is the pastor at Winchester Presbyterian Church in northeast Kansas, and it was great to have him officiate at Ruthie and Trevin’s wedding.

While the Borgs couldn’t join our early Christmas celebration on Dec. 17, we will get some extended time with the kids in mid-January. Rachel and Kyle are going on an anniversary cruise, and on the way to Minneapolis for the flight to Houston they’ll drop off Evelyn, Judah, Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia to stay for a week with us.

An excited Graham with his trampoline

Our oldest son, Jacob, still lives with his wife Alexi and sons Graham and Isaac in New Berlin, just west of Milwaukee. Jacob is a physical therapist at Froedert Hospital, and he and Alexi are expecting our eighth grandchild in May. While we missed having the Borg grandchildren for Christmas, it meant that Graham and Isaac got more attention.

The matrimonial news involving my younger daughters had some broader ramifications as well. Rebekah and Ruthie had (with only brief exceptions) lived and worked together for nearly a quarter century, and both were employed as nurses at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul.

With Bekah G before her interview

After Ruthie’s wedding in August, she and Trevin moved to St. Louis, where she’s working at DePaul Hospital and he’s in his final year at Covenant Theological Seminary. And last Tuesday (see selfie at right) I got to have lunch with Rebekah in Rochester when she came to interview for a nursing job at Mayo Clinic.

On Thursday afternoon, we got the excited call from Bekah that she had been offered and had accepted the position, and that she’ll be starting in February. She and Andrew are hoping to move to Austin, so he’s applying for positions in Austin and Rochester, too. The good news is that with her work schedule (five 12-hour shifts every two weeks) they don’t need to be in a hurry to move; she can commute from St. Paul.

Our son Joe is in his last year at Minnesota State University in Mankato and is working at Buffalo Wild Wings as he heads into his final semester. Because he opted not to play basketball in his senior year, Joe was able to join Dr. Farris Timimi, our medical director for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, and me on our November trip to Australia and New Zealand. One of Joe’s roommates, Jake Weierke, scraped together the plane fare so he could join us. I had Delta SKYMILES to pay for most of Joe’s ticket.

In the hobbit hole with Joe and Jake

None of us will forget the experience. We saw the fairy penguins come ashore at dusk at Phillip Island, and during our 2nd International Mayo Clinic Healthcare & Social Media Summit the “lads” had a few days to explore Melbourne. Then it was on to New Zealand, where Dr. David Grayson was our most gracious host, arranging for us to visit Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. We got to walk throughout The Shire and step inside a hobbit hole, and wrapped it all up with a pint of cider at the Green Dragon Inn.

With Farris, Joe and his roommate Jake at The Green Dragon Inn.
Dressed up for the theater

In October, I brought Lisa and our youngest son, John, on a trip to New York City. This was John’s time in New York, and while I was attending my meetings he and Lisa explored the city via tour bus. We got tickets to Wicked one night, and on our last day also got on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

John is a high school senior attending Riverland Community College full-time, so he will graduate high school with his Associate of Arts degree. He also was one of ten young people from southern Minnesota chosen to be teen columnists for the Rochester Post-Bulletin. He’s written about his adult anxiety (confessing that in his heart he’s “a very tall hobbit”) and his love of history.

Lisa continues to enjoy her retirement from homeschooling and the flexibility it gives her. In addition to the New York trip, she and I were able to fly to Nashville in July for a family friend’s wedding, and to Houston in November for a wedding reception for Ruthie and Trevin on his home turf. Lord willing, we’ll be visiting London April 28-May 8, and this will be Lisa’s first international flight. If you have activity or sightseeing recommendations, we welcome your help in planning our trip.

On The Great Wall with Wen Feng

I wrote several posts in June about my trip to China, and reading through them again brings back heartwarming memories of our gracious hosts and the many dedicated physicians and other health care workers we met. I also was blessed to make my first trip to Africa, when I did a workshop in August for The Aga Khan University in Nairobi, Kenya.

Our workshop participants at The Aga Khan University in Nairobi, Kenya

I’m continuing to enjoy my work as Communications Director for the Social and Digital Innovation (SDI or “Star Wars”) team at Mayo Clinic, as well as our work with the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network to help our Mayo staff as well as colleagues elsewhere learn to use social media tools strategically in their work.

The Star Wars Team

It was great this year to fill several vacancies to bring our full-time team back to full strength, and that we could get those members together in conjunction with our Communications Division retreat in August. I’m also grateful for the part-time supplemental staff members we’ve added, and the volunteer members of our MCSMN External Advisory Board who believe in and contribute to our mission.

At the end of the year, while I was in New Zealand, I was elected to the voting staff of Mayo Clinic. This is a group that is mostly physicians and scientists, but a limited number of administrative staff also are included. It doesn’t affect salary but it does include some extra perks, one of which is having my name in bold in the employee directory. And because of my alphabetical endowment, mine also happens to be the first bold name listed:

Our March 1 #ScopeScope, broadcasting a colonoscopy – my colonoscopy – on Periscope to raise awareness of the need for colorectal cancer screening, was an important educational project. Here’s that story:

It also led to my picture being on the NASDAQ Jumbotron in Times Square the next day, when our collaborators in the project, Fight Colorectal Cancer, rang the NASDAQ closing bell.

As I said in the TV interview, part of the #ScopeScope inspiration came from one of my high school classmates, who was diagnosed two years ago with stage IV colon cancer.

Lisa and I attended the visitation Monday night, and Jim’s funeral was yesterday.

If you haven’t been screened, please do it. Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers; detecting and removing precancerous polyps stops them from turning into cancer.

 

Arlene with Mabel

We also lost Lisa’s mom, Arlene Wacholz, in June. Arlene was first diagnosed with malignant melanoma, one of the most deadly and least-treatable cancers, in 1980. That skin cancer recurred twice, and she lived on to have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and macular degeneration before finally succumbing to complications of Parkinson’s Disease. We’re thankful Arlene was able to live more than 35 years beyond her original cancer diagnosis, and that she got to know her 13 grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren.

As the sands of 2016 run out, may we all be grateful for the year we’ve had and treasure and make the most of each day we have in the future.

Wishing you and yours many blessings in 2017!

See the Christmas tag for previous yearly updates in this series.

A SMUG Decade

Ten years ago today, I published three posts on a new blog that I called Lines from Lee.

I had no idea where it would lead me.

IMG_1576So it’s fitting that I’m starting this post in the KLM Lounge at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, as I have a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee before my flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

When I started my blog on July 30, 2006 my main purpose was to experiment with blogging and learn how to do it, in case we would ever want to have Mayo Clinic blogs.

And while my more-than-full-time job was leading the Mayo Clinic media relations team, I found time for blogging at least in part because I thought it was amazing that I could publish to the world for free on wordpress.com.

In my early days of blogging one of my major applications was to take notes during conference presentations. By live-blogging and linking to the speakers’ blogs or other online profiles, I reported what I was learning to a broader audience, and also shared my perspectives. And I began making connections.

A major turning point was in late 2007, when I was asked to give a Facebook 101 presentation to the Association Forum of Chicagoland. Some in-depth questions led me to joke that they were asking for information that was more appropriate for a 200-level class. That’s what led me to rename my blog Social Media University, Global in January of 2008.

And of course I gave myself the lofty title of Chancellor.

My university name was a tongue-in-cheek riff on the geographic naming of many real universities in the U.S., such as UCLA, University of Alabama-Birmingham and University of Texas- Southwestern.

Because my university was online and available anywhere in the world, the natural designation for Social Media University was…Global.

Which made for a fun abbreviation. And when I developed and metaphorically nailed my 35 Theses to the wall of SMUG, it helped me to think through and make the arguments for why mid-career communications professionals need to develop capabilities with these new tools.

While I started seeing some traffic to SMUG from widespread locations, I never dreamed that it would lead to international travel and face-to-face connections.

Lee's VisitsBut in 2009, Lucien Engelen invited me to speak at a conference he was organizing at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. I had only left the U.S. once previously, for a work-related trip to Calgary.

Carolyn DerVartanian invited me to Sydney, Australia in 2011, and on some other trips I also got to visit Sweden, France (with a brief stop in London), Italy, and Mexico. More recently I’ve made a couple of trips to the United Arab Emirates and a return visit to Australia. My two-week tour of China in June was amazing, and now I’m excited for my first trip to Africa, where I’ll be leading a workshop Monday at The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.

As best I can figure, I think I’ve presented in 39 states and Canadian provinces, too.

Of course none of this would have happened if we hadn’t found good applications for social media at Mayo Clinic, and without the support of our leaders to have Mayo serve as a catalyst to help professional colleagues also venture into social media. Special thanks to Jim Hodge, Chris Gade, John LaForgia, Shirley Weis, Amy Davis, and our President and CEO, Dr. John Noseworthy, as well as Dr. Victor Montori and Dr. Farris Timimi, our former and current Medical Director for social media, and Dr. John Wald, our Medical Director for Public Affairs, for their backing and inspiration.

Here are five things I’ve learned in 10 years of blogging:

1. It all starts with taking the plunge. Gaining familiarity and comfort with blogging and social engagement personally made it much easier for me to confidently recommend Mayo’s involvement.

2. It’s not too late to start. When I began in 2006, I felt I was probably too late to the party. People like Robert Scoble, Jeff Jarvis, Shel Holtz, Shel Israel and Jeremiah Owyang had been blogging for a while, and I wished that I had recognized the opportunity sooner.

Handwringing about starting late would have been not just unproductive; it would have been counterproductive.

As the landscape has changed, you may want consider publishing on LinkedIn instead of having your own blog, to take advantage of LinkedIn’s distribution to professional connections.

But it’s never too late to start expressing yourself thoughtfully online.

3. Geography doesn’t matter much. Social tools let you overcome barriers of time and space to bring together people with common interests. Even if there isn’t a dense concentration of those interested individuals in any one location, on the global scale enabled by social, there’s likely a large existing or potential community of interest.

4. The argument on the importance of social media is over. As I review my Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Social Media today, the only elements that seem a bit dated to me are the references to social media being “free.”

But that’s just a sign that social media are completely mainstream. Facebook suppresses organic reach for brands because it has so much friend content to show users, and because brands find Facebook advertising cost-effective in reaching their audiences.

When I published my 35 Theses, Facebook was still almost three years away from its $100 billion IPO. Since then its market capitalization has more than tripled.

And with most print and TV ads now including a hashtag or a Twitter handle, Thesis 12 is beyond dispute.

5. We have a great and generous online community in health care. The people I’ve come to know through this social media journey are delightful. Naming them all would completely blow my word count, so I’ll just highlight current and former members of our Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (#MCSMN) External Advisory Board, along with my team, a.k.a. the “Star Wars” team, and our #MCSMN Members and Platinum Fellows. It’s gratifying to have so many colleagues who want to learn together how we can best use social platforms for medical and health-related purposes.

IMG_1607As I publish this now, having finished it during my Amsterdam-Nairobi flight and arrived at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, I’m filled with renewed thankfulness for another safe landing, and for a decade of blessings from blogging.

Thanks for reading!

 

Aase Family Holiday Greetings 2015

As Lisa and I finished our Lord of the Rings marathon with our youngest son John this New Year’s morning, we looked back with gratitude for the Lord’s many blessings on our family in the past year.

We’re particularly thankful that in this last week we had all of our descendants together to celebrate Christmas, and so I waited to do this retrospective until I could include photos from our Monday-afternoon family photo shoot. (Thanks Photos by Joe!) Here’s the whole Gang of 17:

Snowy photo

Our oldest daughter, Rachel, will celebrate her 30th birthday in two weeks, validating Gretchen Rubin’s observation, “The days are long but the years are short.” Rachel and her husband, Kyle Borg, are currently experiencing the first part of Rubin’s formulation, as their fifth child, Sylvia, arrived Oct. 15. What a great bunch they have:

Borg children

Kyle continues to serve as pastor of Winchester Reformed Presbyterian Church in Winchester, Kansas. The kids (Evelyn, Judah, Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia) have an idyllic life in this town of 500 which is about an hour from Kansas City. Lots of room to run and play, and a close-knit church family. We wish they lived nearer to us, but we’re thankful for FaceTime enabling us stay connected.

Our son Jacob and his wife Alexi live in New Berlin, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee), where Jacob works as a Physical Therapist at Froedert Hospital. They now have two sons, with Isaac Lee Aase joining the family on March 15. Big brother Graham, who just turned two, is a fully certified Minnesota sports fan:

Graham TwinsGraham Vikings

Jake and Family

Our middle daughters, Rebekah and Ruth, still live in St. Paul where they work as float pool nurses at Bethesda Hospital. They both appreciate the variety of assignments, and that they earn the same at 0.6 FTE as they formerly made in 0.9 FTE nursing home jobs, but that they frequently can pick up extra shifts.

They live within a few miles of the airport (MSP), so I had a few opportunities this year to stay with them before flights, or even to get together during a layover. And because they have some schedule flexibility, I was able to take them on one of my trips this year, to Boston, where we took a little extra time to hike the Freedom Trail…

Freedom Trail

… and to take a drive to Kennebunkport, Maine:

Coast of Maine

Joe is still at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he’s a member of the basketball team. Last season the Mavericks made the NCAA Division II tournament, and they’re currently 9-2 and ranked 25th in the country. Joe is planning to go to law school after graduation, and is thankful that because of basketball he’ll start that part of his education debt-free.

John is a high school junior attending Riverland Community College full-time through the Post-Secondary Education Options (PSEO) program. His four eldest siblings graduated high school with their AA degrees thanks to PSEO, and John plans to follow suit. He also is working part-time at the new Hardee’s just down the street.

Joe is on the left, and John on the right, in this photo of the Aase men…

Lee and Boys

…and here is Lisa with our young ladies:

Lisa and Girls

We’re also blessed with a wonderful church family at Trinity Presbyterian in Rochester, where I’m an elder and Lisa teaches Sunday School.

Lisa and Joe (with some help from John) spent a good part of the summer giving Old Main a new paint job and completing other exterior upgrades. It was a LOT of work, and it shows up nicely in this version of our family photo:

Wide Porch Aase Clan

Lisa hit another milestone this year, with John starting school at the community college: after 23 years of homeschooling, she is officially retired! She appreciates the freedom this gives her; when Sylvia was born she was able to go to Kansas for 9 days to help Rachel with the adjustments.

This has been a memorable year for me professionally, too. Highlights in our Mayo Clinic social media program include:

Here are some other Facebook photos and memories from 2015.

We have many hopes and plans for 2016, and we know there will be some surprises, too. From our family to yours, we wish you a blessed New Year!

NIghtime photo

P.S. To go further back in our Aase family memories and see how we’ve changed in the last nine years, check out these year-end posts from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. 2013 was a pretty busy year in which I was occupied with this site, so I failed on the Christmas letter.

A PDA for My BFF and Holiday Greetings for You

Wedding pictureOn December 22, 1984 at 11 a.m. I stood at the front of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New Richland, Minnesota with a lump in my throat as the most beautiful vision I can imagine walked down the aisle on the arm of my soon-to-be Father-in-Law.

On that day, I married my best friend, and for three decades the Lord has blessed us with a wonderful life together. As we heard on our Wedding Day, He told our first parents, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. Since then, Lisa and I have done our part to fulfill that cultural mandate.

Here’s what we have to show for it, in the first generation:

Jacob, John, Joseph, Rebekah, Ruth and Rachel
(Clockwise from lower left) Jacob, John, Joseph, Rebekah, Ruth and Rachel

…and the second:

Graham, Evelyn, Mabel, Aletta and Judah
Graham, Evelyn, Mabel, Aletta and Judah

Our first 29 years together were wonderful, and this year the blessings have continued:

Rachel and her husband Kyle, a Presyterian pastor, are happily married and living with their four children (the ones on the right in the photo above) in Winchester, Kansas. They were in Grand Rapids, Michigan for several years while Kyle was in seminary, and it’s great that now it’s only a six-hour drive for us to get together.

Jacob completed school and passed his boards, and is now working as a Physical Therapist in Milwaukee. As a Gophers/Vikings/Timberworlves/Wild fan he is adjusting to his exile  among the Cheeseheads, but he and Alexi are doing well. Their son Graham (at left) had his first birthday on Halloween, and they’re expecting a second son in March.

Rebekah and Ruth will possibly resent being in the same paragraph (we’re individuals, you know, Dad!), but it’s hard to their stories separately. Both finished their BSN degrees at the end of September. They’re living in a house in St. Paul with one of their best friends from high school. And they’re working as nurses in the same nursing home, and are involved as member of City Life church.

Joe transferred from Davidson College at the end of his Freshman year and is now at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he is playing basketball. We’re delighted to have him so close to home. We celebrated our family Christmas last week, and he was able to drive back and forth for practice every day. He enjoyed his Davidson experience, and last year we got to attend about a dozen games. This year they’ll all be a lot closer, and we’ll get to most of them.

John is a sophomore in high school, in his last year at Aase Academy. Next year he will be going to Riverland Community College (as his four oldest siblings did), and Lisa will have completed her 23rd year of homeschooling. John is in the Austin High School Symphony Orchestra and Bible Bowl, and enjoys being in Youth Group at our church, Trinity Presbyterian in Rochester.

Lee and LisaLisa and I enjoyed some getaways and got a lot more familiar with North Carolina last winter (combining with some work-related travel) as we attended some of Joe’s games. We’re both involved at church, where I’m and Elder and Lisa teaches Sunday School and manages the book ministry. My work at Mayo Clinic in social media has remained interesting and challenging (in a good way), and led to my first trip to Alaska and also a chance to go to Dubai as part of my service on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Social Media. That was unforgettable.

As you can see, our appearance has changed a bit over the years. Our deep affection and commitment haven’t.

We look forward to another year of fruitful work, Lord willing, and wish you and yours the best of everything in 2015.

Nice Delta Pick-Up!

Lisa and I had three flights yesterday on our way to Charleston, and while the first one didn’t start well, Delta made major service recovery points at MSP.

Our Rochester to MSP flight was scheduled to leave at 6:40 a.m., but when we got on the plane we were informed that the ground crew had somehow damaged one of the armrests the night before and had not reported it. While a fix wasn’t needed, there was the dreaded “we have to fill out the paperwork” announcement.

So at about 7:30 we backed from the gate, but with only a 20-minute flight to MSP, were still in good shape for our 9 a.m. connection to Atlanta. That’s when we heard hat because of the fog, landings in Minneapolis were being modulated and spaced further apart, so we were going to need to wait 30 minutes to take off.

Now we were getting nervous, and that only increased as our wheels finally left the Rochester runway at 8:10. Upon landing in MSP at 8:33 and while we were taxiing, and knowing that we had to go from C12 to G15, I direct tweeted @DeltaAssist asking if they could get the boarding door held open for maybe just 5 extra minutes, since ordinarily the door would close at 8:50. I got a message back asking for my ticket confirmation number, but just as we were exiting the door to the jetway we were surprised to see a helpful, smiling Delta agent holding an iPad with my name on it.

She asked if I had a gate-checked bag, and I spotted it on the cart on the tarmac, so she opened the door and told us to follow. Here’s what happened next:

So we went from one jetway directly to the other, and were in our seats on the ATL flight by 8:48.

I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with @DeltaAssist; I think it’s more a case of others’ connections being completely blown and the gate agent in MSP knowing that we could still make ours.

For a couple of other examples of Delta service (one that did involve @DeltaAssist) go here and here.