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.

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.

Ending the Decade with a Bang

Note: This is the Aase family’s 2009 Christmas letter, but with a special twist relating to a major milestone we’re observing today.

Lisa and I have so much for which we are thankful, as God has blessed us so amazingly. The events of 2009, some of which I will recount below, have been mind-blowing. But this also is a significant year for us as a couple, and today is a particularly momentous day, as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. In frequent flyer parlance (you’ll understand the reason for me using the analogy in a bit), I guess that’s the marital equivalent of “Silver Elite” status.

On December 22, 1984 we stood together in front of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New Richland, MN, after our wedding:

Newlyweds

A quarter of a century later, she’s every bit as beautiful as she was on that bright and snowy day.

LeeLisa25yrs

We’ve been blessed not only with each other, but with six delightful children, a son-in-law and a granddaughter. And earlier this year, when we were visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan for Evelyn’s first birthday, we learned that she had a sibling on the way. Here’s how Rachel and Kyle decided to spring the news to us, using Aunt Rebekah as the foil:

We found out this month that “Thermie” is a boy, and his name will be Judah Scott. Here’s one of his first baby pictures:

Judah Scott Borg
Judah Scott Borg

In other late-breaking news, we got a call from our oldest son, Jacob, on Saturday night. He announced that he had popped the proverbial question to Alexi Iler and they are now engaged. No date has been set, but we’re looking forward to welcoming her to the family sometime next year.

Jacob and Alexi
Jacob and Alexi

Rebekah and Ruth graduated from high school and Riverland Community College this year, and moved on to continue studies at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where Rachel and Jacob had both graduated. They live in a house just off campus. The girls are planning to go into nursing, and Jacob is going back to school to become a physical therapist, and so Bekah and Jake were in the same Chemistry class this fall. That was kind of neat. And I guess Jake has been spending a fair amount of time visiting his sisters, although the fact that Alexi is one of their housemates may be a contributing factor.

We had a great trip to Indianapolis in July for the National Bible Bowl competition, as the team led by Ruth but also including Rebekah and Joe took fifth place. You can read about that trip here, here and here.

Joe went to high school this fall, so John is the only one Lisa is still home schooling. Joe is adjusting well academically, and as a 6’5” freshman is playing with the sophomore basketball team. While Bekah and Ruthie made the transition from home school to high school seem stressful, Joe requires much less maintenance. He’s a pretty easygoing guy. It probably comes in part from being the fifth of six kids.

John is our youngest (11), and earlier this month he and I developed another thing in common: he was diagnosed with celiac disease. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in March, after about 20 years of intermittent IBS-like symptoms. What got us looking in my case was iron deficiency anemia discovered when I tried to give blood. We were thankful the anemia wasn’t due to colon cancer or something else that involves internal bleeding, but it’s been an adjustment to not be able to have wheat, rye or barley products. If you want to know more about this disease, check out this celiac disease post on our Mayo Clinic News Blog that gives background and also some recent Mayo research.

Anyway, we would never have suspected celiac disease in John if I hadn’t been diagnosed, but since it’s hereditary and since he was having some intestinal symptoms, we got him tested. Joe is in the clear, but over the next few weeks we’re going to get the others screened, too.

This year has been an amazing one for me from a career perspective. It started with the launch of our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog in January and a couple of external presentations about social media during the first quarter of the year. Then in April the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran this Sunday piece about our social media work at Mayo, and I also was interviewed for this Good Morning America story about Twitter in healthcare, and things really took off.

It was earlier that month that I had discovered the now-famous video of a delightful older couple playing the piano at Mayo and embedded it within Sharing Mayo Clinic. That kicked off an interesting journey that included me getting a chance to visit and interview them in their home in Ankeny, Iowa, and also to be with them when they played their duet live in the Times Square studio on ABC’s Good Morning America program in New York. It was great to get to meet Sharon Turner, the patient who shot the video, and her daughter, Jodi Hume, who had uploaded it to YouTube, as well as the Cowans’ daughter, DeDe Shour. As I write this, the video has been seen more than 5.3 million times on YouTube.

I traveled a lot this year to spread the word about what we’re doing in social media at Mayo Clinic, and to encourage people in health care and other industries to join the fun. I got to visit Carlsbad, Orlando, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Omaha, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, New York, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Idaho Falls, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Miami, Boca Raton, London, Amsterdam and Nijmegen (the Netherlands), among others. Between travel and webinars, I did 70 presentations on social media for external audiences in 2009. One of the best parts of this was getting to meet so many people in person (or as we say in social media, IRL – “in real life”) after having first made connections on Twitter, Facebook or SMUG.

Speaking of SMUG, we’ve had an interesting year here, too. It’s hard to say what our “enrollment” is since we don’t charge tuition, but we’re on the verge of 800 “SMUGgles” who have joined the SMUG group on Facebook. The posting of my 35 Social Media Theses on the 492nd anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg was a highlight, and I hope that in 2010 we will continue to see a social media Reformation in healthcare. I have some ideas in mind for how to help drive that. Stay tuned.

As I write this, we’re enjoying having Rachel and Evelyn at “Old Main” for the week (they flew in yesterday, thanks to frequent flyer miles accumulated a couple of paragraph back), and we expect Kyle will arrive by car tomorrow. We have much to celebrate, and Lisa and I look forward to having the whole family together as we remember Jesus’ birth and also think back not only on the blessings of this year, but also a quarter century of marriage.

We expect 2010 to be quite eventful, with Judah’s arrival and Jacob’s marriage as high points. I’m also approaching my 10-year anniversary of starting work at Mayo Clinic. We hope to avoid any more serious disease diagnoses, but we’re certainly not taking our health and other blessings for granted.

This afternoon’s events provided a vivid reminder of that, as we had a near-inferno caused by Joe plopping his backpack on our kitchen table, near some candles. Here are the charred remains of the paper Joe needs to turn in at school tomorrow:

Charred papers

The backpack itself was a total loss, and as you’ll see in this video, the table isn’t doing that well either. We’re thankful it wasn’t worse, that Ruth was there to notice the problem and that Rachel was able to douse the flames (after Ruth had fanned them.)

We’re glad Old Main is still standing, and all decked out for a Christmas celebration.

OldMain

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2010!

Thanksgiving Reflections 2008

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.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Reflections 2008”

Blogging Vacation

No, I’m not taking a vacation from blogging…I’ll be blogging about vacation…to the extent I can. We’re in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis for Bible Bowl 2008, where my daughter Ruth and son Joe are competing in this national competition. I blogged about the Bible Bowl experience last year; it was pretty amazing. I’ll have some highlights and dispatches from the competition over the next couple of days.

Another amazing feature about our Atlanta trip is this hotel. Here’s a taste of the elevator trip to the 41st floor, where we’re staying.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV_DCHngUJg]

Some of my family members get a little nervous about the heights, but the view from our window (at the top of this post) is pretty sweet.

The sweetest part is having all of our remaining kids together (the ones who aren’t married and/or college graduates) together for this week, and to have my parents along for the trip. We wish Jacob and Rachel (and Kyle and Evelyn) were along too, but we’re thankful for this nice getaway week.

The only downside for frequent blogging is that the daily charge for Internet access is $12.95, which is a bit pricey for family vacation. But in the food court across the street at Peachtree Center there is free wireless, so I’m just coming over here a couple of times a day to sync my computer and post updates. Probably good on vacation to not be doing too much computer activity, but this does make it nice to capture some of the moments, so that when we do our Christmas letter (as we did last year and the year before), we have some photos and videos to which we can link to tell the story of the year.

So some of the coming posts will be of a more personal nature, but for SMUG students they are:

A) A way to get to know the Chancellor and his family a little better, and

B) An illustration of how you can use your blog for multimedia family updates instead of sending photocopied Christmas letters. Not only will this method save you money (at First Class postage rates of 41 cents or whatever it is now…it’s probably been a year since I’ve purchased stamps), but the product is much richer and more interactive.