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.

365 Days of Memories

Just as companies may choose to use a fiscal year that doesn’t coincide with the calendar year, I’ve decided that my annual Aase family year-in-review should go from December 30, 2006 to December 29, 2007. When I did my first on-line Christmas letter last year (around Thanksgiving), we were only looking forward to one of our family’s major milestones. It seems only fitting that this special day should be the starting point for any review of the last 365 days, and that I should be writing about it on the one-year anniversary of the event.

Walking Rachel down the aisle
A year ago today I walked my eldest daughter Rachel down the aisle for her marriage to Kyle Borg. If you’re in Facebook, you can go here to see the highlights. My brother, Mark, took a lot of candid photos and did a great job. We’ve thought about starting a little weekend business doing wedding photography and video, and that may get going in 2008. But for now, we’ve both been really busy with our regular jobs. So I videotaped four weddings in the last year (including Rachel’s and, as a bookend to the year, Mark’s daughter Allyson’s yesterday) to help friends and family and to get some experience. I set up a Facebook group to display some of our work, and then also a Facebook fan page when that became an option in November. Perhaps in 2008 we can make some time to update our Facebook presence by getting more video and photos added. I do think Facebook would be a good way to market a business like this.

In May, we had the unique event of having both my 20-year old son, Jake, and my brother Mark graduating from college on the same day. Here’s a post about that special day and Mark’s commencement speech; Rachel followed Jake in graduating from UW-La Crosse earlier this month. Jake worked at Camp Shamineau this summer, co-leading the high school counselor program. Now he’s working in La Crosse as Rachel and Kyle spend their last year there before Kyle graduates and they move to California for him to attend seminary. We’re glad Rachel and Jake are so close and that Jake and Kyle are good friends, too.

In early July we had a fun family trip to Kansas City for the National Bible Bowl Tournament, where our youngest daughter Ruthie did extremely well as an individual and led the team that included her siblings Joe and Rebekah to a 10th-place finish. Ruthie and Rebekah are both high school juniors this year, taking all or most of their classes at Riverland Community College through Minnesota’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options programs, which enables them to take college classes for high school credit. This is the plan that enabled their older siblings to graduate from college before age 21.
Bekah made honorable mention all-conference in volleyball as Austin’s middle hitter, and is starting on the Packer girls’ basketball team that’s off to a 6-2 start. As I discussed here, we’re using a Facebook group as a way for team members, parents and fans to share photos and video highlights, and to link to newspaper coverage. She’s almost 6’1″ and is barely (for now) taller than her 13-year old brother, Joe. That won’t be true next year.

We (mostly Lisa) continue to homeschool Joe and John (9). Lisa’s good homeschooling work has been validated by her early college graduates and how well Ruthie and Bekah have done on their ACT and PSAT standardized tests. While in my work I tend to get more immediate feedback on successful projects, Lisa’s is more of the long-term variety. I think she has good reason to take immense satisfaction in what has resulted from how she has given of herself for our children.
John has zero interest in sports, but is a sharp student and more of an artistic/creative guy. Joe plays in orchestra at the middle school and also is involved in football and basketball. It’s really special that he plays on both teams with his cousin Tom, Mark’s son, and that my parents get to attend all of their games (and Bekah’s.)

I often say we have a Norman Rockwell kind of life, with three sons and three daughters being raised in my hometown, near both sets of grandparents. Lisa and I are so grateful for all of these blessings, and for my job with Mayo Clinic that has made it possible for us to live in Austin.

Speaking of my work, 2007 started with separation of another set of conjoined twins from North Dakota. When they went home in February, it capped a one-year period in which three sets of conjoined twins were successfully separated at Mayo Clinic. Our team coordinated the media involvement for the families and medical teams.

New Media, also called social media, are becoming a more important part of my job. We launched a series of Mayo Clinic podcasts in July. This blog and my Facebook exploration have been keys to my social media learning process. It’s interesting to me that a year ago my familiarity with Facebook was indirect; four of my kids were in Facebook, but I wasn’t. Now Lisa and I both have Facebook profiles, and we’re “friends” with Rachel, Jake, Bekah, Ruthie and Joe. I’ve also enjoyed meeting people with common interests through this blog and through Facebook, and at several conferences throughout the year.

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I hope this personal digression won’t make you irregular. 😉 For you, I’ll be following up with a post about how blogs and social media can do a better job than the traditional Christmas card/letter at personal updates to extended family and friends…or how they can make an annual update unnecessary.

And if you’re a family member or friend who got this link from me as part of our annual Christmas letter, I hope you’ll join Facebook and “friend me” so we can stay connected throughout the year.