A Year of Change and Blessings


2021 has been a year of massive change for Lisa and me, and as we look back we can see God’s hand of blessing even in the heartbreak.

By far the most difficult change was losing Lisa’s dad, Leonard Wacholz, in June. We all miss him and Lisa gets teary every day. But we’re thankful that he lived to be 90 and was able to stay at home on the farm until his last three months. Unlike so many who died alone during COVID, he had all of his children and their spouses as well as most of our children and grandchildren able to visit him in his last two weeks. And for those who couldn’t physically get there, we had FaceTime.

All of his descendants gathered in August for our nephew’s wedding, and we captured this photo that shows Leonard’s (and Lisa’s mom Arlene’s) legacy:

Here’s the Aase branch of the clan…

Behind us you see (L to R):

  • Rachel, husband Kyle Borg and their five kids, who live in Winchester, KS. Evelyn is our first teenage grandchild. Judah is badly outnumbered. Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia are enjoying dance lessons. Rachel homeschools all of them, and Kyle pastors the Presbyterian church.
  • Joe and his fiancée, Amy Wagner, who will be married July 30. We’re looking forward to that!
  • Ruthie and husband Trevin Hoot with daughter Noa and son Frank, who was born March 22. They’re Presbyterian missionaries in Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • Rebekah and husband Andrew Gatzemeyer with Griffin, Gus and Murphy. They live seven blocks from us in Austin.
  • John and Bella, married last year and now living in Roseville, MN.
  • Jacob and Alexi with Graham, Isaac, Clara and Julia. They live in Rochester and Jacob is a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic.

For Lisa and me, the changes in the last year have been breathtaking. So I’ll just take a breath now and reflect:

Leonard was diagnosed with heart failure in February and needed to leave the farm in late March. The following three months were pretty hard.

I completed my MBA in Healthcare Management on April 3. I decided to retire from Mayo Clinic May 3 and was originally intending to have it be effective December 31. A series of providential events made it possible for me to move it up to August 3.

That’s when I started an “Of Counsel” role with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, a communications firm based in Nashville. It’s very much part-time and lets me continue to use my skills and experience from 21 years at Mayo Clinic on behalf of Jarrard clients.

Given my newly flexible schedule, I also was able to arrange a significant increase in golf time, taking full advantage of my Meadow Greens membership.

Ruthie and family (including our newest grandson Frank) were back from Bulgaria in mid-August, which was another incentive for my August 3 retirement date. We enjoyed the company of Trevin’s parents and his sister Tiffany, too.

I’m also serving as the assistant coach (and JV coach) for the Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team. Rebekah had accepted the head coach position and asked me to serve as her assistant. We’re enjoying spending time together, and the girls are great. It’s something I couldn’t have done without my newfound schedule freedom.

But my main focus since August has been development of our new health venture and what will be my third career. Here’s that story.

We’re blessed to be in position to start this new venture offering support to people interested in reclaiming their health, and also to provide management services to help my dear friend and high school classmate, Dr. David Strobel, open a new primary care clinic in our hometown. We’re on track for that to open in February.

Just after we signed the lease on the space for HELPcare Clinic, Lisa and I joined Dave and his wife, Lorene, along with our employee #1, Coleen Olmsted, to celebrate and commemorate the occasion.

Coleen, Lorene and Dr. Dave with Lisa and me where the new HELPcare Clinic sign will go.

As I look back, I’m astounded at how quickly this has all developed. We’re also gratified by the enthusiastic reception so far as Austin-area residents have signed up to become Founding Members.

We have been abundantly blessed!

Lisa and I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas, and hope your 2022 is characterized by personal growth and happiness.

THIS is why I’m pursuing a third career

After 21 years working at Mayo Clinic, including starting Mayo’s social media programs and leading the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network with Dr. Farris Timimi for the last 11 years, I retired last Tuesday to pursue a third career.

My of counsel role with Jarrard, Inc. will give me a great opportunity to build on what I did at Mayo, and I’m very much looking forward to that work.

In my announcement I also mentioned that Lisa and I (with a physician friend) are launching a venture related to our health journey, and inviting those interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the program to send me an email so we can discuss.

I’ve received several inquiries and will be having follow-up conversations in the coming weeks, but one of the emails and our subsequent discussion captures the essence of why Lisa and I are compelled to pursue this work.

I’m sharing this anonymized exchange with permission.

M.L.: Hi Lee. I’ve been following your and Lisa’s health journey and your advice – like Lisa the menopause hormones thing hit me hard and going keto with intermittent fasting finally helps me – down 45 pounds with more to go, sticking with it at 56 … I have no interest in sharing photos or name yet… but in 6 months who knows? Would love to be in the loop on whatever you have planned.

L.A.: So great to hear from you! Your story is exactly why Lisa and I decided to share ours, because we think it’s really important for people to hear about low carb and IF. Yet we did it with a little trepidation because we didn’t want to go out there and talk about what we had been doing, only to relapse. As it turns out we’re both 10+ lbs. under where we were when we started telling the story 18 months ago, so we can confidently say this works long term.

So yes, we understand about not wanting to “go public.” We have another couple I profiled anonymously who are down 35 and 20 lbs. respectively, and they’re in the same boat, although he and his brother-in-law (down 34 lbs.) just did a Zoom interview with me (recorded) that we’ll be releasing soon. I’d love to talk with you about what we have planned. Maybe we could catch up by Zoom in the next week or so.

M.L. Knowing and trusting you as a person and as an information source were what made me try out your suggestions- and looking into it myself (with your suggested resources to start) convinced me to give it a serious shot – especially since all 4 of my brothers and my late parents struggled with both weight related type 2 diabetes and heart disease- and Dr. Fung’s information was very compelling!

I wish I’d known decades ago how much more important diet (including what and when you eat) is versus just working out more and eating less – so much wrong, guilt inducing, widespread info out there!

I’m very grateful you and Lisa decided to share (to be honest, her even more so than you, as the struggle to do everything right and losing so few pounds when your hormones have gone kablooie really resonated with me and gave me that little, well maybe it actually COULD work push. Would love to chat.

We ended up having that conversation Saturday morning, and learned that M.L had started following the #BodyBabySteps in March, so she’s lost 45 lbs. in just five months!

Her story validated both why we started sharing our health journey story on my blog and also why we’re wanting to devote as much of our time to this effort as we can as I move into Career #3.

I can’t think of many types of work that would be more fulfilling than helping people like M.L. get health results they didn’t think possible.

Most importantly, it was M.L. getting the results.

She checked out my Health Sherpas.

She explored what I was saying to see if it made scientific sense.

Then she made the changes in what and when she ate that led to these great results.

We’re excited that we get to cheer her on and provide more support from now on.

If you’d like to make similar changes and turn back the clock on your health, the #BodyBabySteps are a great place to start.

And if you’d like some additional help and support to encourage you along the way, that’s what our venture is about. We’d be delighted to discuss helping you more directly, too.

Through the Years at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic staff have an identification photo taken on the first day of employment and an updated one every five years thereafter.

As I was preparing to retire I asked Julie, my assistant, to retrieve my staff photos from the archive. Here was my evolution from 2000-2008:

I added the facial hair in 2003 when Lisa and I took our six kids (and a nephew) on a two-week vacation to Washington, D.C. With no need to shave, I let I grow.

Lisa liked my goatee and mustache and still won’t let me get rid of them. They had a distinct reddish/orange tint back then.

For some reason I have an extra 2008 portrait. Perhaps Mayo was putting in a new system at the time.

Here are the 2010, 2015 and 2020 editions:

That last photo at right was taken in March 2020, just before we all began working from home.

As I finished my work at Mayo this week, here’s my updated photo in my new home office. I guess I’m a graybeard both in career experience and in physical reality.

I’m thankful to have at least some of my hair remaining.

And looking forward to interesting work in my third career.

Starting My Third Career

I’m pleased to announce, now that I have retired from leading Mayo Clinic’s social media program, that the third career I’m starting today will build significantly upon that experience.

I am affiliating with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, a Top 10 communications firm nationally and one in which my good friend and colleague Reed Smith is Vice President, Digital Strategy. Here’s the news release and my profile on the Jarrard site.

As I discussed with Reed and Chris Boyer in the touch point podcast released this morning, the of counsel role with Jarrard will give me an opportunity for continued thought leadership as well as engagement in interesting projects on behalf of clients.

That role also will give me flexibility to pursue another project that is a personal passion for Lisa and me: helping people restore their metabolic health.

Those who’ve been following my blog and social media accounts will know that Lisa and I have been on a health journey for the last four years.

We’ve each lost more than 50 lbs. and have kept it off. More importantly, we feel healthier and have more energy than we did 20 years ago, and our medical lab test results attest to our restored health.

Since I have been blogging about My Health Journey, Lisa and I have had opportunities to do some informal health coaching with interested readers, and they’ve gotten significantly positive results, too. My #BodyBabySteps page has some of the highlights of our approach, which we are further refining in partnership with a family physician friend.

We want to be able to expand this to reach and help more people, and we’re developing a venture to do just that.

We want to help people turn back the clock on their health.

Maybe even feel healthier than they can remember.

We aren’t ready to announce the venture yet, but in addition to my Jarrard work we will be busy working out the program details in the coming months.

Let’s just say in addition to coaching we will have an online community component, so my social media experience will be important in this part of my third career as well.

If you’re interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the program, send me an email and we can discuss.

Be well.

Keeping the 5th

In my last post (in addition to announcing my pending retirement from Mayo Clinic as of August 3) I paid tribute to my recently deceased father-in-law, Leonard Wacholz.

Today I want to honor my father and my mother, who are still very much with us and have been my most important sources of support and encouragement for more than 58 years (although Lisa has taken the lead in that regard for the last 40.)

Instead of Taking the 5th (Amendment), today I want to Keep the 5th (Commandment).

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are good occasions that cause us to reflect on our parents and their roles in our lives, and hopefully to spur us to gratitude.

I want to honor Lewis and LaVonne Aase today not because of a Hallmark trigger, but more spontaneously.

Eulogies (literally “good words”) should be spoken about the living, not just those who have finished their races.

Some people would say I’m privileged. I think a better word is blessed. In either case the benefits are undeserved and unearned. I didn’t choose my parents. Saying I’m blessed not only honors my father and mother, but also Our Father who gave me to them and them to me.

Here are just a few of the ways they have been a blessing to me, to my brother Mark and to our extended (and extensive) family.

  • They have demonstrated their love not only in words, but in concrete actions. For example, when Lisa and I moved six times in our first six years of marriage, our parents were there to help us move. Every time. That’s love.
  • They have modeled grace to us. Mark and I have both done things we came to regret. While there was never any question in the moment as to whether Dad and Mom approved, the consequences we experienced were better than we deserved. And when we came to our senses they didn’t hold our previous errors against us. They taught us the Law and showed us the Gospel.
  • Mom particularly modeled practical repentance. When her perfectionist tendencies caused her to occasionally overreact to something the men in her life did, she was quick to apologize and ask our forgiveness. Her willingness to admit mistakes made it easier for us to do the same.
  • They have lived out the practical implications of their Christian faith in their vocations. Mom worked as a geriatric nurse, caring for vulnerable aging patients and residents, and Dad was an elementary school principal whose continuing question in running school programs was, “What’s best for the kids?”
  • Dad has been relentless in developing and pushing helpful innovations. Some have been in his work and in areas of his direct responsibility, such as finding ways for younger students who weren’t keeping up academically to participate in the decision to take another year in a grade so they wouldn’t fall further and further behind. He also co-founded a mathematics challenge program called Math Masters in Austin, Minn. in 1989 that has grown throughout the state and continued to this day. You should read about it.
  • They’re faithful members of their church, contributing their time, talents and treasure and actively caring for members of the church body.
  • They’ve been active in other community improvement efforts. Dad’s been a Guardian ad Litem and mentor, and served Meals on Wheels until he broke his hip a couple of years ago. Even now, at 90, he is writing letters to elected officials suggesting that a program to have police officers visit elementary schools would be a constructive solution to the current societal unrest.

I could go on, and in the series on My Career Journey and My Faith Journey their ongoing influences will be a recurring theme.

Dad and Mom have striven to follow Jesus Christ in their life’s calling, in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit, and bearing His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

They remain an inspiration to me and to many others, and a reminder that we are blessed to be a blessing.

I thank God for them.