Top 10 Reasons I’m Thankful, and to Whom

As I take a long Thanksgiving weekend with family, I thought it would be great to work on my annual Christmas letter and give it a Thanksgiving flavor, because I do have so much for which to be thankful. Then I got an even better idea: why not just put it on my blog, complete with video and photos, and send links to family and friends?

I’ve done several posts on how David Allen’s Getting Things Done has helped me get on top of the “stuff” in my life. GTD (and the ease of blogging) has made it possible for me to get this Thanksgiving/Christmas family newsletter done a few weeks early, instead of a month or more late…or instead of not getting it out at all. (One year, I did a DVD for our 20th anniversary…but the distribution was really limited. Now, I can easily add video with YouTube, as you will see below.)

Because of GTD, instead of procrastinating I asked “What’s the next action?” and wrote this post. Because of, there really isn’t much of a “step two” to this project; I can send emails with the permalink to people in my address book, but the duplicating, addressing, stamping and mailing part of this GTD project is, with only a few exceptions, eliminated. For some folks who I know don’t have easy internet access, I can print this page and mail it the old-fashioned way. They’ll miss the video…but at least they’ll get something, which will be a big improvement over most years.

My top ten blessings are in no particular order, but the biggest news (#1) for our family is my daughter, Rachel, meeting and becoming engaged to Kyle Borg, a young man from Fairmont, Minn.

Rachel and Kyle

They are to be married December 30. Yes, this December 30. We’re very thankful the Lord has brought these two together, even using Facebook as the means for them to meet. Funny what happens when you search for people with a common interest in theology! You can read more about their story here.

With the bittersweet feelings of having my first daughter getting married, it’s (#2) nice that she, her two sisters my 8-year old son still call me “Daddy.” There’s no age better than 8, when little boys still think Daddy knows everything. Johnny turned 8 yesterday, and his next-oldest brother, Joe, turns 12 today. Come to think of it, age 12 is pretty nice too. So are 15, 16, 19 and 20.

Our six children (#3) are doing well in their education. Jacob and Rachel are in college at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Rebekah is having fun and getting all A’s at Austin High School (and excelling at Food Science!) Ruth, after having attended AHS last year as a freshman (and getting all A’s), decided she wanted to come home for another year of homeschooling. Next year she will follow in Rachel and Jake’s footsteps and attend Riverland Community College through Minnesota’s Post-Secondary Employment Options program, which will let her earn her two-year Associate of Arts degree at the same time she graduates from Aase Academy. We’re thankful she has the option to do that. Joe and John also are still homeschooled, and Lisa is enjoying being able to focus on them.

Rebekah getting to play varsity volleyball (#4) and basketball (#5) as a sophomore adds to our fun. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s my favorite volleyball player and we enjoy watching her play. What’s even better is what we found out at the awards banquet: she’s her teammates’ favorite, too.


My job with Mayo Clinic (#6) is next. Given my former career in politics, during which my employment depended on election results, having a job is always something for which I am thankful in November. But I can’t imagine a better and more fulfilling job in media relations than working to help draw attention to Mayo Clinic’s important research and programs, and helping to tell some amazing and heart-warming stories of patients and their families, and the staff members who care for them. The next item is a prime example.

In February I had the pleasure of meeting Jesse and Amy Carlsen and their twin daughters, Abby and Belle. As it seems the whole world knows now, Abby and Belle were no ordinary set of twins, and their parents are special too. It was really rewarding to be part of telling the story of the twins’ separation on May 12 and their successful recovery (#7).

The girls have their first birthday party tomorrow (see the pictures below.) Their story got world-wide attention, with extensive or repeated features by the Star Tribune, NBC’s Dateline and Today, along with scores of stories by all of the TV stations in the Twin Cities. WCCO TV had an update story on the Carlsen family earlier this week, and has posted a still photo slideshow, too.

Carlsen Family Carlsen Twins

As much as I appreciate my job, one of the best parts is it lets me live in my home town (#8), with my brother and his family here and my parents still alive and well, with my in-laws also close (40 miles away) and able to visit. We had our big celebration here yesterday. At the end of the video below, you’ll see my sister-in-law, Sarah, playing hide-and-seek behind a pillar. She must have been thinking that if she couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see her.


Besides card-playing and gorging on a cornucopia of cholesterol-laden dishes, I also was challenged to a game of ping pong by Rebekah. The end of the video below from her follow-up game with Joe gives more insight into why she’s so fun to tease. Be sure to watch the slow-motion at the end.


Lisa (#9, but again we’re not going in order of importance!), is my bride of 21 years, 11 months and two days. In some ways, as Steve Martin would say, it seems like it has just been two years, five months and 17 days…but in others, it seems I’ve known her forever. We met 25 years ago last month, when we were freshmen at Waldorf College. She is God’s greatest gift to me, aside from His Son, and a daily reminder of His grace (#10).

Which brings me to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving. Thankfulness is a personal thing. By that I mean you thank someone or, better yet, Someone. Thanking “lucky stars” or good fortune is meaningless. You thank people who have done good to you, and you can offend them by being ungrateful, ignoring or denying the gift. It doesn’t make sense to say “thanks” if you think blind chance or impersonal luck has led to your favorable outcome.

Thanksgiving originated with Pilgrims sharing a meal with their native hosts and giving thanks to God for bringing them through safely. Lisa and I join them in thanking Him for all of these blessings recounted above, but most importantly for sending His Son to be the light of the world, and that He has shone in our lives. We pray that we and our children will reflect that Light, and that in this Christmas season many will see and delight in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. And may we be truly thankful.

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My Favorite Volleyball Player

Last night I got to attend the Austin High School volleyball banquet, where my daughter Rebekah received the Packer Award, voted by her teammates, for being an all-around positive contributor to the team. She’s only a sophomore. Here’s a photo of her in action earlier this year.

Rebekah Aase

Please forgive the personal digression from the usual content of this blog. I’m a proud Daddy.

Another Personal YouTube Demo

My daughter, Rebekah Aase, is a sophomore Middle Hitter for the Austin High School (Minn.) volleyball team. She and her teammates have worked hard all year but always seem to lose close games. They’ve had a few matches in which they won a game or two, but until last night hadn’t won a full best-of-five match.

Last night they broke through and won their first match of the season. Unfortunately I was traveling (as you will see in my next post about the Star Tribune Career Day at the Science Museum of Minnesota.) In honor of that victory, I did a quick edit of the first game last week against archrival Albert Lea. This was Rebekah’s best game (three blocks, including two ace blocks, in back-to-back points), and was the game the Packers won.


I shot this with my mini DV camera, edited in iMovie, exported in the standard CD-ROM Quicktime format, and then uploaded to YouTube. Start to finish, it was a 20-minute deal.

Rebekah is the tall blonde, number 14.

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How to Avoid Huge Hotel Long-Distance Charges

When Lisa and I arrived last night (after about an hour trying to find the resort in the dark, when it was not well signed, and because of the road construction detour), we realized that even though we had two different cell phone carriers (Sprint and T-Mobile), neither of them had any reception because the resort is so remote.

We had to get in touch with our kids to at least get them our hotel room number, and after making three calls we realized the hotel charge was $2.55 per call + toll + 40 percent mark-up.

Until then, I had heard of Skype, but hadn’t had a reason to use it. For those who don’t know, Skype is like Vonage, except it’s free. It lets you call other Skype users for free, using your computer’s built-in microphone and a broadband internet connection. Calling a U.S. cell phone or land line costs 2.1 cents per minute, and until the end of 2006, even that is free.

With mobile phones having free mobile-to-mobile minutes, pay phones are essentially a thing of the past. I bet most people don’t use hotel phones, either. But if you have a broadband connection in a remote place, Skype works great. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even reduce my monthly cell phone minutes if we can talk on the computer for free.

I know I’ve saved at least $15 with Skype since this morning.

Turning Back the Clock

There’s something about being 39 that causes people to take stock and try to reclaim the physical abilities they had in their youth. I was no different. When I was six months from my fortieth, I decided to start running and training to take off the 20 or so pounds that had crept on over the years. My goal was to dunk a basketball again…something I hadn’t done since I was 19 or 20.

Starting slowly (and a month before the New Year’s crunch, when the gym gets a lot more crowded), I gradually increased my training on the elliptical machine (low impact was good) and started a weight training program too. By March I was touching the rim again, and I continued to make progress, but couldn’t make the dunk.

Finally, the big day arrived: May 15, 2003. I had taken the day off from work, and went to the local Y to play in a pick-up game. Having played reasonably well, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” To my utter amazement, being really warmed up and having stretched, I slammed it down.

I quickly called my wife, Lisa, and asked her to get down to the Y with our videocamera, to document this for posterity. I’m no Michael Jordan (although we are the same age), but here’s the proof that I made it.

By the way, immediately after reaching this pinnacle I joined the gang you see in the background in another pick-up game…and within 15 minutes had broken my left index finger (my first fracture!) That took me out of training for several weeks, and it’s been downhill since.

This summer has been a good training time too, although now because of life events it’s been a week since I’ve gone running. Making time for training needs to be a priority.