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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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…
… and to take a drive to Kennebunkport, 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…
…and here is Lisa with our young ladies:
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:
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.
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!
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.
On 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:
…and the second:
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.
Lisa 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.
Ever since I started this blog, I’ve used it as my Christmas Letter 2.0, instead of bothering with the cost and hassle of snail mail. Besides, with my celiac disease diagnosis, I can’t lick envelopes anymore, lest I get some gluten in the paste.
It’s great to take time in this season to reflect on God’s blessings from the previous year (and I’ve also enjoyed reviewing again the amazing changes in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.)
Lots of things are different this year. When I wrote last year’s letter we were in the midst of the snowiest December on record in southern Minnesota. Here was the view out our porch window on Christmas morning a week ago today:
Part of the reason for my delay in writing this year’s edition is that for the last week we’ve had a full house, as our son Jacob and his wife Alexi and our daughter Rachel and her family have been here for Christmas. It would have been odd to spend the time writing instead of taking in the fun. But now that we’re down to our usual complement of the four youngest kids who are still at home (and since we got some updated pictures during Christmas, which you can enlarge by clicking), it’s time to recap 2011.