Category Archives: Sunday Summary

Palm Springs & and Unintended Sabbatical

…but abide the change of time,
Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish
That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)

Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.

In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.”  We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.

Solving the world's problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).
Solving the world’s problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).

Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).

Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.

Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.

We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.

The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.
The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.

Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.

We fought the crowds at "One Dollar Wednesday" at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! ;-)
Kevin and I fought the crowds at “One Dollar Wednesday” at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! 😉

Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.

We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”

Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.

 

The Latest 10-15-2016

Life continues to feel like a whirlwind, whipping Wendy and me from one thing to the next. This past couple of weeks and weekends was no exception.  I spent the entire  work week, last week, on the road to Texas, working with a client there in Laredo and San Antonio. Wendy stayed busy with rehearsals for The Christmas Post here at home.

 

I arrived home on Friday evening in time for the Cubs first playoff game against San Francisco. Wendy had beer, hot dogs, and nachos ready and the living room here at Vander Well Manor was transformed into our own little ball park for the game. Glad to say our Cubbies won in dramatic fashion. Classic pitcher’s duel into the bottom of the 8th when Javy Baez hit a solo-shot to left for the game’s only run. I spent the late innings texting updates, like a modern form of the telegraph, to our friend Kevin who was monitoring the game in Palm Springs. So much fun to get to text the good news.

Saturday was Union Street Players annual Award’s Night. This year our friend Spence Ver Meer was inducted to the USP Walk of Fame. Spence starred with Wendy in the 2005 production of Barefoot in the Park and it was an honor to be part of the festivities. While Wendy spent Saturday morning at rehearsal, I spent the time preparing slides, video, and music for the festivities. It was a full day of preparation as Wendy had made cheesecake’s for our dessert. The event went really well. The local improv group who performed (made up mostly of USP members) even got Wendy to volunteer to help out on the final game. That’s not an easy feat but it was hilarious to watch (see featured image).

Wendy continues to do a masterful job directing The Christmas Post for Union Street Players. Performances are scheduled Dec 2-4, 6, 8, 9 here in Pella. You don’t want to miss this! I’ll be on stage reprising my role as Mr. Herzog.

I preached again last Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third. We kicked off a series on the love chapter. Wendy and I got a little rest watching the Vikings beat the Texans in the afternoon before our preparations for the coming week kicked into high gear. The whirlwind continues.

Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!
Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!

Madison is safe and sound in South Carolina. Hurricane Matthew gave Madison her first taste of a tropical storm, but Columbia was mostly hit with heavy rain and 25-30 mph winds. She hunkered down in her apartment and killed flying cockroaches. I sent Madison some Cubbie swag so she can “keep the faith” down south for a Cub’s World Series.

Taylor has received some encouraging signs regarding potential employment across the pond. And, some interest in employment here in Fun City. Where will she end up? More on that as things prayerfully progress.

 

The Latest 10-3-2016

I know that I’m not going to generate much sympathy, but Wendy and I really struggled this week to get back on schedule after our time on Kauai. Like most people, our autumn schedule is packed full and jet lag did not help us manage the stress well this week.

We are deep into rehearsals for Union Street Players production of The Christmas Post. Wendy is directing the show. I’m both producing and performing. It’s a heart-warming Christmas musical based on two Norman Rockwell paintings. Wendy’s directed the show twice before. The last time was 10 years ago. So, our free time has been sucked up by 4 rehearsals a week and production responsibilities on top of that. Performances are Dec 2-4 and 8-10.

Work has also picked up for us of late. We’re grateful for a couple of new clients and new projects! Of course, that means some increased business travel for me. Off to Texas this week. Trips to California and northwest Iowa are on the horizon in coming weeks, and there’s potential for even more. That, of course, conflicts with rehearsal schedules for the show. You get it. It’s busy.

2016-10-01-megan-kappa-sigma-isu

I did get to enjoy attending parents’ weekend at Iowa State University’s Sigma Kappa sorority with Megan this past Saturday. Megan played my daughter in USP’s production of K.O.L.D. Radio back in 2010. I’ve been blessed to get to continue playing an honorary “dad” role for Megan after her father, Mike, passed away during production of the show. So, I drove up to Ames for a late breakfast at the sorority house and hung out with Megan and her mom, Cyndi. We all walked to the ISU vs. Baylor football game. It’s always a joy to be with Megan.

boeing-boeing-date-night

Wendy and I had a date night on Saturday evening and attended Theatre Central’s production of Boeing, Boeing. One of the actresses is a USP Alum and it was fun to see her in the show. The cast and crew did a fabulous job. Wendy and I laughed a lot.

I’m continuing to preach on a regular basis in the auditorium services at Third Church. I was wrapping up one series on Sunday and will kick-off the next series next Sunday. That’s been a lot of fun for me, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity.

Taylor is back from Scotland. She continues to live and serve at the Des Moines Catholic Worker. We had a chance to spend an hour or two with her earlier this week and hear about her adventures working the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was a great experience for her. She’s continuing to pursue jobs in the art world and has had a few interviews.

Madison is continuing to grow life, community, and career in South Carolina. She works in sales and training for a cosmetics company. She’s on the road regularly across South Carolina and is enjoying her work, even as she learns the ups and downs of it.

I’ve had several friends ask about Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, who lived with us over the past few years. Suzanna is living with her folks in Ankeny and working as Assistant Manager of the Family Bookstore there. We’re looking forward to seeing her this coming weekend!

 

 

The Latest 09-14-2016

Summer 2016 wound down with a beautiful 12 days at the lake with family and friends.  A full autumn schedule has begun. Here’s the latest….

Wendy and I spent relatively little time at the lake this summer in comparison to previous years. We were, therefore, ready for some sun and fun in August. We headed to the lake on August 25th. That weekend was the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, an annual speedboat race that is centered out Captain Ron’s, the resort in our cove. The timed runs take place on the main channel outside our cove. It’s a big deal at the lake and makes for a crazy weekend with a lot of activity around our place. Wendy and I usually avoid that particular weekend, but we’d planned all summer to try to get Madison there around that time.

As things turned out, we weren’t sure Maddy Kate was actually going to make it. She had a few issues with her car at the last-minute. She ended up driving but splitting up the trip, stopping in Nashville to stay with a Pella native who was happy to help her out. Madison arrived on Monday. The weather that week was a little rainy, but we still found time to get out on the boat, go out to eat, and enjoyed some family movie time in the evenings. With school back in session the lake is very quiet, which affords us the opportunity to spend more time on the water.

Our little 18′ runabout, Apollonia, doesn’t do well when things are choppy on the lake, but it was quiet enough that we were able to  take Madison to Ha Ha Tonka State Park by water. Wendy hiked with us to the natural spring there, but opted to stay with the boat while Madison and I hike up to the top of the ridge to visit the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka Castle. It was a gorgeous day, and on the return trip we stopped at The Nautifish for an afternoon cocktail from Buff, our favorite bartender at the lake.

It was so fun to spend four days with Madison. She’s doing well with her budding career at new community in South Carolina. We’re proud of her adventurous and independent spirit. On Thursday night we all went to Captain Ron’s for dinner and she took off for home early on Friday morning.

A few hours later, on Friday afternoon, our friends the JPs and the VLs arrived for Labor Day weekend. Both families had been there earlier in the summer, but this was a weekend for the adults. The JPs brought their boat and we enjoyed a weekend full of the nicest weather Wendy and I experienced at the lake all summer, beginning with a late evening cruise on Friday evening after dinner.

On Saturday we took the boat all the way to Shady/Lazy Gators which was a long (over an hour) ride in very choppy water created by heavy lake traffic. Wendy and rode in the front on the way there which was a bit like riding a mechanical bull that occasionally sprays you with water.

We had lunch and hung out at the pool for a while before heading back. We made a brief stop at the Red Head before determining it was too busy, and then proceeded back to the Playhouse. The JPs have a water mat that we threw out off the dock and enjoyed floating and enjoying each other’s company. We grilled out and had an amazing steak dinner that night.

On Sunday we went back to the Red Head by boat, but made it there early enough to beat the crowd. We enjoyed hanging out in the pool, having lunch right there in the water. Sun, fun and conversation before heading back to the Playhouse for more fun and frolicking off the dock. We returned to find a number of large yachts tied together at the back of the cove, with everyone floating off the back enjoying the sun and water. We enjoyed a meal of appetizers and wine and settled in to watch Hail, Caesar! (though not everyone stayed awake). On Monday morning we went to Chances R for a local greasy spoon breakfast before packing up and heading back to Iowa.

Wendy and I started rehearsals for The Christmas Post immediately upon our return and I had to make a business trip to MN/WI. I also had my first meeting back at the helm of Union Street Players.

Taylor finished up her time in Scotland working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She had a ball and I so loved seeing the joy on her face in all of the Snapchat, Facebook and texted photos. Unfortunately, Wendy and I didn’t get to actually see Taylor before we headed out to Kauai on vacation. But, more about that later.

The Latest 08-21-2016

Ugh. It’s been several weeks since I’ve written to catch everyone up on the latest. Summer is winding down already and life has been so amazingly full.

We spent the end of July and first week of August at the lake. It was great to have our friends Matthew and Sarah spend the weekend with us. The weather this summer has been sketchy every time we’ve been at the lake and this visit was no different. Nevertheless, we found time for some fun in the sun. Always a great time to relax.

Wendy and Kim (Treasurer and Secretary) keeping everything straight for the annual election of officers.
Wendy and Kim (Treasurer and Secretary) keeping everything straight for the annual election of officers.

A year ago Wendy and I stepped down from a decade of leadership in our local community theatre. Earlier in the summer Wendy was asked to step back into the position of Treasurer and was asked to continue into this next year. I was asked if I would consider running as President for another year. After some long discussions Wendy and I agreed that it was the right thing to do. So, here we go again. I’ve been joking that it feels like my Godfather III moment:

Speaking of community theatre, Wendy held auditions this past week for the holiday musical, The Christmas Post. This is the third time she’s taken helm of this show. It was ten years ago the last time she directed it. Auditions are going great. Call backs tomorrow night. The show will be the first two weekends in December.

Nephews Sam, Sol and our new niece Christina!
Nephews Sam, Sol and our new niece Christina!
Wendy and me with niece Lydia
Wendy and me with niece Lydia

We’ve added two new family members in recent weeks. Our nephew Solomon married Christina in a small private ceremony in Des Moines. Wendy and I got to meet the sweet Christina at family dinner in Des Moines. The couple are in the Navy and are shipping out to international waters in the near future. Wendy’s brother, Josh, married Ellie in Korea. Dad Hall was the only family member who got to make the trip for the ceremony. We can’t wait to meet our new sister-in-law.

VWs and McQs enjoying a summer evening of baseball at Principal Park!
VWs and McQs enjoying a summer evening of baseball at Principal Park!
Yasiel Puig makes a minor league start in Des Moines.
Yasiel Puig makes a minor league start in Des Moines.

We’ve been enjoying a lot of our usual joys of life. Lots of socializing with friends and baseball (Go Cubs!). A few weeks ago we got to watch MLB superstar Yasiel Puig playing for the Oklahoma Dodgers against our Iowa Cubs. Puig launched a no-doubter in his first at-bat. Our I-Cubbies stunk up Principal Park, but it was a wonderful summer evening with friends Kevin and Linda. We also enjoyed a wonderful evening at Kevin and Linda’s house this past Friday celebrating their birthdays and Kevin’s retirement with the most exciting, eclectic social gathering I think Pella has ever seen.

Our girl Madison learns how to crab!
Our girl Madison learns how to crab!

Taylor is still in Edinburgh, Scotland working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She’s having a great experience and we’ve loved getting to FaceTime with her a wee bit. A September homecoming is scheduled for our lass. Maddy Kate continues to help make the fairer sex beautiful in her work for Laura Geller. She’s getting more familiar with South Carolina and even did a little crabbing with a friend. You go, girl! Madison plans to join Wendy and me at the lake in a week or so. Can’t wait to spend some time with our girl.

The highlight of recent weeks has been my mother’s 79th birthday. As her Alzheimer’s continues to progress, we relish out rare opportunities to gather as family. Dad put out the call for family to gather, and we had all my siblings and a good representation of grandchildren yesterday afternoon. It was a simple agenda. We just met at their home and spent the afternoon chatting, eating Wendy’s cheesecake, and playing cards. We headed to Cracker Barrel for dinner. After dinner Scott invited us to the shooting range he manages to have some fun exercising our 2nd amendment rights.

When I was just a little kid my dad would take all four of us kids to the shooting range at the downtown Des Moines YMCA. We learned safety and marksmanship. It was a lot of fun to all be on the range together for the first time in over 40 years. We fired a number of different firearms, including Wendy who more than held her own on the range. At the end of the evening the guys all had a little one-shot competition with a .50 caliber Desert Eagle. Scott won, but me and the other bros were only a couple inches off center, which wasn’t bad considering it was our one and only time firing the massive handgun.

The Latest 07-17-2016

Summer 2016 is almost half over. Time flies. Late June and early July have been on-the-go for Wendy and me. We headed to the lake at the end of June and spent a rainy 4th of July weekend together. It literally rained non-stop, with maybe one or two brief breaks, for over two days. It was actually kind of depressing. We stayed inside and began binge watching House of Cards.

bear bottom with rooses

On July 4th we were joined at the lake by Kev, Beck, and the kiddos. The weather finally started to break and we were able to enjoy the better part of two days together. We ate at Captain Ron’s the evening of the 4th, and then went to Bear Bottom the following day for some fun in the sun. Wendy and headed for home that afternoon while our friends stayed to enjoy the rest of the week at the lake.

Congrats to our Taylor! She headed to Scotland right after the holiday weekend. She walked the stage at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh to receive her Master’s Degree. We’re sorry not to have been there with her, but so proud of her. She’s staying in Scotland and will work at the Fringe Festival there in July and August.

Wendy and I have been spending a good part of our summer doing some finish work on decorating our house. After moving in last year there were a number of things that we just decided to put off for the sake of time, energy and finances. We got some new furniture both upstairs and downstairs which meant moving and rearranging in several rooms. I installed some dimmer switches in V-Dub pub to give us more control of the “ambiance.”

Happy Birthday, Grandma!
Happy Birthday, Grandma!

It was fun to host our niece, Lydia, and two of her friends last weekend. Lydia was playing a wedding on Saturday and her friends were along to make it a girls weekend. It was nice to get to play host to the lovely ladies. I preached last Sunday at Celebrate Church in Knoxville, and we celebrated Grandma VH’s 89th birthday that afternoon with a small family gathering at her apartment.

I was on the road this week in Texas along with one of our team members, Nick. It’s a trip we make quarterly. It was very hot in Texas and on Wednesday night we decided to go out and have some fun. We went to a Laredo Lemurs game. The Lemurs play in an independent league not affiliated with MLB. It’s mostly ex-college players and minor league castaways who want to keep playing and hoping for a shot. Nick and I actually had a great night and enjoyed both the baseball and the Lemur.

I finished up earlier than expected on Friday. My flight wasn’t until late afternoon. So, I spent a couple of hours having an artist’s date at the McNay art museum in San Antonio. It’s still one of my happiest places on earth.

Madison Matt at Wedding

Madison’s summer has been a combination of building both community and career in South Carolina while maintaining a relationship with her boyfriend Matt back in Colorado. They’ve traveled back and forth to see one another. She’s back in Colorado this weekend attending a wedding with Matt. The two were here with us at Tulip Time, and we’ll get to see them again at the end of August when they meet us at the lake for a few days.

christmas-post-header

As we head toward the dog days of August, Wendy is busy prepping for her role as Director of the community theater holiday production, The Christmas Post. This is the third time she’s directed the show. It’s been ten years since the last one. I’ll be auditioning for the show as well as playing the role as her Producer. Auditions are in a few weeks and all of the leg work has begun.

 

2016 06 26 The Latest

Summer has begun! And, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. After my last installment of “The Latest” back in early June, we afforded the opportunity to spend time with Wendy’s family while they were in town for Lucas and Brooke’s wedding.

Wendy, Taylor and I met Court, Becky, Lydia and Suzanna at Principal Park for an I-Cubs game. It was young Lydia’s first baseball game and we had a ball sitting in the sun, eating ball park food, and watching our boys of summer playing ball.

Kev and Beck smooching at Bear Bottom

Tom Kev BulldogsWendy and I headed down to the lake the next day for our first real extended time of relaxation this summer. Wendy and I worked remotely during the day, but took the opportunity of getting out on the boat and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Kevin and Becky joined us for what has become our annual kick-off to summer weekend (10th year in a row!). They arrived on Thursday evening and we enjoyed a long moonlight cruise in the boat. On Friday we slathered up and headed to Bear Bottom for sun in the pool and a late lunch on the deck. Beck wasn’t feeling great in the evening so she called it a night while the three of us watched Green Lantern. Saturday was another beautiful day and we headed back out in the sun to Bulldog’s. As always, we enjoyed great conversation and mourned having to depart.

This past fall Wendy and I stepped down from the Board of Directors of our local community theatre, Union Street Players. As the past President I’m responsible to stay on as an ex-officio member of the Board for one year to help with the transition which I have done. Now Wendy has had her turn to extend her service. As past Treasurer, she had been asked to audit the books for the group, which resulted Wendy’s appointment back to her old position. So, much of the past two weeks has found every minute of Wendy’s free time getting a handle on things. I told her that I thought she missed her calling. She should have been a forensic accountant.

Kennedy Dance Recital

We headed to Des Moines a week ago Friday for a quarterly company staff lunch. Wendy and I took the opportunity of being in Des Moines to run a few errands. We connected with Kev and Beck in the late afternoon and, for the third year in a row, enjoyed an evening watching Kennedy’s dance recital.

Disc Golf!
Disc Golf!
The following morning I enjoyed a bit of a treat. I discovered on Memorial Day that our friend Rob K was a disc golf player. I also found out that Central College actually has an 18-hole disc golf course on campus (who knew?). Rob and Vandy are moving to the Carolinas but Rob wanted to show me the course before they left. I spent a lot of time in high school and college playing disc golf. When I was a youth pastor I taught it to a whole crew of youth because it afforded time to hang out talk, and it was FREE! But, I hadn’t actually played an actual course in over 12 years. So, I pulled out the discs and enjoyed the morning walking through the woods with Rob and Vandy. Don’t even ask about my score. It was awful.

DIY!
DIY!

Wendy's wreath project
Wendy’s wreath project
After 16 months being in our house, Wendy and I have been working hard on actually getting some things up on the walls, especially in our basement. We did a DIY project together making four 8 foot gallery shelves.  I assembled the shelves using two 1x4s and one 1×2. Wendy then primed, sanded and painted them. We now have 32′ of shelf space in the V-Dub Pub for displaying our collection of posters and prints from all our shows. Wendy also did a little summer wreath project for our front door, which I think looks awesome.

It was a fairly normal work week for us this week. On Friday I had a business lunch in Des Moines. Wendy came along to run errands while I was in my extended lunch meeting. We then got together with Taylor for an early birthday celebration. Her birthday is on the 4th of July, but I’m traveling next week and then we’re headed to the lake. She’s heading to Scotland right after her birthday, so this was kind of the best chance we had to celebrate with her.

Wendy and I enjoyed getting a tour of the Catholic Worker Community in Des Moines where she lives. We saw her room and meet the eclectic mix of wonderful human beings at the worker who live there and serve the poor in Des Moines. The team at “The Worker” were just getting ready to serve the first of their two daily meals to the homeless that so we got to experience that, which was cool. I noticed on the bulletin board that there was a picture of Taylor and right above it a picture of Wendy’s cousin Kathryn, who has volunteered there. Small world.

We celebrated Taylor’s birthday by spending the rest of the afternoon at the Des Moines Art Festival. We had a blast looking at all the art, and we all agreed that our favorite part was the local children’s artwork. We then walked down to Exile Brewery for dinner. After dinner we went back to the Festival and listened to a bit of the Gin Blossom’s concert (from afar) while dipping our feet in the water of the fountain near the Des Moines Central Library.

Madison's picture from Myrtle Beach
Madison’s picture from Myrtle Beach
Madison continues to build a life in South Carolina. In the past few weeks she’s suffered the scariness of getting food poisoning and having to deal with health care alone in a new city. She survived with flying colors. She got to fly to Texas and experience her first big sales training in her job with Laura Geller Cosmetics. She FaceTimed us from Myrtle Beach yesterday where she had been working all day. She posted some gorgeous sunset pics she took after enjoying dinner on a patio overlooking the water.

As I mentioned, Taylor will head to Edinburgh, Scotland after the 4th and will participate in commencement at Queen Margaret University and officially receive her Master’s Degree. She will then stay in Edinburgh and work the Fringe Festival from late July through early September. For those who have never heard of “The Fringe,” it is among the largest and most prominent arts festivals in the world. It will be a great opportunity, will look great on a resume, and will afford Taylor the opportunity to network there. She has applied for some 60 jobs in the arts world since returning to the U.S. and finds herself in the no man’s land between “you’re over qualified” and “you don’t have enough experience.” Praying for something awesome to open up for her.

 

Full week ahead.