Tag Archives: Birthday

Top Five Beauties

We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.

One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.

So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.

(in alphabetical order)

 Laetitia CastaLaetitia Casta


Audrey Hebpurn

Elizabeth HurleyElizabeth Hurley

sophia lorenSophia Loren

Grace_Kelly_1956Grace Kelly


Birthday 2015

The 49th birthday does not call for a particularly memorable experience. It’s a pre-cursor to a “big one” with a zero on the right-hand side. Still, a birthday is not to be wasted, and I had an enjoyable one.

I worked ahead this week so I could take my birthday off. I slept late (for me) and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Wendy. We readied ourselves and headed to Des Moines mid-morning to run some errands necessary for our fiesta birthday party planned for Friday night. I was excited to get a Face Time video call from Maddy Kate who was at Venice Beach in California. Always nice for a land-locked Iowan to catch a live shot of the Pacific on his birthday! ;-)

We took my folks out for lunch at the Market Grille for lunch and enjoyed conversation, returning back to their house for even more enjoyable conversation. Adjustments at the Chiropractor followed as well as more errands before meeting Kev & Beck for some birthday cheer at Nick’s. Taylor tried incessantly to get a Face Time connection from Scotland, but we were never able to get through to her :-(

Wendy and I celebrated with our first Iowa Cubs game of the summer. It was a GORGEOUS evening at the ball park. Too bad the home team couldn’t give me a birthday “W.” We actually headed home with things tied after the 12th inning and listened to the I-Cubs drop the game in the 13th on our drive home.

My birthday party came on Friday night. Wendy slaved away all day making Grandma and Grandpa V’s lemon cake and a host of Mexican dishes for our fiesta celebration. We so enjoyed having Kev & Beck, Chad & Shay, and Matthew & Sarah join us for a wonderful evening of food, drink, and wonderful conversation together.

Another year falls into memory, and I look ahead to the final year of my fifth decade on this life journey. Praying that it is filled with life, love, and unforeseen blessings!

Wendy’s Birthday: Conspiracy & Celebration

Today is Wendy’s birthday, but the celebration began on Friday with a birthday celebration in Des Moines. Well, technically the celebration began this past summer when the conspiracy of her birthday gift began. We had gone to attend the Des Moines Art Festival this past July with our friends Kevin and Becky, but there was a torrential downpour that afternoon. So, we headed to the “other” art show in town that weekend in the Varied Industries Building of the State Fairgrounds.

As we made our way through the displays we happened upon the booth of Mark and Patti Monroe Mohrenweiser from Brighton, Michigan (www.beyondletters.com) who specialize in encaustic and mixed media art. Encaustic is an ancient technique in which colored pigments are added to hot beeswax and then applied to a surface. It creates a beautiful, etherial look. You should know that Wendy is a tactile person, and it kills her not be able to touch the art at a museum. She wants to run her hands over the texture of the artwork and feel the artist’s brush strokes. When Mark invited her to run her hands over all of the artwork and feel the texture of the wax, Wendy was in heaven.

And then, from amidst her tactile heaven, Wendy saw the angel. On a field of sheet music the angel was stretched out across a stone pedestal, her head buried in her arms, in full lament. Wendy’s reaction to the angel was both immediate and emotional. I stood behind her and witnessed it. I thought she was going to cry standing there. I knew that there was something in the artwork that was connecting with something deep inside of her. She would have gladly stood and stared at it (and ran her hands over it) all day.

Even though Wendy’s birthday was six months away, I knew that Wendy needed to own this painting and it needed to hang in our new house. The real trick was how to make it happen. I needed a team of conspirators. The following day I snuck up to my office after church to call Mark and make a deal with him over the phone. I then called Taylor and asked if she could make a secret run to the fairgrounds to pick up the artwork. Taylor was living with Kevin and Becky at that time, so I brought them in on the conspiracy to secret away our lamenting angel until December. It was a long wait. As Wendy’s birthday approached I realized that the special artwork needed special wrapping and I’m terrible at wrapping gifts. So, I dropped of the artwork a couple of weeks ago with the ladies at Thistles florist here in Pella to do a special wrap job for me.

We headed to Des Moines for Wendy’s birthday celebration on Friday. She got a massage and we checked into a hotel room for the night. We headed to Django with my conspiratorial allies, Kevin and Becky, for her birthday meal and we opened a bottle of our favorite Warburn Estate shiraz  (which is now seemingly impossible to procure and only opened on very special occasions). I couldn’t hide the huge, beautifully wrapped box, of course, so Wendy was intrigued all afternoon and evening what was in it. After dinner we retired back to Kevin and Becky’s where Wendy opened her gift. I was so glad that it worked out for Kevin and Becky to watch Wendy open it since they were an integral part of making it happen. Wendy was stunned when she saw it, and I loved watching her surprise.

On Saturday we continued with Wendy’s birthday wish list which included breakfast at Cracker Barrel and a matinee movie. We went to see Big Hero 6 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Back to Pella late in the afternoon to prepare for an evening with our friends Kevin and Linda who had invited us, along with a two other couples, over for some Christmas cheer.

I needed to shave and shower before we headed to the party. When I got out of the shower I went to tell Wendy that I was out of the bathroom and it was her turn. I couldn’t find her anywhere. When I did finally locate her she was sitting curled up on the floor in the living room staring at her lamenting angel. It made me happy.

Weekend Marks Beginnings and Endings

The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.
The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.

It was a full weekend for Wendy and me. The end of Suzanna’s high school career came on Friday with her last day of school and subsequent choir concert Friday night. Mom and Dad Hall came down from Boone for a visit and attended the concert with us on Friday night along with Grandma VH.

Wendy and I celebrated Suzanna’s accomplishment on Saturday morning with a breakfast at the Windmill Cafe and some special gifts to mark the occasion. We spent some time over breakfast talking about all that Suzanna has experienced and learned this past year. It was ironic that she finished her last high school class on Friday and then went to work at her first job on Saturday night. She’s going to be working at Kaledera restaurant. One chapter ends and another one begins.

The VL boys wanted to take me to an I-Cubs game for my birthday and we did that on Saturday night. It was a gorgeous evening and we dined at Court Ave Brewing Co. on their sidewalk before scooting over to Principal Park to watch our beloved I-Cubbies drop a back and forth affair to Round Rock.

Sunday morning was senior brunch for Suzanna at church as the church celebrated all of the seniors wrapping up their time in the youth group. Upstairs in the church auditorium, where Wendy and I worship, there is new thing happening and I was asked to share a short message and help start the launch.

Wendy and I then headed to our first I-Cubs game on Sunday afternoon. The season is about six weeks old, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to get to a game and we’re looking forward to several more afternoons and evenings watching our boys of summer.

Dinner with mom and dad VW last night at Bravo! We were celebrating Mother’s Day a week late and enjoyed a wonderful meal and time with the folks. We then finished the weekend at Kev and Beck’s along with Taylor who is living with them as she prepares for grad school in Scotland in the fall. A few glasses of wine and a long evening of wonderful conversation.

Weekend in Review

It was a very enjoyable weekend for Wendy, Suzanna and me. As I mentioned in my previous post, we hosted a script reading on Friday night. It was a wonderful and fascinating mixture of people. There were several from our circle of theatre friends, but we also had some friends who had never been to a script reading before and for whom it was a new experience. There was a lot of laughter, and fun had by all. The final guest left some time after midnight and Wendy and I didn’t get to bed until after 1:00 a.m.

Saturday was Wendy’s birthday! Her wish was to spend a quiet day together and then go out with friends in the evening. We got the first half accomplished as we spent a leisurely day together. She opened her gifts in the morning and we watched some shows from our growing DVR queue. Our evening plans were scuttled when our friends from Des Moines chose not to drive down after hearing snow in the forecast. I feel bad for Wendy and all who have birthdays this time of year. It’s such a bummer when your own birthday party gets cancelled, especially when it’s cancelled on the threat of snow and it turns our it all would have been just fine. Nevertheless, Suzanna and I took Wendy out to eat and we came back home to watch Brave. We were blessed with an unscheduled visit by Chad and Shay later in the evening which lifted Wendy’s spirits.

The snow did arrive during the night. We had 6-8 inches of it. So, we decided to continue the theme of a quiet weekend at home. I got the snowblower out for the first time this year and we watched our Vikings get crushed by the Bengals. Yikes, I can’t wait for this season to be over so we can put it behind us. We then finished up the last of the wrapping of Christmas gifts and got the house picked up so that we’re ready for Christmas.

Celebrating Madison Kate

IMG_9418 _SnapseedWhile the world commemorates the assassination of John F. Kennedy today, I am commemorating a much more joyous and personal anniversary. Today we celebrate the birth of Madison Kate who was born 22 years ago today. What a bundle of joy she was to our lives that day and what a blessing she continues to be. An amazing young woman with an indomitable spirit. I can’t wait to get to Colorado next week to celebrate her and spend Thanksgiving weekend with her. Happy Birthday, Madison!!


Fourth of July Family Weekend at the Lake

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As I mentioned in my earlier post this morning, it was a fantastic weekend at the lake with family. Wendy, her sister Suzanna, and I drove up on Wednesday morning and spent the afternoon getting the Playhouse ready for the onslaught. Clayton jumped in the van with my folks, they picked up Taylor (flying in from weekend with a friend in L.A.) and Madison (flying in from her home in Colorado Springs), at the Des Moines airport and headed south, arriving in time for a late dinner of pizza from Captain Ron’s. My sister Jody, her husband Scott and their kids Solomon and Emma left after Sol got off work and arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

The Fourth of July was spent outside in the sun. Other than a brief, intense rain/hail storm that evening, the weekend was gorgeous with highs in the mid-80s and night time temps falling low enough to open the house. There was a lot of time in the “relaxation station” on the water on Thursday. Tom and Wendy served up a wonderful meal of smoked salmon for dinner that night as we celebrated Taylor’s 23rd birthday. It was a chilly evening and we headed out on the water to watch the fireworks at Captain Ron’s, only they didn’t shoot off fireworks that night (oops). Our neighbors, however, shot off a mess of them and we enjoyed the private show. Taylor brought sparklers and glow bracelets to enjoy.

Friday morning a bunch of the crew headed out on a neighbors boat so that Jody could (attempt to) water ski. The rest of us hung out. Mid-day we headed out on the boat to Bear Bottom resort for fun on the water slide and in the pool. We were going to eat lunch there but it was going to take forever to get served. We tried Captain Ron’s but there was a two-hour wait there, too. So we ate at the Playhouse. Jody and Scott made enchiladas for us that night. A tradition in our house is to answer questions from the “If” book after dinner and we spent a long while gathered around the table answering questions like “If you could read one person’s diary, whose would you read and why?” We learned a lot about one another and enjoyed a ton of laughs. As night descended we sat out on the lawn  by the lake to watch Captain Ron’s fireworks.

Saturday started with the requisite run to Sunrise Doughnuts. Between doughnuts, grandma’s cinnamon rolls, grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, Jody’s monster cookies, and Wendy’s cheesecake, and an anniversary cake for Scott and Jody we all got fat ‘n happy through the weekend. More sun and fun on the dock on Saturday. Scott took the kids into Osage to shop at the outlet mall. Wendy and I snuck off on the waverunner for a while. In the afternoon people kind of did their own things. People read, Maddy and I went out to Bulldog’s Beach House for a daddy/daughter date. People watched movies.

Saturday night was Grandpa and Grandma’s turn to treat with barbecue ribs and chicken. We celebrated Jody and Scott’s anniversary with a cake. That night we played Quelf together and had an uproariously good time. The kids stayed up to watch movies while the adults pooped out early.

Sunday morning Wendy and I made one last, big meal to have together. The crew did a wonderful job of helping pick up and clean and then packed up and headed out a little after 10:00 a.m. leaving Wendy, Suzanna and me in an odd sort of quiet.