We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.
Bud in his element, regaling people with his jokes and stories.
The Vander Well clan
This party’s this way.
Dean and Jeanne Vander Well
Mom was excited to get Madison’s text wishes to Dad.
When these two get together there is always laughter.
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.
Wendy 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.
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.
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.
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.
A flight of Exile craftsmanship for Taylor’s Birthday party
A little birthday smooch!
Checking out the art work at Des Moines Art Festival
Taylor and Wendy on the porch at Catholic Worker House where she lives.
On the bulletin board at “The Worker” there was a pic of cousin Kathryn right above a pic of Tay!
Taylor introduced us to the laying hens
Fun in the sun at Art Fest!
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 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.
This past week was a bit of a return to normal after the long slog of production on Almost, Maine and then a long week on the road. I feel like I’m still trying to catch up on rest. Unfortunately, this week wasn’t much help as we ramped up to celebrate my 50th birthday.
The early part of the week was focused on getting caught up on work in the home office. Mom Hall came down to Pella on Monday to help us get ground cover on the flower bed (currently a weed bed) in the front of the house. I’ve had to mow a couple of times this week. Our new lawn (planted last fall) is still patchy. I’m not very good with green things. I’ve had a “brown thumb” my whole life. Almost every time I’ve tried to grow botanical things they die. So, I’m trying to do right by the lawn and do it right. I can tell you that mowing a half-acre lot with my trust Lawn-Boy push mower takes a little more time and effort than our old postage stamp lawn on Columbus.
Mid-week I had to make a quick turnaround trip to northwest Iowa for business. My co-worker, Nick, is from that neck of the woods and I got treated to some local hospitality with a trip to the farm for steak dinner. I even got to meet the baby goats and the chickens in the barn. I also got a quick visit with friends Trav and Julie Else. It’s been so fun to reconnect with them since the old days at Westview when I played on Julie’s worship team and we were in “Supper Club” together.
The biggest focus of the week was my 50th birthday on Saturday. We actually started celebrating on Friday afternoon. I had a Board Meeting for work mid-day, then knocked off and we joined up with Kev and Beck. Becky’s birthday was Friday the 29th, and Kevin’s birthday had just been on April 17th. The past few year’s we’ve made a tradition out of celebrating all three birthdays together. The girls went for pedicures and to do some shopping. Kevin and I met at Casa Roose to watch the Cubs and enjoy a few birthday stogies on the patio.
Birthdays (L-R) Apr 30, Apr 17, Apr 29
The girls returned and the four of us headed to downtown Des Moines for drinks and dinner at Malo. It was an enjoyable time as we exchanged cards and gifts and consumed the scrumptious latin edibles. After dinner we stopped by the Plaza Pub to visit with some old friends of Kev and Beck. We capped off our birthday celebration at Casa Roose with a nightcap. It was the wee hours when Wendy and I returned home and got to bed.
Weather certainly did not cooperate with our birthday plans. The entire midwest was socked with perpetual rain and chilly temperatures. For my 50th Wendy had planned a baseball themed party for a handful of our good friends. The plan was to party here at Vander Well Pub while we watched the Chicago Cubs playing an afternoon game against the Braves. Those who wanted to join us would then head to Des Moines for the Iowa Cubs game against the Colorado Springs Skysox. The blanket of rain across the upper midwest resulted in both games being postponed.
Wendy made baseball cupcakes! Yummy!
The crew that was left late in the afternoon!
The VLs and JPs gave me a poster of Shakespearean insults for VW Pub
The VLs and JPs gave me a poster of Shakespearean insults for VW Pub
The party commenced as scheduled. We put on the recording of Jake Arrieta throwing a no-hitter last week. Wendy did an amazing job with the baseball themed party. We had hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jack, snack pizza, and chips with salsa. Then there were the cupcakes she made to look like baseballs and a sundae bar. We ate way too much!
We had specified “no gifts” but it was generally ignored. Let’s just say that the bar at Vander Well pub is better stocked than it had been before the party. The Parkers and Vande Lunes also went together on a framed poster of Shakespearean insults. It was perfect and will have an honored spot among the decor (which we still haven’t hung). I felt both blessed and honored by all of the cards and wishes I received in the mail and on social media. It was a good day.
By the time everyone left we had just enough time to get things cleaned up before our dinner reservations. Instead of the I-Cubs game, we gathered for dinner at Kaldera with the Burches, VLs and McQs. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it was wonderful to enjoy a laid back dinner with friends and get home at a decent time. We had a brief night cap at McQuade Pub before calling it a night.
We are looking forward to having both Taylor and Madison home next weekend for Tulip Time. I heard from both girls yesterday as they called with birthday wishes. Taylor had a very nice post on her blog honoring my big day and Madison added an equally honoring post on Facebook. I missed having them here with me, but will enjoy a belated celebration next week.
Tulip Time is Thu-Sat of this coming week. The cold, rainy weather has ensured that we’ll have a few tulip left for Pella’s annual festival. The weather forecast is sunny and 75 degrees each day, and it will be perfect weather for the celebration. Wendy and I are, once again, playing Pella’s founding couple. We’ll be Dominie H.P. and Mareah Scholte and will be found at the Scholte House museum late morning and early afternoon. We’ll be riding our horse drawn carriage in each of the six parades. It should be a fun time. Come see us if you’re in town!
Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land still remains to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1 (NRSV)
It’s perhaps funny that references to old age are leaping off the page at me here as I approach my 50th birthday at the end of April. I’m not feeling old and I’m trying not to obsess too much about it. I am, however, thinking a lot about how I want to approach the final acts (Shakespeare always had five of them!) of this story.
In a bit of synchronicity, the Wall Street Journal published this quote from a script by the Roman philosopher Cicero:
Cato: I think, my young friends, that you are admiring me for something that isn’t so difficult. Those who lack within themselves the means for a blessed and happy life will find any age painful. But for those who seek good things within themselves, nothing imposed on them by nature will seem troublesome. Growing older is a prime example of this. Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it. People can be foolish and inconsistent.
They say that old age crept up on them much faster than they expected. But, first of all, who is to blame for such poor judgment? Does old age steal upon youth any faster than youth does on childhood? Would growing older really be less of a burden to them if they were approaching eight hundred rather than eighty? If old people are foolish, nothing can console them for time slipping away, no matter how long they live.
So if you compliment me on being wise—and I wish I were worthy of that estimate and my name—in this way alone do I deserve it: I follow nature as the best guide and obey her like a god. Since she has carefully planned the other parts of the drama of life, it’s unlikely that she would be a bad playwright and neglect the final act. And this last act must take place, as surely as the fruits of trees and the earth must someday wither and fall. But a wise person knows this and accepts it with grace. Fighting against nature is as pointless as the battles of the giants against the gods.
When our girls were babies I told myself that I was going to fully appreciate every stage of their growing up for what it was, both the positives and the negatives. I can’t change it, but I can choose to embrace it and find the joy in each stage. I was glad that I did that. While certain stages were more enjoyable for than others, I can honestly say that I’ve really enjoyed the entire journey of watching them grow up.
Now, I’m saying the same thing about growing older. I can’t change the way God has designed things. I might as well embrace that which I cannot fight, just as Cicero stated. It brings to mind the Cubs’ (they’re 3-0!) wise skipper, Joe Maddon, who has been telling his young ball club to “embrace the target.” No use fighting it. I might as well embrace it and find joy amidst each stage. Wendy says she’s going to hold me to that (she knows my penchant for falling back into pessimism). And, I’m sure she will. I’m hoping she doesn’t have to. I don’t want the home stretch of life’s journey to bring out the worst in me. I want it to be the fulfillment of the best in me.
Christmas is less than a week away, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The weather in Iowa has continued to be unseasonably warm for the most part. Instead of snow and ice we’ve had chilly downpours that feel more like March or October.
Right after my last Sunday Summary post we hosted the cast party for Union Street Players (USP’s) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We loved having cast and crew here at the house. They did a great job. We weren’t involved in the show other than helping man the box office phone and sell tickets.
In fact, it’s been a while since Wendy or I have been on stage. Two weeks ago we auditioned for Union Street Players’ upcoming production of Almost, Maine and were cast. The show is a romantic comedy set on a moonless winter night in a mythical town in northern Maine. In a series of vignettes, a series of couples struggle with that thing called love. Wendy and I will play multiple roles in the show which will be performed April 14-17. We’re looking forward to working with our friend and neighbor, Kevin McQuade, who is directing the show.
While we haven’t been on stage, we have been in character. On the 11th we donned the period costumes of our town’s founders, Dominie H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria, and played host at the Scholte House Museum to a corporate Christmas dinner for the executives of a business here in town. Wendy and I have portrayed the Scholtes in numerous productions. We enjoy volunteering our time and helping share their unique story.
Later that night we joined Taylor and her friend at Peace Tree Brewery in Knoxville for their annual Christmas sweater party. The band included Taylor’s faculty advisor from Grandview and we enjoyed the evening.
I love that Madison has an Iowa flag on her car!!
I was on the road this past week. Visited client in Texas on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I flew to Denver where I visited another client, then drove down to Colorado Springs. Madison had her last college final that evening. I met her at her favorite coffee haunt and we enjoyed a Crave Burger with Brett and Evan Strait. Madison has been living with the Straits for the past couple of months as her lease was up and she’s not sure where the path will lead after graduation.
Madison headed to her test and I visited with the Straits. I then met her at BJ’s Brewhouse across from campus after her test was done and we celebrated together joined by her friend, Matt. We got to enjoy breakfast together and hang out for a few hours the following morning before I had to head for home.
Madison has been interviewing for sales jobs in the cosmetic industry. While she would love to stay in Colorado, she’s committed to moving wherever a good job opens up. She will continue to work as a flight attendant in the meantime. We’re bummed that she won’t be home for Christmas. In order to schedule her life to finish school, she’s had to work the holidays this year! 😦
On Friday I got to greet Suzanna who is home from Cedar Falls for Christmas break. She’s had a great first semester in college and it’s great to have her home. On Friday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for the funeral of my friend and mentor, Chuck Wenger who was also founder of our company, C Wenger Group. It was a great memorial service. Chuck had committed his life to mentoring young men, and it was rather incredible to hear the testimonies from many who were in attendance. It was also great to see former group members, clients, and friends.
On Friday night we joined friends Kevin, Linda, Rob, Vandy and CD at McQuade Pub for a reading of the script Art. It was a great excuse to spend an evening of food, drink and good company. The script was great and we both enjoyed it immensely.
Wendy’s birthday is Monday, so we started celebrating on Saturday with an early matinée of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We loved it! We ran a few errands before hightailing it back home. In the evening I took Wendy to dinner at Kaldera with Kevin and Linda (where we ran into the JPs & VLs!) . After dinner we retired back to V-Dub Pub for a night-cap.
We have been talking for months with our friends Vandy and Rob about getting together to watch football. They are still relatively new to town and Vandy is a Vikings fan. So, today was the day! They arrived before noon and we watched the Vikes beat the Bears, while keeping an eye on Rob’s Giants who came back and then fell short against the undefeated Panthers.
I’m looking forward to continuing Wendy’s birthday celebration tomorrow, and to Christmas celebrations with family this week!
This week marks the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra, so I’m doing a Sinatra tribute in honor of ol’ Blue Eyes. My first real memories of Frank Sinatra came from the album Songs for Swingin’ Lovers that constituted one of a handful of albums my parents managed to hang onto through multiple moves and a young family. There were a few LPs that sat next to our stereo/8-Track/Record Player console in the living room which I ignored for most of my childhood.
I think I was bored one afternoon when I began actually going through and listening to my parents albums. There was Dave Brubeck’s essential Take Five and LPs by the likes of Vic Damone. I remember my first reaction to the Sinatra album cover when I picked it up was, “How lame.” Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. When I put the needle on Side 1 and heard Frank’s flawless baritone voice start into You Make Me Feel So Young, I was mesmerized.
This 80’s teenager, used to cranking southern rock and bands like Kansas at unsafe decibel levels, found himself listening to the entire album. It transported me to another time and place. It was so smooth and so cool. I was hooked.
I’ve been a fan of Frank ever since. My girls were raised on a diverse soundtrack in which Frank was an essential part. He still plays a prominent part in almost any dinner mix if I have anything to say about it.