Tag Archives: Iowa Cubs

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.


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.

The Latest 06-05-2016

Talk about celebration! This week began with a holiday and ended with a family wedding. Here’s the latest.

On Memorial Day Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for our second Iowa Cubs game of the season. Some friends gifted us their tickets which were in the fourth row right behind the I-Cubs’ dugout. It was a hot, sunny day and we both became crispy critters as the afternoon wore on. Our boys of summer sent 14 batters to the plate in the 6th inning and scored 10 runs including a grand slam by top Cubs’ prospect, Wilson Contreras. It was a ball!

Upon our arrival back in Pella, we walked across the street to Kevin and Linda’s. They were having a Memorial Day cookout with friends from Central’s theatre department. We enjoyed a little food off the grill and a cold bevy or two. It was great to see Rob Kahn, who had returned to Iowa after his professional turn in two Shakespearean productions in Philadelphia this past spring. I ended the holiday by moving the lawn.

With the end of May and the  beginning of June, there was plenty of work on the plate in the shortened work week. Month end deadlines combined with beginning of the month tasks. The weather has been making the turn toward summer with warmer temperatures and occasional strong storms.

It was a lovely evening on Wednesday when we went to see our friend, Nathan VL, play baseball at Pella’s new sports park. The young boys of summer played a great game and it was fun to cheer them on.

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that one year after we moved in, both of our neighbors have sold their houses. Hopefully that’s just a coincidence! Just yesterday we met our new neighbors to the north, Greg and Chanelle, who moved in from Grimes. The gaggle of teenagers next door has given way to a flock of 3 (and one on the way) wee ones. No word yet on our new neighbors to the south. More to come.

On Friday we headed to Boone in the afternoon. Wendy’s brother, Lucas, got married to Brooke on Saturday. The Hall clan gathered for the festivities. The only members missing were brother Josh, who continues to serve as an Army dentist in Korea, and his fiance, Ellie. Friday evening was spent finishing up decorations at Seven Oaks Lodge, rehearsal, and a pizza dinner. It was great to see family, especially Wendy’s brother Jesse and his daughter, Sophia, whom we had not seen in a long time. We also loved meeting Abby, Jesse’s girlfriend, who hails from Camdenton – just down the road from our Playhouse in the Ozarks.

We drove back to Pella on Friday night and I spent Saturday morning on the lawn. Then it was time to clean up, pick up Grandma VH, and head back to Boone for the big wedding. We arrived about 2:30 and busied ourselves helping out. I got to chauffeur Brooke, and personal attendant Suzanna, up to a private spot where Lucas was to see his bride in her dress for the first time. I also helped out as usher for the ceremony.

Suzanna Mom Hall Dancing

It was a bright, sunny and windy day. It has been a long time since this many of the Hall clan were together. I enjoyed taking photos and watching Wendy’s joy as she got to hang with her siblings. The wedding was simple and beautiful. You gotta love a wedding reception catered by Hickory Park in Ames. It was after 10 p.m. before we left Boone. Grandma VH was a trooper. She slept a good part of the drive home.

Looking forward to heading back to the lake this week and working remotely from the deck. Hot, sunny weather in the forecast. Love it. Next weekend is our annual summer kick-off weekend with Kev and Beck.

The Latest 05-01-2016

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.

Me and a baby goat.
Me and a baby goat.

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.

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.

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.

Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.
Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.

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.

From Madison's Facebook post wishing me a happy 50th

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!

Baseball Links Generations Together

ICubs GameWendy and I headed to Principal Park in Des Moines yesterday afternoon to attend our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. It was great to sit in the sun, get sunburn, eat a hot dog, and quaff a few cold ones despite our boys of summer getting trounced by Oklahoma City.

One of the many reasons I enjoy baseball is the history and traditions of the game. Given my love of history and my tendency to be nostalgic to a fault, it makes sense that I would love a game that has roughly been played the same way for almost 200 years. It’s a game that binds generations together.

My first trips to Sec Taylor stadium (now known as Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park) were in the early 1970s. About once a summer my grandpa Spec would drive me to Sec Taylor (with a requisite drive by of the Iowa State Capitol building) for an afternoon game. In those days the home team was known as the Iowa Oaks, the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics. Grandpa would get us bleacher seats in the shade of the open grandstand roof, behind home plate. We watched some of the great players of Oakland’s  World Series winning “mustache gang” as they made their way up to the bigs.

Today, when I sit and enjoy the Iowa Cubs in a much nicer park I am reminded of my grandfather. I never fail to have memories of bringing Taylor and Madison to games when they were young. They still humor dad with an occasional trip to the park even though neither of them really cares about the game. I relive memories of bringing our young friends Nathan and Aaron. And, God willing, I dream of the day I get to bring my own grandchildren to a game at the same park, just as Grandpa Spec brought me.

Principal Park

Baseball links generations together.

The Latest 04-24-2016

The past two weeks were dominated by last weekend’s production of Almost, Maine. Wendy and I were cast before Christmas and the curtain finally rose on four performances April 14-17. The play is a series of nine vignettes that take place in on the same night, at the same time, in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The scenes are all reflections on love and relationships.

The challenge and opportunity for both Wendy and me were to play multiple characters in the show. I played five characters and Wendy played three. It is not unusual for actors to play multiple roles in a show, but the multiple characters are often bit parts or walk-on roles. It is another thing altogether to develop 3-5 fully developed, differentiated characters in one show. From an acting perspective it is an exciting challenge to walk off stage, change costume in less than 30 seconds and walk on as a completely different character. To pull it off and make it believable for the audience was a really, really fun stretch for both Wendy and me.

The show went well. Attendance was slightly above average for a spring show in our community theatre. For both of us, the fun was all about the experience of being directed by our friend Kevin McQuade who is a brilliant director and who pushed both of us to new heights in our acting experiences. In addition, we loved, loved, loved our fellow cast members who were focused, disciplined, and really fun to work with.

Production weekend was fun, but took a lot out of us. The cast socialized after every show. Opening night we had a party here at Vander Well Pub and the last guests to leave meandered out the door around 1:00 a.m. Friday night the cast and crew stopped at the Cellar Peanut Pub and then enjoyed drinks and eats at Monarch’s. Wendy and I enjoyed a nightcap at McQuade Pub and walked home somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Saturday night the cast and various friends enjoyed after show festivities at Kaldera. The closing performance on Sunday was followed by set strike and a cast party at McQuade Pub.

Oh…and I preached two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third Church.

It was wonderful to have Suzanna, Taylor, my folks, Jody, and Emma join us over the weekend to see the show. It’s always a bittersweet experience having loved ones come to town to see the show, but then not having the time or space to actually spend time with them.

McNay Stags Head

We got home from the final cast party on Sunday evening about 9:00 p.m. and I immediately had to pack for a week-long business trip to Texas. I flew out first thing Monday morning and spent five days in San Antonio and Laredo. It was a long week, for sure, but on Friday I got to meet Tim and Kumi for a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse between San Antonio and Austin. It was fun to hear about their recent vacation in Japan to visit Kumi’s sister and to see their photos. I also got to spend a couple of hours at the McNay Art Museum before flying out for home.

This weekend has been blessedly quiet. I mowed a crop of weeds on Saturday and tried desperately to groom our pitiful lawn so that it wouldn’t completely shame the neighborhood. Though, our weed infested lawn is an admittedly nicer sight than the apocalyptic wasteland that was our lot last year. We ended Saturday with a wonderful evening on Matthew and Sarah’s deck.

ICubs Game

We headed to the early service this morning and enjoyed the message from Roger DeWaard before making the trek to Principal Park for our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. The I-Cubs sucked wind and got blown out by Oklahoma City, but Wendy and I sat in the sun and got our first sunburn of the season.

It’s a momentous week ahead. My 50th birthday is this coming Saturday. [sigh]

The Latest 08-16-2015

Our week was full and the highlight of the past seven days was the wedding of our friends Matthew and Sarah Burch on Saturday night. The week began on Sunday afternoon at the house Matthew and Sarah are moving into in Hunter’s Ridge outside of Pella. It was Lincoln’s 7th birthday and they were having a a gathering of family and friends for a cookout to celebrate. It was a the first chance Wendy and I had to meet some of Sarah’s family.

Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.
Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.

On Monday night Wendy, Suzanna and I all headed to West Market Park for Union Street Players’ potluck picnic and annual meeting. It was a gorgeous evening and we had a great turnout. I have just completed my 10th year as President and Wendy just completed her 11th on the Board, most of those years serving as Treasurer. We decided earlier this year our time of service on the Board has been fulfilled. Time to let others step up and step in to leadership. Elections were held and we officially entered lame duck status until September 1st when the new officers will take over.

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The gorgeous summer weather would continue on Tuesday and it was a great night for baseball. For the second year in a row, the Vande Lude boys treated me to Dude’s Day as a birthday present. We headed to Des Moines and had pizza at Scornovacca’s before heading to Principal Park to watch the I-Cubs take on the Nashville Sounds. The I-Cubbies dropped the game 3-2 but a good time was had by all.  Throughout the evening Chad and I plied Nathan and Aaron with “Dude’s Day Questions.” Two of my favorites:

Tom: Dude’s Day Question. Blonde, brunette, or redhead?

Nathan: Redneck.

Tom: If mom was a superhero, what would her super power be?

Aaron: Kissing daddy.

Thursday night was supposed to be a bridal shower for Sarah at our house and a Guy’s night out with Matthew and the boys. Matthew’s guy’s night transitioned to just a dinner between Matthew and me, then late in the afternoon Matthew bailed on me to spend some time with family who had arrived for the wedding. So…..while Wendy and the ladies celebrated Sarah I walked down the block to McQuade Pub and enjoyed drinks and stogies with Kevin and Linda which is always, always a great way to spend the evening. Wendy had a great time with Sarah and her friends.

On Friday we enjoyed a quiet day at VW Manor. Late in the day Taylor and I enjoyed a nice time of conversation downstairs in VW pub watching the Cub’s and White Sox and Kevin McQuade joined us late in the game to watch the Northsiders win their eighth game in a row. Taylor took off to join Emily Boyd and her boyfriend, Zac at George’s Pizza for dinner. Wendy made wonderful Tilapia filet’s for a quiet dinner just the two of us.

Before Patio Deck

Patio DeckIt was a hot one on Saturday, but I was determined to tackle one of my summer honey-do projects before heading to Des Moines for the wedding. I had stained some green treated 2x4s late in the week and spent Saturday morning building a deck step outside our patio doors on the back patio. Felt very manly.

It then felt manly getting cleaned up and donning my tux. Wendy, Taylor and I drove to the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines where Matthew and Sarah’s wedding was scheduled for 5:30. It brought back a lot of memories for Wendy and me as we got married  at the Temple on New Year’s Eve 2005. We arrived about 4:00 and checked in with Matthew and Sarah who were taking pictures in the Grand Ballroom. After snapping a picture or two we met Taylor and Kevin & Becky Roose at the Centro bar for drinks.

The grand ballroom is an unbelievably gorgeous venue for a wedding. Matthew and Sarah were stunning and the wedding was really meaningful. Matthew had asked me to stand and provide a brief introduction of him for those who may not know him. It was fun to share a few words. After the ceremony everyone moved into the Recital Hall for drinks and appetizers as they readied the ballroom for dinner. I enjoyed conversation with Matthew’s friend from his grad school days at Fuller and we also hung out with Chad and Shay.

The dinner was amazing and it was a wonderful feast. When the feasting was over the dancing began. So much fun was had by all. Late in the evening Matthew and I stole away to the guy’s dressing room where we had a few minutes of quiet time and I got to pray over the groom. By the end of the evening it was the Vander Wells, Rooses, and Vande Lunes who were the last ones on the dance floor. It was midnight before we got home.

This morning it was back to Des Moines where I had the privilege of sharing the morning message at Westview in Waukee. Taylor came with her friend Curtis. After the service she and Curtis headed to the Des Moines Art Center for a lunch date. Wendy and I had lunch at the Roose’s with Keith and Tanya Wilhite.

Snowstorm Caps a Busy Birthday Week

Earlier this week I shared about the birthday celebrations which began a week ago today with an overnight trip to Des Moines. I felt really celebrated this year. I took Tuesday, my birthday, off of work. And, what a day to take off. It was gorgeous, sunny and warm. When I came downstairs from writing my morning blog post I found my stack of birthday gifts sitting on the table with breakfast. Wendy and I enjoyed a quiet breakfast reading the paper and I got to open my gifts. Bob Leonard came by and interviewed Wendy and me about our roles in the Tulip Time production of The Dominie’s Wife for KNIA/KRLS radio.

2013 04 30 Birthday at the ICubs

We then headed to Des Moines for a noon Iowa Cubs game. We sat in the sun, ate hot dogs, drank beer, and watched the hometown boys celebrate my birthday with a 7-2 win over the Round Rock Express. We got fried to a crisp in the hot sun, but after a cool, wet spring that seemed like a worthwhile luxury.

We got back to Pella in time to get our stuff gathered and up to the Pella Opera House for  our final dress rehearsal. The Tulip Queen and her court came to see the show, which was nice. After the show, our friends in the cast, crew (Moriarity’s, Van Zante’s, Ann W., Lisa W. along with Kevin M.) went out to Kaldera for food and drinks. We enjoyed a marvelous evening together. It was the perfect way to end my birthday.

The celebrations weren’t over, however. There was no rehearsal on Wednesday. My friend Matthew took me to Des Moines for a burger and a pint at Rock Bottom before seeing the movie Oblivion at Jordan Creek. It was great to spend time with a friend. Wendy and I enjoyed the evening on the couch watching Scott Feldman pitch a complete game in a Cubs’ victory of San Diego.

Pella Tulip Time arrived yesterday along with a rare, late winter storm. It was cold, windy and wet all morning. Then the snow started flying. The parades were cancelled. After trying to open for a few hours, all the food stands shut down. Wendy and I bundled up in our scarves, winter coats and gloves to walk through the blizzard like conditions to the Pella Opera House. Since it was one of the few things people could do indoors, we had a good crowd for our opening performance of The Dominie’s Wife. After the show we braved the elements to walk home and holed up to have dinner and call it an early evening.

How our backyard looks on a previous May day.
How our backyard looks on a previous May day.
How our backyard looked this morning.
How our backyard looked this morning.

This morning I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked out the window at the blanket of newly fallen snow. Our show will still go on this afternoon. Tomorrow the high is predicted at 58 with light rain, so there may yet be hope for at least one soggy parade or two. What an awful disappointment for the community. No one we’ve spoken with can remember a Tulip Time this miserable!😦

We have performances of The Dominie’s Wife this afternoon at 4:30 and again tomorrow at 12:30.