This year’s annual Tulip Time festival was perhaps the nicest I can remember. The tulips were more gorgeous than any year I recall with almost all of the tulip beds peaking at just the right time and a few that were still starting to bloom. They were absolutely gorgeous!
For the fourth straight year Wendy and I got in costume to portray our little town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) H.P. and Mareah Scholte. We spent each morning standing in front of the Scholte House museum welcoming visitors and then strolled the streets having our picture taken by countless visitors. We rode in the parades each afternoon. An intense Iowa thunderstorm, complete with Tornado warning, washed out the Thursday evening parade and festivities. Otherwise, the weather for the weekend was perfect.
We typically got out of costume once the afternoon parade was over. It was our chance to enjoy some grub from our favorite food stands, have a pint at the pub, and visit with friends.
Along with Tulip Time activities, we also hosted a bunch of family who came to town. Wendy’s mom and Aunt Linda stayed with us Thursday night. Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb stayed with us Friday and Saturday nights. Suzanna also came down Saturday and ended ups spending the night. My parents and sister Jody came down for the fun on Saturday and then returned home (with an armful of goodies from the Jaarsma bakery). By late Saturday afternoon Wendy I were pretty worn out. We bowed out of the final parade on Saturday night. Our friends Kevin and Linda, along with Suzanna, joined us on the patio to celebrate another wonderful Tulip Time.
Hangin’ in Sinterklaas in this historical village.
Dominie Scholte was a big supporter of Civil War vets. I took this shot with some guys portraying Civil War soldiers at the festival.
A selfie with the Burgermeister!
Our annual selfie with Harry who plays with the DMCS band in the parade.
Our perch on the porch of the Scholte House Museum.
Four years ago Wendy and I enjoyed a seven-day Caribbean cruise on the Holland America Line. It was wonderful, and we’ve been looking forward to repeating the experience ever since. Last week we headed out of Ft. Lauderdale Florida on Holland America’s MS Eurodam for long-awaited week-long adventure back to the Caribbean.
As Wendy and I looked back on the experience I found it fascinating what a difference four years can make. I think we were more tired going into this trip. We were less set for adventure and more interested in rest. That said, I think our expectations may have also been set higher by the amazing memories we shared from our previous cruise.
The truth is, we did very little by way of the commercial-worthy activities. We sat around in the warmth of the Caribbean sun. Most days sailed by with the two of us reading by the pool and sipping cold, fruity concoctions. We dressed up and ate good food in the evenings. We had fun being alone together. We met a few interesting people, but most of our interpersonal interaction was with the kind and warm-hearted staff who almost always went out of their way to take care of us.
For the record, here’s the summary with photos to follow:
2/24/18 Des Moines to Ft. Lauderdale. Wendy and I have some travel-hell stories from our past and we’re always waiting for some way we’re going to get screwed by weather or airlines whenever we travel. We came close this time as our flight from to DSM to O’hare was late taking off and we had zero time to run (we did the literal terminal sprint) to our connecting flight. Fortunately, the gate agents were waiting for us and they shut the door behind us. Nevertheless, the stress level was a little high as the plane made what felt like a 60 mile taxi from runway to Terminal C. We spent the evening at the Renaissance Cruise Port, took a little stroll to do some shopping and called it a night.
2/25/19 Leaving Fort Lauderdale
We took a transfer service from the hotel to the Cruise Port. The shuttle service was terribly unorganized and the whole thing felt chaotic, but we eventually made it to Port Everglades along with about 3 million other cruise passengers. Wendy and I boarded the ship and had a little lunch on board until it was announced that our stateroom was ready. We were in stateroom 7060 which was a suite with a private verandah. The Eurodam has recently been updated and the room was gorgeous and spacious with lots of features like USB ports for charging devices and a big screen television stationed directly across from the bed so you can lay in bed and watch one of the on-demand movies or television shows.
Our luggage arrived fairly quickly and we get settled in. We were really excited to finally be on board and heading out to sea. We also had complimentary champagne in the suite so we drank champagne and stood on the verandah watching as we left port. The warm Florida sun felt great on our cold, pasty-white midwest bodies.
We decided to dine the first night at one of the on-board restaurants, Canaletto’s, which was offering a discount for the first night. We enjoyed an Italian meal before heading to bed.
2/26/18 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Wendy and I had been to the private island, Half Moon Cay, on our last cruise. It’s a small island set up specifically for Cruise ships stop to let passengers sun themselves in relative seclusion as well as participate in any number of activities. We opted to stay on the ship this time and we settled into what became our repetitive routine for the trip:
Get up. Eat breakfast.
Go to the pool at the back of the Lido deck
Read. Maybe sit by the pool for a few minutes. Go back to reading.
Have a cold fruity drink.
More reading, and another cold, fruity concoction.
Watch a movie in our stateroom (nap, maybe). It was a “Marvel” week. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Dr. Strange, and Thor Ragnarok
Get showered and dressed.
Go do dinner.
Take in a little entertainment.
Go to bed.
2/27/18 At Sea
One of the things Wendy and I love about a cruise are the “dress up” nights. The reality is that most people don’t really take it too seriously, but we like getting dressed to the nines and making an evening of it. We stopped at the Pinnacle Lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail and ran into a group of fellow passengers from Scotland who were wearing their dress kilts. Awesome. I totally have to channel my Scotch/Irish genes one of these days and do the kilt thing.
2/28/18 Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We got off the ship for, maybe, 20 minutes. Our plan had been a quiet, leisurely stroll to do a little souvenir shopping and taking in the local sights. We were so inundated with aggressive locals getting in our face and trying to sell us everything from taxi cab rides to tours and other (unmentionable) things that we ended up feeling really uncomfortable. We turned around and getting right back on the ship. Sad, really.
3/1/18 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
We stayed on the ship and followed our routine.
3/2 At Sea
Somewhere along the line Wendy and I decided it would be fun to do our own personal Pub Crawl on our day at sea. We counted nine bars on the ship and knew we’d need plenty of time and space between stops. We started with an early Margarita by the pool at 10:30 am and gave ourselves 12 hours to hit all nine venues, ending at 10:30 pm. We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and we met the challenge (but it’s probably not something we’ll repeat on our next cruise!).
3/3 Key West, FL
On our final day of the cruise we docked in Key West. It was the one port-of-call that we got off the ship and enjoyed. We walked down Duval Street, make a pilgrimage to Sloppy Joe’s (where Ernest Hemingway hung out back in the day), and stopped at Kermit’s for some authentic Key Lime pie (it was delicious).
Here are some of my photos from the week:
View from our verandah in Key West
Sunset at sea.
Coffee, waves, and a good book. Perfect morning.
Gotta love complimentary bubbly for embarkation!
A pre-trip bevy at the Des Moines Airport prior to take-off.
Wendy crying over her book. I love her.
Enjoying our muster moment.
Wendy wouldn’t let me order it “shaken not stirred” but I still felt like 007.
Breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill
Sunset over the ocean.
The sun sets on another lovely cruise.
Hanging on the verandah at Half Moon Cay.
Had to stop at “Irish Kevin’s” in Key West for our friend Kevin McQuade.
This photo summarizes our week.
Reading by the pool. We did this ALOT!
Eurodam docked in Ocho Rios.
Sloppy Joe’s Key West.
Waiting at the hotel for our shuttle to take us to the Cruise Port.
Wendy was pretty happy to be on vacation!
“I’m hard of hearing. Do you have a quiet table in the back?” I should have specified “with lights”
We’re headed to sea! Cheers!
Even Rembrandt loved selfies.
Our room stewards never failed to surprise us.
I LOVE BEING AT SEA!
Our suite was very enjoyable. Lots of room, plenty of storage, and extremely comfortable.
Dapper and ready for dinner.
Love this woman.
HAL does a nice job with the little added touches.
Our friends invited Wendy and me this past weekend to see their kids Harrison and Kennedy performing at a Show Choir invitational. I dusted off my camera and enjoyed capturing some of the action. Enjoy.
This year might well have been named “Christmas de Milo.” Our grandson (our first grandchild), Milo, was born on the 11th of December. He was five weeks early and spent much of the first two weeks of his fledgling journey in the NICU. He was allowed to go home just two days before Christmas. As a result, our holiday plans were largely in flux as we waited to see how things were going to play out.
On Saturday (Dec 23) Wendy and I played host to the Vander Hart Christmas gathering. The family spent the afternoon celebrating together. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, spent the night with us and we received our first measurable snow overnight. We woke on Christmas Eve day to a white blanket of new fallen snow. I got the driveway cleared and headed to Des Moines to pick up our daughter, Madison, who flew in from SC.
Madison was anxious to meet her new nephew, so we stopped to see Milo who had just spent his first rocky night at home. After our visit, we left Taylor, Clayton and Milo to rest and recuperate. Madison and I headed back to VW Manor where Wendy’s family had reconvened to spend some time together and visit with Madison. They left late in the afternoon. Wendy, Madison and I snuggled into the sectional to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens in anticipation of seeing The Last Jedi in a few days.
It was a blessedly quiet Christmas Day, just the three of us. We told Taylor and Clayton to continue to rest up at home. Wendy made our traditional Christmas breakfast, which was wonderful. We opened gifts and then cleaned up and headed into town to be greeters at our church’s annual community Christmas meal. After returning home we once again snuggled into the sectional and embarked on a marathon binge of The Crown.
On the 26th we headed to Des Moines to celebrate Christmas with the Vander Well clan. The snow that fell on Christmas Eve Day gave way to bone-chilling cold through the rest of the holiday. The family all met in the community room at Grandpa and Grandma’s apartment. All of my siblings were home, which is always a rare treat. After spending the afternoon with the V-Dubs Wendy, Madison and I took in Star Wars The Last Jedi at Copper Creek.
Wednesday, December 27th was another Christmas celebration as we welcomed Milo to our home for the first time. Taylor and Clayton arrived just before 10. Taylor and Clayton were both tired from the lack of sleep and the infant routine. We opened gifts and let them rest as Wendy and I made homemade pizza and breadsticks for lunch. Milo, of course, was the center of everyone’s attention. We ate, and chatted and enjoyed one another’s company.
Taylor and Clayton took Madison back to Des Moines with them in the afternoon. After five straight days of family and celebrations Wendy and I began the transition back into some semblance of normal. More family gatherings to come as Wendy’s sister and family arrive from Denver on Friday night. And, Wendy and I celebrate our 12th anniversary on New Year’s Eve.
Madison holds her nephew, Milo, for the first time.
In all my years celebrating Thanksgiving in Iowa, I am slow to recall any that were simply abysmal because of the weather. Though there’s the occasional winter storm in December, typically Iowa reserves the worst of winter for January and February. I can, however, bring to mind some Thanksgiving Day memories of unseasonably sunny, warm weather. This year ranks among the best.
It was a different year for us this year. Taylor went into the hospital the Monday before Thanksgiving. Due to a condition of vasa previa she is being monitored and her baby is scheduled to arrive (early) on December 11 via c-section. Given there were some unknowns with her situation, Wendy and I did not make overtly solid plans for Thanksgiving.
What did happen began on Thanksgiving Day. My brother Tim called on Wednesday evening to let me know that he and Kumi happened to making a stop in Pella on their way to Des Moines. They stopped in for morning coffee and we enjoyed some conversation before getting our act together and heading to Des Moines to enjoy the traditional feast with the Vander Well clan at the folks’ retirement community. Once again, the family reserved the community room in their building. Jody did an amazing job making the feast including Grandma V’s cinnamon rolls. Wendy added a cheesecake and Uncle Tim contributed his traditional Figure Eight cookies. We were glad to have Sam and Lydia home, and they brought a friend, Nathan, from Chicago. We even had cousin Don with us.
Wendy and I loaded up some leftovers for Taylor and Clayton and headed down to the hospital. It was nice to visit with them for a few hours before heading back to Pella.
Wendy and I both worked on Friday, but Friday evening was the traditional Roozeboom gathering at New Hope church. We stopped by the Cellar Pub beforehand and ran into Taylor’s friend, Gabe. The last time we saw Gabe was in Edinburgh, Scotland. He just happened to be there while we were visiting Taylor. It was a blast to see him again.
The Roozeboom gathering seems to get a bit smaller each year, but it was great to see Mom and Dad Hall along with Suzanna. There is a crop of young ones which it is always good to see. As always there was food, and cards, and plenty of conversation. Brad and Barb were down from Dubuque for the weekend and came to hear me give the message at Third Church on Sunday.
These are my first official words to you. The first of what I hope will be long and enjoyable correspondence between the two of us as you journey through this life.
This past Sunday our house was filled with women who had gathered to celebrate your mother and your impending arrival in three weeks time. I spent the day before helping Grandma Wendy cooking, cleaning, decorating, and running errands to make sure that the stage was set for the occasion. As the women began to arrive I sequestered myself in the basement to be at Grandma’s beck-and-call should she need help with anything.
I was originally going to entitle this blog post Estrogen Overload as I experienced the humor of being the only male in the house with 20 females. I even used that term as I joked with some of the ladies late in the afternoon. It’s something I’m familiar with having raised two daughters and no sons. I’m quite used to being alone in the company of women.
Suddenly, it struck me that I wasn’t the only male in the room for once. There you were comfortably nestled inside your mother’s womb. Nevertheless, you were very much present. You were the very reason for the celebration. You and me with all the ladies. I smiled to myself at the very thought of it.
So, here are my first words to you, my grandson. Take a good look at these women surrounding you (I only wish we’d gotten more photos of all the ladies who were there and a photo of the entire group). Look at your adorable mother. Grandma Wendy and Grandma Brenda were there. There were three great-grandmothers and a great-great-grandmother present to celebrate you. There’s your cousin Emma, your great-aunt Jody, and your great-aunts Suzanna and Brooke who, amazingly, are younger than your Aunt Madison (I’m going to have so much fun helping you sort out all of this loving, mixed-up mess of a wonderful family). Then there are all the wonderful friends that were there along with family. These are amazing women. They have stories to tell and lessons to teach.
Much of human history has not been kind to our female counterparts. They have been treated like objects, servants, property, and second-class citizens because males have dictated it, encouraged it, and allowed it to be so. It is one of many sad realities of life that you’ll see and experience as you make your own way on your own path. But you will have the opportunity to make a difference simply in your thoughts, your choices, your words, and your actions.
Listen to grandpa. Hear me. Honor these women and all they represent. As a male you will find that much about females will seem mysterious to the point of frustration. There will be moments you’ll be tempted to be dismissive, patronizing, and demeaning. Along your life journey you will be tempted to place women into two separate buckets in your mind: women to love and honor and women to diminish and objectify. You can’t have it both ways. When you embrace the latter you negate the former. I pray you will have the wisdom to resist these temptations. Someday, I’ve got a few things to share with you about the tragic foolishness of not doing so.
Respect women, all women, in the fullness of their being: body, mind and spirit. Respect the girls you grow up with, the woman you meet in a bar, the woman you work with, the woman you date, and the woman who is a stranger. Respect them just as you respect the women in these photos. Respect women for all the ways they are different from us guys. Respect their strength. Respect their knowledge. Respect their spirit, ability, courage, and their passion. Learn their stories. Embrace their wisdom. Love them well.
These women will make you a better man. This, I know from experience.
Thanks for being with me on Sunday. I’m sure it’s the first of many afternoons that you and I will share surrounded and outnumbered in the company of amazing women. I’ll teach you how to groan about it in manly fashion (and then secretly enjoy the heck out of it). I’m overjoyed to have your company.
Speaking of embarkation, Wendy and I embarked on a long discussed trip to South Carolina this past weekend to visit our daughter, Madison. Maddy Kate has been living in Columbia for well over a year now and works as a sales and training coordinator for a cosmetics company with SC and portions of NC as her territory.
We flew to Columbia on Thursday evening. Madison picked us up from the airport and took us to Publico, one of her favorite haunts the serves craft beer and Mexican. We could tell that she’s a regular there as the bartender was quite familiar and friendly. After a bite and a quick catching up she took us to our hotel.
On Friday Wendy and I worked in our hotel room most of the day as Madison likewise had to work. We had originally planned on flying in on Friday but he airfare was so much cheaper on Thursday evening that it paid for the hotel room and then some. Wendy and I knocked off mid-afternoon and walked to the Columbia Art Museum which had a couple of really interesting exhibitions. We then walked down Gervais Street and stopped at the Casual Pint where we enjoyed a….wait for it….casual pint.
Madison met us at Gervais and Vine for dinner with her friends, including Max, a Pella peep, who is in law school at the University. We enjoyed a leisurely evening with Abby, Sara, Max and Madison. The wine and tapas were top-notch, and it was fun getting to know Madison’s Columbia crew.
On Saturday Madison took us to the Soda City Farmer’s Market, which was a lot of fun. We also got to stop and check out her apartment and share a long-time-coming house-warming gift with her. We then jumped in the car and headed towards Charleston.
We spent a few hours at Magnolia Plantation. The grounds and gardens were unbelievably gorgeous and it was fun to walk and wander. We finished our time there touring a group of slave cabins built in 1850 and still standing. It was sobering to learn that a family of 15 was living in one of the tiny cabins as late as 1969.
We journeyed on to Charleston and we were all very hungry. It was late afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch. We found Mac’s Place, a Chicago themed Irish Pub complete with a Cubbie bear painted on the front window. After a bite and a rest we walked a few blocks to McCrady’s Tavern. I first visited McCrady’s Tavern when I visited our friends Dave and Maria about twenty years ago while they were teaching at the College of Charleston. The tavern dates back to 1778 and served George Washington back in the day. I really wanted to visit again and share it with Wendy and Madison. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some excellent beverages concocted by the talented bartenders.
We finished our brief visit to Charleston with a stop at Carmella’s dessert bar where we grabbed coffee and a small fudge cake. We walked down to the sea front and sat on a swing. It was fun to eat our cake, drink our coffee, and watch the ships leaving the harbor as we swung together and felt the sea breeze on our faces.
Sunday morning Madison took us to her church. It reminded Wendy and me of our local auditorium gathering at Third here in Pella. Once again, we enjoyed getting to meet Madison’s community. Brunch is a big deal in the south, so we left church and went directly to 116 State where we enjoyed brunch together in the quaint little wine and espresso bar.
It is football season and we wanted to watch our beloved Vikings play. Madison took us to the Carolina Ale House where we got to enjoy watching the game together. Madison was on the nods in the second half and we told her to go home and take a nap. After all we’d had to eat those couple of days, Wendy and I were glad for the long walk back to our hotel to stretch our legs.
A few hours later a refreshed Maddy Kate picked us up and we went a couple of blocks over to 1801 Grill where we were met by her significant other, Doug, who had just returned from a friend’s wedding in another state. The restaurant was getting ready to close, so we had appetizers (Wendy liked the grit french fries) and a drink. We then drove to another local dive that Madison and Doug appreciated because they’re always open and always serving food. It was a lovely, quiet evening chatting and enjoying one another’s company.
On Monday Wendy and I packed up for home and checked out. Madison picked us up late in the morning and took us back to Publico, and we ended our Carolina trip where it began. Doug met us for “two dollar tacos” lunch. We bid him farewell and went to a local coffee shop where we got a little bit of work done before heading to the airport.
Wendy and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Columbia and Charleston. There’s so much more to see and experience there. Madison seems to have settled in, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find we have many more Carolina experiences ahead of us.
I haven’t seen one of these in years. Only in tobacco country, I guess.