Category Archives: Wayfarer’s Journal

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

The Latest 08-07-2017

They typically call August in Iowa the “dog days of summer,” but it definitely as not felt that way this year. We had the 100 degree August heat in July, and now nightly temps in the 50s have us thinking of football weather. And the Iowa State Fair hasn’t even begun.

It’s been terribly dry here in our little neck of the woods. Our lawn is dead. We’ve been watering to keep the landscaping alive, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a little depressing to see nothing but weed in a sea of brown grass.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. July was full of business travel for me. I returned home to assist Wendy with running the box office for Union Street Players production of The Wizard of Oz¬†and to helm meetings in preparation for our community theatre’s upcoming Board elections and Awards Night. Wendy and I are stepping down from leadership this year. It’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we’re ready for other things.

We also spent some time at the lake together. It was a working getaway. Having home offices, it affords us the opportunity to work from the Ozarks. While it’s hard sometimes to sit inside and work while the lake and sun are just out there waiting of us, it is nice to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee on the dock. It’s nice get done with work and enjoy dinner on the deck or go for a boat ride. We managed a few dates out in the boat, which is always a ton of fun.

Wendy’s key lime cheesecake.

Wendy has been busy making cheesecakes (and cupcakes) this summer. Not only has she made them for Grandma Vander Hart’s 90th birthday bash and her upcoming Cabi party, but she also has been getting fairly regular orders from people wanting cheesecake for this or that celebration. She loves baking, and I’m glad that she gets the opportunity to do it so regularly for others. If she satiated her desire to bake exclusively for the two of us I’d weigh 400 pounds.

I’ve also been busy on Sunday mornings. Three weeks straight I’ve been in the pulpit at our church here in Pella. That’s been really enjoyable despite the demands of preparation and delivery.

Taylor officially announced her pregnancy a few weeks ago and it’s been fun celebrating the good news with people. I can’t wait to be grandpa. It’s a fun new stage of the journey for us. Taylor is still in Des Moines and works for a digital marketing firm. Clayton is in Africa working on research for his doctorate degree. He’ll return in November and be with Taylor for the duration with baby’s arrival due mid January.

Wendy and I are pumped to make a fall road trip to see Madison. She’s been in South Carolina for so long and we’ve yet gotten down to see her in her community there. She’s still working for Laura Geller New York and is really enjoying her ever expanding community of friends there. She’s also enjoying being just a couple of hours from the Atlantic coast and the beach.

In a couple of weeks both Taylor and Madison are going to join Wendy and me for a trip to the lake together. It will be the last time that just the four of us will have family vacation time together. January begins a whole new chapter in life. We’re looking forward to marking the time together.

Belated Birthday Boys’ Day Out

My friend, Kevin, and I have April birthdays. His is before mine. This year I told him, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ night at the Iowa Cubs.” On my birthday he told me, “For your birthday I want to treat you to a boys’ pub crawl in downtown Des Moines.” Why not kill two birthday birds with one stone?

It took three months to arrange, but this past Saturday Wendy and I met Kev and Beck at Exile Brewing in Des Moines for lunch. The ladies then took off to do shopping and other things that ladies do. Kev and I spent the afternoon sampling some of the best craft brews that Iowa has to offer (and Iowa has a lot to offer in this arena), along with a few stand-bys.

After Exile we hit the tap room at Confluence Brewing and then headed to Peace Tree Brewing’s new location in Des Moines’ East Village. It was a tortuously hot summer afternoon, but we persevered as only courageous old men can do in these situations. From Peace Tree we walked the 251′ (thanks Google Maps) to the Iowa Tap room where we found their 160+ taps of exclusively Iowa brews.

After quaffing the best the stylish East Village has to offer, we drove to the ball park and got an early parking spot. We headed north to the High Life Lounge which is a shrine to beer I remember from my youth (you know, the beer my dad and older brothers drinking). I actually talked Kevin into drinking an actual Miller High Life from the tap (he was scared). I felt so nostalgically at home that I could have easily decided to spend the rest of my weekend there. But, there was more to be experienced! We headed next door to El Bait shop where we watched the Chicago Cubs finish off the Cardinals (call it a belated birthday present). We finished our pub crawl with a stogie at 300 Rooftops.

It was a short walk to Principal Park where we grabbed the requisite ball park grub and watched the iCubs take out the Oklahoma City Dodgers. It was a great afternoon. Yes, I remember all of it. (Old dudes learn the value of hydration, moderation!)

July Fun at the Lake

Wendy and I got to spend some time at the lake in late June and early July. We were joined by our friends Kev & Beck and their kids for the weekend before the 4th of July. We enjoyed all of the normal summer fun with trips to Bear Bottom and the Red Head. We also enjoyed visiting friends David and Lola who have a place on the lake, as well. Kev, Beck and the kids had to take off on the afternoon of the 4th, but we were able to enjoy fireworks from Captain Ron’s together on the evening of the 3rd. Always lots of fun with that crew.

Wendy and I worked remotely from the lake that week and then enjoyed a weekend visit from Matthew and Sarah. We packed our two days together with dinner at Captain Ron’s, laying out on the chill raft, steaks on the grill, a trip to Bear Bottom, lots of conversation, and a movie night watching The Shack.

 

Evening at the Dance Recital

This past weekend Wendy and I were invited to attend our friend, Kennedy’s, dance recital. I’ll admit that I give a good-hearted groan when facing and evening of three hours plus of little girls dancing. The truth is that I really enjoy watching dance done well and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Taylor, Megan, and Kennedy developing their twinkletoes. We had a fun night on Friday attending the recital and then going out for a late bite with her family.

We’ve attended Kennedy’s recitals for a few years now and it’s been so enjoyable watching her grow into a graceful and beautiful young lady. Her folks asked me to bring my camera and take some photos (like they really had to twist my arm!). For an amateur like me these kind of events always pose a fun photography challenge. I’m always praying that I’ll have a handful of photos worth something at the end of the evening. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around

My parents bought this property at the lake back in 1998. It looked a lot different then. The lawn was cluttered with trees. There was a single-wide 1972 trailer home with three tiny bedrooms, dark wood paneling, orange shag carpet, and a metal roof that was deafening when it rained. Each summer we made regular pilgrimages and made eternal memories with grandpa and grandma and each other.

There’s always a deep sense of joy I experience when the folks come back to the lake. It’s a reciprocal thing. They shared this place with me and my family, and now we get to give it back to them for their en-joy-ment. And, it is a joy.

My sister and her kids spent last week at the lake with our parents. My brother Tim and his girlfriend joined them this past weekend. Wendy and I arrived Sunday evening. We spent a couple of nights with Jody and the folks before they departed on Tuesday morning. It was a fun couple of days together sipping coffee on the deck, grabbing breakfast at the local greasy spoon, sitting on the dock, chatting, and going for an evening boat ride.

Hello Summer!

Storm clouds gathered. Rain poured. Sirens blared. But we survived the tempest!

It’s well established that summer at the lake starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends with Labor Day weekend. We typically try to start summer early each year because May often provides the weather for it and it’s nice to get in some time at the lake before the summer crowds arrive. It just wasn’t in the cards this year. The spring has been cool and wet, and Wendy and I have been busy at home with landscaping and work among other things.

Cubs on the radio. Moscow Mule. Good book. Hello, Summer!

So, we were really looking forward to getting the summer kicked off on Memorial Day weekend. We headed down Thursday evening to get the Playhouse opened up. The VLs joined us on Friday. We enjoyed afternoons at Captain Ron’s beach and on the dock, boat rides, and of course there was lots of good food, drink, and conversation. We did have some rain, and even a tornado siren or two, but that just afforded the opportunity for reading, eating, drinking, and chatting indoors. The VL boys, meanwhile, enjoyed the addition of the PS3 in the lower level.

The Puddle Effect

The VLs headed home on Memorial Day. Wendy and I stayed for the week and worked remotely. We did, however, afford the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Bear Bottom and enjoy some French Open tennis while hanging out at BWW’s in Osage.

My folks arrived on Saturday afternoon with our niece Emma. We hung out on the dock and went to Captain Ron’s for pizza. Rain washed out our plans for an evening boat ride so we watched a movie. Wendy and I packed up and headed home this morning, leaving the folks and Emma at the lake for the week.

It was a nice kick-off to summer. Here’s to a great season of making good memories with family and friends!