Category Archives: Wayfarer’s Journal

The Latest 02-05-2018

It’s been a while since I’ve updated family and friends on the latest happenings with Wendy, me and the crew. Here’s the latest…

The best Christmas gift 2018: Milo James Vander Well!
  • Our grandson, Milo, is doing really well. Arriving five weeks early and weighing in an ounce over five pounds, he’s now over eight pounds and growing. Taylor and Clayton are still adjusting to life on a three-hour sleep cycle and all of the regular challenges of a newborn. We, of course, don’t get nearly enough of him but an extended visit to grandpa and grandma’s house is coming up and we’re excited.
Sharing the message in the Auditorium services at Third Church.
  • January 1, 2018 meant two transitions for me. First, I was named CEO of C Wenger Group (CWG) the company I’ve worked for since 1994. My transition into leadership has been long planned, but the exact timing has not. A few months ago my business partner and I agreed that the timing was right, so I’ve not had long to prepare. Functionally, things won’t change much in the near term other than taking on entirely new layer of administrative work and responsibilities while I set the course for our company’s future. Second, I have accepted a slightly larger role in the auditorium services at Third Church. This means preaching a little more often [FYI: you can find messages on the TRC channel on YouTube or through the TRC website] and consistently taking the leadership role in Sunday services.

  • Wendy and I officially stepped down from leadership in Union Street Players, our local community theatre, after 12/13 years of service on the Board of Directors. We didn’t exactly know the other transitions were coming, but felt that it was time and now we feel the synchronicity of it. We will still volunteer and support USP and be in shows when the timing is right.

  • Wendy continues to work for CWG and her administrative gifts have already become invaluable in helping me with my new realities. She’s been volunteering some of her time at the Pella Opera House in recent weeks.

  • We’re headed on a Caribbean cruise in a few weeks, and can’t wait for 7 days away from the Iowa winter.
Madison with Grandma Jeanne.
  • Madison continues to work for Laura Geller New York from her home in South Carolina. She’s doing great and has settled into community there.
  • My folks are doing well in their retirement community and continue to reside in independent living. Dad continues oral chemo for his Multiple Myeloma and cares for mom with love and fidelity. Mom is her doctor’s oldest surviving Auto-Immune Hepatitis patient and continues to battle Alzheimer’s as best she can.

  • Taylor and Clayton are in Des Moines focused on little Milo. Clayton is doing a short research project for the UN in February which is a great feather in his cap. Taylor is on maternity leave for a few more weeks and then will return to her job at ThinkDigital.
Celebrating Suzanna’s birthday this past fall.
  • Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, has started a successful career with a bonding company in Des Moines and is living in the Des Moines area.
So thankful for the family and friends who fill our lives with so much love!

Christmas 2017

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.

Wendy with her mom and grandma.

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 holds her nephew, Milo, for the first time.

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.

Madison with Grandma Jeanne.

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.

Methinks Grandma Wendy is in love.

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.

The Honorable Badge of “Papa”

(Note to regular readers: It’s a crazy busy week and I’m taking a little hiatus from my chapter-a-day posts! You’re welcome to check out the archive and choose a favorite book, chapter, or simply grab something at random!)

A few years ago we were at the lake with our good friends, the VL family. My little buddy, Aaron, was only a couple of years old and he just naturally started calling me “Papa” in the course of natural conversation (this was their family nomenclature for “grandpa”). Aaron wasn’t doing this consciously. I was an old man with a lot of gray hair and the important old men he knew in his life were his grandfathers. His folks made a valiant attempt to correct him, but as he wasn’t doing it consciously I could tell that little Aaron didn’t understand what he was doing wrong. When he looked at me, he saw “Papa Tom.” I quietly cherished the moment, and pinned it to my soul as a badge of honor.

This life journey courses with a certain natural flow and I long ago gave up trying to hurry it up or slow it down. It is what it is. Embrace the moment and keep pressing on. I confess that Aaron calling me “Papa” made me really look forward to the day when, God willing, I would get to pin that badge on for real. But, I’ve been content to wait for it to happen if/when it’s meant to happen.

Yesterday, it happened. Our daughter Taylor gave birth to Milo James and I am so excited to enter this new stretch of life’s journey as Grandpa, Papa, Gramps, Bampy, Opa, Geepa, PawPaw, or whatever crazy version of the word that little Milo might come up with. Looking forward to all the experiences ahead watching him embark on his own journey, and can’t wait to offer a little support, wisdom and lots of love along the way.

Life is good.

Thanksgiving 2017

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.

First Words to My Grandson

My dear grandson,

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.

Love you, little man.

Grandpa Tom

South Carolina

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.

Columbia Art Museum, Columbia SC

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.

Another Season Ends

It was a gorgeous autumn weekend in the Ozarks this past weekend. For a decade we have kicked off our annual lake season each spring with friends Kevin and Becky. It’s always such an enjoyable weekend together that a few years ago we decided to add a weekend in October to end each lake season as well.

The weather is unpredictable during Ozark autumns, but more often than not the sun is every bit as warm as it is during the summer during the day. The mornings and evenings, however, are cool enough to require a sweatshirt or jacket. Plus, the autumn colors are starting to come out, adding a whole new layer of beauty to the landscape.

It was a much needed weekend of “R&R” for the four of us. Plenty of laughter, conversation, and camaraderie accompanied with good food and drink. We watched the Cyclone football team win (yay!) and the Cubs lose (boo!). We took a boat ride, grilled some great food, and spent hours on the deck.

Wendy and I will likely be making another trip south to shut things down for the long winter months. The season of sun and fun at the Playhouse is over for 2017. It was a good season of family and friends. This past weekend was the perfect way to bring it to a conclusion.