Tag Archives: 2014

My Photos of 2014

I took some time on this New Year’s Day to go through all my photos of 2014. I’ve pulled some of my favorites for this 2014 year in review slideshow. It’s interesting which photos stood out to me. Some of them are photos I’m proud to have taken. Many would never qualify as great photography but they are connected to personal moments or events that are particularly meaningful for me. Anyway, here’s our year in review through my camera lens. Feel free to Take Five and have a look.

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2014

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this Christmas seemed a bit odd and low key compared to previous years. 2014 has been a year of transitions and Christmas reflected that fact in many ways. Taylor was in France and Madison was flying the friendly skies and enjoying a layover with Uncle Terry, Aunt Bonnie, and Ellie. With nine weeks to moving, our decorations at Vander Well Manor were minimal and Wendy and I opted to forego gifts as we have a lot of “gifts” to buy for our new house.

Madison was home briefly the week before Christmas, and that kicked off our holiday gatherings. The Vander Well and Keithley clans got together for a pizza party at Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne’s.

Christmas Eve we headed to Ankeny in the afternoon with Grandma and Suzanna. Wendy and I dropped the ladies off at mom and dad Hall’s and then met up with our friends Dave and Maria who were visiting from Grand Rapids. Back to the Hall’s we enjoyed a wonderful “Iowa soul food” meal of roast from the crock pot, mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade bread. Christmas goodies were abundant for dessert. It was a small crowd. Beside Wendy and Suzanna, Lucas was the only other sibling to join us. Becky and Courtney joined us for a FaceTime session with baby Lydia. We had the gift exchange after dinner and enjoyed a quiet evening swapping family stories and enjoying each other’s company. Wendy, Suzanna, and I headed back to Pella late that evening.

Christmas morning in Pella was quiet for the three of us. We made our traditional Christmas breakfast and enjoyed it together before exchanging gifts. By late morning, Wendy and I had packed up a crock pot of French Dip beef and two bottles of wine, and headed to Des Moines for lunch with the Vander Wells. Suzanna headed back to Ankeny to spend Christmas day with her folks. On the way to Des Moines we spoke to Madison who was still celebrating with Uncle Terry and Aunt Bonnie. She had a wonderful time with them and we were so happy to know she could spend Christmas Eve and morning with family.


Sam and Emma were the only grandkids present for Christmas at the VWs this year, but Sam arrived with his girlfriend, Lydia, who added extra energy to our family gathering. We enjoyed a laid-back lunch before heading downstairs for the gift exchange, which then led to family games. Taylor called on FaceTime from France and the whole family got to grill her about her experiences across the pond. By late afternoon, Wendy and I were feeling really tired. I had been up at 2:30 a.m. to turn on the slow cooker and never really got back to sleep. Wendy and I headed home and hung on to consciousness as long as possible, finally heading to bed around 9:30. Goodness, I feel old typing that.

Saturday was our final family gathering. It was back to Ankeny to celebrate with the Vander Hart crew, once again at mom and dad Hall’s. Plenty of food and Christmas treats to spare for the small gathering. Grandma Vander Hart had been staying there since we brought her up on Christmas Eve day. Deb and Doug, along with Brad, were the only VH siblings to join us. Suzanna, Wendy, Nicole, and Brant were the grandkids present. Brant and Amy’s kids Addy and Clayton provided equilibrium to the generational curve.

Now we turn our attention to the New Year as Wendy and I prepare to celebrate our 9th anniversary!


Thanksgiving Thoughts

“Only a few years will pass
    before I take the path of no return.”
Job 16:22 (NIV)

Wendy and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving yesterday. We were up early to put turkey in the crock pot and a loaf of bread in the bread maker. We headed to Des Moines with our contributions to the Thanksgiving meal and arrived at my folks’ house just before noon. The house was full. Tim and Kumi drove up from Texas. Terry, Bonnie, and Ellie made the trek from Chicago with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in tow. Our nephew Sam had to work the weekend and was unable to accompany his parents out east, so he joined us as well.

This was the first Thanksgiving meal, the first real family gathering, since my mom was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s. Many things yesterday were, to quote the Talking Heads, “same as it ever was.” And yet, beneath the visible surface of our traditional Vander Well Thanksgiving meal, afternoon conversation, and family game time around the dining room table, there had been a major shift in the tectonic plates of life. Some things will never be the same again in this lifetime.

In this morning’s chapter, Job makes his next speech. After dismissing the poor comfort of his friends, Job draws inward and becomes introspective about his plight. He contemplates the reality of the end of this life journey that each one of us will reach. I believe that most of us spend our days filled with the minutiae and urgent details of daily life to the point that there is no room left for looking too far head. The end of the journey for ourselves or our loved ones is not a comfortable subject. There are, however, certain way-points along life’s road that remind us where the path leads. And, having reached the way-point and looking back, we realize there are certain places to which we will never return in this journey.

Today, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for family who gathered and prayed and feasted and laughed and played and hugged and loved. I’m thankful for a lifetime of Thanksgiving memories. I’m thankful for parents whose deep faith leads and comforts them on a the murky path that lies before them. I’m thankful for our daughters, both off on their own journeys, who had good friends and companions with whom to give thanks. I’m thankful for Jesus, whom I follow, who promised “I am with you always – to the very end.”

A Fond Farewell to Summer

It was a gorgeous fall weekend at the lake. We have, for years, started each summer at the lake by spending a weekend there with our friends Kev and Beck. This year, for the first time, we were able to also finish our summer by spending a weekend together. It sure felt like summer. Sunny and temps in the upper 80s made for picture perfect weekend.

It was a quick weekend. We arrived Friday evening and headed down to Captain Ron’s for a late dinner. As with all our weekends with Kev and Beck, the agenda was simple: Good food. Good drink. Good conversation. On Saturday we got out on the boat and headed over to Bulldog’s to pay a visit to our friend Buff, the lake’s best bartender. Saturday night was steaks on the grill followed by a long evening of conversation on the deck.

We got up this morning, spent an hour or so sitting in the sun on the dock and chatting. After lunch we packed up and headed home. After dropping us off back home in Pella, Kev and Beck joined us for a tour of our house that is under construction.

It was a great weekend to both extend and say a fond farewell to summer.

Summer’s Book End

“High Season” at the lake is bookended between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The three day weekends traditionally welcome summer and then bid it adieu. Wendy and I were blessed this summer to spend summer’s final hurrah with our friends the VLs and the JPs.

For five years our three families have vacationed together each summer, though each year it has taken on a slightly different form and and schedule. This year, for the very first time, the three adult couples spent a long weekend together sans children.

Wendy and I drove down late last Wednesday to get the place opened up and prepped for the weekend. We worked from the lake Thursday and a good part of Friday. The VLs arrived late Thursday evening and then took off early Friday morning for Osage to spend the morning working at Starbuck’s and the afternoon shopping. The JPs arrived in Osage and did some shopping before joining us at the Playhouse for dinner.

Friday night was burgers on the grill and movie night (we watched Thor) while I made a quick visit to Captain Ron’s to see some high school classmates who had texted me they would be there.

Saturday morning we got out in the sun for about an hour before a torrential cloudburst sent us scrambling inside for lunch. It wasn’t long before the sun returned and we spent the afternoon floating in the water and enjoying conversation. Saturday night the VLs made grilled chicken with wild rice and we took a boat ride on the lake before settling back at the house to watch another movie (The Grand Budapest Hotel) before calling it a night.

Sunday was the most beautiful day of the weekend and we took advantage of the sun to jump in the boat and head down to Bear Bottom Resort. We stood in the pool by the swim-up bar and enjoyed some sun and adult beverages for a few hours. When we returned to the house there was still plenty of afternoon left and we spent it (along with about 1,488,320 other people in our cove)  floating in the water and relaxing. We cleaned up and headed to Bulldog’s Beach House for dinner. Bulldog’s had run out of about everything and the wait was a bit long, but we had nowhere else to be and enjoyed the time together. It was dark when we left and enjoyed a moonlight cruise back to the house.

This morning is cold and rainy which has caused everyone to push the “fast forward” button on getting packed up and headed for home. Nevertheless, it’s been another fun weekend together! 🙂

Off They Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Happy 24th Taylor!
From Taylor’s birthday dinner July, 2014 (Photo credit: Tom Vander Well)

Last night Wendy and I took Taylor out for dinner. It our bon-voyage celebration as Taylor prepares to move “across the pond” to Edinburg, Scotland to study for her master’s degree in Arts Management at the University of Edinburg.

It’s been a whirlwind of late with helping Taylor move her worldly possessions into storage and having her jetting around the country to visit friends and family before she heads off for a year. Last night’s dinner was a blessed moment of quiet together. We caught up. We pondered some big life things and laughed about trivial things. We ate more than we should and shared two desserts between the three of us because we won’t have the opportunity to break bread together for a long time.

We dropped Taylor off, got out of the car, and group hugged for a good, long time that I wished had been even longer. I prayed for her and for us. As Wendy and I drove away the tears were streaking down both of our cheeks. We have said bon-voyage to both Taylor and Madison so many times in their young lives, yet I find it gets emotionally harder as time goes on.

C’est la vie.

Madison has her wings!
Madison has her wings!

I’m so proud of our girls, their courage and confidence, their sense of possibility and adventure.

Speaking of adventure: Yesterday as we spent time saying good-bye to Taylor, Madison was somewhere in the skies above us doing her in-flight training as a Flight Attendant for Sky West. She moved to Chicago last week and is based out of O’Hare for now. She’s hoping for a transfer back to Colorado before too long.

At the beginning of the summer Madison called and told me she’d applied on-line to become a flight attendant. It seemed like a random thing in the moment, but within a couple of weeks she was hired and whisked off to Salt Lake City for a month of intense training. Now she’s in Chicago. Wow, what a difference a few months make.

At least the travel perks mean we should see Madison more often in the weeks and months to come! She has already begun to take advantage of the free flights to surprise her grandparents with an impromptu visit. Wendy and I are looking forward to more impromptu visits! And, Madison and I have already begun to contemplate the opportunity to run into one another when I’m traveling on business. I hope the day comes when she’s a flight attendant on one of my flights! 😉

A Gorgeous and Enjoyable Two Weeks

Wendy and I enjoyed our two weeks at the lake, though I admit that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as I enter back into the fray. We will have been home less than two days before we take off for a three day business trip to the Twin Cities. So much to do. So little time.

Nevertheless, we can look back at two gorgeous weeks punctuated by wonderful visits from dear friends. In all the years I’ve been going down to the Lake of the Ozarks, I can’t remember a more beautiful two week stretch in August. Usually the temps are above 100 degrees fahrenheit, the lake feels like tepid bath water, and you feel like stepping out of the house is similar to stepping out in an oven. The past two weeks the temps rarely got above the mid-eighties. Cool overnight temps created a sea of mist over the lake, and Wendy even wore a sweatshirt one night on the deck.

During the week Wendy and I did worked to keep projects moving along. The nice thing about working from the lake is that we can take a few hours off in the afternoon, get out on the water, and enjoy the sun. We enjoyed the quiet and togetherness on our week days alone.

The first weekend we enjoyed a visit by our friends, Kevin and Linda. On the second weekend it was our friend Matthew and his daughter, Olivia. As a hobbit might say, “It rained food and drink” until we were “filling up the corners.” There was sweet laughter and great conversation, warm sunshine and cool water.

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. In just ten days we’ll be heading back down for Labor Day weekend and the official end of the high season. Where does the time go?

Homecoming and a Belated Birthday Celebration

Cubbies Win!
(Photo credit: Tom Vander Well)

After a long week on a business trip to Texas, I returned home on Friday evening to an empty house. Our local community theatre opened their production of Seussical the Musical on Friday night and Wendy was taking care of Front of House and the Patron Lounge for the show. Suzanna is in the show as one of the bird girls. Wendy was home by intermission but I was pooped from my trip and Wendy was feeling the start of a summer cold coming on.

Saturday was a day for getting some things done. Wendy and I had finished clearing out an old drop ceiling in the basement a week ago and I took a load of debris to the dump while Wendy finished up some work.

It was a gorgeous day and after lunch we headed out to the lot where our new house will be built. The builder had staked out the footprint of the house on the lot so we could see where it will be. It was kind of fun to have neighbors come over to greet us and we ended up spending a lot more time out there chatting than we had expected. If all goes according to plan, we should be breaking ground in the next week or two.

Saturday evening we both helped with Front of House for Seussical before heading home to grab a George’s pizza. Wendy’s cold was getting much worse as the day progressed on Saturday, so we called it an early night.

Sunday morning things were not much better and we opted to play hooky from church. About noon we headed to Des Moines to meet Kev and Beck. For my birthday this year, Kev and Beck wanted to take Wendy and me to an Iowa Cubs game and this Sunday afternoon double header was about all that we could work into the summer schedule. So, Happy Birthday to me three months later! 🙂

It was a gorgeous afternoon for a double header, though our beloved local boys dropped both games to the Memphis Redbirds. It was very annoying. There were way too many St. Louis Cardinal fans at the ballpark. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the sun, the hot dogs, the popcorn, and the beer. After the game we picked up some burgers from B-Bops and settled in at Kev and Beck’s house for some enjoyable conversation. Taylor was not there, as she and some friends are at the lake this weekend.

Wendy’s cold was still plaguing her, so we called it an earlier night than normal with Kev and Beck and headed back home. A busy week ahead work-wise and a four-show weekend for Seussical with family coming to see Suzanna. We’ve got a lot to accomplish before heading to the lake for a couple of weeks!


Fourth of July 2014

Wendy and I have enjoyed a gorgeous Fourth of July weekend at the lake. We’d been working from the lake last week, but took Friday off to enjoy getting out in the sun. There were a bunch of boats tied up in the cove with lots of people swimming, floating and sunning themselves. We blew up a couple of mats, threw on some music and floated in the sun for a few hours. Wendy forgot to put on sunscreen and got fried, but we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon nonetheless.

Wendy’s sister, Becky, and her husband Court, arrived around 7:00 p.m. They live in Denver and are headed to a visit back in Iowa, but stopped to spend the weekend with us. Becky is pregnant with their first, a girl, whom they’ve named Lydia. It was a lot of fun to see her pregnant and we’re excited to meet Lydia later this fall.

We cooked burgers on the grill Friday night and sat out on the deck to eat and chat. Captain Ron’s had their annual fireworks display planned for Saturday night but it seemed as if everyone in the cove had purchased their own at one of the 3,248,489 fireworks stands that dot Highway 5 every quarter mile or so. It was kind of fun to just sit on the deck and watch them going off all around us.

We got out for a boat ride on Saturday morning, though the traffic on the lake was already so heavy that the water seemed a bit more like being on the ocean. We slowly made our way around some of the nearby coves and let Becky and Court see the sights. In the afternoon we went down to the dock. Court and I got in the water while the ladies sat on the dock chatting.

Saturday evening was a wonderful dinner of grilled chicken and sweet corn on the cob. As it got dark was took the boat and anchored out in the cove to enjoy the fireworks. Becky and Court got up on Sunday and headed for Pella to spend some time with Suzanna. It was great to have them with us for a few days.