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!)
So packed at Peace Tree we had to sit in the sun on the patio!
My fave? Over the Ivy Czech style pilsner.
I talked Kevin into drinking a Miller High Life, and he lived to tell the tale.
The crawl began with lunch with the wives at Exile.
Exile. My fave was Gigi.
Great pic to take right after the Cubs beat the Cards.
Last year I turned 50, which was a big deal because the number had a zero at the end. Admittedly, 50 does feel a bit monumental. It’s half of a century. It’s the golden anniversary of life. It’s the U.S. Grant of birthdays. So, Wendy went all out and we had a great party with good friends and enjoyed celebrating to the max.
When Wendy asked me what I wanted to do this year, I told her that I wanted it to be low-key. I honestly didn’t even think about receiving presents. 51 is anticlimactic, and I’m zen with that. Let’s keep it small and push through.
God seemed to bless my wishes with weather to match my mood. It was cloudy, cold, rainy and dreary. All the better to keep the damper on things.
On Friday night Wendy and I were invited to the DMCS musical Charlotte’s Web to see our friends Harry and Kennedy perform. They did a spectacular job and we were proud of them. We went out with their folks after the show for a night cap.
Saturday was a work day around the house. I worked most of the day in the home office and Wendy busied herself cleaning. We then had dinner with friends Matthew and Sarah at Kaldera. It was great to see them as life has conspired to keep us from connecting over the last couple of months. They came back to V-Dub Pub for a night cap after dinner, but we kept it an early evening because…
On Sunday morning I gave the message in both the auditorium services among our local gathering of Jesus followers. I woke up early to go over my notes and prepare and was overjoyed to connect with Maddy Kate by phone. We talked and caught up for about 45 minutes (now that’s what I call a good birthday present). My folks came down from Des Moines with Taylor in tow. It was awesome to have them come down to celebrate with me.
Dad has been working on a project for me for the last couple of years. I’ve been wanting a bar shelf for our pub, and pops delivered on Sunday. He did a fantastic job with the shelf. It fit like a glove in the space and it’s even lit from underneath. The Vander Well Pub feels even more official now! Thanks, dad!
We ordered George’s pizza for lunch and then hung out together in the afternoon. I opened gifts (yes, I even received gifts!). Wendy got me DVD set of the Cub’s World Series games and some World Champion cuff links. Taylor ordered some books I’ve been wanting. Maddy Kate gave me another in the set of St. John’s Illuminated Bible. Everyone was really tired and feeling the naps coming on, so they left mid-afternoon. In the evening our friends Kevin and Linda swung by to watch the Cubs lose to the Red Sox (dangit!).
My birthday weekend officially ended on Monday. Wendy sent me and Kevin to Principal Park for an I-Cubs game. The weather continued to be rainy and cold, so Kevin and I lasted through almost four innings before we snuck down to The Bottom of the 5th, a small pub on the concourse behind home plate, where we sat at a high-top and watched the rest of the game on the monitors. It’s my birthday. I deserve to stay warm 😉
Another year in the books. The weather’s changed just in time for Tulip Time, which starts today. Wendy and I are doing our bit again this year. Stay tuned for the requisite pics.
“For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not relent….” Amos 2:4a (NIV)
Yesterday was my birthday. Weather-wise it was an awful day. It was rainy, cold, and windy; A good day to stay inside and enjoy some quiet with family and friends. My folks came down from Des Moines and brought Taylor with them. We enjoyed lunch together around the warm fireplace and then enjoyed conversation into the afternoon. It was a nice birthday, and it was wonderfully uneventful.
The quiet gave me some time for reflection throughout the day. I thought about the past year, the past 13 years in Pella, the past 23 years in my profession, the past 50 years of life. My life journey has been full and has taken me fascinating, unexpected places. I have continued to explore, continued to grow, continued to press further up and further in. I look back at where I was in my journey just ten or fifteen years ago, and I can see how I’ve progressed.
In this morning’s chapter the ancient prophet Amos, writing his poems from his small town, begins his small volume of prophetic works by taking aim at seven regional nations (Israel is a divided kingdom, so he addresses both Israel and Judah). Amos starts with Israel’s neighbors, drawing his Hebrew readers in with prophetic curses on their enemies. He was likely getting a lot of nodding heads and affirmations through the first six sections. Then things suddenly change for his contemporary readers.
Amos saves his final prophetic rebuke for his own people. The spiritual charges he brings against them come down to two basic things. First, the life and blessings they’ve been afforded haven’t resulted in a progression of spirit, of life, love, faith or wisdom. Second, their regression into indulgence of their appetites has resulted in a wide array of spiritual and social problems which they are choosing to ignore.
This morning, as I begin my 51st year of life, I find myself continuing to meditate on my journey. As much as progress as I’ve made along the way, Amos reminds me to not be ignorant or blind myself to ways I may have regressed. Where have I blinded myself to unhealthy indulgences? Where have my choices actually been detrimental to others? Where do I need to make changes as I begin another annual trek through the calendar? The journey isn’t finished until it’s finished. I’ve still got a long way to go, and a lot of progress yet to be made. It’s out there; Further up and further in.
We had a lot of fun yesterday as my siblings gathered to host an open house for our dad who celebrates his 80th birthday this coming Tuesday. Dad’s brother, Bud, traveled to Des Moines with his entire brood. Friends past and present joined us in the community room at the folk’s apartment to enjoy a bite of cake and share in celebrating our dad. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making it a special day.
Birthday cake from Jaarsma Bakery in Pella!
When these two get together there is always laughter.
Those of our crew who could make it.
My folks. Dean and Jeanne Vander Well
My family (L-R) me, Tim, Dad, Mom, Terry, Jody
Bud and his brood.
You don’t have to be crazy to be a Vander Well, but it helps.
Brothers Dean and Bud (Herman) Vander Well
The Vander Well clan
Dad showing mom Madison’s text message with birthday wishes.
Bud in his element, regaling people with his jokes and stories.
The Sibs (L-R) Tim, Terry, Jody, Tom
Me and my siblings (Terry, me, Jody, Tim)
Wendy and Cousin Vicki
Dean and Bud Vander Well
Love this lady
This party’s this way.
Brothers, Dean and Bud (Herman) Vander Well
Mom enjoyed seeing lots of old friends.
Mom was excited to get Madison’s text wishes to Dad.
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.
Wendy 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.
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.
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.
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.
A little birthday smooch!
Taylor introduced us to the laying hens
Taylor and Wendy on the porch at Catholic Worker House where she lives.
Checking out the art work at Des Moines Art Festival
Fun in the sun at Art Fest!
A flight of Exile craftsmanship for Taylor’s Birthday party
On the bulletin board at “The Worker” there was a pic of cousin Kathryn right above a pic of Tay!
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 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.
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.
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.
Birthdays (L-R) Apr 30, Apr 17, Apr 29
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 VLs and JPs gave me a poster of Shakespearean insults for VW Pub
The VLs and JPs gave me a poster of Shakespearean insults for VW Pub
Wendy made baseball cupcakes! Yummy!
The crew that was left late in the afternoon!
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.
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.
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!
Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land still remains to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1 (NRSV)
It’s perhaps funny that references to old age are leaping off the page at me here as I approach my 50th birthday at the end of April. I’m not feeling old and I’m trying not to obsess too much about it. I am, however, thinking a lot about how I want to approach the final acts (Shakespeare always had five of them!) of this story.
In a bit of synchronicity, the Wall Street Journal published this quote from a script by the Roman philosopher Cicero:
Cato: I think, my young friends, that you are admiring me for something that isn’t so difficult. Those who lack within themselves the means for a blessed and happy life will find any age painful. But for those who seek good things within themselves, nothing imposed on them by nature will seem troublesome. Growing older is a prime example of this. Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it. People can be foolish and inconsistent.
They say that old age crept up on them much faster than they expected. But, first of all, who is to blame for such poor judgment? Does old age steal upon youth any faster than youth does on childhood? Would growing older really be less of a burden to them if they were approaching eight hundred rather than eighty? If old people are foolish, nothing can console them for time slipping away, no matter how long they live.
So if you compliment me on being wise—and I wish I were worthy of that estimate and my name—in this way alone do I deserve it: I follow nature as the best guide and obey her like a god. Since she has carefully planned the other parts of the drama of life, it’s unlikely that she would be a bad playwright and neglect the final act. And this last act must take place, as surely as the fruits of trees and the earth must someday wither and fall. But a wise person knows this and accepts it with grace. Fighting against nature is as pointless as the battles of the giants against the gods.
When our girls were babies I told myself that I was going to fully appreciate every stage of their growing up for what it was, both the positives and the negatives. I can’t change it, but I can choose to embrace it and find the joy in each stage. I was glad that I did that. While certain stages were more enjoyable for than others, I can honestly say that I’ve really enjoyed the entire journey of watching them grow up.
Now, I’m saying the same thing about growing older. I can’t change the way God has designed things. I might as well embrace that which I cannot fight, just as Cicero stated. It brings to mind the Cubs’ (they’re 3-0!) wise skipper, Joe Maddon, who has been telling his young ball club to “embrace the target.” No use fighting it. I might as well embrace it and find joy amidst each stage. Wendy says she’s going to hold me to that (she knows my penchant for falling back into pessimism). And, I’m sure she will. I’m hoping she doesn’t have to. I don’t want the home stretch of life’s journey to bring out the worst in me. I want it to be the fulfillment of the best in me.