Tag Archives: Celebration

The December Celebration Gauntlet

When Wendy and I married, December suddenly became much more than just a Christmas holiday. Wendy’s birthday is December 21, and we married on New Year’s Eve. That means that I have, arguably, the three most important gift-giving days of the year in an 11 day stretch. After 12 years (a number rife with Biblical significance) trying to find balance in this celestial conjunction of celebrations, our first grandchild unexpectedly, like the star of Bethlehem, appeared on the horizon last year and plotted his arrival on December 11th. An already crazy month just got crazier.

Milo and his parents (I state it this way because, let’s be honest, it’s all about the one-year-old) arrived home from the UK in early December. I picked up them up and drove them home from MSP. The kids made our house command central out of which “Operation Celebrations” would be conducted. Milo has four sets of grandparents, a full contingency of living great-grandparents, and at least one great-great-grandparent. Long story short: There’s a lot of people needing a Milo fix.

Our celebration of Milo’s first birthday happened the night of the 12th. We had a small cadre of family over for a relatively small affair. Ya-Ya Wendy made Milo both a chocolate cupcake and a white, funfetti cupcake. He seemed to prefer the funfetti cupcake, proving that his taste bud genes are inherited from his paternal DNA coding.

Walking is a lot easier with one of these things!

The rounds of family visitation continued on the 19th when Taylor, Milo, and I stopped by my folks retirement community to have lunch with the folks. Milo was, of course, a huge hit. Milo also had a fascination with all of the various walkers with wheels. As he is in training to get the whole “walking” thing down (we’re up to about six consecutive steps without falling at this point), it was a huge discovery for him that there are devices designed and manufactured to assist in this basic human motor skill (special “thanks” to Mary for letting Milo run free with her walker).

Skol! Vikings!

Wendy and I began celebration of her birthday on the 15th when we headed to the Twin Cities. On the 16th we went to our first Vikings game at their new “mother ship” stadium. An annual trip to see the Vikings had become a bit of a tradition for us until it was announced that the new stadium would be built. Wendy and cold get along like Hamilton and Burr, so we skipped the seasons they were playing at the U of M’s outdoor stadium. We finally decided to all the trigger on  our old tradition. It was a lot of fun. We’ll be back.

Wendy’s birthday was otherwise fairly quiet except for the doorbell ringing incessantly. She got a trifecta of flower bouquets on her big day. The florist here in Pella was grateful for the business, though they somehow couldn’t get the deliveries consolidated. On the following weekend our friends Kevin and Becky came to Pella to celebrate Wendy. A pint at the Cellar and a pizza from George’s was in order with the rest of the evening relaxing at Vander Well Pub.

Maddy Kate flew in from her home in South Carolina on Christmas Eve day. We visited Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne before I drove her back to Pella. She joined Wendy and me at Christmas Eve services at church while Milo and his entourage were making an all day tour stop at Na-Na Brenda’s.

Christmas day, I’m happy to say, was an all-out, love-and-laughter, food-and fun, lazy lounge-fest with just the six of us. Wendy made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, along with an awesome breakfast. I threw French Dip into the crock pot for the evening meal. Lunch was a charcuterie menagerie for all. We opened gifts together after breakfast, then moved a mattress into the family room next to the sectional for a blissful day of binge watching (This is Us took up the entire afternoon), eating, and napping together.

Christmas 2016

It is the 28th of December and Christmas is not officially over for us. Madison will fly back to Iowa from her balmy South Carolina home (she told us on FaceTime Christmas morning that it was 70 degrees and she was contemplating a trip to the beach). The four of us will celebrate Christmas together on or around New Year’s Day, so there are stuffed stockings and gifts yet under the tree.

Wendy and I were happy to have family visit us here in Pella this Christmas. Taylor arrived the afternoon of Christmas Eve day and the three of us attended the 6:00 Christmas Eve service at Third Church.

Christmas Eve services at Third Church.
Christmas Eve services at Third Church.

We returned home and watched a couple of Christmas movies. We got through all of While You Were Sleeping and most of the way through It’s a Wonderful Life before deciding it was time to settle down for a long winter’s nap.

Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.
Christmas Day was really gloomy. Unseasonably warm (50s F) but very, very rainy.

Christmas morning dawned and Wendy made what has become our traditional Christmas breakfast. We stoke up the dining room fireplace (actually, we simply hit the button on the remote, but “stoking” the fire sounds so much more cozy) and settle in around the table. Homemade cinnamon rolls are the special Christmas treat along with our favorite breakfast fare.

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Christmas breakfast.
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Mmmmm.

The rest of the morning was spent relaxing, hanging out, and waiting for the family to begin arriving. Taylor and I had fun on the couch playing with Snapchat and making silly pictures and videos.

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Both the Hall and Vander Well clans joined us on Christmas Day. Mom and Dad Vander Well were the first to arrive around mid-day. Jody, Emma, Sam and Lydia arrived soon afterwards (Scott was home sick) along with Tim (who also left Kumi sick back in Des Moines). Mom Hall arrived with Suzanna and Grandma Vander Hart. Dad Hall met Court, Becky and Lydia at the airport and drove them down in the early afternoon.

Plenty of food. Dish up!
Plenty of food. Dish up!

We had mixed up a crock pot full of French Dip, and the kitchen island was filled with snacks and treats that family brought with them. There was, of course, Wendy’s cheesecake and Uncle Tim’s figure 8 cookies. We enjoyed a meal together and the family spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying one another’s company.

We opened gifts in the late afternoon. By early evening most everyone had decided to head home. Court, Becky, and Lydia stayed with us until Tuesday. Luke and Brooke drove down from Ames on Monday and we had a chance to hang out with them. The afternoon was spent lounging around together. It was also Court’s birthday, so late in the afternoon Luke and I took him to the Cellar Peanut Pub in town for a birthday pint before retrieving George’s Pizza for dinner.

The Court, Becky and Lydia headed to Ankeny yesterday. Wendy and I did a little clean up and then got back to work. Looking forward to our anniversary, New Year’s celebrations, and time with Madison this weekend.

 

 

We Need More Festivals

Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the Lord.
Leviticus 23:44 (NRSV)

For going on nearly a century, our small Iowa town has held a Tulip Festival every May. Everything stops for three days as residents pour their time and energy into the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on our community. Make no mistake, the festival is all about promotion and commerce. It’s the major fundraiser of the year for most of our community organizations. Nevertheless, I think everyone in our town would agree that the festival is much more than that. It celebrates our history, our heritage, and it promotes a strong sense of community and a spirit of service within it.

Festival is just a fun word. From the Latin word for “feast,” the root word is defined as “cheerful and jovially celebratory.” Who doesn’t want that? That’s one of the reasons Wendy and I wanted to get married on New Year’s Eve. What a great evening to celebrate our lives and love through time.

I find it interesting that God would program into His people’s calendar a series of “festivals.” At the top of the list is the weekly day of Sabbath or rest. The weekly day of rest was supposed to be a festival, but over time the religious people turned it into its own version of burdensome religious toil. Jesus got more grief from religious leaders about breaking Sabbath rules than anything else He said or did. The uptight religious people had perverted a festival of rest into a weekly religious burden. That was never its intention and Jesus knew it.

I can’t say that the institutional church and Jesus’ followers have done much better with our weekly day of worship which was moved from the Jewish sabbath on Saturday to the day of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. Each Sunday is supposed to be a festival of resurrection, but I wouldn’t describe the weekly mood in many churches as “festive.”

I knew a family who decided to try and instill this understanding of Sunday being a festival of Jesus’ resurrection in their young children. They began early in the week looking in anticipation of Sunday as a special day of celebration. Every Saturday night (the eve of Resurrection Day) they had a special family meal that the children helped plan during the week. Guests were invited to join them. They decorated with bright colors and had special desserts. There was a large brass chandelier fixture in their dining room with long swooping arms. At the end of the weekly Resurrection Eve dinner all of the meal participants would stand with a party popper, point it at the chandelier and pull their popper so that the colorful streamers would hit the chandelier and get caught on the arms. There the streamers would stay so that each week day the children would see the colorful remnant of their weekly feast and look forward to the next.

The family celebrated getting to worship on Sunday and celebrate the Resurrection. They planned special moments together on Sunday as well. Believe me. The day I was a guest in their home, the children couldn’t wait for their weekly Saturday night and Sunday festival.

This morning I’m thinking about the fact that we don’t do more to make personal festivals a way to mark special days, seasons, heritage, and history that is meaningful to us and our loved ones. Festivals are fun as well as meaningful. Who doesn’t love a nice feast in which to be cheerful and jovially celebratory? Let’s plan a little festival and invite our loved ones.

chapter a day banner 2015

Featured image by metku via Flickr

The Latest 05-01-2016

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.

Me and a baby goat.
Me and a baby goat.

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.

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 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.

Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.
Capping my birthday with friends at Kaldera.

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.

From Madison's Facebook post wishing me a happy 50th

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!

…For 30 Minutes

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged….”
Joshua 8:1a (NIV)

Everyone who knows Wendy and me knows that we are baseball fans. In particular, we’re fans of the Chicago Cubs. Right now there is a lot of excitement in our house as the regular season opens next Monday night. The first game against Anaheim will start at 9:00 p.m. CDT. We will just be getting back from rehearsal. We’ll see how much of it we actually watch before we fall asleep. (Thank God for DVRs!)

Of all the major league sports, baseball’s season is truly a marathon. In the NFL’s 16 game season, every game is technically important, as one loss can come back to bite you when it comes time to the playoffs and home field advantage. In baseball, there are 162 regular season games between the beginning of April and the end of September. The best of teams will lose about a third of their games and occasionally suffer humiliating defeats. Even the worst teams in the league will win a third or more of their games and occasionally beat the best teams.

The Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, instituted a tradition in the Cub’s clubhouse last season. When the Cubs win, there is a party in the clubhouse for 30 minutes. Loud music, disco ball, dancing, shouting, and basking in the joy of the moment….for 30 minutes. Then, it’s back to work thinking about the next day’s game. Likewise, when the team loses, they are allowed to grieve for 30 minutes. Mope, scream, cry, commiserate, and feel the discouragement…for 30 minutes. Then, its back to work thinking about the next day’s game.

Our life journey is more like baseball season than football season. We all will experience our share of victories, and our share of defeats. No one, no matter how good the press and social media make them look, runs the table and is exempt from suffering loss and hardship. Everyone strikes out.

In today’s chapter, Josh and his team have just suffered an unexpected defeat after the huge victory at Jericho. It was the let down after the big game. Reality check. There is a sudden sense of gloom permeating the clubhouse. God, like a good manager, only lets the grief last for 30 minutes. It’s time to get the team’s focus on the next game: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. We’ve got a game against the King of Ai today, and I’ve got a game plan for one you’re gonna love!”

Today, I’m thinking about victories I’ve experienced in this life, and defeats. No matter how bad the loss, there are victories ahead. No matter how great the victory is, I’m going to strike out again at some point. As sure as the sun is going to rise and set. I need to let myself enjoy the victories…for about 30 minutes. Then I get back to work. I need to allow myself to grieve the losses…for about 30 minutes. Then get back to work.

Go get ’em.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image by yozza via Flickr

Our 10th Anniversary! New Year’s Eve 2015

Our wedding on New Year's Eve 2005.
Our wedding on New Year’s Eve 2005.

Wendy and I were married on New Year’s Eve 2005 at a gala wedding on the ballroom floor of the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines. New Year’s Eve will forever be a special evening for the two of us. This year we celebrated our 10th Anniversary at home surrounded by wonderful friends, many of whom were there with us on that memorable evening a decade ago.

Our anniversary celebration actually started earlier in the week on Tuesday. We’d spent the day in Des Moines hitting the after Christmas sales and found a lot of good stuff to make our home even more festive next year. By late afternoon we were worn out from shopping and ready for an evening out. We met Kev and Beck at Juniper Moon, a relatively new wine bar in Des Moines, for a pre-dinner cocktail. It’s a wonderful place. It was packed and a bit noisy for my hearing-impaired ears, but we definitely enjoyed ourselves.

New Year's 2015 - 1

We had dinner at Django, one of our favorites in Des Moines. Wendy’s cousin, Kris, has been managing Django for several months and it was great to see him. He treated us to a little anniversary gift, which was very nice of him. As always, it was great to hang out with Kev and Beck.

We celebrated our anniversary and New Year’s Eve, itself, at our house. Friends brought appetizers to share and Wendy knocked herself out making her own plethora of amazing desserts. People arrived around 8:00 and the evening was spent just as we like it: good food, good drink, and good conversation. There was  plenty of laughter and love to go ’round. At midnight we had the countdown and let fly with a ton of party poppers (that we still had from our wedding night!). People slowly filtered out. Kevin and Linda got the Party Hardy badge of honor for being the final guests to leave. Of course, they had the shortest commute as they left sometime after 2:30 a.m.

Wendy and start 2016 thankful for a wonderful decade together surrounded by wonderful family and friends. And, the best is yet to come!!

Mourning…and Moving On

The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
Deuteronomy 34:8 (NRSV)

Wendy and I enjoyed watching Joe Maddon take over as manager of the Chicago Cubs this year. He brings a lot of fun and laughter to the clubhouse, keeping things light and his players relaxed. “It’s just baseball brother,” Joe says, “never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” And so, the Cubbies have enjoyed petting zoos, magicians, pajama parties, and a rookie Disney princess dress up day.

As silly as some of it seems, I have also observed some simple wisdom in some of Joe’s clubhouse rules. For example, when the Cubs win, Joe lets the players party and enjoy the victory for 30 minutes. There’s a disco ball and loud music and dancing and a raucous party…for 30 minutes. Then, it’s on to preparations for the next game. Likewise, when the Cubs lose, Joe allows the team to grieve and groan and grumble. A black cloud of mourning the loss can hang in the clubhouse…for 30 minutes. Then, it’s on to preparations of the next game.

In today’s chapter, Moses’ death is followed by a period of national grieving…for 30 days. Then, the mourning ended and it was time to move on to the next chapter of their lives and the conquest of Canaan. As wise King Solomon put it, “there is a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” But, in either case, it’s only for a time.

Today, I’m reminded that there is wisdom in grieving for a time. I’m sure that being swept in the NLCS will be mourned by all of the Cubs this year, and the pain of it will be felt for the rest of their lives. Still, there’s another season for which to prepare. Mourn the loss, but then you’ve gotta move on.

Likewise, we all experience tragedy and loss along our life journeys. The pain will be with us to the end, but at some point the period of mourning has got to end, and the next stretch of the journey has to begin.