Tag Archives: Ham Buns and Potato Salad

At Some Point, One Must Return Home

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.
Ezra 1:5 (NIV)

When I was a young man I spent five years in pastoral ministry. Three of those years were spent in a very small town here in Iowa. During those years I officiated a lot of funerals. Not only were these funerals for members of my congregation, but the local Funeral Home Director also called me when there was a family who had no particular faith tradition or church home. As a result, I spent a generous amount of time with grieving families.

During these funerals, I began to observe families in all of their glorious dysfunctions. I noticed, in particular, that these sad occasions brought prodigal children home, and that in many cases the children had not been home for many years. This taught me a life lesson: “At some point, one has to return home.” (By the way, this became the inspiration for my play, Ham Buns and Potato Salad.)

For the past few months on this chapter-a-day journey, I’ve been going through books related to what’s known as the “exilic” period when the Hebrews were taken captive and lived in exile under the ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, Mede, and Persian empires. Today I begin walking through the two books (Ezra and Nehemiah) that tell the story of the exiles return to Jerusalem and their work to reconstruct Solomon’s Temple and the protective walls of the city.

For the exiled Hebrews, their return had been something they’d longed for. Right at the beginning of today’s chapter, it’s mentioned that they’d been clinging to the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years (Jer 25:11-12). The time for return finally arrives. At some point, one has to return home.

Reading today’s chapter, it’s easy to assume that Cyrus felt some special affection toward the exiled Hebrews and their religion. However, the decree and subsequent provision of temple articles stolen by Nebuchadnezzar represented a shift in Empirical policy. Earlier empires had ruled with an iron hand, destroying native temples and demanding that captured peoples adopt the culture of the conquerors. Cyrus, however, realized that allowing captured peoples to return to their homes and rebuild their native temples and shrines was good policy. He did the same for other peoples, as well. The move created goodwill with the people of his empire. In the case of Judah, the move also provided him with allies and a friendly outpost between himself and the yet unconquered kingdom of Egypt.

This morning I find myself thinking about returning home. It can look so different for different individuals. It might be a joyous reunion for some. For others, it’s a necessary immersion back into messy family dysfunction. There are those for whom the return home is a long-awaited return from exile. In many cases, it’s an important and necessary step in addressing past wrongs, emotional injuries, and spiritual blocks so that one can progress in his or her life journey. In many cases, I’ve observed that one can’t move forward until he or she makes the trek and faces the past. I, myself, discovered it a necessary stretch of my own journey.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself whispering a quiet prayer for those who have yet to return, those who have returned, and those who find themselves amidst the struggle of returning home.

…and a Time to Return

Set up road markers for yourself,
    make yourself signposts;
consider well the highway,
    the road by which you went.
Jeremiah 31:21 (NRSVCE)

A few years ago I had the privilege of watching as a play I wrote was produced a couple of different times on stage. Having spent most of my life journey in the state of Iowa, I’ve observed a repetitive theme of those who leave our rather quiet, fly-over homeland for more exciting places. Yet, eventually, most every one returns home. The reasons for return are as varied as the individuals who leave, but for most every one who leaves there comes a time to return.

There is a good story there,” I thought to myself. And so, I sat down to write a play and tell the story of a small town Iowa boy who is forced to come home. In his returning he must confront his past and the reasons he left in the first place.

Over the past few chapters in the anthology of Jeremiah’s messages, I’ve mulled over the way the themes of wilderness and exile play into life’s journey. There’s a corollary theme in the return from wilderness and exile. Just as the hero of every epic spends time in the wilderness, so that same hero must return to carry out the purposes for which he/she has been prepared.

In today’s chapter, the theme of Jeremiah’s prophetic letter to the exiles living in Babylon is all about their homecoming. “Drop breadcrumbs along the road to Babylon,” he tells them. “Mark the way because the time will come for your return home.”

Sometimes on this life journey I’ve observed that the return home is long awaited and desired, just as Jeremiah describes in today’s chapter. Other times, like the prodigal son, one’s homecoming is filled with remorse and repentance. Then there are those times when the return home is part of a larger story about the necessary confrontation required in order to progress yet further on life’s road. And, I suppose, there are times when coming home is a cocktail of all these.

As this morning dawns, the little town where Wendy and I live is preparing for our annual Tulip Time festival. As happens each year there will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of individuals who will return home to participate in the festivities (we’ll have some of them staying in our house!). I’m thinking about their respective life journeys, the varied stories they represent, and all of the emotions (and perhaps confrontations) that these homecomings will entail. There is a time to leave home, and a time for those living in exile to return.

I’m whispering a prayer in the quiet this morning for each of them, and for God’s goodness and mercy in each of their respective stories.

The Latest 10-18-15

After a long business/leisure trip to Texas the week before, I was really glad to spend the past week at home and in the home office. Autumn is in full swing with chilly, blustery winds balanced only by the sun’s warmth. The house has been really cool in the mornings as temps dipped for the first time into the 30’s. Wendy and I have not yet turned on the heat, but the fireplaces have gotten their first workouts of the season.

The week was blessedly routine as Wendy and I worked at our home offices and took care of things around the house. Our lawn has been looking decent despite weeks with no rain. We’ve tried to water it well, but I haven’t been able to do that as much as it really needs (nor have I wanted to pay for that high of a water bill).

The week was really highlighted by October baseball with our Cubs beating the evil empire of St. Louis in the NLDS. By the end of the final game Wendy and I couldn’t sit down. We were both standing behind the couch watching and cheering. When it was over we invited our neighbor, Kevin, over for celebratory toasts. Of course, by Sunday night we’d be 0-2 in the NLCS to the Mets (whom we had swept in the regular season). Such is the life of a Cubs fan.

Wendy was my stylish assistant and carried the camera bag for me!
Wendy was my stylish assistant and carried the camera bag for me!

2015 10 16 Roose Family Photo 057

On Friday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Des Moines. Our friends Kevin and Becky asked if I would take some fall family photos for them. We had some fun at Des Moines’ sculpture garden. The featured photo to this post is the them striking their own version of Greek god statues. Wendy played my faithful assistant, lugging my bag and tripod, as we ran around Des Moines trying to get photos taken before the sun set. After dropping the kidlets off at home, the adults then went out for a meal. Enjoyable evening.

Wendy and I had some post-show fun with cast and crew from NCT's productions of "Ham Buns and Potato Salad."
Wendy and I had some post-show fun with cast and crew from NCT’s productions of “Ham Buns and Potato Salad.”

IMG_6961Saturday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Newton to watch Newton Community Theatre’s production of my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad (more about the play here) There was a brief “meet the playwright” time before the show and the audience got to ask me questions. It was so much fun to see the show done by a completely different crew. Wendy and I walked away pleased that the script held up well. We went to Okoboji Grill after the show with the cast and had a lot of fun fielding their questions about the characters and inspirations for the story. They called on me to write a sequel to tell the rest of the story. I hadn’t really thought about that before. Hmmmm. I also heard rumor there is some interest from another community theatre who would like to do it.

On Sunday morning I filled the pulpit for our senior pastor, delivering the message in all three services. I always feel honored to be asked. It’s a rather draining morning, however, and I was so appreciative of Wendy who took good care of me and made sure I had what I needed. Needless to say, I was worthless by the time we got home. We became avid couch potatoes to watch our Vikings and Broncos win, then to watch our Cubbies disappoint.

The Latest 08-23-2015

It was a week of major life transition here at Vander Well Manor.  Just over two years ago, Wendy’s youngest sister Suzanna moved in with us. She entered her senior year at Pella High and then spent this past year working and saving for college. She’s been a welcome member of our home and together we’ve shared a ton of life experiences during this shared stretch of our life journeys. This past Wednesday was the day we drove her to college and launched her on a new stretch of her own journey. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Monday and Tuesday were spent packing, purging, and preparing. Both Suzanna and Wendy buzzed around upstairs. Suzanna took over the guest bedroom for her sorting and staging process.

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Tuesday night was Suzanna’s last night at home, so we let her decide the meal. Her choice was Wendy’s homemade pizza and breadsticks. She also requested family movie night to watch The Big Lebowski, which she and I have talked about watching for months. Taylor invited her friend Curtis to join us. It was a fun night. We all gathered around the kitchen island and enjoyed conversation as Wendy made dinner. Despite me dropping one of the pizzas and losing half of it into the bottom of the oven, we had a great dinner and then settled into the Great Room for the movie (and requisite White Russians).

Dropping Suzanna at College

We packed the cars and headed out around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday for the two hour drive to Suzanna’s campus. She followed behind us. The load out was fast and much easier than we anticipated. Suzanna’s roommate had moved in the previous day and we enjoyed meeting her. After the last of her stuff had been dropped in the room we offered to take Suzanna out to lunch and make sure she was familiar with where things were in town. She opted for lunch with her roommate and some girls on the floor. As we said good-bye the mood went from smiles and excitement to teary good-byes. Wendy and I lunched at BWW on our own before driving home.

Taylor did some house-sitting for friends late this week so Wendy and I had four nights of experiencing an empty nest for the first time in a while. But, our social calendar kept us from savoring the quiet.

Historic Pella Opera House
The Historic Pella Opera House

Kevin McQuade POH CampaignOn Thursday night we headed to the Pella Opera House for their annual season kick-off. Our friend and neighbor, Kevin, is the Executive Director there and is in the middle of an audacious million dollar renovation campaign. We were excited when Kevin announced they’d reached $800,000 towards their goal. In October the Opera House celebrates 25 years since their historic renovation. A grand black-tie evening is on tap and Kevin asked me to script a sketch as part of the evening’s entertainment. Wendy and I enjoyed hanging out and socializing with friends. We were among the last to leave when Kevin flashed the lights at the end of the evening.

An evening at V-Dub Pub
An evening at V-Dub Pub

On Friday night we enjoyed barbecue chicken on the grill with our friend Cyndi who will be taking over as President of Union Street Players. We discussed transition of leadership as well as the transitions of both Suzanna and Cyndi’s daughter, Megan, who also headed to college. Kevin and Linda arrived after dinner and we settled downstairs in “V-dub Pub” (thanks, Chad VL, for that moniker).  I unveiled my script for the Pella Opera House Anniversary show and was happy that it received a favorable review from the Producer. As always with this crew, spirited conversation and laughter reigned until well after midnight.

Celebrating Matthew and Sara's One-Week Anniversary.
Celebrating Matthew and Sara’s One-Week Anniversary.

A couple of short nights led Wendy and me to a rather slow start on Saturday. We worked a little bit and eventually busied ourselves cleaning up the upstairs in anticipation of Wendy’s Uncle Brad and his bride-to-be Barb who spent the night with us on Saturday. I spent part of the afternoon helping my friend, Matthew, move a washer and a couple of dryers into his new house. We then met Matthew and his new bride, Sarah, at Kaldera for dinner and a celebration of their one-week anniversary.

My First Royalty Check

I end this week’s episode of The Latest with a relatively insignificant, but admittedly proud moment. Yesterday in the mail I received my first ever royalty check for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad which is being produced by Newton Community Theater this fall.

 

Top Five Things I Loved About Dottie

2009 Awards Night (71)

Note: I wrote this post this past Friday and then realized that it was probably what I should share at her Celebration of Life service which was held last night. I refrained from publishing it until after I read it there.

My friend, Dottie, died this week. After fighting and surviving two battles with cancer, her heart failed her unexpectedly. I find that ironic because, in my experience, Dottie’s heart never failed anyone who knew her.

I first met Dottie in 2004 when I was cast as the gruff and somewhat foul-mouthed Captain Brackett in the musical South Pacific. I met Dottie as she worked in the Costume Shop helping get me costumed for the show.I cannot claim to have been particularly close friend, but she was a friend, and she was dear to us all. We were both part of the theatre and arts community. Having been president of the local community theatre for the better part of a decade, I worked with Dottie and helped oversee the costume shop that she founded and managed. When she first learned of her struggle with cancer, Dottie came over to our house, sat on our couch and told us; She, Wendy and I cried together. Today, she is absent in body while Wendy and I continue to cry.

The top five things I loved about Dottie:

  1. She did what she loved, and she loved what she did. Dottie loved costuming. It was her passion, and she followed that passion. When our community theatre began a decade ago, Dottie started storing costumes in her attic. Within a few years her attic was overflowing and the community theatre decided to rent space and start a costume shop. Dottie managed and ran the costume shop, pretty much single handedly, for years. She didn’t do it for riches or fame or notoriety. She did it because she loved it and it made her happy. More of us need to follow that example.
  2. She laughed…alot. Perhaps it’s because she was always doing what she loved that she almost always had a smile on her face and was constantly laughing – even through her tears. I loved her laughter and the way she made me laugh.
  3. She threw a mean Christmas party. Many people throw parties. Few people throw them well. Dottie and Mike’s Christmas parties were legend. Wendy and I often could not attend because of conflicts (especially with performance nights), but I will always remember the warmth of her home, the quality of the spread, and the joy of the host.
  4. She was courageous. Dottie feared cancer. After defeating it once, she feared its return. When it did return, she feared the second battle. She defeated it a second time. It is said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to do what needs to be done in spite of it. Dottie found her strength in the midst of her fear. I admired her for that.
  5. Love. Anyone who is around the theatrical community for any length of time knows what a dysfunctional lot we can be. It’s no more dysfunctional than any other gathering of flawed human beings, we just have the ability and training to be capably dramatic about it all. Dottie, like all of us, experienced her share of conflicts. I was a witness to a few of them, yet I never witnessed Dottie holding a grudge. I never observed her being unkind, rude or mean. I did see her being forgiving and kind to individuals who had not been particularly kind to her. I witnessed her love for Mike. I watched her selflessly and capably raise her granddaughter. I observed her being a good friend, and I had the privilege to experience a little taste of that myself.

The last time I saw Dottie was as she exited one of the performances of my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad this past month. She was laughing, which was no surprise. One of the lines in the play which Dottie loved most of all was when one character says, “That boy is so dumb he has to get naked to count to 21.” Dottie came up to me and simply said, “Twenty-one” and continued laughing. She then whispered “I can’t believe you wrote that!”

Dottie knew that I was a person of faith. And, while I am a follower of Jesus, I am no prude and will give true and authentic voice to the characters I portray and pen as an actor and playwright, even if the words they say may not necessarily be the words I would choose to come out of my own mouth. Having said that, please know that I do not have to channel Captain Brackett from South Pacific in order to say what I know to be true: Dottie was one helluva dame, and my life is better for having her in it.

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Ham Buns and Potato Salad: Epilogue

The past week has been spent resting up from the premiere of Ham Buns and Potato Salad. After a flurry of activity getting ready for the show, Wendy and I hit the wall as soon as the show closed and the cast party was over. We’re just beginning to feel like life is getting back to a sense of normal.

The show went really well. Attendance was above average for a spring production, and our final performance had the biggest crowd of the run which is usually a sign of good word-of-mouth. The cast and crew were fantastic and I was extremely pleased with everyone’s performances. I was so impressed with the effort the actors put in to their characters:

  • Jana De Zwarte and Karl Deakyne had a monumental task of pulling of the critical second act scene between Marian and Thomas (It became known as the “mini-play”). They had me in tears most nights.
  • My wife, Wendy, and Arvin Van Zante did an incredible job of taking two extreme characters and making them authentic without losing the humor.
  • Lily Villalobos was amazing in her stage debut, bringing sweetness and charm to her portrayal of Abigail.
  • I was so pleased to get Griffin Hammel on the stage before he heads to grad school. His energy on stage as Matt pushed the rest of the cast to raise their game.
  • Mark Moreland and Doug DeWolf did a fantastic job of creating interesting contrasts in Arl and Dean.
  • Denise Gregory and Cyndi Atkins, likewise, nailed their portrayals of Betty and Lola. They became the archetypical small town mother and aunt many of us know.

Mat Kelly and Anne McCullough Kelly did an incredible job designing and constructing the set. It captured the feeling of Hebron without being over the top. Props to Arvin Van Zante for his light design and Cody Kooi for his work on the sound. Anne McCullough Kelly and Liz Keeney were invaluable stage managers and kept the production on track.

I have to give a ton of credit to the show’s director, Ann Wilkinson. Ann did an amazing job of navigating a new and original script. She contributed so many key touches to the action and worked her usual mastery with the actors. The show would not have happened were it not for her commitment to helping with the script from its early stages and her invaluable encouragement and feedback through the entire process.

Last, but certainly not least, my love Wendy has not gotten near enough credit for the contributions she’s made to the play from the beginning. She has been muse, cheerleader, critic, and contributor. She has believed in the script from the beginning and given constant investment and encouragement from first draft through production. It wouldn’t have happened without her.

It was fascinating for me to sit around the post opening night party and the final cast party and listen to the actors and crew continuing to talk about their characters and the story itself. I loved the after show conversations and debates with family and friends about the end of the play and the characters’ choices. I was quietly pleased that the script prompted such on-going discussions. The truth is that I found those conversations more gratifying than the audience’s ovations. My desire all along had been to write a play that both entertains and prompts post show conversation.

What’s next for Ham Buns and Potato Salad? I’ve already been asked permission for a 2015 production of the play by Newton Community Theatre in Newton, Iowa. I’m hoping that other productions will follow. I will continue to pursue production and publishing opportunities. We’ll see where it goes. For now, I’m looking forward to a little break.

More video clips from the show:

“They were in a love triangle.”
“Old Man Schuler”
“All the tact of an atomic bomb.”
“I’m in the book.”

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They Say the Neon Lights are Bright…

The Broadway Theatre, showing the musical The ...
The Broadway Theatre],Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a quick post this morning. For any who follow my chapter-a-day posts I want to let you know that a rather insane business travel schedule coupled with it being production week for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad is going to make my posts a bit sporadic this week.

There is, however, a bit of irony in the way things have unfolded which I’d like to share. In all my travels around the country and and around the globe, I’ve never been to New York City. Late last week I found out I had to make a quick business trip to the Big Apple to visit a client. So after a long day of meetings today I’ll fly to New York for a day full of meetings tomorrow at my client’s office…on Broadway.

The day before my play opens in Pella, I’m going to be standing on Broadway for the first time. 🙂

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